It Feels Like Home
Ali Lucia Sky
Publication date: July 5th 2023
Genres: Romance, Young Adult
Jacelyn Waverly might need a twelve-step program for jerks.
One jerk, in particular, Ky Linley, because even two years apart hasn’t stopped the butterflies from taking flight in her stomach when he’s around.
After humiliating her in her freshman year and starting rumors that dogged her reputation, Ky shouldn’t get a second chance. Still, she’s returned home older and wiser, and everyone seems different now. But with an angry sister, an overworked mom, a father on the opposite side of the country, and a best friend who is just starting to fall in love for the first time, it all seems like a lot.
But sometimes, growing up feels like coming home.
“Hey, baby?” My mom shook my shoulder, and I jumped and her iPad thumped to the carpeted floor. I rubbed my eyes. “Jacie, I told you not to worry about getting a job. We’re fine. You’re exhausted, and you only just got home. We can make it on my paycheck. I appreciate it, but you don’t have to do this.”
“I’m not exhausted, I’m a little tired because I got up to talk to Mare this morning. I made her breakfast too–crap, I left dishes everywhere. Sorry mom.” I facepalm. Here I was trying to make her life easier, and I made chores for her.
She laughed. “This is your first summer since you left and aren’t doing homework. You should enjoy it. You are done taking care of your dad, you don’t have to take care of us. Your job is to go out and screw up, make me worry, come home late from partying and make questionable choices,” she joked.
“You want two Marises?” I smiled.
“I worry. I don’t want you to feel you have to work in an Italian Restaurant, feed your family, and take care of your older sister. I’m the mom. It’s okay to be irresponsible. You deserve it. You’ve been very disciplined since you left.” I sighed and nodded. Oddly, I responded to that by getting up and going and making my mom a coffee. She liked the instant type, with so much sugar it would give an elephant cavities, and enough milk to turn it white.
“What are you doing, hon?” she asked, watching me.
“We’re having a grown up conversation, and you sound a little unbalanced, I’m getting you coffee,” I teased. I stirred the creamer and brought it to the table and sat it down so she’d get the idea that she should relax. “I want to work. It’s boring doing nothing. Plus, I have plenty of time to get up to trouble that will give you graying hair. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to get pregnant, and I can always get someone to buy me alcohol to start an early drinking problem. If something like that would make you happy, I can try either option for you,” I say facetiously.
“I would prefer irresponsible drinking without the long term habit. I’m not ready to be a grandmother. Although, I have no doubt, if it happened, you’d step up and handle it better than I did when it happened, and I was an adult when I had Maris. You’re just so put together. I wish you were selfish like your father and Mare. At least I can count on her being useless to me all summer. And I have no use for your dad at all. You’re my golden child, Jacelyn.”
“I’ll find a bad crowd and start making friends with questionable characters immediately just for you, mom,” I teased. “Maybe find a guy with a one word name… Rancid? He will ride a motorcycle and not wash.” I moved to the fridge and pulled out the sweet tea I made and poured a tall glass and took a long drink before pouring more and continued. “I’ll shave my head into a mohawk, dye it green and put a hole through my cheek.”
My mother smiled broadly, liking this game. “See? Now we’re talking. You’ll have your thing, and Mare will have avoiding reality and things at home, and driving badly. I’m sad now that I didn’t have a son to sneak around with a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, but you and Rancid should have that covered.”
I moved to the table and sat on one leg folded beneath me and pointed at her. “You have Peter, and he is dating a boy who is on the wrong side of the closet door.”
She waved her head and lifted her cup for a sip, “He’s just one of my girls. I guess I can consider him the daughter sneaking around though.”
I loved my mom. She was just one of those people who tried to find the humor in everything. We often had conversations that were ridiculous like this. She told me that her favorite thing was to hear us laugh, and her second favorite thing was to have something to laugh about. The way her mind worked always made me feel better, lighter. My mom put me at ease about serious things.
I know Maris took her for granted, but having spent two years with my dad, I appreciated her in a way I never would have had I stayed here. The time apart gave us both a different view of one another.
She wasn’t just my mom, she was one of my best friends.
“I’ve heard everything you said. I want you to know I like working. I don’t like having all this spare time to sit and kill. It’s boring. I also like the people I work with. It’s healthy, and next week when I get paid, I’d like to take over buying some of the groceries, at least my own.” I held up my hand when she looked like she was going to argue. “I know you can afford it, but I’m going to have to start affording my own things this fall. I’m going to put the rest away for college.”
“Jesus, Jacelyn, you’re killing me!” my mom moaned. “Very well. So independent. What are your hours?”
“I’m part-time until I get my car, and then I’ll be full-time,” I replied.
She nodded. “How are you getting to work in the time being? I feel awful that I never got a second car now.”
I saw the lines on her face and reached across the table and tapped the surface. “We are fine. A guy from work is getting me to and from work. Ricky put us on the same shifts so there wouldn’t be any conflicts. I–” I sighed. “Peter stranded me for a date the other night.”
She made a face and nodded in a way that said it’s to be expected. “It’s good you have a reliable ride then. Do I need to worry that he’s some thirty-year old pedofile? Or worse a twenty something hottie who sells sex to uptight, responsible types?”
I laugh. “Closer on number two, but no cigar. It’s Ky Linley. Maris has already had a fit, so you can relax. He’s a teenage heartbreaker, who I remember well enough, makes fools of young girls. I know his flirting doesn’t mean he likes me.”
“Jacelyn,” my mom’s tone is one of understanding. “Just so you know, boys grow up. It’s not all G.I. Joe’s and girls’ panties forever. Don’t discount him just because of something he did when he was a kid. He could surprise you.”
Ali Lucia Sky is the author of The Powers That Be series. She lives in Southern California with her husband and a house full of kitty cats and a yard full of crows.
She loves laughing, drinking good coffee, vegan food, and supporting animal rescues.
When she isn’t writing or dreaming of new stories, she can be found planning her next vacation because traveling is life.
If you encounter her in the wild, don’t be offended if she should run away. She’s timid with strangers, but can be plied with shiny things and pictures of your cat or dog.
She’s a weirdo like that.
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