Guitar case in hand, Daniel Lawson stood straight, head lowered and eyes to the ground as his father circled him at a pace that seemed to drag like the time. It had been years since he felt the heat of his father’s eyes searing a hole into him.

The silence bothered him most, left him wishing the harsh words and judgement would flow with all the venom and anger he was certain the surly old man had harbored just for the moment he’d reemerge. He wanted it to be out and over with.

Tufts of his curly blonde hair fell in his face, but he dared not raise his hand to push them aside.

“Six years and still-“

His father’s words were cut short by the touch of a frail hand to his chest, a gentle smile thrown his way in hopes of cutting into the tension that was building.

“He’s home, Richard, and that’s all that matters right now.” Gloria turned to face her son, asked him sweetly to hold his head up high. Much shorter than he, she smiled and stepped closer. Raising her hand to his cheek, she looked up into his sparkling blues and spoke the words she knew he needed to hear most. “I’ve missed you so much, and I’m so very happy that you’re home.”

“Thanks Mom.”

A small sigh escaped her lips as she caressed his cheek, concern placing itself front and center in her mind. “And where have you been, my dear?”

“Here and there, anywhere a starving musician could play and get a meal.”

Gloria’s hand moved upward, brushing his curls from his face. Daniel looked rough, much older than his years, and not a sign of peace or happiness to be found in his eyes. She could tell that he hadn’t slept much, or not very well; the bags under his eyes giving away a lie he would have surely fed her. He was thinning, the large and baggy clothing he wore engulfing him as his frame towered over hers. “Promise me you won’t leave again, not on bad terms.”

“Can’t make that promise Mom.” He gave a weak smile, stepping back and away from the comfort of her touch. Behind his mother, his father stood with an angry glare and unwavering disappointment flickering in his cold eyes. “Don’t want to overstay my welcome, if there is one. Definitely don’t want to keep being a disappointment.”

“You are my baby, and you’re always welcome.” She turned and looked at Richard, daring her husband to utter a word of difference in her presence. “Now, what we’re going to do is get you all taken care of. Lucky for you, I just stocked up on all of your old favorites. Something in my heart just told me you’d be coming home soon. I’ve got toiletries, some clothing, new bedding. Don’t worry, mama will give you a nice haircut, got some stuff you can shave your face with. Ooo,
” he jumped a bit at the high and giddy lilt that came with her words. “I get to cook again today and I’ll actually enjoy it!”

“Mom, please don’t make a fuss over me.”

“What fuss?! I cook big meals every day. Since your brother moved back in I’ve had to cook three full course meals a day just to keep up with his appetite. It’ll be a pleasure to watch someone else not eat like a pig and actually savor my good cooking.”

Daniel couldn’t help the smile that danced across his lips, slowly following his mother as she headed down the hall that led to his old bedroom. So often he would turn around, notice that his father was still staring, seething, waiting for a moment to lay into the son he disapproved of.

3 thoughts on “He Has Returned (from If You Stay) by Cortney Joseph

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