How They Used to Say Goodbye

By: Erin Ashley

“The End.”

Manda finished and set voluptuous book back in its place on the shelf She picked up the four worn dolls that had been her audience and trotted down the stairs from the attic. She walked into the kitchen, past her grandfather baking cookies, and over to the refrigerator. Standing on her toes she read the schedule that was taped to the front: 1 :00 PM, play at creek.

“I’m going outside!” Manda called in her shriff voice, and ran out the screen door before anyone could say otherwise. She trotted around the porch, over the skipping stones, down the cliff and to the zigzagged treeline. This time of year clouds gathered above the watchtowers and the first wisps of fog caught in the branches.

Manda ducked inside the roots of the the paper birch tree and crawled up to where a worn blanket was spread on the ground. She laid her dolls out carefully on the dirt, rearranging them until she was satisfied.

“You guys are going to be leaving today; you’re going home with Jenna. If you need anything we’re just going to the far side of town. I know you want to come, but mama said you have to stay here. I’m too old to play with toys, I have to grow up. We can talk for an hour, then I have to go, and I’ll leave you here.”

Manda sat very still then, and to anyone else it would have looked like she was daydreaming.

It wasn’t long before her name was being called, and Manda got up and crawled back the way she had come. This time each step she took was thought out, no longer bouncing forward. She walked across the dry, weedy lawn, past the fallen shingles from the roof and over to the putrid truck carrying their belongings.

Her grandfather looked up hopefully as she came around the corner, but his face fell when he saw her. He passed her a bag of cookies and she hugged him stiffly just like mama did.

Manda climbed up and sat in the car just so, and waited patiently. When mama and the driver came out she watched them talk to her grandfather. He didn’t speak much, and eventually they came to the car. It was quiet while they pulled out of the driveway, and Manda turned to watch her grandfather. He was already out of sight, and

Manda wished she could have said goodbye like she used to .