Tugging on two carry-ons, I wondered through the Miami airport with a group that knew me better than I knew myself.
I had seen it all before. I was home. It felt like brand new, though. I was seeing everything through new eyes. I was a complete stranger.
I saw mum before she saw me - she was really the only family I had that came to greet us.
Liam; hot and full of personality. Dark brunette hair, defined face, handsome with foreign color.
Bella; on break from life, her mind in another place. A body to die for, curves tightly hugged by every article of clothing.
Harry; face and heart resembling an angel. Bella got a good one. Tall, lean, and great-looking for 19.
Mum; somehow prettier with age, visible laugh lines from where we were standing. A smile that could light up a starless night. For just an instant, her smile was mine.
Then, she caught sight of something not quite right; something not quite familiar. She hesitated, unsure I was truly me. Her smile dissolved, ghostlike. But then she waved, and the three around me beemed with energy.
Mum always says "I love you" with food. She had breakfast at the house, like she had planned our arrival for weeks.
"Little ones are out at school," she said. "They've got new boyfriends they're dying for you to meet."
Mum wanted to hear all about Liam and England. While everyone was settling in at other parts of the house, I confided into small talk. I told her what I knew, hoping I didn't talk too much- or too fast.
"He's really cute."
I nodded in agreement. We sat in awkward silence, but then she finally spoke up.
"What ever happened to Noah? He did seem like a nice boy."
"Seeming and being are two different things."
"But he was so nice and polite."
I tried to bite my tongue. Didn't work. "He wasn't so nice, mum."
"What do you mean?"
"He was..." I paused, "all over me."
She looked at me without sympathy. "Why didn't you tell me before?"
I took dead aim. "I didn't think you would care. Apparently, I was right."
She stumbled, coughed, couldn't say a single thing because she knew I was right.
I pushed even harder. "You always told me not to judge a book by its cover. Practice what you preach." Paused. "I mean, look at you and me. On the surface, we seem so normal! Take a peek inside our family album. What's in there?"
Was that mean? I guess, but it felt so great, it made me grin. Sort of sick, or what?
Giddy from my absolute bluster (not to mention lack of food and alcohol), I turned on my heel humming a song; out the door.
I pulled out my phone, and granted my luck, a call from my younger sister came through almost immediately.
"Yeah, Brooklyn, have you made it home? I need you to come help Blakely."