Son Runs Away from Home at 16, Comes Back at 29 to Find Only a Note in Deserted House

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 his mother but is greeted by a deserted house instead, where he only finds a half-burnt note.

Joey’s hands trembled with fear and anxiety as he clutched the pen tightly, his heart racing as he began to write his goodbye note. It was for his mother.

“Dear Mom…” it began as Joey’s eyes slowly filled with tears.

Several thoughts plagued the 16-year-old boy. He was still two years away from his 18th birthday when he would legally be considered an adult and have the option to move out and live independently.

But Joey was too ambitious to wait until turning 18 to chase his dreams. He wanted to break free right now and go in search of a future away from home.

He pressed the pen onto the paper and continued writing:

“By evening, you’ll be back, but I won’t be home. No, I wasn’t kidnapped. I’ve just finally made the decision to run away.

No matter how far time takes me, I’ll always love you, Mom. I’m so sorry. But I have no choice. I have to go. Take care.

With Love, Joey.”

Joey penned these heartfelt words in the letter he placed on the table next to his mom’s old sewing machine…

Joey’s mother, Flora, was out on the farm. That morning, she had even asked Joey if he could help her with uprooting beetroots and carrots in the fields.

But Joey had already planned to say goodbye to his country life that day and lied to Flora about joining her later. Flora trusted Joey.

It was already noon, and there was still no sign of the boy. However, Flora was least worried because she knew he would always eventually come.

As she continued to toil in the fields under the blazing sun, Joey was busy packing his bag back home, ready to bid farewell to his hometown.

The loud squawking of the hens and ducks and the sight of the tall peach trees that surrounded the little farmhouse were sights Joey knew he was bound to miss. He sighed painfully, and each step started feeling heavier.

Joey knew that nothing, not even those childhood sentiments, would stop him from taking his first step toward the unknown. His backpack was packed and strapped to his back as Joey gingerly walked outside and stood still for a moment, basking in the pleasant outdoor scene.

He inhaled the farm’s familiar scent, a mixture of manure, hay, and vegetables, and watched the ducks and hens leisurely foraging in the lush green pasture.

Unbeknownst to him, tears started brimming at the rim of his eyes. The old farmhouse stood still and quiet as Joey looked up, his heart pounding in his chest like a trapped bird.

This house was where he grew up. It was where he took his first baby steps, learned to talk, and was raised under his mother’s wings. And now, he was prepared to leave his cozy home and world behind for a better and unknown tomorrow.

After taking one last look at the house, he turned around and walked away without once glancing back, his footsteps growing more distant.

Joey could feel his eyes tear up again, but he balled his fists together by his sides and continued walking away. Deep down, he feared his mother would catch him on the way and find out he was running away. So he scurried faster.

Joey sighed under his breath and kept going, almost on the verge of arriving at the highway where he had planned to hitchhike to the city hundreds of miles away.

As the road ahead stretched into the unknown, his mother’s words echoed in his mind. The last thing he remembered was her telling him she would make his favorite chicken pot pie for dinner. Flora was so happy when she said that before leaving for the fields.

Her voice echoed in Joey’s head as he pressed forward.

Joey knew his mother’s world would turn gloomy and dark after he was gone because she always told him he was her brightest ray of sunshine and that she lived only for him.

Flora never married again after his dad’s passing and pulled herself together for Joey, who was her sun, moon, stars, and beyond.

As the highway drew closer, Joey wished he didn’t have to run away like this but knew there was no other choice.

At first, Joey had tried to convince himself that living with his mother in the countryside and managing a farm was enough for him, only to realize that it was not the life he had wanted.

Joey didn’t want to get stuck working on the farm and rearing farm animals when all his other friends would go to good colleges and pursue their dreams.

Joey dreamed of becoming a doctor and giving back to society and thought there was no way he would achieve it if he continued to live on the farm surrounded by poverty, endless hard work, and scanty resources.

He had even tried convincing his mother to sell the ranch and move to the city, where she could buy a small store she could easily manage, but she refused.

Instead, Flora often talked Joey out of the topic and insisted that memories of his late father were attached to the farm, and it was something she wanted to cherish.

Flora hesitated to make the big move to the city because of the lifestyle and people there. She grew up on the family farm, and her world was limited to the green pastures, livestock, and simple life.

Not that she dreaded the city culture, but she loved the country life more.

Moreover, this farm was a trove of memories, and she didn’t want to leave any of that behind and move to the concrete jungle.

So whenever Joey brought up selling the farm and moving to the city, an argument would spark between them. However, Flora had her ways of dealing with Joey’s temper and calming him down.

Joey tried convincing her again…and again. When nothing changed his mother’s mind, he decided he needed to go even if he had to leave her behind.

A thick gust slapped Joey in the face, snapping him out of his thoughts.

After what felt like an eternity, he managed to hitchhike to the bus terminal in a truck. He boarded a bus that would take him to the city and cozied himself by the window seat, clutching his backpack.

As the bus rumbled forward, Joey watched his cherished town, the green pastures dotted with grazing cows and toiling farmers, fade like a dream through the window.

Gasping heavily, he counted and recounted his money, calculating how much he had and how quickly he had to find a job once he got there in the city.

During his journey toward the unknown, Joey’s only hope was his childhood friend, Dan, who lived in that city.

Dan had promised Joey a better-paying job than any he could find in the countryside, and Joey believed him. He was also one of the reasons Joey dared to run away from home, and there was nobody else he could trust better.

Several hours later, the long-haul bus stopped at Joey’s final destination. Stepping into the city, Joey’s eyes widened with awe at the towering skyscrapers and bustling cityscape.

Life here starkly contrasted with the simple countryside life in his hometown, where folks would return to their cozy homes before sunset and spend time with their families.

Clutching his backpack straps tightly, Joey marched down the road to the payphone, thoughts of his mother haunting his mind. Joey knew she would have returned home from the fields by now and gotten her hands on his goodbye letter.

“I’m so sorry, Mom,” Joey whispered. “I promise to see you once I achieve my dream. I will come to you as soon as I become a doctor.”

As Joey sauntered along the sidewalk, he was utterly enthralled by the bustling city. Wearing a pristine smile, he gleefully watched passers-by cross him.

Joey hurried to the payphone and called his buddy, Dan.

“Oh, you are finally here…Welcome to Downtown!” Dan chirped on the line.

“I’m so glad you took my advice seriously and made the move to the city! Alright, just do this…go there…yeah…you’ll find quite a lot of them. Just get into one…my address is…”

Following Dan’s instructions, Joey hurried down the street and instantly hailed a taxi the second he saw one.

“How much is it to Central?” Joey politely asked a taxi driver, beyond shocked at the response he got.

“Thirty dollars, Sir,” the taxi driver replied.

Joey’s six senses instantly blared, thinking he was about to be scammed the moment he heard him reply. He had heard of scammers who tricked people for money, which, according to Joey, was common in the city. So he knew he had to be careful.

“Thirty dollars? That’s too much…I mean…how far is Central from here?”

“It’s a ten-minute drive from here,” the cabbie said. “And the ride will be thirty dollars. Ready to go, sir?”

“Thir-thirty bucks,” Joey spat in shock, trying to hide how ridiculous he thought the fare was. He wasn’t used to spending so much on a taxi ride before and thought $30 for a ten-minute ride was unreasonable and expensive.

Moreover, $30 was more than a quarter of all he had. Joey was not ready to spend so much money when he barely had enough for the rest of the things he needed for his stay at Dan’s place.

“Wait, stop…I’ll get down,” Joey said, fabricating a quick lie. “My friend’s on his way. I almost forgot. I’m sorry for wasting your time.”

He immediately got down, watching the driver as he sped off, scowling.

Joey was stranded and came up with a quick plan. He decided to hail five different taxis for a short two-minute ride each. This way, Joey thought he didn’t have to spend $30 and still reach his friend’s place.

“To Central, please,” Joey instructed the fifth taxi driver, following a string of four shorter rides across the city.

However, five taxis later and on the edge of being drenched in the sudden downpour, Joey realized that he had spent thirty dollars on all the rides combined anyway.

Joey was quite disheartened. He calculated an approximation of the remaining money in his pocket and marched to the posh neighborhood where his friend lived.

A row of nucleated houses adorned the treeline roads as Joey looked for the brown-beige house with a maple tree on the porch. It was Dan’s.

When Joey arrived outside Dan’s house, he was on the edge of tears, realizing he barely had any money left after spending a quarter of it on taxi rides and the remaining on buying a hotdog on the way.

Joey rang the bell and nervously stood at the doorstep, scanning the houses and neighbors surrounding Dan’s modest, suburban home with a white picket fence. Moments later, the door creaked open, and Dan was so excited to see Joey.

But to his surprise, Joey wasn’t as excited.

“I came here with such big dreams, pal,” Joey settled in the living room as the two friends started chatting over coffee.

“At this point, I really don’t know if what I did was right. If it was even a good decision to leave everything behind and run away from home…”

“Relax! I was the one who promised you a job that could help you earn money. You don’t have to pay rent until you’re a few months into the job, okay?” Dan consoled him.

His words lit Joey’s face with reassurance. “Are you sure, man? Thanks! This is going to be my first job…I’m so nervous,” he exclaimed.

Dan shook his head. “You’re going to work in a retail store, and the pay is pretty good. You won’t have any problems paying rent and buying food,” Dan informed Joey. “Once you get the hang of it, everything will be sorted.”

“That’s great, man, thank you so much! When can I start this new job? Is it a good place to work?”

“Don’t worry, pal. It’s an excellent job, and I’m sure you’ll make a decent chunk of money!”

True to his word, Joey began working in the retail store a few days later.

The job was a little hectic.

As days passed, Joey shuttled between his job and newfound life in the city. Although the sales associate gig demanded more of him than his quaint small-town work in the fields, the generous paychecks outweighed the challenges he faced.

A few weeks later, as Joey held his first hard-earned paycheck in his hand, an overwhelming urge to call his mother consumed him.

Flora was the first person he longed to share his happiness with, to hear her voice filled with pride and joy, no matter how angry she was with him for running away.

Yet, anxiety and fear held Joey back every time he reached out for the phone. He was scared she would emotionally corner him and ask him to return.

So, he would hang up whenever he dialed his mother’s number, swallowing the unspoken words. Joey was crushed and guilty and hoped that the courage to make that call to his mother would find its way to him one day.

“I’ll earn more money and then call her to convince her to come to the city. Life here is…beautiful!” Joey’s eyes gleamed with hope as he whispered to himself, a small, sly smile playing on his lips.

He held the crumpled bills tightly. The money in his hand was more than just currency. It was his hard-earned symbol of hope that he believed would bridge the gap between him and his dream of studying medicine.

So, with a happy heart and a smiling face, Joey returned to Dan’s house that evening, guessing little that his troubles were only beginning.

Joey had just arrived home when his friend Dan approached him in the living room.

“Hey, Joey, we need to talk,” Dan said with a smile, staring intensely at Joey’s wallet.

“You owe me rent and payment for the food you’ve been eating this past month, buddy. I hope you haven’t forgotten about it, pal…Today’s your payday, right?”

A haunting feeling knotted in the pit of Joey’s stomach. After spending $50 on dinner and a taxi ride home, he had around $1,000 left that would make it to his college fund.

Initially, Dan told him he shouldn’t worry about these expenses for a few months. But now, everything seemed to have flipped over.

“Bud, the rent…and food expenses?” Dan snapped Joey to the moment.

“Sure, Dan. Let me take care of it.”

As Joey counted out the money, a sense of anxiety washed over him.

“Here you go, pal!” Joey handed a thin wad of cash over as Dan grabbed the money and began counting.

“Thanks, Joey. Hey, wait a minute…that’ll be a thousand dollars, pal. I’m just being reasonable!”

Joey’s eyes widened in disbelief. It was almost his entire earnings.

“A thousand dollars? That’s what I make in a month!” he gasped.

Dan coldly watched as he extended his hand forward for the remaining cash that Joey disappointedly handed over.

“Man, the electricity bill is overdue…plus a lot of other things. Sorry for bothering you, but we don’t have a choice if we wish to stick together! I’m not charging more coz you’re my friend. House rents elsewhere are crazy! Hope you understand.”

Joey nodded as Dan walked away with the money.

As time passed, things got much more challenging for Joey. Hailing from the countryside’s pleasant hot weather, the city’s harsh winter proved to be a daunting and difficult adjustment for him.

“I need to buy warmer clothes…blankets…and a few other things. But at this rate, I don’t think I’ll be able to afford anything. My earnings are barely enough to cover the basics,” Joey thought one day at work.

The financial strain weighed heavily on his shoulders, making his city life even more challenging than he had ever imagined.

It didn’t take that long for Joey to grasp the harsh reality—the money he earned could barely sustain his current lifestyle in the city, let alone fund his dreams of attending college.

“God, what am I going to do now? How will I make it to college without any savings? I don’t want to become a failure. How will I face Mom?”

Joey was restless with questions, and soon, it was lunchtime.

“Hey, pal, wanna join me for lunch?” Joey’s colleague asked.

But Joey was not in the mood to eat, although he could feel his hungry tummy growl.

“No, you go on. I’ll join you later. Thanks, buddy!” Joey smiled.

He hurried out of the retail store and was just about to sit on the bench outside when he saw an older man lose his balance while trying to cross the ice-clad road and fall.

The two heavy bags the man was holding flung from his grasp, only for the contents to spill and scatter on the ground.

“Sir! Are you alright?” Joey sprang to his feet and rushed to the older man, pulling him to the curb just before a speeding truck roared past them.

“Don’t worry, Sir. Here, let me help you,” Joey sat the older man on the bench and scooped the fallen items before gathering them in the bags.

Most of the items were baby diapers and formula, and Joey understood they must have been for the older man’s grandchild.

“You alright, Sir?” Joey looked up at the older man. “I hope you didn’t hurt yourself…”

“I’m fine, thanks, son,” the older man said in a raspy voice before coughing. He was clearly exhausted from the fall.

Without hesitating, Joey rushed inside the store and returned with a bottle of cold water.

“Here, have some water, Sir. Please be careful when crossing the road next time,” he said as the older man took a sip of the water and glanced at Joey.

“You’re an amazing young man. I’m Clark, and you are?” the older man turned to Joey with a grateful smile.

“Joey! I work there…at the store.”

“Thank you, Joey. It was really kind of you to help me.”

Joey smiled as he packed the man’s bags, glad the things hadn’t been damaged. “Should I hail a taxi for you, Sir?”

“No, my car is waiting…over there, the black SUV,” Clark pointed to his car. Joey nodded and went as far as to help Clark carry the bags to his car.

“I’ll never forget your help, Joey,” Clark said as he got into the car.

“I’m just glad I was close enough to help, Mr. Clark,” Joey replied, knowing anyone else would have done the same thing in his place.

Clark stared intensely at Joey and shook his head before handing him his card.

“Call me, Joey. I would love to know more about you, young man!” he said before saying his goodbyes.

Joey smiled and took the card, thinking nothing of it at first. Clark’s SUV sped away into the thick afternoon traffic, and Joey returned to work, pocketing the card.

After a long day at work, Joey returned home. He was so exhausted and would’ve otherwise slept after dinner had he not felt the card in his pant pocket. He pulled it out and sat up on his bed, staring at the phone number for a while.

He remembered Clark asking him to call him, so he hurried to the nearest payphone and dialed the number, guessing little how that one fateful phone call would overturn his life that night.

“Hello, Clark here,” the older man answered Joey’s call.

“Hello, Sir. It’s me, Joey. We met today…outside the store.”

A moment of silence was filled with a sudden outburst of Clark’s laughter. “Joey! My boy! I knew you’d call me.”

“You did?” Joey said with a smile. “I just wanted to know if you were alright…”

“Ah, I’m fine, young man. Thanks to you! If it hadn’t been for you, then old Clark would’ve been lying dead in some coffin now!” Clark chuckled.

“I’m glad you’re alright, Sir. Well, it was nice talking to you…”

Just as Joey was about to say goodnight and hang up, Clark interrupted him, spilling the beans on a scholarship he was in charge of.

Joey could feel his heart pound as he pressed the phone against his ear.

“A scholarship?” he gasped.

“Yes, you heard that right, Joey!” Clark exclaimed. “You’re young, and I just thought it might be something you might be interested in. But if you still wish to continue working at the store, then—”

Joey breathed rapidly, unable to contain the joy and excitement blossoming in his eyes. He didn’t let Clark finish talking and interrupted.

“No, I don’t want to work! I want to be a doctor!” he exclaimed. Deep down, Joey knew he might never get such a golden opportunity again.

“Great! It’s my immense pleasure to tell you that it’s a full scholarship…with guaranteed stipends for accommodation and food. You don’t have to worry about your stay or anything at all,” Clark explained.

“All you gotta do is just focus on your studies…and we’ll have you covered!”

Joey was shocked and delighted. Several emotions flooded his mind, and the first person he wanted to share this massive turning point in his life with was his mother.

But again, Joey decided to wait.

Mom will still be angry with me, Joey thought. I don’t want to upset her more. I’m sure she’d be happy and forgive me when I become a doctor and then call her…

She will be so proud of me when I go home and surprise her…wearing my white coat…and a stethoscope around my neck. She’ll be glad to see me in that outfit! Joey felt a wide grin on his lips and teared up.

And so, several years passed…

After completing his bachelor’s and making his way into medical school, Joey graduated with flying colors, thanks to Mr. Clark.

“So, Joey, you’ve done it, young man! I’m really proud of you…and I’m sure your mother would be equally proud,” Mr. Clark said as he toasted with Joey during dinner.

“…so when have you decided to call her?”

“Soon…very soon!” Joey replied as his mother’s face flashed before his eyes.

But deep inside, Joey was convinced that before reaching out to his mother, he would save enough money and buy a lovely house for her in the city.

It had always been his dream to gift his mother a quiet, cozy house where she could rest and enjoy the rest of her days without thinking about work again.

A few more years rolled on, and it wasn’t until thirteen years after he left home that Joey finally decided it was time to meet his mother.

He bought a small house with a huge garden overlooking the sea, offering a breathtaking view of the sunset, just like Flora had always wanted. Joey was sure she would love it, and convinced it was time to see her, he immediately drove back to the small town he was born in.

Joey was so excited and happy to see his mother after thirteen long years. He arrived in his hometown with so many expectations fluttering in his heart like birds set free from a cage.

Joey excitedly marched to his farmhouse, smiling at passers-by who couldn’t instantly recognize him and his dimpled smile everyone was once fond of.

With a racing heart, Joey stood in front of his house, only to realize it was nothing like it used to be. The appalling condition of the house and the farm beside it stunned Joey.

Everywhere, as far his eyes could see, was deserted and hollow, and it seemed the place had been left to crumble with time.

The overgrown grass and weeds rustled as Joey pressed forward. The dust on the windows was several inches thick, like a brown curtain. Dry leaves lay scattered on the crumbled steps. And his beloved peach trees were barren. The duck and chicken barns were empty.

His childhood home was nothing like it used to be.

What happened here? Where is Mom? Joey anxiously walked towards the front door, panic swelling in his heart as he entered.

“Mom? Mom…you home?” he cried out, his voice bouncing off the walls of his empty house as he barged inside and glanced around, scanning the areas for Flora.

But she was nowhere to be seen in the deserted living room.

“Mom? It’s me…Joey. I’m home…” Joey shouted again. But his voice echoed across the dingy rooms.

The house looked abandoned, just like the outside. It appeared as though the wooden floors hadn’t seen a broom in years. Cobwebs adorned the doorways like silver curtains. The kitchen sink was overflowing with moldy dishes and dead cockroaches.

Flora’s sewing machine was cloaked in dust…and the dining table they once heartily dined lay still and deserted.

Joey’s heart started to race, and he could feel his fears double in intensity. He ran around the house, looking for his mother, but there was no trace of her.

Joey slumped onto the couch and cried, instantly regretting not calling her all these years. The thought of what could’ve happened to her gnawed at him.

No. Nothing wrong could’ve happened to Mom, he thought.

He nervously pulled out his phone and called Flora several times, but all his calls went unanswered.

At that moment, Joey was hounded by regret and guilt. He realized how big a fool he had been for not reaching out to his mother all these years and making sure she was alright…and alive.

“Mom, where are you? Why aren’t you picking up my phone?” Joey cried.

He remembered telling his mother that boys don’t cry. But now, Joey knew he was wrong. When you truly love someone, you’ll not shy away from shedding tears for them.

Joey spent a couple of minutes just trying to process a horrifying feeling within him.

“Is…is she—” he was unable to speak out the thoughts haunting his head out loud. Joey couldn’t imagine anything terrible and prayed it wasn’t true.

He rose to his feet and searched the whole house again, looking through every nook and cranny. But in vain.

“Mom…please, come back. I’m home…Mom…” Joey continued to cry.

Just as he was about to give up searching for his mother in the house and go out to find out from the neighbors, his gaze fell on the fireplace.

Joey raced to see a half-burnt letter poking out slightly under the ashes and dust.

With pounding heartbeats, Joey leaned to reach for it, not expecting to see his name written right at the top of the half-burnt paper.

His eyes teared up as he scrolled over the words written on it:

“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—”

Although Joey was desperate to read more and rummaged through the ashes for more such letters, he found nothing.

And no matter how hard he stared at the letter in his hands, reading everything all over again, he couldn’t read anymore as the lower part had been burnt.

Tears began streaming down Joey’s face, and his heart thumped fearfully in his chest, knowing he would have done anything to see his mother.

But now, it felt like he would never get another chance to see her. That feeling…it was excruciating. And to rub salt into his wounds, his mother was mysteriously missing from the house and was not even answering his calls.

When nothing seemed to strike him, Joey looked around the house again, hopeful of finding more letters or some breakthrough that could take him to his mother.


Still, the thought of giving up didn’t even occur to Joey. He wiped the warm streaks of tears from his face and composed himself as he went outside to inquire with the neighbors. Joey condemned himself for not thinking straight and doing this earlier.

He was determined to find his mother, even if he had to search every inch of the town.

Fortunately for Joey, he didn’t have to go that far. He had just stepped out of the house and was walking to the edge of the gates when he ran into an old neighbor walking his dog.

“Mr. Caleb. I just got back, and I’m looking for my mother,” Joey said stiffly in the most composed tone he could muster, trying to steel himself for whatever the neighbor was about to tell him.

“For your mother? Are you Flora’s son…the boy who ran away thirteen years ago?” Mr. Caleb stared intensely at Joey.

“Yes, I’m Joey. Where’s my mother? She’s not home. Did she tell you anything?”

Joey was so guilty and ashamed of himself for being so brutally direct. He didn’t ask Mr. Caleb why the house and farm looked deserted. Instead, he just asked for his mother’s whereabouts.

“Oh boy…your mother missed you so much,” Mr. Caleb said, an unsettling worry in his eyes.

“She would visit the railway station and bus stand every day, hoping you would come back. She’d even run to the post office every other day to see if she got any mail from you. But in vain. And then one day…everything fell apart…”

Joey’s heart started throbbing. “Wha-What do you mean by everything fell apart? What happened to my mother? Where is she? Is she…?”

He could not bring himself together to ask more because he was not prepared to hear anything heartbreaking.

“Your mother, Mrs. Johnson, is at the local hospital right now, Joey,” Mr. Caleb said. “You would have known if you—”

But Joey didn’t wait to hear him criticize him for running away. His heart raced as he bolted to his car and drove straight to the local hospital.

“Please…please be alright, Mom,” Joey muttered under his breath, not knowing what he would do if something terrible had happened to his mother.

He was not prepared for a life without her. All his struggles, achievements, and, most of all, his promise to her would go in vain if something ever happened to her. And Joey was not ready to endure that heartbreak.

Joey got to the small hospital and showed his ID card, asking to be directed to his mother’s ward.

“I’m a doctor. Which ward is Mrs. Johnson in? Take me there.”

Before getting there, in his mind, Joey planned to transfer Flora out of the small hospital to a better one if needed.

“MOM!” Joey cried out, running into the room to Flora’s side, shocked to see her lying on the bed with her eyes closed and medical devices attached to her body.

Tears clouded Joey’s vision. “What happened to my mother?” Joey demanded an explanation from a doctor nearby, and suddenly, the room fell gravely silent when he watched his mother’s eyes twitch open.

“Mom! It’s me…your Joey!” Joey cried, gently squeezing Flora’s hand as she slowly opened her eyes, which almost instantly grew moist as soon as her vision adjusted to Joey’s mature face staring at her.

“Jo-Joey? Is that you, sweetie?” Flora cupped Joey’s face and cried. She was beyond shocked, and her mouth fell open in astonishment.

She tossed away the blanket over her and enveloped him in a tight hug.

“JOEY…my boy!”

For a few seconds, there was nothing but silence. Both their eyes were filled with tears of joy, and neither of them could stop crying until a couple of minutes later when Flora began to talk.

“Are you still crying? You’re a grown-ass man now! You weren’t a crybaby when you were younger. What happened to you? Remember how you used to brag that boys don’t cry…when you fell and bruised your knee while learning to ride your cycle?” Flora teased, patting Joey’s head.

“Mom, I’m so sorry…” Joey said, his voice low and remorseful. “I thought something terrible happened to you when I found our house empty…and heard you were in the hospital…

…I’m so…so sorry for not calling or visiting you earlier. I tried. I did. But I wanted to face you confidently after achieving my dreams. I didn’t want to let you down…and I knew you’d be angry with me for running away like that. I’m so sorry.”

Joey gently brushed his mother’s hair, kissing her head. Compared to thirteen years ago, she looked much older and even had little streaks of gray popping out of her messy bun.

“Tell me more, Joey,” Flora initiated, her tone desperate and longing. “I want to hear you talk…Oh, your voice! How I missed hearing that voice…and laughter.”

“Mom, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to leave you like that. But I was scared…scared of spending the rest of my life on the farm.”

All those struggles Joey had endured after running away to the city flashed before his teary eyes. But now, he was a changed man…and a successful doctor.

“I went home and saw our house…which seemed abandoned for years. I thought that something…that you were—”

Joey stuttered through his tears, unable to find the right words to speak.

“After you left, it was lonely living there. Haunting would be the right word to describe how painful it was to live within those empty walls…void of your laughter and presence…

..So I left that house and moved in with a friend. I’m only here because I sprained my ankle while cleaning the attic,” Flora replied, showing Joey the bandage on her ankle.”

“During my stay at our home, I wrote many letters I intended to send but later burnt. I didn’t have an address to post those letters to. I didn’t know where you were or what you were doing. But I knew you’d be fine because my prayers were always with you. I decided to wait for you…because I knew you would return someday,” Flora said with a delicate smile.

“I’m glad you didn’t take too long,” she cried, unable to stop the tears that began to flow as she stared into Joey’s eyes.

She last saw him when he was still a sixteen-year-old teenager. Now, he was a man.

“I’m sorry I put you through this, Mom,” Joey hugged his mother and cried.

He told her all that had happened to him in the city, his meeting with Mr. Clark, and his way to becoming a doctor. He also promised to rebuild the farm, which he knew she loved.

Right there and then, Joey insisted she move with him to the city and live with him in their new house until the reconstruction of the farmhouse was done, and Flora instantly agreed.

After many years of separation, neither wanted to be apart again, even for a second.