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Come Home

by Debbie McNaughton

Welcome to Cape Cod. I passed the sign; the Bourne Bridge looming large before me. Gripping the steering wheel of my rental car, I entered the rotary full throttle.

At last, I'd returned to my Massachusetts roots to spend a week's vacation in Sandwich. I'd just shed 220 pounds, my worst half, through a grateful divorce, and was looking forward to spending time by the ocean with my friend, Paula.

Twenty years ago, I had followed a dream of adventure and moved to Wyoming, got married and embraced a life far from my beloved New England.

The smell of a summer now over filled my vehicle as I turned onto Emerald Way and crushed the swirl of fall leaves under the tires. I pulled up in front of a weathered cedar shingled house where Paula rushed out to greet me.

"Welcome home, Deb. Finally, you're here! Come on inside and relax."

Together we carried my suitcases and settled down for a long afternoon of memories.

The next day, Paula packed a lunch of lobster rolls, cranberry bread and wine and we drove to the ocean at Sandy Neck. The beach plum's fragrance still lingered in the September air and brought me back to another time, when I'd been single, with no responsibilities, no daughter with special needs, and no cheating husband.

"Let's walk down to the jetty. There's some rocks we can sit on." Paula's voice lifted my pained soul back to the present.

"Sounds great. I want to bask in the sunshine and forget these past six months." I held the bottle of wine. "Let's celebrate!"

We enjoyed our meal and talked for several hours about our old carefree days, the men we'd dated, the tiny bikinis we'd worn, the coffee frappes and fried clams we'd eaten, the summer evening bonfires.

The best part of having a good friend is that they know when you need to be alone. Paula followed a sandpiper down the beach to collect sea shells while I stretched out on a towel with the warm sun on my face. I closed my eyes and listened to the seagull's serenade as I remembered a happier time, when I'd fallen in love with my husband on this same beach.

"You need to come home."

I raised my head, "What did you say?"

Paula was off in the distance, not beside me. Well, that was weird. I know I heard a voice. I'd never considered a move back East. I had a beautiful home in the Rocky Mountains, a job for twenty-five years, cherished friends and a community church that I loved.

For the next several days, Paula and I toured the Cape. I left, never telling her about the voice of God, or whoever enlightened me that day.

I spent the next three years in Wyoming feeling restless, tired of the life of isolation that I'd chosen, eighty miles from next-to-nowhere. Each day, I gazed out my picture window at the spectacular mountains and felt alone.

On an October evening, with the harbinger of another winter near, I snuggled my daughter into bed for the night and lay on the couch by the fireplace. My brown Lab Lilly lay beside me. Mesmerized by the flames…and I swear this is the truth…the voice said to me again, "You need to come home."

This time the message rang clear; I needed to face my fears and move on. I was a single parent, responsible for the care of a special needs child, and 2,500 miles from the family I loved. What reason did I have to stay in Wyoming? I called my family and told them to expect me in the summer.

Tears rolled down my cheeks on a July morning, as I stood in the living room of my empty home.

"Thank you, old house, for the years of shelter and warmth, the secrets you kept and the moments of sadness shared together in the quiet hours. I shall miss you."

A group of friends came to say goodbye and I knew from this point forward our relationships would never be the same. When I drove away, I held onto my new dream of moving to Cape Cod, inspired by the unknown voice.

Fifteen years have passed, and when I find myself alone on a quiet beach, I pause to look out at the sea and say, "I did what you wanted… I came home."

Sandwich Marina photograph by Deborah McNaughton

Debbie McNaughton is a writer of short stories drawn from everyday life. She is a regular contributing writer to Cape Women Online and has also been published in Seeing the Everyday magazine.

Deborah's short story, Three Pounds Five Ounces, will be published in the October 28th edition of Chicken Soup for the Soul.

She is a Member in Letters of the National League of American Pen Women and a member of Cape Cod Writer's Center.

Debbie welcomes emails at: