When Joan took her first hesitant step out of the airplane, she shivered. After so many months in the warm, tropical climate of Mary's Islands, she'd forgotten how cold the Midwest could be in the middle of February. She pulled her coat more securely around herself.

As she hurried down the chilly runway, she saw a parked limo appear just within her field of vision. Joan hurried toward it, and saw Charles and her mother step out the side door. When they spotted her, Charles hung back, as if shy, but her mother began to run toward Joan, and Joan hurried toward her.

As she understood it, her mother had been granted a weekend's leave from the AAC- Adult Alcoholism Center. As Joan hurried toward her, she noticed how good her mother looked. Her hair had been styled, she was wearing a yellow business suit, and her make-up had been carefully applied. She looked like other people's moms- clean, crisp, and adult.

They met in a hug, and both spoke at the same time, describing how much they'd missed one another. Only after Joan pulled away did she notice that Charles was still standing beside the limousine, his hands stuffed in his pocket and his face down. Their eyes met, then Charles hurriedly looked away, leaving behind a fog of condensation.

"Give him time," her mother said, noticing where her attention had gone. "He's acting tough right now, but I know how much he's missed you. I could tell in the car on the way over. He'll act angry for a while, but eventually, things will be all right between you and him again."

Joan nodded her understanding, but she was still hurt that Charles still bore that old grudge against her. She tried to shake off her feelings, and managed to hide them as she walked toward the limousine, arm in arm with her mother. "So, did anything exciting happen while I was gone?" she asked, relishing a chance to hear news from her mother's mouth instead of the short, choppy letters she received on the Islands.

"My anniversary is next week," her mother bragged. "Four entire months without any alcohol."

"Congratulations!" Joan cried, and she really meant it. She'd never really suspected or believed that her mom could ever beat her problem, but she was glad to be proven wrong. They reached the limo, and Joan was all smiles as she took a seat between her mother and Charles.

Joan wrapped an arm around Charles in a hug, pretending not to notice how he pulled away. She felt the limo begin to move, and her mom said, "Well, I've shared my good news now. What about you? I'm sure that you have plenty to tell us about. I hear you have a job now."

"I'm working for the government," Joan hedged. "It's pretty good pay, but a lot of work." She smiled to herself, thinking of all the dinners, parties, and meetings she'd had over the past months with foreign dignitaries eager to make good relationships with the new queen of Mary's Islands.

"That sounds very interesting," her mother said, before leaning back. "We'll have plenty of time to talk about it."