Nope, it wasn't unusual seeing a rather distraught demeanor coming from Paul Roberts. Disheveled hair, eyes that make no focus, and clothes that seem ill-pressed all were features surrounding him. It was a lovely summer day in which the sun made no display of shyness. The airport was filled with anxious folks waiting for their suitcases and family and friends greeting their loved ones whom they haven't seen in a while.
He looked far and wide for familiar faces in the crowd, but couldn't see anybody. Thinking he needed to pass the time, he found a seat and pulled out a photo album of his ill-fated 10 months in Minneapolis. The wonderful memories of the friends he made was overwhelmed by the stormy situation that clouded his mind. Too much to bear, indeed. Quickly stuffed back into the bag was the album. Elder Roberts' baggage wasn't just physical. Also in his bag was a copy of the letter he sent his parents; it held the reason why his parents would see him much sooner than they expected. No letter was sent in response. The vacuum of communication drove Elder Roberts bonkers. Millions of possibilities dwelt in his head, all competing for attention and contemplation.
A young mother in her mid-20's took the two spare seats to left of Elder Roberts. She put her baby carrier beside her and played with her daughter. She noticed the obvious discomfort of the young man to the right her.
"Is anything the matter?" she asked, then noticing the unmistakable nametag, she immediately followed with "You must be nervous heading home after everything you've been through. It's quite a transition. My husband took time to adjust, too. He loved it out there in Scotland."
"You have no idea," answered Elder Roberts. "It's quite an embarrassment, though, I've had about a year left, but here I am," His friendly smile failed at masking his despair. The woman nodded her head and had pity in her heart.
"My brother was in the same situation. Bobby needed a kidney transplant and it was tough to have it done there in Guyana. There's no shame. By the way, do you mind if I breastfeed my little princess while I wait for my mom's plane to land?" Laughing, Elder Roberts consented, then he went on to explain his situation while the lady popped out a tit and began nourishing her baby girl.
"I actually left of my own free will. There was a point in which I couldn't take the self-abuse anymore," sighed Elder Roberts.
"Plenty of guys your age self-abuse. That's no reason to cancel a whole mission," remarked the woman. Gasping, Elder Roberts was flabbergasted at her blunt statement.
"Haha, well, I mean in in a more emotional sense. Being out there, all alone, is torture," stated the young man.
"My other brother, Gerard was missing his girlfriend so much. He was scared some guy was gonna snatch her up. Though, I dunno why he was all gaga over Stephanie, who is of loose morals, if you know what I mean," winked the young mother.
"...and here is my 3rd companion. He was overweight and frankly, couldn't keep up with the day-to-day rigours. Instead of Elder Pullman, I called him Elder Pudge-man," said Elder Roberts, who was showing Elaine, the young mother, pictures from his time in Minneapolis. Elaine's daughter was fast asleep in her carrier.
"It looked like you had a blast. No indication at all that you were homesick. You had a girlfriend waiting at home, right?" inquired Elaine. Pausing before answering, Elder Roberts deliberated in his mind whether to answer. What tipped the scales was his new-found commitment to being truthful and open.
"I had someone waiting for me," beamed Elder Roberts.
"What's her name?" nosily asked Elaine with piercing eyes. The young man drew a deep breath and replied,
"His name is Kameron."
"You're one of those...! Oh golly," exclaimed Elaine before giggling. "Is he hot? The reason I'm asking is to see whether he's worth the express ticket to hell,"
"Quite." It was a little startling to Elder Roberts himself that he would be so frank, but he knew he'd have to get used to it.
"Good, well, I see my mom. Good luck with the rest of your life, Elder Roberts," nodded Elaine as she picked up her daughter and went on her way.
Left to his own devices, Elder Roberts' thoughts directed themselves to the last Saturday before he left. The scent of anchovy pizza still lingered from his last dinner with Kam...
"A toast," declared Paul as his eyes met with Kameron while his hand held a raised can of soda.
"To what, dude?" Kameron raised an eyebrow in playful scepticism.
"What else? Success in my current endeavors," Their cans made a clink when they met.
"I think you're automatically predisposed to be a failure out there," smirked Kameron as he picked around the box for another piece of pizza.
"Uh huh. How much are you gonna bet?" Paul's dare was too much to pass up.
"$50, no joke." Reaching from his pocket, Kameron pulled out a genuine Ulysses S. Grant and dropped it on the table. Making a false display of shock, Paul then shook his head.
"That should be inflation adjusted over 2 years."
"Shut up, you future MBA grad."
"This future MBA will be your cash cow over time, mind you,"
"This is why I love you, Paul," declared Kameron seemingly nonchalantly.
"Because you're positioning yourself as a gold-digger?" chuckled Paul as he wiped a stray tomato stain on Kameron's upper lip.
Elder Roberts' trance was interrupted by a tap on his shoulder. Startled, he turned and saw his sweet mother and kind father.
"What? Dang! I missed you two so much," His parents gave him one of the warmest hugs he had ever received in ages.
"Same here, son," answered his dad. "When we received your letter, we were scared you were really depressed,"
"Pshh, I'm here, ain't I?" quipped Elder Roberts as he simply took the moment in.
"Hmm, I wouldn't guess," uttered his mother, "You've lost about 20 lbs."
"Well, it was the stress. However, I want to explain the letter...now that I'm seeing you guys in person," Knowing he had to confront the issue head on, he thought now would be the time.
"That won't be necessary. Have you forgotten the Roberts Family motto?" grinned his dad.
"No Apologies," instinctively recited Elder Roberts.
"Indeed, the only thing that matters now is the present. You're gonna get back into school, get rich, get married, and give us some grandchildren. No questions asked and no excuses made." It was such a comfort to Elder Roberts seeing his parents still act in that same, pushy way that he had come to miss in Minneapolis.
"Well, we aren't the only one who came to see you today," remarked his mom. Before Elder Roberts can process what she meant, Kameron came up from parking the Roberts' car. Not believing his eyes, Elder Roberts darted out of his seat to greet him.
"Well, it looks like this is for you," A $50 bill was pulled out of Elder Roberts' wallet and placed into Kameron's hand
"Pleasure doing business with you. However, my missionary didn't write me as much as he promised."
"Whatever, he was out serving the Lord. No time to be thinking about significant others,"
"You're gonna make it up to me, dude. Tonight. You owe me a Chicken Tetrazzini"
"I hate you, K." Smiling to himself, Elder Roberts remembered the words of Elaine: Good luck with the rest of your life. He started believing he didn't need the luck.
"Are we all set to go? Wifey Dear? Kameron? Elder Roberts?" asked Elder Roberts' dad.
"It's Paul, dad. Time to cut ties with the past," After hearing his son's statement, Paul's dad nodded.
"Well, Paul, this is the day it all begins,"
Paul agreed with his dad. His days as Paul, not anybody else, begins now.