“There’s no place like home.” - L. Frank Baum
Stepping out of the air-conditioned airport into the warm, humid June air. Inhaling deeply, “Home,” I sigh to myself. You see, my home for the last three years has been England, UK. So, returning to this heat is my kind of homecoming.
I’m grateful for choosing a pair of denim shorts, a plain white tee, and my favorite white converse for the plane ride. Even though it had been chilly and raining on the first leg of my journey, I definitely appreciate them now in this sticky heat. My chocolate brown hair is French-plaited into two pigtails to help keep me cool and comfortable during my travels.
I’ve just graduated after three long years at a University in England. Mom and Dad came over for the Graduation Ceremony. Naturally, though, work commitments at the hospital where they work as an anesthesiologist and a surgeon meant their visit was a fleeting one. It’s also the reason I’m left dragging half my worldly possessions back home alone.
It had always been my dream to study abroad, so I leaped at the chance when I was accepted into my first choice of university. I didn’t look back, it was home for three years of my life, but nothing beats returning to where your family is—Where you grew up.
Having no-one here to drive me home means I have to get a taxi. The driver being the Southern gent that his Momma raised him to be, hops out immediately, helping to load my belongings into the trunk of the car, with a smile. I offer him my thanks and return his smile.
With the trunk finally loaded up, I hop back into yet another air-conditioned environment—such a welcome relief from the early summer heat. I may complain about the sticky, humid air, but boy, have I missed it.
The driver climbs into the front seat, eyeing me through the rear-view mirror. Removing the cap from his prematurely balding head, he wipes his sweaty brow with the back of his hand, replaces his hat, all while saying, “Where we headed, Darlin’?” I give him the address of my childhood home before we have to suffer the awkward niceties, I promptly plug in my earphones—It’s not that I’m rude, at least I hope that’s not it, is it?
I digress—I do that a lot – get used to it. It’s more I hate that awkward chit-chat with strangers. Instead of the polite, people-pleaser Momma raised me to be, for the next twenty minutes, I choose to become the quiet keep to yourself, traveler, that the UK has instilled in me to be. I have to say, that’s just how I like it.
Settling into my seat, I stare out at the sights of my hometown as they glide past the window. Listening to George Ezra singing about ‘Paradise’ while feeling like I’m in my very own.
Around twenty minutes later, the car pulls into a familiar street. Memory lane begins to play in my head, like when you watch old home movies. I chuckle to myself when I see the tree that Billy Lomax tried to kiss me under in the fourth grade. Next is the spot where I kicked Billy Lomax in his junk for even suggesting such an idea.
Locking eyes with the driver in the rear-view, I realize I have laughed out loud. He eyes me suspiciously, “Sorry, um, memories,” I mumble.
We drive past the spot where I came off my bike. Nate, my brother, swooped in like superman lifting me up in his arms, carrying me inside to Momma. Nate was screeching and hollering like a banshee. Momma thought I’d broken a bone or worse. Nate was left feeling like a prize fool. He’d overreacted yet again. It was, in fact, just a mild case of road rash.
No stitches were required, hell, I didn’t need so much as a band-aid, just a clean-up, but it was nice to know my big brother always had my back.
Pulling into the driveway, I take a moment to look up at the place I call home. Still exactly the same as I remember it. The same house, same gravel driveway leading to a two-car garage, the same perfect wraparound porch, it really is perfect. Even the old tree swing is hanging in the same spot Daddy hooked it up for Nate and me all those years ago. I wonder if it would still take my weight? Note to self- try that out now I’m home.
I’m not sure why I thought there would be so many changes in the short three years I’ve been away, maybe because it felt like it had been so much longer.
I’m suddenly pulled from my thoughts by the driver clearing his throat in my direction. It dawns on me the poor man requires payment. Handing him a bill, I also offer my apologies, telling him to keep the change as a tip. Though I’m sure it’s tip enough when you don’t ask the cab driver all those ridiculous ‘Things we know we shouldn’t, but word-vomit dictates we must always, without fail, say to your cab driver.’
There I go, rambling in my own head again – note to self, stop doing that. Loading up my bags in both hands—I’m a ‘one trip and done,’ kinda gal. Why take two trips if you can almost not kill yourself in one, am I right?
Heading up the white wooden steps towards the porch that leads to the large front door. Having already retrieved my key, I stick it in the lock and turn the key and door handle simultaneously while balancing my bags, hollering, “Guess who’s home Y’all?”
Well, geez, how’s that for a warm welcome home? Dumping my worldly possessions—well, the ones that I could take on a connecting twelve-hour flight, on the floor. The rest of my possessions are being shipped over and should hopefully be here any day. Wandering past the open-plan ‘formal’ dining room, I step into the family room that connects to it. Taking in the sight of the empty room, I run my hand over the back of the couch, breathing in the familiar scent of the fresh cotton air freshener that Momma loves so much.
Moving towards the kitchen, I find that too is empty. Breathing in the scent of this room, ‘lemon-zing’ surface cleaning spray. I don’t know what it is about certain smells. I guess it’s one of the easiest things to recreate the sense of home.
What is it Twenty-One Pilots sing in their song?
“Sometimes, a certain smell will take me back to when I was young.How come I’m never able to identify where it’s coming from. I’d make a candle out of it if I ever found it. Try to sell it; never sell out of it. I’d probably only sell one. It’d be to my brother, ’cause we have the same nose...”
That line just resonates with me so much!
Glancing towards the fridge, Momma has left me a note;
I’m so sorry, we aren’t there to greet you, baby. An emergency at work meant your Father, and I were both called in—Your brother should be home somewhere. If you could both make something for dinner, that would be great.
I’m not sure what time we’ll get home. I promise we’ll catch up tomorrow.
How does Chinese sound?
Love Mom XxX”
My heart sinks at the thought that neither of my parents could be here to welcome me home. However, I can’t blame them. I am immensely proud of them both for saving lives for a living. They make one hell of a team, at work and at home. It doesn’t surprise me in the least. They are the most perfect couple I have ever laid eyes on.
My smile doesn’t fade when I re-read Momma’s note. She sure knows how to soften a blow by offering me food—that woman!
In the meantime, I open the fridge and remove a can of diet soda. Best continue my welcome home party for one, I suppose. Heading upstairs to my room, I again take my entire load with me. Leaving me looking like a packhorse.
Dumping my belongings down on the floor, I breathe deep, inhaling the scents of my room. It’s been cleaned recently – the same fresh cotton aroma as the family room. Nothing has been moved out of place. Everything looking how high school me had left it.
Pale yellow walls, a pale yellow rug in the middle of the room - breaking up the light hardwood floor, my fluffy white comforter tucked neatly around my king-sized bed with a pale-yellow blanket draped across the bottom—One guess what favorite color is. Boy band posters still adorn the walls, trophies, and achievements displayed proudly on my chest of drawers. Trinkets, and general tat that I assumed future me would want to remember. Hmm, it would appear I have some adjustments to make.
I investigate my almost empty closet, “Guess I got some unpacking to do first,” I sigh to myself. I had taken all but a few of my clothes. Seeing my closet as empty as it looks now, it occurs to me it’s a big job. Unpacking and laundry, meh, it can wait. Turning around, I glance back to my bed.
My comforter had been laundered recently, leaving it fresh and fluffy, ready for my return. Laying down on the plush surface, I inhale, just another reminder of home scent.
I don’t know why I’m inhaling everything. While I was in England, Momma sent me care packages with all my favorite things. Including the cleaners and fabric softener she uses, she knew I’d miss my home comforts. But even though I had the scent of home, it was different somehow. This is just what I needed.
As I begin to relax into my bed, my eyes begin to close. Enjoying the bliss of a quiet house. Though it doesn’t last. Relishing in the total silence, I realize the murmur of music and laughter is coming from outside. Shifting up onto my elbows, I look to the window. It leads out onto a balcony that overlooks the backyard.
Pulling my body up off the bed, I head over to the window, following the noise. As I approach, the music becomes clearer, ‘LMFAO’ Sexy, and I know it.’ I chuckle, knowing what’s to come. Carefully opening the window, I peer out just enough.
One loud booming voice, in particular, I know to be my big brother. Nate is showing off on the diving board. Mimicking all those ‘bodybuilder’ types of poses, he starts stroking his abs before grinding like he’s in Magic Mike. Such a dork.
Nate has always been keen to show off his physique. He’s ripped and takes care of his body, along with his dark hair and green eyes. He’s a God – anyone with eyes can see that. I love him, but good God, he’s a pain in my ass. I totally get why he’s happy to show it off. When you see the attention from both girls and guys, he gets for it. Even my best friend has a crush on my brother – though she’s yet to admit it out loud!
Knowing he’s out in the garden and doesn’t know that I’ve arrived home. I decide to change into my swimsuit; a relatively simple two-piece with a white bandeau top with a frill and a green high-waisted bottom. I let my hair out of their braids and shake the mane into loose waves. Throwing on some flip-flops and some aviators, I head to the pool to surprise him.
Heading downstairs, I open the back door, soda from earlier firmly in my hand. Looking out onto the patio, Daddy has set it up perfectly for Summer. There’s a half-wall built up around the patio. The whole thing is covered by a solid roof supported by columns, thick enough so you can’t be seen from the pool if you stand behind them just right—A trick I learned from a young age.
On the patio itself, there’s basically an entire outside kitchen and dining area. I, for one, can’t wait for dinners on the patio, warm evenings, and a few beers—heaven! Some of my fondest memories have been made in this very garden.
I decide to take the opportunity to surprise my big brother before jumping in the outside shower to rinse off my day of traveling. He might be my irritating older brother, but I have missed him. He deserves to be tortured, just a tad—at least.
“Nathanial Luke Coleman!” I holler in just about the best impression of my mother’s stern voice that I can muster. You see, he hates being called by his full name. It’s reserved for our Momma only, so she can keep him in check and uses it when he needs to be taken down a peg or two, and boy does he know it!
Nate mutters under his breath before either of us sees one another, “The fuck did I do now? I thought she was at work.” I swear, the man’s a grown child.
I laugh to myself. Then in my most serious tone, I manage between giggles, “The question is, what didn’t you do?” His footsteps stop as he tries to work out who he had just heard. Penny drops in 3... 2... 1...
Nate screams my name. I step out from my hiding place. My big brother runs toward me, swooping in. He swings me around by the waist. Leaving both of us laughing like crazy when he finally puts me down. He hasn’t changed a smidge, and as irritating as he can be at times, I wouldn’t change him for anything in the world.
“Did you just get in? Did you fly home in a bikini? You need to go put more clothes on,” he says all at once. The dude needs to take a breath. I chuckle to myself.
“Hmm, around an hour ago, and no, I didn’t, you jackass. I went upstairs to change once I got home. I’ve been in the house for like half an hour. You know, if I was a serial killer, I’d have killed you all, right?” I say, waving my invisible knife in my hand at him, mimicking the scene from ‘Psycho.’
Nate eventually releases me from his death grip. “Naaaww! You wouldn’t. You love me too much—” he begins.
I cut him off, “If only you loved me as much as you say you do, I’d have had a better welcome home, right?” I pout.
Nate doesn’t answer my question. He merely tells me, “Get over yourself, you cry baby, and get your smelly twelve-hour flight ass in that shower before you get in this pool, then we can catch up. And maybe, just maybe, we can talk about welcoming you home!” He’s a Jackass, I swear it!
Howling out a fake laugh, I go to spin round to jump in the outdoor shower that’s by the side of the pool, only I walk into something rock hard, causing me to fall backward on my ass. What the Fuck!?
First chapter under the belt!
How are we liking it so far?