Off-Season Transactions

Lance has a vacation for the first time in a long time, so he goes to London and then New York, Orlando for Chris’s birthday, and finally home.

He owns an obscene number of houses, because he likes to be comfortable; to him, comfortable means his own things in his own space. But his definition of comfortable has grown to include five guys and an annoying number of locations, so he has a house in Orlando that’s for the guys, one in Los Angeles that’s for work and JC, one in Floribama that’s for him and him alone, and one in Mississippi because that’s where his family is.

His definition of home has changed too–if only because his parents moved into a different house when he was twenty and all of his stuff got rearranged so that he remembers his old room but it’s not important any more. Home, for him, still remains sitting in the kitchen while his mom checks on the casserole for dinner, or sitting on the back porch with Lexi in his arms–eating dinner with his parents and Stacey and Ford. Lance’s home is the muggy heat of a Mississippi summer on the back of his neck and seeing green pass from the back window of a car. Lance gets that peace from coming home when he sees all the trees and the small, pretty houses; the little town he’s from, and all the places he knew by heart when he was a kid.

So he takes a couple months and moves into a room on the second floor, and his mother doesn’t say anything even though he knows she wants to point out that he has a big house on the outside of town that he bought just for this reason. Lance also knows that she’s just happy he’s back, where she can see him and know that he’s all right, and that she’s secretly thrilled he decided to stay here instead of running around the world. His momma thinks he works too hard, but he got it from her.

In the morning he does push-ups and sit-ups, the regimen he burned into his skin while he was in Russia. He runs a few miles in the morning, taking Lexi with him sometimes. When he gets back, he climbs the stairs quietly, because his parents are usually just waking up and he remembers the easy quiet that hung over the house as they all got ready for the day when he was a kid. He takes a shower and puts some clothes on, coming downstairs to find a cup of coffee waiting for him on the counter and the beginnings of breakfast on the stove. He kisses his momma on the cheek and his father hands him the sections of the paper Lance is interested in, and they eat companionably until his dad heads out to work and his mother moves to the living room to watch the morning news.

Sometimes, Lance will sit by his mom and half-listen to the television, slouching next to her and just enjoying being near her. Other times, he’ll set up his laptop in the office and idly check his email, contacting Beth and agreeing or disagreeing with her suggestions and plans. He’ll review his projects, his companies, but they don’t hold his attention. He keeps his cell phone off most of the time, only checking his messages in the afternoon and even then only selectively returning calls. The guys can reach him at his parent’s house if they need to, and Johnny and Beth know only to call if it’s an absolute emergency. He thinks his mom has hidden his Palm Pilot, because after the first day he brought it out, it disappeared, and his mother was just a little too calm when he asked her about it. He doesn’t mind, though. He doesn’t really want to see the thing anyway.

That takes up most of his morning, and when lunch rolls around he usually cooks, making simple sandwiches with soup or salad for two, and he and his momma will eat on the back porch and talk about the family, the guys, Lance’s plans. CFTC is coming up sooner than any of them realize, and he’s got a lot to catch up on now. It can wait, though.

In the afternoons, he’ll go shopping with his mom, or read a book. More and more often he takes a nap, lazily petting the dog and feeling the light spring breeze ruffle his hair. He checks his messages, usually calling Chris or JC to see how they’re doing, sometimes Justin if Lance knows he won’t be too busy, and Joey later in the evening after Briahna is down for the night and Joey can breathe exhausted stories about being a dad in his ear. If he’s still asleep when his dad comes home, his momma will wake him gently, brushing the hair from his forehead and whispering softly to him. He feels like he’s five again, and it’s not a bad thing. He missed this, and he realizes again and again how the band changed his life. He doesn’t regret anything, but he’s happy to recognize how important this is now.

His dad makes dinner, throwing steaks on the grill or doing spaghetti and meatballs. They make small talk over the dinner table. Stacey and Ford come over every once in awhile, and Lance loves to sit and hear the stories of her life, even if she looks at him funny every time he motions for her to go on. When twilight hits the windows, they head outside to watch the stars come out, sipping wine and eating dessert, which is an apple cobbler Lance’s grandmother sent over or cheesecake from the market that’s on his dad’s way home.

He bows out sometimes, grabbing his keys and pulling out of the driveway with all the windows rolled down and Patsy Cline in the cd player. Lance likes to drive, especially alone because he’s heard too many comments on his driving. He drives past his elementary school, his middle school, his high school; the places he used to sing and dance at for show choir; his first job. He glances at where the old Wal-mart was and where the new Supercenter is, the cd chain he used to haunt. He drives past his friends’ houses and the playground his mother took him to when he was young. He sees the highway his mom took once a week for voice lessons, and the football field for the games he went to because everyone else was going.

There’s a little smile on his face because he loves these memories. He loves having the perspective to appreciate everything he grew up with, everything he had then and everything he has now. He gets questions from the people he knew when he was young about the space program and his plans for the future, but more often than not he answers inquiries about how his parents are doing and surprise at how much he’s grown up. Lance never wants to be someone who doesn’t appreciate where they came from.

Soon, he knows he’s going to have to start making appearances again. He’s got business to take care of, and he can already hear the hum of LA calling. But for now, he’s home. And even when he’s gone, he’s safe in the knowledge that you can never really leave the South.