EPISODE TWO: Orange Juice and Soap
“They’re here!” Emmy clapped her hands together and jumped off the couch. She had never been this excited before. Except maybe when she had seen Lyn for the first time. She had only been eighteen, and no one had told her what to expect. When she held Lyn’s frail little body, she couldn’t understand how something so precious could come from her. Or Jamison.
He met her in the living room. She slipped her hand in his and squeezed it. He smiled and reached for the doorknob.
It was Lyn and Tobias. Her daughter threw her arms wide open.
“Mom! It’s been so long!”
Emmy embraced her daughter and held back the obvious comment. They could’ve visited earlier. But it was Lyn’s hate for Lincoln that kept her away.
“Hey, Mom,” Tobias said, leaning in for his own hug. She kissed him on the cheek and gave him a good, tight squeeze. Emmy had always liked Tobias. He was a good man for her daughter. Lyn had done a fine job in choosing a husband.
“Well, why don’t we let you two in the house?”
Emmy stepped out of the way. Jamison stood in the doorway awkwardly, shaking Tobias’s hand. Emmy smiled. It would take a while, but Jamison would see that Lyn had made a good choice. Tobias was almost as good a man as he was.
“Do you two have a lot of luggage?”
“No, we’ve got three suitcases, but that’s not too much for me to handle.”
“No, no, let me go with you, Tobias. I’ve got to put these muscles to some use, don’t I?”
Emmy followed Lyn into the house.
“Are we the first ones here?” Lyn asked, slipping off her jacket and hanging it on the back of a chair.
“Yes,” Emmy responded, picking up her daughter’s jacket. Jamison had a thing about clothing lying around, even if it was just a jacket and they had visitors. She would find a hanger and put it in the closet.
“Well, we’re gonna have to tell the others to park in the lot.”
They walked into the living room. It had once been the dining room, but now that they had furniture, it was a nice space to have the couches and the TV. The switch had been her idea. Jamison didn’t care what she did with the house, so long as she kept it clean.
“I hope the two of you didn’t eat dinner,” she said, moving into the adjacent kitchen.
Lyn laughed. “No, Mom, we didn’t. Toby drove us on the highway, so that’s where we’ve been this whole ride.”
Emmy raised an eyebrow. “Tobias, on the highway?” She peeked in the oven, where twelve biscuits were browning. In a few minutes, she would put in the cinnamon rolls. Lincoln loved those.
“I don’t know how I did it,” Lyn continued. “He must be desperate for your cooking.”
“Well, in the last few years, your father and I have eaten at so many restaurants, I think I may have forgotten how to cook.”
With the kids out of the house, and less mouths to feed, they could afford to go out more. Emmy remembered their last dinner, at Chili’s. She absolutely adored the ribs, and Jamison had made fun of her for making a mess. She had made fun of the way he ate his corn, with butter dripping everywhere. It had been one of those rare good dates, filled with laughing instead of arguing.
“So, is everything ready for you two up in Georgia?”
“We’re moving to Tennessee,” Lyn corrected, moving from the dining room into the kitchen.
“My memory really is shot,” Emmy said, smiling. “I could’ve sworn you told me Georgia.”
“Can I help with those dishes?” Lyn didn’t wait for an answer but turned on the sink and started soaping the plates and cups. Emmy tried to hold back a tear. Lyn was the only child who ever took initiative. If all of her kids had been like Lyn, maybe none of this would have happened.
And you have no part in this? Emmy knew she was just as much to blame for her kids as Jamison. Blaming it on Rosemarie and Lincoln was immature. Almost as immature as she had been when she —
“I want to thank all of you for coming down,” Jamison said, taking his seat at the head of the table. He looked around at his family and smiled. They were really all here. The house hadn’t blown up yet, so it was a sign things were going well.
“I know some of you had to take a week off from your studies,” he continued, nodding at Lincoln, “but we thought it would be appropriate to celebrate your sister’s last week in Miami together, as a family.”
Lyn and Emmy were smiling. Toby was cleaning his fingers with a napkin. Rosemarie was eying the bread, and Lincoln was playing with his phone.
No worries. What matters is that we are all together. Jamison cleared his throat.
“Let’s pray, and then we can begin.”
“So I was trying to get him to come visit, but he’s got some family over himself, and they want him to hang out over there.”
Rosemarie and Lincoln sat together in the new living room, drinking from clear plastic cups, talking about her boyfriend. Dinner had been uneventful, and they were taking a break before starting the movie.
“Well, I’ve got to meet him before I ship out.”
She smiled. Her brother would approve of Soren. He was a wonderful guy and he treated her well. Most importantly, he loved God and he was going somewhere with his life.
Well, maybe Lincoln won’t like that part, she thought as she took a sip from her pineapple soda. Lincoln had never been too fond of her faith, but she didn’t push it too much, so it didn’t bother him.
“What have you been doing with yourself up there, Lincoln?”
He smiled. “You wouldn’t want to know.”
“So I’m guessing you haven’t been doing as much studying as you told Dad earlier?”
“You got me,” he laughed. “I won’t stay out there for too long. I can’t keep wasting Dad’s hard earned money, you know.”
“But that’s your special skill,” she teased. He elbowed her in response.
“Like you’re one to talk. You burned through your allotment in, what, three days?”
“I paid off a whole year of rent, buddy, so don’t go there.”
“That’s true.” Lincoln leaned back in his seat, looking at her. “You’re doing alright, sister. I just might be proud of you.”
Rosemarie ruffled his short brown hair. She knew he hated it from others. It made him feel like a little kid, he said, but when she did it, he didn’t mind. They’d been through a lot together. Since the affair, things had been different in their house, and Lincoln had suffered the most. Rosemarie had tried to be there for him, as much as she could, but she had still been growing up. How can you raise someone when you aren’t done being raised yourself?
Her parents sat together with Lyn and Toby, talking and laughing about something or other. The four of them should keep each other. Let her and Lincoln secede from the union. The others didn’t want them. Not really.
They had all gathered together in the living room. Lyn and Toby sat together on the love seat. It was a tight fit, but with the only other empty seat being next to Lincoln, they would have to make it work. Lyn knew her husband understood her issue with her brother, even if he didn’t share the sentiment. She just didn’t know how much more of his arrogance and ignorance she could possibly take. Didn’t he know anything about decency or self respect?
“Have you two heard from the Johnson’s?” Rosemarie asked, directing her question at their father.
He frowned. “They still live around here, but Mary was feeling sick a few days ago, and they took her up to Jackson Memorial for treatment.”
“That’s a mistake,” Toby said, laughing.
“Lots of people getting sick lately,” Lincoln said. “I had at least five of my dorm buddies knocked out by sickness. I mean, fever, flu, everything.”
“And you made it out clean?” Lyn scoffed. She was pretty sure he’d brought some of that virus home with him. This wouldn’t be the first time he’d brought sickness into their home. The last time it’d been in the form of a sixteen year old pregnant girl.
“Hey, I’ve been a good boy, Lyn, drinking my orange juice and washing my hands,” he replied, keeping his eyes down. “That combination is absolutely flawless.”
“That’s right,” she said, “soap and juice are the solution to everything. Looks like you’ve actually learned something useful up wherever you’ve been all of these years.”
“Lyn,” Toby whispered in her ear. She knew what he meant. Calm down, Lyn. This isn’t the place for this. Let it pass. Well, she was tired of this. She was tired of Lincoln. Tired of pretending that nothing had ever been wrong. Pretending that a little birthday party/get together could fix all their problems. It couldn’t, and she couldn’t stand it anymore.
“No, I’m not going to calm down,” she said, climbing to her feet. “I’m sick and tired of you, Lincoln.”
“That’s ridiculous, I haven’t even done anything.”
“Lyn, will you leave the boy alone?” Rosemarie had risen to his defense. Lyn crossed her arms. It was just like her younger sister to do something like that.
“I will not leave him alone. He goes out to that college of his, wasting Dad’s money on girls and parties, then he wants to talk about drinking orange juice and washing his hands. I can’t stand it.”
“Lyn, you’re not making any sense,” Toby said, his voice low. “He didn’t do anything to provoke this.”
“Oh, so now you’re coming to his defense?” Lyn felt her voice rising, but couldn’t stop the anger. It was as though all her emotions for the past five years had been stored in a pressure sealed bottle, and the top had just popped off. She was ready to explode, and it was going to be messy.
“Listen, Lyn, you want to talk waste, then talk about yourself,” Lincoln replied, getting to his feet. “You sit around in your house all day doing absolutely nothing while your husband slaves away at some hack job, for what? So you can buy some new clothes and a nice car? He works so hard for you, and you don’t even love him.”
“Don’t talk about me like that!”
“That’s quite enough,” their father said, standing to his feet. “We did not gather here so you two could squabble. If you want to work out your differences, we can get you to a family counselor, someone trained to help deal with conflict resolution.”
“Oh, because that worked so well for you and Mom?” This time it was Rosemarie’s turn. Lyn smiled bitterly. Everyone knew Rosemarie hated their father, especially after the affair. It gave Lyn a twisted satisfaction to see someone else as angry as she was.
“We did our part, Rosemarie. How many times do I have to apologize to you? I didn’t mean for any of this to hurt you.”
“Well, it did anyway. Look, I don’t know what you thought you could gain by bringing us all here, but we can’t be fixed. You worked so hard for sixteen years to destroy us, and then you think you can repair it at a party?” Rosemarie laughed and walked out of the living room.
Lyn sat back in her chair. The front door slammed behind Rosemarie and her mother was about to get up when Lincoln stopped her.
“Give her some space, Mom,” he said. “You won’t be able to say anything to help her.”
Their mother began to sob. “Why did this have to happen? We were supposed to have a good time, celebrating Lyn, enjoying each other’s company.”
“There’s nothing to enjoy,” Lyn mumbled under her breath. She realized now what a mistake it had been, inviting Lincoln and Rosemarie. She should have just visited Mom and Dad on her own. Everything would have been just fine.