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Summer Solstice

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"Damnit!" I cursed and hit my duvet. I ran my hand through my sweaty hair and glared at my blaring alarm before shutting it off.

I took deep breaths and told myself to calm down and relax. When my heart started to beat like a normal organ again rather than a marathon runner I dropped my face to my hands. I basked in the silence for a moment before dragging both my palms down my face, agonizingly slow. I watched as the dust participles danced in air and the gentle glow of the early morning sun slip passed my closed blinds.

Every time I blinked, bits and pieces of the memory flashed behind my eyelids. Each and every one made my chest hurt and my hands clench. That was a long time ago but after having that dream, it felt fresh once again.

The sun was high but the wind was cool. The open window let the cool breeze enter the car and spurred my grogginess further. The industrial buildings of Iowa were long left behind as my Dad drove half-way to South Dakota.

"You're going to have fun there, Al. Don't brood!" Mom cheered from the passenger seat as she pointed a pen at me.

"Yeah, Mom has been dying to see you!" Dad agreed, twisting his body to check on me at the back. He shouldn’t probably be doing that, I thought.

"Honey, the road!" Mom scolded as she slapped Dad's arm. Dad immediately twisted his body and drove safely again.

I stared at my parents blankly. Grandma and the word dying shouldn't be together in the same sentence. That's just a bit of a dark omen but I didn't point that out. The concrete roads and side buildings are nothing more than grass and marshlands now. It makes breathing easier since there's no smoke or other stench clouding the area and my nostrils.

"Does she still remember me?" I muttered, as I rested my cheeks grumpily on my palms. I remembered, Grandma was not happy about our city life. “It’s been so long and she wasn’t really this perfect and soft grandma you once told me, Mom,” I accused, begrudgingly.  

"Mom is just being lovely, okay? Don't overthink it, sweetie."

“Are you serious?” I deadpanned.

Even at 8 years old, I still don't know how my Mom can be so optimistic and sweet about everything. There's nothing lovely about an old lady cursing and disowning city folks for being so modern. I vaguely remember that one time she visited us in Iowa and all she did was complain about the stink of an open sewage system, the loud honks of passing cars, traffic, heat, and of course her ever so favorite, the polluted air.

Grandma hated the city; any sort of community that destroys nature to be exact. People tend to be so lazy now and just depend on machinery, as she once grumbled. It doesn't matter if environmental damages were caused so long as they get the job done, as she once grumbled. I really couldn't blame her, I also complained about almost the exact same problems just a little less dramatic.

"Al, the window," Dad reminded me as soon as he turned into a dirt path.

I rolled the window up and crawl to the other side and did the same just in time for the dirt path to throw its courses. Rocks and pebbles crunched beneath the weight of the car, some bouncing off the windows; creating chains of pitter-patter against glass. The car left a trail of dust fogs as it passed, clouding the trees and shrubs in the pathway side. Mom hummed an unknown song while Dad steeples his fingers on the steering wheel to accompany her humming. She looked up from her word search and glanced at him and then they shared happy grins before going back to their tasks.

I snorted, my parents are such dorks. They still look puppies in love. No sooner, a house was in sight. It was a bright house with sky blue walls and white beams and roof. There was a line of white picket fences that protect her beautiful garden filled with colorful flowers that varies from: snapdragons, marigold, roses, lilies, lavender, yellow-bells, tulips, foxgloves, etc..

She nurtured those flowers for her honeybee and sells the excess to environmentalists. Those people replant the flowers to vacant lots they were able to buy and sometimes would trek the mountains to cover up bald flowerbeds. Grandma believes that flowers really do help make things beautiful but they are not meant for grand openings of industrial buildings and newly opened corporations and businesses. Flowers are meant for nature and human beings, as she says.

That's what she does for a living and I respected her greatly for that. Dad stopped the car outside the fence and I can already hear Grandma's music recorder from her porch. I saw her waddle towards us and step down the deck. Mom opened the car and sprinted towards her and gave her a big bear hug. Dad chuckled as he took my bags from the trunk while I try to hop down the car.

"Mom, it's so nice to see you again," Mom beamed. It was bright and sincere and it also made me smile, as well.

"Finally, it's about time you visit this cranky oldy!" Grandma huffed, petulantly.

Grandma has a very soft voice. She has dark skin and curly Afro-like hair and a pot belly still visible despite her blue polka dot dress. She's an African-American that used to work in Seattle until she met Grandpa, who was a mechanic. How a nature-loving woman fell in love with a man of contraptions bewilders me. 

Mom once told me their love story was so sweet and it wasn't easy seeing as Grandma was black and Grandpa was white and people were quite harsh during those times. I asked Mom what she meant by that but she smiled and crushed an apple, with her bare hands. After they got married, they moved to the outskirts of Sioux Falls, South Dakota and rarely visited the city.

Grandpa started an Auto-Repair shop. He was really good at fixing cars and other rusty old metal scraps. Dad told me a story one time. There was a time where a client offered Grandpa the spare parts of his car because it was too damaged to be repaired. That man loved his car but he might as well make use of what was left. Moved, Grandpa went up to the task of fixing it. It took a while, but he did. 

After that, that man became his best friend. I don't know what happens after because Mom interrupted us. After Grandpa passed away, the shop was closed and Grandma lived on her own ever since. Mom told me they offered her to stay with them but Grandma refused and told her that she and Grandpa promised to depart in the same house and she plans to keep that promise. After that, Grandma had Grandpa's tool shed at the backyard taken down and turned into an altar where his ashes were scattered.

"Mom, you're not an oldy! You're a lovely lady!" My mom pouted as they took a step away from each other.

"Yeah, Mom, don't get too scary on our little boy now," Dad chuckles.

"Ah, be quiet now, Ethan," Grandma chided. "Is this Alex now?" She stared down at me. "My, you've grown little boy!"

"Hello, Grandma," I waved at her shyly as Mom lifted me up until Grandma reached me.  

"Aw, I missed you dearly, child!" She cooed and kissed my cheeks as I did the same for her. "How about Chrys?" She looked around in confusion.

Mom and Dad shared sad smiles and faced her. "Chrys just started college in UK and he's still adjusting.  But, he did promise to call and greet you when he gets the free time."

"Boy, I hope he does it soon. It's been years since you visited! Now get going, I baked some Honey hazel cookies."

"Cookies!" Dad and I squealed. I remembered wiggling out of Mom's hold and jumped down and sprinted inside the cozy home with my father at my heels.

"Boys!" Mom and Grandma scolded us, and I can imagine them with the hands on their hips and frowns on their face.

I didn't care, because Grandma's cookies were the best.

After that, Mom and Dad walked out with me holding a part of Grandma's dress. "Take care now Ruby, Ethan," Grandma reminded and gave them both a peck on the cheeks.

Mom and Dad gave her a hug and kissed my forehead. Dad knelt down to my height and hugged me close. "Behave now and take care of Grandma, kay little boy?"

"Okay," I tell him and kissed his cheek. Dad ruffled my hair and adjusted his bag.

"Thank you for watching him, Mom," Dad said.

"Oh, I get to have my grandson the entire summer. I'm glad to have him with me," she rebutted softly and took my Dad's hand. "Have a safe trip."

"We will," Mom promised.

Mom hopped into the car and shut the door close. She smiled at me and placed two fingers on her lips and gestured it towards me. I waved at her and did the same. It was our way of saying ‘I love you’. Dad started the car and backed up until he was able to turn the car and they left. Grandma and I watched the dusty trails until the car was no longer in sight.

"Let's go inside, Alex. You must be tired from the trip," Grandma ushered me back to the house and I just nodded. My eyes were on her, taking in her pink and plump lips and long lashes.

The place is just as comfy and homey as it looks. The walls were solid red wood with beige thin curtains spread on the window. The furniture was also made of cherry wood with velvet maroon cushions. There are shelves filled with hard-bound books that were probably published around 1890's. The TV is also old but can still be used, but I knew Grandma preferred her radio. 

The doors inside were the double-sliding type, and I actually messed with them once or twice already. The mini chandelier gave off a warm pastel orange glow and prompted my drowsiness further along with the music from the radio and the sweet scent of freshly baked honey-crusted pie. Grandma uses a clay oven so the smell is stronger and more organic. If I wasn't so sleepy and full from the milk and cookies earlier, I would be eating again.

"Come on let's get you to your room. I'll wake you up when it's time for dinner," Grandma said me and stirred us upstairs.

Dad already brought my bags up and Mom arranged my belongings earlier. The room was a lot bigger than my own back in Iowa and the bed looks more comfortable too. I know I jumped on it until Grandma put me bed once. The blinds were drawn up so the brightness sipped into the maroon colored room. I climbed up the bed and immediately sunk into the mattress, making me stumble forward. I heard Grandma chuckle and I blushed harder as I try to push myself up..

"Get some rest, okay," she whispered before kissing my forehead.

"M'kay," I mumbled sleepily. She stood up and opened the window a little bit, easing the cool wind inside. After that, she left and closed the door gently.

That was my first time with Grandma after so long. I didn't get a chance to look around both from before and now, so I didn't know if there were any kids my age here or at least other people. My eyelids were getting heavier and before I knew it, I fell asleep.

With a sigh, I scooted out the bed and made my way towards the window. My fingers lowered the blinds and I peeked out. My eyes instantly narrowed to the moving truck right across the street, confusing me for a moment. Just the thought of moving got me another session of head pounding, remembering my dream though it was more of a memory rather than a dream. It's been two years since it stopped, always went on for a week after summer solstice and another before school starts.

I stretched my back and grunted when my spine popped. My attention snapped to the door when I heard continuous scratching and whining. I rolled my eyes and scoffed with fond exasperation. I opened the door and a grey and white Husky bounded in, barking and climbing up my body enthusiastically. I chuckled and cupped my beloved baby's face.

"Good morning to you too, Memory," I puckered to him and he barked his response then attempted to lick my face. "Ahaha, no. It's too early for that," I lowered his paws down before ruffling his head and pinching his right ear.

He barked again but followed me out anyway. I can’t help the wide yawn that stretched jaw and almost made me stumble as I come down the stairs. Memory run towards the door and ducked down his doggy door. I can hear him barking and playing with the water sprinkler outside as it waters the plant. My dog is cute but I think he's a bit too enigmatic sometimes.

"Morning, Al," Mom smiled at me as she poured juice in my glass.

I stepped near her and ducked down a bit to accept her kiss on my forehead. I hugged her waist and mumbled a good morning of my own. I like the fact that I'm taller than her now, almost towering her a bit but that doesn't make me anymore better than her. She's still my mom and frankly, she's still scary despite her height.

"What's for breakfast?" I asked as I sit my butt on the stool by the counter.

"Egg rolls and pancakes," was her simple answer before she started humming her mindless tune that doesn’t seem to change over the years.

I grinned and closed my eyes, relishing that lyric-less music. Moments later, a plate of three-stacked pancakes with egg rolls was set in front of me, and it made my stomach rumble. I thanked my mom and ate slowly as I checked on my phone for any sort of message. Mom threw a glare to my direction when she spotted the 'accursed' device, causing me to laugh sheepishly and pocket it back. Mom said it's disrespectful to eat with a gadget within reach, sometimes I keep forgetting that.

"Where are you going?" She asked just as I finished washing my used utensils.

I wiped my hands on the tea towel before running my fingers through my messy hair. "Evan's."

"Oh," I saw the disappointment on her face, making me sag with her sympathetically.

I smack a kiss on her cheek and dashed out. Memory is lying on his back while constantly rolling on the grass with his tongue out. I chuckled and caught his attention immediately. My eyes widened in terror when I noticed him running straight towards me.

"Oh no," I held my finger out, throwing him a warning glare. "Memory, st--"

He didn't so I ran away before he could either shake the water off his fur or tackle me down. Neither sounds appealing, seeing as I just ate breakfast and it's too early in the morning to get a dog-induced bath. Memory barked continuously behind me and I heard his soaked paws smacked against the concrete. I crossed the street, thankful it's too early for cars to pass by and make my way around the car by the curb. I saw a familiar lanky stepping out of the house with three boxes on his hold.

There was a devilish printed on my face when he saw me being chased by my dog. I saw him sighing just as I passed and he accepted his fate of being ferociously tackled by Memory. Memory wasn't satisfied with that and shook his body, pelting the water on my neighbor.

"Morning, Evan," I grinned at his face.

He rolled his eyes and slowly pushed himself up. He shot me a disapproving stare before he removed his thick-framed glasses to pinch the bridge of his nose. Memory kept barking and bouncing around, wagging his tail when Evan stared at him.

He wiped his face with his palm. "It's too early for this," Evan grumbled in that robotic voice of his, sounding like it vibrates in his throat.

He just stared at me again with that permanent sass on his face. Many people would say that other people have this permanent scowl on their faces, but not Evan. This guy has sarcasm and bitch printed on his face the day he was born. I can proudly declare that this guy's sass is worse than his bite.

"You love my dog," I cooed at him playfully.

He scoffed before rolling his eyes, he seemed to be very prone of that. "I don't think I can reciprocate."

"It makes me wonder why dogs love you so much when humans are scared just by looking at you," I mused, absently.

It's true however; any sort of dog ran up to this guy and begged for his attention when people scrambled out of his way and eyesight. Memory is a friendly dog, but he never jumped on them like he ever did with Evan. Memory just stared and wagged his tail but that's that. I remembered that time I took Evan to the park and as if there was a bone by his feet, ALL the dogs jumped on him and surrounded us both.

"That's because this brat is a needy bitch," a feminine yet stern voice commented. Evan and I turned to a pretty brunette woman wearing scrubs with her hair held in to a messy bun. I grinned at her when she bumped her hip on Evan's and made the poor guy lose his balance and suave.

"Good morning, Hestia," I greeted cheerily and absently patted Memory's head.

"What's peachy about this fucking morning?" She grumbled with a sharp look towards the sun as if it just ruined her day. Well, I suppose it did.

Evan may never mention it but I knew he agreed with her. It may look like she cursed her son directly but that's just the way she is. She's not the typical mom who told children what to do or scold them for cursing. Fun fact, they'll actually learn from her. Top class parenting if I do say so myself.

"Nothing, but I guess I'm just starting a good farewell." It was more of a question than a statement.

Hestia raised me a questioning look that made my shoulders twitch to shrug. "What's good about farewells?" She grunted as she crossed her arms over her chest.

I laughed; she's got a point there. "You're right about that." I gave her a smile, hoping that my bitterness wasn't obvious considering of what I just recalled this morning. "I actually came by here to ask for Evan's company, s'all."

"I don't get why we have to move a week before class starts when we could've done it a month ago," he muttered under his breath.

Hestia smacked his son upside the head lightly. "I know you'll just fucking mope around missing your goddamn friends if I take you in that noisy neighborhood."

"I don't mope," Evan frowned, like he was feeling confused himself.

"Tell that to your ass mother," she scowled.

"I don't mope," Evan repeated blandly just as I reminded: "You are his mother."

"And I don't give a rat's ass fuck," she sang, spun on her heel and flipped us off with her non-existent hair, seeing as it’s tied in a bun. 

I snicker at the both of them. "She’s quite the drama queen."

"Rightfully so," he snorted as he crossed his arms over his chest. For some reason, that reminded him of his mother.

As if indicating his agreement, Memory barked and started bouncing again to catch both of our attentions. Evan frowned at him then gave me a look that probably screamed 'Is he a dog or an insect?' I shrugged and patted Memory's head, who attempted to bite my arm off. Traitor. I glared at him and he crouched down and wagged his tail.

"C'mon, wanna hit town?" I jabbed my thumb over my shoulder.

"I don't think I'm capable of hitting an area this big," he answered flatly. "Or anything for that matter."

"Don't be a smartass and just get dress, Hearth!" I scowled at him before twisting his body and pushed him towards the door.

"Oh please, that's your job," he smirked. Ass. "And don't call me that," he spat.

I smirked, knowing full well just how much he disliked his first name. He protested because it's too feminine but it's probably just because he got teased as 'fiery and hot', which is actually true both figuratively and physically. He grumbled on his way to the door and I called Memory to follow me back to prepare.

I got up to my room with Memory at my heels, hopped in the showers, got dry and picked out a simple grey wife beater and khakis shorts, and a pair of sandals. I ran my fingers passed my damp brownish, blonde hair before shaking my head like a dog. Memory whined at the lack of attention and he howled at me. I smiled towards him as I unhook a baby blue collar with his tag and bone. He sneered when he caught sight of it and that made me groan.

"Boy, it's either you wear this or you don't get to come at all," I chided softly and wrapped the collar around his neck. He growled before attempting to bite the thing off, and you know how that ends.

Memory hated to be collared but since we're in the city, he'll be easily seen as stray and thrown to the pound. I don't want that. As much as I hate to collar him, getting him to the pound is much worse. After a quick permission from Mom and a kiss from both of my sisters, I headed out with Memory bounding behind me.

"Where are you taking me and why did I agree do this again?" Evan grunted, wearing that signature dark blue beanie of his and a simple maroon shirt and black jeans, and white vans.

"First question: To the Street bizarre. Second question: shouldn't you know the answer to that?" I pointed and Memory barked happily.

Evan gave my dog a funny look before looking back at me. "Whatever."

We spent the rest of the morning roaming Manhattan Street bizarre until we got to the food park. Evan was complaining about new schools, paperwork, and his ever so favorite, annoying people. In general, everyone. I knew Evan didn't want to move but ever since his mom got reassigned in a different state, they had to.

Hestia is a Doctor at a local clinic here. She curses a lot, understandable since she used to be a gangster during her youth and bad habits die hard. Nonetheless, she loves her son more than anything else and if Evan asked to stay here in Manhattan, she'll agree in no less than a second. However, I know Evan and as much as he preferred to stay, he never really wanted to leave his mom all by herself.

He's already legal and Hestia had no problem leaving Evan; he's responsible enough even before he turned eighteen. Evan and I, we're friends but I wouldn't label him as my 'best friend'. I only have one and that's Ric, nothing's changing that. However, Evan was the first kid I met when we moved here. He was sarcastic and typically indifferent but at least he was honest with me albeit brutally.

"Indiana, huh," I muttered, leaning against the rails as I handed Evan a plate of nachos and throw a bread towards Memory who caught it with ease. Show Dog.

Evan shrugged indifferently as he swirled the chili with a single nacho. "We visited it about a month ago when you went to South Dakota," he popped the nacho in his mouth and chew slowly. "The people there are weird."

"Weird how?" I asked as I tossed a piece of beef jerky to Memory.

"It's like all the people there know you're a stranger, gives me the chills too."

It made me a tad bit curious about his statement. This guy basically lets the world run its course so for him to feel troubled by strangers gives me the wrong vibes. Now I'm really worried.

"You sure you'll be okay there?" I frowned at him.

He shrugged and avoided my eyes. "I'll live."

"That doesn't really answer my question," I smirked.

He snorted and stumbled when I nudged him on his shoulder. He glared coldly at me and I bit my lip to stop the grin that was about to break. He noticed though judging the way he rolled his eyes but I saw that micro-smile of his at the corner of my eye. Memory suddenly perked up, his head snapping in directions.

I frowned in worry and leaned down to caress his back. "What is it, boy?"

He only barked and his nose flared then his tail started to wag. Evan and I exchanged questioning looks. Just when I was about to tug Memory, he bounced and dashed off.

"Memory!" I hollered.

Evan flinched as Memory ran passed him. I barely managed a 'stay here' and I'm now running after my dog, screaming and cursing his name. Memory continued to bark and run to the direction, not even bothering look back. What the hell?!


People stumbled and yelped when Memory bumped on their legs or startled them. I hastily apologized to each of them while ignoring their complaints. My dog is suddenly out of my sight and that made me frantic and all clammy. I snapped my head to the left when I heard a bark, not caring if it's him or not. I'm lost in the sea of crowd which increased my panic even more. I tried to gently push people off but I received a few shoves and jabs. Nah, I'll live.

I yelled in triumph when I finally broke out, only to scream bloody murder when I spotted a grey tail disappearing within the ferns. I sprinted towards the direction and the sight before me made me froze. Memory was playing with a familiar brown and white husky without a collar, nipping its ear or pushing each other to the ground.

"Alpha!" A rough and deep voice boomed, pulling the dog by the scruff on its neck and snapping me out of my stupor. "I'm sorry; he's not usually this abrasive."

A familiar glint drew my attention and caused my heart to skip a beat, my stomach dropping. I felt my throat becoming dry despite the fact I just went in circles looking for my dog. Memory whined and licked my fingers but I ignored him to tell myself to take a breath. No, he can’t be here. It’s been so long.

It can’t be him…

"Hey, you alright?" The stranger asked.