16-year-old Joey runs away from home to pursue his dreams, leaving his widowed mother behind. Thirteen years later, he returns home to see her again but is greeted by a deserted house instead, where he only finds a half-burnt note.
As a 16-year-old filled with ambition and dreams beyond the confines of his rural life, Joey decided to leave home. He left a farewell note to his mother, Flora, beside her old sewing machine.
“Dear Mom, By evening, you’ll be back, but I won’t be home. No, I wasn’t kidnapped; I just finally decided to run away,” Joey wrote in the letter he left behind.
“No matter how far I go, I’ll always love you. I’m sorry. Take care. With Love, Joey.”
The loud squawking of the hens and chickens and the sight of the tall trees that surrounded the farm was a sight Joey knew he was bound to miss.
His backpack was packed and strapped to his back.
After taking one last look at the house he lived in with his mother after his father’s death, Joey turned around and walked away without once glancing back.
Unaware of Joey’s plans, Flora spent her day on the farm, waiting for the son who promised to help but never showed.
Despite his love for his mother, Joey felt constrained by the life laid out for him on the farm. He dreamed of becoming a doctor, a dream he believed unattainable if he stayed.
His attempts to convince Flora to sell the farm and move to the city were futile; her attachment to the land and memories of his late father held her back. Unwilling to abandon his dreams, Joey saw no option but to leave, even if it meant leaving his mother and their life behind.
As he approached the highway, ready to hitchhike to the city, his mother’s plans for dinner and her voice filled his mind.
Joey’s journey to the city began. On the bus, he pondered his decision and how he was risking everything. His friend Dan had assured him of a job that would start his new life in the city.
Joey hurriedly called his friend from a payphone after arriving downtown. Dan instructed him to get to his home by taxi, but Joey was shocked at the $30 fare for a short ride. Frustrated and nearly broke, he finally arrived at Dan’s house, glad to be welcomed warmly.
But his hope had diminished after that expensive and tiring day. “I came here with big dreams, but now I’m not sure,” Joey admitted, his shoulders sagging.
Dan reassured him, promising not to charge him rent until Joey was settled in his new job at a grocery store. “You’re going to be fine,” he comforted him. “You’ll earn enough to cover your expenses soon.”
Joey’s spirits lifted at his friend’s words. “When can I start?” he asked eagerly.
“Don’t worry, it’s a great opportunity, and you’ll make good money,” Dan assured him.
Unfortunately, Joey quickly realized the demands of his new life were more significant than anything back home. The satisfaction of receiving his first paycheck was overshadowed by a pressing urge to call his mother, Flora.
Despite his desire to share his success, the fear of being persuaded to return home constantly stopped him.
“I’ll make more money, then I’ll call her,” Joey told himself, viewing the money as a step closer to his dream of studying medicine.
But his optimism was short-lived when Dan reminded him of the rent and food expenses on payday, unexpectedly asking for a thousand dollars, nearly all of Joey’s earnings.
Faced with the harsh winter and the realization that his income barely covered his living expenses, Joey’s college dreams seemed more distant than ever.
“What am I going to do now?” he fretted.
On a regular day, Joey was about to sit outside and eat lunch when an older man fell on an icy patch on the road. He rushed to help out, bringing the old man a bottle of water after getting him upright.
The old man introduced himself as Mr. Clark and sat with Joey for a chat.
“You’re an amazing young man,” Mr. Clark said, reaching into his pocket for a card. “Call me, Joey. I would love to know more about you, young man!”
Joey pocketed the card with a polite smile, unsure of what to make of the encounter. But while thinking about the old man later, he decided to go to him.
“Joey! My boy! I knew you’d call me,” the old man said cheerfully. Joey was glad and simply asked Mr. Clark how he was feeling. The old man answered but quickly pivoted to the real reason he had given him his business card.
Mr. Clark was in charge of a scholarship fund for ambitious youths like Joey. “A scholarship?” he squeaked.
“Yes, Joey,” Mr. Clark continued, “a full scholarship with stipends for accommodation and food. All you need to do is focus on your studies.”
The prospect of achieving his dream without financial burden was almost too good to be true. But Mr. Clark was serious and generous. And once again, the intense desire to call his mother surfaced. But Joey hesitated, wanting to have more to tell her. That was how 13 years passed…
As a graduated doctor, Joey celebrated with the man who made it all possible, who toasted his success. “So, Joey, you’ve done it, young man! I’m proud of you…and I’m sure your mother would be equally proud,” Mr. Clark mused.
“Soon…very soon!” Joey assured, though his heart was heavy with the thought of facing his mother after such a long absence.
Finally deciding to return home after buying a small house for Flora, Joey drove back to his hometown, filled with anticipation.
He was astounded and shocked to see the condition of the house. Everywhere was deserted and hollow; it seemed like it had been that way for over a few years.
The grass around it was overgrown, and the dust on the windows was a couple of inches thick. Getting down from his car and walking towards the front door, Joey could feel his panic swelling.
“Mom! Mom!” he yelled, his voice echoing in the house as he barged right through the door after knocking without getting any response.
The inside was just as abandoned as the outside, and Joey could feel his fears double in intensity as he looked around the house with no trace of his mother. He instantly called his mother’s number, but regardless of how many times he called, no one picked up.
At that moment, Joey felt regret, realizing how big a fool he had been for not calling her all these years.
“Is-is she—” unable to say the thoughts brewing in his head out loud, not knowing what he would do if it were true. He didn’t give up searching the house and continued to look through every nook and corner of it.
When he was about to give up, he glanced at the fireplace, shocked to see a half-burnt letter poking out slightly under the ashes and dust. He instantly bent down to reach for it, not expecting to see his name written right at the top of it.
His eyes teared up as he read:
“Joey, sweetie, I miss you so much. Where did you leave me and go?
“I wish you had never left me. If I knew you had planned to leave me and disappear like this, I would have agreed to go with you instead.
“Please come back, Joey. I miss you to the core. Nothing can ever replace you.
This silence around me is killing me. The house is so empty, and my heart feels heavier and haunted without you. I wish—”
The rest was burnt to ashes.
Convinced he needed to find his mother, Joey wiped away his tears and tried to find help. Stepping outside, he encountered their old neighbor.
“Mr. Colins. I just got back, and I’m looking for my mother,” Joey explained, breathing heavily.
“Are you Flora’s son…the boy who ran away thirteen years ago?” Mr. Colins asked, squinting his eyes.
“Yes. Where’s my mother? She’s not home. Did she tell you anything?” he asked, his voice quivering.
Mr. Colins revealed that Joey’s mother had been taken to the hospital. He thanked him and rushed off. “Please…please be alright, Mom,” Joey whispered in the taxi, fearing the worst.
“MOM!” he exclaimed, approaching Flora’s side after finding her room.
Flora’s eyes fluttered open, and upon recognizing Joey, she enveloped him in a tight embrace. “JOEY…my boy!” she cried, tears of joy streaming down her face.
He cried again, not wanting to let go. “I’m so…so sorry for not calling or visiting you earlier… I didn’t want to disappoint you,” he confessed, his voice breaking.
Flora brushed aside Joey’s apologies. “Tell me more, Joey. I want to hear you talk…Oh, your voice! How I missed hearing that voice…and laughter,” she urged, messing with his hair.
Joey shared his journey, from the struggles in the city to becoming a doctor, thanks to Mr. Clark’s scholarship. He revealed his plans to rebuild the farm and insisted that Flora move in with him in the city until the farmhouse was restored.
Flora agreed without hesitation. After many years of separation, neither wanted to be apart again, even for a second.