I took the stairs as slowly as I could buying myself more time before my first “family” dinner. I could hear them laughing in the kitchen. Rose had a high pitched peel of a laugh and Jared’s deep bellow could shake the floorboards. His laugh was so much different from the one I remembered. It resonated through him and wasn’t a pity laugh that he forced out. I took a step into the room, but wished I hadn’t. Jared’s arm wrapped around Rosie’s waist and he held her against his chest. He rubbed his beard stubble across her cheek and her eyes gleamed as she stared up at him. I felt the bee sting hit me just as Jared glanced my way. He smiled at me, but I backed out of the room.
That should have been Mom. He should have had his arms wrapped around mom, and her the one letting out tinkling laughter. I sprinted for the front door, threw it open, and ran around to the side of the house. A small bench sat hidden behind a bush. I lowered myself onto the bench. The front door was invisible from here. I couldn’t see anything but the limbs forking off of the bush.
Family dinners were nonexistent with mom and I. We never sat down at the table for a meal. When we first moved to Arizona we couldn’t afford a table, so we ate on the couch that we pulled out of a dumpster. The only thing she actually sprung for was the small flat screen TV. Once we had a table for our minuscule kitchen we never ate in there. Mom lived for the TV Dinners. As I got older we didn’t eat together at all. I’d cook the meal and leave it warm for her. She’d slink out of her room around 10 pm, grab her plate, and take it back to her bedroom. She was more interested in her Netflix than sitting down with me.