I dropped down at my computer after getting dressed. Soon, I needed to go downstairs, but first I wanted to check on the Marked Ones Facebook page. There was supposed to be a contest announced sometime soon.
As soon as the page loaded, though, I forgot all about that. The first thing that popped up was a status Mom had posted.
In the comments, people Mom worked with at the Jasmine Hotel and Spa and people she’d gone to school with had posted with encouragements and offers to help. Before, she’d never had any friends. Hell, she hadn’t even had a Facebook account until we’d moved in with Camille. She’d changed so much since Dad got arrested. Even more once the divorce was finalized; I’d been there when she got the news. It was like a weight was physically lifted from her shoulders.
My computer ping!’d and a message popped up. I rolled my eyes when I saw Bradley’s name. Like I always did, I ignored the message and blocked him. In a few months, he’d probably make another profile and message me again. I hadn’t willingly spoken to him in over three years. The only reason he tried to talk to me or Mom was to try to bum money off of us.
I checked the time. I’d slept later than I’d meant to; Tommy was supposed to be there any minute with the moving van. He and Loralee had offered to pick up all the furniture that Mom and Brianna had picked out, then come over to Camille’s so we could load the rest of their stuff.
Although, Loralee is really just coming for moral support, I thought wryly, thinking of my heavily pregnant sister. She was a ticking time bomb that was due at any time.
“Hey,” Danny said, sticking his head into the room. “What are you doing up here? I’m not supposed to be packing all by my lonesome.”
I snorted and got up. “All the packing is done.” I crossed over to him and dragged him fully into the room, then leaned up to kiss him. “You jerk, you were downstairs eating French Toast.”
He grinned broadly. “Dang, you caught me. Really, though, your mom sent me to come drag your cute butt downstairs. Loralee texted to say they’re almost here.”
“Somehow, I really doubt she said it like that,” I laughed and walked out of the room with him. “You realize that asking you to help today is just an excuse for me to ogle you, right?”
“Of course,” he said as we approached the stairs. “If you’re lucky, the heat may even be too much for me, and I’ll have to lose my shirt.”
“I’ll be severely disappointed if you don’t.”
We’d just made it down the stairs where a pile of boxes awaited us when the moving truck pulled up outside.
“I’m not actually looking forward to this,” I admitted with a sigh directed at said boxes.
“I’ll give you a massage tonight when we get back,” Danny promised me.
I smiled up at him. “You’re staying tonight, too?” Though he frequently spent the night on weekends, he’d specially stayed over last night to help with the move.
“Sure. But I’ve gotta leave early as hell. My grandma needs a ride to her doctor’s appointment.”
“Aren’t you just the sweetest?” I said, only half-kidding. “What are you going to do next – save kittens from trees?”
“I keep telling you, babe,” he said with a grin as the front door opened and Tommy and Loralee came inside, “I’m perfect.”
Loralee waddled over to the two of us. “Hey guys. Where is everyone?”
“Coming!” Mom called from upstairs. Her feet hit the stairs. “Sorry, I’m here.” She looked around. “But where’d Brianna go?”
“She was down here a minute ago,” Danny supplied. “Camille made breakfast before Shirley left for work.” He shot me a look. “Which some people slept through.”
“Everybody keep your pants on, jeeze.” Brianna and Camille walked around from the kitchen. “What are you hollering for me for? We’re not even ready to go yet.”
“That’s because you need to help load the truck, missy. Everybody, grab a box.” Anna gave Loralee a look. “Except you. Why don’t you go sit down?”
“Hey, I can be useful,” the pregnant woman protested. The words were coming out of her mouth even as she made her way to a chair.
Camille laughed. “Honey, why don’t you supervise? I’ll make you some French Toast. I’ve still got everything out.” She didn’t wait for a word from her daughter; she just turned and went back to the kitchen.
“Well, we better get to it,” I said on a huff.
Loralee observed, ate what was probably her second breakfast of the day, and bossed everyone (except Mom) around while we loaded up the moving van. Pretty soon, all the boxes had made their way out of the house, and we were ready to go.
“I wish I could go and help,” Camille said apologetically after we’d finished, “but it’s almost noon already, and I’m on a deadline.”
“You’ve done more than enough,” Mom told her earnestly. “You didn’t have to let us stay here so long – or at all.”
Camille shook her head with a smile. “We’ve loved having you all here.” She turned her smile on me. “I’m glad at least one of you is staying.”
“Hey, where else would I go? You’ve taught me more about game design than any of my professors have.” With her help, I was even in the process of developing my first computer game.
Loralee pushed to her feet. “Well, pregnant lady’s gotta pee for the one billionth time today. Then we’ll leave.”
As she waddled away, I turned to Danny. “Have I mentioned how very glad I am that I don’t have a uterus?”
“Not often enough.” He gave a shake of his head.
“Hey, Anna, what’s the address, by the way?” Tommy asked.
“Oh, did I forget to tell you? It’s 4008 Fern Drive.”
At once, his eyes widened in surprise. “4008? Really?”
She nodded, bemused. “Why?”
“I used to live there.”
“What’s going on?” Loralee asked as she returned.
“Anna’s moving into the house I used to live in.”
My half-sister smiled. “Really?” She gave a short laugh. “What a funny coincidence.”
Tommy shook his head. “I can’t believe you couldn’t find a better place than that dump.”
“I didn’t think it was a dump,” Brianna said.
“The last owners must’ve fixed it up since you lived there,” Mom assured him confidently. Doubt lingered on his face.
Loralee headed for the door. “Alright, enough talking! Let’s go before I have to pee again.”
She and Tommy got back into the van while the rest of us climbed into Mom’s new-to-her car. A short while later, we pulled up outside of the modest house.
Tommy got out of the van and gave the house an appraising eye. “Well, they at least gave the outside some attention.”
“It’s weird to be back, isn’t it?” Loralee asked in a quiet voice.
He nodded. “Feels like another lifetime.”
Mom went over to the door and smiled back at us. “Want to see the inside? It’s so nice.” She unlocked it and flipped on the lights.
We all went inside. This wasn’t the first time I’d been there; Mom and Brianna had dragged me along for all of their house tours. They’d claimed it was to get a guy’s opinion, but I called bullshit on that.
Tommy stepped into the kitchen. He let out a low whistle. “They did fix it up. It used to be a craphole before.” He gestured to the floor under his feet. “There used to just be plywood here.”
“It’s very nice indeed. Hope someone left some toilet paper!” Loralee said, making a beeline for the bathroom with surprising speed.
Mom smiled softly as she looked around the little house. “Well, I love it.” I knew why she liked it so much. It was solid proof that she was doing just fine standing on her own two feet without my father – who had, by the way, lost his job and, last I’d heard, was living in a tinier hovel than this.
I smiled and walked over to her to give her a one-armed hug. “It’s great, Mom. And it’ll be even better once we get everything unpacked.”
“And on that note,” she said, “let’s get started.”