Home Again (Chapter 3)

30 03 2009

 

Bren was startled from a wonderful dream, by a man that was sitting across from her, he was lightly tapping her shoulder and saying, “Hey miss, and I think this is your stop.”

She tried to make sure her makeup was freshened as the lights began to come up on the train. Passengers were rustling about, securing their belongings.

The train pulled into the station and Bren stood on the platform, looking around for her sister Jai, and her roommate, Carlotta. A feeling of trepidation overwhelmed her as she wondered if she made the right decision to come back home. She had moved away from people that were more like her family, than her own family was.  Could she fit into life in this small town?

Bren and Jai’s eyes met at the same time. They both ran toward each other crying, and hugging. It had been more than six years since they had seen each other. Carlotta was gathering Bren’s bags, and then was introduced as Jai’s best friend. Jai’s car smelled like it had been detailed, just for this occasion.

“We’ll show you around before you start work on Monday,” Carlotta said.

Jai had put on a few pounds since they’d last seen each other, and she exuded a confidence and new level of happiness that Bren didn’t recall her having. The two sisters reminisced about their time growing up, and occasionally Carlotta chimed in with a familiar story. Bren was reintroduced to the community at every stop they made.

“The last I saw you, you was knee-high to a grasshopper,” Mr. Morgan said.

Bren recalled how Mr. Morgan’s candy store was always crowded with after school kids, jockeying for position to buy the treat of the day. It hadn’t changed much, Mr. Morgan explained. Kids today still need a safe place to hang out.

As the women drove up to the “old house”, Bren was overwhelmed by the flood of mixed emotions. Despite a new coat of paint and a new fence around the property, Bren began to feel as if she had never left.

“Come on,” Jai said as she pulled her from the front seat. “I’ll show you what we did to your old room.”

Bren’s feet felt like cinder blocks as she walked to the front door, and she began to sweat profusely. With tears brimming from her eyes, Jai and Carlotta, grabbed her arms, and pulled her up the stairs.

“It’s okay,” Jai said gently but firmly.

It felt like “dead man walking,” Bren thought. The excitement of coming home had worn off when the car pulled up to the front of the house, and now Bren dreaded going in and confronting the memories. Carlotta ran ahead to open the door, and the warm vibrations from inside, just seemed to reach out and put its arm around Bren’s shoulder.

Jai and Carlotta had added grand love and sensitivity into the old house. The bedroom at the top of the stairs was Bren’s old room, and after looking around downstairs, and absorbing the colors and ambiance that could nourish anyone’s soul, she ran upstairs like a child on Christmas Day.

“She likes it,” she heard them say in unison, as she let out a scream. “I am home.”

……..

Monday morning, Bren woke early with excitement for the first day of work, she showered and went to dress in a crisp white blouse with satin buttons and a taupe knee-length skirt that she had laid out last night, only to find it missing. Bren went to knock on her sister’s bedroom door to ask if she had moved her outfit, the door slowly creaked open and she saw Carlotta…

“Oh I’m sorry,” Carlotta said, almost looking embarrassed. “I was just pressing out your wrinkles. I hope you, didn’t mind.

“Anytime you want to iron, just let me know,” Bren said laughing.

“Come on,” Bren could hear Jai say as she rushed to fasten her blouse.

“How did you sleep,” Carlotta asked, as they descended the stairs. The smile on Bren’s face was all the answer she needed.

Bren admitted to herself that she was really feeling the new mood of the town. It had a more inclusive feeling than she recalled from growing up. The old mill was now refitting homes with solar panels, and it was buzzing with transplants from other parts of the country.

The town had a more down home urban connection going for it now, and she was digging it, for sure. In the wee hours of the morning, she had committed herself to becoming a part of the town and moving forward with her life. She was anxious to get started with the life that had been put on hold, for way too long.

….….

Bren’s first day as a claim adjuster at the families’ business, was not as bad as she thought it would be. In fact, it was fantastic, she expressed to Jai during a coffee break. Within minutes of arriving, Bren had been introduced to second and third cousins that she never knew. At lunch time, everyone shared stories about the places they had all lived, being careful to avoid family secrets and drama.

Carlotta worked as a designer in the solar panels mill, and she loved it, in fact that was all she talked about. Jai was her sister’s supervisor and didn’t cut her any slack, first day or not. Bren had missed working and just being able to function independently in the world. Hope House helped to prepare her for the next phase of life, and Bren knew she was on the fast track now. Not too fast though, that small voice whispered.

……..

The restaurant had standing room only. Bren couldn’t believe it, even though she had a great day, and it was probably worth celebrating, she just wasn’t feeling, standing in a long line. As she chatted things up with Jai, Carlotta, Bren noticed a few of the company employees going inside and urged the women to push ahead into the restaurant.

“Surprise,” everyone shouted.

The entire restaurant had been rented out for a party to welcome Bren home. All Bren could do was stand there with total amazement.

“Speech. Speech,” the rowdy crowd was shouting.

Bren felt like her mouth was filled with cotton, and finally mustered an “I don’t know what to say.”

Jai and Carlotta were on opposite sides of the room, and her eyes searched until she found them. They were both teary, and were clapping loudly with the rest of the crowd.

“I never expected any of this,” Bren said wiping a tear. “Jai and Carlotta you will pay for this. Thank you all for thinking of me and I appreciate how you all have given me a space to feel safe and to move on with my life. It’s been fun catching up with old friends and making new ones. They say you can’t go home again. I am so glad that is not true. Thanks again for doing this. Enjoy the party.”

It only took seconds for Jai and Carlotta to be at her side with tissues and glass of champagne.

“You did it girl. You made it out when everybody said you wouldn’t,” Jai comforted her.

“Let’s all toast to new beginnings, new love and more cash,” Carlotta shouted.

Everyone laughed and agreed, raising their glasses to toast Bren’s new life.

“My, my, my or should I say um, um, um look who just walked in,” Jai said under her breath.

“Bad boys, bad boys, what you gonna do,” Carlotta sang back.

“What are you two going on about?” Bren asked following their gaze.

“Trouble just walked in the door and it looks like he is heading this way,” Bren heard Jai respond but her eyes were fixed on the man, who walked as if he owned the place and expected all others to make way for his entrance.

He looked familiar but she had no idea why as she didn’t think you could forget someone like him.

“Good evening ladies,” the man said as he stopped in front of Bren.

He was tall. God had taken extra special care when he was working on his shoulders and that face. His voice was liquid chocolate and she was addicted to chocolate of any kind.

“Hello Grey, nice of you to stop by,” Jai replied dropping her flirtiest gaze on him.

“I believe this is yours Brenetta. You left it on the train the other day.”

Bren’s stare changed to shame as she realized what he was holding in his hand. Life had been so busy since she returned; she hadn’t noticed that her journal was missing. Now she knew, and he had read it.

“Thank you for returning this,” Bren said with more confidence than she felt. “Everyone calls me Bren however. Could I get you something to drink?”

The offer stunned Grey; he couldn’t remember the last time anyone offered to do anything for him.

“I’m Grey and yes, I would love that drink.”

Bren smiled and turned to find a waiter. She needed the break to catch a breath and unscramble her thoughts. Trish would be proud she had kept it together and not show her mortification of a stranger returning her journal. Her life was on those pages and it had been a moment of panic that caused her to take it out and read it on the train. She’d needed a reminder of all she’d overcome and what life was going to be like this time around.

Where was a waiter when you needed one? What did Grey drink anyway and why the heck was she doing this? Bren tried to recall the article about what men can tell about you by the drinks you choose. Did she want to be flirty Bren, conservative Bren, or please take me home, I haven’t been with a man in years Bren?

“For God’s sake, it’s a drink not an examination,” she muttered to herself a little too loudly.

Thankfully the waiter solved the problem, as there was only one thing on his tray. Champagne. Bren grabbed two glasses and stepped back into a very solid chest that had not been there a second ago.

“I got you,” Grey said as he steadied her.

“Sorry, I didn’t see you there. Hope you like champagne it was all they had,” she apologized trying to avoid his eyes.

While standing next to Grey, Bren knew it would eventually come up and she was not looking forward to answering questions about where she lived, and what she had done before returning home…. she was not ready to get into details, and surely did not want men to feel they had to be defensive. Bren was past that stage, and had answered a new curtain call.

“Thank you for the drink, Bren. What shall we toast to?” he asked, breaking the silence.

“Hmm. Let’s toast to new beginnings and new adventures,” she answered bravely.

“Sounds good. To Bren and her new beginning. May she include me in al her adventures,” Grey raised his glass to hers.

On the way home, Bren found a private place deep in her thoughts, and no one was invited.

“Tell me what you think of him,” Carlotta and Jai asked in unison.

“When are you going to see him again,” Bren heard, but she was in such a state, she did not want her thoughts interrupted, so she threw up one finger, meaning to give her a minute.

The sound of Jai and Carlotta giggling did not disturb the feelings that Bren thought was buried, deep in the clear waters of her soul.

“Next week,” Bren said, in a quiet, yet pleased voice, as they pulled into the driveway.

Each of the women had being through a couple of emotional months, Bren planning her return home; Carlotta, deciding not to go back to college after the break; and Jai, making sure her sister felt all the love and support she needed and deserved upon returning home. When the door was closed and locked, together the women checked the house and they all lumbered to their rooms.

“A lot of love and sweat equity went into this room,” Bren thought as she looked around, and closed the door.

The morning dance at the Saunders household was not much different from Hope House, with all of the residents, moving about in the kitchen, handing off toast, juice and coffee to one another. The girls discussed last night’s party and Bren expressed her absolute surprise and pleasure. After sharing their individual plans for the day, and agreeing to stay in touch, Jai left, then Carlotta, and then Bren, who decided to take public transportation, besides it was the kind of day…you want to slowly take in.

Bren didn’t want to miss a minute of this new day – this new start – this new life into which she was entering. At least that’s how it felt…like a new beginning.

The morning flew by quickly and Bren was pleasantly surprised. She enjoyed meeting the clients and helping with their claims. She was under no illusion that she would be here forever, but it was a good way to start over and put down some roots. Her mind flashed back to meeting Grey at the party and she wondered what he was doing today. She’d confessed to her roommates that she wouldn’t mind running into him again.

Across town Grey was mulling similar thoughts. Was it too soon to call Bren? He wanted to call and ask her out but hesitated. He had history and it was not all good. The women he dated had a right to know why the cops always seemed to knock on his door at two in the morning looking for drug dealers and other low life. Grey no longer made excuses about his mistakes but this time he hoped Bren would give him a chance without putting him on the defense. She seemed like that type of girl. Praying his instincts were right, Grey dialed the number to her office.


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