Hezekiah clears his throat. “Before you two get too deep….”

“All right, Hezekiah.”  Jillian laughs. “You know I haven’t seen my big sister in three years. She acted like the Midwest didn’t have planes to transport her back East.”  She raises a hand to my coming objection. “I don’t want to hear it. I don’t even know my nieces anymore. Where are they anyway?”

“No telling. Hope, the Welcome Wagon, is usually the first one at the door when company comes. But she and Joy may be in our room. They got tired of dodging movers so Hez set up the DVD player in there. Faith was working on her room last I saw her, but that was a long time ago.”

“Well, give me a tour and we’ll find them on the way.”

We chatter our way into the living room and I listen to Jillian gush over the house I’d sell in a heartbeat.

“Treva, these wall-to-wall windows. Look at the sun you get in here. And what is that area over there?”  Jillian’s face is pushed against the window panes of the French doors that open to the rear of the house.

“A loggia.”

“A what?”

“A covered porch, furnished like an indoor living space. At least it will be one day.”

“HGTV?”

“Magazine, girl.”

“Hey, Jillian, thanks for coming,” Hezekiah calls out, leaning against a column just outside the living room, smiling as if there’s reason.

Jillian turns, curiosity in her brow. “Why?”

“Because your sister was acting mean before you showed up, mad all over again about moving out here. Now look at her, all smiles. I won’t take it personally, though.”

Hezekiah’s tone is light, an attempt at peace, but he must not know where I’ve been. In a corner. The corner he put me in while, for hours, he unpacked and organized around the house and outside the house, anywhere I was absent, to give me space. Well, I’m not a child, obligated to come out of a time-out with a better attitude than the one I went in with. Mine is worse, and as far as I’m concerned, he just rang the bell. I’m coming out swinging.
 
Backing a few steps to his full view—lips scrunched, hand on a jutted hip—I wait for two movers harnessed with weight belts to pass. They’re laughing while carrying an antique armoire at a precarious tilt. I glare at them until they park it against the dining room wall unscathed, and turn that glare on Hezekiah.

“Excuse me?  Won’t take what personally?” I say, my voice rising. “That life, as I knew it, is over?  That you get to keep climbing your career ladder but mine is kicked to the ground?  Oh, but for good measure I get to wile away my time, not in a community with art galleries, antique shops, ethnic restaurants, and upscale shopping within walking distance.”  I fling my arms wide. “No, the best shopping these parts have ever seen is Beltway Plaza and Landover Mall, that great hustler hangout that somebody had the mercy to shut down. Why should you take any of this personally?”

My thoughts sound worse now that I’ve given voice to them. Regret is squeezing my lungs, begging me to stop. I’m feeling like a spoiled brat as I breathe in the scent of beautiful calla lilies sent this morning by the interior designer with a “Welcome” card, now perched in a crystal vase on a pedestal in the foyer—the foyer that is roomier than my college dorm room. Jillian’s mouth is hanging open as she wonders, I’m sure, what happened since last we spoke and she applauded my attitude adjustment over the move. She’s praying for me right now, I just know it.

And Hezekiah, who had a fabulous offer from the University of Maryland and wouldn’t accept the position until he knew I had one, which I did (until I didn’t) and who likely would have moved to Montgomery County if I’d had a job but never said so to spare my feelings, is staring at me with a look I can’t quite figure out. He is not smiling. I feel bad, but stubbornness has taken hold. I know I shouldn’t?