1: Welcome Wagon
The time ticked down and all anyone could hear was the clock.
Bia Montgomery stared down at the time on her watch; 9:42 a.m. She looked around at her mother who was sitting and reading some of her case studies. She looked to the right of her mother where her step-dad sat. He had his legs crossed and his glasses pushed up his nose. His blonde hair fell in his face as he looked down at the magazine that occupied his time.
"They were out of coke so I just got you a sprite. I hope that's okay." Bia looked up at her half-sister Amelia who sat down beside her. Her natural hair was curly and it went everywhere. Her green eyes bore into Bia, waiting for her to take her fountain drink.
"Yeah, that's fine," Bia muttered. She barely took the cup in her hands before she sat it on the table that was right beside her. She couldn't eat, she couldn't drink until she knew that everything and everyone would be okay.
Amelia, sensing Bia's pain, sighed and took one of my hands in hers. "Everything's going to be okay B."
"You say that," I muttered. "But how will we know?"
Amelia shrugged. "That's just what people say." She picked up her drink and sipped it. "I can't tell you the future or what could or couldn't happen."
Bia looked at her sister, always the honest even when she shouldn't have been. "Although you're right," Bia muttered, "you could be a little more sympathetic."
Amelia looked over at her sister. "Sorry B." She shrugged and faced her. She looked at their mom and dad who were paying no attention to them and then looked over at Bia. "I just think it's ironic that this is happening to grandma right now, don't you?" Bia raised an eyebrow and Amelia continued. "I mean, it was the day that we just got back from our three-month summer vacation and on this day - before we could even get home to drop our bags off, grandma has a heart attack."
Amelia paused dramatically and Bia leaned her head to the side. "And your point is Amelia?"
"Tragedy," she muttered. "That's the point." Bia shrugged, still not following and Amelia sighed. "We are ending a good trip with tragedy. What if it's the same about our school years. What if this is a forethought or something about our futures."
Bia slowly took in what Amelia was saying, but before she could respond, she noticed her mother and father rising. Bia then turned and noticed their usual doctor approaching them. Bia stood up along with them and Amelia last.
"What's the news?" Shonda Montgomery, Bia's mom said. She hesitated some and then rubbed her hands on her jeans. "How's my mother?"
Doctor Oscar Moore sighed. "She's fine." Bia let out a breath of air that she didn't know that she held in and Oscar continued. "She had a heart attack and we don't really know what caused it. We're going to keep her overnight for observation."
As Doctor Oscar conversed more with their parents, Bia turned and looked over at Amelia who was looking at her already.
"I already know what you're thinking," Amelia said. "She didn't die, which I didn't think she would. I'm just saying. She was pretty darn close." Bia rolled her eyes and picked up her sprite to take a sip. Amelia looked at her sister and pat her black hair. "Sorry. It's kind of hard for me to be sensitive."
"I've noticed," Bia mumbled.
"How are we opposites?" Amelia asked. She didn't wait for an answer before she continued. "We're like night and day."
"Which one's which?" Bia muttered.
Bia smirked as Amelia gave her a sidelong glance. Amelia then stuck her tongue out at Bia, making Bia's smile a bit larger.
"You girls about ready to head out?" Bia looked up and noticed her step-father, Mark Montgomery standing there looking at them both. She sighed and turned from his gaze so he turned to Amelia.
Amelia noticed the switch and then looked at her father. "Yeah dad. We're all ready to go."
Mark cast a look at Bia. "Bia? I'm not talking to myself here."
"Amelia answered." Bia looked at Mark.
Mark held her stare for a while, but knew that he would never win against her. He looked away and then nodded. "Let's get going then." Defeated, he turned away and then started walking towards his wife.
Bia looked after him and then tilted her head. She wanted to forgive Mark because she hated to see him upset, but there was no way that she could. She was just upset; hopefully it would pass.
As they trudged to the car, Bia caught glimpse of her mother. She was on the phone with someone and that was her usual, always busy. It was easy during vacation for her not to get so caught up with her clients; life was easier without technology and communication to the outside world.
"Way to make dad sad." Bia looked to her side as Amelia approached her. "He looked pretty glum."
"He's dealt with worse people than an upset teenager. I think he'll be okay." Bia crossed her arms and then continued to walk.
"That's the thing." Amelia walked in front of Bia and blocked her path. "Your attitudes are ever-changing. Just give him a break B. He did what was right for the family. It's been over two weeks. Drop it." Amelia gave her one last look and then turned and walked towards the car.
The random green house on the end of Britt Avenue was the house that Bia had grown up in. She hadn't seen it since the end of May and now it was the middle of August. The thought of being back was nostalgic, but it was even more intense now than ever. She hadn't slept in her bed, she hadn't drove her car, she hadn't even thought about this place until now.
It hit harder than she thought that it would.
As the car stopped on the curb, Mark turned the car off and looked at the house just like Shonda, Bia and Amelia.
"It's weird being back," he muttered to himself, but the whole car was thinking it and Bia the most.
No one moved.
It was almost as if no one was breathing.
Bia looked at the mint green house that stood before them. It was set far back from the curb, beneath some pine trees that had left an array of leaves at their leisure. The window panes were white and the curtains of the house were wide-open, as if it was looking at the four of them, trying to welcome them home.
Shonda opened her door first and then Mark followed in suit. Amelia made a slow escape from the car as did Bia. Bia couldn't take her eyes off the house. She missed it, but not so much. She wanted to be able to take it all in, but she couldn't. She felt a thick ache in her stomach.
She was home.
And for some reason that didn't sit right with her.
Bia shut her car door and then went to the back of the car to help take out her bags.
"Ladies! Clothes in the washroom so I can start some loads," Shonda screamed. "I'm going to go and thank Lana next door for keeping an eye on the house."
Mark tackled most of the bags that he could carry and rushed up towards the house.
"Oh!" Amelia sparked up and her cheeks turned rosy. Bia looked over at her as they took their bags out of the car. Amelia glanced at Bia briefly and then took her bag out.
"You should go see Lana as well," Bia teased.
"You're hilarious Beatrice."
Bia cringed at her name. "Don't start." She pulled her huge suitcase out and Amelia followed in suit. "But you should." Bia grabbed hold of Amelia's suitcase and then smiled.
"Thanks Beatrice. I'll remember your graciousness," Amelia said sarcastically. Before Bia could retaliate, Amelia had already begun to skip off towards Shonda and after a second they began to fall into step with one another.
Bia shut the trunk of the car and then turned towards the house with her bag and Amelia's. She looked down at the huge bags and wondered why she was kind enough to take Amelia's bag which was much heavier than hers.
"I got it kid." Bia looked up as Mark grabbed Amelia's bag. "I know Amelia packed heavy for this trip."
"You know Mel," Bia muttered.
Mark smiled. "Indeed I do." Bia looked at Mark as his blonde hair flopped in the wind. His skin had tanned a lot this summer and his hair had gotten much lighter. He didn't shave all summer, so his beard was filled out and it looked good on him. His green eyes held her gaze and this time Bia looked away.
"It's weird being home. It seemed like we were gone a lifetime when in reality it was only 3 months." Bia hoisted her suitcase up and then leaned on it. "It seems like the ending of my junior year was ages ago."
"Now you'll be a senior." Bia looked at Mark. "Then you'll be in college." Mark lifted his hand and put it on the side of Bia's face. "My little Bia growing up."
Bia smiled. "Let me at least get through this year. It hasn't even started yet."
Mark nodded. "Touché." Bia smiled at him and felt the silence simmering. Mark just couldn't help himself. "Bia."
"Mark." Bia halted the conversation. "Don't."
Mark glared into Bia's big brown eyes and saw what she saw which was him, giving her an intense stare. "Bia. We gotta talk about it."
"I let it go," Bia muttered. She pulled up the handle on her suitcase, pulled it over the curb and then trudged toward the house. "We just did so good. We had a normal conversation."
Mark was hot on her heel. He pulled Amelia's suitcase to a halt in front of Bia, making her stop in her tracks. "We aren't ending like this." He glared at Bia and she avoided his gaze. "Because you and I both know this isn't just about what happened two weeks ago. This is more about what happened before we left."
"But what happened two weeks ago was the icing on the cake." Bia finally made eye contact with Mark. "I'm trying here Mark." Her voice was shaky, but it didn't fall. "I forgot about it, but it's like you want to continue to live in the past. No one else knows, just me. So, let's keep it that way."
And with that, she continued to drag her bag into the house. Mark stood outside looking after her as she went in and sighed.
"It was my pleasure Shonda," Lana McCreary responded to Shonda. Lana was an older pale-skinned woman that had befriended Shonda when she moved into this neighborhood 12+ years ago. She had looked the same and remained calm in those years. She found a confidant in Shonda. She had set them up some cookies and tea, as she usually did for her guests. "It seems as though you all came back a little bit earlier."
"Just a week and a half," Shonda said as she took a cup of iced tea. They were sitting in the kitchen looking through the window at Lana's spacious green lawn.
"Did something go wrong?" Lana handed Amelia a glass of iced tea and a plate of sugar cookies. She smiled down at Amelia and Amelia smiled back.
"Nothing went wrong," Shonda said. Her brown eyes that mimicked Bia's looked down at her palms. Amelia noticed the hesitation as she watched her mother. Her rich brown skin illuminated as the sun showed through the windows. Her hair was curled in a messy bun, but she still looked poised. She glanced back at Lana. "We just had a change of plans. Mark had to get back to work and I have more clients to take on."
"How is your practice?" Lana asked.
"It's way better than I thought. It's even nicer sharing it with someone that I can trust. If I didn't, then I wouldn't have gotten to take such a leisure break."
Lana let out a laugh and Shonda smiled. She turned to Amelia. "Glad to be back?"
Amelia took a sip of her tea and shrugged. "It's hard to tell just yet. It was fun being away for so long, but now that I'm back it's like I never even left."
"And your friends?"
"We're having a get-together tomorrow to celebrate my being back."
"Amazing friends you have," Lana muttered.
The screen door to the house opened. "Nana?"
"In the kitchen Trevor."
Amelia's face began to pink up as she heard the footsteps approaching slowly. She glanced slowly behind her as Trevor appeared in the doorway. He had a gigantic grin on his face and sweat on his brow.
"Well, what a reunion." Amelia's heart fluttered as Trevor locked eyes with her. "Mrs. Montgomery." He looked up at Shonda. "How was your trip?"
"It's been good." Shonda looked at her daughter and let a little smile fall over her lips. "And yours?"
"It was good. It didn't seem long enough." He turned to his grandmother. "I finished raking what leaves you have."
Lana smiled. "Thank you Trevor. Always the helper." She stood. "I was just about to go and show Shonda the new birdhouse that you built out back. Why don't you get you some tea?"
His smile deepened. "Yes ma'am."
Amelia turned around and faced the table as Shonda and Lana got up to make their grand escape. Lana gave Amelia's shoulder one last squeeze before they left the room.
Trevor walked over to the cabinet to grab a glass. Amelia watched his every step and noticed every muscle in his arm as he reached up to grab a glass. He walked over slowly to the pitcher and began to pour.
Trevor had dark hair that was always pushed up in a messy style that Amelia couldn't help but muster over. His eyes were blue like the ocean and lit up every time he decided to smile.
"It's been a while," his deep voice started, alerting Amelia.
"You're telling me."
He glared at her and leaned against the counter across from her. "How was..."
"Albania," Amelia started. "We were in Tirana. That's where my father is from. And it was good. How was..."
Trevor smirked. "You mean how was home? How was Ryland?" Amelia smiled. "It was quite the summer here."
"Oh really?" Amelia smirked as she finished her tea. She took her glass and her empty plate to the sink right beside Trevor. She glared at him. "What was so fun?"
"Lots of things. This town may be small, but it has spirit."
"And what about Ryland's very own power family?" Amelia asked, referring to the mayor of their small town who held many different faces. She was loved, she was hated, but all around she was respected. "All of her rules didn't stop your fun here?"
Trevor's eyebrows crinkled. "You didn't hear?"
Amelia snorted. "Hear what?"
"She died." Amelia's eyes slowly widened. "She died around two weeks ago. Ryland's been without a mayor representing us for two weeks."