Drawing of a tyre swing hanging from a tree. Caption reads: "She remembered afternoons playing on the old tyre swing."

Home short story by Iris Carden

“Home” in Karen’s mind had always been her grandparents’ house. That was where she went after school. Her parents would come and get her after they finished work, to go back to their home to eat and sleep and get ready for school again. But her real home, where she did her homework, and played, was her grandparents’ house.

Now, with her grandmother’s death, a decade after her grandfather’s, Karen was back home again. She had inherited the house.

She would have to sell it. It was too far from her work. It needed some serious renovation or at least major repairs. The yard was neglected and needed so much work.

Running her hand along the big old dining table, Karen remembered having afternoon tea, always a huge drink of milk with one of Grandma’s home-made biscuits or cake. Karen could almost smell the scent of fresh baking. She smiled thinking back.

Her phone rang. “Do you need help cleaning up Mum’s place?” her mother asked.

“No, I’m fine. I’ve got it under control.”

“I still don’t know why she left it to you. She should have left it to me. I could have sold it, invested the money and passed it on to you eventually.”

“But you already have a house, and you have made lots of money from your career. I think she just wanted to help me get started.”

“I could help you get started.”

“You could. You could help me with rent, or transport. You could even call once in a while, just to see how I’m doing. You could spend a day with me once in a while. But you don’t. Selling this house will help me. I can invest the money, until I’m ready to buy my own place.”

“Don’t think of living there, though. That house is too big for a young girl on her own.”

“Oh, I’m not thinking of it, Mum. The real estate agent’s here. I have to go. Bye.”

She hung up. The real estate agent was not there, was not due to arrive for a couple of hours. Was she actually thinking of living in the huge old Queenslander? There would be so much inconvenience with travel. Would the extra cost and time for travel even out with not having to pay her over-priced rent? Would she consider it just to annoy the mother who thought that at almost 30 she was still a “young girl”?

Karen ran her hand along the keys of the piano, on which her grandmother had taught her to play. Then she sat down, began to play and lost herself in the music for a while.

She made a coffee, and took it out to the yard.

Mint had gone wild and taken over the remains of her grandmother’s herb garden. The orange tree was over-full of ripe fruit, as was the lemon tree. Karen made a mental note to pick the fruit before leaving. She remembered her grandmother’s incredible chunky marmalade, made from fruit Karen picked.

The old tyre swing her grandfather had made for her was still there. She remembered endless summer afternoons playing on that simple swing. Other kids had manufactured playground equipment; metal swings and slides, even trampolines. Karen had always been certain her old tyre was better than any of them. It was put in place by someone who loved her more than anything.

She looked around. There was no-one to see. She pulled on the thick, heavy rope. It still seemed strong enough. Putting her coffee cup on the ground, she put her legs through the tyre. She checked her weight against the strength of the rope again before pushing off. For a few minutes, she was a child again, and her tyre swing was still the best in the neighbourhood, probably the world.

Climbing out of the swing, Karen picked up her coffee and went back inside. She had made a decision. She phoned the real estate agent and cancelled their meeting.

This was home. She would stay.

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By Iris Carden

Iris Carden is an Australian indie author, mother, grandmother, and chronic illness patient. On good days, she writes. Because of the unpredictability of her health, she writes on an indie basis, not trying to meet deadlines. She lives on a disability support pension now, but her ultimate dream is to earn her own living from her writing.

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