Chapter 4

Welcome Home

One year has passed and yet, Lindy's house still looked and felt the same as it did last summer. As she walked through the threshold, Claire breathed in deeply and two failure scents filled her lungs: freshly baked food and fabric soften. Claire ran her fingers along the hallway wall. Due to the fact that Lindy didn't own her house, her walls were always pure white. Baby pictures of Claire hung on almost every wall. In the kitchen, on the counter, was the Crockpot from which Lindy made her homemade chicken soup. In the back of the house was the living room. It was dark, just like it always was. To the right was that beat up old black loveseat Claire and Lindy would sit on when they watched old movies. On the floor there lay a red area rug. Every night during the summer Lindy and Claire would turn the stereo up and dance on very rug. As Claire looked around, taking in the familiar sites, she noticed the washer was on. Claire laughed quietly to herself as she remembered how mad she would be at Lindy for having the washer on when she was trying to watch TV.

With her backpack slung over her shoulder and her suitcase in her hand, she walked up the two flights of stairs to the second floor. Lindy's bedroom was the first one of the right. Claire peaked inside. An oil painting hung over Lindy's bed. On the side table was Lindy's most prized possession: her bible. Claire probably learned more about heaven from Lindy than from every Sunday school teacher she ever had.

Her bed room was next. She laid her hand on the doorknob and slowly turned it. Bright rays on sunshine poured into the room from behind the light blue sheer curtains. Her modest sized bed was up against the back wall. Claire ran her finger over the headboard and found some of the white paint had pealed off revealing the black iron that lay beneath. Claire bent down and sat her suitcase on the floor and gently laid her backpack on her bed. Then, out of the corner of her eye, she spied a little pink rack sitting in the corner, all alone. As she drew closer, tears began to fill her eyes. On the rack sat many of her childhood stuffed animals. When Claire's mom wanted to get rid of them, Claire took them to Lindy's one summer to keep them safe. Lindy must have brought them out from the bin in the closet in honor of her visit.

Claire wiped her tears away with the bottom of her shirt and went over to the window. Looking out, she spotted Delia, Lindy, and Sarah. She pressed her ear up against the warm glass and tried to hear what they were saying. To her despair, all she could make out were mumbled up voices. Instead, she tried examining Delia's face as if she was some sort of Criminal Profiler. Delia looked pretty angry, that was a give in. Claire's brown eyes darted back and forth between the three women. What were they discussing? Claire wondered. And if they were discussing anything important why did they shoo her away instead of allowing her to take part in their conversation?

As she turned from the window, Claire considered the idea that she was just being paranoid, but she had a gut feeling that she wasn't. Claire didn't want Tara to be right, but ever since she arrived something had felt…off. Sure, everything looked the same, but did everything feel the same? Trying to push the negative thoughts from her, Claire sat on the edge of her bed. She laid her hands down beside her and felt something soft under her right hand. Startled, she quickly brought her hand up and looked down. Lying beside her was a feather, a simple white feather. Claire picked it up; it fit right in the palm of her hand.

"What the…" A strange feeling suddenly came over Claire. Her shoulders felt warm, as though she was wrapped in a big fuzzy blanket. A sudden strange floral scent filled the air. It was faint; if you weren't paying attention, the scent probably would have passed right over you. But Claire was paying attention. It was the most beautiful sense Claire ever smelled in her whole life and as she concentrated, the scent began to grow…

"Are you okay?" Claire leaped from her bed terror, allowing the tiny feather to fall to the ground. Claire half expected to see some time of apparition standing in her doorway, but it was just Lindy. Claire laid a hand to her chest, breathing a sigh of relief. Lindy raised her eyebrows.

"I'll take that as a no." Lindy was leaning up against the frame of the door, her hands crossed over her chest.

"You just, um…" Claire ran her hands through her hair, nervously. She tried to find the right words to speak, "took my by surprise, that's all. I didn't even hear you come inside." Lindy eyed her intensely. She could, unfortunately, always tell when Claire was lying.

"Is something wrong?" Lindy asked, narrowing her eyes.

"No." Claire stated defensively. Lindy raised her eyebrows even further. "What were you, Delia, and Sarah talking about?" she asked, trying to defer attention from herself.

"Nothing." Lindy's voice was calm. "I was just telling Sarah how it was wrong of her tell you about the barbeque. Delia was defending her."

"Well, that's a first." Claire mumbled. Delia almost never took her daughter's side. She was always yelling at her for her poor taste in men and she even went so far as to say that Sarah let men take advantage of her. However, Delia had very little room to talk because she had her own share of problems when it came to men.

Ever since last summer, it was made known that Delia was engaged in a friends with benefits relationship with a much younger man named Dan. Everyone could see that Delia head over heels was in love with this man and why wouldn't she be? He was gorgeous. Claire hoped he'd make the effort to commit to Delia one day, but Lindy never seemed to have any hope for them.

"So many things have changed since last summer." Lindy whispered in a very foreboding voice.

"Like?" Claire asked.

Lindy smiled sadly. "You're all grown up."

"I'm still your little girl." She said walking over to Lindy. "I promise."

"Good." Lindy glanced over Claire's shoulder at the clock hanging on the wall. "Listen, it's getting late and Delia and Sarah need help with cooking and such so I better get a move on."

"Well, I'll help you." Claire offered.

"No, no, no" Lindy shook her head. "You're only job for today is to relax and enjoy the barbeque." Lindy kissed Claire on the forehead. "I'll let you know when it's time." She said slipping out of the room.

Once she was alone, Claire flung herself onto her bed. It was nice that everyone wanted her to relax and have fun, but those two things seemed completely impossible right now. Claire positioned herself on her back and stared blankly up at the white ceiling. Feathers don't just magically appear out of nowhere, she thought. That is, unless Lindy adopted a pet bird over the winter. Of course, that seemed highly unlikely. As Claire began to piece together the puzzle of unfortunate events that had unfolded that day, she began to think that maybe she didn't leave all her problems in Scranton, after all.