by Susan Cornford
I was waiting for them to pick me up. I’d been at camp, with swimming, horse riding, campfires and friendship, but I was ready to go home. They were all in the car, driving up the winding, mountain roads, and then they weren’t. What followed was weeks of pain, loss, change, disbelief, anger: all the things that go with dead family.
My aunt and uncle took me in. It was a big house, with six cousins. They were kind, they were nice; they were busy, they were in sync with each other. I didn’t fit. They tried; I tried. I got unhappy; they got unhappy.
One of my trying-to-fit-in efforts was working at the supermarket they owned and ran. I helped Alex, my ‘fruit and vegetable cousin’, unload deliveries from local farmers, like Joe Blake. Alex was going out with Joe’s daughter, Linda. One summer day, Joe invited me to come out for an afternoon trail ride. I hadn’t been on horseback since my time at camp, but I love horses, so I agreed.
Joe picked me up in his truck and drove us into the countryside. Something about it loosened knots inside me for the first time in a year. We pulled up in front of a house even bigger than my aunt and uncle’s, with even more kids. They were all standing in a semicircle around a sweet-faced lady, her arms around the nearest. The last knots crumbled into dust. We all knew that this was where I belonged.