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The Long Way Home: Chapter Three
Bea walked in and collapsed on the sofa in the living room with a sigh. The interview went great; although she could’ve spoken a bit more about the changes she wanted to bring about and explain them in a bit more depth... She mentally scolded herself. What was she talking about? She did the best she could. There was no need for dwelling so much – she most probably had it in the bag. Bea frowned as a sudden discomfort pressed into the small of her back. Standing up, she lifted one of the sofa cushions and picked up the little wooden train that had been hiding behind it. She chuckled to herself: boys and their toys.
“So? How did it go?”
Bea turned to see her Grandma standing in the kitchen doorway, cradling Ivan. She again mentally scolded herself, this time for being so rude as to not check to see if anyone else was home; after all, there was hardly ever a time that the house was empty. She smiled and walked over to give her Grandma a hug and a light peck on the cheek.
“Grandma, it went great,” she smiled, gently gripping her Grandma’s shoulders. “I was straight to the point, and I answered every question.” Her brow furrowed. “But...”
Bea sighed. “I dunno. I wish I’d explained more about antics in advertising and publicity, and maybe if I had mentioned at the end of my speech anything about the main priority in the business being the satisfaction of the client-”
“Darling, darling,” her Grandma interrupted. “You mustn’t think like that – you’ll drive yourself crazy and then you’ll definitely have no chance of taking over that business.” She put a hand on Bea’s shoulder as reassurance. “How about you and I make some home baked scones and cheese straws; take your mind off the interview.”
Bea smiled. “That sounds good to me,” she said. “As long as you tell me the secret ingredient for your cheese straws.”
Her Grandma laughed. “Nice try, girlie,” she chuckled. “Now, go get some flour from the market, that’s a good girl, then we can start baking, okay?”
Bea smiled. “Okay, Grandma.” She kissed her Grandma goodbye and started to exit through the door.
“Oh Bea!” her Grandma called her back.
“Could you please take Ivan with you? It’s about time he was taken for his morning walk anyway.”
Bea rolled her eyes. She hated kids.
“Come on, Baby, stop crying, please? For your big sister?”
Ivan continued to cry. She didn’t know what to do – she wasn’t good with kids. What’s wrong with him? The thought frantically raced through her head, over and over again. Why won’t he stop crying? She could feel eyes upon her, and she could feel the panic rising in her throat. Why won’t he stop crying?
“Ivan, please.” She smiled shakily at the woman watching disapprovingly from the till. “What’s wrong with you? Are you hungry? Are you cold? What?”
“Unless he’s the next Einstein, I doubt he’s gonna tell you,” a familiar voice answered. Bea turned to see Darren smiling at her. “Hey, Bea,” he said softly.
She tried to prevent the smile that sprung upon her features, but to no prevail. She had known that they would see one another around – it was inevitable since it was such a small town – but she wasn’t prepared for it at all.
“Hey,” she returned, smiling shakily now. They just stared for what may have only been a brief moment, but felt more like a lifetime. Darren was the one to break eye contact first, tending to the still crying baby.
“Aww, you poor little man,” he cooed, picking Ivan up and rubbing his back in small circles. “Do you just want a cuddle?” Ivan’s cries reduced to slight whimpers before stopping altogether. Bea blushed; she hadn’t thought to pick him up. She watched Darren hold the baby close to his chest, cooing in his ear, only coming out of her trance when she noticed that Darren was smiling at her. Again she blushed, down casting her eyes as she took Ivan from him.
Bea decided at that moment that things couldn’t be more awkward. Neither spoke in fear that the other might start talking at the exact same moment again, so she placed her baby brother back in his pram and fussed with his blanket while Darren shifted from foot to foot. It was like they were in a bubble of discomfort and laboriousness, yet neither one dared to be the first to leave, either too stubborn or too scared to upset the other.
“I can’t, Darren.”
She saw the hurt that flashed in his eyes before he even had a chance to compose the emotionless mask he was now hiding behind. She inwardly flinched as she thought of how harsh her words must have sounded to his ears, but despite that hurt look that made it to his features briefly; she knew she had to do this.
“I see,” he said simply.
“We’re just not right for one another. I’m sorry.”
“That’s okay.” The mask was crumbling. “That’s okay. I’ll err... I’ll see you around, Bea.”
He risked one last look at her and their eyes met. That quick look held everything they needed the other to know: understanding, love, and a bid goodbye. He smiled at her briefly as he broke the eye contact once more, and then turned and left. Bea let out a breath she didn’t even realise she had been holding. Sighing, she sat on a bench, pushing Ivan’s pram to and fro gently.
“You okay, Bea?”
She turned around to see the concern in Kris’ eyes and smiled.
“I am now,” she said.