Home. It sounded good to say that word. Home was just what Lilly needed to soothe her post-graduation blues.
Lilly Williams smiled just at the thought of visiting her parents. She couldn’t wait to tell them the good news: the job offer she simply couldn’t refuse. It would take her away from home, but she’d be near her sister and brother-in-law. Sara and Cole moved to Houston right after their wedding. Cole’s business had been very successful, sadly leaving Cole unknown to the family. Sara would come up to Georgia for visits, but Cole would always stay behind because of his business. Thinking about it, Lilly hadn’t seen her brother-in-law since she was fifteen years old. He had seen her parents within the last ten years, but she was away at college.
Suddenly Lilly felt a wave of remorse. She regretted not getting to know her only sister’s husband. Apparently Sara was happy. Sara was seven years Lilly’s senior, and quite outspoken about her feelings and opinions. Lilly was looking forward to rekindling her relationship with Sara, and hopefully in the process get to know Cole better.
The plane touched down in Atlanta a little earlier than scheduled. Lilly couldn’t wait to see her parents. They had always been supportive. They trusted her decisions and her instincts. That alone helped Lilly get the confidence it took to venture out of her hometown, Savannah. Their love and support helped her go away to school. When it came to deciding a college, Lilly had several options, however she choose University of Alabama...Roll Tide! Exiting the plane with her carry-on, she scanned the group looking for a familiar face. Standing about ten feet away, Lilly focused on her mother and father. They looked the same as they did last Christmas. It was great to see them again. Lilly looked past her father and saw another familiar face, one that didn’t bring the same reaction: Ricky Wilcox, her high school sweetheart. There was a time when she was head over heels in love with him. Lilly felt unsure of what she was feeling; mixed with what she should be feeling. Lilly ran into her mother’s open arms, while glaring at Ricky. Her parents encircled her with hugs and kisses. Stepping back, Lilly saw the questioning looks from Ricky and her parents. Sucking in her pride, she leaned over to give him a
Mistaking her gesture as forgiveness, Ricky tightened his grip
and kissed her proudly on the lips.
“Lilly, honey, it’s so great to see you,” her mother interjected.
“You look simply wonderful, doesn’t she, Jake?”
“Beautiful,” her father responded. “As beautiful as ever.”
Lilly had tried to dress up for their reunion. Her mother had
always taught her the importance of first impressions.
Dressed in a pearl linen pant suit and a gold lame shell, Lilly’s blonde golden hair glistened. The gold shell under her jacket gave her eyes the gold hue that looked like her fathers’. Still admiring
her daughter, Jackie urged her them all to shake a leg.
“We have a long drive back and a lot to catch up with. So let’s
not just stand around here,” Jackie ordered.
During this family reunion, Ricky stood by, observing Lilly
with scrutinizing eyes.
Ricky and her father gathered her luggage and met the women
at the car. The ride back was filled with noncommittal conversation. Lilly had planned on telling her parents about her job offer in Houston, however with Ricky’s presence, her plan was ruined. Lilly didn’t feel obligated to let Ricky know anymore than necessary when it came to her life and her decisions. Out of
respect for her parents, she kept up this silly facade. Only Ricky and herself knew why she refused to acknowledge his presence. Ricky, however, refused to accept her decisions. As far as Lilly was concerned, she owed nothing to Ricky Wilcox, especially details about her life.
Lilly leaned her head on the window pane and watched scenery pass by. Georgia was so beautiful, regardless of the season. Spring was nearly over, and summer was ushering in quickly. The heat would soon surface, but not as hot as Houston would be this summer. She couldn’t wait to go to Galveston and San Antonio. In all the years that Sara and Cole had lived there, Lilly never went to visit; Georgia had been her home. She looked forward to resting there between semesters and mid-terms. Now she was starting a new life, with a new job. She could visualize her new office with her Master’s degree hanging proudly on the wall. She couldn’t believe that she finished her Veterinarian degree and now the largest state in America was welcoming her to join in the care of their livestock. It was such an honor to work with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. It was such a prestigious job, and very lucrative. She wished they would drop Ricky off. She so desperately wanted to tell her parents.
The drive seemed to last indefinitely. Finally, they pulled into the circle drive that had been her home for the last twenty-five years. It was always breathtaking coming home and seeing the beauty and serene lifestyle she had grown up in. Now she was giving all this up for a tar-infested traffic jam in Texas’ largest metropolitan city. Compared to Savannah, Houston was as dangerous and drastic as if she had moved to New York City. The best consolation was that her sister was there and she would have family nearby.
The two women settled down on the front porch, while the men brought in her luggage. While swinging, Lilly caught sight of her mother’s garden. Her prized possession, except for her family.
“Mother, the garden looks great. Has it been a good year?” Lilly asked.
“The best. Maybe you can help with next year’s. I remember how much you used to like to play in that garden,” her mother lamented.
“Sure did.” Lilly smiled.
The seven-year age difference hurt Sara and Lilly’s friendship as children. Lilly wasn’t allowed to follow behind Sara and her teenage friends. Lilly and her best friend, Laura, would lie in the garden after dark and watch Sara and her friends on the porch. Sara was so beautiful. She was popular, the head cheerleader, so she had plenty of friends and boyfriends.
Lilly and Laura would waddle in the dirt to get a peek at Sara’s new beau. “I remember when Sara caught Laura and me one night stalking her from the garden. It started raining and Laura and I had to stay outside, in the rain, until Sara went in. When I found out that she did that on purpose, I came in crying to you...Remember? You told me that not only was I in trouble for stalking my sister, but for playing in your garden. I then realized that it didn’t pay to tell on myself, regardless of what Sara did to me.” Lilly was laughing and smiling as she reminisced. “Have you talked to Sara lately?”
“Yes, of course. She wanted to be here when you came home but Cole needed her at the clinic. She asked me to send you her love. She also invited you to come and stay with her for a while before you set out job-hunting.” Jackie replied.
“Mom, when was the last time you saw Cole? I mean, I haven’t seen him since their wedding. Ten years is a long time not to see your only brother-in-law,” Lilly stated with sadness in her voice.
“He’s very busy with his clinic. You know he left Texas Children’s Hospital and has opened his own pediatrics clinic in Houston. It seems to take all of his time. Sara works there part- time, but I think she said another clinic was opening soon in Galveston, but I could be wrong. Anyway, I guess the last time I saw Cole was a couple of years ago, but I talk to him every time Sara calls. He always sends his love and is very interested in your career choice. He is proud that you chose the medical field, even if
it’s with animals,” Jackie said proudly.
“I’m not trying to sound critical. I was just curious,” Lilly
“Now it’s my turn. I am not trying to be nosy, but is there
something wrong with you and Ricky? You hardly said ten words to him, and you didn’t seem excited to see him.”
“I’m sorry if that made you feel awkward, but I’m not seeing Ricky anymore. It had been brewing well before Christmas. Don’t worry, Mom. I’m fine with it,” Lilly said taking her mother’s hand.
“Oh, dear, we should have asked first. I’m sorry if we made you feel uncomfortable,” her mother replied.
“Please, Mom, don’t feel that way. You had no way of knowing. I wasn’t very vocal about it. Unlike Sara, I pretty much keep stuff like this to myself. I can’t say that I didn’t want to have you guys all to myself, because I did. In fact, once he leaves, I want to sit down and talk to you and Dad about some offers I have received.”
“Really? Offers...Already? My, you have done well for yourself. I am so proud of you, Lilly,” Mother said, bringing the hand that was holding hers up to her lips for a kiss.
“Thanks, Mom. We can talk after dinner.”
The men had just exited the house when Lilly finished her conversation. Unfortunately her father invited Ricky to stay for dinner, and he accepted.
Dinner conversation was just as bland as their drive. Lilly’s mother tried to make conversation light, but it didn’t help that her father kept trying to engage Ricky into their conversation.
“So, Ricky, what was your major?” Jack inquired.
“Aerobatic Engineering,” Ricky replied. “I’m going to Houston this week to interview with NASA.”
“What?” Lilly choked out. Did she hear correctly? Ricky was going to Houston? This can’t be happening, she thought.
“Yes. I’m leaving for Houston on Thursday. Gonna miss me?” Ricky teased.
If her parents hadn’t been watching her, she would have told him exactly what she thought of him. She, however, refrained and bit her tongue. Instead, she sweetly replied, “I thought you wanted to go to Cape Canaveral or Kennedy. You will hate the climate in Houston. It’s too hot for you.”
“It’s a booming market. I figure I have as much a chance at NASA as the next guy. Anyway, Canaveral and Kennedy are too far from you.” He smiled.
Lilly was so angry. She stood up, tossed her napkin into her half-eaten dinner, and walked outside. Jackie stood up, but Jake stopped her and suggested Ricky go out.
After excusing himself, Ricky approached Lilly. She wouldn’t turn around when he began explaining.
“Just stop it. STOP! Your explanations are useless. I don’t believe anything you say. You are a liar and a cheat,” Lilly said, trying to hold back the tears.
“Lilly, I know I hurt you. I can’t apologize enough but you’ve got to believe me when I tell you that Lauren and I are sorry. We both love you so much.”
“Spare me, Ricky. You don’t love anyone but yourself. As for Lauren, you both deserve each other. I just wish you’d get out of my life. It’s over! Do you understand?”
“Perfectly,” Ricky muttered. “Maybe Houston is the best place for me,” he echoed as he jumped into his truck and sped out.
“Perfect!” Lilly muttered under her breath. She took a few minutes to collect her thoughts before going back inside.
“Honey, your mother just told me that you two are not seeing each other. If we had known, we would not have invited him to come with us,” her father said.
“It’s okay. Really, it is. I’ve had plenty of time to get over Ricky. I know that you only want the best for me. That’s why I wanted to talk to you both,” Lilly responded.
“Is everything all right? You are scaring me, sweetheart,” Jackie said fearfully.
“No, Mom. Everything is perfect. I ask only that you hear me out. Okay?”
“Okay,” they said in unison.
“You’ve both have heard about the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.” Lilly watched as they nodded their heads affirmatively. “Well, I’ve been offered a job with them. The show is world-renowned and highly respected. They hire only the best doctors, and only one new graduate each year. This year, they chose me. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. It would mean living in Houston, but I could still come and visit. Better yet, since Sara and I would both be there, it would give you a great reason to travel down south.”
“It all sounds so nice. I have a question though,” her father interjected. “I thought the livestock show was only a few weeks. What about the rest of the year?”
“The show is three to four weeks long. But that’s just the show. The care for the animals is daily,” Lilly answered, hoping to reassure her father.
“Honey, I thought this profession was safe. I mean, you would be caring for dogs and cats, not wild bulls, steers and horses. Are you sure that is what you want?” Jackie was worried about Lilly’s safety.
“I know, Mom, but I wouldn’t be happy just caring for dogs and cats. Maybe later in life, when I have a husband and children, but right now I don’t have those distractions, so why not?” Lilly reasoned.
Jake stared at his youngest daughter for a full minute before he spoke up. “Lilly, I think you should take the job. You are right. You don’t have those distractions. Do this, otherwise you will live with regrets. This way you don’t have the ‘what ifs’. Besides, you are right: it would make more sense for your mother and me to come to Houston, since both our girls are there.”
“Thank you for your support. It really means a lot to me. I love you both so much,” Lilly said, fighting back the tears.
“We love you too, and we are extremely proud of you. I feel a lot better knowing that you will be near Sara. You both need each other. I think she may be a little lonely with Cole working so much,” her mother admitted.
“What about Ricky?” her father asked.
“What do you mean?” Lilly wasn’t sure what Ricky had to do
with this decision.
“Well, what if he does move to Houston?” Jackie finished her
father’s line of question.
“Mom, Houston has over five million people there. I think that I
can avoid him and if I should see him, I will handle it when it comes,” Lilly stated proudly.
“But...” Jackie started to counter her resolve when Jake stopped her.
“Jackie, enough about Ricky. Our Lilly is a smart cookie. If she doesn’t want to see Ricky anymore then we have to trust her decision.”
“Thanks, Daddy. Now if you don’t mind, I’d love to take a long hot bath and then go to bed. I am really exhausted. We can finish this discussion later, if you don’t mind,” Lilly requested.
“Sure, honey. Goodnight,” her mother chimed in, still feeling uneasy about her daughter being in Houston.
Once Lilly went upstairs and was out of earshot, Jake asked Jackie if she knew what was going on with Lilly and Ricky.
“Not a clue! Maybe she will open up later. We can’t push her. She’s a very private person.”
“Very well. I’ll let you take the lead on this, my love,” Jake said as he leaned over and kissed his wife.
Jackie wasn’t sure where to start with Lilly.
She had to admit that tonight’s performance definitely left her wanting more details.