Long Way Home (Chapter Two, page 3 of 7)

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"Owen, this is your Aunt Alexis. You be polite, okay? No weird questions."

"Hi," said Alexis.

"My aunt's name is Kelly," Owen said.

"Well, this is your other aunt. Kelly is Daddy's sister and this is mine."

"Why haven't I met her before?" he asked.

Betsy gave him a pointed look to indicate that the question was off-limits. Owen nodded silently with his large, solemn eyes. His gaze flickered to the mysterious aunt and back to his mother.

"Why didn't you hug her?" Owen asked.

Betsy looked taken aback. "I did."

"No, you didn't. You sounded angry with each other and then she came in. No hugs."

"Your mom was surprised to see me is all," Alexis jumped in. For Owen's sake, she gave Betsy a friendly pat on the back.

"That's just our way of communicating, honey," Betsy explained. "Like when you and Brian fight."

"I don't fight with Brian. He fights with me."

"This is Owen, my youngest," Betsy said.

"I'm four," he told Alexis proudly.

"The other two are at school," added Betsy.

"When do they finish for Christmas break?" asked Alexis.

"Too soon, if you ask me. I need to get on the ball before then. I'm so behind schedule."

"Joey's not on the island," Owen informed his aunt. "He goes to a special school on the mainland."

Alexis gave her sister a quizzical look.

"Joey is autistic," she explained. "The school is for autistic kids. He lives here, but he'll attend school there full-time until he's twenty-one."

"Is Joey the oldest?" asked Alexis.

Owen nodded. "Why don't you know that? Don't you have e-mail? The island has internet, you know, even if it's too slow for some of my games." An idea occurred to him and his face lit up. "Do you live on a deserted island?"

"Unfortunately not," Alexis said.

His tiny mouth drooped in disappointment.

"Owen, why don't you bring Aunt Alexis into the family room and I'll get us something to drink?"

"I want milk with a lid and a straw."

"Please," Betsy reminded him.

"Pleeeease," Owen said with enthusiasm.

Alexis followed him into the family room. A Christmas tree stood in the corner trimmed with colorful wooden decorations. Alexis touched one of a gingerbread man.

"We used to have shiny ones," Owen said, "but Joey kept taking them down and breaking them. Not on purpose. He just likes shiny things."

"And what's Brian like?"

Owen scrunched up his face, thinking. "He's seven. He likes to win. Do you think Santa Claus dies like people do?"

The change in topic was so abrupt that Alexis thought she misheard him.


"Santa Claus is a human, right? So do you think he dies? Because all humans die or don't you know that either?"

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