The following evening, there was an unfamiliar silence as I sat at my mother’s dining room table, eating dinner with my family members. Silence – I had almost forgotten what it was like because of living such a chaotic life in Los Angeles. Because I was in television, I always had to be somewhere or do something. My days off were never really days off. My time in L.A. was always about business and rarely about pleasure.
To sit around a table, eating dinner with people I loved, rather than people I worked for or with, was rare. It took me a few hours to relax into my old role of daughter, sister, sister-in-law, and aunt. Even though it was foreign, it was welcomed.
Instead of eating, I sat in my chair at the dining table and watched everyone. I watched my brother-in-law, Lukas, shovel my mother’s home cooking into his mouth, while my one and only nephew, Parker, followed in his father’s footsteps. My sister, Sidney, took her time, cutting, chewing, and swallowing every morsel.
My mother stared at me from across the table. “Is something wrong, dear? You’re not eating.”
I gave my mother an appreciative smile. “No, nothing’s wrong, Mom. I think I’m still just a little tired from all that driving yesterday and the time change has me on a different schedule than you. But thank you so much for cooking my favorite meal. So far, it’s been delicious.” My mother gave me a humble smile and then picked up her fork and continued to eat.
My brother-in-law wiped the corners of his mouth before saying, “yes, thank you for dinner, Mother Jones.”
My nephew said thank you as well.
My mother’s face was full of pride as she replied, “you’re very welcome, my darling boys. I’m glad you like it.” She turned to my sister. “What do you think, Sid? Do you like it?”
My sister finished chewing and wiped her mouth as well. “Your dinners are half the reason why the boys and I spend so much time here, Mom. It’s delicious.”
My mother beamed with pride and then looked across the table at me again. I gave her a small, appreciative smile before she said in almost a whisper, “I’m so glad to have you home safe, Sienna.”
The look in my eyes was sure to explain that I felt the exact same way, but, in case there was any question in my mother’s mind, I confirmed, “after everything that has happened, I’m happy to be home too, Mom.” We finished our meal in silence and I looked from person to person, grateful for the family that I had.
When my sister and mother stood up and picked up their plates to take to the kitchen, my brother-in-law stopped them. “You girls sit down and relax. Parker and I will clean up the table and make a pot of coffee while we do dishes.” Lukas elbowed his son, prompting Parker to stand up.
Parker threw his last piece of bread in his mouth and started to gather plates from around the table as he chewed. When I said, “thanks, Little Dude,” Parker gave me a toothy, bread-filled grin.
I chuckled. I loved my only nephew because we were so much alike. My sister hated it, but I secretly loved the idea of a male version of me in the world. I knew he would raise hell and I was looking forward to being around to see it.
As the boys made their way into the kitchen, Sidney said, “we should celebrate your home-coming. We should go out for a couple drinks tonight – just the two of us.”
I smiled appreciatively. “That’s a great idea.”
When Lukas returned to take away the rest of the dishes, Sidney said, “would you mind taking Parker home and putting him to bed tonight? Sienna and I are going to go out for a couple drinks.”
Lukas kissed my sister’s forehead in a loving gesture and replied, “of course I’ll take him home. I hope you girls have fun.”
Envy coursed through my veins at the loving relationship I saw before me. I was a little jealous because I knew that I was so close to having what Sid and Lukas had before it was all taken away from me so quickly.
Two hours later, Sidney and I were seated at a table in the back corner of a noisy bar.
“I’m glad it’s quiet in here tonight because we can actually have a conversation.” My sister made herself comfortable in her seat and then stared at me for a moment. “I have missed you so much! You look great. L.A. has done amazing things to you.”
I smiled, not fully convinced that she meant what she said. But I appreciated the compliment anyway.
The waitress arrived at our table and took our drink order before disappearing among the fifteen people in the room. After our obligatory small talk about how life has been treating us, Sid finally asked me about the kind of house that I was looking for.
“As your realtor, I need to know everything. I guarantee that we don’t have those huge mansions that you’re used to in California, but I can probably find you a small, quaint version of something you like.”
“You are so wonderful to do this for me.” I gave her another appreciative smile then continued, “I’m not looking for a mansion. I just want something that has enough space for me to move, but not too much to clean. I’d prefer an older house with some charm.”
Sid said she could find a nice place with a separate basement living space for all my radio equipment.
“No need because, a few weeks ago, I found out that an old high school friend is the general manager of the local radio station here in town. When I called Jeff and told him about my situation, he agreed to let me rent an office and the use of the radio equipment. Between my network, their lawyers, and Jeff’s company, the contracts were taken care of within a few days. And I’m glad that I don’t have to work from home. I’m looking forward to keeping my personal life separate from my work life.”
Sid chuckled. “I still listen to your radio show every time it’s on. It’s been the highlight of my week for a really long time. You’re the funniest girl on radio! I’m so proud of you, Sienna. And I’m really happy that your company didn’t just axe the show completely when you decided to move home.”
“They said the ratings are still on the high end and they want me to continue the show. When I went to resign because I was moving home, they refused my resignation and signed me to a new contract. They agreed to pay the rental fees at the local radio station for the use of an office and the radio station’s equipment because they wanted to keep me on the air. It works out well for me because now I don’t have to look for a job while I’m home.” I paused, looked at my sister and said, “I have a meeting with Jeff in a couple of days. He wants me to come in on Monday morning, during their staff meeting so I can meet everyone who works there. He’s going to show me around the building too.” I paused and wondered aloud, “I haven’t seen Jeff in years. I wonder if he’ll even recognize me anymore.”
My sister gave me a quizzical look. “Why did you dye your hair back? I liked you as a blond.”
I shrugged. “I needed a change.” I paused, lost in thoughts of my time in L.A. “I needed a big change.”
Sidney gave me an uncomfortable glance.
I knew she wanted to talk about Hudson, but I wasn’t ready.
I tried to divert her attention by saying, “where the hell is that waitress? I need another drink.” I looked over my shoulder, didn’t see the waitress anywhere, and then I stood up from my seat. “I’m going to the front bar to get us more drinks.” Before she could say anything, I was making my way through the room, grateful to have escaped any conversation about Hudson.
I yelled my drink order over the pounding music and, as the bartender mixed my drinks, he asked, “are you new to town?”
I chuckled. “Is it that obvious?”
He gave me a guilty shrug, leaned over the bar, and pointed to my shoes. I was wearing my newest pair of red sole heels and, when I scanned the bar, I noticed that everyone else was wearing old, worn-in sneakers or dollar-bin flip-flops. In spite of my loathing for the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, I still liked my shoes and all my designer clothes for that matter. I furrowed my brow begrudgingly. Some things were too hard to give up.
As I gazed through the crowd again, I noticed a handful of people on the dance floor, a group of obnoxious girls who were celebrating a bachelorette party, and a table full of guys who were watching the girl’s bachelorette party like bloodhounds.
When I looked back over at the table of men, I noticed one guy in particular staring in my direction with a grin on his face. I looked behind me to see if he was smiling at someone behind me, but there was no one there. I turned back to face the good looking stranger and he smiled in my direction again. I gave him a small smile in return.
The bartender set all my drinks in front of me and I handed him my card. “Can I just start a tab?”
“Absolutely,” he nodded.
When I turned back to meet the good looking stranger’s gaze, he had disappeared. All the other men were at the table, but the man who was smiling in my direction had left the table.
Just my damn luck that the one good looking guy would be a mirage.
I shook my head in embarrassment before grabbing my drinks and making my way back to my table.