that's life (Australia)

Fast Fiction

Chloe said she was never coming back

- By Karen Clarke

Grace had always loved the buzz of airports but that changed five years ago when her daughter, Chloe, left home – following her heart to the other side of the world.

Grace thought Chloe might be back once the excitement faded, but she was wrong. The relationsh­ip did run out of steam, but, by then, her daughter had fallen in love with the country, made new friends and was ‘living a better life’.

Chloe made it clear she didn’t want her mother visiting and interferin­g, and that she wouldn’t be back.

Grace found it hard to explain how awful those words made her feel. Friends told her Chloe would come home when she realised what she was missing back home. But they didn’t know her daughter like Grace did.

Chloe had tried to run away from home at 13 and often played truant from school. She constantly pushed boundaries, more so after her dad left, but Grace had hoped they’d be close again when Chloe’s teenage years were behind her.

Instead, at the rst chance, Chloe threw off her family like shackles.

For Grace, the yearning never went away. Chloe was her only child, and the pain of missing her was woven into her soul.

But now she was coming home, completely out of the blue, and Grace was at the airport again, her excitement tempered with anxiety.

She was bound to have changed since they parted. Back then, Chloe had sported dreadlocks and a sullen expression. She hadn’t even bothered waving to her parents as they watched her go, brie y united with worry.

What if Grace didn’t recognise her?

A year ago she’d pored over photos on

Facebook, looking for the daughter she remembered, but saw no trace of the girl who’d once slipped a hand into hers.

Grace stopped looking after that – it was too painful. She didn’t even know her daughter’s address.

Grace’s heartbeat increased as passengers appeared in arrivals, lugging suitcases behind them, tired eyes scanning faces.

What had made Chloe do this? Grace wondered, nervously smoothing her hair with a shaky hand.

The email hadn’t given much away.

I’m returning on the 15th. Can you meet me at the airport at 2pm?

They were words Grace had dreamt of. She cried for an hour after reading them, then worried in case Chloe was ill, or had something so dreadful to tell her, she could only do it in person.

‘Look on the bright side,’

Chloe’s dad, Scott, said, when Grace rang to tell him. ‘Maybe it’s good news.’

He was waiting out in the car, solid and reliable. Chloe had the ability to bring them together, as well as drive them apart, and Grace was thankful he was here.

Suddenly, there she was. Her girl, pushing through the crowd towards her, face leaner, hair shorter, but the same strong chin and erce blue eyes – like her father’s.

They were spilling tears as she rushed at Grace, words pouring out.

‘Sorry, I love you Mum, I’ve missed you so much.’

But Grace understood now and the past didn’t matter any more.

Grace pressed one hand against the softness of her daughter’s face and rested the other on the swell of Chloe’s baby bump. She looked at her daughter for a very long time, while people jostled around them.

In the end there were only three words in her head.

‘Let’s go home,’ she said. ●

The pain of missing her was woven into her soul

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