“Hey! Who put this here?” Ben gave the suitcase a kick for having tripped him.
“Huh. A suitcase?” Gene squatted down next to it. There was something kind of familiar about this suitcase. It was black canvas, with wheels; the kind you put in the over head compartment of a plane. A little silver thing on the handle jingled when he moved it. There was even an airline tag attached. But the tag said Denver, not Madison.
“Mooooom! Where’d this suitcase come from?”
How did Ben do that? Call his mom so easily. If Gene did that to his dad, he’d get smacked, no error. Not that it mattered since he lived here now. Still, he wasn’t going to wait until Mrs. H. said something. He’d try to figure it out on his own.
There were post office stickers on the suitcase. They said it was shipped from Denver a few days ago. Maybe Mrs. H. knew someone from Denver, but from what the grown ups had been saying at the dinner table, there was only one guy who fit.
Ah-hah. There was the return address. Sure enough, it was him.
“It’s from Drew.” Gene interrupted Ben’s calling to tell him.
“Drew? He’s back?” Ben got this big, huge grin on his face.
“I don’t think so.” Gene shook his head.
That’s when Mrs. H. came downstairs. “What’s the matter, Ben?”
“What do you mean, Drew’s not back? Isn’t this his suitcase?”
“It was mailed from Denver.” Gene pointed at the post mark.
“Oh. Yes.” Mrs. H. looked sad. “There’s no telling when he’ll be back,”
Gene kept forgetting that Drew was important to her. Gene liked Drew, so far as that went, but they’d never really had much to do with each other so it was hard to get all worked up over this.
“But then why is his suitcase here?” Ben squatted down next to it and played with the handle.
“I have no idea.” Mrs. H. stood at the base of the stairs and looked at the suitcase with a kind of worried, kind of puzzled look, like she didn’t know what to do with it.
“How do you know it was mailed from Denver,” Ben asked Gene.
“Here.” Gene squatted down next to him and pointed at the post mark. “See where is says Denver?”
“Oh. Oh! I didn’t know post offices did that.” Ben smiled like it was a rad new discovery. “But, Mom, what is it doing here right by the front door?”
“I’ve got no place to put it.” She folded her hand across her mouth, the wrist bent at a hard angle and blinked real hard.
Gene stood up. He knew that look. He’d seen it a time or two on his Dad’s girlfriends. They’d stand there with their suitcases, look at the pigsty he and his dad lived in, and sometimes cry. It always happened when they didn’t feel loved. He almost hugged her. He wanted to tell her it was going to be all better, but until he’d moved in here, he’d never seen it get better. Only worse. So he kept his hands to himself.
“Mrs. H? I’m hungry. Can I have something to eat?” Didn’t matter that he could already smell meat cooking type smells coming from the back of the house.
“Yes! Yes, of course.” That put a smile on her face. Mrs. H. went off, acting all motherly. She was always happiest when she was cooking. Didn’t matter if he was really hungry, so long as he acted like he was.
“Oh. Yeah. I’m hungry too.” Ben followed them to the kitchen, totally clueless about how much a suitcase could hurt.
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