The bus pulled into the town late that afternoon. It could have been anywhere, but for Amy, this was home. A rural town in the heart of the country was all she knew, until seven months ago.
The bus ride had taken her three hours that afternoon in late October. The nights were drawing in now and Amy knew that a winter at home would be cold and cruel and there was still much to look forwards to.
She loved the traditions of this time of year. What with Halloween, Thanksgiving and then Christmas. It was a time of year for hunkering down in front of log fires with hot chocolate and watching the snow fall sometimes gently, sometimes in a blizzard. So strong, you did not feel in the inhabited world at all.
Yet when you were home, with her people, all you could do was smile.
Her round trip (as her mother always referred to it, fearful that anything less might encourage her Amy to linger longer or even not come home again at all), was over. Amy would return to the small country store and pick up again with family, friends and others who knew her well. She had seen some sights that she could not have imagined over the course of her volunteer work. Sights she would treasure for the rest of her life, that’s for sure.
And now it was over. She was heartbroken to be coming home from a world she could only have imagined all those days and weeks ago. Although she had been aware of what she was getting into from the interminable lectures and videos before she left, the depth of need for her simple services had been unbelievable.
As a home town girl, Amy had a natural instinct for care for others. In Lewiston, Ohio, everyone looked out for each other and it would be unheard of to be otherwise. Even the strapping young guys she had around her in school would be the first to help an old lady across the street, even if sometimes that was not what they wanted!
So caring came easily to Amy, and when she got to the village in the jungle, it was exactly what she did. Naturally, she settled into helping the people who had so little, live better lives through the support Amy gave, without any real thought for herself. She was a perfect example of a volunteer any town or city would have wished to send to represent them in a different country; a very different culture.
And then there was Brad.
He had so helped Amy settle in and appreciated that it was a big shift in her life experiences so far. Brad was young, quiet and still a seasoned volunteer leader who knew the ropes. The little wrinkles that made a girl’s life so much easier on their first time. Brad was the one who drew Amy in, helped her settle and finally, without much warning on either side, won her heart.
And yet, their time was short. Brad had helped her for the period she was in country and enabled her to see much more in herself than she would ever have. Brad sought – as with every volunteer – to get the best from them, building an inner belief that they could, even thought they had decided that they couldn’t, with many of the little side projects he found for them.
But with Amy, he found a special relationship.
For Brad was not a boy to fall in love easily. He was actually quite shy and despite his handsome looks, he was relatively inexperienced on the girl front. Amy had, despite her worldly inexperience, released Brad from his cave and brought out the confident young man in him.
And on those cosy nights, deep in the jungle, as they explored every aspect of each other, they became inseparable, until the evening, two nights before she left that Amy now recalled.
It was a very long flight back from the jungle. It was a long ride back from the airport on that bus too. And with the thoughts she was holding, it would take time for Amy to come to terms with those events. Probably for the rest of her life too.
For a moment she felt the tears returning again and yet, as they pulled into the bus station, she felt them subside a little, for she saw her mother and father and Ted her younger brother, all waiting and waving as they saw her in that window seat coming home to them, where they could care for her in the winter months to come. To comfort and support her in the place she has always called home.
The place she would come back to from her ’round trip’.
How Brad came to fall, no-one could understand. He was so careful and so experienced on the paths around the village. But fall he did and whilst everyone tried to shield Amy from the recovery of his broken body, it was not in anyone’s heart to stop her saying a last goodbye to the one love she had found so far in her life.
As Amy held his hand for that last time and kissed the proud forehead finally, one more time, many of the village people cried for her as she wept herself.
But as she gathered her things from the bus and made her way down the steps, she was not weeping, much though she wanted too. For she was home, at the heart of her family and many others who loved her, just as Brad had done.
It was the memories of the many humble and poor friends she had left behind in the jungle that charged her feelings. And in that moment, desperately sad through she was, she smiled as she saw her folks. She smiled for the sunny people she had left behind and the memory of Brad, the wonderful boy she met in the jungle.
And the beautiful man she left behind.