Solo Flight by Peggy Wolf
With listing posture, the woman made her way through the foyer, struggling with a suitcase much too heavy and too large. Walking around the seven-foot-tall statue, she didn’t bother to look up. From atop his pedestal, her stone ancestor drew the room toward himself like the hub of a wheel. Plush sofas decorated with satin and corded pillows circled the perimeter. You don’t own a house like this, she thought, it owns you.
She'd lived alone in the fourteen-thousand square feet for five years after her husband’s death. She'd wanted to leave earlier, but the house wouldn’t let her.
Her mother had needed a house this big for all her things, lots of things. The hexagon-shaped dining room, with its long-reaching table and opulent chandelier, housed sets of china, crystal, and silverware belonging to her great-grandmother, grandmother, and mother. The nine bedrooms were simply shrines to the furniture collections of late relatives. The downstairs parlor housed hundreds of books, their covers worn by hands of long-dead family members. Ornately framed artwork and mirrors adorned the walls in every room. And who knew what lurked in that cavernous wine cellar?
Many years ago, after her daddy died, it made sense for her to move back home with her young family. There was more than enough room and living rent-free, in exchange for applying his handyman skills, appealed to her husband. After all, the house and everything in it would eventually be all theirs.
Her mother didn't use the third floor, so the thirty-by-sixty foot ballroom became their living room, children's playroom and more, and the entertainment kitchen served all their cooking needs.
The years passed quickly. Her three children moved out and moved on, with no interest in taking ownership of Gram's and Mom's old stuff. Instead of being shackled to a house bulging with belongings, they chose to travel light, to be free to see and become an active part of the world. Maybe it wasn't too late for her.
The driver of the taxi tapped the horn lightly as he pulled up to the curb. Rushing to the door, he relieved his fare of her one piece of luggage containing the only possessions she chose to keep.
Never again would she cross the threshold of the enormous house--this home, this prison--but that was her secret. Only she knew, not her neighbors, not her daughters, not her son, not even the house.
Lingering only a moment at the top of the porch stairs, she reached for the black iron railing, still damp with the dew of early dawn, then made her way down the curved brick stairway. A towering holly positioned near the sidewalk, her favorite tree on the grounds, reached out to her. She responded by stretching up to a low-hanging limb, snapping off a branch of several toothed leaves still adorned with red Christmas berries.
Comfortably seated in the backseat of the taxi as it pulled away, she resisted the urge to turn around and take one last look. Under her breath, she whispered good-bye to Westminster Place, her long-time home in St. Louis, Missouri, then added, “You can’t catch me now.”
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