Coming Home, 5: Don't Worry–Be Happy, Now!

As you may have guess by now, entries on Coming Home won’t be every day. I’ve had to be realistic about what I can carry out so I don’t disappoint myself. We’ve veered ever so slightly into a sadder bit but we’ll be moving back on up now. Enjoy!

You can find other entries here.

Photo by Andrew Teoh on Unsplash

Don’t Worry–Be Happy, Now!

“Oh, god, please tell me you’re not crying. You don’t cry,” Russ said, his voice rising slightly.

“I’m not crying.”

“Something in your eyes?”

“Yes, exactly.”

Thirteen years had passed and yet it felt like yesterday and yet again so very far away. I shivered in the cold, could almost feel my teeth chattering but from more than the bone-chilling mountain air.

“Let’s go in and have some coffee,” Russ suggested, taking my elbow, a gesture he would never have done years ago.

“I don’t have coffee . . .  do I?”

“You have coffee and a Keurig.”

“I must have gotten rich. Or lucky.” My laugh was tinged with a bitterness I couldn’t seem to control. I could feel him glance at me sharply, questioning.

He pulled a key from his pocket, at which I raised an eyebrow, and then followed him into the blessed warmth of Great Aunt Killian’s old house. I almost expected her to come shuffling from the kitchen, dressed in black with the scent of freshly baked goods wafting around her. But no one appeared and I felt sorrow grasp me because I’d been gone far too long and never got to say goodbye. Just another on a long list of regrets.

Russ flicked on lights before glancing back at me. I felt naked under his gaze, and not the good kind of naked. No, the kind where you know just how vulnerable you are. I was at my wit’s end. My road’s end. It wasn’t pretty.

I looked around. Everything was clean, different, although I could still feel Great Aunt Killian’s touches throughout. Either she’d allowed someone to make changes while she was alive or someone had done it subsequently, which I couldn’t believe. Not that I could believe she’d let anyone make changes to her beloved home. Although, with Great Aunt Killian you never could be sure.

The kitchen was bright, with all new appliances. Light teal covered the walls giving it a modern look against the stainless steel appliances.

“Everything’s different.”

“Great Aunt Killian opened her house to renters over the years.”

I looked at him, disbelieving. “What? She would have hated that.”

“She was lonely. Wanted the company of young people. It kept her going even through . . .” His words trailed off.

Guilt settled over me, not for the first time. Nine months ago, when Mom had left the message for me, I should have come back home but work was suffering and I knew if I left, my company would collapse. Foolish me. It collapsed anyway when my friend and co-founder stole a couple of million dollars and disappeared to Costa Rica, which was why I was back home with tail between legs.

“I’ve lost everything, Russ. Everything. I’ve made mistakes. I should have come back home for Great Aunt Killian. She was the only one who understood me.”

“She wasn’t the only one, Maddie.”

In another place and time, Russ would have kissed me after making a comment like that. In this one, he poured water into the Keurig receptacle, put a K-cup in, and pressed go. Between hisses and snorts, I looked at him. Grown up. Manly. Capable. All the things I knew he’d become, without me.

“Alexa, play, ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy.’”

Alexa? Was she literally everywhere? “Oh, god, no.”

Music filled the kitchen and he grinned before grabbing my hands and making me dance with him in what could never be called a sexy or romantic dance. It was one that made me laugh, and maybe that’s all I’d been needing all along. Someone to make me remember how to laugh.

end of part 5

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