A Sudden Development
Lorna walked up to the door of her house. It wasn’t a home anymore. She could never look at it that way again. Taped to the wood was a sheet of paper. She tore it down and continued inside.
Once there, she threw the paper along with her keys onto the table in her entryway. There was no point in reading it. Lorna already knew what it would say from the town meeting.
With more care than necessary, she took off her coat and put it in the hall closet fol- lowed by her shoes. Looking around, she noticed that only the table was disorganized. Every- thing else was still in the pristine state in which she had left it. Unease overwhelmed her. Lorna snatched her keys from their place on the table and hung them from the hook above the stove in the kitchen. Then she returned to the entryway and grabbed the paper. Halfway up the staircase she froze. She remembered her office was no longer upstairs.
The calm blue walls seemed to taunt her as she walked down to what had been her dining room. Two months back she had started to turn it into her office. Now she wished she never had. She laid the paper on her desk and then walked into the living room. Blankets covered the sofa where she had been spending her nights for the past month. She couldn’t bring herself to walk upstairs past her former office to her bedroom.
Sitting in an armchair facing the window, Lorna curled her legs up under her chin and wrapped her arms around her calves. Squeezing her eyes shut and gripping her legs tighter, she tried to keep the memories from invading her thoughts once again. The same as the days be- fore, she failed. Lorna forgot the notice on her door. She forgot that she had not eaten all day. Instead, she walked over to the couch, wrapped the blankets around her, and lay down, frozen in her remembrance.
At 5 o’clock the next morning, Lorna woke from her fitful sleep in the cocoon of blan- kets she had made for herself on the couch. She stumbled down the basement steps and looked through the clothing laid out on the table next to her washer and dryer. Since most of her cloth- ing was still upstairs in her closet, she had very little to choose from. After disregarding several options, she chose a plain black pencil skirt, a grey boatneck sweater, and a black cardigan that hung to below the length of her skirt. The clothing reflected how she felt.
On the first floor in her bathroom, Lorna took an infinite amount of care with her white blond hair and makeup. It was imperative that she cover the bags under her eyes and the white pallor of her skin. More than anything, she needed to hide her zombie-like appearance from those around her. She couldn’t tolerate their pity or their reproach.
Once she found her exterior image to be acceptable, Lorna got into her car and drove to work. She was a paralegal for a law firm in the larger city close to Spirit Lake. She had moved to the small town four years back, after the death of her parents. They had left her the house,
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and the stress of her career had prevented her from trying to sell it so she could move back to the city. She even used to enjoy the drive from her house to the law office. It had given her time to think. Today, that was the last thing Lorna wanted to do. She blared music from the speakers in her car and drove with a restless abandon. She knew she was being reckless, but she didn’t care.
She arrived at work right on time and set about her day. Her boss had left her with file upon file of work to finish before the day was done. Throwing herself into a case, she was able to lose herself until she was finished. This is what she lived for now, the loss of self that came with her job. She was a machine that had no emotion and no emotional connections. By throwing herself into her work, she could forget everything that she couldn’t handle at home.
Around noon, her boss called her into his office. “How have you been, Lorna?” he asked her.
Lorna tensed. “I’ve been fine. Why?”
“Well, it seems that you have been working a lot of long hours lately.” “Yes.”
“It’s against company policy to pay overtime unless I make arrangements ahead of ti—” “I don’t want overtime pay.”
“All right. Well, then, can I ask why you’ve been staying so late?”
“I’ve just been losing track of time lately. The work you’ve had me doing has been re- ally interesting.”
“That’s good to know, Lorna, though I expect that from now on you’ll pay more attention.”
“I will, sir.”
“Good. That will be all.”
“I’ll bring in what I’ve finished before I leave tonight, sir.” “Thank you, Lorna.”Walking out of the office, Lorna started to feel short of breath. She kept having the same thoughts over and over again. That means more time at home, she thought, more time alone to remember. Sitting down at her desk, she had no idea how she would be able to cope with her increased time at home. As it was, she could barely stand to spend as much time as she did in her house, but she had nowhere else to go.
At 5:30 that night, Lorna dropped off her finished work and got back in her car. With the music blaring, she started her drive home. Her house awaited.
Sitting in front of her house, Lorna could see it all. She could see that night as if it was just happening.
She had been upstairs cleaning out her office. The room was simply too small to ac- commodate her growing workload. She had already moved everything else down to her new
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office. While boxing up the law books she had been forced to keep in the closet, Lorna realized that the books were all that was keeping the wallpaper on the walls. After attempting to remove the books without letting the wallpaper fall, Lorna gave up and tore the sheets out of the closet. What she had found changed everything.
An indented portion of the wall formed a square shaped shelf that had been hidden when the wallpaper covered it. Sitting on that shelf was an ammunition box. The closet was still half-full of books making it difficult for Lorna to reach the box. She was intrigued by its presence. Someone had obviously gone to a fair amount of trouble to keep it hidden, and she wanted to know why.
Lorna brought the box out to the center of the room and opened it. It was filled with papers, some older than others. Grabbing the most yellowed sheets first, she began to read them over. They were letters between her parents. She placed them to the side for later. The box confused her. From what she could see there was no reason to hide the papers.
Pulling out another handful of papers, she felt an official stamp on the last page. Moving that page to the front, she was shocked. Now she knew why her parents had hidden the papers. Lorna couldn’t even manage to look through the others she held, because she was too stunned. The paper she was looking at was an adoption certificate with her name on it.
That was the start of the cool, empty feeling that had engulfed her. The realization that she wasn’t her parents’ daughter made her feel like she had lost everything, including who she was. She had always been her parents’ daughter until suddenly she wasn’t, a revelation that left her with a growing void. After some of the shock wore off, she stuffed the papers back into the ammunition box and returned it to its hiding place. She couldn’t bring herself to look through the rest of the papers.
The house was the same as it had been that night, dark and void of life, void of family. Lorna hadn’t realized that until later. This place was never my home, she thought. A home isn’t riddled with lies.
Curled on her couch crying, Lorna wished she had something to distract her thoughts. Her house was sterile of life. She realized that now. There were no pictures to look at and no television to distract her. After her parents’ death, she had gotten rid of everything she deemed unnecessary or that would require dusting. The photos had been put away and the television sold. All she had were her thoughts. Over the past month, she had spent countless hours analyzing every childhood memory and everything she could remember her parents saying to or about her. Maybe they had a good reason for not telling me.
Comforted by that thought, Lorna looked at the time. It wasn’t even eight o’clock. She got up and walked to the doorframe that separated the living room from the entryway. Leaning against the molding, she looked at the stairs. For a moment, she thought that maybe she could have done it. She could have walked to the top of that flight of stairs and entered her old office. Then the sorrow and the desperation to forget came back upon her, not as strong as before, yet painful nonetheless.
Unable to remain where she was, Lorna walked to her office. She needed to do some- thing, anything to make herself stop thinking. Looking down at her desk, she saw the notice
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that had been left on her door about the new highway. The house was worth more than the$45,000 they were offering her, but she didn’t care. For the first time since she had found her parents’ papers, Lorna could breathe easy. She would be done with the secrets and the lies they had left behind. Lorna saw her chance to leave. She knew she would take it.
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