Ruffles stirred in his wicker basket as the door was slowly pushed ajar. The old, chocolate Labrador yawned, and then watched through tired eyes as Emmy tip-toed across the cold, stone floor.
At the window she paused. This had always been her favourite time of the day: the dawn mists rising over the barn; a slither of red sky beyond the southern cornfields. For just a moment she hesitated, before propping up the white envelope against a bowl of apples on the kitchen table.
Picking up the small suitcase, she turned to Ruffles and smiled. Perhaps a heavy heart, but no tears, as Emmy slipped quietly out the back door.
Marion looked down from the attic window. This was usually her favourite time of the year: that time when the leaves on the trees surrounding their white, timber house turned slowly from green to subtle peach-red. The dry, summer heat had always bothered Marion since moving south – she’d never really taken to it. The turn to Autumn brought with it a coolness which made her feel more comfortable and content. This year though was different.
Tom, her oldest boy, had moved down to Olsen City after graduation. He now had a wife and a daughter of his own. Marion didn’t see them as much as she’d like, but didn’t make a fuss – she still had Andrew. However, the falling leaves of Autumn would soon carry her youngest away too. His first semester at Lindale University started next week. Around her feet his cases lay packed and ready. On the walls, bare rectangular patches where his favourite posters had once been pinned. Downstairs she could hear Andrew and his father laughing in front of the TV. Marion closed the window and straightened the duvet on her son’s bed. She took a deep breath and wiped away a tear. Motherhood hadn’t prepared her for this.