Peaches and Postcards

Chapter Twenty-Five

The sidewalk was frosted over with cold and I slipped slightly as I walked home but none of it mattered. I raised my head up to the gray skies and simply wanted to sing. To praise the snowflakes that fell against my rosy, blushing cheeks and to thank the frozen puddles as my feet walked past them. I had the childish desire to crack each frozen pool of water and watch as the ice glimmered like crystal, and as I continued to stroll across the sidewalk, I heeded this desire.

My scarf was wrapped around my neck tightly but I wanted to throw it out into the wind, smile as it floated around like newborn ashes. Everything in my view was vibrant, worthy of simple praise and I almost began singing out to the mailboxes and lawns that passed my cheerful view.

But what seemed most exultant was the snow that was layering against the frozen streets and the large flakes that fell swiftly yet radiantly, as if the skies wanted to make up for lost time. I watched the thin veil of snow as it descended and grew in abundance. Nothing made me happier than to simply walk and exclaim over natural beauty.

I didn't enter the front door after I'd reached my house. It almost seemed too formal, as if I'd lose some of the mystique that settled in the background. So I strolled around to the back, gazing adoringly at the barren trees that stood primly and scattered around the frozen pond.

It was just as my mother explained it would be. I shall meet you by the peach tree, by the glassy pond, when the first snow flails down. The ground felt frozen as I walked, and the snow already covered a layer upon the previous mud, hiding it and settling charisma instead. The trees were coated with the falling snowflakes, finally embracing clothing for the cold winter.

The pond was frosted over, ice clinging from one side to another. I smelled the bittersweet bite of winter as I neared the dock. Upon the frozen planks she stood, gazing at the expanse she hadn't seen for months. My breath didn't catch, because I knew she would be there, standing in the swirl of snowflakes that easily flailed down. I neared the wooden planks, watching as the peach tree above her swayed in the gentle, wintry breeze.

As I stood only feet away from my mother, she shifted slightly, her long, cream-hued gown billowing with the wind. The lengthy chocolate hair was let loose, waving and curling around her shoulders and cascading down her back. She was standing straight, turned towards the frozen pond and I didn't see her expression. I wondered at what it might be. If she was melancholic, disappointed or glad to be home. But she only stared across the pond and at the barren trees on the other side.

"I've made a mistake, Tara," she told the breeze. Her voice was emotionless, devoid of anything except sound.

I strode around to gaze at her, disbelieving in my expression. "What do you mean, mom? You did what you had to do. So you've left for a while, but now you're back." I smiled. "Everything's gonna be okay now."

Her cerulean eyes gazed past me and a sadness swept across her features. I wasn't sure if it was something I said that initiated this change so I came close to her to embrace her. She only stood emotionlessly as my arms wrapped around her, noticing the cold that veiled her. It was as if she was one of the snowflakes that continued to fall upon us. Cold and remote, without feeling as she flailed down and I was unsure of where she'd fall.

"How's your father, sweety?" she asked, murmuring. "And Lindsey? Alex? Have I left for too long? There's so much difference that I can't take it all in. Maybe you'll be my eyes and lead for me." The smell of freshly-laundered clothing entered my mind as I continued to embrace her, afraid of releasing this fragile snowflake.

"We're fine, mom," I lied. As long as she's back. Nothing else matters.

I knew she frowned without having to look up into the lost, ocean's gaze. "I shouldn't have left. I should have been with you."

"It's okay," I told her simply. "Things have gotten better. The house is still a mess but we can fix everything."

I felt the shudder that was a shaky tremor. It was as if the gentle snowflake was easily transforming, becoming liquid water, and I knew she'd slip away if she did. Maybe something happened, when she was away... she's so detached.

"I've made a mistake," she repeated, whisperingly.

"No, you haven't," I assured her. The snow was still swirling down into the frozen pond that stared across at our two, solemn figures. One content and the other nostalgic.

But I knew she was shaking her head now, looking down at the wooden planks beneath us. "Your father will be unhappy. He's done terrible things but I should have forgiven him. In the beginning."

"Nothing you've done could be that bad," I told her, trying to smile as her wispy hair tickled me in our continued embrace. The scent of winter perpetually fell across us as the barren tree above gained veil upon veil of snow.

My mother shifted slightly, out of the embrace, and gazed at me with solemn eyes. "How can your patience run so smoothly, Tara? I've been absent for so long and yet you don't resent me. I wasn't there when your quandaries came and my letter told you nothing." She paused, shaking her head sadly. "I don't understand how you can simply forgive everything and ask nothing."

Is that such a bad thing? I wondered. People always deserve second chances. Andrew was willing to let me try again and now I'm offering the same thing.

"I don't care, mom. Whatever mistake you made—it doesn't matter," I told her, softly speaking through the snowflakes that fell.

Her gaze remained questioning. She stared at me with the simple expression of wonder and after a silence she said, "You've changed, Tara. There's so much about you that reminds me of myself, but so many differences stray that I can't begin to count."

I looked down, blushing slightly. I've changed. But how? What's happened since the beginning of the year to make me so different, and so much more like my mother?

But then she smiled, and I stopped wondering. "It's not something to tint your cheeks about. It's not shameful. You're simply different than what I once knew you to be, but this change is among better traits. I'm proud of you."

My mouth stayed chained for a moment, reliving a terrible habit, before I suddenly overflowed with emotion and ran into open arms. "I've missed you so much," I simply whispered as she embraced me. I didn't know why I'd suddenly said this, but my melancholic emotion finally broke through veils of stillness and I could do nothing but embrace my mother. The fact that she was home swept across my thoughts again and joy rang clear to me. I don't have to figure things out by myself anymore. She can help me, my first thoughts began.

But they were overfilled with other ones, That's not true, though. I've learned how to do things for myself, without always relying on advice. Maybe this is one of the things about me that's changed. It's not a bad thing...

After she released me, the thrill of delight rang to me again and I heeded this misty bell to stare up at the gray skies and smile. My mother's back and everything can be like it once was. I don't have to wonder where she was because it was something she needed to do, something she needed to figure out and keep to herself. So I won't ask. I'll exult and accept her return and try to understand this change about me.

The snow was soft as it flailed in its wintry dance. I felt the cold fall about me but I ignored the bite that seemed almost teasing, playful. It reminded me of a Halloween night, so long ago already—when a woman spoke to me of a shield. It was cold that night too, but her words finally made sense.

The shield you must make will not be a physical one. The statement was absurd at the time, stupid—nonsensical. But as I stared back at the events that sloped in strange curves since the start of the school year, I knew that the woman was right. I should have been guarding my thoughts, my mind from all that sprang up at me. And despite everything, these quandaries and problems came with understanding. And with some sadness—they came with independence too.

Because as I gazed at my mother's placid form, on the dock beside me, I knew that I was growing distant from her. When Peaches died, that was the first symbol of vast expanse between us, but now that she'd left for so long and each event I dealt without her help—I was more detached from her.

And it was a bittersweet realization. It seemed as though she'd left to help me understand this, and it reminded me of the time when the mother of new-born puppies has to eventually push her children away, to make them more self-reliant, independent. I can't rely on her my entire life, that's what she's trying to help me realize. And with nostalgic recognition, I'd finally learned this.

My eyes strayed to the woman who stood silently beside me, watching the gray clouds that parted slightly and a ray of sunlight peaked through. I opened my mouth to speak and she listened.

"What about that postcard?" I suddenly questioned, remembering the card she'd sent me weeks ago. "What did it mean? It seemed empty..."

My mother only gazed at me warmly, then suddenly laughed. "I'm surprised at you, Tara. You seem to think everything I have to say has some sort of meaning. It was just what I told you it was. A card I saw in a store and thought you'd like."

I felt my cheeks tint with rose, remembering myself tearing the paper to bits. "Oh. I thought it was something more. I don't know why." She only smiled at me and I looked up into the ray of sunlight.

There's so much to still understand about my mother, I realized. There's so much to understand about everyone around me. Bryce and Kat... Andrew...

My face flushed slightly as I remembered the events earlier today, but a strange, pacifying feeling only riled in my mind. It takes a while to really get to know someone. And even though I've lived with my mother all my life—there's still parts of her personality that I don't understand.

But really... truly knowing someone is like guessing each thought that runs through their mind. It's not possible, because people always change. Whether they realize it or not. And my mother is different now, just as Bryce and Andrew are. There's new things to learn about them all the time...

And Kat, I thought, grinning. If she'll ever change, she won't be throwing parties at the beginning of the year. Or picking out Hello Kitty outfits at the mall every Saturday. But whatever the case, she'll change too, along with everyone else.

But it's such a strange thought, I pondered. That you can change but still be the same. I wondered if I'd changed. What happened the entire year that changed me?

Bryce, the immediate thought came. And Andrew too. Now one's a friend and the other a boyfriend. It was such an odd realization that I almost laughed, but it somehow felt strangely right. They might have reversed roles in my mind, but now neither would stand in the sidelines. I glanced up at my mother. And neither would she. Whatever made her leave doesn't matter—it only matters that she's returned and things are different. Always the same and still different.

The concept somewhat reminded me of a piece of clay, contorted and shifted, but always retaining its basic nature. That's how people are... changing yet the same.

And that's how I'll be too. Because through everything that's happened, there's always a pivot to return to. I glanced at the frozen pond. Just like those muddy puddles, the water swirling within them always shifts to new states. Now this pond is frozen, different, but the liquid water will return next spring.

The ice upon the pond glimmered in the sunshine and the snow softly continued falling. My mother watched the glittery ice with me, marveling in its simple beauty. At the simple veil of powder that twinkled merrily, winking in the sunlight. That was what the pond understood now, the cold frost that shifted, would melt, but would one day return. And my reflection easily shone across the ice. It was a glassy sheet that now knew change—so I looked up at the falling snow and smiled.


A/n: -burst into tears- ;.; I can't believe it's over! Ah well. It was meant to be done, as I'm sure none of you wanted to keep waiting until the end of time and still not have the last chapter, ne? So I'll make this a long Author's Note just to blab about nothingness. XD

Well, I knowthat I'mdefinitely not going to bewriting a sequel. But, if anyone's interested enough in the story, you can send me a quick messageand write the sequel yourself.The only thing I ask of you if you decide to do so, is that it's in Kat's point of view. That might be difficult since we don't know much about her (myself included), but that's where you get to call the shots. The plot is yours to make and new characters are always welcome, just not too many since that often confuses a reader. XD But yeah, if you're set on a sequel, I'll be happy to read it because I myself want to know what happens next. I'll definitely review too, but you have to mention somewhere a type of disclaimer of the initial characters. -smiles encouragingly-

If I finish drawing the main characters I'll post up a link to DeviantArt on my profile page, but you'll have to check on it once in a while, since I'm not sure when I'll be done exactly. They prolly won't be masterpieces but hopefully they'll turn out okay. -smiles-

Now, next bit of news. I'll be posting a one-shot sometime in August about meanings (remember when Kat tells Tara that kisses only matter because you give them meanings? Yeah, I've kind of sloped off from there). It's not about any of the P&P characters, but it's a morose piece I've decided to write. My beta thinks it's okay so you'll see it up sometime. Also, I'll post a poem as soon as my betadigs itup from her e-mail pile(so if you're reading this, Rox, get to it! XD).

So yeah. That's about all I have to ramble about.

Once again, a gigantic amount of hugs and kisses to ya guys for sticking by me for so long. You guys are the awesomest, so thanks lots and lots! I would reply to each and every one of your reviews, but I'm afraid they'll all sound the same, 'cause each and every one of 'em was appreciated. And I still have to snap napkins to my mouth at dinner to stop grinning, so consider that my thankful reply! XD Wish I could use more happy faces, but darned FictionPress won't let me. -pouts- Ah well, I guess laughter shall be my companion.

XO's to everyone and enjoy your summers. I'll miss seeing those pretty reviews, but if you wanna keep in touch, my e-mail's on the profile page. And someday, I might just add some more identity to that lonely page, but for now it'll just be it's forlorn self. T.T

Love you all. Thanks for reading! -exits the stage and throws out random story chibis-