My (Ani's) father had called to ask me to come home just after I had called off the engagement to Rick. I had done so because I felt like he wanted a relationship that was much like both of our parent's - and I really didn't want that in my life. He wasn't abusive - but he was of the belief that the man should be waited on and the little woman just the person to do so. Not for me. So when the call came from my father - I capitulated. I continue on here with a little bit now from Chapter 11 of The Wailings - my book in progress - to keep the story going in its proper order.
Ani stood looking out the window as she waited for the buzzer to sound. Occasionally she turned to glance at the boxes piled in the center of the room before turning back to peer out at the busy street in front of the building. Her shoulders sagged under the jacket she wore and a small pile of soggy Kleenex sprang from the little table she had placed by the window when she first moved in. She jumped involuntarily when the buzzer blared by the door, and she took once last look out the window before turning away to answer it.
“Hi Daniel,” she said as she let her brother in.
Daniel took in the boxes and Ani’s eyes in one glance and gave his sister a hug.
“I’m glad you decided on coming back home Ani.” The huskiness in his voice reflected Ani’s own anguish and she marveled at her brother’s compassion.
“Did you know Dad called me after Snoop died and asked me to come home?”
“Dad called you?” Daniel said with such amazement that Ani laughed; momentarily forgetting the anguish that had wracked her about this decision.
Silently they loaded the truck and Daniel waited in the parking lot while Ani returned her keys to the superintendent. Knowing she would open up on her own, Daniel concentrated on the afternoon traffic, glancing at Ani as she lit a cigarette and opened her window to let out the first exhalation of smoke.
“I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t know that I need to finish school to get anywhere in life,” she said as she flicked a small piece of ash through the crack between the window and door frame. “I felt like I would be a replacement for the dog.”
“I doubt he meant it like that at all,” Daniel ventured as he merged into the left lane. “We thought you were going to get married and live happily ever after.”
“Rick wanted a life just like our parents have Daniel, and that is not what I want. It took me a while to discover that, but it was a major reason for calling it off.”
“Well, I think Mom will be happy to see you home again Ani. She’s been different since you left.”
Ani glanced intently at Daniel before flicking the butt of her cigarette out the window.
“That may be, but everything is different now. I’m not somebody they can beat up anymore.”
Daniel stared straight ahead, unwillingly to talk about the day that Ani left home. Later that evening, Ani discovered that not a lot had changed since the night she had packed her purse. While Jerome read the newspaper, the rest of the family waited while Ani prepared the supper and got it on the table. Afterwards, everyone disappeared and Ani cleaned up the kitchen. Sitting in her new bedroom off the laundry room, she stared at the fading ring mark on her right hand and wondered what she had done.
As she unpacked the boxes Daniel had piled in her bedroom, Ani half-listened to Columbo playing on the TV in Grandma Brydges living room. With a pile of sweaters on one arm, she opened a dresser drawer and found a single earring belonging to Sierra. A momentary pang of jealousy swept through her as she thought of her older sister in British Columbia, chasing her dream of being a newspaper editor, even if it was for a small-town newspaper. At least she was far from this house and its inhabitants. When Margaret poked her head through the curtain that substituted for a door, Ani was already breaking down the boxes for disposal.
“Is everything all right Ani?”
“Sure Mom. There wasn’t that much to put away,” she said as she flattened the last box. An uncomfortable silence stretched between them and Ani fidgeted with the edge of the cardboard while Margaret studied the top of the dresser.
“I just wanted to tell you I’m glad you’re home Ani,” Margaret said as she looked into the dresser mirror at Ani’s image.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to finish school from here. It would have been hard to do it out on my own,” Ani said.
Margaret could tell it was hard on Ani’s pride to admit any of this, and she ached with the strangeness between them.
“Well. Let’s do the best we can,” Margaret said as she headed off to visit with her mother during the commercials that punctuated Columbo.