Franklin was originally a short story I wrote in my second year of university, and was my first assignment to achieve a First class mark. It’s a piece I am immensely proud of, and wanted to share it here in a serialised form for my readers to enjoy.
by Clare Holman-Hobbs
My Mom always used to say “if you ever feel afraid, all you have do is come home.” I thought about her words long and hard as I stifled a yawn, the sun rising over the dusty hills of my hometown. Franklin wasn’t far now that I was seeing signs for Nashville. My cell phone vibrated on the passenger seat next to me but I ignored it, and kept my eyes on the road.
The UNC campus had been dark when I left, probably around midnight. I would be lying if I said I had made the decision to come home rationally, but I couldn’t sit in the four walls of my dorm room any longer. As I headed out towards my car with my heavy duffle bag slung over my shoulder, I glanced up at Haley’s window. I knew she’d worry about me, about where I’d gone when she knocked for me in the morning for breakfast like usual. I considered going back for that reason alone, but I didn’t want another argument.
I shook the thought from my mind, realising I had almost passed the turning. People were stirring on the streets of Franklin as I turned down Main Street, commuters passing by on their way into the city and shops owners unlocking their doors. I drove further into the suburbs, passing house after house until I got to mine. It hadn’t changed a bit since I left; only this time, the driveway was empty. I pulled in, taking the space where my father’s car used to be and shut off the engine. I sighed, looking at the worn out wood of the porch, the swing swaying slightly in the breeze.
I got out of my truck, slamming the door behind me and checking my watch. After composing myself, I rang the doorbell, reminding myself to breathe. After about a minute, the front door creaked open, and my mother emerged from around the dark oak that separated us. Her face was pale.
“Taylor. I heard your truck. I thought it was you,” she said quietly. “What are you doing here?”
In the shadow of the cold, empty house that I had fled from months ago, I asked myself the same question.
After I got back, my brother Tim and I met at the coffee shop in town. I had spent a lot of time in the basement; trying to make my fingers move coherently enough to play a decent song on my guitar, but it all came out in fragments of an un-tuned mess. Tim took one look at me and knew I needed a break, practically marching me out of the front door and into his car. In the café, he sat across from me, shaking the sugar packet between his thumb and forefinger.
“I couldn’t believe it when Mom called,” he said, breaking off the top of the packet and pouring the sugar into his coffee.
“I know,” I agreed, forcing a weak smile and picking up a packet of sugar from the bowl on the table.
“Little bro – back in town,” Tim muttered, sipping from the steaming mug.
I poured the sugar into the coffee and stirred it, taking a sip; beautiful and bitter, just how I liked it. I sighed and tried to relax.
Tim noticed my posture. “You didn’t bring Haley back with you?”
“Not this time.”
I inhaled deeply, trying to begin. Tim raised his eyebrows at me.
“We’re not together anymore; she doesn’t know I’m here.”
Tim’s eyes widened. “Are you serious?”
“Taylor and Haley. Like Lennon and McCartney. I never thought I’d see the day.”
“I know,” I sighed. “I can barely believe it myself.”
“What happened, man?”
“Well, I can’t listen to Fleetwood Mac anymore.”
Over his shoulder, I saw a girl with deep chestnut curls. My breath caught, heart hammered against my chest, eyes transfixed on her as she turned her head. It wasn’t her. It couldn’t be.
I looked back to Tim and opened my mouth, but I couldn’t find the words, or the strength to begin to tell him of our downfall, of how everything had changed, and how I had lost the best thing to ever have happened to me. I had lost Haley. I may as well have lost a limb too.