Emma’s family was the kind that could cause one to up and move hundreds of miles away; but here she was going to a college in her hometown, afraid to leave her dad alone. It had been just her and her dad for so many years.
Whenever something happened during her childhood, Emma wrote about it on a slip of paper and put it into one of two jars: a Rain Jar or a Sun Jar, though when she went to college, she left her Rain Jar behind in her childhood bedroom. By her junior year, she had an amazing boyfriend, Ryan, who had his own Rain Jar back home, and together they kept each other’s lives bright.
During spring break, Emma decided to introduce Ryan to her dad and the rest of her family at the the family’s annual Easter brunch. The brunch took place at the imposing home of Georgia and Chip Wells, the sister and brother-in-law of Emma’s grandmother. Emma and Ryan came in through the back door and down polished brick stairs to a kitchen that resembled one from an old English castle, complete with hearth and cook. There they found Aunt Georgia, impeccably dressed in a St. John suit, smoking a thin cigarette in a long holder as she chatted with the resident parrot.
Too late to back out now, Emma launched into the introduction. “Aunt Georgia! It’s so wonderful to see you! This is my boyfriend, Ryan. Ryan, this is my great aunt, Georgia.”
“So fabulous to meet you, Ron. Dear, would you pour me a Bloody Mary? The bar is in the living room straight through the archway. I’m simply parched from all the preparation.” Turning to Emma, she added, “your Uncle Chip will be in soon. He wanted to make sure the gardener had hidden all the Easter eggs properly.”
“Ryan. His name is Ryan, Georgia,” Emma whispered under her breath as she followed Ryan to the bar to see if he needed any help. Georgia never got names right so she knew it was no use to actually correct her. Emma stopped short when she spotted Ryan talking with her dad, Rob.
“Dad! How are you? I see you met Ryan,” she said as she leaned in with a quick hug trying to smell his breath. Rob’s problem with alcohol had often ended with Emma adding to her Rain Jar.
“I’m fine, honey,” Rob answered. “Yes, I met Ryan, and we were just talking about where he’s from. By the way, I promise to only have one drink today.” Seeing the doubt on Emma’s face, he added, “maybe two, and you can drive me home.”
At that moment several young cousins clamored into the room, ahead of their parents, Emma’s uncle David and his wife. The kids and David continued to the patio for the egg hunt while Martha marched straight up to Ryan with her hand out. Shaking his hand firmly, she said, “Hello. I’m Martha, Emma’s aunt, and you are?”
“Ryan. I’m here with Emma,” he answered, returning her grip.
“Well. Ryan. Have you found Jesus?”
“Ma’am, I never lost Him,” he said as he turned and walked away, leaving Martha with her mouth gaping.
Emma had to hand it to Ryan as she watched him go outside with help the egg hunt. He handled her relatives with the directness she loved about him.
She grabbed a piece of celery stuffed with cream cheese, Aunt Georgia’s only specialty, and was just biting into it when her grandparents arrived. Her grandmother, Petey, went straight to the bar and her grandfather, Warren, followed, topping up a bourbon he walked in with. Petey disappeared back into the kitchen while Emma hugged her grandfather and led him outside to find Ryan and watch the hunt. The sight of Ryan helping her younger cousins provided her with another ray of sunshine.
“Ryan,” she called out. “Come meet my granddad!”
As Ryan approached, he stuck out his hand and said, “Sir, I’m Ryan Coomer. It’s a pleasure to meet you. Emma has told me so much about her family.”
“Warren Hawkins,” he drawled, shaking Ryan’s hand roughly. “Son. I know a sheriff out in West Texas that’ll throw your ass in jail just ‘cuz I told him to.”