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My dad wraps his arms around me and holds me tight, whispering against my hair, “I’m so glad to have you home.”

I could stay just like this. The last three years have been hard. I’ve tried to be happy and to do what my parents wanted me to do—to get a college degree. But I’ve been miserable. I hate it, and even though I’ve forced myself to work hard and to pass all my classes, I’m just not happy.

I’ve wondered how my parents would react, and so far, it’s exactly as I thought. My dad is happy to see me, like I knew he would be. He’s always encouraged me to do whatever is best for me as long as I’m happy. I just wish my mother was handling it the same.

With my head on my dad’s chest, I don’t even have to look over at my mother to know she’s shaking her head at me. She’s not taking my early and unexpected return from college even half as well as my dad.

I pull away from him, knowing I’m going to have to deal with this sooner or later. He kisses my forehead and whispers, “It’s going to be okay, honey.”

He doesn’t move until I nod my head, agreeing with him in a small smile. He grabs my luggage and takes it toward my old room.

“Did some boy break things off with you? Is that why you’ve come running back to the nest?” my mother asks with her hand on her hip.

I pick up my purse and backpack and force my tone to be calm and patient. “No, Mom. It’s like I told you. I stuck it out for as long as I could stand it. I knew from the start that it wasn’t for me.”

I give her a pointed look. I never would have gone to college if it wasn’t for my mom pressuring me to do so. I knew I didn’t want to do that. I would have been happy working at the bakery with my Aunt Patty. But Mom wasn’t having that. She thought she knew best by almost forcing me to go. I know I should be thankful. Some people can’t go to college that want to, but it’s been hard knowing what you want to do with your life and not being able to do it.

My mom still doesn’t get it. I can tell by the way she’s searching my face, as if I’m hiding something from her. As her eyes scan down my plus-size belly, hips and thighs, I take a deep breath, as if preparing myself for her to comment about my weight. Some things never change.

“Carrie, you can’t throw away your life just because some college boy made a rude comment about your weight. It was probably just a joke. You’ve always been too sensitive for your own good. Is that what happened? Did someone make fun of you?”

First, I’m dumbfounded. How does she even come up with this stuff? But I should be used to it by now. Mom always thinks she knows it all, and somehow the answer always seems to be about my weight. She thinks everything revolves around the fact that I’m not thin. You would think I’m hideous to look at by the way my mom sees me. She had me on diets starting when I was nine years old. Heck, I think she would have started earlier if my doctor hadn’t told her at my kindergarten physical that it’s unhealthy to put a child of five on a diet. From the time I was nine until I left the house at eighteen, she had me on every diet imaginable. Moving away from home was the best thing I could have done in some ways. It was away from her that I learned to accept my body and love it the way it is. No matter how my mom sees me—and man does she put a voice to it—I’ve still been able to love myself exactly as I am.

“Mom, I know this is going to come to a surprise to you, but my life does not revolve around my weight. No one said anything about my weight. Actually, no one ever says anything about my weight except for you. Why can’t you understand that college is just not for me? It doesn’t make me happy.”

“Oh yeah? What’s going to make you happy? Working in that bakery with your Aunt Patty? You’ll be as big as a house.”

She gives me one look of disgust before she walks out of the room as if I’m the one that hurt her. Does she not know what she does to me? How every word out of her mouth is attacking me?

My head falls back in frustration. I clench my eyes tightly as I mumble, “Why did I come back home?”