25 | We Are Family
“Smiling doesn’t necessarily mean you’re happy. Sometimes it just means you are strong.”
I’m tired. So tired. I want everything to stop. People are fighting because of me. I feel so guilty. It’s eating me up - alive.
Alan picks me up later that day, noticing my horrible mood and my red, bloody nose and asks whether I want to go home or not. I tell him I want to go somewhere where I can be alone and think for a while. Somewhere I can have one thought on my mind, not millions. I need to step back for a moment and reevaluate things.
So Alan takes me to the park. The same park where I saw Callum a couple of weeks ago. It’s shocking how quickly time has flown by. It only feels like yesterday when I started here when in reality, it’s been weeks.
Soon, school will be finishing and then what? Will I go back to acting and modelling? Being away from the whirlwind of fame has made me feel at peace. Sure, I’m worrying about Callum and Jason but the first few days here, the media weren’t ganging up on me. I didn’t have to worry about looking good and doing the right things. I could breathe. I could be free.
Going back to LA would mean leaving Hannah, Ares, and Athena. I don’t want to do that. In the short time, I’ve been with them, I have treasured my time with them. They brought back that sense of normality I needed.
Perhaps I could stay here. I could live with Casey and continue attending the school here. That way, I could make amends with everyone. Like my parents.
It’s time to see them. I think. I’ve been here for a while now, they must know I’m back in town and are probably devastated that I haven’t come to see them. Despite their negligence, I will always love them. How could I not? They still raised me. And Martin, he is my brother. I will always love him too. If I can forgive Brock, I can definitely forgive Martin.
Walking through the park without anyone with me, I enjoy the time alone. Sometimes, everybody needs to stop, have a short break and breathe. That’s exactly how I feel right now.
Whilst walking, I think about what I should do. With the courage I currently have, I change the direction I’m walking in and head off to my old house. Who knows when the next time will be when I have this courage? I doubt it will be anytime soon.
The walk is short, shorter than I remembered. Maybe I’m walking faster than I’m supposed to. Stupid anxiety.
Finally, I reach my old house. My parent’s car is parked in the driveway, along with Martin’s. I’m curious as to why his car is there, it should be at his college, with him. Is he skipping college and visiting or...?
In no time at all, I’m standing on the small porch, outside of my own home. My breaths are suddenly coming out rugged. I...what am I doing?
There’s movement on the other side of the door. A figure of someone moves from the stairs to the living room, not noticing me on the other side of the door. Good, I don’t want them seeing me have a panic attack.
Hesitantly, I lift my hand up and fist my fingers together. My hand hovers over the door as if I’m waiting for something to happen. I want to scold myself for being an idiot. What am I waiting for? Where is that courage I had earlier?
My fist knocks on the door, rather quietly, three times. With bated breath, I wait for someone to answer the door. At first, nobody answers. My hope deteriorates - along with my confidence.
I wait several seconds and then raise my hand, ready to knock again but I'm stopped by the door swinging open. I am greeted with the grim face of my mother. She freezes when she recognizes me, her mouth hanging open in disbelief. I feel bad because I find it kind of comical. Not the time.
“Hi mom,” I start, meekly. She still doesn’t say anything so I smile politely, feeling awkward. “Can I come in?”
Still, she does nothing but stares. I’m starting to worry about her. She’s as frozen as a statue, she hasn’t moved at all. Did I just break her? Is she having a mental breakdown?
“Mom?” I ask, slowly, in a concerned voice. I slide my tongue along my teeth, unsure of what to do. Thankfully, she blinks rapidly and lets go of the door.
Her chin trembles as she refrains herself from crying. “My baby,” I hear her mumble, in a shaky tone. “My baby’s home.” She repeats and lunges at me, pulling me into a tight hug.
Startled, my arms hang at my side. Slowly, I lift them up and hug her whilst burying my head in her golden blonde hair. Mom and I both have wavy hair, something that none of the boys inherited. Her hair curls beautifully down her back. Like the rest of my family, she has blue eyes that I always used to think were gorgeous. They still are.
I gently pat her back; inhale the sweet smell of strawberries. I always loved how she smelled, it brought me comfort. She always brought me comfort - when she was here.
“I missed you so much,” She sobs into my neck. Hot tears fall onto my neck but I don’t care. Not when I am hugging my mother. This feels like home. This feels right.
“I missed you too, mom,” My voice is muffled because my head is literally in her hair but none of us care. Right now, she just needs to hold me and be assured I’m here.
“Honey, what’s taking you so long?” I hear my father’s voice ask from the living room. I can hear his footsteps on the wooden floor, coming out to the hallway.
My head moves away from my mom’s hair and I look over her shoulder at my father. His mouth also opens in shock, just like mom, and his eyes brim with tears.
“A - Anastasia?” He utters in a croaky voice. “Is that really you?”
“Hi Dad,” I reply, sending him a shaky smile. Reluctantly, mom lets me go. I rush over to dad and let his strong arms wrap around my body. His shoulders tremble slightly as he holds me. I know he’s crying but I don’t say anything. My father isn’t a man who usually cries so to point it out would hurt his pride. I love him too much to do something like that.
But you obviously don’t love him that much because you left him. My inner conscience reminds me, harshly. Internally, I flinch at how true it is.
“Oh honey, I’m so glad you are back. We love you so much, so so much baby.” He whispers in my ear whilst I cling to him.
“I hear crying.” My older brother Martin says from the kitchen. “What’s going on?”
I want to smile when I hear his confused voice.
He rounds the corner, wearing his usual t-shirt and blue jeans.
“Hi Martin,” I say, flashing a smile over to him. Martin is quicker to compose himself than anyone else. Dad lets me go and I sprint over to him, lifting my feet off the ground and wrapping them around his waist. I always used to do this when I was younger. Martin would call me a little Monkey because of it.
“Oh my god, you’re back. Well, we knew you were back but you’re back here. Just...” He rambles. I laugh at him, he’s usually very well thought and articulate.
“Alright Marty, you can let her go now,” Dad tells Martin after a while. Reluctantly, he lets me go whilst throwing longing looks my way. “Should we go into the living room?” Dad suggests. I nod my head; we all file in there.
The living room is exactly the same as I remember it. On the mantlepiece, there’s an old ticking clock and there are pictures of me when I was younger, along with Brock and Martin. There are even some pictures of all of us as a family. Those are the best ones.
Mom and dad sit on the two-seat couch, in front of the dining table whilst Martin and I plonk ourselves down on the bigger couch, facing the television.
“Anastasia, it’s so good to have you back here.” Dad starts, smiling weakly at me. “But why have you come? Why now?”
I knew they would ask me this. They are probably a bit hurt that I didn’t come when I first got here.
“Well,” I clear my throat, “it took me a long time to realize how much I miss you guys. I’m so sorry I didn’t come when I first got here but...I was scared and afraid. This new life I have...I didn’t want to feel weak and coming here would make me feel exactly that. But, I now know how much I need you guys. I - I love you guys and I don’t care what happened before I left because you are still my family.”
Silence settles upon us as they all gather their thoughts whilst I try and stop myself from crying.
Martin, who is sat beside me, gives me a side hug. My eyes flutter closed at the warm feeling I’m receiving from him. I really did miss them.
“Oh baby, we are so sorry for not noticing how unhappy you were.” Mom apologizes. She’s sat next to dad who has an arm wrapped around her shoulder and a hand on hers, with teary blue eyes. Her cheeks are flustered from crying so much which is a first - mom hardly ever cries. “We promise, if you give us a second chance, that we will do everything right again.”
Martin squeezes my waist, capturing my attention again. Looking up at him, he gives me an encouraging nod. In his blue eyes, is sadness. I feel guilty for doing this to them, no matter if they hurt me.
“Of course I can forgive you guys, I love you,” I answer, softly. Mom leaps up from her chair in joy and comes over to me, giving me another bone-crushing hug. Dad also joins in, followed by Martin. If only Brock was here right now, then the family hug would be complete.
And that’s how we spend the next few hours together, enjoying each other’s company. We catch up on things. For instance, Martin admits he dropped out of college because it was too much to handle. He said he didn’t like law at all and wanted to do something he actually liked. He’s not that sure what that is yet though. Either way, all of us are supportive of whatever he does.
I tell everyone about my time on movies, how I met Casey, Jason, and even the devil - Lulu. I then proceed to tell them about the fight that happened earlier today. Mom, being the best person at advice, advised me to talk to the both of them about what’s going on. She thinks if I’m present, that they will open up about everything.
After we’ve caught up with each other’s lives, we joke and tease each other. The familiar feeling of home springs itself on me. I love these people and I will never do what I did to them again.
This will be the last chapter I post this year! It's crazy to think! I hope everyone has a great 2020. You all deserve the best.