Two failed relationships in the past ten years, one romantic and one friendship. A proposal, a miscarriage, the funerals of five friends, a runaway cat, fired from my job and the sale of a house I never got to live in. This is what my life had ended up as, driving back home to my Daddy and Mammas in Gatwick County. The home of the world’s biggest haystack, smallest minds and religious homemakers. Ten years since I had sworn to myself I would never come back here and yet, here I was.
I just hit twenty eight and I had lost the strength to start again.
Evan, the last ass that I was unfortunate enough to cross paths with, had stripped me of all ability to rise up from the ashes of my melted, disfigured and emotionally maimed life. Not just that, Nadia, my ex-boss and ex-friend, chose to vandalise my career for informing her about her husband propositioning me on her birthday - at their house - so now no publishing company will touch me with a ten-foot pole. I had lost it all, even the damn cat decided to skedaddle and abort this sinking ship.
“You’re here, finally my baby is home, lord knows I missed you baby girl.” My mother, the epitome of a country, god fearing, duck shooting, quilt making and apple pie baking dames. Her light brown tresses pinned back in a high ponytail with her soft brown eyes and her pink pouty lips. Even at her age, she was still stunning. She and my father married young - straight out of high school. She swears it wasn’t because she was pregnant with me but the six and a half months later that I was born proves otherwise.
“Hey Mumma,” my unenthusiastic and thickly unimpressed tone slithered out without filter or restraint.
“Baby, I can hear that tone, now you best remove that attitude before your father hears it.” I stand there in the driveway blinking up at her, fantastic five fucking seconds and I’m in trouble.
“Mum, I’m twenty eight.”
“Hush, you will always be my baby.” I can’t help the images that swirl across my mind that resemble something of a very warped horror movie, consisting of me blowing my head apart with a handgun. Unfortunately, I never sought to obtain my gun licence, so there goes that idea.
“I just drove for thirty-six hours, across this damn country and you’re already on my case?” I loved my Mumma, I truly did, but we had always had a somewhat ‘undernourished’ relationship. My Daddy, however, he and I used to see eye to eye on almost everything - used too.
I walked into the old colonial house at the top of the green grassy hill - once a place I loved, now a place I loathed. It had not changed since my days of running around and skinning knees. The same antique plates stacked on their stands in the china display cabinets the moment you enter the door. The hardwood floating floors looked freshly mopped and the plush antique furniture sat unused in marked off sections of the house. After all these years, we still had to remain behind the rope, so as not to disturb the ‘living areas’ in case company showed up. Let’s ignore the fact they are called ‘living areas’ for a reason, but in this house, ‘living areas’ were not to be lived in.
“Mumma, where’s Daddy?”
“Where do you think baby? In his study. Now, drop those bags off in your room before you say hi, okay?” She headed back to the kitchen in her pretty white, knee-length dress and flowery cooking apron.
I trudged upstairs, my pulse pumping and my heart rapidly beating in my chest. The last time I saw my father, the words ‘I will never be back here again’ graced my lips and ten years on - look where I am? I inwardly groaned at my 18-year-old self, god, was I delusional. I thought I had all the answers, I thought I was a big city fish and this town was my restrictor. God was I wrong.
As I deposited the bags that carried the ashes of my blown apart life, into the bedroom that held a much younger idealistic self, there on the bed, sat a drastic reminder of my messed up existence. The crown I’d been given it at homecoming, taunting me from it’s spot. Where did it all go so wrong? I was sure I had gotten everything right this time.
I held in my clear distaste for the fact my Mum had left my childhood room the exact same I had left it. I wonder if those sheets had been on there for ten years, in anticipation for this very moment?
Running my hands over my face, I could feel the beginning pangs of a stress headache brewing up a storm inside my overly worked brain. I wonder if Harvey, the smoking surfer, still hung out on the corner selling kids weed to ′expand their minds′ so he put it whenever he got arrested. I could do with something to numb the slap of this cold realisation.
Knocking on the door, I waited apprehensively, “come in.” My father’s study door, still white with the thick smell of cigar’s seeping out from under it. The exact door I would wait for him for hours to come out of, convinced, I could not go to bed until he had chased away all the monsters with his powerful daddy presence. Funny how ludicrous and distorted we see things.
“Hey Daddy,” I popped my head in, not really looking at him before pulling my head back and going to shut the door.
“I said come in, Paxton – Rose.” I rolled my light bluish/grey eyes groaning softly - incidentally, my eyes falling upon the exact same coloured ones watching me shuffle in from the hall. My father still sat in the same high backed, swivel, red leather chair he always had, at the same reddish brown timber desk with his hands enlaced in front of him. His short grey hair and now grey beard nicely trimmed - as always - and those haunting light bluish/grey judgemental eyes staring me back. All while his vast library of knowledgeable books lined up perfectly behind him, always teasing me with their known smarts.“How have you been?”
I tucked my light brown wavy hair behind my ear, “fine... you?”
“Fine, though I distinctly remember the last time we saw each other, you were adamant on never stepping foot in this town again?”
“Daddy, I came to see you and Mumma, I could have easily wallowed in my apartment in the city but no, I decide to drive all this way only for you to give me a hard time the moment I arrive.” Not entirely true but it’s not like they really need to know that.
“I’m sorry baby, it’s just a surprise is all.”
“You’re telling me...” I stated, “anyway, I’ll see you later.” My growing need to escape this wretched torture near on breaking point.
“Fine, fine, inform your mother I shall be out soon, will you?”
“Yes, Daddy.” I cringed as the words come out, he was a bastard to me now, just like the others. My senior year was when the breakdown occurred, that year my father went from my hero to my betrayer all in a matter of a split second. I closed the door behind me, groaning painfully as the air finally fills my lungs and the tense, hostile atmosphere, now left to guard the door from the inside.
How could she stay with him? After everything he had done and she stayed - loving him -pretending like everything was fine. She was a fool and now, I remember why I stayed away.
“Mumma, he’ll be down in a little while.”
“Thank you, baby. I thought you and I...” I grabbed my keys heading for the door, “where are you going?”
“How could you stay with him after what he has done?” My tone was set to hurt, why? Because I hurt. After all these years and they pretend like nothing has happened, like they are the picture perfect family. No wonder my life was so messed up and I couldn’t keep my shit together.
She wiped her hands on her tea towel, “baby...”
But I wasn’t ready to hear her excuses, it was time to get the fuck out, “forget it, I’ll be back later.”
“Where are you going? You just got here,” she questioned with tears welling in her eyes.
“Out... I’ll be back later.” I couldn’t handle it anymore, the childhood home I had known to care and love for me was a house built on lies and deceit - it made me sick.
There had been a few additions to the town since I left, more restaurants, more bars, not too shabby. I guess my time here wouldn’t be as horrid as I thought, there seemed to be a lot more to do but as I neared the pub, I realised that this was a colossal mistake and tomorrow, I would check the job sites and head anywhere, to any state, just as far away from here as I could get. I came here seeking direction and I guess I found it, direction... get the fuck away from here.
The local pub had clearly changed ownership and was now called Ollie’s. It had been renovated too, to a more welcoming atmosphere, considering my Dad was who he is, I could never sneak into the old place. I guess now’s a good as time as any to test out the local watering hole that had been so active in my childhood.
Sitting alone at a table in the darkest corner of the place, swirling a jacks and coke with the straw, I thought about these past few months. At least I didn’t have to worry about money for a bit, the sale of the house saw to that. The loans and credit cards I had were paid off, it wasn’t enough to live off forever but I would be okay for a few more months. Well, until I found work and a new state. This place still reeked of a past I’ve spent ten years trying to forget.
Why had I come? I had passed through countless towns on the way here, that would have been just as good to set up camp in but no, stubborn me had decided to drive the full way home, to a place I had forgotten held such dishonesty. My heart needed comfort but there was no comfort to be gained here, nothing but phantoms.
“Well now, if it isn’t little Paxton-Rose Bradbury, the local Sheriff’s wild daughter?” I look up to see a very familiar high school face. “Now if my memory serves me correct, you said you was never coming back to this here little town.” God his country twang just got thicker as the years rolled on by.
“Ollie.” I huffed and rested my forehead on the table before sliding off my stool to give him a hug, “I take it this is your place?”
Ollie was tall, athletically built with short blonde hair but it was covered by a basketball cap, which I had a sneaking suspicion was hiding the start of a receding hairline. His face was now stubbly and he had wrinkle lines at the side of each eye, his golden brown orbs still gleamed with mischief. “Brought it off Lucy about 7 years ago now.”
“You’ve done great with it, it’s a nice place,” I mumbled.
“Now darlin’ that don’t look like the face of someone appreciating my architecture - what are you doing back here?” He pulled up a bottle of jacks and two shot glasses, pouring me one and then himself.
“C’mon Ollie, can’t a girl visit her Daddy and Mumma?” I say attempting to sway the conversation.
“Darlin’ a girl like you with the world at their feet, doesn’t return to a place like this unless she was lost... who was he?” I gave him a questioning look before he shrugged and answered my silent question with, “counselling degree.”
I moaned rather deeply and then sighed out of frustration. “He... is not important and she, destroyed my career over her husband’s inappropriate proposition.”
“Ouch,” he shook his head before pouring us another shot. “So ya came home to start again, huh?”
“I honestly don’t know why I’m here,” I reply before downing the second shot.
“You sound like ya’ll wanna gap it first chance ya get?”
“Would that be so bad? Don’t tell me the pace around here has somewhat picked up?”
“It ain’t the same round here, not like we know it, things are changing.”
“Still looks the same to me,” he pours me another shot.
“That’s because you’ve still got your small town glasses on your eyes. When you really stop and look - you will see.” He nodded to reaffirm his words were a truth.
“Huh, I’ll believe that when I see it.”