Julia dropped her bag and looked into the back of her station wagon bursting with all her possessions. "How is this going to fit?" She asked the other suitcases already wedged in between bedding, kitchenware and the television. None of her possessions had an answer for her so she walked around to the side of the car to see if there was a crevice she had overlooked. With no luck there she reluctantly put the bag in the passenger seat she was saving for… well not really for anyone, but maybe the hope of someone.
"Lacy!" she called up the stairs, "It's time!"
Lacy appeared at the top of the stairs looking completely chic in her belted short-sleeved cardigan, tailored pants and expertly trimmed and highlighted hair, the only thing out of place was the fact that her make-up was smudged and her cheeks were tear-stained.
"Oh, Lacy. I thought you were fine this morning. I tried not to wake you up."
"No," She spluttered, "I-I've been up since six." She walked down the stairs, wiping her face fiercely with the back of her hand. "It was awful, no wonder we didn't schedule classes before 10."
Julia laughed and hugged her friend. "Everything's going to be okay. You can visit all the time… well, all the time in a few months after everything's sorted out."
"I know, it's just so… scary. You know? We've lived together for three years."
"And aren't you sick of me by now?"
"No," Lacy hugged her again.
Julia laughed and rubbed Lacy's shoulders. "Yes you are, you just don't know it yet." Lacy pulled away from Julia, trying to stop the flow of tears once again. "I have to get going, you going to be okay?" Lacy nodded. "I left cake in the fridge for you and some casserole. It should get you through the week until your Mom gets down here for you."
"You're the best."
"I know. Want to walk me out?" Julia took Lacy's hand and they walked out to the car.
"Call your Mom and tell her you're on your way." Lacy reminded her.
"I will. Go back to bed. I can't believe you were awake so early. Your Mom will be here soon. Sorry I'm leaving you with that couch."
"It's no problem, really. Go!" Lacy hugged her one more time and then pushed Julia into her car.
Lacy blew Julia a kiss as she backed out of the driveway and Julia honked the horn as she drove away. Then Lacy ran inside to have some cake.
"Mom?" Julia looked around for a spot with a chance of better reception.
"Hey, Sweetie. Where are you? How are you?"
"I'm at a rest stop about twenty minutes away."
"Why didn't you tell me you'd left already! I didn't do anything or change the sheets!"
"I'm not coming for a vacation, I'm coming to work, remember?"
"Okay. Twenty minutes?"
"Probably. Maybe a little longer if traffic gets congested."
"Love you, Sweetie, see you soon."
"Bye, Mom, love you too."
The first signs of the farm were pretty easy to spot. Right off the exit the tall buildings disappeared and long white fences and rolling hills were the only thing to see from the side of the road. Pretty soon the large houses perched on hills accompanied the scenery and finally the paved roads gave out to gravel and dirt. The farm gate was open, sitting between to ancient trees, and she could see her mom's house sitting among the hills and large rolls of hay. She drove past the house and up the driveway to the main house and barn.
"Hey girls," She said, closing the gate behind her. 50 alpaca and llama faces looked to see who the intruder was. Julia walked up to the crowd, looking for a familiar face. Curious noses nudged her and quickly backed off as she reached out her hand. "I think I know you" she said to a little light brown llama. The llama inched closer to her and she lifted an open hand. "What was your name? Paprika? Cinnamon? All spice?" the llama had no response but let her neck and ears get scratched.
The horse barn was really a llama barn that had been glorified into horse stalls to accommodate the draft horses that were supposed to be visitors, but hadn't outstayed their welcome in six years. "How have you guys been? Five oversized horse heads looked over their stalls at Julia. She was more confident in this barn and walked to the middle stall, "Coco, how are you?" The large black horse with only subtle touches of white nibbled at Julia's shirt and smelled her hair. "I don't have any apples for you, but I'll be back soon. Be a good girl."
Julia looked around at the real reason she was here. The barn needed new siding, the lawns weren't even close to being in control, the garden was bursting with disrepair and the fences had started to rot. Julia could only imagine what the main house looked like, knowing no one had ventured inside for ages. But for now she needed to make sure to be a good guest and visit her mother.
"How was the barn?" Julia's mother put down a plate of food in front of her. Her mother's house was markedly smaller than the main house, but that hadn't stopped her from squeezing a full sized dining room table and place settings in next to the living room furniture.
"Fine." Julia picked up her fork and tried to decide what to eat first.
"You don't have to lie to me, it's okay." Her mother vigorously scrubbed a bowl in the kitchen, not looking at her daughter.
"It is fine. The animals are happy. The horses were very hospitable." Julia picked up a potato and hoped the conversation was over.
After Julia had eaten not one but two full plates of food her mother let her get up from the table, "I've cleared out the guest room for you. Where's your stuff?"
"Still in the car. I was going to go see the main house. Stay in the master bedroom."
"Of course you are, but not tonight. God knows what condition the house is in."
Julia gave in and slept in the guest room as per her mother's request. She promised herself she would breach the subject of cleaning the main house in the morning. That night, under the soft cotton sheets she should have slept well, but there were creaks and bumps and all sorts of unfamiliar sounds that kept sleep just out of reach. So maybe the first order of business was really finding a companion to listen to all the weird sounds.