I feel completely exhausted when the plane finally lands. Almost eight hours of sitting is just too long for me. The moment I exit through the front doors of the Marina Beach International Airport, I feel a wave of heat hit me hard. Not extremely hot, but definitely more than I am used to. I am definitely not in Aberdale anymore.
I am about to call Janice to let her know that I am out, when I look over and spot her standing not too far away.
“Over here!” she calls, and I quickly make my way over to her.
“It’s so nice to see you! What a happy surprise!” she says, pulling me into a hug. “I wasn’t expecting you for a few more weeks!”
“I know, I know,” I say, giving her a squeeze back. “But circumstances at home, made me move up my trip. I was lucky that I was even able to get an earlier flight. Everything was booked for 4th of July.”
Janice pulls away. “So, how are you doing?”
I shake my head. “Don’t even ask. There’s just so much going on and I don’t even know where to begin.”
Janice sighs. “I hear you. I’ll bet being back home full-time is quite an adjustment. I know it is for me.”
Oh, if only she knew.
“How was your plan ride?” she then asks.
“Long.” I shake my head. “I feel like I spent my whole day on it. It’s already six O’ clock in the evening.”
Janice laughs. “That’s how I felt every break when I came home to visit.”
I chuckle as well. “I’m sure Greg feels that way when he comes down to see you.”
Janice gives me a strange expression when I say that. Her smile fades and she nods her head slowly.
“Yah, probably,” she says quickly. “Anyways, we should get you home. I’ll bet you’re exhausted and jet-lagged.”
Janice then helps me load my luggages into her car trunk and then without another word, we get inside and are off.
It’s about a fifteen minute drive home from the airport and soon we pull up in front of her driveway. I marvel at just how beautiful the house in from of me is. The creamy tan paint job with the exotic lining of plants; it’s just too beautiful to look at.
After getting out, I follow Janice along the walkway up to the front door, still admiring the scenery as we pass by.
“Hey guys, we’re home!” Janice calls, as we enter through the door.
“I’ll be down in just a second!” a voice calls from upstairs, and Janice ushers me through a nearby archway, into what looks like the family room.
The room is very spacious and nicely decorated. It is quite more lavish than I expected. Now I am really starting to think that there is more to Janice than meets the eye.
“Your house is very nice,” I say, turning to Janice. “It’s very beautiful.”
“Thanks, but technically it’s my sister Sandra’s house. Our grandfather bought it for her when she graduated with her masters. In psychology, to be exact.”
I raise my eyebrows. “Your grandfather bought your sister a house?”
Janice smiles. “Yes, he did. Very over the top, I know. He’s just generous like that.”
We both then laugh.
“Talking about the house again?” says a voice.
We both turn and Janice’s sister is standing right beside us.
Janice smirks. “Just a little.”
Her sister laughs. “Our grandfather never ceases to share his wealth, at least when he feels it’s well deserved. He’s like two sides of coin. He can be really giving and kind, or down right evil.”
“Hey, I’m just being honest.” She then turns to me and shakes my hand. “As you’ve probably guessed, I’m Janice’s sister, Elsie.”
“Elizabeth,” I say, shaking it back. “But I go by Lizzie.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Lizzie. I’ve heard so much about you.”
“All good things I hope.” I give Janice a look.
“Of course!” Elsie chuckles. “She tells me that you’re trying to publish a novel. That must be no easy feat.”
“No,” I shake my head. “It’s definitely a long road filled with much rejection and near misses.”
“I’m sure you’ll get a hit one of these days.”
I smile. “I sure hope so.”
I then hear the sound of the front door opening and then closing.
“Anybody home?” a woman’s voice calls.
“In here!” Janice says.
A moment later, a woman with light brown hair and wearing jeans and a blue tank top, enters into the family room. She has a very athletic build and I can’t help wondering if she happens to lift weights.
“Ah, so your friend has arrived,” she says, smiling at me. “Lizzie, right?”
I nod. “Yes. You must be Sandra.”
“Right you are. I hope you had a good flight.”
“I did, thank you.”
Sandra then checks her cell phone. “Well, it’s almost six thirty. I should probably get started on dinner. Janice, why don’t you show Lizzie to her room.”
“Will do. Come on, Liz.”
I then thank Sandra and Elsie for having me and afterwards, follow Janice toward the staircase.
The guest room I am staying in, is actually quite unique. It is a light mauve color along with the design of animalistic print. That is probably due to the reptile print comforter and matching window curtains. Normally that would freak me out, but something about the way it looks, is quite intriguing.
“Wow,” I say, shaking my head. “This house is just so beautiful. Your grandfather really knows how to pick them.”
Janice laughs. “I know. Sandra thought it was a bit too much when he first gave her the deed, but she has come around to it.”
“So, does your grandfather live nearby?”
“Yes and no. He lives in Marina Beach, but far off to the west side. We go and visiting him sometimes on weekends. Right now, he’s abroad in Sydney, Australia on business, doing some partner merge with a big company. He should be back in a month.”
I am starting to get where all the money that she had spent on things for the Beta Gamma Kappa sorority house came from. Why had she never mentioned her grandfather’s wealth before?
I am about to about it, when she seems to read my mind.
“I’m sure you’re wondering why I never mentioned all this before,” she says, and then sighs. “I guess, it’s just that, when I was younger and people would find out who my grandfather was and how much money he had, they would always want something from me. I never really knew if people were really hanging out with me for me, or just for who my grandfather was. It also didn’t help with the people who didn’t care and viewed my sisters and I as his charity cases, who lucked into money.” Janice scoffs and shakes her head. “Either way, it was just easier for me when no one knew.”
“I understand,” I say, nodding slowly, “and just so you know, you’re still the same Janice to me.”
Janice smiles. “Thanks.” She then points to my luggages. “You should get unpacked and rest up. I’m sure you could use it.” She then slips out the door and closes it gently.
I spend the next hour unpacking my things, finishing just before Janice comes in to tell me dinner is really.
We end up having teriyaki pineapple chicken with stir fry vegetables and white rice. And may I just say, it is quite delicious. I have not had takeout in a long time and it is amazing to be having it homemade.
After dinner, I head back up to my room to do some light reading. I couldn’t help bringing along my graduate study book and my Marina Beach tourist guide. There are quite a lot of fun destinations, and I just hope I get to visit most of them before I leave.
There is knock on the door and after I call “come in,” Janice enters.
“Hey, just checking in,” she says, lying on the other side of the bed. “What are you reading?”
“Just a Marina tourist guide. There are a lot of great sights here.”
Janice laughs. “I didn’t know people still used those.”
I narrow my eyes. “Ha, ha.”
“So, are you going to tell me what prompted the early visit? Or am I going to have to pry it out of you?”
I smile slightly. “No, I guess I can explain.” I then launch into the whole story, starting from my first night back home. Janice listens quietly, shaking her head at the whole situation.
“Wow, that’s rough,” she says, when I finish. “Although, I don’t think I can relate. My parents were never the “in love” type and my life with them is not one of my pleasant memories. Leaving that house with them was the best thing that ever happened to me.”
I frown. “Really? That’s terrible. What happened?”
Janice seems to get quiet then. She stares down toward her feet for a while before finally answering.
“It’s not really a time I like to talk about. In fact, a lot of times I just pretend it never even happened at all.”
Janice pauses and then sighs. “My parents weren’t like yours, Lizzie. They weren’t really parents at all. They were so caught up in their own lives that they didn’t really have time for me or Sandra or Elsie. We basically had to fend for ourselves.”
The instant she says this, I think back to some of the poems Janice had written and shared about her childhood. Most of them were tainted with sadness, and the struggles she faced. One story even implied running away from home, which she had titled, “Escaping the Lion’s den.” In it, she talked a lot about being a prey lying in wake just waiting to be devoured; about the innocence of life being taken with no return. It had been one of the most personal pieces she had ever read at the writing club readings and the final one she had ever shared. By her reactions while reading it, I honestly suspect that there was a lot more to the poem than her being in a toxic house. I think it had more to do with abuse and possibly something a step more…
“You’ve written a lot about it,” I say then, causing Janice to look up. “Especially last year. The two poems you read at the final reading of the year?”
Janice swallows. “Yah.” She then runs a hand through her hair. “I don’t even know why I shared those pieces.”
“They were really touching.”
“Thanks. They were really hard to write. I don’t really like talking much less thinking, about what happened back then.”
“So…when you say that you and your sisters had to fend for yourselves…”
“I mean exactly that. My oldest sister, Sandra, kind of became like a mom to Elsie and me. She’s about seven years older and protected us both the entire time we were at home. She really looked out for us.” Janice smiles. “She was also the one that helped us get away, the first time. She stole my dad’s stash of money and got us bus tickets to Marina Beach. That’s how we got here.”
“Wow. How old were you?”
“Six. Sandra was fourteen and Elsie was eleven.” Janice looks lost in thought. “I still remember it. When we got here, Sandra bought this massive tent from a nearby department store and we set it up in the woods.”
When she says this, I instantly remember another poem Janice recited at one of the writing club readings, during our sophomore year of college called: “Into The Woods”. So the story was not a fairy tale. It was based on a part of her life.
Janice seems dazed. “We lived in that tent for almost five months, before the police found us. I honestly don’t think they would have, if Sandra hadn’t met her boyfriend, Christopher. He was the youngest working cashier at the department store that Sandra would buy our food and necessities from. He was about fifteen, I think. He and Sandra became friends over the time we were here and eventually fell for each other.”
Janice looks up with a little smile. “He once even invited us over to his house when his parents were out of town and bought me a cake for my seventh birthday. It’s one of my fondest memories.
“It’s also what led to us being found. One of his neighbors saw us there and said something to his parents. When Christopher wouldn’t tell them anything, they started asking around and then the department store owner ratted us out to them, since he had seen Sandra and Christopher together. They all then found out that we were runaways from the news, and then they turned us in.”
Janice shakes her head. “I remember Elsie being so mad at Sandra about it, but it wasn’t her fault or Christopher’s.”
Janice sighs and looks down again. “We then went back to live with our parents, and my dad was so mad about the money, he lost it and…”
Janice drifts off suddenly, and I contemplate telling her that she doesn’t have to keep going. I can tell rehashing all of this was very painful for her and I don’t want her to feel obligated to tell me everything. Still, she continues, so I remain silent listening.
“H-he hurt her really bad. Worse than he ever did to any of us. She was even in the hospital for a while.” Janice runs her hand through her hair again. “It was the first time my mother ever did show she cared, probably because it was the first time she wasn’t high or intoxicated.”
We both then lie on the bed in silence, listening to the sound of seagulls flying overhead in the distance. My head is spinning from all the information I had just learned. There is so much more to Janice than I had ever known. Yet here I was, thinking that I was in crisis. Janice had been through way more than me.
“S-so what happened to your dad?”
“He went to prison,” Janice says softly, “He was already up to his neck in illegal activity and added to that with what he did to Sandra as well as Elise and me, he won’t be coming out anytime soon. Even if he does, eventually, he-he’ll probably have to go on the…list.”
Janice is barely able to say that word and I don’t even question her on it. I know exactly what that means, and I feel even worse for what she has probably gone through. How had we been friends for almost four years and I knew none of this? How?
Janice then sits up on the bed. “I’m sorry, I don’t know why I’m dumping this all on you. Here we were talking about everything with your parents and I’m going on about my…awful past.”
I shake my head. “Don’t be. I’m glad you told me. We’ve been friends for a while now and I feel bad that I never knew how much you’ve gone through. I can’t imagine what it was like to go through all that, and as a child. I understand now why you never talk about your parents.”
Janice nods. “That and I haven’t seen either of them since then.”
“Not even your mom?”
“She’s in…a mental facility now. She kind of lost her way after everything with my dad, and then me and my sisters having to go into the system. My grandfather adopted us a year later and, that was that.” Janice smiles. “Not the greatest start for us, but after we moved in with him, I’ve never felt the need to go back.”
I then accidently let out a yawn and Janice smiles.
“I think I’ve talked your ear off enough for one night.”
“No, no,” I start to protest, but she waves her hand.
“It’s okay. I basically just gave you my life story, so the least I can do is let you rest. I’m sure you’re still jetlagged.”
That I can’t deny. “Talk more in the morning?”
After a quick hug, Janice hops off the bed and makes her way back out the door. I just sit staring after her for a minute, trying to let everything sink in. All the tough aggressiveness and strength I had seen in Janice over the years, now really made sense. She had been holding back so much, so much all of us could not see. I can’t help but wonder what Abby would say if she knew. I think she would be just as shocked as me.
I then slip off the bed and make my way over to the closet. Although it is only nine, I am still very tired and desperately need some rest. If not, I will be too fatigued to do anything with Janice tomorrow, and from the look of that tourist book, there is so much to do and see!
It takes me only a few minutes to change into my p.js and then slide back into bed. Just as I am about to close my eyes, I hear my phone start to buzz. Looking over, I see Michael is calling me once again. Feeling my chest tighten, I hold the power button on my phone until it turns off. I just can’t talk to him right now. With the way I was feeling along with all the things I had just learned about Janice, what I need is sleep, and lots of it.
(Thank you for reading! New post next week! I am still working on trying to figure out a new day for posts, but so far I am liking Friday/Saturday. I’ll keep you posted! Please if you like the story, comment, like, follow and share with others! Thank you again! 🙂 )