There's No Place Like Home

by Brenna Bailey
Alberta, Canada
genre: General

Jamie awoke early that morning to the murmur of voices outside. She was surprised she had been able to sleep at all, and she pulled herself out of bed with a sense of purpose. When she twitched her bedroom curtains aside, she saw a crowd gathered out front. She recognized almost every shop owner from Main Street, along with her best friend Vera and her family, more of her friends, and the entire construction crew that had helped put her dream together.

This was it.

With a sense of anticipation growing in her chest, she threw her hair up into a ponytail, not even bothering to shower. The smell of coffee wafted upstairs, reassuring her that at least one staff member had arrived, using the key she had given them. She put on a T-shirt and jeans and pulled on a fresh apron before bounding down the stairs.

“Here we go,” she said, heading for the front door. She took a deep breath and looked at the photo of her parents, thinking of how far she had come.

It was only months ago that Jamie had decided to open the place. She couldn’t keep the house the way it was—empty and echoing with memories—but she couldn’t sell it, either. She had grown up here and her parents had built a community here; it was an odd day when they didn’t have visitors over. She couldn’t leave that behind.

The old diner closing had given her the idea. The citizens of Juniper Creek were already wondering where they would go now for meals; the town didn’t have much in terms of local restaurants, and fast-food places were not at all the same.

It would take a lot of thought, all her savings, and all that her parents had left her, but she was committed. This would be their legacy. Vera helped with the design, and they hired a local contractor to help with actual construction and permits.

Things came together slowly but surely, her vision coming to life before her with literal blood (only a little, thank goodness), sweat, and tears.

The kitchen counter where she had learned to bake brownies was torn down, a new wall built where the dining table had been to close off the kitchen. The oven her mother had cleaned diligently every month was replaced with a new industrial model, and the sink her father had taught her to fix was expanded and fitted with a new faucet.

Jamie sold the china cabinet, gently packing away her mother’s china, to make room for a counter and cupboards along the wall and a bar where patrons would sit and drink their morning coffee. She moved the TV upstairs and got rid of the couch where her father had fallen asleep many a night, the hockey game casting a glow across his face. They knocked down a wall and installed new flooring, replacing the wooden boards on which Jamie had learned to walk. Fresh coats of paint went on the walls, booths were built where bookshelves used to stand, and they created bigger windows in the front walls, letting daylight pour in over tables instead of over the carpet her parents had got as a wedding gift.

At times, her heart felt like it was breaking into pieces, but she reminded herself that this was still home. It was home reimagined. Home reinvented. Home renewed and transformed. She hoped with her whole being that others would find their home here too.

“What are you going to call it?” Vera asked as they stood outside, watching a worker install the new front door.

“I’m not sure yet,” Jamie said, biting her lip.

That night, she sat at the bar counter with a cup of tea steaming in front of her, papers spread out around her as she looked over resumes for cooks and waiters. That small space was the only cluttered area of the main floor—everything else still felt empty, lacking in décor and laughter, the new appliances shiny and waiting to be used. All her parents’ things that she had kept were upstairs, packed into their old room and the spare room, waiting for Jamie to find a new place for them. And she would, as soon as she was ready.

The one thing she had brought down was a framed photo of her parents, hung behind the counter so patrons would see them and know that this was their place. Jamie looked at the snapshot of time, her father’s arm wrapped around her mother’s waist, her mother looking at him with her face frozen in a laugh, his eyes twinkling at the camera. She imagined what they would say if they were here.

“Wow, this looks swell,” her mom would say, running her hands over the tops of the chairs and humming in satisfaction as she looked everything over. “Needs some plants.”

Her father would wait to divulge his opinions in quieter, subtler ways. She knew he would be proud, though. He’d say something like, “You did it, June Bug. You always said you’d have a place like this, and you did it.”

If only she had worked up the courage to do it before her parents were gone. She rubbed her eyes, wishing they could see it.

As she cleaned up that night, her father’s voice replayed in her mind, even though he had never said the words when he’d been alive. This space may be new, but she could feel her parents’ presence in every room.

She placed an order for the sign the next morning, and Vera went with her when it was ready to pick up. “This is perfect,” Vera said with a watery smile, the sign held out before her. Jamie’s parents had meant a lot to her as well, as they had to many of the townspeople.

Jamie left the sign until last, getting everything else in place so the diner would be ready to go on opening day. She and Vera put up the sign together the night before the grand opening, the front of the diner lit only by streetlights and the glow of the moon. They hugged each other after, laughing and swaying to a song only they could hear.

Now the time had come to start the journey she had been preparing for. To launch her dream and embark on a new life where her parents were still there but in a different way.
She pushed open the door, the smile on her face so wide it hurt her cheeks. “Good morning!” she called.

Everyone quieted and turned to face her, and she felt overwhelmed with support. These people were all here for her, and for her parents—to maintain and build the community her parents had been cultivating for years.

A laugh bubbled out of her, and she caught Vera’s bright eyes as she shouted the sentence she’d been waiting to say for months. “The June Bug is officially open for business!” A cheer erupted from the crowd and people filed past her into the diner.

She greeted each of them, her heart bursting. And this was only the beginning.

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