Althea is happy to be home again after all this time, though she wishes for moonlight to wash suddenly over the black houses and black lawns of her childhood cul-de-sac, to see the old neighborhood brought to life in a gentle, pale glow. She floats silently down the street on which she first rode her bike, where she scraped her initials into wet cement with tiny hands around a stick, where she practiced letting off the clutch while giving a little gas. With but a sliver of moonlight, the once familiar block could remind her of the old haunts and welcome her into the house at the end of the street.
There, to her left, she might recognize the Shapiro’s lawn, strewn with plastic toys, and the wooden jungle gym in the backyard that gave her the scar on her left shin. There, across the way, she’d notice Mrs. Delmotte’s sunflowers still looming proudly around the swan-shaped mailbox, and the sight of them would send a tickle of warmth through Althea’s body which, recently, always seems to be so cold.
But there is no moon, and the road feels more like a river, and the night is too dark for the houses to be anything other than hulking black masses growing up in front of a gray-black sky. A passing thought: but surely there used to be streetlights? Dangling playfully over the sidewalk like fingers from a loving hand?
Althea is just happy to be home at last. How long it has been. She drifts noiselessly over the cool front lawn of the house at the end of the street and comes to a rest on the doorstep. So strange, to have to knock and not just walk right in. She wonders why she ever left, and what it was that kept her away for so long, and where, exactly, she’s been.
But the house is so peaceful, and inside they must be sleeping so soundly, and Althea imagines what a ripple she will make with a knock on the door at this hour. Why is she coming home so late and on such a dark night? If only there were moonlight to illuminate her face when the door swings open. If only this wan image of herself, smiling weakly in the doorframe, would be enough to echo back through all this time.
She lifts her hand to knock, but hesitates. Perhaps it really has been too long and it really is a bit too dark and after all, Althea thinks, it was nice enough to be home again, if only for a moment.