The unconditional love from parents.
I walked step by step up the porch to the huge red house, slowly. Soon I would have to either knock on the door or run away into the forest and get ate by bears. Which would it be? In all honesty I couldn't really tell which option was more terrifying.
That I'm comparing the company of my parents to hungry bears can not be normal. A sound from a neighing horse was like the signal for me to make a decision. To knock or not to knock - that is the question.
I would probably get yelled at for not giving them a proper heads up on my sudden arrival. No, I hadn't had the courtesy to call my parents and tell them that I was coming and I had certainly not asked them if I could stay a while, either. But there was always a possibility that the conversations could go smoothly. It all depended on which words I would choose and how I was going to handle the situation.
It had taken me many hours to get to the farm outside the city called Parker in Arizona, the place where I grew up. And on the train and in the cab I had much time to figure out what I would tell mum and dad.
How I would say out loud that I'm now single and homeless. Still, while standing on their porch, I couldn't really recall any of the words which I had so carefully chosen. The space between my ears was filled with air, and not smart brain cells.
Dad wouldn't really be a problem to talk to about the whole thing with Gabriel at all since his care-level was very low. He always laid splayed out like a corpse in bed and either stared at the ceiling or looked at fishing shows on the television. Watching fish being pulled out of streams together with my father in complete silence was the strongest memory I had of us two together when growing up.
Our bond had never been strong because of the lack of interactions between father and daughter. I wanted someone that would actually have the power to drag himself out of bed at times, not a dad without a spark in his eyes and a will to do anything.
He always claimed to have 'bad legs' and therefore couldn't walk for very long, needing to be close to a bed or a chair whenever his legs would fail him. I doubted the truth in that, though.
One time when I was seventeen and couldn't sleep because of the rain pattering the ceiling, I heard something. The creaking floor and wheezy breaths. Scared out of my mind, I tip-toed to look outside my room - only to see dad practically skipping down the stairs. Is a man that barely can walk supposed to skip? I don't think so.
I followed him downstairs, very quietly to not let him know that I was watching. Dad went to the refrigerator and started digging out cheese, bread, ham and butter, moving his feet in small dance moves while making a sandwich.
I couldn't believe my eyes and started making my way upstairs and back to my room again. In that moment my dad lost all of his credibility and I just couldn't feel bad for him like I used to.
Since that night I couldn't take his 'bad legs' seriously, because I knew that he was in fact healthy enough to skip and dance in the middle of the night. Did mum know about his nightly adventures? Perhaps. She never said anything about it though, so I'm just presuming that he's successfully fooled her too. Mum always made dad his food and brought it to their bed where he would eat it in silence, not even giving her a small 'thank you' afterwards.
I never told mum about the thing I witnessed that rainy night. Why? Because I'm still hoping that it was just a dream. It would be so much easier to handle than to know that one of my parents is lying to the other on a daily basis.
My theory is that dad is plain lazy and don't want to get out of bed or work for anything.
Maybe we had a good relationship before his legs turned 'bad'. Sadly, I can't remember. Because I was so young, seven at the time his legs gave up, the memories of him as a living dead man are a lot stronger than the ones when he could actually walk around.
It would be ten times harder talking to my mum about Gabriel and our breakup. She would ask so many questions and even if I would tell her lies as answers it wouldn't soothe her.
That woman could read me like an open book and always knew when I was lying. In a matter of time she would know the truth, that it was my fault that we broke up, and that's when hell would break loose.
Mum has very strong opinions about everything she can understand. She does not like cheaters, bills, low-calorie food, piercings, art, music, cars, female maltreatment, sarcasm and greed.
She likes herself. And horses. That's just about it.
Mum's passion for horses is, according to me, ridiculous. That's the first thing she thinks about in the morning and the last thing passing her mind at night. It wouldn't be a surprise if she dreamt about horses and saddles too.
Her undying love for these... creatures, was the reason for the big stables built on the ground that belonged to our family. In those stables she kept tons of horses for her riding school and horse stud.
Sure, it was the household's source of money. The money from selling engendered horses and the annual fee that the children in the riding school was what made it possible for her to pay the bills.
Now when mum's age has started to get to her and she can't jump up and down on horses anymore, the money isn't flowing as nicely as it used to. Since she is in need of more help she had to employ more people to help her with the business. That means more salaries to pay and less money in her own pocket.
Sure, the bills were paid, but after that the money didn't last very long. It only covered the not so affordable amounts of greasy food mum loved dearly. I've never had the courage to say it, but maybe she would have more energy to spend on the horses if she dropped the grease and lost a couple of pounds. Mum has never been a stick, but when she passed the age of fifty the weight started to really appear on her hips and stomach.
What did she look like now? I had no idea. It had been three years since I visited them and a lot could have happened during that time.
I had been living with my parents on and off until I turned twenty-seven and left to try my luck in Los Angeles. In the city of angels I quickly met Gabriel and the rest is history.
I never went back to visit my parents during the three years my relationship with Gabriel lasted. Arizona was the past and Gabriel and our life in L.A. was the present. I still gave my mum calls on the holidays to fill her in about my life and to ask her about how dad was doing. Never anything else but polite phrases and stiff words were exchanged.
I didn't bother to be a good daughter. That was selfish. Incredibly selfish.
The suitcase in my left hand weighed me down like a bag of bricks when I knocked on the front door to the house with my right hand. The sound of a plate dropping and breaking on the floor was heard and then steps came closer and closer until I could see mum's figure moving behind the tinted glass next to the front door.
The door's handle vibrated and then the door swung open to reveal my dear old mother standing in her white housecoat. It looked so worn out and scruffy on her big frame. She had worn that housecoat every morning since I was a child and it really was time for it to retire. Her eyes widened in shock and her lips were slightly parted.
Mum looked just like she did three years ago. The short dark hair was the same, only a bit mottled by white. Maybe the wrinkles and grooves in her face were deeper too, after giving her a second look. She was without a doubt tired and surprised.
"Mandy? What are you doing here?" she asked with her slightly deep morning voice. I frowned jokingly.
"I just wanted to visit my parents, silly," I lied and pushed my way past her to get inside the house and then kicked my ballerina flats off. Mum furrowed her eyebrows and slowly closed the door.
"You haven't visited us in three years. Why now?" mum asked apprehensively. It was in her nature to doubt my intentions, and rightfully so.
"I don't know. I just missed you," I started, "Do you mind if I stay here a couple of days?"
Mum shook her head. No, she didn't mind. She suddenly stumbled towards me and awkwardly flung her arms around my neck. I put my arms around her back and gave her a slight squeeze. Our family wasn't really the one that gave hugs to the right and left and it didn't really feel right.
Don't think that I didn't appreciate the kind gesture, because I did. It just felt odd.
"You look like something the cat dragged in," mum whispered into my ear as we hugged, before she pulled away. She wore a sweet smile on her thin lips.
That's the woman I know and love! Those small remarks is what makes her the person she is. I returned her smile.
She was probably right about me not looking so pretty at the moment. I was still in the same dress and tights that I wore when the truth about me cheating slipped out and Gabriel basically told me to fuck off and get lost. My makeup, if anything was still on, would be smudged and not flattering. Needless to say I wasn't too excited with seeing myself in a mirror.
"And you're too skinny!" mum then continued, gawping like I was an alien.
Even if I wanted this statement to be true too, it wasn't. Everything weighing less than a horse was in my mother's eyes tiny. No, skinny wasn't the word for me. The right one would probably be average.
"I'm really tired from travelling, mum. Can we catch up after I've taken a nap?" I asked, eager to get myself a shower and some privacy to deal with emotions.
"Of course. Of course. We never cleaned your room out since we always expected you to be back," mum said, "and your father will be so happy when I tell him that you've returned."
I smiled faintly and walked up the stairs and turned right to the door leading to my room, the suitcase still in my hand.
Everything in there was the same, from the purple curtains to the stale smell. I took a quick look around. My wooden desk, the nearly empty bookshelves, the stained white rug, the baby blue walls and finally my old bed.
With a sigh I threw the suitcase onto the bed and opened it to start unpacking. There was really nothing in there except for clothes. I simply placed the garments on the floor and then picked my cell phone up from the bottom of the suitcase.
One missed call from Annie. Annie? Who the hell was... Oh! Annie!
I grinned and shook my head for being so completely senile. Annie was the name I had attached to Jared's phone number. That way, if Jared called and Gabriel saw it, he wouldn't be suspicious.
Why had Jared tried to call me? Would I call him back?
I frowned. It was a bit rude to tell a girl that you don't want her and then call her a day later. But then again, if I don't ask I will never get answers. And if I'm allowed to be completely honest, my heart still fluttered at the thought of him and those beautiful blue eyes.