She was drawing when the lead broke on her pencil and she headed to the kitchen to find her grandpa to sharpen with his knife. She stopped at the door, staring at the empty seat where he would sit and drink his dark thick tea from his stained cup and smoke his hand rolled cigarettes.
He was gone.
Somehow she had blocked it and had forgotten that he was dead and not coming back. She found his knife among his treasures in his room. She pressed the edge against the lead and remembered him skillfully cutting away the wood to reveal the lead. She would learn to do this and as an adult she would continue to sharpen her pencils this way.
The room still smelled of him. She would sneak into his room and press her nose against his shirts and close her eyes and imagine he was there. It gave her comfort.
When we wanted to come over we would call him and he would always show up, often dragged out of bed, hair dishevelled and in his housecoat. She would pile into the car with her brother and mother with the few things she could grab in her pyjamas and head to her sanctuary, grandma and grandpa’s house. They lived on a ravine and had a gentle collie dog that would accompany her and her brother as they meandered through the woods. They would spend hours looking for bugs and flowers and squirrels. She felt truly free here. Her grandpa loved animals and would talk to them. He had a special gentle way with all living things. She would wake up to her grandma singing bird songs and the birds singing back. She would wander into the kitchen and her grandpa would be sitting in his chair with his tea and cigarette and talking to grandma about a new book he was reading. Pancakes in the shape of silver dollars were cooking in the frypan. Sweeties, a spot of tea with sugar, and fish and chips on friday were staples. She loved it there. To her this was home.
After her grandfather died she found it too hard to live in the in between world so she decided to live with her spirit family. Her body still functioned in the real world but she was not in it. Her soul merged with the trees and the spirits in the sanctuary and they held her safe. Years later she had a dream that her grandpa left a key there for her to find her way back home. It was held in promise for when she was ready.