My father had sent my sister and me away for the summer. My mother was in the hospital for the second or third time and (I was told, long after the event) Mrs. Furness, mother of one of my sister's friends, had started a murmuring that maybe something was going on with that man and those girls. To protect his good name, my father sent us to his brother's house.
My cousin D was a year younger than I. Her father was a college dean. The house was big and white with many well-decorated, well-kept rooms. Everything was clean all the time, but I don't recall ever seeing anyone cleaning.
From time to time, the three of us girls would visit two kids who lived down the road . . . a sister and brother. I think the brother was younger than the sister, and possibly, younger than I. Nevertheless, he outranked me because he was on his home turf. I remember him as being volatile. One day, I think, we had a dust-up of the kind that kids have when they are all on the young side of twelve. Somebody said, "Let's pretend that..." and somebody disagreed with the vision . . . tempers rose and the group broke up into segments.
On this day that I remember, I think my sister and D went to ride D's horse. I wasn't interested in horses, so I was walking back to D's house, feeling lonely for my own house, my own road, my own pets. From his yard, the little boy yelled to me: Why don't you go home! I hadn't known he was there, and if I had known, I wouldn't have expected him to holler at me. I was such a minor player in the group, having no standing as a real resident . . . I just went along with everything.
My heart broke. Not because it was he who'd said it, but because he asked out loud the question that rattled and rang in my head all day.
I wanted to go home, but there was no home to go to.
My mother wasn't there and my father didn't want me there.
The only place for me to be was right where I was: walking in the sun all alone on a road to a house where no one would know or worry if I was there or not.
I think it was one of the first moments in my life when I realized that there was no point in crying if no one would know, if no one would care to make it better.