The distraction worked, and two hours later Jeanie pulled into her parents driveway. She shut the car off and sat in the silence for a few minutes. Her parent’s house. She had moved out six years ago, and hadn’t been back for more than a weekend in all that time. Everything seemed just as she left it, the quite house at the end of its street. In the distance a lone dog barked, and Jeanie wondered for the first time if coming home would really solve anything. She slumped against the car and looked up to the night sky.
A porch light flicked on, and Jeanie realized she’d been spotted. It was no use hiding now. She couldn’t leave if she wanted to. She went around behind the car and pulled her one suitcase out. The rest of her belongings cluttered the trunk and the backseat, but she wasn’t ready to unload it all just yet. She had everything she needed for the weekend in that suitcase, and that was all the baggage she wanted to carry into her parents’ home.
She walked in the door and the greetings bounced back and forth like a tennis ball. It was more than enough to put her on edge. Her mom had a weepy smile as if Jeanie had just come back from a war. And perhaps she had, but there’s no use going on like that. Jeanie had to continually remind her mother that she had been home at Christmas. She came home for the holidays, and that was plenty, thank you. Jeanie had a way of saying what she felt.
Her father was full of fake smiles. It was an uneasy smile, a knowing, fatherly smile. Fathers know that children who come back to the house after moving out are in trouble. He wasn’t ready for his twenty-something daughter to permanently move in. Of course he didn’t yet know Jeanie’s plan. She hadn’t told anyone what she intended to do, and for how long. Then again she hadn’t told herself that yet.
Then there was her little brother, Paul. The onslaught of fake greetings annoyed Paul as well, and he leaned quietly against the wall, waiting for the hoopla to pass. He gave Jeanie half a smile, and nodded. Jeanie let her wide smile dissolve to half a frown and nodded back. Paul smiled. He was fifteen, and had more than his share of teen angst. But Jeanie could make him smile. She was too old to be a bossy big sister, so they got along, at least when they were both around.
The hoopla was about to pass, when her father offered to unload the car. It was late and dark and the cool air felt damp. Jeanie wanted to collapse at the worn kitchen table, and said as much. Her father frowned, and started unloading the car by himself. He was eager to prove nice, but only so he had room to be angry when Jeanie announced her intentions. He always worked like that, treating his family like a chess match. But he was always too concerned with the bishops and queens to notice the pawns.
Jeanie collapsed at the table and half listened to her mother ramble from behind the counter about the neighbors and the ladies at work and the long lost friends Jeanie hadn’t seen since high school and didn’t want to. Her dad came through with her car load of things, piling them in the spare bedroom in the basement. Jeanie’s old room had become a den. She was banned to the basement, but she didn’t really care. She was just glad to be home. At least that’s what she told herself as she eyed the yellowing wall paper.