“Hello, Nessie,” He said after I’d finished my startled scream. Even still, it took me a moment to recognize him. After all, it had been five years since I’d seen my brother storm out of the house, when he was only nineteen. Now he would be twenty-four years old. Why should I recognize him on sight anymore?
“Vanessa,” I said automatically, like I was correcting a friend of my grandmothers.
“Oh, sorry. Vanessa.” He replied curtly.
“It’s okay. Why should you know?” It wasn’t until that fell out of my mouth that I realized that I was angry. Properly pissed off at the man sitting in front of me. I opened my mouth to give him a piece of my mind, when my mother burst into my room, undoubtedly drawn by my scream.
For a moment, the three of us made an awkward triangle, all looking from one to the other as if waiting for someone, anyone, to make the first move. It was Mom who finally did it.
“Elliott?” She asked as if she was looking at a ghost.
He looked uncomfortable as he slowly got up to his feet. “Yeah, Mom. It’s me.”
There were a whole slew of emotions that crossed my mother’s face in that moment. She took a step towards him, and I honestly wasn’t sure if she was going to hug him or slap him.
Turns out, she did both. She slapped him hard across the face, so that the sound rung in my ears for a second, but then she pulled him into a tight hug, already scolding him. “Don’t you ever, ever, ever pull something like that again. Your father was worried. I was worried sick. Your sister used to cry thinking you were dead. What in the world is wrong with you that you would just leave like that?”
“Sorry, Mom.” Elliott let her hug him, patting her awkwardly on the back, giving me a slight eye rolling look that used to be commonplace for Well, she’s mom. Whatcha going to do? Some old memory made my want to smile and roll my eyes back. But then I remembered he’d been gone for longer than I had been in high school, and I chose to glare back instead.
“What are you doing here, anyway?” I asked.
Mom pulled out of the hug, turning to look at me with wide-eyes. “Vanessa! Don’t be rude.” It wasn’t hard to see that she was afraid. Scared that harsh words from me would send Elliott away for another five years.
But it was my room, and my graduation day, and my brother to be angry at, so I pressed on, “I mean, you didn’t show up for five years why bother now?”
“Vanessa,” My mom hissed again.
“No, Mom, it’s fair,” Elliott smiled, acting far more mature than I wanted him to be, “I hurt her when I left, and she’s just had to sit on that for a while. She has every right to be angry.” He wrapped an arm around my mom’s shoulders, an old gesture to calm her, to reassure her. “I’m back because I missed you. It was wrong of me to leave the way I did, and I knew that I needed to come back and try to make good if I could.” When my expression and stance didn’t change, Elliott let his smiled falter a little. “Of course, I know that forgiveness doesn’t come instantaneously. I plan on working for it, if you’ll let me.”
“Of course, we will. We will, won’t we Vanessa?” Mom insisted
For my mother’s sake, and only my mother’s sake, I agreed. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a party to get back to.”
I left the room without finding whatever I came for, but it couldn’t have been that important anyway. Not anymore.