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     “You can tell me all about Rome later. Right now, I’m sure your mother wants to see you.”
Before entering the gate, Lilia looked around the village square, remembering how, at one time, she had believed experiencing faraway places like Rome was an impossible dream. Mussons now felt more like a scene from an old movie than a place where she belonged.
Lilia poked her head into her mother’s room tentatively.
     “Mama? Are you awake? I’m home! Can I come in?”
     “Yes, yes, come in.” Maria pulled herself up against her pillow and managed to flash a modest smile. ”You look older.”
     Lilia sat on the bed next to her mother and gave her a gentle kiss on the cheek.
     “How are you? Papa said you need bed rest.”
     “What are you wearing? Stand up, turn around, and let me look at you.”
Lilia obeyed her mother’s request.
     “Rome was wonderful, Mama, and Signora Zamparelli was good to me.” Lilia spun around. “She gave me this beautiful dress and a few others.” Lilia wanted so badly to share her experience with her mother, but something stopped her. An old familiar pit formed in her stomach as she noticed her mother’s disapproving glance.
     “Well, you worked for it. Nothing is free. Take it off. You’re home now, and you’ll just get it dirty doing your chores.”
Lilia cleared her throat and forced a tight smile on her lips.
     “The Signora wanted you to have this.” She pulled a beautiful multi-colored floral silk scarf out of her suitcase.
     Maria raised an eyebrow.
     “When have you ever seen me wear anything with color?” she chided. “Keep it.” She closed her eyes and sank back under the covers. “I’m tired now. I’m going to rest. It’s good you’re home.”
It wasn’t the homecoming Lilia had hoped to receive from her mother. Once again, Lilia felt insignificant and small. All she could focus on now were Ermides’ parting words that God would not forget her. Lilia knew that all roads led home; she just prayed it wouldn’t always be this home.

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