Kacey boarded the school bus; the first time in years she had to ride since her older brother graduated. Lots in her life changed after Vince’s graduation.
Too late to duck and cover, she mumbled, “Hey, Lynn,” then passed her to sit in the back.
Soon, Kacey escaped her torture and traded it for school, blessed relief. The day passed all too quickly then back on the bus.
“I saved you a seat.” Lynn pulled Kacey in.
“So where do you live? I’ve never seen you ride the bus. Weird, huh?”
“Yeah, weird.” Kacey bit her lip.
“I live at 700 Brown Street.”
“How’d you do on that English test, Lynn?”
“I got an A-. I’m sure you got an A. You always do.”
“Yeah. I’m getting off here. Nice talking to you.” Kacey stood at the corner and watched the bus go past.
That was dumb. Now I have to walk forever just because my brother had to leave me. Ugh. Tears formed but she stopped them before they had a chance to spill over.
A half later later, she made it to Brown Street. She saw Lynn peek out her window. Busted. Kacey cut through a neighbor’s backyard then wound back until she was five blocks from Lynn’s house: a Victorian mansion with pristine cut yard, the two houses different as could be.
Kacey wedged herself between the partly opened front door and the mound of boxes that blocked its way, “Mom…I’m home!”
“In the kitchen, Sweetie.”
Kacey held her backpack close so she could maneuver through the narrow passageway.
Dixie stood on tip-toes at the kitchen cabinet stacking tea cups.
“Mom, did you go to more garage sales?” Kacey tried to keep the harshness out of her voice.
“I found these at a Dollar Store.”
“You promised no more.”
Dixie continued working and ignored her daughter.
Kacey’s stored up tears suddenly released.
“What is wrong with you?” Dixie looked at her daughter.
“Mom. Vince said he wouldn’t ever come back if you didn’t stop hoarding junk.”
“He doesn’t mean it.” Dixie moved a pile of newspapers off a chair and dragged it over to the cupboard. “Anyway, it isn’t junk. It’s treasure: perfect pieces of treasure.”
“He does mean it. Dad left us and now Vince. What about me? Aren’t you scared you’ll lose me, too?”
“Hmmm?” Dixie stood on the chair, one leg lifted precariously. “Honey, hand me some cups, will you?”
“You’re not even listening!”
Kacey stormed out of the kitchen and wound her way up to her own, spotless, perfectly organized sanctuary. She fingered her cell phone, trying to decide whether to call her brother, and then laid it down. Vince got out when he was eighteen. She just had to bide her time, too.
Kacey sat at the kitchen table doing homework. Her mom sorted through boxes in the front room when the doorbell rang.
Before Kacey could even react, her mom opened the door. “Kacey, you have company!”
Dixie, excited that Kacey had a guest, chatted incessantly as she led Lynn in, out, around, up, and over boxes.
Kacey’s cheeks burned with embarrassment.
Lynn sat on Kacey’s bed, “I’m so sorry.”
“Mom thinks it’s no big deal.” Kacey wiped away tears. “It is, right? I mean, this isn’t normal, is it? Am I blowing this out of proportion?”
“It’s always been bad, but lately, well, you saw for yourself.”
“It was God’s timing, then that I followed you home.”
“God doesn’t care about me. No one does. Dad just up and left and so did Vince. This is an alone journey and when I’m eighteen I’ll be out.”
“God cares about you and you don’t have to wait. Is it okay if I call my dad? He’ll know what to do.”
“But I don’t want Mom to get in trouble.”
“You can’t worry about her. She needs to be worrying about you.”
“She worries more about knick-knacks than me. Yeah, I guess. You can call your dad.”
Lynn’s dad stood outside the house with the girls. Dixie refused to cross the threshold. “I have to call child services.”
Dixie ignored him. “I love you, Kacey. I promise I’ll change if you stay.”
“I love you, too but you’ve been promising to change for a long time. Bye, Mom.”
Kacey peeked over her shoulder as she walked away. She knew as soon as her mom walked inside the house, the outside world would be forgotten…including Kacey herself.
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