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Familiar Ground

Shannon Fay is a Clarion West graduate and writer living in Nova Scotia. She has written tons of short stories, and is currently working on a historical fantasy novel. She can be found online at ayearonsaturn.com and @shannonlfay.

"Rina, when are you going to put down roots?" her relatives asked as they passed salt and gossip around her parents' dinner table. Framed photos of Rina's cousins and their families beamed down from the walls around them.
Rina had sent her parents plenty of pics: Rina riding on an elephant, Rina at Tokyo Tower, Rina sighing under the Bridge of Sighs. None of these pictures were on display.
"I don't want to." There was a sharp pain in Rina's gut. She always got these stomach aches when she visited family. "I like traveling."
"A young woman like you needs to settle down," one of her great-aunts intoned.
"Rina, your aunt's right," her mother said.
The pain was now a sharp throb.
"Rini-bear," her father said. "Can't you be sensible and stay in one place? Make something of yourself?"
Their words were a stab to her heart but it was nothing compared to the pain in her stomach. She'd had this pain nearly all her life. The first time she'd felt it she'd been playing with her friends outside. They'd been running around, pretending that each corner of the yard was a different continent. Her mother had been gardening, looking up occasionally as the children flited about.
"Someday, I'm going to really go to all these places!" Rina had declared to her friends as she stepped on the "Africa" corner. Her mother had laughed.
"Don't be silly."
Rina froze, as if her mother's caustic tone had cast a spell on her. Rina's mother didn't seem to notice. Rina watched as her mother dropped a seed into the ground and covered it with dirt, a sudden sharp pain pulsating in Rina's gut.
That pain had been building for years, growing each time she came home, harsh words and derision trickling through Rina's brain like water trickling through soil.
And now it was too strong to ignore. Not wanting to throw up at the table, Rina raced out to the backyard.
She fell to her knees on the grass, stomach clenching. Her throat convulsed and something stringy and solid came up her throat and out of her mouth. She took hold and pulled. A large, leafy plant slowly emerged, pulled past Rina's lips hand-over-hand. Some scraggly roots brushed past her tonsils and then the plant was out of her mouth, clear of her body.
The long, scraggly plant lay on the grass. Rina laughed, relief washing over her. She felt hollowed out. Free. She reached out and dug a small place in a nearby flower bed for the strange vine.
Her extended family came out and crowded around her, murmuring in confusion.
"There!" Rina gestured to the plant. "Are you happy now? I put down roots!"
She went upstairs to pack her bag.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, September 23rd, 2020

Author Comments

Part of what's made this such a tough year for me is seeing people I love trapped in bad situations--hard to escape an unsafe home when the whole world has become unsafe. If you are feeling trapped, please know that there are lots of people waiting and willing to help you get out.

- Shannon Fay
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