Long Way Home (Chapter Five, page 2 of 12)

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Looking blankly at his aunt, Joey dutifully sat beside Alexis on the floor.

"Elmo DVD," he said.

Alexis smiled, pleased that he answered her. "Do you like Elmo?"


"Elmo is for babies," Brian said.

"Brian! Be quiet," Joe scolded him.

"Do you like Elmo's voice?" asked Alexis.

"Yes," said Joey in his robotic tone.

"I don't really know much about Elmo. What color is he?"


"You're pretty smart," Alexis told him.

Joey stared blankly ahead of him. Alexis wanted to give him some sort of affectionate pat, but instead she fumbled awkwardly.

"I'm ready to do my puppet show," Owen announced.

"Can it wait five minutes, O? I'm trying to watch the game." Joe didn't even turn to look at Owen. His eyes were fixed back on the television. She had a flashback to her own childhood, of trying to show her father a poem she'd written about starfish.

Greg MacAdams had been similarly disinterested.

Alexis inched closer to the cardboard puppet theatre. "I'll watch," she offered.

"Yippee!" Owen hopped excitedly behind the curtain. A dinosaur puppet emerged from between the curtains. "Once upon a time, ages ago, dinosaurs ruled the earth. Some had feathers. Some ate meat. Some ate grass." Another dinosaur puppet popped into view. "I ate plants until a big meteor hit the earth and I died. Then all the dinosaurs died. Then there were mammoths and they died. Then there were humans and they all died. Then there was nothing. The end."

Owen proudly popped up from behind the theatre. Alexis clapped, quickly realizing that she was the only one. No one else paid him attention.

Just then Betsy appeared in the doorway to announce brunch. Everyone jumped

up at once.

"The cinnamon roll is mine!" Brian yelled, expertly elbowing his brothers out of the way.

"I would think there's more than one," Alexis said, but the point fell on deaf ears.

They crowded around Betsy's small, round dining table where paper plates and plastic cutlery were set beside stacks of French toast, a plate of cinnamon rolls, bacon, sausages, and a pitcher of orange juice.

"I've got tea brewing," Betsy said as Alexis glanced around for a mug.

"Thanks." She wished she could pluck up the nerve to ask for coffee, but she knew it would only result in some barb about not knowing each other.

Alexis waited her turn as the men and boys loaded up their plates and disappeared back into the family room.

"Gee, nice of them to leave us a few crumbs," Betsy said wryly. "Good thing I made more." She carried more food to the table and stuffed a cinnamon roll between her teeth.

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