In Case You Missed It - Lindsey Kelk
The only difference between a fresh start and ‘oh my god, my life is a complete failure’ is a good attitude and the right Instagram caption.
Which was why I had my ‘so happy to be moving home’ social media declaration drafted and ready to post, even before the wheels of the plane had touched British soil. It wasn’t a lie but it wasn’t exactly the truth either, which I figured was OK, since that described roughly ninety-seven percent of the internet anyway.
Taking a deep breath, I pushed my wayward curls into some sort of recognizable shape, rapped three times on my parents’ back door and let myself into the house.
‘Knock, knock,’ I called, heaving my bags inside. ‘It’s only me.’
‘Look lively, Gwen, sounds like burglars.’ I could hear my dad slapping his thighs all the way from the other side of the house.
‘Yes, put your hands in the air and step away from the baked goods,’ I ordered as I bounced into the living room all jazz hands and forced smiles. I dropped my backpack on the floor and searched the room for snacks. ‘Seriously, I’m not joking, where are the Fondant Fancies? I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.’
‘Plenty of cultures eat horses,’ Mum said, gathering me up in a trademark Gwen-Reynolds-hug, swinging me from side to side and making sweet, unintelligible noises. ‘Probably better for you than a Fondant Fancy.’
Dad, the more stoic of my parents, opted for a pat on the shoulder and a curt nod before he disappeared into the kitchen to emote. He wasn’t the touchy-feely type. At my graduation, while everyone else was sobbing and crying, my dad shook my hand and slapped me on the back so hard, my mortar-board went flying.
‘How was the flight? Did you have any trouble at the airport? Did you get all your bags?’ Mum asked as she settled on the settee and I took up residence in my favourite armchair. It was as though I’d never been away.
‘Hers and half the plane’s by the looks of things,’ Dad called from the other room. ‘Have you brought all of Washington back with you, Rosalind?’
‘Not all of them,’ I shouted back. ‘Only the good ones.’
‘Not many then,’ he replied, muttering something about ‘the bloody state of politics’ to himself as I heard him turn on the tap.
I smiled and let myself relax for the first time in I couldn’t quite remember how long. The living room looked almost exactly the same as it had when I left, same magnolia walls, same bookcase groaning with books, same painting of a peacock my parents bought on their honeymoon and refused to admit was hideous. It was all so reassuring, however questionable the aesthetic. I hadn’t been back for a visit in more than eighteen months and it was a little over three years since I’d left London for my fabulous new job, producer at a radio station in Washington, DC. Somehow it felt like I’d been away much, much longer than that, and like I’d never been away at all, both at the same time. I wondered if everyone’s family living room had the same time-warp effect on them.
‘So,’ Mum said quietly, tucking her smooth, straight hair behind her ears. I got my hair and my height from my dad but the rest of me, the freckles, the brown eyes, strong nose, wide mouth, were pure Gwen Reynolds. ‘You’re home. Is everything all right?’
I pressed my lips into a thin, straight line. So much for relaxing.
‘Everything is fine,’ I replied as confidently as I could. ‘I told you on the phone.’
‘You did and I’m not going to go on about it,’ she said with an agreeable smile. ‘But if there’s anything you want to talk about, you know I’m here …’
‘Here we are, here we are,’ Dad walked back in with a heavily laden tray, matching china teacups for them, the novelty Care Bear mug I’d been drinking from since I was six for me. ‘I got one of those fast-boil kettles, worth its weight in gold. Less than a minute, even if you get the water out the fridge.’
Mum reached across the tray for her cup and gave me a knowing look. She wouldn’t say anything else in front of Dad, deep and meaningfuls weren’t his cup of tea.
They both looked a little bit older, I realized, noticing a few more lines around Mum’s eyes, a bit more grey in Dad’s close-cut curls. It was the kind of thing