It had been twenty-four years since she’d last seen it, but the place looked exactly the same as the day she left. Gwen could not believe it had been twenty-four years since that night she ran away in anger. Her parents were trying to keep her from making a huge mistake by marrying Barry. He was a jock, the captain of the football team. She stood looking at the house, thinking about the road her life had taken. Guilt washed over her as she regretted that it had taken so long to come home.
Her parents knew Barry was trouble. He didn’t have any ambition or desire for more in life, as long as he could watch sports and hang with his passé. Before Gwen was taken in by Barry, she had dreams. She was going to be a pediatrician. It had been what she wanted to do ever since she, a woman pediatrician, had saved her sister's life.
Addy was four years younger than Gwen. She had contracted a rare virus that was life-threatening. Fortunately, the doctor knew about the virus and how to treat it. Gwen was ten when Addy was so sick. It impacted her life until her teenage hormones got the best of her, and all that mattered was Barry. He was handsome and knew it, with dark hair and dark eyes. He was a flirt, but she didn’t care as long as he went out with her. Her parents, however, could see beyond what Gwen could and knew he would destroy her plans.
The night of her high school graduation, she got in late. They argued then seemed to talk it out. When they got up the next morning, Gwen was gone. She had run away with Barry to Las Vegas to get married. She called to let them know she was ok. Her mother's disappointment came through as they spoke. Gwen didn't care at the moment; she was happy.
They decided to settle in Nevada, about fifty miles from Vegas. She started waiting tables in a high-end restaurant. With her friendly, outgoing nature and her looks, she made lots of money in tips. Almost enough every month to pay the rent with tips alone. The owner wanted to train her to be a hostess and then a shift manager.
Barry, on the other hand, had several jobs. Each one only lasting a few weeks before they fired him or he made an excuse to quit. Being close to Vegas was not a good thing. Barry would take off for the weekend with his friends while Gwen worked. It took several years of her carrying the financial burden's weight while gambling everything he made and then some. She didn't want her parents to be right, so she didn't say anything; she just kept dealing with it.
One day she had training classes at a hotel and conference center. Mr. Greene was training her to be the assistant manager. She was excited to be up for another promotion. She was twenty-four by this point and could not believe how blessed she was to have such a good boss.
The training class took a break at eleven-thirty for lunch. As Gwen walked out of the conference room, she noticed Barry. She smiled, thinking he came to have lunch with her. Just as she was getting ready to call out to him, she saw a brunette approach him, and he kissed her cheek. She giggled and whispered in his ear.
Gwen followed them down a hallway until they approached a suite. Barry took a keycard out of his pocket and unlocked the door. She pushed the door open and then grabbed him, pulling him inside. Anger and hurt filled her as she stood in the hallway. Not knowing what to do, she walked to the elevator and went to the lobby. Then an idea hit her. He was too arrogant to use a fake name; she needed to catch him.
She approached the woman at the desk, “I hate to bother you, but my husband didn't get me a key card, and I was wondering if I could get one."
“Do you have an ID?”
After showing her ID, the woman gave her a key. Gwen politely thanked her and proceeded to the room.
She unlocked the door and slipped inside. There was no one in the living room; she pulled out the can of mace from her purse. Once she reached the bedroom door, the sight of him actually with another woman shattered her heart into a million pieces. She had given up so much for him, and this was how he thanked her. The pain quickly turned to anger, and she slipped into the room and walked over to the bed. She screamed, and as they looked up, he said, "Gwen, what are you…" Before he could finish the question, she sprayed both of them.
“Your stuff will be on the lawn; we are done!!"
“Gwen, don’t go…let’s talk about this…”
The next sound he heard was the door slamming shut. He knew she meant it when she said they were done. She had the same look on her face that she did when she left her parent’s home to run away with him.
Gwen got the promotion two weeks before her divorce was final. Barry had moved in with the brunette; her name was Cheri. Her father owned one of the casinos in Vegas, and she was loaded. Barry had someone to sponge off of; he would be fine for a little while until Cheri wised up and sent her father's goons after him.
After Gwen got settled in a new apartment closer to the restaurant, she started re-evaluating her choices. Did she even want to stay in Nevada? The thoughts of returning home gave her panic attacks. She couldn’t bring herself to tell her family that they were right. Her pride got in the way.
Addy called her from time to time. They talked about generic things. When Addy got married, Gwen met them at the destination of Sanibel Island. She made an excuse for Barry that he was working. They were already almost divorced at that time. Her reason for herself was that she didn't want to spoil Addy's day. She kept her failure to herself. It was a lovely wedding on the beach.
It did allow her to talk to her parents and tell them she was sorry for running away. They promised to try to repair the rift. They invited her and Barry to come home. She said they would try to figure it out. She hated not to tell them the truth, but she was not ready to admit how wrong she had been.
Ten years passed from the day she left, and the day Mr. Greene asked if she would run a new restaurant. He wanted to open one in a large city in Reno. She was very excited and agreed to move. Mr. Green wanted to give her the opportunity. She was like a daughter to him by now, and there was no one else he trusted more to run a restaurant.
She arrived in Reno with a moving van to follow. With her salary increase, she was able to purchase a modest home. Pride filled her as she unlocked the door and started to carry in the things she packed in her car. Before unpacking, she walked around, looking at her home. This was hers because of hard work. It wasn’t because she married someone of wealth or fame. It was hers, all hers. Every room she stood in awe that it was all hers. At that moment, she thought about Barry. How blessed she was to be rid of him. He would have criticized everything about the house.
The moving van pulled up out front, and soon all of her belongings were in her rooms. They were still in boxes, but she didn't care. The television worked, and her internet was working. It was late afternoon. After ordering carryout from the competition, she decided to relax and start fresh the next day.
Two weeks later, she was at the restaurant. There were many details to attend to before opening night. A gentleman entered the front door. When their eyes met, she felt weak. After what felt like an eternity, she found her voice. “May I help you?”
“I am Robert Morgan; Mr. Green hired me to be the head chef here at The Wycliffe House.”
“Welcome, I am Gwen Lloyd, the manager.”
“I knew you were the moment I saw you. Mr. Green said his manager was a beautiful brunette with green eyes.” She could feel herself blush.
"Tell me about yourself? Where did you study? I think you need to go into the kitchen and make us your best dish for lunch. We will eat and try to tweak the menu."
“I will be ready in forty-five minutes.”
She smiled and returned to her work. Concentration was lost as she tried to work; Robert was in her every thought.
Five years later, she finally told her family that she divorced Barry. She wanted to prepare them for a wedding invitation that would come soon. Things with Robert were going well. The restaurant was a big success. Away from the restaurant, she was so happy with Robert and couldn’t imagine the rest of her life without him.
He insisted on giving her a real wedding since she married Barry at a Vegas chapel. There was lots of planning involved. Her parents and Addy, along with her family, were in attendance. Since Gwen admitted she was wrong in running away with Barry, things were better with her family. She talked to Addy two or three times a week and her parents a couple of times.
Even though she was close to her family and they showed up at her wedding. She had not been back to her parent’s house. Not until this moment, twenty-four years after she left. As she stood there staring at the front door, her life flashed before her. She felt terrible for the way she left.
She now stood there, feeling thankful that her father survived his heart attack and that they were both fine. Gwen was happy that she had made amends a few years earlier. She had not been there for them in the past. She was there now, and that was all that mattered.