Several of you said you'd like to read chapter 2 of Home Sweet Home, so I'm posting it. Please le me know what you think. I'm hoping someone will be interested enough to publish it.
Two hours later, Zeus barked and I knew Michelle had arrived. But I wasn’t expecting Justin to be with her. Right now I didn’t like him too much, either. After all, Matt just up and left Michelle and now Justin was moving out.
I opened the door and they came inside looking like two walking zombies with their pale faces and red-rimmed eyes. Maybe these were the dead people my mother-in-law dreamed about.
“Soooo, what’s up?” I asked.
Sammy sniffed Zeus, then went to the kitchen table and hiked his leg.
My daughter stood two-inches taller than me. She had natural blond hair that fell below her shoulder blades. Her green eyes and long lashes made me envy her looks. I was never that pretty when I was young. And her figure—she watched what she ate, unlike her mother.
She promptly cleaned up after the dog.
“I’m so sorry about what’s happened, Mrs. Henderson.” I stared at the tall, thin young man, who looked ready to cry—again. He had beautiful blue eyes with long lashes. His thick brown hair fell over his eyes, making me want to brush it back like I had my son when he was little. He wore jeans and a polo shirt—always the fashion plate—always clean—giving him the look of a model.
“Yeah, well, we’re used to Sonny hiking his leg on everything.” I glared at the Yorkie.
“Oh. That’s not what I meant.”
“You mean about you moving out on Michelle, too?” Michelle had so many disappointments when it came to love. I felt angry with myself for not being a better mother in helping her deal with her insecurities. Often, I brushed them off as part of growing up.
Guilt swept over Justin’s face. “I know this isn’t a good time for me to move out. But, can I explain?”
“Of course.” I guided the two to the kitchen table and poured coffee for them, then sat down to listen.
“I always suspected that I might be gay,” he said.
“I always suspected that I might be gay,” he said.
I choked on my coffee and it oozed out of my nose. Michelle handed me a napkin. “Sorry. Go on.”
“So I thought for sure moving in and being Michelle’s roommate would make me realize that I was straight. I love Michelle and think of her as one of my best friends. I know she needs a roommate to help pay her mortgage, but then I met Lawrence and he’s so like the most perfect person in the world and then I just had to tell Michelle about it because I couldn’t be unfair to her because I actually do love her and…”
I raised my hand. I was out of breath just listening to him rattle. I wanted to yell, TMI—too much information! Instead, I decided to play the mother role—against my better judgment. I got up and brought the muffins and two cups of coffee to the table. Then I poured more coffee for me, too. I had a feeling I would need it—with perhaps a shot of something stronger in it. I always thought Justin was a bit feminine, but forgive me for my ignorance, I didn’t think he was gay.
“Thank you, Mrs. Henderson.” Justin gave me one of his deer in the headlight looks.
Michelle reached over and squeezed his hand. “Mom, this has been hard on Justin. He needs a mother to talk to and since he can’t confide in his, I told him you’d be happy to listen to him.”
Once more, I nearly choked on my coffee. Where was that bottle of bourbon Sam had hidden?
Michelle had always been kind and caring. Her eyes filled with sympathy for her friend.
“Now, let’s talk,” I said. “First off, Justin, I’m confused. Why do you both look like zombies? I mean, I know Michelle and Matt just broke up, but why do you look as if you’ve been crying, too?”
“Because, well, because, you see, my mother is going to be so pissed at me. I don’t know how to break the news to her. You know my mom’s a religious fanatic and she pulled me out of school when she heard I was hanging out with the gay crowd. Then she home schooled me. But then when she found out I was still hanging out with them at the Mall, she had me locked up.”
“She did what? But why?”
“Because she said I was sick in the head.” He took a bite of the muffin before going on. “Mother had a fit when they said they weren’t going to keep me and treat me for a mental illness. So then, to please her, I stopped hanging out with guys and started to date women.”
“And then his mom said he was cured,” Michelle said. “And Justin thought he was, too.” She hugged him and I thought he was going to cry again. Then he straightened up in the chair and had a guilty look on his face.
“I knew I was still gay, but when I moved into Michelle’s house, I let my mom think Michelle was my girlfriend.”
“Didn’t she think it was strange that Michelle had another boyfriend?” Sometimes I simply blurted out things that I didn’t mean to say. “I mean, Matt was at the house a lot.”
“I just told her he was a good friend of mine and Michelle’s,” he said.
“Oh, Justin, I’m so sorry for what you’re going through. I’m sure your mom will come to terms with this.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Henderson.” He picked up his coffee cup and held it away from his boyish face. “You don’t hate me, do you?”
“Of course not, Dear.”
“Thank you. I appreciate that.”
“Not to change the subject, but will you still come sit with Nana until I can get her into a home?”
“Of course I will! I love that woman.” He smiled for the first time since he arrived. At least I could say one thing for Hazel, she really did like Justin and never found fault with him.
Michelle’s eyes widened and she grinned at me.I thanked God that Justin was blind to Hazel’s faults.
“Thank you, Justin. You have no idea how glad I am to hear that.” And I really meant it.
“Who’s here?” Hazel got out of her chair in front of the TV and came into the kitchen. “Oh my goodness! It’s my son Harold! How are you, Honey?” She walked to Justin and kissed his cheek. “And why don’t you ever visit your mommy, you bad boy?”
“Hazel, Harold’s been dead for twenty years,” I said. “This is Justin, Michelle’s friend from the hospital. Remember? He’s a nurse, too, and he sits with you while I work.” And I should’ve added that whatever we had to pay him was worth every penny. He really was good with her.
“Oh, yes, Justin, dear.” She turned to me. “I don’t know why you can’t be kind like Justin, Myrtle Sue. You’ve always been so mean to me.”
Michelle rolled her eyes. “Hi, Nana. How are you?”
“I’m fine.” She took a seat at the table and grabbed a muffin. “Who are you? Are you Violet’s daughter?”
“Nana! I’m Michelle, your granddaughter. Myrtle Sue and Sam’s daughter.”
“Oh, yeah, that’s right.” She laughed and pointed to her head. “You know how it is when you get old. Your mother will be just like me when she gets old.”
“God forbid,” I mumbled.
“I hope you made some roast beef for Father when he gets here,” Hazel said.
“Yes, of course, and I made garlic rolls, too,” I lied. Then I whispered, “Michelle, want some garlic to tie around your neck?”
“Good. And remember, he likes carrots and noodles with his roast beef,” Hazel said.
Justin stood up and smiled. “Well, I’ve got to go now. I’ll see you on Monday, Nana.”
“Okay, Honey.” She reached into her pocket and said, “Here’s a dollar. Get yourself something to eat. You’re rather skinny, you know.”
“Thanks,” he said, kissing her cheek.
I walked him to the door and he handed me back the money. “I’ve tried giving her the money back, but she gets mad at me. You take it.”
“No, that’s okay, Justin. Good luck with your new friend,” I said.
Justin couldn’t have been gone more than five minutes when Sammy Jr. came into the house. “What’s to eat, Ma?”
“Muffins,” I said. Sammy wasn’t pretty like Justin. Instead, he had a rugged look—more like a cowboy. He, too, had those fabulous blue eyes, but not the long lashes. His nose showed signs of his youthful fist fights, and his dimples added to his charm. I can’t tell you how many girls called the house for him when he was a teen. And yet at the age of 23, he still hadn’t found a special woman to love.
“Don’t you have any real food?”
“I’ll have real food once you start paying me back the $4,000 you owe me for the down payment on your truck,” I said.
He pulled out a ten-dollar bill and handed it to me. “How about I pay you ten dollars a week for now.”
“That’s a start. I’ll take it.” I knew by the look in his eyes that he’d expected me to say no, just wait until you can afford to pay it back. That’s what his father would’ve said. I’m not his father, and it’s time he grew up.
It was after four when Michelle and Sammy decided to go home and not stay for dinner. After listening to Michelle and Sammy bicker, I was happy to see them both decide to go home. Hazel sat glued to the TV while I made out bills.
When I finished, I found Hazel snoring loudly. I woke her and fed her dinner. Two hours later, I put her to bed.
Peace and quiet at last. I plopped into my chair in front of the TV.
“Where’s my pills?” Hazel’s piercing voice made me nearly jump out of my chair.
“I already gave them to you.”
“No, you didn’t give them to me! Steve gives me my pills, not you, you idiot!”
“Steve’s dead. Steve used to give you pills.” I tried to remain calm.
“Well, I didn’t kill him. Bessie said I probably did, but I didn’t. And Mary thinks he’s in love with her. Imagine that! He’s twenty years younger than she is. If he’d be in love with anyone, it would be me.”
“Goodnight, Hazel.” She continued yelling and telling me how stupid I was.
I went into the kitchen to finish cleaning the pan I left soaking, hoping to block out Hazel’s voice. I swore I saw Sam smiling at me in the pan I picked up.
“I hate you Sam! You left me with your mother on purpose.” I threw the pan across the floor and then stopped.
“Oh, my God! I’m cracking up.” I picked up the pan, finished cleaning it, and put it into the cupboard. “Take a deep breath, Myrtle Sue. Tomorrow will be better.”