The Afternoon I Returned Home

More from The Night Series


My exit from the big city was graceful, at least, even if most of my time living there had not been.

Tina accused me of running away, but returning to my beach hometown didn’t feel like running away. The big city and me just weren’t meant for each other.

I texted Damien since he had been gone much longer than the week and a half, he’d indicated, but hadn’t heard back from him.

Three hours later I was driving down Main Street, my open car windows inviting in the salty, slightly fishy, smell of the ocean. Shandy danced on the backseat, captivated by what, at least to her, was our new adventure.

I parked in the lot in front of my parents’ seaside motel, let Shandy out of the backseat, and made my way across the remains of oyster shells.

My Mom, Lindy, appeared at the office door and whooped when she saw me. The screen door slammed as she came running out. She gave me a hug, followed by one from my Dad, Mike. They stared at me as if they were expecting the big city to have marked me physically. Maybe it had mentally, a bit, but I thought that was all part of the learning experience, which I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you so pale in October. Don’t they have sunshine up north?” Mom asked, kneeling down to pat Shandy.

“Not as much as here,” I said. I could feel the stress I hadn’t even known I felt melt from my shoulders.

“It’s good to have you back,” Dad said. “It wasn’t the same without you.”

“Lloyd Henry’s been asking about you,” Mom said.

Lloyd Henry was the son of her best friend, Molly, a woman who’s always been like an Aunt to me, which pretty much made Lloyd my cousin/brother and also made any romantic thought of him tinged with more than a touch of “ook.” Once, during my 21st birthday party, which Mom and Molly celebrated with extra strong margaritas, they confessed that when they were simultaneously pregnant, they decided that their babies would end up marrying each other. Even with their confession, I didn’t feel obliged to carry through with what they thought was my birthright.

“No, Lindy, don’t start with the Lloyd talk. She just got home,” Dad said.

They led me back to the office. The first thing I noticed was a new painting adorning the wall of the reception area. It was magnificent. Seashell-like patterns cascaded over the canvas with associated marine colors, turquoise and seafoam. A mermaid hid behind a rock. She had bright red hair and big brown eyes. I felt fanciful enough to think that she looked like me without my glasses.

Mom followed my gaze to the painting. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it? Everyone who comes in here has commented on it. Do you know that the artist just came right in here a couple of days ago and asked us if we’d show it for him? He said we could keep it. Can you imagine? He gave us a bunch of cards to hand out if anyone was interested in seeing more of his work. Which reminds me, Mike, you have to get some more of his cards.”

I was intrigued by the painting and almost couldn’t tear my eyes away from it. It was a seascape, but so much more. A little golden puppy played in the surf. It looked like Shandy. Now, I knew I was being fanciful.

“We’re having a quiet dinner here tonight and tomorrow night we’re having a feast with a bunch of folks to celebrate your coming back home. We’ve missed you so much, Clare,” Mom said and hugged me again.

It felt good to be home. So good. I missed Tina and Lucy and even, Damien. Maybe it’s not fair to say “even” Damien because I felt like he and I might have had a chance at something. It’s probably best not to dwell on that. We just weren’t in the cards. And, as my granny would say: there are more fish in the sea! Now that I was home, the sea was very, very close.

end 10/1/2016 (2)

Sascha Darlington

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