Chapter 53: Can One Go Home Again

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Most girls would love getting a designer dress but when Lela saw the pale pink patterned Alexander McQueen dress delicately set across her hotel bed she was less than excited. She wasn't the same little girl that left home—troubled with anxiety and riddled with naivety. She knew the thousand-dollar dress wasn't a gift from a mother to her daughter. Those fine threads was Gretchen's way of ensuring Lela knew her place and how things were going to be executed while she was back.

Still, drowsy from the Xanax she took to endure the flight there—Lela jumped in a cold shower to wake herself up and then got dressed. She was prim, prepped, and ready when the town car Gretchen sent over to pick her up at 6:45.

Lela slowly gaited to the curb only stumbling twice—she hadn't worn heels since her high school graduation but she knew the black pumps in the box next to her bed wasn't optional. A dark-skinned man about average height in a black suit greeted her with a smile and opened the door. Lela didn't wonder how the strange man knew it was her he was looking for because Gretchen trained him well—she had that talent.

Lela snapped her seatbelt in place as the driver inch away from the curb, into oncoming traffic. She pulled her braids over her shoulder and let her hand meander over the brilliant cut, glimmering white gold diamond necklace. Her timid eyes leer out the tinted windows that only made the world appear darker than it was. The sun was slowly fading—ducking behind achromatic brick buildings as people in business wear padded down the sidewalks and cars whooshed by her window as the driver made sure to stay right at the speed limit.

She closed her eyes resting her head back and gave into the residue of medicine still lingering in her vein. Her body was dormant but her mind raced—zipping through memories that she tucked away in the farthest corner of her mind. The years before she was twelve were years of schedules and routines. Her au pair woke her at five, which was probably early for a child, but Gretchen wanted her to be dressed, feed, and thoroughly prepared when she strode downstairs with her stilettos clicking along the buffed wood.

It was always the same every day, Gretchen would give her a kiss on each cheek, point out something wrong that her au pair did with her hair and tell her to behave in school and to shine because Emery's are never dull. After the seven-minute methodical mother-daughter bonding was over, her au pair would usher her out the door and off to school. Afterwards, it was her Nana that picked her up. It was the best time of Lela's day. Her Nana never tied her down to an itinerary or went over proper procedure before they went into the park or the museum—with her Nana she could be herself; a kid.  

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Atlantic, an upscale modern restaurant in the heart of the Financial District was brightly lit as white adorned waiters moved with as gazelles around the tan cushioned chairs and wooden square tables. Lela followed the willowy brunette in the black A-line dress as Chicago's well-dressed, highly educated, upper-crust society dined on petite meals as the chattered about light topics.

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