She found herself locked inside her parents’ hotel room, the doorknob and lock like everything else these days, busted, beyond repair. Soon they’d show up. Would the door open for them?

She’d already found her suitcase, had removed the pot. She’d driven from Philly to catch them before they left on that morning flight, before an airport German Shepherd barked at the suitcase and ruined their getaway.

They were at the door. Why would she be here? Think, think, think.

It opened. They entered kissing, more like falling into the room, laughing, happier than she’d ever seen them at home. With her.

“Honey.” Her mom.

Her dad. “What now?”

So this would’ve been their lives. Not being called to meet with the teachers. Not checking the basement every fifteen minutes when friends showed up. Not checking her emails, phone, Facebook, Twitter accounts for clues. Not arguing over who was to blame, who spoiled her, who hadn’t given her enough things to do, responsibility, whose genes, to whom did she belong, what had they missed. Nothing to get away from.

Would pot in the suitcase had really surprised them?

“I’m sorry,” she told them. “I should’ve”–her mom reached for something on her dad’s cheek, an eyelash perhaps, held it for a second, let it go–“said something about the door. No, this door. I couldn’t get it open.”
 
They both laughed, giggled together, a team again. “Honey. That’s not what we meant. Why aren’t you home?”

“I know that’s not what you meant. I was getting there.”

“Well,” Dad said. “Get there.”

Asking for more money would cause a fight, about what they had left for her not being enough. And it was. More than enough.

“I didn’t say goodbye,” she told them. “I mean–what if–not that anything would.” As a kid, she couldn’t close her eyes at night, couldn’t tolerate the uncertainty of not-knowing. She became sure someone would bury her alive. “It’s–you know, Dad—that thing from childhood. The Worry Bug. I just thought I needed to come here and see you. Phone wouldn’t do. I felt compelled.” He stayed up with her, night after night, until she could no longer fight sleep.

“Oh, honey.” Mom broke the embrace with Dad. “Did you want to come with us? We could figure it out, you know. Even if it meant delaying it a day. Couldn’t we, dear?”

He didn’t hesitate. “Would it be something you wanted?” Dad asked her.

“You’d want me? I thought–I mean look at you two.”

“What do you mean, honey?”

Don’t you hate me? She reached her hand in her pocket, forgot about the plastic bag of pot there. It would surprise them, wouldn’t it? They wanted their little girl, that kid that clung to them, napped on top of them. It would break their hearts, a visible sign to them that—. What? It was like Holden Caulfield trying to stop kids from falling out of innocence, wanting to hold on to things. Did she want that, too? For just one more week?

“It shouldn’t be hard,” Dad said. “I could fly coach. You could sit with Mom, okay? It would be–”

Was he going to cry?

“We miss you,” Mom said. “That’s all. You really came all the way here? Just to see us off?” Mom kissed her forehead. “Imagine that.”

“I’ll sleep on the couch,” Dad said.

“What about the door?” she asked them. She’d flush the pot down the toilet, but she didn’t have her passport, clothes. She could go get them, get rid of the pot then, meet them at the airport. “I mean what if we can’t get out again.”

“Oh, I’m sure it’ll open,” Mom said. And Dad: “Certainly.”

Photo by russellstreet

Randall Brown

RANDALL BROWN teaches at Rosemont College’s MFA in Creative Writing Program. He is the author of the award-winning collection Mad to Live (Flume Press, 2008), his essay on (very) short fiction appears in The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction: Tips from Editors, Teachers, and Writers in the Field, and he appears in the Norton Anthology of Hint Fiction (W.W. Norton, 2010). He blogs regularly at FlashFiction.Net and has been published widely, both online and in print, including online at American Short Fiction, Tin House, and Mississippi Review; and in-print in Cream City Review, Lake Effect, and Harpur Palate.

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