Short Story: Coming Home

Joyce is watching another TV movie when she hears a knock at her door. Dang, it was getting to the good part. People always want to knock when it’s just getting good. Nevertheless, she gets up from her couch, which gets flatter and flatter from sitting in the same spot over and over, and goes to the door quickly so she can sit back down. She opens the door and finds her godson, Lenny, with his hands in his pocket smiling at her. He may have gotten taller, and his hair shorter, but his cute, awkward actions haven’t changed a bit, she knew.

“Hey, baby,” she greets as she pulls him into a warm embrace. “How’s college treating you?”

Lenny rubs her back a little before letting her go and answering “Pretty well.” Another beat passes as he walks in the door, aware that he never needs an invitation before asking “How are you, Aunt Joyce?”

She pops her wrist at him and grins, going back to her seat to see what Ariana was going to do next on the screen. “I’m doing real good baby.” She doesn’t give Lenny eye contact; she has to see how bad, meaning sly and sexy in this case, Ariana was in pursuing revenge against her husband.

Lenny doesn’t mind. It gives him more time to think of a way to make proper conversation. It gives him preparation to process how he’ll appear sincere as he nods to his honorary aunt’s stories of what she was doing with her free time that didn’t have to do with television, when her son was going to go to school, and how she was happy for him being away from home and not seeing her every weekend before he decided to move away for college.

Once Lifetime goes to a commercial for Excedrin pills, Joyce faces Lenny and asks, trying to joke, “So I guess you don’t want me to braid your hair no more, huh?”

Lenny laughs, which is expected of him. It took him a couple months before he decided to cut it just because he knew she would say that. “I’m just trying something new,” he starts. “Besides, you know how cornrows could never stay on my head for long.”

Joyce giggles, knowing how true that is with White people’s thin hair. Granted, Lenny is Biracial, but his hair was White hair to her.

In the corner of Lenny’s eye, besides the TV displaying a tampon commercial, he sees the blinds shut. Sunlight tries to sneak in patterned slips, but they didn’t create enough contrast to make the living room healthily brighter. He is tempted to open the blinds for once. Just this one time he wanted actual light in here. But he knew his Aunt Joyce. “You don’t have to do that, baby,” she’d say. She’d say that every time, there was no sense in trying anymore.

“I was going to come up there to visit you,” she said warmly, “but you know how it is.”

Yeah, I know how you hardly want to get out of the house, Lenny thinks to himself. You don’t like how I had the guts to leave.

“I understand,” he dutifully responds.

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