The girl left her house and went into the woods.
The ground seemed to swallow the sound of her footsteps, and yesterdays’ rain lifted the smell of leaves into the pink cushions of her lungs. Her nostrils flared to drink the loamy scent. She wore a blue wool coat with a blue wool belt. Her gaze wandered over the thinning understory, not fully seeing it, her mind walking different paths in different tangled places.
She had two coins, one tucked into each pocket so they would not clink and give her away. Her fingers worked them, knowing a vanilla steamer awaited her at some undisclosed point in the future, but for now the anticipation was even sweeter than the yen. When she left these woods and wandered home, these coins would no longer possess their value.
Their inability to purchase anything would be the least of her concerns once she ascertained the distance she had travelled, but she would nonetheless remember the sting of the affront when the young man at the coffee shop pushed both coins brusquely back across the counter, his glance communicating he was not inclined to put up with such acts of blatant foolishness.
She would soon learn the coins were tokens of a past many wished forgotten, but also that they served as useful evidence of the journey she had somehow undertaken. Her little brother, who had been gnawing cold melon to relieve the pain of teething on the day that she had left, was a married man when next she saw him, and smelled disturbingly like her father when he proffered an awkward hug at the reunion where his daughters made a point of being kind.
On the evening she returned from the woods, breathless to tell her mother about the cheek of the boy at the coffee shop, she found another mother inside the house. The new mother answered the door and held her hand to her mouth while the girl cried and repeated her last name and the new mother looked beyond the girl to the woods while the girl looked beyond the new mother to different furniture in different arrangements, both sets of eyes worried, disbelieving, desperate, as a cold understanding began to dawn that neither girl nor mother would ever feel fully at home again.