The parking in front of my house is completely filled up.
Evidently one of my neighbors is having their house painted because there is a panel van, then another orange Honda with the same logo. There is also a black jeep. I assume it belongs to another painter.
I park three or four doors down the street, grab my computer bag, and open the back of the car to unload Rooney. I am surprised, as I walk up the street, to see the driver's door on the Jeep open. I wonder who is waiting for me to get home.
I do not recognize the woman until she opens her mouth, then I realize it is my sons' sister, Rashida. She lived with us on and off throughout her teenage years, leaving when my rules about chores and homework and dating got to be too much, then returning again when the world was too cruel.
I have not seen her for seven or eight years. The last time I saw her, she threw a broom across the kitchen so hard it left a hole in the wall, then slammed the door behind her, and left screaming that I would never see her again.
"Hi, Rashida," I say. "What's going on?"
"My brother called. He said I have some mail here. I need my W-2."
"It's nice to see you," I say. "The boys will be home soon."
She shrugs and I wonder how long it has been since she has seen her brothers. I wonder if they have had some kind of a disagreement. My boys don't say a lot about their biological family.
I dig through the mail on the coffee table making small talk while I hunt for her mail. Rashida tells me she is working at the airport, in the operations department. She has not seen my sons or her mother recently; they only call her when they need money. She is living with a friend, close to the airport, but is looking for an apartment by herself. She wants to move somewhere warmer and cheaper. She asks about Star, the dog she chose for our family fifteen years ago.
I cannot stand the hugeness of the elephant in the room. I apologize. "Rashida, I'm so sorry. We haven't seen you for such a long time. I've missed you."
She cries. Apologizes. We hug.
I cannot find the mail. I know it was there last weekend, because I stacked it up when I dusted but it seems to have disappeared. I assume the boys have put it somewhere. I dig through the pile a second time and then a third. Just then, my son walks through the door.
He gives his only sister a flat greeting, "Hey."
"I can't find Rashida's mail," I say.
My son knows exactly where it is. He goes into his room and comes out with a stack of mail.
I think they might like a little time alone, so I take the dog and head outside. Less than ten minutes later Rashida comes out.
"See ya," she says.
"Please come back soon," I say. "Don't be such a stranger."
"I will," she says. "I'll come back soon."