Somewhere I Belong

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Chapter 12: Trenton, North Carolina - October 1, 2017

When Dad and Grams came home from church, I could tell they were curious to see if Dad’s plan had worked. He poked his head in my room, a small smile on his face. I was sitting on the floor in the middle of the room, my binders of stories spread out all over the place. “Hey. How was your morning?”

“Fine.” I replied, looking up at him.

“I forgot to tell you that Cory was coming over today to fix the fence. Slipped my mind.”

“I’m sure it did. Nice try, Dad.” I raised an eyebrow at him.

“I have no clue what you are talking about.” He said, not looking at me.

“Uh huh. Well, in case you were wondering, we talked. I told him about Mike but not the whole story. I don’t think I’m ready for that to get out. I would appreciate it if it stayed between us until I’m ready.”

“Sure thing, kiddo. I’m going to grill some steaks and veggies for dinner. Do you mind if I invite him to stay? I owe him for fixing the fence.”

“It’s your house, Dad.”

“I know but I don’t want you to think I’m forcing anything on you.” I shook my head.

“It’s fine. I get it. I’m going to finish up in here and I’ll be outside in a few.”

“Okay.” He waved as he stepped out of my room. I turned my attention back to the binder in my lap. It had one of my favorite stories I had written when I was sixteen. It was about a girl who discovers she’s the reincarnation of a magical princess from a faraway kingdom. She was sent to Earth to protect her from an evil sorcerer who is planning on destroying the world. She is kidnapped and forced back to her home planet where she discovers who she really is. It took me months to write this story and it was one of my longer ones. The cover even had a drawing of a girl standing in the middle of a universe that Marie drew for me after I finished it. She did this for a number of my stories, telling me that they each deserved to have a cover that matched the story. I was halfway through the binder when a knock on my door caught my attention.

“Yeah?” I called. The door opened and Cory stuck his head in. “Hey. Come in.” He opened the door the rest of the way and walked in, shutting it behind him.

“Your Dad said you were in here sorting through stuff. Whatcha got there?” He asked, sitting on the floor across from me.

“Some of my writing. Just reliving old dreams, I guess.” I replied, smiling.

“Old dreams? Don’t you still write?”

“Not in a while. I don’t think I’ve written anything since I moved to the city. Didn’t really have time for it.” He looked at me shocked. “What?”

“Abby Green, the leader of the No Page Left Unwritten movement, doesn’t have the time to write anymore? I find that very hard to believe.”

“Well, believe it. Besides, Mike always thought it was a waste of time if I didn’t try to get it published.” Cory made a noise under his breath. “What?”

“Nothing.” He replied, shrugging. I gave him a look.

“I’m not having this discussion with you again.”

“This is me, not saying anything.” He said, grabbing a white binder off the floor. It had a drawing of a boy and a girl, dressed up in typical spy clothing, a diamond in the middle of them. “Is this that story you wrote in fifth grade?”

“Yeah. I rewrote it when we were in tenth though. Needed to be done when I wasn’t a pubescent thing.” He opened it, flipping through the pages.

“Jesus, I see why. First thing I see is a sex scene. I forget how much of a horn dog you were.” I gasped, chucking a pillow at him. He caught it, smirking.

“I was not a horn dog! Some stories just need a bit of passion to get them going. Besides, it’s not like they were going anywhere. I’m the only one who’s read that one, thank you very much.”

“No, you aren’t. I’ve read it. Remember? When we had that camping trip out at Point Lodge the summer I turned sixteen. You let me read a bunch of your stories. Besides, I’ve always read your stuff since we were 11.”

“That was different. That was just kiddy stuff. These really meant a lot to me. I thought I was going to be an author. I was just too afraid to show them to anyone but you and Marie.”

“Well, I don’t see why.” He said, reading the page he was one. “You have some serious talent. Did you ever tried to get published?”

“Once. Right after we moved to the city. I submitted a copy for the book you have in your hands to about fifty agencies in New York. Each one of them sent me a rejection letter about a month later. I guess that’s when I decided I didn’t have what it takes to make it as an author. I haven’t written anything since.”

“Is that where the whole real estate thing came in? Cause that part confuses me. Why real estate?” I shrugged.

“The money is good and the market has been great lately. I took a class and found I had a real art in making people buy homes. I made a friend at the firm I was hired at and we opened up our own. I make a good penny while people are enjoying their new houses. Makes me feel good knowing I helped them achieve that.”

“Okay. But you aren’t doing what you want to be doing that way, are you? Do you not want to be a writer anymore?” He asked, handing me the binder he was holding. I took it, unsure of what to say.

“I don’t know. I haven’t done it in seven years. I’m probably not any good at it anymore.”

“You’ll never know unless you try.” He stood up, looking around the room. His eyes landed on a picture of the two of us, standing in front of the large maple tree behind my house. We were about 13 when the picture was taken. Both of us had fake smiles, something my mother had made us do before our first day of seventh grade. “Ever wish you could go back and freeze time?” He asked.

“To seventh grade? I think I’m good on that one.” I replied. “But I get what you mean. There’s a lot of memories I would go back to just to feel those feelings again.” He looked at the other pictures, stopping at one from our junior prom. He was in a black tux and I was wearing a red prom dress that puffed out at the bottom.

“Ugh. That thing was so uncomfortable. I knew I should have worn jeans instead.” He said, looking over at me. “But at least I got to dance with you most of the night.”

“Yeah since Mike was passed out drunk in the parking lot. Great times.” I muttered, standing up.

“Well, I had fun that night. And you did laugh a lot.”

“Because you have two left feet. I’m lucky I still have toes left.”

“Well I didn’t think I would be dancing the whole night.” He sighed, looking towards the door. “I’m gonna run to the store and get some beer. You need anything?”

“No, thank you. I’m should check to see if Daddy needs any help.” Nodding, he opened my bedroom door.

“I’ll be back in a bit then.”

Cory ran to the store while I helped Dad chop up vegetables for the grill. He had three big steaks he had soaking in marinade in the fridge and the grill was warming up as Cory pulled back in the driveway. He was driving the same black jeep he had when I moved away, the passenger side door dented where I had smacked a tree with it when he was teaching me to drive. Grabbing the beer from the back seat, he walked around the side of the house and into the back yard. Grams was sitting at the table, cutting up cheese and pepperoni for a salad. She smiled when she saw Cory, giving him a little wink. He grinned, shoving the case of beer he had in hand in the cooler next to her. He pulled three beers from the box and walked over to Dad and me next to the grill. Dad took one and Cory offered me the other long neck. I took it, twisting the top off. Dad finished the steaks and the veggies and we helped carry them over to the table. We all made our plates before sitting down.

“What are your plans now that you’re back in town, Abby?” Grams asked, cutting up her steak. I took a bite of green pepper, the spices mixing well together on my tongue.

“I think tomorrow I’m going to talk to the real estate office. Maybe I can fill in while I’m here. I don’t think I can just hang around until I head back to New York. I’ll lose my mind.” I replied.

“You’re going back?” Cory and Dad both asked at the same time. Grams smiled behind her glass of lemonade, thinking I didn’t see her.

“Well, yeah. My business is there. I can’t just and leave it forever. I worked hard to get it going from the ground up. Sarah and I both did. She’d kill me if I just bailed now.”

“Could always open a branch here. Expand your area.” Dad suggested. I laughed.

“To the big old town of Trenton? There’s a grand total of fifty houses for sale in the entire town. Half of those are owned by the county through bankruptcy and aren’t cleared for the market yet. I don’t believe my clients are going to pack their bags for the middle of nowhere quite yet, even if it’s a quiet chunk of America.” The three of them looked at me like I had just given a speech in Chinese. I had done my homework before coming down here. It wasn’t like I didn’t consider opening an office down here. The market wasn’t that great here as it was in the city.

“I think you’ve spent a bit too much time with those rich clients of yours.” Dad said, shaking his head as he took a sip off his beer.

“No. It’s how the business of real estate works. You have to work where people want to buy houses. People want to buy houses, condos and apartments in New York City. Not here. It wouldn’t be a good business move on our part to open a smaller firm down here. I would like to work freelance for the place here in town though for a little bit so I don’t need to kill my savings entirely. I don’t know when Michael’s life insurance policy will be cleared and I don’t want to risk having no money to fall back on when I make it back.”

“I think it’s a great idea.” Cory said, popping a piece of steak in his mouth. “Whatever makes you happy, right?”

“Exactly!” Grams exclaimed, wagging her finger at Dad. “Whatever makes the girl happy. Hell, she could be a stripper if she wanted to as long as it made her happy. Don’t listen to your father, Abz. The rest of us rarely do.”

“Ain’t that the truth.” Dad muttered, glaring at his mother. I smirked, finishing off my vegetables. “Thanks for getting to that fence today, Cory. I wanted to get it done before winter came. Those damn woodchucks like to rip out the posts as they are digging underneath it. Glad I shot the damn thing last year. I haven’t seen one since.”

“No problem, Mr. Green. It was an easy fix. I’d like to get to the garage before winter gets here too.” I gave him a confused look.

“What’s wrong with the garage?” I asked.

“It’s easier to list what isn’t wrong with it.” Dad replied. “The floor boards on the second story are starting to rot, the siding is falling off and it’s cluttered to the point of no return almost. I want to gut the whole thing and just turn it into two apartments. I could rent them out and bring in a bit of extra money.”

“It’s possible. It’s got a good structure and wouldn’t take all that much to get it done. The hardest part would be to add plumbing but it’s nothing I haven’t done before.”

“The upstairs is too small to be its own apartment.” I said, making them turn to look at me. “You’ll put a bathroom in and that’s about it. You should just make it a little house and rent it out that way. You’ll get a better profit that way and wouldn’t have to worry about two tenants in one small space.”

“You know, I think the two of you should work together on that. With Abby’s experience in houses and your skills, the two of you could make it into the perfect rental property. You have my full blessing.” I glanced over at the garage, eyeing the project.

“I think we could handle that.”

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