Chapter 1: Homebound
“You don’t have to go back there, you know,” Aunt Claire pointed out for what felt like the hundredth time. “You can go to school here, you’ve already made some friends haven’t you?”
“I know, but I’ll be OK, really,” I forced a smile. I could see that she wasn’t convinced so I tried harder.
“I miss the rain,” I half-lied. I did miss the cool winds and daily showers of my hometown, but that wasn’t why I wanted to go back.
“You mean the constant wetness and day-long mist that makes up every typical day in Gasquet? Come on Elsa, I thought you liked it here,” she pressed.
“I do. I mean, Glendale is great but I want to go back home.”
She sighed, realizing that she couldn’t talk me into staying. I’d hoped I’d feel triumphant once I’d won her over with my decision but instead I felt guilty. Tears welled in her eyes as I loaded the last of my bags into the trunk of my taxi, ready to head to the airport.
“Aunt Claire, I’ve had a good time here. I’m grateful, you took care of me like a mother when I needed one the most. I know you’re afraid for me, but everything will be OK,” I said pulling her into a hug.
She held onto me, sobbing, reluctant to let me go.
“And I can’t convince you otherwise?” She tried one last time.
I shook my head, pulling back to look into her teary eyes. My throat closed up as I struggled to say the words.
“I miss Mom,” I confessed as the first of my tears broke the banks. “I have to see her, and since she can’t come to me, I have to go back to her.”
Her eyes widened with realization and then softened with understanding.
“Of course Elsa, of course,” she said brushing through my ink-black hair and wiping away the tears on my cheeks with her thumbs.
We waved goodbye as the taxi pulled off the driveway and didn’t stop until we were out of sight. As I got on the plane at the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, I couldn’t help but think how I’d miss my tan even though I was glad to get out of the Arizona heat.