"Honey, I know it's hard for you to be back here but your father isn't doing so well. The doctors aren't sure how much time he has left. It's time to come home." Leah's mom reasoned from one end of the phone.
Leah held her phone to her ear, chewing on her fingernails as she listened. She let out a hiss as she bit the skin too far down and her finger started to bleed.
"Leah?" Her mother's concerned voice broke through.
"Fine mom. Just nicked my finger."
"You're chewing your nails again." Her mother scolded.
Leah went to her bathroom and rifled through the medicine cabinet until she found the box of bandages. Balancing the phone on her shoulder, she put the band-aid on.
"I'll let my boss know I need some personal time to deal with family matters today. I never take vacation time so she shouldn't be too worried about it."
"Why don't you go see her right now?"
"She isn't out of her meeting until noon, Mom. We've been over this."
Leah glanced at her wrist to double check the time. Still another two hours before the meeting let out. The merger had been being set up for months. There was no way that Leah could interrupt it without losing her job. A long, drawn-out sigh came from the other end of the phone.
"I'll call you as soon as I'm done talking with her. If I can get out of the office right away, then I should be able to book a flight to get me in by tonight."
"Alright honey. Just let me know if anything changes."
"I will mom. See you soon."
Leah hung up and decided to pack her suitcase ahead of time. With any bit of luck, she'd be heading out from the office and right to the airport. After stuffing her suitcase with at least two weeks worth of clothes, Leah headed back to the office.
She quickly finished up the few items of work she had for the rest of the day and asked Miriam to cover down for her while she was gone. As soon as the meeting let out, she made a beeline for Angela's office. She waited as those involved in the meeting said their final farewells and took off in differing directions. Angela gestured for her to follow as she walked through the door to her office.
"What can I do for you, Leah?" Angela said directly.
"I need some personal time off. My father is very sick, and we aren't sure how much time he has left."
"I'm assuming you need to leave immediately. How long do you need to be gone?"
"I'm not sure. If needed I can take care of my responsibilities virtually until I get back."
"That won't be necessary. Take the time you need. Just keep me updated when you can."
"Thank you so much, Angela. It means a lot. I've already asked Miriam if she could lend a hand while I'm gone."
Angela made a shooing motion with her hand.
"We've got this end. Go home. Be with your family."
Leah made her way to the airport in record time and managed to find a flight to Georgia that left relatively soon.
"Hey, mom. Yeah, I got a ticket. Boarding should be in about two hours. I'll call you when the flight gets in. No, you don't need to pick me up. I can just take a cab. You shouldn't be driving that late anyway. Yes, it gets in late. The flight doesn't leave until three. It's going to be dark by the time the plane lands. You know you can't see in the dark. Alright, fine you can send someone as long as you don't attempt to drive mad woman. Love you too. Bye."
After a long two hours, Leah was finally on the plane. Leah bounced her knee nervously as she sat in her seat. She hadn't been home in a long time and wasn't sure how to feel about it. Her town was small. It was one of those everyone knows everyone else's business sort of towns. She was sure everyone would still remember the last time that she had been home, a time that she had done her best to forget by moving to New York. She watched as the sky turned to hues of red, orange and purple. Maybe being home wouldn't be so bad. Besides, her dad needed her, and she wasn't about to let him down.
The stewardess coming over the PA system jolted Leah awake. At some point, she must have drifted off. She grabbed her overhead bag and headed out as soon as the doors were open. She looked around at the arrival gate for anyone she recognized.
Not seeing anyone, she headed to baggage claim. After grabbing her bags, she headed to the front doors only to feel her arm being grabbed. She whirled around to face the person touching her and the color drained from her face. He was the last person she had expected to see standing there. It had been twelve long years. What should she do?