Long Journey Home

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Throughout her childhood, Grace Morrissey, the oldest in a family of six girls, had been known as the reliable and dependable one. But when she got the opportunity to get hitched and leave Atlanta, she fled and didn't think twice. Now a divorcée with two teenage kids, she is struggling to find answers for the emptiness she has felt her entire life.

A phone call beckoning her home for the funeral of her beloved uncle Byron leaves her reeling. For years she has resisted going back...

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Overview

Throughout her childhood, Grace Morrissey, the oldest in a family of six girls, had been known as the reliable and dependable one. But when she got the opportunity to get hitched and leave Atlanta, she fled and didn't think twice. Now a divorcée with two teenage kids, she is struggling to find answers for the emptiness she has felt her entire life.

A phone call beckoning her home for the funeral of her beloved uncle Byron leaves her reeling. For years she has resisted going back to face the memories of an unhappy childhood filled with dark secrets. But Grace soon finds herself back on her hometown soil and quickly embroiled in sibling drama.

Although Grace has run from the past her entire life, she learns that long-buried family incidents have a way of coming to light, and that confrontation can bring healing. Now it will be up to her to decide whether the truth will be her final undoing, or if this long journey home can be her saving grace.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781583148099
  • Publisher: Kimani Press
  • Publication date: 12/1/2006
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Read an Excerpt

"Uncle Byron is dead."

The four words leaped from the phone and shattered Grace Morrissey's composure. She leaned forward in the office chair, as though she hadn't quite heard it right, and managed to whisper a response.

"When?"

"A few hours ago this morning." Melissa Johnson, the baby in their family of six sisters, and called Missy by everyone, made the announcement.

Caught in an eddy of grief, the file Grace had been engrossed in a moment earlier was dropped to join similar ones scattered across her government-gray metal desk. She turned away from the clutter, aware that Missy was mercifully silent.

In the span of that moment Grace's thoughts tumbled in controlled sorrow, barreling over a collage of memories of the uncle she loved dearly. It was funny how death had a way of pushing its own agenda to the front of the line. Grace blinked hard and corralled her thoughts.

"I just talked with him the other day," she said wistfully. "He liked this time of the year. He said the leaves were already changing to red and gold down there."

"Down there" was little Oxford, Georgia. Grace wondered about that conversation and the small talk they'd made. Had he known it would be their last? She hadn't--wouldn't have even considered it. She should have shared more, listened carefully. The heat built around her eyes and she fought off the tears.

"Mama said to call you first. You're the oldest. I tried to get you earlier this morning at home, but you had already left."

Missy's voice was light and blameless as she laid the groundwork for fault aimed elsewhere for the delayed news, redirection being a natural occurrence amongtwenty-somethings, Grace concluded.

Grace had no words, profound or otherwise, to offer her sister. And while she wanted to be alone to mourn her loss, Missy's call had a twofold purpose. The nobler one had just been served in the notification; which set into motion the other: preparations for the family gathering.

"Is Mama all right?" Grace asked. She worriedly drew her fingers across her head and smoothed the French braid she'd hurriedly plaited that morning.

"And what about Reba?" she continued.

Rebecca Beneby, their fourth sister in birth order, was a shy and sensitive woman who could be unduly affected by death and illness. Despite that, she had also recently joined the ranks of single mothers with the birth of her son, now four months old. "Yeah, yeah. We're all fine."

"I guess we knew it would happen soon, didn't we?" Grace spoke as if the question was directed to Uncle Byron.

She had sensed, in the end, that maybe he'd even preferred death to the incessant pain and medication. Still, with a degree of naïveté, Grace had hoped for a miracle-like reprieve from the inevitable. It hadn't come.

She sat back in her chair in the tiny work cubicle and sucked in a large gulp of the too warm recycled office air.

"So," Grace said into the phone. "Tell me when it happened."

"Grandma Rhoda was with him," Melissa began. "She said he was all right last night, but by morning he had just...gone. It was all real quiet-like." She sucked in her breath in finality. "Course, to me, if you gotta go, hell, I think that's the best way."

With her heart hurting from grief, Grace considered Missy's words as bordering on callous; but that was Missy--frank and to the point. Yet, at Uncle Byron's end, with his only ally being a morphine drip hanging over his bed, maybe her sister had it right.

"Uncle Byron was like a daddy to us," Grace chided.

"Give some respect for how much he cared. At least he showed an interest."

"Now, don't be gettin' ticked with me 'cause I'm not screamin' and cryin' all over the place." Missy's voice turned huffy. "But don't get me wrong, either. I loved Uncle Byron 'cause he's family and I could laugh and talk with him anytime I needed to. But he kept coming around all the time 'cause of you and Mama. Anyway, you just said it's not like we didn't know he was gon' die."

"Missy..." Grace was used to her sister's bluntness, but she didn't intend to excuse it today.

"Okay, okay." Missy managed to turn her petulance into an apology through the phone. "I'll keep my thoughts to myself."

Not likely. "Where's Mama now? I know she's relieved that he died in his sleep." Grace could only hope his end had really been that peaceful. It was what they all deserved after his living had become a choice between lucid pain and medicated oblivion.

"She's over at the house with Aunt Evie. And you know Evie, the drama queen, is putting on a show with enough tears for everybody." Her voice turned hard. "I guess she'll have to give up trying to get him back now."

Grace didn't miss the triumph in Missy's gossip. With Uncle Byron dead, some in the family would dredge up the stories about his freewheeling ex-wife Evie. Grace saw it as more disrespect at his passing.

"You know what's gettin' ready to happen," Missy added. "Uncle Byron was tighter than a drum about his personal life. Everybody down here wants to get into his business 'cause nobody ever could while he was alive."

"You don't have to sound so excited about the prospect."

"Girl, I don't even want to hear that. I wonder if Aunt Evie gets to keep his house and his big ol' car she been riding 'round in since he got sick?" Missy grunted. "Give it up. You probably wondering, too."

Grace closed her eyes for a moment, ashamed that five minutes of grief had been invaded by, of all things, talk of what Uncle Byron did or didn't have. With no children and an ex-wife with a strip-joint past, his exceptional life had always been easy fodder for dissection.

"I'm not going there," Grace said, lowering her voice.

"Why you whispering?" Missy quipped. "Uncle can't hear you and, personally, I don't think he ever cared a damn about what anybody else thought, anyway...well, except for maybe you and Mama."

"Still, it don't seem right discussing that kind of stuff today, and it's nobody else's business anyway."

"Least of all Aunt Evie and her two brothers from hell."

At the mention of the brothers, Grace's eyes narrowed as unease crept into her voice. "Just stay clear of them."

Aunt Evie's brothers were nothing but trouble; and when none was present, they managed to create it. And that was the way it had been since Uncle had divorced Evie.

"Aunt Evie makes sure they don't come around Grandma Rhoda's house starting trouble," Missy said.

"But since Uncle got sick, I can tell they been telling Aunt Evie what she ought to do to favor herself."

Grace sighed, though she did agree about the brothers being hell's spawns. "Missy--"

"Besides that, she and Aunt Cora already trying to take over everything in between all that crying they doin', and he's not even cold yet. Everybody knows Uncle Byron was closest to Mama. They were two peas in a pod, so wouldn't you think they'd just back off and let Mama and Grandma Rhoda do all the arranging?"

Grace opened her mouth to respond, but Missy was on a roll.

"Grandma Rhoda even said so. "Course, Grandma also thinks he shoulda had her some grandkids. But you know Evie wasn't 'bout to let no stretch marks mess up her stomach. You think that's why he divorced her, "cause she didn't want kids? If that's the case, I'm guessing he don't want her to be the one to decide how he'll be put away, either. That's why you need to be here with Mama--"

Grace's attention drifted, her sorrow irreparably invaded by the certainty that Uncle Byron wouldn't get to enjoy peace--even in death, or at least not today, in this place, and with her.

Why did all hell break loose so easily during weddings and funerals for her family? Fortitude was a requirement for either, and anticipation of the latter had already started her stomach to churn.

It hadn't been enough that Uncle Byron and Evie's wedding had been a carnival; his funeral was now destined to resemble a zoo. But not if she and mama had anything to do with it. She rested her head against the back of her chair.

"So, when are you coming?" Missy asked, expertly reentering Grace's consciousness. "Mama thinks you're coming tonight. You know how Aunt Cora can be when she wants information. She'll ask Mama about every one of us, so mama's got to say something back to her."

Home. Grace frowned amid her strewn and littered thoughts. "I--I don't know yet." She managed to mumble something about arranging time from the office and talking things over with the kids.

"You're bringing Dee and Jamie, right?" Melissa asked. Feeling unduly pressured, Grace's tone turned sharper than she'd intended. "Missy, I'm not sure what I'll do."

"You don't know? But you're coming home, right?"

"I don't know if my car can make the trip," Grace said, trying to explain away her anxiety. "And airfare is pretty expensive for three people on such short notice, even if I can get a special rate. I've got to figure out things."

"Aw, Grace, you have to bring the kids. Everybody wants to see them. Work something out with Bobby. He can help out--that's what the daddy's supposed to do-- so long as he keeps his sorry ass up there."

Grace expelled another tired sigh as the conversation flipped once again with Missy's sarcasm. "Everybody's a sorry ass with you these days."

"Excuse me for pushing your buttons. I guess baby daddies is the wrong subject."

"C'mon, Missy. The least you can do is cut the crap one day for Uncle Byron's sake. He is why you called, right?"

"Okay, I'm re-ally sorry." Missy's voice mocked her regret. "Aw, Grace, I didn't mean anything. I know how much he means to you."

"To us," Grace corrected.

The humor spilled from Missy's voice. "Hey, we talkin"

"bout Uncle Byron or Bobby?"

Grace ignored her gibe and rubbed her temple. A headache had now made a formidable entrance.

"You will come as soon as you can, won't you?" Before an answer was given, Missy began to wheedle. "It'll take days for y'all to plan everything, and everyone still has to get into town. You gotta come early 'cause I don't know if I can take that loudmouthed Gloria and her clan without you here."

Goodness, here we go again. Grace pressed her fingers against her temple. Gloria, the second oldest, and Missy were the original oil and water and, though Gloria was married and living in Miami, distance hadn't changed much.

"When is she getting in?"

"I talked with her earlier this morning. And would you believe her fat ass is driving here tomorrow? To comfort Mama, no doubt." Missy's short snort echoed through the phone. "Everybody knows the only reason she's bringing her tail up here so fast is so she can start suckin' up. You know Gloria, and she always wants something, and when Mama gets wind of whatever it is--"

Grace didn't want to hear. "Missy, you don't know--"

"--Mama will give her money or whatever Gloria says she wants."

"Will you listen to yourself? Stop it." Grace breathed in deeply. "I don't know why I want to come home just to keep grown women out of each other's hair."

"Well, she's the one who'll show up taking over everything with all those kids and a no-good husband," Missy argued.

"It'll be a wonder if she don't show up pregnant...a-gain."

Grace's fingers moved to press against her eyes. "You fuss every time Gloria comes to the house, and then you're the first one inviting her home again."

"Yeah...so she'll pay me back what she owes me. But I swear, Grace, if that bastard husband of hers hits on me again, I'm telling her about it this time."

"Goodness." Grace sighed, changing the subject from

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2007

    Worth the trip

    Grace Morrissey had to go 'back home' to funeralized her dear uncle and reunite with her 5 sisters, her mother and grandmother. The journey was wrought with dread with the need to address some long kept secrets. Truly a good book!

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