The scent of lemon oil that had been perpetually scrubbed into the wooden fixtures and peach cobbler so sweet cavities were forming in the back of Rose’s mouth already, invaded her senses even before she could fully open the creaky screen door.
Her grandma’s house, so old that it had its own soul and nestled in the dense woods fifty miles outside of Charlotte, had always smelled the same. Or it could have been that Rose’s grandma had cooked her favorite dessert and got up from her rocking chair long enough to wipe down the wood only on those seldom occasions Rose came to visit.
The corners of her eyes beaded with tears as she took in the den’s familiar layout.
She rejected the thought immediately. North Carolina had stopped being her home a long time ago. But, even as she resolved to this, Rose explored the den with a warm sense of nostalgia. Raising her nose toward the kitchen, she hunted for the source of the tooth-aching smell of baked peaches. Nobody made peach cobbler like her grandma.
“Well, I’ll be! Is that little ole Rosemary I see?”
Rose half-grinned when her Aunt Helen came into view, throwing her arms out and shaking her bosom as if it were the 1990s and she was back on a late-night Las Vegas stage. She puckered her lips against Rose’s cheek, encasing her in a smothering embrace.
For the briefest moment, Rose reverted to a little girl again, her cheeks burning the same shade as her auntie’s cherry-painted mouth at the unwanted attention.
“Hey, Helen,” she wheezed. It was hard to breathe when a pair of watermelon breasts were crushing her lungs. Oh, Christ. Isn’t this bad for them? What if they pop?
A hint of laughter bubbled up Rose’s throat as she imagined her auntie’s boobies deflating like tires blown out. A consequence of moving back home, the friendly, if not a little unnecessary, reception would be practice for what was to come. Not bones crushed by bags of silicone, Rose hoped that wasn’t in her future, but hugging, lots of hugging. Too acquainted with Houston’s mind-your-own mentality, Rose preferred it over North Carolina’s boisterous hospitality, so she was thankful when Helen loosened her arms.
“Oh, bless my heart! The last time I saw you, Rosey, you were about knee-high.” Catching Rose’s cheeks in a pinch, Helen squealed. “Aren’t you as pretty as a peach?”
She nodded her reply, watching with horror as the room flooded with family members she’d not seen in forever, some whose names she didn’t recall.