HOW STAYING WOULD HAVE BEEN FOR THE BEST
My brother drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down. Though it was August everywhere, a cold breeze kept us both chilly in the car with the sun high in the sky.
I had on my favorite hoodie, the twenty-one pilots one with their logo on it. It was over sized and looking down on it, I knew I wouldn’t be needing it any time soon.
There were many things back home in the sunshine state that I couldn’t leave behind my brother assured me. Florida was known to be a party state, but in a small town like Winter Haven, how much partying could there really be?
I found myself exiled from being anywhere other than in Florida. When I slammed the car door behind me I heard my brother hiss from the driver side.
“Watch the car.” He said.
Any other time I’d think I was being melodramatic over my overactive imagination, as Brandon loved to say. But of course I had every reason to be upset. This was out of my control, and my brother didn’t make it any easier.
“This is for the best,” Brandon said to me for the millionth time before we got to the gate handing me my plane ticket. As if that was supposed to make me any less annoyed of the situation, he hadn’t even apologized for going against what I wanted.
Everyone liked to say that Brandon and I looked very much alike, but I didn’t think so even if we were twins. We had the same eyes except on him the color looked more earthy green while on me they were infused with a golden color making them hazel. Our hair was the same color, but the similarity, I didn’t see it.
Staring at his wide worried eyes, my anger and sadness rose. I’d been by his side since birth taking care of him from his wild antics; it’s what I was used to. I mean I knew there’d be a time where I wasn’t going to be in charge keeping things in check for him like school, work, and his general level-headedness, but I didn’t think it’d be this hard.
He was going to be miles away. I struggled with his decision on attending law school in New York for many nights, but came to the conclusion that he was right to want to pursue his dream. It didn’t mean I wasn’t angry about having to be away from him.
“Call me when you land?” He asked, stuffing his hands in his pocket. A thing he did when he felt uncomfortable.
“I’ll be back home for the holidays before you know it.” He promised. When I didn’t answer he let out a loud sigh. “Can you stop ignoring me? I already told you that you can’t stay with me. You have your own classes back home and mom would go crazy if you decided to stay here.”
“I don’t see why I can’t transfer and go to school here with you!” He doesn’t answer and instead hugs me tightly for a minute, and then whispers “You don’t need to worry about me Blake. It’s going to be alright” in my ear, before he stepped back and watched me walk through the metal detectors and soon I was gone.
When I landed in Florida it was raining, an omen perhaps? I stumbled off the plane to meet my overtly perfect mother. She was the very definition of perfection or so she thought and she strived for me to be at her level.
The hour ride home would be full of questions since she wasn’t able to help Brandon move into his dorm or stay for a while exploring New York like I did. This should be interesting. My mother was an extroverted woman and while I was the same, I wasn’t that way with her.
She was waiting for me outside with her brand new Mercedes. She’s a flight attendant with a generous salary and the luxury car seemed like a reach for her.
I thought of how great it was that Brandon left his car so I’d be able to drive it instead of him driving me around, not that he minded.
“Blake, I’m so glad you’re back!!” she said, throwing her arms over my shoulders, then stepping back to study me. “Your hair seems a little flat and you have dark circles under your eyes.” she pointed out. “Are you okay?”
“It’s good to see you too mom. I’m fine, just a bit tired.” I tell her before she can point out another flaw in me.
“How was New York? Did Brandon settle in well?” She smiles.
“No, we had a lot of fun and he’s doing great. His dorm room is bigger than what we expected it to be.”
“I can’t believe he’s going to law school. I thought that boy was going to end up a lost case.” She jokes.
It’s true Brandon had his moments where he’d rebel and do stupid things that would have my mom yelling at him for hours, but he was very responsible with his grades and his GPA was one of the highest when he graduated with is undergraduates degree.
You should’ve pursued a big career like him and make something of yourself. ” she said, pulling my luggage into the trunk. “I’d thought you would be the one to want to be a Doctor or Lawyer. Are you sure you want to be a Teacher?”
We both understood that this wasn’t about my personal happiness. It was about her need to gain control of everything and everyone. We’ve argued about my major many times and no matter, what my career will be me teaching children. “Yeah I’m sure that’s what I want to do with my life.”
“Well, if you’re sure” she said getting in through the driver side. Thankfully she dropped the school topic.
I wanted to be mad at Brandon for leaving for school. But that’s selfish of me. Even if I was willing to transfer and finish school with him in New York I couldn’t leave our mother alone.
With my hoodie sticking to my skin, I realized how hot and humid the weather in Florida can get. Thank goodness I wore a tank top under this. The car ride home was filled with the radio playing music at a low volume as the view of Florida passed us by.
“I have something to tell you before we get home.” my mother says as we pass by the ‘Welcome to Winter Haven’ sign.
My family has lived in Winter Haven, Florida my entire life. A place close small enough for people to know each other around and big enough to be considered a city in Polk County.
The buildings, shops, schools, and parks we passed by on the way home looked the same as I remembered them with the exception of a few renovations. I had only been gone a few months, most of the summer.
“What’s that?” I turned to her suspicious of the way she said ‘something.’
“We moved into the new house while you were gone.” she said, taking a glance at my reaction. Her hands gripped the steering wheel giving it a tight squeeze.
Her last sentence came out forced and quick, almost as if she was afraid to tell me. I looked ahead, trying hard not to show her any negative emotions as I responded. “Oh okay, that’s cool.”
The tension was thick in the air. When did I become a master of lying? I question her actions sometimes if not all the time. My mother and her boyfriend Richard were to be married in a few months and all she could talk about is the wedding. The entire event unsettled me.
She decided to change the conversation so we exchanged a few comments on the weather and what’s new in town, evident that neither of us wanted to get into the topic. Her car soon pulled up to a new pavement driveway with a two-story home right in front of it.
“Well, this is home.” she sighed happily and walked up the front porch. Oh, wait until Brandon hears about this. “Are you coming?” I heard her say as she watched me gape at her house.
This was certainly a new expansion to town, the houses with a fresh coat of paint and new driveways gave a large contrast to the ones across town that have been here longer than I’ve been alive.
“Sweetheart, we are home.” Clarissa chimes alerting someone at the house. Goosebumps formed at the sound of her saying the word ‘Sweetheart’.
The living area was modern and sleek, it’s as cozy as a CEO’s office in New York. I heard footsteps near us until a tall man appeared from what I think is the kitchen. He smiled and approached us while taking out his hand for me to take.
“Hello Blake, it’s nice to have you back home.” His handshake was firm and respectable. Dad used to say you can tell a lot about a man by the way he shakes your hand.
“It’s good to be back.” I snorted, which made my mother glare at me. That was a lie I had rehearsed on the flight over here. “The house looks amazing.” My smile grows from ear to ear. Making it clear to my mother that it was fake. Like mother, like daughter I liked to say.
This response seemed to ease her as she proceeded to show me around the house. An argument about Richard was not needed at the moment. They moved into a four bedroom, three bathroom house. One of which she told me would be my room.
“Oh, Clarissa, the flower shop called while you were at the airport and they asked me how many arrangements you’d like to order.” Richard said as we entered the dining room.
They started talking about their plans for the wedding and then everything that was my life before I left for New York came crashing down. The only thing I had to look forward to at the moment was finishing my last semester in college. Graduation would be in December.
I was never the popular girl in high school, but Brandon was the star player on the basketball team making him a well known jock. Maybe that’s the reason that as a teen he thought it was okay to do whatever he wanted.
Either way, each game I’d sit at the front of the bleachers cheering and supporting him. Girls thought of Brandon as the popular cute guy and because of him people knew me and I always had a love/hate relationship with that.
The College I’d be earning my degree in was great. Polk State College had just the right amount of students attending, including me. I remember when Brandon helped me fill out the admissions form online the summer after we graduated high school.
The college wasn’t big, but people finished school there like they would have anywhere else. My only regret was not starting school sooner. I’d then be teaching at an Elementary school at this moment.
“I think I’m going to head upstairs and take a nap.” I said interjecting into the conversation I did not want to get involved in.
After I unpacked my luggage I called Brandon to let him know I was home and safe. I threw myself on the bed and savored the softness, trying to think of the things I had to do now that I was back home and summer was over.
The room soon became dark and without a care in the world sleep overtook me.