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we will call this place our home

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Kendra sat at the kitchen table listening to her family bickering, insides warmed from the half-eaten bowl of soup in front of her and feet warmed by thick fuzzy socks. This was quite possibly her very favorite feeling.

It was a Friday night, and they were almost done with dinner, which, for this household, meant it was almost time to break out the card games.

"Thank you, Grandma," Seth said, standing up and running with his bowl to the sink. Why he had to run that five feet across the room Kendra would never understand, but he did it every night anyway. That sparked a round of thanks to Grandma Sorenson, who had made tonight's dinner of her famous vegetable stew.

Kendra smiled, offering a thanks of her own, and continued to eat her stew. She liked to pick out each piece separately- carrots, potatoes, green beans, meat. (An important benefit of this method was that she didn't have to eat the peas.) A few bites later, she noticed Seth staring directly at her. She tried not to smile and kept eating.

It only took a few seconds for him to say something. "Why do you have to eat so slow?"

"Sorry," Kendra said, continuing to eat slowly. Seth just kept staring at her, but she could see him starting to smile. She pretended she didn't notice. Maybe then he'd quit. But the next time she looked up, he was still staring at her. She stared back.

This was one of the stupid little games that were for some reason infinitely amusing to Seth- staring at Kendra, whether she was looking at him or not, until she complained loud enough for an adult to tell him to leave her alone. For Kendra, it was pretty irritating, but usually they both ended up laughing anyway.

"If you don't quit I'm gonna eat even slower," Kendra threatened, knowing Seth wanted her to hurry up so they could play cards. There wasn't a single person in the house who didn't enjoy card game nights. Seth gave up and looked away, spluttering with trying to contain laughter anyway. Kendra could never understand why he laughed so much, but it still made her smile a little.

Before long she finished her stew (without purposefully eating extra slowly). She was still the last one done.

Kendra got up and brought her bowl to the sink. Today they were going to play golf, which got its name from the objective to get the least amount of points in nine rounds. She liked this game a lot.

They had a full house today- both sets of grandparents, Kendra's parents, her and Seth, Dale and Warren, Vanessa, and Tanu were all currently at the house- so they used two decks of cards. No one was out on any missions, and the Larsens came over to the main house for dinner some nights (they always made sure to be there on Fridays for game night).

Kendra sat back where she'd been sitting before- last on one side of the table, directly across from Seth and next to Vanessa. Seth was trying to reach for the cards. "Can I shuffle?"

Grandpa Sorenson, who had been holding the cards, agreed to let him. He would've kept asking anyway. Seth loved shuffling cards. He was pretty good at it too, most of the time.

Kendra had hoped at first that they might play eighteen rounds tonight, but they only played nine. And when the game ended, that was fine with her. It took a lot longer with so many people playing. By the last round, she couldn't stop yawning. Seth wanted to keep playing, but everyone else was pretty tired, so they didn't.

"You just want to keep playing so you can win," Warren teased.

"No," Seth fake-grumbled. He was still trying not to smile.

"You sure?" Kendra asked. "I think you're just mad you lost."

"I can't believe you guys are ganging up on me like this. Don't come at me like that."

"Quit saying that," Kendra complained. Seth always tried to quote memes, but the way he said them was weird. The memes were ridiculous anyway.

"No, no," Seth said, waving her off with both hands. "You guys stop coming at me."

Warren rolled his eyes at Kendra and left the room, trying to pretend he wasn't laughing.

Kendra got up too, yawning again. "I'm going to bed," she announced to no one in particular, which was met with a chorus of "good night" and hugs from whoever happened to be on her way to the stairs. Seth followed her in the general direction of the attic, though he was less enthusiastic to go to bed.

"I thought we should've played more," Seth said after they'd both finished getting ready and gotten in bed.

"I know," Kendra said. "I thought you should've not tried to say memes."

"Too bad."

"It sure is."

Kendra heard Seth stifling a giggle. She rolled over to face away from him. If he got started laughing, he wouldn't stop. Especially instead of sleeping. "Good night, Seth," she said. "I love you."

Seth managed to quit laughing. "Good night. Love you too."

Kendra could hear the rain gently tapping on the roof and didn't think she'd have trouble falling asleep tonight. Her pajamas were warm and her blankets were heavy. Her family was safe and sound, and they loved her.

It was good to be home.

smaller than dust on this map

lies the greatest thing we have

the dirt in which our roots may grow

and the right to call it home