“Come in and sit. You want milk or tea, Son?” Momma had already given Daddy his water and milk, and she had a cup of coffee by her plate.
“Tea, please.” It occurred to him, a little distantly, that he’d never sat at this table and had a beer. Not once, and he was fairly sure he never would.
“Here you go.” She handed him a glass, and he wanted to scream all of a sudden, wanted to break up the normalcy of the little scene.
He sat instead.
Daddy prayed and they ate, the food good, familiar, filling. He was going to crack like a dropped pie plate, right down the middle.
When the meal was finally over, he hauled his bones up, refusing the offer to sit and watch the evening news. His soul felt brittle, and he didn’t think he could bear it a bit, Momma crocheting and Daddy napping through one pointless show after another.
“Here’s the keys to the trailer, Son. There’s plumbing, gas, lights. I set it up for you.”
“Thank you, Momma. Daddy.” He took the keys and the wrapped-up plate of leftovers. “I’ll see y’all first thing.”
“We’ll be here.” Momma smiled for him and Daddy nodded, though that could have been the Parkinson’s.
Sage walked out to the truck and grabbed his duffel, thankful the storm hadn’t found them yet. He carried the bag to the trailer, standing and staring at it for a long time. Damn. It was plumb nice, really, even had a wee baby porch on it.
He didn’t see the pit bull sitting there, not until he climbed the stair. Little and blue, the whipcord tail set to wagging, thump, thump, and he frowned. “Copper?”
It couldn’t be. She’d been an old dog when he’d gone to California. She had to be long buried. Still, the pup was her spitting image and had a collar on her with a tag. He put the bag down and the plate on the porch rail, then bent down. “Who the hell are you, pup?”
Her tag said “Penny,” and he couldn’t help but grin. Momma did have a wicked sense of humor.
She licked his face, tail just thumping. Lord, lord. Looked like he’d have some company.
“Come on in, then, but you’d best not piss on my floor.” He liked a clean house. He’d never live in filth. Never again.
She trotted in next to him, and she didn’t jump on nothin’, just settled on a dog bed in the corner of the little front room.
The place was spotless and simple, with a TV, a little DVD player, and a sofa. The kitchen had the basics, and Sage knew if he looked, the pantry would have Corn Flakes, cans of Wolf Brand Chili, and quick grits.
Hell, there was even a mason jar filled with green apple Jolly Ranchers.
Oh sweet Jesus. He was home.
His knees buckled, and if that sweet pup came and licked tears off his cheeks, well shit, there wasn’t a living soul to tell on him.
For the first time in ten years, no one was watching.
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