A family at risk
Joellen was too keyed up to sleep, so she put on her slippers and bathrobe and padded downstairs. The kitchen light was on so she pushed open the door. Kitty was sipping a cup of tea, with papers spread in front of her on the table. The two women had met briefly at Alva’s Thanksgiving dinner and again as they passed at the front door of the house. But there had never been an occasion to talk or do more than say hello. Joellen stood there holding the door for a few seconds until Kitty looked up, surprised to see anyone there.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to disturb you,” Joellen said.
She began to turn away but Kitty motioned for her to come in, saying, “No, no, I’m glad for the company. I couldn’t sleep. You either?”
“I guess I’m too nervous about going home,” Joellen said and then lowered her head. She had not told anyone why she was here. Yet she felt that everyone must know what was wrong. It seemed to her that her skin was barely holding in the secrets of her body and that light, coming from a certain angle, would penetrate her like an X-ray, showing all the conflicted emotions roiling inside her. She was afraid this same feeling would haunt her when she returned home. Maybe it would grow stronger, allowing Brent to see how fragile she felt, how easily overpowered. She sat down at the table across from Kitty, a stranger really, even though they lived under the same roof.
“What are you doing?” Joellen asked. She could see that Kitty had printed out maps showing details of somewhere.
“I got these from the web,” Kitty said. “I’m trying to remember … ” She stopped and picked up one of the pieces of paper and tried to match it up with another.
“It looks like a puzzle,” said Joellen. She moved to the chair next to Kitty. “Here,” she said, picking up another piece of paper, “this one goes with this side of that one.” She pieced them together and Kitty held them up to the light.
“You’re right,” said Kitty. “Let’s put them all in their right order.”
So the women applied themselves to the task of matching up paper to paper until they had a strange shaped patchwork of a map.
“What does that say?” Joellen asked, tracing the largest letters spread across parts of the map. “That’s a K,” she said. “and that’s an E isn’t it?”
“Yes,” Kitty said softly. “It’s a map of Kentucky. I’m trying to find my home.”
“That’s funny,” said Joellen. “You’re trying to find your home and I would do anything not to go back to mine.”
“Are you leaving then? Is that why you can’t sleep?” asked Kitty.
“Yes,” said Joellen. “Tomorrow morning bright and early the children and I will be taking that long train home. But listen,” she changed the subject back, “why are you piecing together a map. Why not just get a map of Kentucky?”
Kitty sighed and put the taped papers down. “I thought it would be easier this way. I thought if I could see all the details I would remember something. But all I know is the name of the town. And even if I can find it here, that’s not really what I’m looking for.”
“Then what are you looking for?” asked Joellen.
“My family,” Kitty said simply. “You’re lucky. You have your family right here with you. I don’t even know what family I have.”