The sun was shining brightly overhead. An unnecessarily large garden spread out behind the white plantation house, with rows of bushes all of a lovely green, occasionally with splotches of the sharp red of roses. In the midst of the garden there was a small gazebo with a bench.
"I spoke to your brother last week," said Victoria. She was an old, weathered woman, who had seen much of the world and since forgotten it. She was intent on studying the petals of a rose, determined to find the meaning of life hidden somewhere within. "He said that he wants to visit me for Thanksgiving. You should come, too."
"I don't know," said Alice. "Thanksgiving is a long way away, Mother." Alice was young and had a sense of the world beyond her part of it, though she had yet to see it. She had always had romantic notions of the places she had never been. Today she had something to tell her mother.
"I'll come," offered Bailey. She was the youngest at the meeting in the gazebo, and she was standing just outside by one of the bushes, the sunlight reaching down to flutter across her. Bailey had never liked the usual family tradition of going to her father's for Thanksgiving. She saw that Alice wanted to say something, but she also saw that it was sure to be something bad, and she hoped Alice would stay quiet.
"He's going to bring his baby boy," continued Victoria, absently pressing the fleshy part of her thumb against a thorn in the rose.
"Mom!" Alice said, reaching to take the rose away. "You'll hurt yourself!"
"Oh, hush, child," said Victoria. "Allow me this one pleasure in life."
Bailey cleared her throat.
None of them said anything. Victoria touched the soft petals of the rose and began to hum an old Gospel song. Alice stared at her hands, watching as she twisted her fingers together. Bailey looked away, searching the skyline, trying to find the answer she was sure she could only find anywhere else.
"Old Mr. Absher moved away," said Victoria.
"I'm leaving," said Alice.
"I miss him sometimes," said Victoria, dropping the rose. It rolled off the floor of the gazebo and rested on the hard brown earth beneath it. "He was a great friend of mine, you know."
"Where are you going?" Bailey asked Alice.
"Mom," said Alice.
"I knew him for a very long time," Victoria said. "A very good friend of mine, he was."
There was silence again. Bailey looked at Alice and wondered where she was going. She pictured Alice in a boat traveling the canals of Venice. Bailey wanted to leave but she wasn't old enough. She wanted to go see the pyramids of Egypt and rediscover the history that was buried in the sand there, or go to London and experience the rainy days and see where all the old authors lived, or go to France and maybe find the passion that took hold of the Parisians inside.
Alice didn't know where she was going. "I'm leaving," she said again. She was leaving to find, to learn, to know. She was leaving to the real world, to England, to France, to Egypt. She needed something that those places could give her. "I won't be here for Thanksgiving."
"France," said Victoria. "I think I'd like to go to France."