Olivia Gardner walked up the long driveway that led to the stately two-story colonial she called home. It was dark now. The only light came from the den where she could see through the window her mother and father reading the newspaper. As she approached the front door, she sighed. How could she face them?
“I’m home,” she said, walking through the front door.
“Honey come in here a minute,” Annette said. Olivia obeyed. “Where have you been all day? It’s almost eight o’clock.”
“I was at the beach with Jack and everybody, ” Olivia said, pacing.
“Not all afternoon, though,” Redmond said, his glasses peeping above the pages of the sports section.
Olivia squirmed. “Well no, I mean I went to a friend’s house for a little while afterward. Sorry I forgot to call.”
“Do you want any dinner?” Annette asked, rising to go to the kitchen. “I made a plate for you,” she said, brushing Olivia’s arm. Her eyes narrowed.
“I’m fine, really. I’m not that hungry. We ate on the boardwalk,” Olivia said, attempting to escape, even though she could have really used a nice plate of roast beef.
Annette made a slight sniff of the air. She looked her daughter straight in the eyes. “Where else did you go this afternoon?”
Olivia’s heart began to race. “Just the beach and over to a friend’s house, that’s all.”
“Which friend?” Redmond asked from his armchair.
“Does it matter? I’m home now, so I’ll just go upstairs and start my homework, then I’ll just go to bed, I promise,” Olivia said.
Annette took hold of her daughter’s arm. “Why don’t you stay down here a while and talk with me and your father?”
Louise Falcone sat in her bedroom flipping through an old family scrapbook. All the talk about visiting Aunt Magnolia had made her nostalgic.
She came across an old photograph of her and Annette at Aunt Magnolia’s when they were teenagers. Louise had always been jealous of Annette’s wavy, auburn hair and her emerald eyes. At the moment, she could barely remember her natural hair color. She had dyed it so many times since she was sixteen. A dirty blonde, that’s what she remembered.
In the photo, the two of them were sitting on the steps of the veranda at the old house, hands between their knees, laughing at something she couldn’t remember. It was one occasion where they hadn’t been fighting, much to the delight of their parents.
As she felt the edges of the photo, she noticed something she hadn’t seen before, or perhaps never paid any attention to. In the window that looked out onto the veranda and front garden was a sort of tall, cloudy shape. That’s the trouble with photographs, she thought, they always get ruined so easily.
She heard the doorknob to her room jingle, startling her from her memory.
“How’s your day been, Lou?” Michael asked. She always loved when he came home.
“Not all that bad,” Louise said, “Except I got a call from my sister today.”
Michael looked back at her blankly, unsure of the problem. “And…is that a bad thing? I thought you two have been on good terms for a while now.”
“No, no it’s not that,” Louise said, “But she wants us all to go with her to visit my Aunt Magnolia. You remember her, don’t you? She was the older lady at our wedding who sat in the corner of the room in that huge dress talking to everyone who came out of the bathroom.”
Michael laughed. “Oh, you mean the one who thinks she’s Scarlett O’Hara? I remember how she kept fanning herself all through the ceremony. It was in May, for God’s sake!”
“Yes, that one,” Louise said, just as amused. She did have a soft spot for Aunt Magnolia, no matter how ridiculous she could be. “So? Shall we go?”