Word Count: 2,456
She closed up the last box. She didn't have much more to go home with her for the summer than what she'd started the school year with. Some more clothes, her text books and what not, but it wasn't much so her dad didn't have to make more than one trip.
She was glad that she'd made the decision to live here this year. She had to. Her parents, mostly her father, hadn't understood her need, but it was the safest way for her to find out if she could function on her own without having something binding like a lease holding her in a situation she didn't want to be in if she'd discovered she couldn't do it.
She had been able to do it, though. She liked to think it meant she was better. There were days she believed she was. More days than not anymore. She wasn't sure if the shelter she volunteered at a couple of days a week helped or hurt her efforts at healing. It helped, though, to know there were people who'd lived something similar. That was something a psychiatrist just didn't offer her no matter how good the doctor was.
Her psychiatrist probably loved her by now, because she referred anyone who voiced an interest in therapy her way. Claire knew firsthand the difference a good therapist could make. She'd tried on over six before finding this one. Some weren't terrible but they just didn't get her situation and then Claire had found it difficult to communicate.
And she found she was grateful for one thing. It wasn't her father or anyone she knew who'd done things to her. She met women - and girls - every week who couldn't say the same and Claire couldn't imagine experiencing that type of betrayal.
"This it?" her dad asked.
"All right. Need to say good bye to anyone?"
"No, pretty much did that last night and at breakfast. To anyone who was left anyway."
"You'd think you lived a million miles away the way you waited until the last minute."
She shrugged. She wasn't ready to give up the freedom she had any sooner than necessary. While she doubted her parents were going to keep her under lock and key she knew that she'd have to account for her whereabouts while home for the summer. And probably deal with a curfew.
"I wanted to say goodbye to everyone I could. Some of them graduated so I won't see them again."
"Some live around here, though, right?"
"Yes, so I don't think I'll be bored this summer if that's what you're asking."
He chuckled. "I'm not sure that thought crossed my mind."
"So, is Lyle disappointed I'm coming back?"
"Why would you think that?"
"I'm pretty sure he was hoping I wouldn't so he could get the bigger room."
"He'll get his turn."
"And then be off to college before he has a chance to enjoy it."
"The plight of being the younger child."
"I wouldn't know."
And just like that she was home again, though she'd never gotten to the point of considering this house her home. She didn't really consider any house her home. The one in Texas maybe, but they moved almost as soon as she came back so she hadn't really had time to remember.
"So, your mother and I talked last night," he said once he'd pulled onto the driveway.
"Well, rules, you know, every household has them."
"Yes, I remember."
"So, just a few."
"I expected as much."
"Only females can stay overnight."
"Mmm," she said with a glance in his direction, curious to know how hard that was for him to say.
"No alcohol or drugs."
"I don't want lies between us."
"I've never lied to you!"
"I'm not saying you have, but I don't want you to think you have to start now."
"What are you talking about?"
He slid his glasses off and looked at her. She met his eyes, wondering what he was thinking. She really didn't know sometimes. This was definitely one of them.
"If you're spending the night somewhere I'd prefer to know where."
"Your mother and I realize that you've had some freedom, the ability to come and go as you please, stay the night where you please."
"Oh my God," she murmured.
"And while I can't pretend I liked the idea at first and I'm still not sure how I feel about it, I understand whatever your relationship is it's real."
"You think so?"
"If I was as bad of a man as some people think I would lie right now and say no, but I won't do that to you. You don't think so?"
"I guess I don't know what to think sometimes. I think I make it difficult on him."
She shrugged. "Some days aren't so good, you know?"
"And you talk to him?"
"Yeah," she whispered. "I know I shouldn't. And sometimes I don't say anything, but he knows something's bothering me."
"Well, I imagine that's bound to happen for some time, Claire. Possibly forever. You've never told me, but I can connect some dots and make conclusions."
"I guess I just worry he'll get tired of it. Of me not being completely healed."
"I think he's capable of telling you if that's the case."
"I'm not sure. Sometimes I wonder if he doesn't think because he's the one who found me he has some responsibility to me."
His father laughed a little. "Claire, I don't know him the way you do, but I can assure you if he didn't want to spend time with you he wouldn't. I always have work for him to do. He doesn't have to keep things here. He doesn't do that for me, I can contact him by cell phone easily enough."
"I just wonder sometimes."
"Claire, if you love him, if he makes you feel safe then you have to go with that."
"He does. I do."
"I should say something about you being too young, but I'm not going to lecture you. Just be careful and no lies."
"I won't. It's not as if I stay there every night, so it's not a huge issue to begin with. Anything else?"
"I'm going to ask you to continue fighting the urge to do anything with your newfound ability."
"I don't know why."
"For one, I'm trying to keep you off the radar. For two, we don't know if there are side effects."
"Rene was fine afterward, Dad. He didn't grow a second head or stop being a man."
"And those were just minor scrapes, nothing major. We don't know."
"How are we ever going to find out if I do nothing?"
"I'm working on it. I promise. There is someone who might be able to help us. You. Someone I used to work with, but he's fallen off the grid. I'm going to try and track him down, but until I find him please just for me continue to hold off doing anything to make people think you're the Second Coming or something."
She laughed. "All right," she said, though she still didn't like it.
When she and Rene had told him what she'd discovered she could do (and that was a totally weird conversation to have with her father because there was only one way she could discover the ability). He'd told her under no circumstances was she to do anything crazy. She'd protested, in part, wanting to see if there were limitations to what she could do. He'd asked for time and she believed that it wasn't just a stalling tactic, that he really would work on something for her. So, she agreed.
The more time passed, though, the more she didn't like agreeing.
She had this ability. She could heal people. Shouldn't she use that ability to help others? It had made her decide she wanted to go into medicine, though, so she supposed if nothing else it made her finally decide on what she wanted to do with the rest of her life.
She wanted to find a way to cure people. Not by using her ability to do it, but through whatever medical means available. Maybe her DNA held some sort of key that she could use to unlock all sorts of remedies and cures for things.
"We'd better get inside or your mother is going to wonder what we're talking about out here."
"And give Rene the benefit of the doubt. He wouldn't be here if he didn't want to be."
"He works for you."
"Yes, and all the more reason he wouldn't string you along or mislead you."
"Anytime. I know I haven't been the greatest on this subject, you two dating."
"You haven't really said anything on the subject."
"Well, that's the same for us as my not being the greatest. But if you need to talk I'm always here. So is your mother."
"I know that, Dad."
"All right then. Let's get you moved back in for the summer. If you want to leave the stuff you won't need in boxes, we can store them in the garage for a couple of months."
She hadn't told her dad yet because she wasn't one hundred percent on her decision, but Claire was pretty sure she was going to stay at home for the rest of her schooling. She'd proven to herself she could do it, get away from her family and not crash and burn. Oh, sure, she'd had a couple of episodes that some might consider bizarre behavior, but the great thing about hanging out with frat guys and her sisters was that such actions could be dismissed as being drunk. Or tired. And she hadn't done anything humiliating.
The only thing holding her back from making the decision was that freedom her dad had just been talking about. She wasn't sure if her dad was really going to be okay with her spending the night at Rene's when it got down to it. So, she'd have to see. If she decided to find something in the fall it'd be her own apartment rather than back at the sorority house. She liked living there, but learned during the year that living with that many people could be a bit too much.
She took the afternoon to unpack her stuff, set her room up the way she wanted it. It was weird looking at the stuff she hadn't taken with her for the school year. Some of it she hadn't missed, a few things she had. She'd spent more than one night here during the year, laundry took too long to get done or just not in the mood to contend with a party that was going on. But some of the things were foreign to her, items from her old room in Texas that she never really got to know again. Her parents had bought some new things, but held on to some things they thought she'd want. Knick knacks and stuffed animals, posters of things she'd liked years ago.
The first thing she'd done today was take them all down. She was trying to talk her dad in letting her put a loft up in her room so she could have more space, but so far he wasn't agreeable to making that change. She supposed she couldn't blame him, but she liked the setup a few people had in their rooms using them. And if she ended up staying here, it'd give her room for a couch or something to study on instead of just her bed all of the time.
"Welcome back," Lyle said about the time she was ready to call it quits for the day. He looked as though he may have just woken up.
"Thanks. Sorry about the room."
He shrugged. "It's all right, I'm used to it by now."
"I suppose," she said, realizing he'd always had the smaller room. Even the years she'd been gone her parents hadn't given up hope of finding her again and had kept her room ready for her. The bigger of the two extra bedrooms in their old house.
"Anyway, I'll let you get back to whatever."
"No, it's okay," she said, setting the sweater she'd been refolding on her bed so she could look at him. "I'm sorry, I just have stuff on my mind."
"Yeah, I know," he said. They hadn't spent a whole lot of time together during the school year. The weekend stay with her had never happened. He got busy with stuff and got a girlfriend. She'd been disappointed at first and then realized that maybe he was sort of preparing himself for her being gone again. Gone and then home and then gone again.
She'd never stopped to think about what it must have been like for him when she was gone. What kids must have said to him, about him, or within earshot of him about her. It had to have been hard. And then to have her come back and his life got turned upside down with the move and changing schools.
He'd tried a couple of times to get her to hang out with him and his friends, play videogames or whatever, but she'd always said no. She'd assumed he was just being nice, hadn't really wanted his big sister around. Now, though, she wondered if maybe he had wanted her around after all.
"Why don't we go get a pizza or something?"
"Beth and I have plans."
"She can come, too. I'd like to meet her."
"I don't know she wanted to go to a movie."
"Oh come on, I'm not going to bite or subject her to an inquisition. I just want to have pizza with my brother who I haven't really seen in a while and there is more than one time for a movie."
"Yeah, okay, let me call her."
"Great," she said. "I'll go see if Dad will give me some money."
That was the next thing she was going to have to work on. Getting a job for the summer. She'd never had a job before, the work she did at the shelter was on a voluntary basis. She had no idea what she could do really. The mall was a good place to start, but she didn't have to do that until tomorrow. Or even the next day. It wasn't like her dad was making her pay rent or anything, but she still wanted to be able to buy her own stuff and start saving in the event she did decide to go with an apartment in the fall.
Info. on icons used for background:
The non-illustrated icon is courtesy of lay-of-luthien @ LJ. She's got some nice work, and did this and 4 others very quickly! The illustrated icon is courtesy of: julietbunny who gave me this in addition to some other great goodies for the Heroes_Holidays Spring Hiatus project.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com