Kylie VanLueven sucked in her bottom lip. She could do this. She could totally, absolutely do this.
This was her mom, who loved her dearly. After all, it was her and her mom against the world – how many times had she heard her mom say exactly that?
So it wasn’t admitting defeat to come crawling back to her mom’s house, her tail tucked between her legs.
Well, maybe it was. A little. But her mom would still be happy to see her.
And right now, more than anything in the world, Kylie needed someone to be happy to see her. To want her.
She raised a trembling hand and knocked on the faded, wooden door of her childhood home. The one she’d busted through without a second thought a million times as a kid…when she’d lived here.
It seemed awkward as hell to knock on this door – the front door to a house that was the very embodiment of “home” to her, even though she hadn’t lived here for four years. But just busting through and yelling, “SURPRISE!” didn’t seem like a stand-up idea to her, either.
Her mom opened up the door, her hair up in curlers, peering out into the fading evening light. “Kylie?” she said, the shock almost palpable. “Kylie, what are you doing here?!” Even as she said it, she stepped back from the door to let Kylie in, her faded housedress flowing around her legs as she backed out of the doorway.
Kylie pulled her oversized suitcase in behind her, leaned it against the shoe bench, and then threw herself into her mom’s arms, sobbing. She’d kept it together until now, but like a toddler whose scraped knee was fine until she lays eyes on her mother, all of the pain and frustration and anger and confusion and hurt that’d been boiling inside of Kylie came spilling out as soon as she saw the one person in her life who she knew loved her unconditionally.
Even as her mom pulled her against her generous chest, patting her back and whispering consoling words that Kylie didn’t need to hear to understand, she was also pushing the door closed, the night sounds disappearing, leaving only Kylie’s sobs and her mom’s whispers and the ticking of the clock on the wall.
Finally, Kylie got herself under control enough to pull back and give her mom a watery smile. “Hi, Mom,” she said weakly. “I’m home.” She tried to say it in a sing-song voice, to play it off as a joke, but nothing was funny right now.
Nothing was going to be funny ever again.
Which was an exaggeration and Kylie knew it and she didn’t care. It’s how she felt, dammit.
Her mom draped her arm around Kylie’s shoulders and pulled her against her soft, welcoming side. “Come on, let’s go talk. Nothing can be as bad as all this, I promise.”
They moved into the living room and sank down into the worn, soft couch, its embrace as inviting as her mom’s had been. Kylie loved this couch. In fact, all she wanted to do in this very moment was hide in its flowery depths and never come out again.
She remembered back when she was 18 – just four short years ago – when all she had wanted was to get out of this town and never come back. Now…
Well, the world hadn’t been quite as amazing as Kylie had thought it would be, that was for damn sure.
“Okay, tell me what’s going on.” Her mom’s pale green eyes were caring and concerned…and laser focused on her.
Carol VanLueven could be horribly intimidating, even when she didn’t mean to be, something her only daughter was all too aware of.
Kylie bit her trembling lower lip, fighting back another wave of tears. Dammit all, she could cry in a minute, but right now, she needed to talk.
No matter how tempting it was to dissolve into a puddle of tears again.
She took a deep breath.