"Uh... earth to Daphs?"
I looked away from my window, "Huh?" Britney and I were being driven by my mom's hired driver. We were on our way home from the airport after a six-month European tour—a graduation gift from my parents. I could have taken one friend so I chose Britney. Being back meant finally spending the much needed time with my dad.
My dad's an undercover FBI agent and had been incognito for five years to bring a major drug cartel down. He and mom had been separated for four years after he was asked to move to another state to seriously get involved in the work. She said she still loved him and he loved her too, but they couldn't get along anymore. Dad only visited twice in the year—one for Christmas and the other for my birthday.
"You are so spaced out, what's wrong with you?"
I perked up, plastering a fake smile, "Nothing, Brits... What did you say?"
She rolled her eyes, "What are your plans now that the trip is over."
"Oh..." I exhaled. Sometimes I believed Britney had nuts for brains. "Open my fashion store. Did you forget?"
Or maybe she was trying to make a conversation since the car was quiet. "Hopefully within the next eight months I should be up and running," I continued.
"You know I have to work for you. There's no other way."
"Of course hun, and you can be my personal model."
The driver stopped in front of Britney's house, cutting short our conversation. She hugged and then flashed me a peace sign before disappearing behind her white gate.
"Duke, pass by Blake for a quick second," I tell the driver.
Blake was my highschool boyfriend. We'd been together for three years and had been inseparable since. He's the love of my life and I'm his. We'd always been the "it" couple in school. People were so jealous of our perfect relationship. And who could give them wrong?
"Your mom asked that I bring you straight home Ms. Stone."
"Well my mom isn't here and I'm practically the boss of you. So, drop me off by Blake!"
He exhaled a deep breath, "Okay, but only five minutes, I'm on schedule."
Duke pulled up at Blake's house five minutes later. "You have five minutes," he yelled as I strutted up the pathway.
Ugh! He was so old-timeish. I would take as long as I needed. Knocking softly on the crisp white door, I adjusted my top and fluffed my hair. Blake's mom appeared. Her eyes brightened showing the crow's feet at the corners of her eyes. She pulled me into a fierce hug, then admired me at arm's length.
"Look at you, you've even gotten taller."
I peered at my legs, "Really? You find?"
"Yes, dear." She looked over her shoulder, "Blake!"
"It's ok Mrs. Talon I'll check him in his room."
She nodded, "Ok," and walked off.
The staircase was a task by itself. I had one but it wasn't as never-ending as this one. It literally had a bend. My poor chest heaved as I made it to the final one. His door was open, "Blake?"
I crossed to his sister's room on the opposite side. Empty. I hadn't the time for this. A big woman like me shouldn't have to comb an entire house looking for one person. "Blake!"
"Yeah! I'm in the bathroom!"
I paused in the hallway, "What?" I could barely hear him.
"I'm in the bathroom!"
I ran down the hall, opening the door to the bathroom. He stood by the sink brushing his teeth in his towel, looking all magnificent. He could be covered in dirt and still looked sexy with his dusty gold hair and athletic figure. He was my very own quarterback. I rushed towards him, hugging him from the back. "Blake, oh my God, I've missed you so much!"
He spat out the remaining toothpaste in his mouth and turned to meet my face. He kissed my forehead, "I've missed you too. How was your plane ride?"
"Meh..." I waved. "What's up with you handsome? Did you now come out of the shower?" He smelled like aftershave and coconut.
Before he could answer, a deafening car horn sounded outside. Gosh ... Duke. He could be such a twat sometimes. Five minutes hadn't passed as yet. Well, it didn't seem so. He honked the horn again.
"Listen, Blake, I gotta go now, but can we hang tomorrow?"
"Yeah no probs D."
I kissed him on the lips and skated downstairs. "Christ Duke, you didn't have to be so crude! I was coming! You're such an embarrassment."
It was bad enough that I spent the entire five minutes trying to find Blake. I felt cheated out of my precious time. The seat-belt seemed to get stuck the harder I yanked on it. It was Duke's fault why everything didn't work the way it should. I glared at him knowing well he could see me from the rearview mirror. He should see how pissed I was.
The car came to a slow stop in front of our house. As we waited for the garage door to open, I couldn't help but wonder what mom had planned for me as a welcome home gift. It better be new clothes. As soon as we were parked, I hopped out, slamming the door.
"Please handle my bags with care, I have valuable things in there." Duke had a knack for dropping and dragging things on the floor. I had clothing from Milan and other expensive designers in the bag, not to mention four thousand dollar Gucci luggage.
I pushed the front door, "Mom! Mom? Mommy, I'm back."
Anita, my childhood nanny, and now our cleaning and kitchen aid, appeared from the laundry room. "Hi, Daphney. Welcome back. How was your trip?"
"It was great, Anita." I surveyed the room, noticing that there weren't any balloons or any welcome home signs. What the heck? "Where's mom?
"She stepped out to come back, she said to tell you that she would be a bit late."
Late? "What? But she knew I was coming, why would she leave? It's after six in the afternoon. Where could she possibly go?"
"I'm not sure... Give her a call," she walked off.
Why on earth would she leave, knowing I was returning today? What kind of mother would do that? And where would she possibly go? She's old—she had nothing to do besides work. Flipping out my phone, I dialed her number. Ugh! No answer. I dialed again, and again until I forced myself to leave a voicemail. "Mom! Where are you? I came home and you weren't here. You knew I was coming home, what could be more important than me? Come home now!" I hung up.
Almost ten minutes had elapsed since I met home and Duke was nowhere in sight. What could be taking him so long with my bags? He didn't have to be old and slow.
I glanced around the big space of nothingness. Coming back to this reminded me of how simple London was. The apartments we stayed in were much smaller and comforting. Here, I could actually hear myself breathe.
I climbed the stairs, venturing to my room.
Oh... my... God. "Oh, my God!" Pure whiteness. Wow! A new room stood before me -- like literally. Lavender walls, white furniture including my bed, dresser, wardrobe... No freaking way! It's like it transformed from Barbie to Barbara. Damn mom!
Diving into my bed, I snuggled the white linen to my face. It even smelt like lavender. Mom had outdone herself this time. And here I thought she did nothing. I wasted no time messaging Britney and Blake to tell them about my new room.
About ten minutes later, Duke came up, struggling with my bags. Sweat beaded his forehead beaded as if he'd done a freaking marathon. It was just bags! "Took you long enough," I said.
Duke rolled his eyes, limping towards the door.
I sat upright, "Did you just call me a brat?"
"No, Ms. Stone."
Two hours later, I took a bath and donned my favorite pink piglet pajamas. Hungry, I went searching for something in the kitchen. Normally, I would call Anita and let her bring it to my room, but I figured mom should be back soon.
I found Anita baking bread. "Anita I'm starving. What does it have to eat?" I opened the refrigerator and closed it back.
"It has a chicken sandwich I made for you in the microwave."
"Great, thanks. You always come through for me."
She smiled, shaking her head. Grabbing the sandwich, I headed to the living room to watch TV. Well, really, I didn't watch TV but it was to kill time until mom returned from where ever she strayed. I still couldn't believe her. Not even a message? This was so unlike her. By eight she would be home preparing to take a hot shower and then for bed. What the heck happened between London and now?
As I was about to dial her number, laughter muffled behind the front door. Huh? I knew that laugh and that laugh hadn't been heard in ages--not since... Dad? I flew off the couch, scampering to the door.
I swung it open, "Mom, I was–"
"Honey, darling." At the same time, a tall frame appeared behind her, "I would like you to meet Ricky—my new boyfriend." Her face glowed like a hundred-watt bulb. She stepped aside, allowing him space to enter.
When this Ricky came into light, a wave of nausea hit me like a brick. A David Hasselhoff look-alike extended his hand, baring his teeth at me.