A Whiff From The Past
After dinner, the three men went their separate ways and Tripp went outside. His coffee mug going with him to the bench overlooking his beloved mountains.
He is just stretching his leg when he hears the faint sounds of a car approaching. Then the click-clack as they cross the cattle grid. He stands up and leans against the porch post and takes the last of his coffee as his eyes penetrate the darkness.
The door opens and Travis comes over and stands next to him.
“Who is it, dad?”
“Don’t know.” Tripp walks down the steps as a taxi stops in front of him and the back door opens. Travis appears next to him, and they glance at each other. They freeze and stare at her, dumbfounded as the woman closes the door. She places a small overnighter on the gravel and the taxi speeds away. Leaving them in a dust cloud. But none of that does the son and father notices.
They haven’t seen her in twenty-four years. The black hair is shorter and as she comes closer, they can see it has turned grey. The rest of her looked the same and once she stops inside the pocket of porch light, they take a deep breath.
For Travis, it felt more like a stab in the gut and his face turns silent, his jaw locking shut.
“Travis. Tripp.” She says carefully and moves her shoulder bag to the other shoulder.
“Sonja, what are you doing here?” Tripp asks. Travis disappears into the darkness without another word. Tripp watches his son, then glances back at her. And stands to the side for her to get up on the porch.
“I know this is unexpected, but I wanted to see Travis.” She begins, her Mexican accent rolling easily from her mouth. As if she was back from her day trip.
“I don’t think you have any business seeing him. Or pitch up here.”
“He is my son, Tripp. I have a right.”
“You have no right. You signed that away years ago. Remember?” Tripp says and clutches his mug tighter. His knuckles turn white before he let go of the excessive hold. The mug dangling on a fingertip.
“Yes, but much has changed. I need to see him.” She says and cranes her neck. Her face was now fully exposed in the light. Huge brown eyes imploring him to understand. Life has made a permanent mark on her. Her skin seemed healthy, but underneath the makeup, signs of neglect were visible. Two tooths were missing from the front.
“That I cannot help you with, Sonja. He is a grown man now.” Tripp says, turns and opens the door.
“Tripp, please. Is it possible to stay the night? I promise to be gone by tomorrow.” She says, stopping him before he put his foot over the thresh hold.
“That’s not a good idea.”
“Surely you won’t expect me to leave at this time of night?
Tripp turns around slowly, then stares at her for a while before he responds. The sharp replies that tumble in his mind, threatens to spew from him in icy bitterness. But he decided to change not too long ago. God has a way of putting him on the spot. When he turned a page, he never even thought of his ex. She hasn’t featured in his mind in a very long time, and to see her face to face brought all the ugliness back. Even his parents warned him about her. His mother was correct in her observation, and she didn’t prove them wrong. Travis was just a baby, still in need of the nurturing care of a mother. But she left. No one forced her. She made the decision.
He didn’t want her here. He didn’t want her back in Travis’ life. She caused enough damage to their son. He straightens his shoulders then moves into her line of sight with a blatant stare.
“What did you expect, Sonja? A warm welcome and all is forgotten?”
“No, but at least a chance to explain.”
“The time you had to explain also expired a long time ago. We have moved on. You should do the same.” He turns and disappears into the house. The bitter words on the tip of his tongue. Leaving his ex-wife on the porch is a way to protect himself but also her. He made his peace with her.
“Tripp!” she calls but gets no reply. She looks around the neat yard, now so different from when they moved here years ago. She was wide eyed and expectant to live the life of a rich ranch wife. But things didn’t change overnight, and she left without a second glance.
The part that Tripp’s parents played, the springboard that helped her along. She has a few regrets in her life, but leaving her son was the biggest. If she had stayed, she would have got what she wanted. She knows now she was foolish back then. That one act caused so many other problems in her life.
She didn’t know where to go and looked around. The dark blanket that covers the yard gives its secrets away. One light shows it to be a barn. She glances at the backdoor then back to the light. Indecisive on her next step.
Inside, Tripp watches her. The darkness covering him. Then he prays.
“Lord, what must I do? I can’t let her stand there. I can’t invite her in.” He is reminded of a room at the top of the barn. Not the perfect place for a woman, but if he takes a bed upstairs, she can use it until tomorrow. He simply couldn’t let her come in. He has to think of Travis, and it was clear he is shaken by her appearance.
With his mind made up, he walks out and finds her in the same spot he has left her.
“There is a room on top of the barn. It hasn’t been used in a while. A storage room, but if you don’t mind sleeping there tonight, you can use it?
“That sounds good. Thanks Tripp.” He stops to say something else but let it go then walks into the house, switched on the light and get a torch.