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You can come home again.
Bittersweet memories overwhelmed Rori as she pulled her packed sedan up her sister's the tree-lined driveway. From the moment she'd approached the outskirts of town, the memories had rushed back.
For longer moments she'd been that girl. The fit of the self-loathing and hesitant girl who'd escaped Oakley, Tennessee as quickly as she could a decade before, had been awkward. Awkward enough she was able to finally accept that demon was finally exorcised.
She was back. For good this time. Older. Wiser. Stronger.
Her sister's pretty pale yellow two-story house loomed at the end of the drive when Rori pulled to a stop. It didn't take more than a minute to turn the car off and get out, slowly and a little stiffly.
The wet heat of late spring grabbed her in a bear hug as she stretched. Twelve hours in a car two days in a row was more than enough. She didn't want to drive more than ten minutes for at least a week or two.
"Rori? That you?" The sound of her name being called pulled her out of her thoughts and she turned around with a smile for her sister as she flew down from the porch.
Joy filled her at the sight of Kelly's still-gorgeous face. "I'm here." Rori hurried to meet Kelly in the middle, each engulfing the other in a hug, punctuated with tears and some laughter too. It had been too long and the exile had been no one's doing but her own.
After the hug broke, Kelly looked her up and down with a huge grin. "I like the blond. You look good, Rori. You looked good before, but you had shadows in your eyes. Now? You're just gorgeous. Must be all the weight you lost in the form of a loser French cheating ex-boyfriend."
"Ha! Yes, something like that. You know, you get rid of Mom's fry-it-you'll-like-it way of eating and move to a city like Paris where you walk or bike all the time and that's half of it right there."
"Since we can't pretend Mom doesn't exist, my only other idea is that Max and I should move to Paris, then. Can we leave the boys with you?" Laughing, Kelly tucked a wayward curl behind her sister's ear. "Aside from looking fabulous, doll, you're home again and I've missed you so much."
Rori found herself grinning through a sheen of tears again and shook her head. "I'm the one who's glad." She popped the trunk of the car. "I'd gladly take those boys from you, but you know you'd want them back in a few weeks." Grunting, she pulled bags out, hefting them to the driveway. "Come on then, help me with my suitcases."
"Where's the rest of your stuff?" Kelly asked from the other side of her armful of bags, leading Rori into the house.
The darker, far cooler interior was a welcome change from the bright blast of heat outside. "Christ, I forgot about the heat. Nice in here though."
"Willow trees and the big old oak in the front give great shade. Max is smart that way. You'll be in the third floor attic room. AC gets up there and there's a ceiling fan so you should be comfortable."
"Great, thank you. The rest of my things are being shipped." They took the stairs and Rori was glad she worked out on a semi-regular basis. Even at that she was huffing and puffing once they'd started the last, narrower set of stairs to the third floor. "Should be here Monday or Tuesday. I knew it would take me at least a few days to find a place so there was no use having to unload it twice."
Once they'd gotten to the attic room, Kelly spun to level a glare her way. "A place? What do you mean, a place? I just got you back and you're already planning to leave again?