So here I am nineteen years later, back at home, a place I really hadn’t wanted to return to. I am so fed up with my corporate job that I thought to shave myself bald. The politics of it all. Yeesh. I never thought trading my home for another could trump the racist mentality of Janice Field, but I was wrong. Washington D.C., I hate him, with all the passionate red-hot discrimination I can muster up. Why do we need that state again? So many ants in suits but no work is ever completed. Everyone is too busy trying to look and sound important.
They are nothing but flies on a cow pie! Don’t you just hate it when they multiply in filthy places? But, I couldn’t take it anymore, I quit my job in search of something more…slow paced. While I was in school, I interned at an animal hospital and fell in love with it, so much so, I obtained my Veterinarian license. That’s how I ended up back in Janice Field, on a fluke. Information somehow got crossed when I applied for a position with Chance Vet Clinic in Califas for Redemption Animal Hospital, here in Janice Field.
From the virtual tour via Redemption’s website, things looked on the up and up. I only work part time for now, it’s my choice. I’d rather see how the family business is holding up. Farming and production takes a lot of time and work. This should be the time our parents should be slowing down, but knowing dad, he’s going full steam ahead. I don’t remember him relaxing one iota but he usually wore a smile plastered over his face anytime he chatted it up with the employees who by the way are more like family members now. Going to the warehouse had been fun, I was able to watch how products were made and packaged. In those days, there were more people than machines running the show. Why am I saying ‘in those days’, I’m forty not ancient! Sometimes I make myself laugh.
Pulling up to my childhood home brings waves of nerves prickling at my skin. I hadn’t told them I was coming back partly because my brother’s and sister’s would have been rounded up and a big deal would have been made. I just wanted my arrival to be quiet. Word will get around fairly quick after I start at Redemption. I’m not ready for the questions and stares and fake pleasantries. Climbing out of the car, I stand looking up at my former home thinking it looked much bigger as a child. Everything was bigger, more amplified as a kid, even the crazy decision to throw myself of the roof, hitting every shingle on the way down. The crazy things I did in the heat of the moment. Can’t say I’ve changed much in that area, but hey, I keep trying. Walking the path, I climb up sturdy steps and stop at the screen door inhaling deep.
These people are not strangers, relax will you. I berate myself. Pulling back the front screen, I knock on the thick deep stained oak door and wait. The top lock releases followed by the bottom and now I’m staring back at my dad. It has been nearly twenty years since I’ve seen my family. When I left, I wanted to forget all that was Janice Field, but I couldn’t quite shake the guilt of leaving my family without a word. The Forsythe’s didn’t have to adopt me into their family, but they did and I owe them big time. I watch as he steps out onto the porch. His face is blank and he shoves his hands in his front pockets but remains silent.
“Are you sure about that?”
“Okay, okay, I left without a word, but-”
“You left in the dark and here you are again-in the dark. At least you’re consistent.” he chuckled.
“I’m not sorry for leaving, but I shouldn’t have taken the cowards way.”
“As long as you know and acknowledge you done wrong, you won’t have any problems from me. You gonna give this old man a hug or what?” I laugh, wrapping my arms around his sturdy frame. His body was shaped by decades working the land and he was a looker to boot. Single and married women alike were always after him knowing his status, but he always came home to mom.
What a lucky lady.
I often wish to find a love like theirs, but all I catch and throw back are lunk heads that live in the gym or the one percent who only care about appearances. How dull.
“How’ve you been?”
“Still breathing. Can’t ask for more that that.”
“And the business?”
“Running better than ever. Though I was against it, machines are more efficient with production. Still, humans out number machines and that’s the way it’s gonna stay.”
“What brings you back London?”
“How could I forget your straight forward manner. I missed it the most while living in D.C. I hate that place.” I listen to his low rumble and smile to myself. He’s the only man who knew what to do with me in the best and worst of times.
“Suits not your thing?”
“Please, those people can shit a load out without a laxative.”
“London! When did you start talking like this?”
“Since D.C. That place can bring the worst out in anyone. Besides I’m a country girl at heart, I don’t need no pretentious ant momma’s boy telling me what to do. I can’t believe men that are still swinging from their momma’s titties.”
“You need to get acclimated to home again. You’ve always carried a sharp tongue, but this is unacceptable.”
“Yeah I know. But I’m back, for how long, I can’t say. I’ll be working part time at Redemption. Suppose to be a pretty good Vet clinic.”
“Animals huh? I remember you being afraid of horses.”
“They’re massive and they sport eyes on the sides of their head. That doesn’t look quite normal to a kid.”
“Your brothers and sisters got along just fine with them.”
“You must remember, I’m adopted.”
“You’re my daughter London, and that’s that.”
“Speakin’ of family, how’s mom?”
“Good. Sleep. She’ll be risin’ and shinin’ soon enough.”
“She still running the bakery?”
“You bet she is. Pearl May likes to keep as busy as I do.”
“Still, it’s okay to slow down.”
“This coming from the night runner.”
“I apologized already. You’re never gonna let me live this down, are you?”
“‘Fraid not kid. Come on inside, it’s near five in the morning.”
“I won’t be getting any sleep. I still have to stop by Redemption and get some things squared away.”
“Yeah, yeah. You can do that after breakfast.”
“You’re still as bossy as ever.”
“And you’re still as mouthy as ever.”
“I really missed you dad.”
“Missed you too. Brice on the other hand will give you the tongue lashing of your life. So make yourself ready for it.”
“I can handle Brice.”
“Last time he made you cry.”
“Ugh. Don’t remind me. He always was overprotective of me.”
“Scolded you something awful, he did.” Listening to him tickled me pink. At one time I’d been the ugly duckling right up until senior year, so when I was finally asked out to the prom, I jumped at the chance. I got myself all dolled up and waited until my date came to the house. Of course my parents had to meet him. Everything seemed fine, so we make it to the prom, I have a little punch and hors d’oeuvres then Ted and I begin dancing. Some fifteen minutes later there’s commotion in the hotel lobby and Brice busts through the doors heavy footed and punched Ted square in his button nose. I must have apologized a million times for Brice’s behavior.
“Don’t apologize to this excuse of a human being. He’s trying to take advantage of you.”
“What are you talking about, and aren’t you supposed to be away in college?”
“Word got back to me about his plans.”
“Plans, what plans?” By this time, everyone’s attention was on me.
“This prick bet his friends you’d be an easy lay tonight.”
“Come on, you’re leaving.” He took me by the hand and I snatched it away. “London!”
“Ted, is this true?”
“Yeah. What other reason would I have for asking you out. And I could have sealed the deal if not for Brice. Now I’m out of twenty bucks.”
For the second time he was punched in the face. My knuckles were on fire and the mere fact he thought I was only worth twenty bucks didn’t stem the spike of anger bubbling up my throat. Storming past Brice, I hadn’t been more humiliated, even after the derogatory names that were unduly stapled to my identity.
“You know, it wasn’t very bright of you to accept him as a date.”
“Shut up Brice.”
“I’ll shut up when I’m good and damn ready. You’re smart but you weren’t thinking. There’s no way he wanted to go out with you.”
“Why, because I’m the only dark spot in this town?”
“That’s not what I said, but yeah, you know those people are. They only look at the surface. They don’t know you like we do.”
“You mean like Maria and Shelley?”
“They can be stupid and you know it. They caved in to peer pressure.”
“Yeah well it’d been better for everyone if I just died when I jumped to my death.”
“I swear if you ever utter such idiotic words again, I’ll come over there and pop you on the lips.”
“I’d like to see you try it.”
“You know I’ll make good on my promises London.” Brice had a way with words that stung the soul, so in that regard, yes, he made me cry. But I’m an adult now. I’ve survived much harsher insults that’s made me near bulletproof.
“Breakfast is ready. Eat up.” I haven’t had a home cooked meal in ages. I lived on takeout, not because I can’t cook, but convenience is the way of the world, especially if you’re working round the clock. I’m so glad to have wiped my hands and conscience clean of that world. I’ve witnessed once upstanding people who lost the battle of good and evil within the first year in D.C. That place is a black hole designed to seek out morality at all costs and obliterate it. There’s nothing more than hollow shells walking around the political halls and arenas.
“Looks like you got something on your mind.”
“Just life back in D.C. Happy to be away from it all.”
“Happy to have you back London Bridge.” I look up from my plate at my mother with a smile. I scurry over to and give her a tight hug.
“It’s good to see you too mom. Shouldn’t you get some more rest?”
“I’ve had enough, trust me. When did you arrive?”
“Not long ago.”
“In the dark.”
“Just helping the conversation along.”
“Morning Ms. May.” It was sweet the way they addressed each other. What was not sweet nor funny was the nickname my mom gave me. London Bridge. It’s bad enough there’s a song with that name and kids never let me forget it on the playground.
“How long are you staying?”
“I don’t know. I’m sorry I left without a word. I was wrong for that.”
“Andrew and I know why you left, so it’s alright.” We eat in silence until a low rumble parks in the yard.
“Looks like someone knows you’re here.”
“He’s the only one who’d beat it here to see you this early in the morning.”
“Doesn’t anyone sleep past five in the morning anymore?”
“When have we ever?” Mom looked at dad and they chuckled nonstop.
“Time for you to put those words into action and meet your maker.” I left them to finish their breakfast and went for the door. As I looked through the peep hole, sure enough it was Brice, and he was charging up the steps. Opening the door, I file out and stand my ground. He crosses his arms glaring down at me. Okay, so I was in trouble, big deal.
“News travels fast, huh?”
“You leave without notice and you figure you can come back when you want to? I guess life is just peachy for you.”
“Just say what you have to say.”
“Don’t give me no lip London.”
“I’m a full grown woman in case you haven’t noticed. You don’t control my mouth, I do.”
“You are beyond wrong for turnin’ tail runnin’ like you did. You took the cowards way out.”
“Yep. I did.”
“You could always infuriate me like no other.”
“So, you married yet?”
“You’d know my status had you stuck around.”
“Just answer the question.”
“You oughta what? Try me Brice.”
I found myself being twisted around then on my face. He always did this to me when I got the better of him.
“You’ve gotten more mouthy, which I didn’t think could be possible.”
“Yeah well, I’m just full of surprises.” Brice adds pressure to my already twisted arm and I begin to giggle. “Do your worst.”
“You don’t know how much I missed you puppet.” He let me up and I sit Indian style across from him. “You could have at least told me you were leaving.”
“I know. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t do it again.”
“I don’t know how long I’ll be here.”
“Then why’d you come back if you’re not staying.”
“It was an honest mix up in the application process.”
“Yes. I’ve come to love most animals. I don’t to dangerous reptiles, no way no how.”
Brice blew out a breath, “Chicken.”
“I hate it when you call me that.”
“I don’t like being called puppet either. Never figured out why you gave me that moniker.”
“Easy. I could get you to do anything I said.”
“Come on. Admit it. I could have you swinging from a pole and you’d like it.”
“Only in your imagination weasel.”
“I’m still not letting you off the hook. You’re still going to pay for leavin’ like you did. I think a good start would be for you to meet my children. They’re a rambunctious lot.”
“You’re a father?” I asked truly surprised.
“Yep. Think I couldn’t do it?”
“Not at all. You were very protective with me. I can only imagine the hell you’re putting those kids through.”
“Someone has to look out for them. Kids just don’t think sometimes.”
“How old are they? Cameron is fourteen and Amanda, sixteen.”
“They’re practically grown up.”
“Don’t say that. It’s hard enough for me to deal with scoundrels drooling all over my daughter.”
“And your son?”
“I try to keep him in the know about girls. The only thing he needs to know and understand is that females are dangerous.”
“Ha! Didn’t stop you from impregnating one.”
“That was different.”
“Sure it was. So who is she?
“I’m divorced. Hannah left the kids with me and split.”
“Wow. That’s not what I was expecting to hear.”
“I wasn’t expecting her to leave either. But all’s for the better. How about you, any kids, a man?”
“You always had a warped sense of humor.”
“And you enjoyed every bit of it. So do they know about me?”
“You think I wouldn’t tell my children about you?”
“I don’t know. Just don’t want them to be shocked by skin darker than their own.”
“Things have changed and improved dramatically since your departure. There are mixtures of families who’ve moved here. My kids are learning about people and cultures right in their backyard. I want them to get out of Janice Field though, and explore the world, see what they can contribute towards as well. They’d love you, you know.”
“Like you do? All you did was scold me.”
“Wouldn’t have had to if you used that brain God gave you. Never did understand how a smart person such as yourself could walk blindly into traps.”
“Let it go already.”
“Blind as a bat I tell you.” I pop him on his shoulder and he howled out a laugh. He worked my nerves a lot but I still love him for it. I wouldn’t have made it as far as I have had it not been for early life experience. Now I can spot shady people coming from miles away.
“Looking out for me.”
“Dad fixed breakfast and mom is up as well. Should be some leftovers. You coming in?”
“Yep, after you.”
Read the next part here Mold Me (2)
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