Home > Home Tears

Home Tears
Author: Tijan

Acknowledgements

To Erica Adams, and so many others!

I wrote Home Torn (the original version) sooo many years ago. I dreamed to have Home Torn as one of my first novels published. One agent even showed interest in it, and that meant the world to me. This book is so dear to my heart. I truly hope it’ll be close to yours as well, and remains so for those who continued to support this book and myself over the years.

 

You guys truly inspire me.

 

Bells that were hung over the bank’s door jingled as Dani O’Hara stepped inside, and five seconds later she heard the first intake of breath.

“Oh, my God.”

Well, shit. That hadn’t taken long.

Ten years. That was how long it’d been since she was home. Craigstown’s population was only a little over two thousand, so maybe Dani had been a little delusional? She thought she could come in, deposit her checks, get some cash, and slip away unseen. It might’ve felt surreal to another person, but it wasn’t to her. In fact, it was the opposite. It was too real. Dani didn’t want to feel or deal with any of the storm going on inside of her, so she shoved everything down except for wariness.

She could feel wary. That was a safe emotion to handle, or the safest out of the others. And with that last thought, she needed to face whoever whispered that first greeting. They were about to be her first reunion.

Kelley Lynn.

Dani recognized her right away, and of course, it had to be her. If it wasn’t the person who was the reason why Dani left in the first place, it made complete sense it’d be that person’s sidekick. No irony there at all. None whatsoever. Nada. Dani wasn’t funny, but even this situation was making her insides shake slightly with laughter.

“Kelley,” she greeted, folding her hands in front of her. “How are you? What are you up to now?”

Simple questions. They were the polite response, but Kelley was floored. Her mouth was still hanging open. Then again, Dani had been prepared for this type of reaction. It was everyone else who wasn’t. Dani studied Kelley. She seemed to be struggling with a response.

Kelley was the popular girl in the grade below her. She was friends with Dani’s youngest sister—the actual reason, or kind of reason, the more-or-less reason, fuck-it-it-was-complicated reason why Dani left ten years ago and never returned. Correction—they were best friends. She remembered Kelley being blonde, beautiful, and the typical bitch ‘mean girls’ were portrayed as. Looking at her now, she looked like a grown-up version of the same person. Her clothes upgraded from the too-tight tank tops to the just-right cleavage underneath a cashmere sweater.

“Is it you?” Kelley blinked. “Dani?”

“It is. It’s me.”

“It’s you!” Squealing, Kelley wrapped her arms around Dani. “We all thought you were dead. I mean—you didn’t come to Erica’s…” Kelley glanced down before lifting her head again. “We didn’t know what to think when you didn’t come to—” she jerked up a shoulder, “you know.”

Five seconds before someone gasped at the sight of her, and now the invisible elephant had just been alluded to. Her sister. That took a whole minute. Then again, Dani realized she was the second elephant in the room. It made sense the rumors were that she was dead. Ten years and not a word from her, but for the first elephant…Dani wasn’t ready to talk about it, not yet. She would, but not with her sister’s best friend. She was glad Kelley hadn’t had the balls to actually say the words of what ‘it’ was.

She spoke before Kelley changed her mind. “I was on location for my job. Julia and Aunt Kathryn didn’t get in touch with me.” Though, if her oldest sister and aunt could’ve, she didn’t know if they actually would’ve.

“You’re home? For good?” Kelley Lynn was still holding her hands, as if she feared Dani would run away.

“For a bit, yeah.”

“Me and Dave are having a grill tonight. You should come.” Her eyes lit up, and she squeezed Dani’s hands tighter. “Yeah. You should come. Julia’s bringing Jake. It’ll be the old gang, all back together again.”

Julia and Jake? Dani felt a pang in her chest. It had been Erica and Jake.

“The old gang?” Dani frowned. There’d been no ‘old gang,’ at least not one where she was included.

“Oh.” Kelley’s smile lessened. “We all kind of regrouped, you know, after Erica’s thing.” Dani could almost hear an elephant trumpet in the background. Kelley was saying, “Julia, me, Katrina Lloyds, Heather Carlile, and some of the others all formed a clique. Kind of like in high school, but all we really do is get together for dinners and have a few beers around the campfire. Sometimes the girls will go shopping. It’d be great if you came.”

Yeah. Dani’s smile grew painful. “I’ll think about it. First night and all, you know…” They both knew she wouldn’t go.

“Oh.” Kelley’s smile was almost gone by now. “Well, you’re welcome, you know that. I want you to know that. Gosh. Have you been home yet? Have you seen Julia and Kathy?”

“Not yet. I wanted to take care of some business first.”

“They’re going to be so excited. I just know it. Julia’s going to die happy tonight. I’m sure they’ve been missing you so much.”

“Well, they thought I was dead. So,” Dani’s eyes slid away. “There’s that.”

“Okay.” She cleared her throat, gesturing to the door. “You know, I should get going. Dave needs all the steaks and brats before long. We have to start up the grill before the guests start arriving, and we need time to prepare everything.” A few steps away, she stopped and turned back. “It really is great to see you, Dani. Really.”

Dani held up a hand in response as Kelley left, but she wasn’t smiling anymore. There was no reason.

Maybe Kelley actually was happy to see her, but it wouldn’t last. She had been on Erica’s side back then and Dani had a hard time imagining things would be different now. If Julia was in her group, Dani knew things definitely wouldn’t be different. A line would be drawn, and sides would be chosen. Kelley wouldn’t choose hers, so the jaded side of Dani knew what was genuine wouldn’t last. It was just a matter of time.

And with that thought, Dani moved forward to the counter.

She was officially back home.

 

 

After opening a new account (her last was closed because of the whole ‘dead’ thing), Dani headed to see the one person she thought would be happy to see her, and would never change that status.

Her other aunt.

And she heard as she headed inside Mae’s Grill, “Well, hell, the barn cat dragged something in here worthwhile, for once.”

Mae slapped her bar towel over her shoulder and hurried around the bar counter. Dani had two seconds before she was hauled in for a bear hug. Fifty-three and Aunt Mae was still the feisty strong woman she always had been. When she was let go, Dani moved back so she could really see her. Steel-toe boots. Silver hair pulled into a haphazard ponytail. Checkered button-up shirt with a lacy tank top underneath and a tease of cleavage peeking out. And faded jeans.

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