Stephanie Loy

Returning home

Alone, afraid and sad, he nestles his head towards his chest and hugs his knees. Everything trusting and humble about himself was ripped from it’s place like a tornado, carelessly uprooting everything in its path. Emptied of emotions, he prays for a ray of hope to rejuvenate his tainted spirit.

A plague of sorrow started eight weeks earlier while Rupert, a simple craftsman, was working in his tiny workspace. His daily routine consists of carving simple and quirky wooden characters to pass the minutes of the day. The characters inspired by his muse, Lolo, have rough, unfinished textures, others are smooth to the touch. One cumbersome day; the air hot and stale, the gravel loosely lifts off the dusty road, a well-dressed man walks into his studio.

Sebastian, not used to the weather, looks awkward in his designer suit. He walks through the small door frame; feeling more cramped inside than out and asks Rupert for a glass of water.

Rupert obliges and thinks nothing more.

“Are you Rupert?” asks Sebastian.

Sebastian explains his intrigue in Rupert’s quirky carvings, and offers him a show in Prague. The show will give him maximum exposure.

With shock, Rupert nearly gouges a hole in his finger. Not sure, he takes a minute and as he does his older sister walks in. A high pitch shrill sends Sebastian and Rupert into the streets. She’s on the phone to various family members to tell them the good news and Sebastian, in need of a butcher’s cooling room, takes this as a yes. He will be back to discuss the details.

That evening, relatives and neighbours fill the family home with celebrations. Lolo, arrives in a bright green and orange tulle-like dress. She’s never known about Rupert’s secret love for her, but being his closest confidant, she knows him very well and takes him aside. His demeanour is not that of a man who is content. He confesses he isn’t; the arrival of his sister was poorly timed and had a snowball effect on the day and the emotions of everyone. Lolo, as supportive as ever, calmly reminds him that it’s never too late. Letting others down, will be disappointing, but if the heart isn’t sure, the head should follow suit.

Interrupted, he is dragged from her comforting voice towards the crowd of people. How can he throw this moment away, this opportunity to look after his family?

“Seize the day!” he whispers as he disappears into the crowd.

Rupert is on a plane to Prague, never has he flown. Never has he owned a suit. The excitement after three weeks finally sets in.

Sold out! It is an overnight success, and in the following weeks he visits other countries. Bowled over by the  attention of so many people, he takes advantage of the luxuries. In his need to share, he calls home but quickly estranges himself by insulting the way of home and his upbringing. He ignores their pleas for his return home, when his cousin and best friend, Jono falls ill. Lolo uses the last of her monthly wage to call him in New York, his guilt avoids returning her call.

The tour of Rupert’s work is coming to an end. Stemmed from his high flying fame, he finds himself short tempered and disparate. Saddened by what he has become and his short trip to fame, he calls Lolo to confide in her, and soon finds out she has been seen with another friend.

Surely his Lolo can’t be with another man? Angered by the news, he is impelled to find a way home.

On arrival in the familiar, dusty streets, he finds his home deserted and his neighbours playing cards in front of Lolo’s house. Surprised and elated they hug and welcome home the prodigal son.  Rupert questions the empty house. Sam, an elderly man, sits Rupert down. Jono died. Everyone has gone to the family village to mourn. Weakened at the knees Rupert falls to the ground and wails in anger for his loss – his irresponsible way has left him without his best friend, without the welcoming embrace of his loving family and most of all his twin spirit, Lolo.

Neighbours carry him into the house, where he falls asleep out of exhaustion and anguish.

The sun is still high when he awakens; the house is dark and cool because of the drawn curtains. Still weak from the news, he crawls through the house toward the light peering through the kitchen door. He hopes that the light cast on his head will dissipate the load of his loss.

Here, eight weeks on from his first encounter with Sebastian he hugs his knees feeling empty and alone and sad.

In the distance he hears a familiar voice and he smiles.

On hearing of his return, she makes her way home. Lolo feels the anxiety round and full in her throat. The sun’s rays tap at the window pane of her heart. As she casts her eyes on the curled up figure on the dusty steps, she feels her heart jump into the palm of her hands. The familiarity of their togetherness allows their senses to peak. The light is brighter. The greens and blues of the day are accentuated. The sense of hope returns. And he thinks of the finite differences of two worlds, how easily it breaks what we know and trust; only on our return do we realise we bring our hearts home to be mended.
His sad eyes turn towards her familiar smile, his being filled with apologies. She wraps her arms around him and rocks with him.