Melissa Danai-Noldner

Five Years

    Every Thursday in the early evening the small one-story house at the end of the street 
hosted a bridge game, consisting of Mrs. Hailing's; her youngest daughter Daria; Mrs. Koval, 
who lived up the street, and Joseph who just moved in a few months ago and took over for Ms. 
Lewis when she moved away. 
    Even though Daria had no interest in sitting at the table, being the last of the daughters 
still living at home, she played along to make her mother happy. The other three took in lively 
conversation while Daria for the most part just sat there. No matter what their game took place, 
the four of them were sitting around the table talking and gossiping. They shared every aspect of 
their lives, the grades Daria got in school, the clients Joseph brought into his law firm, the 
flowers old Mrs. Koval was growing in her garden this month and updates on the squirrels that 
stole from her bird feeder. The failed casseroles that Mrs. Hailing would burn, leaving her 
husband and daughter to eat cereal for dinner. 
    One Thursday in November came a ring at the door. Mrs. Hailing asked Daria to get the 
door for her as she was busy in the kitchen. One the other side she was met with a short girl with 
long blonde almost white hair, freckles, and prominent brown eyes that for once were not hidden 
under sunglasses. She was looking sheepishly, as if she wanted to be anywhere else. 
    “Holy fucking shit.” Daria said, “Kitty in the flesh.” 
    Kitty was taken aback as if she could not process what she just witnessed, “looks like you 
don't need a babysitter anymore. Last time I saw you, you were just starting junior high.” 
    “That was five years ago.” 
    Kitty just smiled awkwardly. “It was.” She said slowly, as if she was just realizing it for 
the first time. “Is my grandmother here? Ms. Gomez said she was.” 
    Daria moved out of the way and let Kitty come inside, “She's in the kitchen.” Daria went 
back and sat in her seat at the table, when Joseph whispered to her. “Who is that?” 
    “Kitty.” Daria said. “Eleanor’s granddaughter.” 
    “I didn’t know Eleanor had a grandchild.” 
    Daria just shook her head. Mrs. Hailing stopped on her way from the kitchen. “Kitty!” 
She exclaimed, pulling her into a hug. “You’re home!” 
    “I am.” She said overwhelmed, breaking free from the embrace. 
    “How long are you in town for?” Mrs. Hailing asked. 
    Kitty just shrugged, “I do not know yet.” Before she could ask one more time where her 
grandmother was, Mrs. Hailing pointed to the kitchen, once out of earshot, sat down at her seat at 
the table. 
    “Eleanor has a granddaughter?” Joseph asked. 
    “She moved out years ago and we haven't seen her since.” Mrs. Hailing said eager to 
spread the gossip. “The two of them have been through a lot together, and first chance she got 
Kitty up and left. Poor thing wasn’t the same after she had lost her mother.” 
    Mrs. Hailing and her daughter craned their necks to see what was going on in the kitchen. 
Mrs. Koval stood at the stove slowly placing the pigs in blankets onto the plate. Kitty leaned 
against the door frame. “Hey.” she said, as though she didn't know what to say and it was the 
best she could do. 
    Mrs. Koval turned and saw her granddaughter, and just stared at her somewhere between 
shock and sorrow. “What are you doing here?” she asked. 
    “I came home to tell you something.” Kitty said. 
    “Couldn't you do that over the phone, or do you not have one?” 
    Kitty gave a dry laugh, “I'm sorry I could have called more.” 
    “I was worried about you,” she said turned back to what she was doing. “You don't call 
and send a letter every three months, if I’m lucky. As far as I knew you could be dead.” Kitty 
looked like she wanted to turn and leave, but something held her to the spot, standing up straight 
she asked. “Maybe we should do this at home.” 
    Mrs. Koval just turned around with her arms on her hips. “What do you want Kitty?”
    “When are you going to go home? I can meet you there or we could get dinner-” Kitty 
    “What do you want, Kitty?” 
    Kitty just sighed, “you know how I told you my contract was for only five years, and 
afterwards I'll come home? My boss extended it for five more…” 
Mrs. Koval forcefully placed the tongs she was using onto the counter making Kitty 
    “You told me five years,” she said, “that was the deal we made. Come home Kitty, teach 
at your old studio, don't take it.” 
    Kitty looked like she was about to cry. “This is a big deal for me,” she said. “This 
opportunity, some people don't get one, and I get another? It's one of the best ballet companies in 
the country, and the director wants me to dance for him. This could be a lot more for me.” 
    “That's what you said last time.” Mrs. Koval scolded. “And you promised you would call 
and write. No one heard anything from you, I didn’t, neither did your friends. Do you know how 
embarrassing it was when someone asked how you were doing, and I had to lie? I had no idea, I 
was worried sick. With your track record I didn’t know what had happened to you. The least you 
could do was call, you promised me that.”
    “I have been busy.” Kitty said timidly. 
    “I gave you five years, and now that is over.” She said, “come home.” 
    “I'm an adult.” 
    “You are safe here.” her grandmother Chastised. 
    “I am safe…” Kitty told her trying not to cry. “I know how to take care of myself.” 
    “You didn't for a long time, I was the one who pulled you together, how do I know you 
are not going to fall apart again?” 
    Kitty just sighed, “it's not like that anymore.” 
    “Then why are you here?” 
    “I had a feeling I should tell you in person.” She said quietly. 
    “You don’t really mean that.” 
    “The city, the company, all my new friends, all of them are my home now.” Kitty tried 
again. “I’m not ready to leave it.” 
    “This is your home.” her grandmother told her. 
    Kitty wanted to tell her it wasn't anymore, she wanted to tell her about her life, how 
happy she was, but something stopped her. She studied her grandmother in front of her, the first 
time she had seen her in years. She looked almost exactly the same, but Kitty did not, she had 
changed over the years. She was no longer the teenager that everyone remembered her as. The 
girl who was always in trouble, and almost killed herself in the process. Now she was clean cut 
and composed, dressed in expensive clothing that neither of them were able to afford back then. 
Both knew the truth, but neither wanted to be the first to say it. 
    “You're wearing your mother’s cross.” Mrs. Koval said looking at the gold necklace 
around her neck. “The one thing of value we were able to smuggle here-” 
    “I heard the story-”
    “I was entrusted to watch and take care of you after she was gone, and I did that. I let you 
go and do what you wanted, and you promised me five years. I gave you five years.”
    “I know.” Kitty said, “but this opportunity, he wanted me to stay, you know how lucky I 
am? He doesn’t do that for just anyone...” 
    “I am very proud of you, but before all of that, I worry.” Mrs. Koval stopped for a 
moment, “I am happy that you made a life, yet you cut me out. Least you could do was visit for 
    “I was always busy with the Nutcracker.” 
    “That always ended in December, you still could have come.” Mrs. Koval said. 
    “I'm sorry, but one thing happened after another, and I lost track of it all.” Kitty said, it 
did not make sense to her all she was saying. Hopefully, it did to her grandmother. “There is no 
one out there to help you, how do I know you are not putting yourself in danger again?” 
    These words cut through Kitty, and all the fear she had was replaced by anger. “Jesus 
Christ!” She exclaimed and threw her hands from her pockets. “I haven't been like that in years.” 
That's when her grandmother saw the diamond ring on her finger with the small band, the entire 
kitchen fell quiet. Kitty was too scared to even move. 
    “You got a ring?” Mrs. Koval asked, she sounded hurt. 
    “I didn't want to make a big deal out of this.” Kitty told her. 
    “Who is he?” 
    Kitty tried to find the right words to say, there wasn't any. “I’m sorry.” 
    “Why did you come home Kitty?” Mrs. Koval asked. “You've obviously moved on.” 
    “Come on babushka, you don't mean that.” 
    Mrs. Koval just shook her head hurt and betrayed.
    “I'm just asking for five more years.” Kitty said quietly. 
    “You left when you were barely an adult, and you told me you will be home once your 
contract was over, and I rarely hear from you. Now you’re asking for five more years? I trusted 
you, I prayed for you, I worried for you. What do you really want, Kitty?” 
    Soon enough the anger got the best of them, and they started yelling at each other in 
Russian. In the living room Mrs. Hailing started dealing out cards for a game of gin rummy. 
None of them could understand the screaming that was happening in the next room over. The 
three of them didn’t say a single word, all they could do was pretend they weren't there. 
    Kitty came through the living room and stopped when she saw the three of them, as if she 
had forgotten that they were even there in the first place. They look at her as if pretending they 
hadn't been listening to the fighting. Kitty wipes the tears from her eyes and with a forced smile 
    “I was nice to see you, I have a train to catch.” 
    Mrs. Hailing just shook her head, as Kitty walked out the door, she looked at Daria and 
the two of them were thinking the same thing, it was safe to presume they were never going to 
see Kitty ever again.  to see Kitty ever again.

Melissa Danai-Noldner is a student at University of North Carolina at Greensboro who is studying creative writing, and at this time contains no other published work.