Lucas’s mind drifted and eyes threatened to close as the lady told her story but Helen’s attention was rapt. Figuring she had to wait for her parents to find her anyway she determined it was safest to keep the ladies attention on her story and not be distracted with the little boy on her lap.
“‘I’ll start at the very beginning so it makes the most sense…
My parents named me Flower though I much prefer “Flo”. They built this house, long before the Walmart and Sobeys set up shop. They ran the market, growing and selling everything they cool. Kale was their biggest grower but that fad didn’t start yet so carrots, potatoes and pansies were their most popular. They never sold for money though as they didn’t need that, they bartered for services – a repairman, maintenance on their well, a babysitter on the rare occasion they needed to go out of town for supplies.
I remember some sitters were so fun and enjoyed being there though a lot of them were disappointed when their payment was a recipe, its ingredients and an offer to help learn to make it.
Things went on like that for years, so long I tried to convince them I was old enough to take care of myself when they last left. They were supposed to just be a few hours but thought they might get delayed and need to spend the night so they wanted someone here.”
Lucas yawned and Flo paused to look at him. When she looked up again Helen was sure she saw tears on her cheeks but it was too dark to be sure. The hitch in her voice confirmed it when she started again.
“The sitter they bartered for was new and it was June, he was in grade 12 so graduating in a few days and needed the money to help him move out. He seemed nice enough, even had a back pack filled with activities for me and then he sent me to my room to do them. Not long after his arrival did I hear a knock and the party was happening.
I later figured out that he was using this as an excuse to host a party for his grad class, and beyond by the sounds of it, and charged an entry fee. The music was so loud I couldn’t sleep so I heard when the last person left and only then did I leave my room.
The place, my house, was a complete disaster and everyone was gone, even the sitter. I was mortified and had no idea how a person could do such a thing, especially to someone else’s house – with a kid in it!
I was going to start cleaning up but when I saw the holes in walls and the stains on our carpets exhaustion took over and I went to bed. I thought I would wake up when my parents returned and would be able to help them clean and explain everything but they never returned. Or, if they did, they left after seeing the condition of their house.
I was truly alone and too scared to leave to look for my parents or help as I thought if they did come back and didn’t find me then I’d be in more trouble. That was 60 years ago and they never came back.”
Helen gasped, realizing she was holding her breath through the latter part of the story. Wiping tears from her own cheeks she approached Flo and gave her a hug. Lucas stirred, thankfully sleeping through the hardest parts of the story, and Helen apologized. “I can’t believe after all this time no one knew you were here! I’m so sorry for what you’ve been through and I promise to help fix your house, find your parents and get you back on your feet again.”
But Flo wasn’t finished with her heartbreaking tale and all that wouldn’t matter now…
Stay tuned for Lonely Life