Other, ready, digress, tire, orbit
Emma heard the squeal of tires as her brother Michael finally pulled up. Finally. She almost thought he wouldn’t come. When he stepped out of his car, dressed in a clean white shirt and pants with clear-eyed and well rested, she was content. He had come. For now, they were all together.
There were too many people in the house, but Emma had spent all morning with her aunt and uncle getting ready. It was mostly family but lots of other people in the neighborhood had come around to join the fun with them on the new digital screen her husband had bought just for the occasion. Mom and Dad, of course, got to go to Texas and see her other brother launch, but the rest of them watched like everyone else. Her son had the streaming set up from his computer.
“You came,” Emma said, hugging her brother tight as he came in the door. He was too thin, she noticed as she put her arms around him. The older brother who used to pick her up and swing her around as a child now felt fragile under her touch. Tell me you’re really better. Tell me you’re well now Michael. She wanted to say but kept her mouth shut. It was the wrong time to digress into the should have beens and should have done’s. He was here now, right? That was all that mattered.
“Michael’s here,” she said pulling him into the main room. They gathered around him-the cousins he hadn’t seen in a while and the people from church who’d heard about him. The minister was older now with more gray in his hair and all he said was “glad to see you son.”
For a minute, she worried that Michael would lash out or run and she held her breath for those few uneasy seconds. But he only smiled.
“Glad to see you,” with a pat on the back in the tough male hugs. She wondered if the minister noticed how thin and frail he’d gotten. But if he did he said nothing. Or maybe he’s seen it before. These prodigal son’s returned – a little less than they used to be.
“I can’t believe my nephew is going into outer space,” Aunt Delia said trying to rearrange the throw pillows to give herself room on the sofa. Emma kind of winced as she just threw one on her floor and sat her bulk down making a huge dent in the middle.
“Actually he’s going into orbit which is not the same thing,” her son rigorously followed all news about his uncle’s upcoming mission. She was proud of that, but wished he’d learned more tact.
Micheal went over to his nephew, folding up his six foot frame and sitting down beside his nephew.
“You’re right,” he said.
“And you built the ship,” her son said.
“Only some,” he said in a soft voice with only the faintest of smiles, “only some. Can’t have my twin up there in space riding on a second rate craft.” Her son chuckled at that and for a moment, a moment of the most beautiful sound Emma had heard in years, Michael laughed too.
Copyright 2021 Echo Ishii