“Nobody stole our plants?” Amber asked. “Was that really something you were concerned about? You sound like Bilhah. Kind of racist, don’t you think?”
“Oh. It was something Sean said. He was afraid that if we left the plants so close to the door that somebody might take them.”
“He was not!” she said with a snort.
John raised his eyebrows and his shoulders. “Uhm, that’s what he said. You’ll have to ask him yourself.”
“I’m sure he was joking. So, you’re definitely staying, right? Joni’s not going to be in that big house all alone?”
“I’m definitely staying and I thought we were selling that big house.”
“You know what I mean. She’s been through a lot.”
“She has. We have. And yes, I’m staying. In fact, I have a job interview lined up.”
Amber tilted her head to the side and nodded three times. “Nice. Where?”
“At the church. As a youth counselor.”
“At this church!? Wow. Well, good luck.”
Sean pulled to the curb in his Lexus GX and honked. Amber pushed open the outer door and said, “Well, I’m sure we’ll be seeing you around. Good luck with getting a job. Come on kids, Daddy’s waiting,” and left.
The remaining Hagans had moved into the chapel. Pastor Chris was saying, “Please, take all the flowers, vases, potted plants that you think you can use. If they don’t go home with you, they’ll probably just get tossed.”
The potted plants were the most popular of course and Joni, Payton and Jake took turns selecting their preferences. The selection process went smoothly and Joni made sure that she had collected all the cards so that she could write thank you notes to the kind souls who had left flowers for her mother. “Flores para los muertos,” John whispered.
“Flowers for the dead?” Joni asked. “I’d say flores para los vivos.”
John and Joni were last on Chris’ goodbye rounds and he approached them with arms wide open. “Joni, John, please let us know if we can be of service to you,” he said holding the couple in an embrace. “There are hundreds of people in this parish whose lives your mother touched. Hundreds.
“And John?” he continued, releasing them. “I’ve got my eye on you. I saw how you interacted with those young men back there, how you made Imani feel appreciated. Even in your time of sorrow. Coach Gable makes the hiring decisions for the outreach program but he usually welcomes my input. We’ll have to do a background check and all that of course but if you made as good of a first impression on Coach as you did on me then I’d say you’re a strong candidate. Good luck,” he added, extending his hand.
“Thanks, Pastor. For everything.”
Chris smiled, waved, turned and headed up the gentle slope to the church’s exit. “Well that certainly sounded encouraging, didn’t it?” Joni asked, slipping her arm through Johns.
“Yes. Yes, it did,” he answered, patting her hand.
“Okay,” Bilhah declared. “I think we’ve gleaned this field like locust. We ready to roll?”
“Ready,” Joni replied, nodding her head. “You guys want to stop at the house for a minute? It’s practically on the way to Amber and Sean’s. Greg, Monette? What are your plans?”
Greg looked to his wife. Monette replied, “None, really. Our flight back’s not until Friday; we figured we’d see some of the city.”
“Great,” Joni said, nodding her head. “Come over to the house?”
“Sure,” Greg replied, “love to.”
“Okay,” Jake interjected, “who’s going with who? Ashley, we got lots of room; Payton? We’ll be pretty tight with all the flowers, looks like you’ll have to walk.”
“Har, har, har,” Payton said. “You so funny. Yeah, let’s go to Mom and Dad’s. That’d be nice.”
“We’ll have to follow you,” Greg said. “Or should I put the address in my GPS?”
“No,” John assured him. “We’re really close. Home is like right here.”
As they grabbed the last of the flowers and headed out onto the streets he realized exactly what he’d said. ‘Home is like right here.’ That was close to the truth but there really wasn’t any room for that pesky modifier.
Stepping out into the daylight, surrounded by family he whispered to himself, “Home is right here. I like the sound of that.”