Ella straightened the sheets on her bed in her new apartment. She looked at the pictures on her bedside table longingly. She wished she could have just one of them back. She stood on her small porch and squinted in the brightness of the sun. She stared down and frowned as she saw Jimmy’s car parked outside. From the moment Ella had left the hospital, she had told herself she would visit her used-to-be house.
Today, six months later, she would finally visit the site. She knew the land technically still belonged to her, but it felt pointless. Ella took a deep breath and walked down the stairs and out of the lobby. “Are you sure you’re ready?” Jimmy asked as Ella got in. Ella nodded stiffly. “When are you getting that insurance money?” Jimmy asked as they drove. “In two weeks. Would you be able to drive me into Toronto to get it?” Ella asked. “Of course I can.”
Ella’s jaw dropped as Jimmy drove up the steep driveway. A few blackened poles stood up by themselves, and everything else was just ash and burned wood. Ella hopped out of the car, and walked towards the foundation of the house. A slap of concrete was all that was left. Ella bit her bottom lip as she walked through the hollow doorframe. She felt this overwhelming sensation, like for the first time, the fire was real.
Ella turned her attention to her hands. Two scars on each palm were still visible, and she wondered if they would ever go away. Ella felt like she needed to sit down. She sat on a big piece of wood that was only partially burnt. Jimmy took a seat on the other side. “I can’t leave this.” Ella said. Jimmy kept quiet, sensing she wasn’t quite finished. “This is my Aunt Rose’s property, and it deserves more than to be remembered as the house that burned down.”
Jimmy looked at her. “So what are you going to do?” He asked. “I’m going to clean this up. I’m going to build my house, and I’m going to make a living off of this place.” Jimmy was confused. “Make a living off of it, how?” He asked. “Look at all of this land, Jimmy. I could plant so many gardens of whatever I like.” Ella said, looking around at the acres of land.
Jimmy just nodded. “So I plan to get this all cleared away before I get my money two weeks from now. That way, the builders can get the work done quickly.” With that, Ella stood up, and started to lug a piece of wood away from the ashes. “Wait, starting now… You’re wearing a dress!” Jimmy shot up.
“You’re right… I’ll come back tomorrow.” Ella contemplated, and headed back to the car. Jimmy got in as well. “Don’t think you’re doing this alone.” He said as they drove. “I’ll pick you up at eight tomorrow morning.” Ella smiled, and threw a big hug at Jimmy before getting out of the car.
The next day when Jimmy stopped outside of Ella’s apartment complex, Ella was already standing there with her jeans, plaid shirt and work boots. As she got in the car, she pulled on a pair of gardening gloves. Jimmy laughed. “Well, at least you’re prepared.”
The two of them spent the next two weeks piling up burned wood and bits of concrete. They didn’t talk much, except to discuss the different piles. Ella started to pass time by singing. She would sing one line, and turn towards Jimmy, waiting for him to continue. Jimmy pretended he couldn’t see her. “Hey Jude, don’t make it bad…” Ella started.
After a few moments of silence, Ella said, “What, you don’t like the Beatles?” Jimmy threw some wood into the pile. “No, I do. I just don’t sing.” Ella chuckled. “Oh, you don’t sing?” Jimmy put his hands on his waist. “I’ll have you know that even the great Eleanor Maclain can’t make me sing.” He said. Ella immediately dropped her rake and went over to him. She grabbed his hand. “Please… I really want to hear you sing?” She pleaded.
Jimmy fake coughed and pulled away. “Actually, it’s kind of late. I’d better get back… Do you want a ride?” Ella frowned. What was wrong with him? It was only four o’clock. “Alright…” She said, getting into the car. Honestly Jimmy was frustrated. Here was Ella, grabbing his hand, and flashing him smiles. She had no idea what that did to him.
Ella sat in her room that night, wondering what was up with Jimmy. She decided that he was probably confused. All this time, Jimmy knew that Ella’s Mother had fled the scene of the burning house with Ella still in it, but Ella hadn’t said or done anything about it. She decided that Jimmy deserved to know why more than anyone. She would tell him tomorrow.
The next day, Ella and Jimmy were quietly clearing the site, when Ella suddenly stopped. “I know why you’re so frustrated.” She said, walking over to him. Jimmy gulped. “You do?” Ella nodded. She inhaled deeply, and began.
“Jimmy, the thing is I want to start again. I don’t want to be dragging hateful feelings about my Mother around for the rest of my life, and I need to let them go. And I know what she did was SO wrong, and she deserves justice, but if she has a heart at all she will have that guilt for the rest of her life and…”
“Ella, what are you talking about?” Jimmy laughed. Ella looked confused. “You mean you weren’t mad at me because I never explained about my Mother leaving?” Ella asked, sort of relieved. “Then why were you mad at me?” Jimmy pushed back his hair. “I- I’m not mad at you. I’m just- I was just tired is all.” Jimmy lied.
Jimmy didn’t like lying to Ella or anyone for that matter, but he couldn’t say anything to her. He was just her friend. Jimmy sat in his bedroom, and stared at the wall until he finally went to sleep. Meanwhile, Ella danced in her nightgown around her apartment, happy that Jimmy wasn’t mad at her. She had gotten worried for a minute there.
Suddenly, the phone rang. “Hello, Eleanor Maclain residence.” Ella said in a silly voice.
“Eleanor Maclain? This is Martin Lawrence, your lawyer. I know that you are coming in to Toronto tomorrow to get your insurance money, but we have some things to discuss with you. So I pulled some strings to get the money transferred over here, so that we can talk.” Ella sighed. “But, how did you…” Ella tried to ask.
“Great, we’ll see you tomorrow at around noon then. Have a good night!” Mr. Lawrence replied, and hung up. Ella put the phone down, and took a seat in a chair. Why do I have to go all the way back home to see him? I bet this has to do with my Mother. That evil little… Ella thought as she paced the room. She went to bed, knowing that tomorrow could only go one way.
She was going to have one final confrontation with her Mother.
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