Long Way Home (Chapter Two, page 2 of 7)

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Ahead of her, a little girl in a light blue jacket busily drew with colored chalk on the empty street.

"Hi," the girl called with a wave.

Alexis turned away from her, unwilling to give her attention. It took ten minutes to walk to Betsy's. She gave the house a cursory glance, all red bricks and cheap white trim. It was the future that Alexis had been desperate to avoid.

She rang the doorbell and immediately heard voices spring to life on the other side of the door. The door flew open and there stood Betsy or, at least, a version of Betsy. This girl was a woman, as well as a good forty pounds more than the sister Alexis had left behind. Her brown hair was the same shade as Alexis's, but the cut was short and spiky.

"Well, well. An early frost," said Betsy, folding her arms across her ample chest.

"Wow, let's do the time warp again," said Alexis, giving her sister the once-over. "How many washes can one outfit endure in a lifetime?" Betsy's fashion sense hadn't changed much at all; she still sported all black attire with loud, chunky jewelry.

"Do you seriously think I could fit in my clothes from when I was twenty?" Betsy asked incredulously. "You've heard about my three kids, right?"

"Only three? I expected a village."

Betsy's brown eyes narrowed. "How many hard-working small businesses have you put to death since I last saw you?"

"How many innocent beads had to die to make that necklace?" Alexis sniped.

"Better beads than children in sweatshops," Betsy remarked, eyeing Alexis's designer duds. She unfolded her arms, indicating a ceasefire. "So are you coming in or do I need to invite you?"

When she turned to lead Alexis into the house, Alexis spied a rose tattoo on the nape of her neck. She suspected there were a few more of those in less obvious places. As Alexis stepped inside, her attention immediately shifted to the home's interior. She nearly laughed out loud at the country style d├ęcor, complete with wooden chickens on the wall and red gingham curtains. No doubt Betsy had left the previous owner's style intact.

"Don't even mention the chickens," Betsy snapped, reading her sister's mind. "I haven't gotten around to redecorating."

"I don't think black walls would really work in here anyway," Alexis said, remembering Betsy's teenaged experiment with design.

A small boy appeared at the bottom of the stairs, clad in Star Wars pajamas. His hair was so light that it appeared almost white, and had the effect of making his brown eyes look even darker.

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