“We’re here,” Dirk called over to his younger brother in the seat next to him. Dave peeled an eye open, one cheek stuck flush against the window. Without his shades on, he may have felt nearly blinded by the bright sun light outside, reflecting off sparkling blue waves. He slid a hand under his glasses to wipe away the grogginess in his eyes, and then turned to get a better look at where he would be staying for the summer. It was a small coastal town, old brick buildings lining the street to his other side. When he leaned forward he could just get a glimpse of a clock tower, much taller than the rest of the buildings below. Ahead, he could make out a pier decorated with bright colors. A Ferris Wheel rose above the rest of it, tipping him off that the pier was home to some sort of an amusement park, which surprised him. There were so few tourist-trap type shops marketing overpriced swim gear, and so many old, homey buildings that anything touristy seemed out of place. Though, while the place was beautiful, it wasn’t at all what he had expected to see when he arrived in the hometown of the Lalondes, which he wasted no time pointing out to his brother.
“Well, yeah, we’re not actually there yet,” Dirk shifted in the driver’s seat. “Just wait until you see their house.” He turned off what seemed to be the main road (if the sign indicating it to be “Main Street” was meant to give them any sort of idea) and onto a much more narrow, wooded dirt road. They continued down for some way, before slowing down and turning onto a long drive way. When the house began to appear over the horizon, Dave felt much more assured that this was, in fact, the place in which his cousins resided. It was an old, large house with a gothic exterior, and then jutting out of the side was a much sleeker, more modern addition than Dave assumed to be Roxy’s laboratory. A mix of dark pink roses and purple lilacs grew up around the porch, looking elegant against the intricate detailing of the house. As they pulled up and found a place to park, a pink head of hair appeared at the top of the stairs leading up to the porch. Dave slid his seat belt off, climbed out of the car, and stretched.
“Need any help with your stuff?” Roxy called, making her way down to meet the two brothers.
“No, I think we can get everything.” Dave replied, pulling a backpack out of the trunk of the old truck. He slid it on, and then grabbed a suitcase in each hand. Dirk was sporting a similar set of bags.
“Well, if you can carry it, I’ll hold the doors for ya,” Roxy smiled, her bangs falling into her eyes before turning around and heading back toward the house. They crammed themselves through the door, Roxy following them in.
“Alrighty!” She said with a clap of her hands. “Who’s ready to see their rooms?”
“Me,” Dave sighed, his body aching from the cramped ride. While he hadn’t gone straight from Texas to the Lalonde’s New England seaside home, he had still missed being able to properly stretch out on a piece of furniture. A famous Roxy grin and a flight of stairs later, his eldest cousin stopped in front of a door.
“This will be your room, Dave!” She smiled, warm and genuine. She opened the door and the room, while quaint, felt perfectly at home to Dave. While it wasn’t necessarily anything like his room at home, he could tell that his cousins had put a lot of effort into making it a comfortable space to live in. The walls were a soft white, a white that had been painted many years ago and had faded so as not to be quite so stark as it may have been when it was first painted. There was a desk underneath a large window, from which you could look over the surrounding forest and out into the town. Facing the door was the bed, covered with what seemed to be a red, homemade quilt.
“Don’t tell Rose I told you, but she spent most of the school year making that for you,” Roxy whispered to him. “She made one for both you and Dirk. You’re welcome to take them home when you leave.”
The corners of Dave’s lips quirked up into a small smile. “Well, don’t tell her this, but it was super dope of her and I love it.”
Before Roxy could reply, another voice chimed in from the hallway. “I do think it’s a tad bit late for that, wouldn’t you say, Dirk?”
Dirk smirked at Rose, whose presence seemed to not surprise him in the least, and threw an arm around her. “Ya know, I would.”
“You’re a menace, Lalonde,” Dave barked at her, but she was already leading Dirk down the hallway to his room. Roxy let out a laugh, sweet and melodic.
“It’s okay, Dave. What’s the chance that she’ll hold that over you for the whole summer?”
Dave grimaced. “It’s higher than you think, Rox.”
The pink haired woman laughed again, and this time it was her that threw an arm around him. “Don’t worry about, Davey. Take some time to relax for now, dinner will be in a few hours,” she gave his hair a light tussle, he nodded, and she left the room, closing the door behind her. Dave threw his bags down and collapsed on the bed. When he looked up at the ceiling, he noticed they’d put up glow-in-the-dark stars. Dave couldn’t help but laugh at them, and with his laughs he released the tension that had built up in him during the long trip there. Then he stretched, popped a few of his joints, then stood up and headed back downstairs. He plopped down on stool at breakfast bar in the kitchen, and watched Roxy cook from there. Her hands moved elegantly and purposefully from one ingredient to the next. Dave guessed she must have made this a hundred times. He watched her as she chopped, minced, mixed, folded, and placed her ingredients into a large pot. He sat there day dreaming as the food cooked, a lovely aroma filling the room.
“I thought you said dinner would be ready in a few hours?” Dave called out as Roxy turned down the heat and moved the dish to the dining room table.
“What do you mean?” Roxy questioned back, visibly puzzled.
“Has… has it already been a few hours?”
Roxy threw her head back to laugh this time, fully and hardy. She placed one oven-mitted hand on her hip, and smiled wide. “You’re a real daydreamer, aren’t ya Davey?” A light blush spread across his features, and he admitted that he did, in fact, often found himself lost in thought.
“Well that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Are you hungry?” she gestured to the large pot in the center of the table. He hadn’t realized it until then, but he was.
“Very,” he admitted, and she seemed pleased by this answer.
“Go ahead and sit down, I’ll call the other two down.”
When everyone had made it down stairs and was situated around the table, Roxy began dishing out the chicken and dumplings to everyone. The warm, rich broth, the soft chewy dumplings, and the tender chicken, made everyone full and drowsy. After cleaning up, they all settled in front of the Lalonde’s tv, where they watched some sappy mystery movie on the Hallmark channel, laughing and joking about what strange decisions the characters would make next. When it ended, they all said their goodnights, and drifted to their own rooms.
The first day there was slow. Rose gave them a tour of the house while Roxy was busy with a new project in her lab. That evening they’d grilled some hot dogs and split off to do their own thing for the night.
The second day, Dave asked about the amusement park he’d saw on the way to their house.
“Oh, that place got closed down last month,” Rose rolled her eyes. “You’d think they would have cleaned it up by now, but no.” She sighed deeply. “I wish they would hurry up, too. I miss being able to go out on the pier.”
The third day, Rose and Dave decided to head into town. They walked a long the shop windows, looking in to view what they had to offer. In his head, Dave made a map of all the town. First, on the corner, was the glass blowing shop, with their delicate statues and ornaments. Next door was a small antique shop, and further down was a florist, an artist’s studio, a gym, a bakery, and at the end of the road was the grocery store and the court house.
The antique shop held an assortment of treasures, one of was being pitched to a skinny, nerdy looking guy by a girl with long, wild hair. The florist shop housed a myriad of flowers, some of which Dave didn’t recognize, and he wondered how some of them were able to grow in the New England climate. An elegant-looking woman was wrapping up a bouquet for a boney woman with white-blonde hair, and the cashier’s emerald green eyes lit up as Rose waved to her. Inside the art studio, Dave could see a variety of paintings. Some of the ocean, some of the forest, some of people. They were all beautifully and delicately painted. A girl with black hair and crocs was painting another in the corner, and a girl with red glasses sat at a table, scribbling furiously onto a piece of paper. Passing the gym, he noticed a tall, muscular man with chin length hair who appeared to be coaching another, younger man through physical therapy.
Outside the bakery, a girl with long hair and glasses tended to a flower box nestled next to the large window of the bakery. She clipped the dead leaves off the last of spring’s crocuses, vainly trying to keep them looking nice in the rising summer heat. Next to her in their plastic pots- fresh from the florist, Dave guessed- were young chrysanthemums, which she seemed to be readying to go into the planter next. She looked up as the two approached.
“Hi Rose!!” The girl beamed at them.
“Hello, Jade. This is my cousin, David.”
“Nice to meet you, David!” the girl named Jade exclaimed.
“Please, just call me Dave.”
“Got it,” Jade nodded and winked in reply. “Is Rose showing you a good time around town?”
“You should go inside and meet the rest of the family! I told them we’d meet someone knew today, but no one ever believes me!! You must be from out of state, too, since I can’t imagine Roxy wouldn’t have immediately introduced me to her entire extended family if possible,” she paused, looking Dave up and down. “Texas?”
Dave blinked in surprised, before nodding. “Yeah, how’d you know?”
Her smile turned more mysterious. “I just know these things!”
Rose nodded in agreement. “I’m going to take him to meet everyone else now, okay?”
“Alright! Be careful, though, Dad’s in one of his moods today.”
Rose grimaced, but continued inside anyway.
As soon as she opened the door, the two of them were met with the smell of butter and sugar. Fresh bread was propped up behind the counter, and glass cases were filled with a multitude of sweets. Sitting on the flat top of the glass cases were pie stands, each showcasing a beautiful, fresh pie. There were people off to each side, at tables and on couches sipping coffee, talking about their days.
“Hello, Jane,” Rose addressed the girl standing at the register. “Is it quite alright if we go ahead to the back? I’d like to introduce my cousin to everyone.” She turned around and gestured to Dave. “Speaking of which, this is Dave. Dave, Jane.”
Dave nodded in a silent greeting, and Jane smiled. “Yeah, that should be fine. I assume Jade already warned you?” Dave and Rose nodded in unison. “As long as you know.”
“Thank you, Jane.”
“Any time, Rosey,” Jane replied as the two blondes headed back towards the kitchen.
“Rosey, huh?” Dave whispered with a smirk.
“If you call me that I won’t hesitate to gut you,” his cousin shot back, with only a vague hint of joking.
“I’ll keep that in mind,” he said, the remnants of a smirk lingering on his face as they pushed through the kitchen door. Inside was about 10 degrees hotter than outside the kitchen, which featured 3 large ovens and spacious counters. At one of these counters was a guy with messy black hair pulled into a hairnet. When they came in, he wiped a drop of sweat off his brow with a large, lean forearm, and flashed a large, bucktoothed grin at them. In one hand, he held a rolling pin, and in front of him was a rolled-out sheet of pastry dough.
His eyes were the color of the sea.