(For a better experience, read while listening to Ludovico Einaudi’s “Nuvole Bianche”. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kcihcYEOeic)

[Knock, knock. A man. Neatly dressed. Like an officer. He’s an officer]

Mother: Evan? Mary. Come in, come in. Please sit. Evan, I thought you were at, what’s the name of the place, with your friend. He said last week…

[Joe’s room; on the phone]

Joe: Hey, are you still there? It’s my dad’s friend who was at the door with his wife. Leila got to the door before me. She’s let them in.

Chris: Okay. What were we saying before? Yeah, the gifts. They’re all cool stuff. You should come to my place this evening. One of the gifts is a new PS4 and I can’t wait to thrash you at NBA 2K16.

Joe: Ha, you wish. Well, bring your game on. See you later.

[Leila’s room; on the phone]

Leila: Dad’s coming home by the weekend for the holidays. We’d be away for two weeks; off to Paris, Rome, and Istanbul. Rome is mom’s favorite, that’s where she met dad.

Shawn: Cool. It’d bring back fond memories for them.

Leila: She says they met just before sunset, under white clouds. She’s so excited. I am too. Dad’s been away for about a year somewhere in Iraq. I miss him so much, and…

[Knock, knock. Mother. Mother?]

Daddy wasn’t coming home. That was why Evan and Mary came. There was an explosion where dad was. Ashes were left.

Joe’s grown up fast. I see him muscling through, trying to be strong for us, especially for mother. Mother cries sometimes when we travel on country roads, and white clouds are overhead. I think she’ll not visit Rome, ever.

You’ve been away for about a year now, Shawn. And somehow, I’ve stopped expecting you to come home.

(A white cloud version of this narrative is available at: Once Upon a Month – Coming Homing)