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Laurels
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Cause what you see isn't always the truth
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June 4, 2015 late evening

"Okay, they found her car," Arnold said, hanging up the phone.

"They did?" Edie asked. "Where?"

"It's in the lot near the Ross on Stockton," Arnold said. "They said they'll check to see if Kelly went into the store or if she went somewhere else. They should let us know more soon."

"Oh god, I hope she's okay."

"Hey, hey, hey," Arnold said, puling Edie close to his chest. "It's going to be fine. I'm sure she needed to get out for a bit."

"But what if she doesn't come back? I mean, what if she-"

"Edie, she wouldn't have taken so much clothing with her if she was going to do that," Arnold explained.

Edie pulled herself into Arnold's chest more. It had been a few hours since the blow up. Ella still wouldn't come out of Noah's room, but no one had tried to force her out. Edie left her a sandwich and some chips for dinner, which Ella did pull in at some point. With Kelly's sudden disappearance, no one found it important to force Ella out. At the very least, they knew where she was.

Christian and Angie, meanwhile, weren't doing as well. After Kelly left, Angie went inside and threw all of Christian's items into a suitcase. She told him to spend the night at a hotel like they planned yesterday. Christian tried to fight with Angie, but Angie's cold response made it clear she wouldn't argue with him on it. Christian merely got into his car and drove away, promising he'd be back the next morning. After he left, Angie told Edie she'd be going to be early, and locked herself in the guest room.

This left Edie and Arnold to eat dinner quietly. Arnold had called the police about Kelly running off, but their cooperation had been minimal. It was too early to file a missing person's report, but they could try to locate her car. If Kelly had used a credit card, they could probably trace her as well. As it was, there wasn't much to report other than that she had abandoned her car.

"Look, let's go get her car before it gets impounded," Arnold said.

"Should we really leave?" Edie said. "Angie and Ella-"

"Angie and Ella are asleep," Arnold said. "Well, the ought to be. I don't think they're coming out. If they do, it'll be a miracle. Look, Kelly left a spare key downstairs. We'll drive over to Ross, and you can drive her car back to the house."

"Okay," Edie said. "I guess it's better sooner than later. Let's go."

Arnold and Edie walked out to Arnold's truck and drove away from the house. They drove through the neighborhood, which was slowly giving itself to the darkness of the summer night. Edie yawned a bit as they drove past the dark houses and the flickering streetlights. Edie put a hand under her chin and leaned against the door.

"Do you think Christian cheated on Angie?" she asked Arnold.

"Of course he did," Arnold said. "He practically admitted to kissing Kelly."

"Not that," she said. "I mean before. Angie said something like 'I can't believe you'd do this again'."

"I wouldn't be surprised," Arnold said. "That son of a bitch has a ton of vices. He probably cheated on Kelly when they were together."

"Kelly never said he cheated on her."

"Maybe she never found out. You know he bummed a cigarette from me the other day even though he said he quit."

"And yet you gave him one?"

Arnold paused. Edie slowly looked to her husband.

"Well...I..."

"Arnold, I'm not mad," Edie said. "I just think it's clear we're all hiding things from one another, and even something like giving smokes to a former smoker can be dangerous down the line."

"I don't know how that could be bad," Arnold said.

"What if he picks up the habit again? What if that leads to drinking again? Second hand smoke around a child could be dangerous, and Ella's still growing-"

"I smoked around Noah and he was fine."

"But there could be effects later down the line for him."

"I doubt lung cancer is one of his concerns right now."

Edie fell silent. Arnold continued to stare forward as they turned onto a busier road. Even though it was after 9 pm on a Thursday, the road was still busy.

"Arnold, Ella knows something about you," Edie said. "She said you've been lying to me."

"Edie-"

"Arnold, please," Edie said, her voice starting to waver. "Christian cheated on Angie with Kelly, Angie was secretly watching the streams, and yeah, we were hypocrites for watching the footage after telling people not to. But what have you done since this has started? What does Ella know?"

Arnold quickly glanced at his wife, then back onto the road. He and Edie had been together a long time. There had been secrets between them in the past. There had been times where they've been worried about the other person not talking to them. Arnold had to come clean about possibly losing his job about twenty-two years earlier. Edie had to admit there was a chance she would have breast cancer when Kelly was sixteen. Although Arnold didn't lose his job and the cancer screening was negative, they were still times when they were terrified of telling the truth to one another and it almost had disastrous consequences.

Arnold sighed.

"So, the other day, when Noah was shot."

"Yes?"

Arnold stopped talking, then started tapping his fingers on the steering wheel.

"Ella and I were talking in Noah's room. I was talking to her about his show and his other ventures."

"What about them?" Edie asked.

"Just...about them," Arnold said.

"What specifically?"

Arnold pursed his lips a bit.

"I admitted that I've never watched his show."

Edie raised an eyebrow. "What?"

"I've never watched his stupid show," Arnold said. "I don't get it, I don't see the appeal, and it doesn't interest me."

"How could it not interest you?" Edie asked. "Your grandson puts so much effort into that show and all his projects, and you can't even support him."

"I can support him," Arnold said. "I support him when he runs jokes by me. I support him when he performs locally. I just don't see the need to support that."

"Does Noah know about this?"

"I don't know. He's never asked."

"Okay, that can't be all to this," Edie said.

"Excuse me?"

"Ella's mad because you've never watched Noah's YouTube show? She's putting that on the same level as hypocrisy and infidelity? What else does she know?"

"Edie-"

"Tell me, Arnold!"

"Okay, fine!" Arnold said.

Arnold clutched the steering wheel tighter.

"I told her I didn't want Noah to do that sort of thing. That I wish he did something else here. That he wasn't like the person he portrays on that show-"

"-that he was different?" Edie asked.

"Edie-"

"You don't like that he does the things on that series," Edie said. "You don't like that he would dress like a lady and dance around for laughs."

"I mean, Kingman's not a good place for him to do that sort of thing-"

"When was the last time there was a gay bashing in this town?" Edie asked.

"I don't know," Arnold said, "but it takes one messed up person to target him, and that person could be on that damned island right now."

"So, what? If he was living in Las Vegas with his dad it'd be fine? Is that what you're saying?"

"No, it's not always about that. I just wish he wasn't acting like that Pina person."

"Arnold, this isn't about Ella or Pina Bucket or Kingman, is it?" Edie asked. "What do you wish was different about Noah?"

"I wish he wasn't gay!"

Edie's mouth fell open. Arnold slowed the car down once he got to an intersection.

"Okay, we're here," Arnold said, pulling into the parking lot. He drove down the line until he spotted the Acura and parked near it.

"There's the car. The key is in the tray, so just follow me home-"

"I'm not getting out," Edie said. "Not until we're done."

"Edie, it's late."

"You wish he wasn't gay?" Edie asked. "Is that it? That's what the issue has been?"

Arnold rubbed his forehead with his free hand.

"Arnold, he's our only grandson," Edie explained, her eyes starting to water. "How could you wish he was different?"

"Because it doesn't make sense to me," Arnold said. "I mean, how can he like men and be okay doing such flamboyant stuff?"

"A lot of people do, Arnold," Edie continued. "It's been done since the beginning of time. For god's sake, it's 2015. It's perfectly acceptable to be that way."

"But why? Why does he have to be that way?" Arnold asked. "Was it because he didn't have a dad in his life as a kid? Was I not a good enough role model for him?"

"You were perfectly fine," Edie said, "but how could you assume he just became gay? Arnold, when he was four, he asked me to buy him some earrings at a yard sale. When he was six, he played in my clothes and said his name was Anastasia. When he was nine, he said he wanted to be an undead Disney Princess for Halloween. He was always gay, no matter how often you tried to take him fishing or teach him to work on cars."

Arnold didn't respond. Edie sighed and threw her hands up.

"My god, were you always just going to be quiet about this?" she asked. "Were you going to grin and smile as Noah brought home a boyfriend or got on RuPaul's Drag Race Season Whatever? Were you always planning on lying to him about this?"

"I was hoping I'd die before I had to," Arnold said.

Edie scoffed.

"I can't believe this. Noah could be hurt or dying right now, and he's probably under the assumption we all love him and wish he came home."

"I do love him," Arnold said.

"No you don't!" Edie said, tears starting to fall down her face. "You made it clear your love for him had limits and restrictions. You told him you cared about him for eighteen years, when in actuality you've had conditions to it. 'I love you, Noah! But I wish you weren't gay.' 'I'll always be there for you, Noah. But I'd rather not support your craft.' 'I only wish you happiness! Unless it involves marrying someone named Chad.'"

"Edith! Don't put words in my mouth," Arnold said.

Arnold never called her "Edith." If he did, he was really upset. Edie looked over her husband. His eyes were starting to water, and his face was getting redder.

"You may not have said it, but it was always there," Edie said, her voice getting low. "Noah might be dead, and he'll never know you had such disdain for a large part of who he was. Yes, everyone in our house may be lying to one another, but none of us hurt him specifically."

Edie grabbed the Acura key from the tray and opened the door. She stepped outside the car and turned back in.

"I'll see you at home," she said.

Edie closed the door and walked over to Kelly's Acura. She entered the car and started it, pulling out of the parking space and out of the lot. Arnold remained parked in his truck. He clenched his teeth and his eyes as hard as he could, then let out a scream. He repeatedly bashed his hands against the steering wheel before resting his forehead against the wheel.

Tears began to fall down Arnold's face. For the first time in weeks, he allowed himself to cry.



"Can I help you?"

"Oh, yes. I had a reservation."

"Okay, great. And your name?"

"MacIntyre. It should be under Pina MacIntyre."

The clerk at the desk typed away at her computer.

"Oh, there we go. Pina MacIntyre. You'll be in Room #8. Here's your key."

The clerk handed the key to the woman before her. The woman looked slightly disheveled and passive. She had seen people like her come to the hotel before. Maybe she was meeting a boyfriend or a lover here. It didn't matter to the clerk.

"Thank you," the woman said, taking the key.

"Enjoy your stay at the Hualapai Mountain Resort. Your room is just that way on your left."

"I will. Thank you."

Ms. Pina MacIntyre took the key and walked to where the clerk directed her to. As she did, she sighed. She could only afford three days here. Three days to forget where her son was, and what her family was doing in her home. With that, she slipped into her room and lost herself in the sheets of her queen sized bed. It had been a long day, and she was ready for it to end.
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