1. We Hug In This Family.
This is Book two in the Every Cloud has a Silver Lining series. Book one is called Every Cloud, you don't have to read it to understand this book, but it may help to know the characters back stories xx
“Boo!” I say as I stick my face between the seats of the plane, the kid that was crying just moments prior is now quiet, looking at me with a confused look on his face. “See, it’s not so bad,” I coo at the kid.
Relief wash over his mother’s face, “Thank you so much. I hate the stares and the under-breath tuts,” she admits.
I give her my warm smile, “It’s not a problem. Babies cry, right?” I say this as I glare at the asshole across the aisle. He’d made his annoyance at the crying infant known several times.
“Hah! They sure do, you got kids?” She asks.
I’m quick to answer, “No, Ma’am, I’m only twenty-two, plenty of time for that, right?”
She smiles as she bounces the little boy on her knee, “Army?” She asks.
I raise my eyebrows at her, “No, Ma’am, what makes you think I’m army?”
She chuckles, “Exactly that, ‘No Ma’am.’ You’re so polite,” she mocks me a little, and I smile.
“My Mama just raised me right, I guess,” I end with a shrug, “What’s his name?” I ask, pointing to the kid who is now happily snoozing in his Mama’s arms.
She smiles with a fond expression as she looks at him, “Oliver.”
“Great choice,” I say with a laugh. The mother looks at me with a hint of confusion, “Oliver Carson,” I say, holding out my hand to shake hers through the gap in the chairs, “I go by Ollie, though.”
She nods, now understanding my compliment, “Sarah Haynes, so, if you’re not in the army, what brings you to the air today?”
“On my way back from New York, headed home from college, home being Hillford. How about y’all?” I ask her.
Sarah slows her rocking motion, happy mini-Ollie is settled, “Ah, now his Daddy is in the army, we’re going to surprise him, he’s home from deployment, never met this little guy. He was supposed to fly home alone, now he won’t have to, and he’ll get a nice surprise and meet his son early. I was beginning to think I’d made a mistake when he wouldn’t settle. So, thank you for that.”
I give her a nonchalant shrug, “Ah, it was nothing. Most people are too quick to judge. Babies cry – Ignorant fools need to get over it, and I know that sometimes Moms just need a helping hand.”
We spent the rest of the flight in a comfortable conversation, I even offered to hold mini-Ollie when Sarah needed to use the bathroom. Bouncing a baby on my lap was something I could see myself doing one day. Not anytime soon, mind, but one day.
The Captain announces we were making our descent and to return to our seats and strap in. Mr. Asshole huffed when I stopped him from leaving his seat when I got up to help Sarah get her bag from the overhead locker. Once I’d made sure she had all her stuff, I stepped back to let her off before me.
I took my time, turning to Mr. Asshole, leaning towards him before saying, “People with compassion and manners tend to go further in life. You’d do well to remember that.” Asshole shrinks back into his seat, with an embarrassed look across his face.
Knowing he’d been put in his place, I turned and made my exit from the plane, a satisfied smirk across my lips. Imagine being put in your place, and being taught about manners by a guy half your senior, for shame.
I made my way to baggage claim, helping Sarah first. She strapped mini-Ollie in his pram. When it came time for us to go our separate ways, Sarah pulled me into a hug, “Thank you for making an otherwise terrible flight, somewhat bearable,” she joked.
“I told you, don’t sweat it,” I remind her.
Sarah pulled her bag on her shoulder to secure it. Before she walked away, she turned to me once more, “You are gonna make some girl feel like a real-life princess one day. Tell your Mama from me she should be proud of you,” My cheeks heat and turn pink as I watched my suitcase make its second round, swoopin’ in and scoopin’ it off the belt before it can make a third. Putting my hand in the air, I waved my goodbyes.
Walking through the airport, I’m glad to be home. While studying at a top cookery school in NYC, I realized I am not a city boy. I’m much happier in familiar surroundings. And right now, I can’t wait to get home to my family. I decide to make a detour to the bathroom on my way out, knowing I’ve still got another hour or more left on my journey for the drive home.
I enter the arrivals lounge, I see my whole, crazy family, Mama, Dad, and my little sister Lily. I’m almost impressed Pops didn’t show up draggin’ the rest of my wackadoodle family. I’m beginning to think I got lucky, and that’s when I see my Mom’s Uncle Jack holding a sign;
“Welcome Home, Olive/Oliver! Congratulations on the Sex Change!”
The look on Mama’s face tells me she is torn between finding this hilarious and wanting to kill my Great Uncle. I approach them all, shaking my head, “Welcome home, Baby!” Mom is the first to throw her arms around me. As she wraps me in her death grip, I kiss the top of her head. As I do so, Dad gives me a slap on the shoulder blade and kisses me on top of my mousey-brown locks.
“That’s right, we hug in this family!” Uncle Jack shouts across the room, he wraps the three of us in his arms, we get stares and the odd ‘Aww!’ from passers-by.
My sister rolls her eyes, then looks back down to her phone, ah sixteen-year-olds. “Come on, Lil, don’t I even get a hug?” I tease her, knowing what her answer will be before she says it.
“Eww no, you smell like an airplane, and why do I smell off milk?” She asks, sniffing in my general direction.
I lift my shirt to my nose and inhale, damn – I do stink, “I helped a woman out with her kid on the plane. He got a little excited, I guess.” I shrug at my sister, who gives me her signature eye-roll, and Mama holds her hands together like she’s never been more proud.
Mama holds my hand through the entire airport, all the way up to the car, “Mama, I need my hand back,” I tell her.
“For God’s sake, woman, would you put the boy down? He’ll leave and never come back,” I laugh at my Dad’s response to Mom’s clinginess.
“No fear of that, Dad. I’m home for good. Pops didn’t wanna come?” I ask, trying not to make a point of giving Jack the side-eye.
Dad laughs, “No, we decided it would just be the three of us, but when we got to the car. He was hiding in the back seat, scared the crap out of your sister.” Dad tries to stifle a laugh, but I hear it.
I watch him through the rearview as he drives. He’s forty-one, but he still looks good for his age. A smattering of salt and pepper on hair that once resembled mine, we even have the same eye color- hazel. I know one day I’m gonna look just like him. I have to say I don’t mind at all. We even have a similar build. When I was around fifteen, we started working out together, going for early morning runs. Mama never joined us, neither did my sister. Mama always says, ‘mornin’ doesn’t start before seven.’
Mama and Lils are like two peas in a pod, in looks, and in sass, they knock heads – a lot, then again, who doesn’t my sister knock heads with. They are both blond with icy blue eyes, a fact that has caused my Dad and me no end of trouble over the years.
The trouble is, the girls being blond, people assume that ol’ wives tale is true, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. Mom and Lils might be blond, but they ain’t dumb, pairing that with their pretty faces and smart mouths, me and Dad and sometimes, Pops and Jack too, have been called many a time to get them out of an otherwise disastrous situation.
We pull up to the drive of the house I have lived in since I was six, back when I first met my Dad. Long story short, Mama left Dad when she was pregnant with me, she moved to Nashville, she thought he’d done something shady, they reconnected when we came back to town for my Great Pops’ funeral, and the rest, as they say, is history.
I look across the street, and a sad smile pulls across my lips. One of my favorite things about growing up here was Maw-Maw living across the street. I was pretty much allowed to hop across the street whenever I wanted. She’d scoop me up in her arms and spoil me rotten, knowing it pissed off Mama. I miss her. She passed away like five years ago, but she left the house to Pops in her Will, so it’s still a second home to us all.
I see a curtain twitch, and I know some form of shitstorm is about to go down, the only curtain twitcher around here is my Great Aunt Hannah, and she only ever does it when she’s looking to bust Uncle Jack’s balls. And sure enough, the door is yanked open.
“Jackson George Scott!” She hollers into the street.
Uncle Jack yelps, “Champ, if you ever loved me as an Uncle, hide me?” He pleads as he ducks down and hides between me and the car.
I shake my head at him, “Hah! No chance I’m getting on the receiving end of that, you’re on your own, Old man, and stop callin’ me Champ, I’m not eight no more,” I jest with him, and then much to my favorite Uncles surprise, I wave my hand at my Aunt and call out, “Good to see you Aunt Hannah! Uncle Jacks right here, want me to send him over for an ass-whoopin’?”
She smiles at me, tucks a ginger tendril of hair behind her ear, and winks, “Hey Baby, glad to have you back home. Was your flight okay?”
As I begin to nod my answer, I feel a hand on my thigh, then hairs being pulled, “Ah! What the fuck, Asshole?”
Uncle Jack laughs, then tells me, “Traitor,”
“Fuck you, your wife is scary when she’s mad at you,” I admit. The child in an adult’s body slinks out from his hiding spot and sulks across the road, where he receives a smack upside the head. I don’t even wanna know what he did this time.
Dad grabs my bags from the trunk while Mom makes her demands, “I hope you know, I don’t plan on doing any of that laundry, you are big enough and ugly enough to do it yourself now, do you hear me?”
I roll my eyes behind her back, “I mean, I’ve been doing my own laundry for four years, Mama, but sure, I’ll amuse you.”
Dad shakes his head at me, “Son? I think you’ll find the appropriate answer is ‘Yes, Dear,’” and he walks off his shoulders, wiggling.
Mama smacks his head then turns to me, eyes full of sass, “You know what I meant, “Oliver Casey Carson, I meant I don’t want it sitting in your case for a week, infesting the place! Now, you want a snack, Baby?”
I can’t help but chuckle, “Ma, what do you think I’ve been doing for my laundry to get that nasty?”
Dad shakes his head at me in a ‘Don’t go there’ look.
“I’ll start my washing now, Mama, and yes, a snack would be wonderful.” I’m not sure which did it, the roll of my eyes or the sarcasm dripping from my lips, but it earned me a daggered look and almost a smack, but I ducked swooped in with a kiss to her cheek, and all was forgiven.
I step into my childhood bedroom. It’s just the same as when I left. I tip out all my cases onto the bed a begin sorting through what needs washing and what doesn’t. Heading down to the laundry room, I chuck a load in the wash. I didn’t separate the lights from the darks, and I know if Mama gets to this before I do, I may die, but I’ll deal with that later.
Dad asked me to do a shift at the diner tomorrow, and I can’t wait. I have always loved working at the diner. Even as a little kid, I’d sit in ‘my cupboard office’ that was in my Mom and Dad’s office, pretending I was ‘doing the books’ just like my Dad. Dad bought the diner along with my Great Pops before Mama had even come back to town. It was some big romantic gesture, all I know is I love that 1950s themed diner with all my heart, and the passion for it runs in my family.
Laundry completed, room tidied, and everything ready for my early start, I decided to take a nap for ten minutes before Mama calls me for dinner. As I lie back on my bed, I look to the wall I covered in photos back in my freshman year of high school I added to it over the years.
One photo, in particular, stands out to me, though. I’m sat at the edge of the lake at sunset. The photo has this unique haze.
I run my finger over the girl sat between my legs and sigh. I remember her thick jet black hair and her emerald eyes, the tan of her olive skin, the warmth of her smile, the cheeky grin spread across her scrunched face as she placed a kiss on my barely stubbled cheek as we posed for the photo.
A photo that shows two best friends enjoying the week of their lives on a ‘senior skip’ week.
Going to different high schools in different towns, we were surprised to find that we each had the same skip week. My parents took us to the lakes, a place we’d found ourselves at many times, before and after this photo was taken.
We’d always gone with friends or family, I’d always wanted to take her alone, I rub my palms on my sweat shorts. I’m nervous just thinking about how I feel about her, I could never tell her, though, and it’s been four years since we last saw each other in person, each going to different sides of the country for college.
Me to the New York Culinary Institute and her to Stanford Medical.
A text every now and then to keeping each other updated. Allowing the other person the knowledge we were still alive. It had been a while since either of us had checked, though. Moving away from the photo that holds such sweet memories, I flop back onto my bed and reach for my phone.
*Yo! Double-A! It’s been a hot minute, just checking you’re still alive and breathing. Text me back. I miss you! O. Xx*
I hit send, smirking to myself at the nickname I had given her when puberty had hit, but tits did not. What made it funnier was that ‘Double-A’ was also her initials – Addy Abernathy. I keep hold of my phone for a minute, in the crazy hope that she’ll text back straight away. It remains just that – crazy hope. I pocket my phone and head down for dinner.
Checking my phone throughout our meal, to the point Ma lays into me. I don’t know what I am more, pissed that Addy’s giving the cold shoulder or worried that somethings wrong.