27 Lies(6)

By: MJ Fields



The plane circles the runway then touches down nice and gently. Commercial flights are a hell of a lot smoother than what I am used to. Hell, ninety percent of the time, I’m jumping out of a bird, not sitting in a comfortable seat and talking myself into relaxing, telling myself there is no gunfire or threat once I walk off this plane. It’s basically Utopia.

Only my sister Lauren knows I’m coming home. I called her ten minutes before my flight took off and asked her what she was up to. She giggled when I told her I was coming home, and then she snorted.

She’s young and what some would consider a book worm—socially awkward—but to me, she’s perfect. I seriously worry that someday I will come home to find she has been crushed by a falling bookshelf in her room. I’m not going to lie; I love that she would rather read than be out partying with her friends from school. She’s safer that way.

When I walk out of the airport, she pulls up in her dad’s plow truck and waves. I nod and point to the passenger side. Understanding, she hops over the console as I climb in the driver’s side.

When I throw my bag into the back seat, she leans over and hugs me.

“I can’t believe you’re home again so soon,” she says, not letting go.

“Screwed up my ankle. Going back in a week. Thought I could hang out for a while.”

When I pull back, she is still grinning.

“Anyone know I’m home?”

She smiles bigger. “Nope.”

“You wanna hit that bookstore downtown before we head—”

“Yes!” She laughs. “Yes, I sure do.”

At the bookstore, I hit the Starbucks while Lauren walks around.

As I’m standing there, I see Alexis, my high school and pre-Ava girlfriend, walk through the doors, pushing a double baby carriage thing. She smiles when she sees me, and I nod back before turning to pay the woman who hands me my coffee.

“You’re home again?” she asks as she gives me a tight hug.

I pat her back. “For a couple of days.”

She steps back and looks up at me. “I wanted to thank you again for Christmas Eve.”

I nod. “Not a problem.”

“Mom,” the little boy in the front says, tugging on her coat. “I want coffee.”

The kid’s about three; sure as hell shouldn’t be drinking coffee.

“Sure. Just a minute, okay?” She smiles then turns her back on him. “Well, if you aren’t busy later, feel free—”

“Mom, I want coffee,” the kid says again.

“Okay,” she answers, never looking back. “Sorry about him. He’s—”

“Mom,” he interrupts again.

“Just a minute,” she says with a thin line of a smile.

“Catch you around.” I nod.

“Wait, does that mean—”

“I’m here with my sister, Alexis,” I tell her as I start to walk away.

“I’m here to buy a few books. I enrolled in some classes,” she says to my back.

I turn around. “That’s great. Good for you. You were always a smart girl.”

She smiles with pride. “I’m going to IC.”

“That’s great.” I give her a small smile before walking away, seeing Lauren coming toward me with an armful of books.

“Glad you dodged that bullet?” she asks.

I smirk. “She’s a good person. She’ll figure it out.”

She grimaces. “Two kids, though?”

I shrug. “You ready?”

“Can I get them all?”

“Have I ever told you no?” I take the books from her hands then head toward the cash register as she follows, giggling.

***

When we walk into the house, I hear Mom and Ryan talking. They normally aren’t home at this time of day.

I look at Lauren when I hear Mom crying.

“Mom?” Lauren calls out, walking quickly toward the living room where their voices are coming from.

“What are you doing home?” she asks, standing up, and then she sees me. “And you? Oh, my God, you’re home again so soon!”

“What’s going on?” I ask as she hugs me.

“Oh, nothing.” She laughs as if we hadn’t just caught her crying.

“Obviously something’s wrong,” I comment, pulling back so I can look at her face.

“You know women,” Ryan tries to joke.

I bring Lauren into the hug because she looks scared as hell. We both know something is up.

Mom reaches out and grabs Ryan’s hand. “Everything’s fine.”

“Damn right, it is,” he says, pecking her on the cheek.

I step back and eye them both suspiciously. Ryan notices.

“Wanna help me out in the garage?”

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