02; Home, Sweet Home

It's amazing how much things can change in nine years. That's how long it'd been since El stepped foot inside of Eichen House. Whereas everything there was constant, the world outside was changing. New buildings had been built to keep up with the modern uproar along with new neighborhoods.

Nine years ago she could wander the streets of Beacon Hills and find her way around, but now everything was different. Almost an entirely different town.

There was no way of telling what was going on in the world while inside the institution. World War 3 could have begun and she'd never know it.

As they neared her neighborhood, the houses and streets became more familiar. The changes weren't too drastic but they were still there. It wasn't until she saw the green sign that read Lancaster did she know that they were going home. She'd dreamt of this day for the first few years of being admitted but then the hope that she'd one day be released faded and so did the dreams.

Her eyes skimmed the block as they passed an assortment of homes until the brick house came into view. It had been painted a darker blue color from its original gray, but nothing more had changed. El was glad for that. She didn't know how much more change she could tolerate in one day.

"Oh, look who's here Rose."

El sighed at the name. It was certainly better than Eleanor but still reminded her of an old woman. In some ways that made sense seeing as she was named after her two grandmothers, Eleanor and Rose.

There were two cars already present in the driveway, forcing her mother to park on the curb. One was a sleek black jeep she'd dreamed of getting as a 7-year-old tomboy and the other was a cherry red Camaro she'd only ever seen on TV. These cars were definitely not around when she was a child. She had no idea who they belonged to.

"Home, sweet home," her mother said with a relaxed sigh.

It was the first thing she'd said that didn't sound completely fake.

Getting out of the car she gripped the paper bag close to her chest. It was these simple things that had been her source of life out of Eichen, the last remains of her life before she was thrown into imprisonment.

Her breath caught in her lungs as the white door opened. Out came her father with a smile so big she couldn't help but reciprocate it. Of everything she'd seen in the last hour of freedom, he was the only thing that looked the same. He wore his blue and gray service uniform and his glasses sat on the tip of his nose. He ran out to her and pulled her into an embrace that she never wanted to be let out of.

She hadn't spoken to him in exactly two years. Only she could say it was all for good reasons. Two years ago, he'd been sent overseas to serve in the Navy. It had been something he'd dreamed of doing as a child and if it meant putting an end to their phone calls then so be it. Before then, the pay phones would be constantly ringing so Andrew Paxton could speak to his daughter.

Andrew had just arrived home a few days earlier, returning from his 24 months of duty. It would also be a better welcome home knowing his daughter would be coming home as well.

"I've missed you El."

Her eyes burned with tears but she refused to let them fall. In the nine years that she had been in Eichan House, she'd never cried and she wasn't about to start now.

"I missed you too dad."

Her father pulled back and smoothed out her unruly hair.

"C'mon kiddo. Your brothers are inside."

El's heart squeezed in her chest. Right, her brothers. For a moment, she'd forgotten she wasn't an only child but in fact, she was the youngest of three.

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