The Wells Legacy

Without you, today's emotions would be the scurf of yesterday's ~Hipolito


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Gen.10-Alma. Chapter Twenty-Four

Our fun weekend with Gia eventually had to come to an end, but rather than it being bittersweet it was simply sweet. We knew we’d be back together before we would know it. Summer break would arrive soon and we would have plenty of time to hang out together. Luckily, Gia seemed a lot more relaxed heading back to her campus. We all needed some quality time and it certainly helped all around.

Next on my agenda was heading back home for the weekend. I talked to Mom almost every day. Whether it was for an hour or sending a quick text—we always communicated. With my workload being a bit lighter than usual, I figured it would be nice to head back home for a bit. I could pick up my favorite snacks, and of course, do my laundry. I was hoping that Dani would also come along, but she already made plans with Otto (of course).

As it turned out, our late night visitor wasn’t some random solicitor, but Otto. He couldn’t wait another moment of Dani thinking he wasn’t interested in her and finally decided to make it official. Dani and Otto were finally dating.

I honestly should’ve put my money on that relationship.

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“Are you sure you’re not coming this weekend?” I asked while stuffing my laundry into my backpack. Dani, of course, was already getting ready to head out. “I’m bound to see your family at some point.”

“I told Mom that I have a project to finish up, so I’ll probably head back home next week.” She turned around and allowed for her hair to fall at her shoulders. “Kinda bummed you can’t make it this weekend. And you,” she said pointing to Sabin who was laying on my bed. “I’m surprised you’re not going with Alma. Her Mom adores you.”

Sabin sighed and hugged one of my pillows close against his chest. “Yeah, I wish I was, too. I’m really behind on my business class due to my absences, so I’m getting a chance to catch up.”

Dani shrugged and walked past me to pick up her bag. “Well, Otto and I will be at the schools film festival. Sabin, you’re always welcome to join.”

“Thanks, Dani.”

She held up her hand to her lips and jokingly talked aside to me. “Don’t worry, I’ll make sure he’s staying loyal.”

“Oh shut it,” Sabin exclaimed before rolling off the bed to make his way to me. “I am always yours, Alma. Hope you know that. Don’t let Dani fill your head with lies!” He smirked before kissing the top of my head.

“Of course I believe you. Dani loves to mess with me, but that’s also why I love her.”

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As I looked around the room, I did a count of what else had to be done. Aside from gathering my laundry, all that was left was for Sabin and I to make it to the train station so I could catch the Amtrak. I admit that I was sad that Sabin wouldn’t be there with me, but at least texting him would still be an option. I knew he’d help me get through the long train ride back home.

“You got everything?” He asked quietly before leaning over to rest his head on mine.

“Yeah, I guess.”

“It’ll be a great time,” he assured me. “It’s your family. You love them.”

“And I love you,” I smirked. “I hope you get some time to rest, too. I know how you get when you’re playing catch-up. Please eat and get enough sleep.”

Grinning, Sabin leaned down and planted his lips on mine. “You always take great care of me, but have a fun weekend. You deserve that, too. Can you do me a favor?”

“Sure?”

“Can you seriously stop by Dani’s family’s diner? Their pastries are like crack. Been craving them.”

I couldn’t help but laugh at that before getting out of the car. “You got it, buddy.”

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“Literally love you even more for this,” he announced before sending me off with one more kiss.

My train ride was long, as expected. Our tickets were stamped and I had to do was keep my mind occupied for the next few hours. While there was no special event going on at home, I figured it would be a nice time to stop by. I missed being at home without the chaos of party planning. Mom would always be in such a frenzy, so I was hoping to have a nice relaxing weekend with my family.

Finally, I was home.

“Hello?” I called into the house. “Anyone home?”

Silence.

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I walked inside and noticed that the house that I was used to definitely went through plenty of changes. And I thought that only humans went through a mid-life crisis. Needless to say, my childhood home went through more remodelling that I ever expected. I mean, the living room? There was another room right next to the kitchen. Was I really gone that long?

Before I could even think about venturing upstairs, I heard the hushed muttering from the kitchen.

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“I didn’t expect anything else, you know?’

“Oh, stop it.”

In the kitchen, Mom and Aunt Arecia were chatting softly. I was still able to make something out, but it wasn’t enough to join in on the conversation. Rather than commenting on the new decor in the kitchen, I was more excited about the fact that Aunt Arecia was there. Between her being super mom and overall awesome human being, it wasn’t often that I saw her while I was at school.

“Um, hello?” I smirked. “Sorry to be intruding, but just wanted to say hello!”

“Alma?” Mom’s smile was spread thinly.

Aunt Arecia shot out of her seat quickly and rushed to me. “Oh my! What a surprise!”

“I’m so glad I stopped by today! Wow! I missed you!” I exclaimed and threw my arms around her.

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We soon traded compliments that were sweet enough to give a child a cavity. But I couldn’t help it! Aunt Arecia was one of my heroes next to my mom. No surprise there–they were the best sibling duo.

“This is such a wonderful surprise,” she said again. “But I’m sure that you’d like to say hello to your mother. I’ll be in the living room, okay?”

“Sure!”

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When my aunt made her way to the living room, I figured I’d snag a few moments with Mom. After all, I made the trip to have some bonding time with her. She seemed surprised to see me despite me sending her multiple text messages accompanied by a flurry of gifs. I suppose her sisters visit kept her from checking her phone for the majority of the morning. Bright side was that I made it while they were actually at home and not out somewhere.

“So, I see you guys also remodeled the kitchen and every other inch of the house?” I pointed out. “Must admit I was worried I was breaking and entering–without the breaking.”

Mom’s exhale was long, but she confirmed. “I suppose we made some changes. The house needed some freshness. I’m sorry for the surprise..”

“Hmm?”

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“I-uh–I didn’t see your text that you were coming over this weekend. I must have not gotten the notification.”

I had to admit I was a bit amused that Mom was so down about not getting my messages. She was a kind soul. That much was true.

“Hey, it’s okay! It happens. I just wanted to see you and I had some free time this weekend. Sadly, Sabin couldn’t come, but he sends his best wishes.”

Mom nodded and turned away to grab the tea kettle. “It’s okay, love. I’ll just get some drinks ready for us. Why don’t you go catch up with your aunt before she has to head out to pick up your uncle..”

I couldn’t say no to that.

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“School is going well, I take it?” Arecia asked when I plopped down on the couch.

Her eyes looked more sunken than usual, but their spark was still there. Ah, the glow of our ancestors was definitely still there.

“Of course. It’s been tough, but I think it’ll be a good end to the semester. Just a bit nervous about what comes after graduation. This whole adulting shindig is not exactly that easy.”

Arecia bowed her head and nodded. “It absolutely isn’t.”

“But what about you?” I asked excitedly. I had been away for months and it felt like I had missed years. I wanted to know everything, every detail.

Before she answered, she spent a good moment studying my expression. Her sincere smile tightened before it began to fade.

“What’s going on?”

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“Your mom didn’t tell you, did she?” Arecia sighed. “Guess this makes your visit that much more of a surprise to everyone. I thought…”

“Thought what? Tell me what?” I didn’t like waiting for news. My anxiety wasn’t something I often doubted.

I could hear Mom stirring her creamer in her coffee from the kitchen. The silence in the living room was so strained that I was beginning to feel restless. I reached out to touch my aunt’s shoulder. Were things not okay between her and her husband? Were her kids okay? I couldn’t think of anything else–it was driving me crazy.

“Mom? What’s going o–”

“My cancer is back.”

The lump in my throat dropped to the pit in my stomach. As she began to explain, her voice began to fade. Her lips kept moving, but my mind was replaying each moment we experienced as a family when my aunt went through her first rounds of chemo. Support poured from every member of our family and while it was difficult on her, she pulled through. She went into remission. The light in her eyes returned.

I looked at her again and fought the quiver in my lips. The light was indeed still left in her sunlit eyes. She had strength that even my mom didn’t have. Mom even knew that–she admitted it on many occasions.

“Alma?” Aunt Arecia started. “I’m sorry,” she smiled, “it’s not exactly light news that you want to hear when visiting home during a stressful time in your life.”

“That’s nonsense,” I sniffled. “Tell me, when do you start chemo? I’ll be there. Every appointment. You won’t be alone.”

She shook her head. “Honey…”

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Mom was already in the living room, but wasn’t saying anything. Not a word. Why was I just hearing about this? I wasn’t some distant relative who just popped in for the holidays. I was the damn heiress of this stupid family and one of the most special people in my life was hurting–again!

Aunt Arecia was looking at Mom before she got up from the couch. “I will not be going to treatment anymore, love.”

“W-what?” I stuttered.

She was smiling, but how could she?

“It has spread quickly and it is much too advanced for me to even consider treatment. Plus, I felt more dead than alive when I was in chemo. You saw me, Alma. You all saw me. I’m trying more medicinal routes now, but I’ve fought my fight. I’ve–”

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“N-No!” I cried out before flinging myself onto her.

“I’m not fooling anyone, especially myself. I’m enjoying each day that I have with the people that I love. Please don’t cry…” She begged.

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It was hard not to cry. How was it that she was keeping her cool and I was crumbling before her. She was insanely strong and I couldn’t imagine my life without her.

Fighting the urge to cling to her, I stepped back and wiped my eyes roughly till I felt my skin grow hot from the pressure. “How are you feeling?” I finally asked. “I mean, are you hurting?”

She shook her head slowly. “I have my good days and my bad days. I take it one day at a time.”

“But,” I whimpered. “I don’t want to miss anything anymore…”

“Of course, love,” Aunt Arecia nodded and kissed the top of my head when she embraced me. “Don’t you worry. I’m not giving up. I have to see you graduate and open up that flower show, right?”

I sniffled. “Y-yes.”

As I stood, still petrified from the news, I watched Aunt Arecia make her way past me to saw goodbye to Mom. They whispered something and before I knew it, Aunt Arecia was out the door.

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After she left to go pick up her husband, I didn’t say a word to Mom. I grabbed my bag from the hall and retreated upstairs to where I hoped my room would still be. Luckily, it was. Sure, there were some changes that were made to it, but the bits that really made it my room were still there. I needed some familiarity to think about what happened earlier that afternoon.

It was a nightmare.

It couldn’t be right.

All my worries that I had about growing up and moving out…

How could I say all that?

My loving aunt wasn’t even thinking of that anymore. She wasn’t getting treatment anymore. I couldn’t comprehend the reason when I knew so many people loved her. Her kids, her husband. Us.

It was insanely painful to think about losing a loved one. Grandpa passed away and it was painful enough being at his funeral. But Arecia? No! I couldn’t even think of that. She was a fighter; she was strong; she wouldn’t give up.

I swiped the thought from my mind and swayed in my seat until I heard my bedroom door creak open.

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I didn’t have to turn around or even ask to know it was Mom standing behind me. The aura was tense and guilt-ridden.

“Can we talk?” she whispered. Her voice was hoarse as if she spent the last hour crying.

Honestly, I didn’t want to, but I wasn’t about to kick her out of a room in her own house. Technically, I was just a visitor now, so I got off the swing and dragged my feet to my bed. At least the soft covers would comfort me.

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“I made sure we kept your room as close to the original as possible,” she said. She never was too good at breaking the ice. This was no excuse and I wasn’t going to let her just brush it aside.

“Why didn’t you tell me, Mom?”

What small talk she wanted to make was not going to happen.

“I tried,” she admitted. “I drafted message after message and tried to bring it up during phone calls, but Alma-” she whimpered. “How could I when I can barely bring myself to admit this is happening? She’s my sister. My only sister. My best friend.” I heard her voice crack before she collapsed at my bed. “I spent all this time trying to convince her to go to treatment.”

I quickly sat up and reached out to touch her hand. “Why won’t she?”

“She was miserable in chemo…”

“But she beat the cancer,” I pleaded.

Mom nodded. “Believe me, I tried. Your dad tried. Your uncle tried. We all did, baby. We all did.”

Hearing that still didn’t make me feel better, but I heard the pain in her voice. I did feel bad for assuming she was keeping the news from me, but it was impulse. It hurt and I knew I needed to take it out on someone. She had a point. Aunt Arecia was truly a strong woman and a weak person could never make the decision to just live out the rest of their remaining days.

“I’m sorry, Mom…”

She nodded and wiped the stray tears from her cheeks. “I am, too. It’s not how I wanted your visit to go, believe me. We’ll figure this out, but we have to respect her decision…”

“What?”

Mom nodded. “As much as it pains me.”

“What about Grandma Atoli and Grandpa Crescendo?”

Mom shook her head. “They’re not taking it well, which is to be expected. What parent wants to outlive their child? Anyway,” she sniffled and got off the bed. “I just wanted you to know I didn’t want to hide this. It’s just something I haven’t come to terms with yet. I love her and she has been my rock since forever. I can’t think of a world without her.” Mom kissed the top of my head and exhaled slowly. “I’m going to speak with your father. Just please try to get some rest…”

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I couldn’t.

When Mom left, I wandered around my room until the emptiness finally began to annoy me. My old books, my plants–everything began to make me cringe and despise the space I was in. I walked out of my room and down the hall where I could hear the faint sounds of laugher.

I knocked on the door and entered.

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“Hey Kaden,” I started. “Can I join you?”

He looked past his shaggy hair and nodded, patting the empty space on the couch.

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The moment I sat down I felt some relief even when it involved watching ridiculous stunt videos with my brother.

“So, you heard.”

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Gen.10-Alma. Chapter Twenty

Before I knew it, my holiday break was over and it was time to get on a plane and head back to campus. As much as I loved my time spent with family, I was extremely excited to see Dani back at our dorm since she was spending the holiday break with her boyfriend, Saul, and his family. Guess things were also moving along well for her with her relationship and I couldn’t wait to hear all about it. I half-expected for her to be off with Saul at his place, but Dani was actually in our room seated on her bed with a pillow in her lap.

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“My sista!” I exclaimed and threw down my bag. “I’ve missed you! Tell me everything! You’ve been radio silent this entire time!”

Which was odd, by the way.

It wasn’t till I got closer to her that I noticed how swollen her eyes were. I immediately dropped my playful demeanor and rushed to her side. If there was anything that set me into full Mama-Bear mode it was knowing something was wrong with my friends.

Dani only looked down and mumbled incoherently. Her speech soon became riddled with her heavy sobs.

My arm quickly found its way to her back, so I could soothe her any way I could.

“Hey,” I whispered, “what’s going on? Was your trip no good?”

Dani snorted and looked up. “Alma, there was no trip.”

“Where were you then?” Heck, she could have come spend the break with my family.

“Visited family…”

“Well that’s good, but weren’t you supposed to go see—”

“Nope. Not once I found out he was fucking some freshman.”

“Woah, what. Hold on. WHAT?”

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Dani took her time explaining since she had to take breaks to sniffle and apologize (no matter how many times I told her it was necessary). She never caught him in the act. She never noticed anything pop up on his phone. Nothing. There was nothing that would be stereotypically assumed of a cheater. Saul actually approached her and said it to her face. The nerve!

She wiped her eyes and sighed. “He told me that he was seeing someone else and that he cared about her. He’d rather introduce her to his family than me. I mean,” She winced as the words were forming. “Is there something so wrong with me that he doesn’t even want to consider introducing me to his family? Why did he suggest it? Why did he invite me before?”

I placed my arm around her and pulled her in close before she started wheezing as her questions quickened. One followed the other till she was crying again. It was hard to see her like this, because Dani always carried herself in such a way that made her seem impenetrable.

We were only human.

For a while I didn’t say anything. I just hugged her and listened because I could tell she needed to talk. Sometimes it was incoherent, but it was her expression and I was going to be there for as long as she wanted me to be there. After a while she stopped sniffling and sighed slowly.

“Do you think there’s something wrong with me?” She asked quietly.

“Absolutely not,” I replied. “You’re a kind and courageous woman. You rock colored hair like it’s nobodies business and you’re someone your siblings look up to. You’re amazing. Things didn’t work out with Saul because—” I paused. “His head is so far up his ass he can’t see what a mistake he made. That only means that he’s not the guy for you, and that’s okay, because that means you’re going through the duds till you find that right person who treats you the way you deserve to be treated.”

She did her best to smile. “You mean like a ‘Sabin’?”

I shrugged. “Could be like a Sabin. You know, speaking of which, we were going to have a movie night. I figured you’d be out tonight, but why don’t you join us?”

Dani’s eyebrows raised. “Um, you sure? Aren’t you two going to get all naughty and stuff?”

I fought the blush and shook my head. Sabin and I hadn’t actually been quite that physical yet, but I wasn’t going to get into that.

“No,” I smirked. “Just movies and junk food. I have a lot of comedies lined up and B-Horror movies…”

“Mmm, I guess I don’t see why not,” Dani smiled. “Thanks, Alma.”

“What are sisters for?” I grinned.

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As much as I wanted to be by her side every second that day, I knew she needed her space as well. I used that time to catch up with what was going on around campus. The snow was light this year, so the ultimate Frisbee team was still going at it when they weren’t trying to have “epic” snowball fights. In the quad, there were always activists handing out flyers about the next events they were going to host. They were passionate and very free-spirited. It was awesome to see them participating in important events and speaking about circumstances that would affect many people.

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While I walked around campus, I took in all the sights of everyone returning to their routines, so naturally, I returned to mine. Like an instinct, I walked down the winding paths to my safe haven, the best place to get a damn good cup of coffee.

“Didn’t take you too long to stop by,” the barista laughed once I approached the counter. “Same thing?”

I nodded. “You can’t go wrong with the usual.”

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The conversations I had with the barista were always excellent. I never left without having a good laugh with them, even more so on that day when I was startled at the feel of a hand on my shoulder. Luckily I didn’t have a drink in my hand, otherwise it would have gone flying.

“Boo?” Sabin cackled. “Oh, you’re very jumpy before you have your coffee.”

“I thought you’d know that by now,” I smirked before reaching on the tips of my toes to give him a quick peck on the cheek. “When did you get in?”

“Late last night,” he replied. “Still on or movie night? I picked up the movies.”

Since I spent the majority of the morning with Dani, I failed to let Sabin know what happened, so once I got my drink, we moved to sit at a table. After I explained the situation, I watched Sabin’s expression soften. I didn’t know why I expected him to not be on board with the idea of having Dani with us. It was Sabin after all. The moment I introduced him to my friends, he was extremely friendly. He was a great person all around and it didn’t matter if he knew the person for years or if it was someone who he had just met. He treated everyone with equal respect. For a moment we sat in silence until I had a light bulb moment.

“What’s up?”

“Why don’t you invite Otto to join us?”

Sabin smirked and nodded. “Sure. I don’t think he has any plans tonight, so I’ll ask him.”

Now, I wasn’t trying to set anything up. I simply wanted good company for a movie night, but I guess I would be a liar if I said I wasn’t hoping for some sort of spark. Otto was one of the nicest people I had ever met. He was with Sabin for a long time. They had gone through a lot together, so it certainly said something special about him. I loved Dani like a sister, so I only wanted her to be happy. At least if Otto was there for our movie night, it wouldn’t seem so much like her being a third wheel.

Who knew, maybe the move night would prove to be the right distraction for Dani. If she ended up having a great time and making a new friend in the process, then how could any of that go wrong?

All I ever wanted was to know my friends were happy and if there was anything that I could do, then well…

I would do it.

[Author’s Note: To my readers in the good ‘ol USA: Happy Independence Day 🙂 ]


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Gen.10-Alma. Chapter Four

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When there were activities, sleepovers, birthdays, and vacations, the remainder of my high school career seemed like a walk in the park. And I don’t necessarily mean it was easy, just that it was quite brief. Before I knew it I was staring down pieces of paper that would basically determine what I would be able to do in order to further my education. Now that I was older, I had a better idea of what I wanted to do with my life after school. My love for gardening hadn’t changed and at this rate I didn’t see it fading. With my interest in gardening, I wanted to pursue something that would involve it. All I knew was that I couldn’t make much if a living if I only stayed home and planted flowers. Now, if I started some sort of business with my hobby, then we would be on the right track of doing something that I would absolutely love, but would also keep me from eating ramen noodles and dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets for the rest of my life.

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The guest instructor stepped to the front of the class with her hands gently dusting off her sides–hugged by her pencil skirt. The look on her face made you assume that she enjoyed seeing our frustration, but there was the fact that she probably went through the very same thing when she was our age. But hey, regardless–it was still pretty annoying to be looked at like that. “Alright, you intelligent and college-bound folks,” she beamed. “The deadlines for many of our in-state schools are approaching, although that does not mean that the dates for all those expanding their studies outside state lines won’t be just around the corner! So don’t procrastinate!” The woman walked to the other side of the room. Her eyes glazed over all of us until they settled in the middle. “I will also remind you that if you turn your applications in to the school a week from now, we will mail them to your schools, free of charge. All that you’ll need to do is put your paperwork in an envelope marked with your name and address. The rest will be taken care of.”

It felt like our instructor was talking for years and it wasn’t going to end, but by some miracle it somehow did. With her no longer speaking, we were allowed to finish up our work and get ready to leave the class to head home. Well, in my case at least. The gardening club wasn’t meeting that week, so I was free to head on home where I could kick off my shoes and forget about applications, college, and all of that madness–even if only for a few hours.

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“I see you’re in no hurry to leave?” My friend Gia giggled, getting up from her seat before walking to me.

“I guess you could say that,” I muttered when just getting organized was the main issue.

“Which colleges did you apply to?” Gia asked. She walked up to my desk with a stack of papers in her arms. From the look of it, she was well on her way with picking out the stepping stone for the next phase of her life.

I couldn’t say the same for myself, as I looked down at the mess on my desk. I had many options, but since I was going to be double-majoring in Botany and Business, I wasn’t even sure where to begin. Some schools offered an excellent business program and didn’t have anything with botany, then we had the opposite, or nothing at all. Sighing, I placed my pencil down and shrugged. “I don’t even know. So far I filled out an application for St. Claire University, Sunset Valley East, and MGU…”

Gia looked over my shoulder and hummed. “So you want to get all of that done at one school?” She asked. From what I remembered Gia telling me, she wanted to pursue an education in psychology, so she could be a school counselor. I thought that was pretty neat, but the amount of time she would spend at school would probably be double, if not triple of what I was aiming for with my double-major.

“Hoping to, yeah. It’s already a pain in the ass getting into one school, but if I could apply and get into one that would be able to provide me with the curriculum I need, then I would sign up and be good to go!” I was beginning to get frustrated with how annoying all of this was. No one was there to hold your hand anymore and picking a school that would help determine what the rest of your life was going to be like was pretty darn scary. Mmm, well, I suppose there were some other reasons as well that were causing me to get cold feet about these applications, other than the fact that their requirements were getting ridiculous with each one that I had to fill out. The main conflict in my decision did not truly exist because I was indecisive about the curriculum, but because the idea of change was stressful, to say the least. Many of the great schools on my list were out of state, and like Mom when she started college, I would be leaving the safety and security of my home, my bed, and even possibly my friends.

I knew Gia was going out-of-state and even that thought was making me sad. The thought of the great trio splitting up was a bit, well, weird to even think about!

Gia probably sensed the stress creeping up shoulders as she offered me a comforting pat. “You’ll figure it out, Al. Never easy at first, but I’m sure you’ll find the school that will fit like a glove!”

I nodded and thanked her for her support, even though I was freaking out inside. Time was running out for applications to be submitted, but I figured that maybe I could sleep on it, again, for the third week straight. Somehow I hoped that I would find a sign that would point to the future of my education.

Man, even the thought was lame.

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Once class was over for the day, I stuffed all of my papers, notebooks, and pencils into my backpack–quickly getting it all out of my sight. I didn’t want to spend a second longer staring at papers that asked questions about my academic career. When everyone in class filed out of the room, I followed close behind, and after saying goodbye to Gia I was well on my way home. It was well into the late afternoon that I finally made it out of school and onto the streets of St. Claire. The sun was beginning to set to the point it made the buildings around the small section of the town light up. The rich, bold colors of reds and yellows accented the features of my scenic route. I really enjoyed the fall, believe me I did, but with everything that was going on in my life now, I saw the fall as yet another ledger line to consider a deadline.

Better stop thinking like this, or walking into a ditch will sound more appealing, I thought.

Tired, sweaty, and ready to kick back on the couch (or heck, in front of my Netflix subscription), I dragged my feet up the path to the front door. Nothing seemed out of place. There were no flyers on the door badgering me about finishing up my applications, but the sound of my mother giggling beyond the doors was one that carried and even nudged me awake. Curious, I pressed my ear against the door to ensure that I wouldn’t walk in on something explicit.

“I’m so glad you’re home, Caty baby,” I heard Mom coo.

Ever since Dad got back from his second tour since getting back on the road, he and Mom were attached at the hip. You know, making up for the time they missed together. I didn’t blame her, really, since I couldn’t imagine being away from my spouse for that long. To be frank, I couldn’t imagine being away from Dani for that long! We were soul sisters! There was no splitting us up! I hope, I thought.

I decided to open the door and walk in without taking another moment to assess the situation inside. I was tired and from the sound of it my parents were either coming home from somewhere or leaving. It was actually the latter when I saw them embraced, with a decently sized travel bag at their side.

“Um, hi and bye?” I said.

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Their attention was caught and it was a moment later that Dad turned around with his arm automatically falling to Mom’s side.

“We didn’t forget to mention what was happening this week, right?” Mom gasped and quickly looked up at Dad for hope of reassurance. “I swear I remember coming up to your room.”

“Uh…if it was something that was told in my room, then there’s a chance that it might not have registered, sorry,” I sighed. “Freaking applications and papers are wearing me thin. I take it you two are leaving town?”

Dad rubbed Mom’s shoulders and gave her a quick peck on the cheek before handing her the keys to our new car, which was actually the product of Dad’s hobby–a refurbished vintage ride, that they were,no doubt, going to be taking out for their trip.Which had me wonder…

“How long will you two be gone for anyway? Sorry,” I apologized once more, “seems a lot of things slipped my mind lately.”

Mom quickly walked up to me before picking up her small travel bag, to take it to the car. She gave me a quick peck on the cheek before giving me the same speech, now short-handed, as I was all too familiar with her warnings and such. Once she was ready, she walked out the door and left me alone with Dad. Truth be told, it had been quite some time since I really had a good amount of time to spend just with my Dad. Between him traveling and me being in school, we rarely got to enjoy our father-daughter days.

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Dad breathed loudly from his nose, the soft hiss of air bringing my attention back from the door where Mom had walked out of. “It was mentioned a bit briefly, so don’t worry about it. Mama has a conference out East, so we figured we’d make it a little weekend trip. Gram and Gramps offered to let us use their summer home, so we’ll be there.” While watching me nod, following along with what he was saying, he reached out playfully and tugged on my loose curls. “And you, little Miss–you’ve worked quite hard yourself. Intending on relaxin’ this weekend?”

“I’d like that,” I quickly replied to his question before shifting my weight to the other foot. “But with you gone, does that set our movie night back?”

Chuckling, Dad leaned in and kissed my forehead, a clear indicator that it was time for him to head out before Mom would come back in and think about staying home. We all knew that it would only take a few puppy-dog looks from the twins and she would melt. “No-no, Alma–our movie date is set for next weekend. I already ordered the tickets for us. ”

I almost felt a bit foolish for thinking Dad would skip out on our highly anticipated movie date, but it honestly didn’t  make me too crazy, as there have been many occasions where our plans had to be pushed back and even cancelled due to his schedules. Ah, the life of being a musicians daughter. Regardless of the past, it really was nice to have him back at home, even if it was only until the next tour.

After Dad offered me  warm embrace, he excused himself and wished me a pleasant weekend, and of course, to watch out for the troublemakers in the house. The twins were still quite young, but just like Kaden–they were capable of all sorts of schemes.

I took one glance at my backpack that I set beside the shoe rack and turned forward again.It was Friday and I had no intention of looking at my school work just yet. All I wanted to do was kick back, relax, and do anything that required minimal brain power. Just the thought was allowing the weight on my shoulders to crack. Now, if it would only continue so it would crumble into nothing but a powder of stress I didn’t have to deal with. Again, a girl could dream.

“Hold on, little fellas,” I heard from the kitchen followed by the sound of a pan sizzling furiously. If cooking was musical, then the sound of things frying, baking, and boiling had to be the equivalent of an award-winning symphony!

I couldn’t help but to follow the sound to see who was the chef tonight.

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“I knew I heard someone cooking,” I said, pleased at the sight of my grandfather cooking in the kitchen. My little brothers were not far from his feet. As awful as it sounded, they sort of reminded me of Angelo when he was waiting to see if he could get even the smallest scrap of food from Mom while she cooked.

Grandpa Crescendo looked over his shoulder, and even from that angle I could see his face light up. “Ahh,” he exclaimed, “looks like we now have a full house of my sweet grandkids!”

Giggling, I swatted the air. “Now you’re just trying to flatter us.”

“Perhaps, but that doesn’t mean I’m not happy to be here!”

Alright,alright–he could win that round. But noticing that he was here, I was immediately prompted to look around the corner for Grandpa’s other half. “Is Granny Attie not with you?”

I could have sworn I felt the cheerfulness in his demeanor diminish slightly. Ack! If only I could’ve taken that question back! She was okay, wasn’t she?!

“Sadly, sweet girl, your grandma is not able to be with us this weekend. She has a conference in New York for a second publishing of your great-grandmother’s memoir. I was going to attend with her, but our schedules did not match up perfectly as I too have an event to go to Sunday afternoon–right around the time your parents should be coming home. So, I figured that I would help them out by spending some time with all of you. Attie does send her warmest hugs and plenty of kisses, I can assure you of that.”

I lit up at the thought,and even more so at how connected they seemed. Still–after all these years, it was impressive to know they truly were a pair that just wasn’t truly complete unless they were together, attached at the hip.

Sensing the need to move from the subject of his wife’s absence, I looked down at his feet where my brother’s were doing a great job of occupying themselves. Oren was busy smothering his toy with hugs which left Jax available for my attention.

“Alma!” He giggled once he got my attention. It was barely a second before he shot his arms up for me to pick him up.

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It took one great wheeze for me to hoist him up onto my hip.

“My little man, you’re getting quite heavy!” I declared, bouncing him against my side as best as I could.

“You are stwong!” He chirped and giggled before his attention shot to Grandpa Crescendo once the pan began to sizzle and fill the room with the sweet aroma of sun-dried tomatoes and spinach.”Yummmy!”

About to respond to his comment and ask what it was that Grandpa was cooking for us, the more elusive brother of mine stumbled into the kitchen with one goal in mind. I followed with my eyes to the fridge where he leaned down to retrieve a juice box.

“Stealing from the tots now?” I joked. “Nice to see you too, Kaden. Did something crawl up your booty?”

Kaden, realizing he wasn’t as sneaky as he had probably hoped, turned around with the straw already stuck on his bottom lip. “Um, nothing really.”

“I thought it was a girl problem?” Grandpa asked.

Oh, and how the expression on my brother’s face changed!

“Grandpa!” Kaden moaned.

“Ah, yes,” he chuckled, “I apologize. The guy code was intact.” He bowed his head apologetically and sighed. “I apologize, young Kaden. But without going into detail, I can say that it will be alright. If you have feelings for someone, then surely you must act. The last thing you’d want to do is have a missed opportunity…”

That sure rang true for Grandpa, from what we knew about his youth, at least.

Being so busy with school work and the occasional job, I had to admit that I couldn’t even put my finger on who it was my brother was interested in. And seeing how jumpy he was at the mere mention of a girl being involved, I didn’t push him. After all, I wouldn’t want the same thing to happen to me either. Talk about being put on the spot! Trying to move us away from the subject, I set Jax down on the floor to join his brother before glancing at the  plate of vegetable spaghetti that Grandpa prepared. In one motion, I slapped my hands against my stomach and grinned.

“Well I don’t know about you guys, but I’m starving!”

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Dinner was eaten in peace and the only noise that was found in the room originated from the occasional scraping of utensils against the place and the sound of the twins playing together. It was nice to sit down and eat a homemade meal instead of having to retreat to my room with leftovers or merely a meal that I couldn’t enjoy with my family due to time-sensitive assignments.

After dinner was consumed, the twins were instructed to go to the living room where they could play. Kaden followed them partly to supervise and partly to play video games since it appeared that he didn’t have any plans to go out that night, which was a rarity ever since he made it to high school. My brother seemed to always be out of the house lately. Since Grandpa was around I figured that I would make use of his presence and the freedom he had from my siblings. Like my parents, Grandpa Crescendo was knowledgeable in student struggles. More so than any of my siblings and peers. As I scrubbed the dishes clean I listen for a pause between the laughter of my brother, who had delayed his journey to the living room, and the enthusiastic baby-talk coming from Grandpa Crescendo, who eventually beat me to the punch of speaking.

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Mid-laugh, he tickled my brother. “Thank you for taking care of the dishes, sweetie.”

“It’s no problem,” I responded quietly, biting down on my lip. If I was going to ask for a moment of his time,then it was going to be now or never. “Grandpa?”

“Yesss?” He responded in a sing-song tone.

“Do you think we could talk about something after I’m done? With Mom and Dad gone, I sort of need someone to talk to about this.” The moment those words abandoned my lips, I watched his lighthearted mood turn absolutely serious. Gasping, I quickly wiped my hands and shook my head. “N-no!It’s nothing bad, I promise! It’s just some school that I could use some advice on…”

Exhaling, Grandpa nodded and set Oren down to waddle into the living room where his brother was probably immersed in the pictures on the screen of Kaden’s video game. Once we were ready for our chat, I motioned for him to follow me upstairs. Despite Kaden being too occupied and the twins unable to understand the stress that I felt, I still wanted to be away from that commotion. Grandpa followed me up two flights of stairs to the one place I liked to be when everywhere else just didn’t suffice.

We ended up in Mom’s studio.

“You know,” he began, catching his breath. Oops, sometimes I really forgot that all that walking would have been a bit tiring for someone his age. “You had me worried back there, Alma. Is everything okay at school?” Once we walked into the studio I watched his expression change to one of awe. He noticed Mom’s work stationed around her studio. Stone sculptures, wood sculptures, and everything in between filled the surrounding area.

I watched him step forward towards where Mom kept her collection of picture frames from different events in her life that were immortalized in a simple shot.

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“School is okay, I guess,” I started, delaying my words mainly to watch him pick up a picture frame. It was the rugged frame with edges that were scraped and beaten up. It was one that had survived many years and one I knew had great sentimental value to Mom. I didn’t have to stand behind Grandpa to know that it was a family portrait of Mom, her siblings, and her parents way before any of them got married.

He rubbed the worn frame and hummed till his lips spread into a pleased grin. Grandpa set the picture down and turned around, motioning for me to go to him. “Sorry about that, sweet girl. Sometimes the past really catches my attention. Now, why is school only okay?”

Settling under his arm, I pouted. “It’s college application time…”

“Aha,” he chuckled, “that makes perfect sense.”

“It does?”

He nodded, guiding me to the couch. “I’m not sure about your dad, but I know for sure how your mother was around this time. I suppose circumstances were quite different, but I know that our little Bel also had quite a difficult time picking a school, and even more so telling us about it…”

“Really?” I asked.

“You bet, but before I go off tangent with another story–why don’t you tell me what’s bugging you?”

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When we sat down, I allowed the cushion to embrace me. Nothing better than a little added support when talking about something that had all of my muscles tighten. I explained to him the dilemma I had with my choices. Some of my schools were in the area while the one that offered a good program for both botany and business was around three states over. I yanked at my hair out of frustration till Grandpa’s chuckling brought me back down to Earth. “I just don’t know what’s better, Grandpa…” I admitted. “The programs are good, but it’s not exactly cheap, and I would be so far away from family, from my friends…”

“But you said that you like the programs at the school that is in another state?”

I bowed my head. “Yes.”

“Then maybe that is a good choice, Alma. Ultimately what it comes down to is what works best for you and your future. Family will be right here and always cheering you on…”

“You think? Do you think Mom will be okay with me just leaving like this? I mean, I’m the one who really helps her out when Dad is away on tour; I don’t want to leave her all alone like that…”

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“If I know your mother as well as I did when she was your age, then, sweetie, she will be the last person to keep you from following your dreams. She will support you to the moon and back.” Grandpa spoke softly and glanced down briefly before looking ahead. “I suppose I could tell you now…”

“Tell me what?”

“Your mother applied to a school here in St. Claire. See, she used to live in Sunset Valley. She applied there and did all the hard work on her own just to get into the school that had the right program for her career path. Everything was working out well, but she didn’t tell us until she found out that she was accepted.” Holding his hand to his heart, he turned to me. “I admit it wasn’t really a great time for many things, and I feel so bad that she felt the need to hold back on telling us about this until after she was accepted. I feel we could have helped her more, but many things happened during that time…”

“Did Grandma not want to let Mom go to that school prior to her even applying?”

He shook his head. “That wasn’t it at all. See, your grandmother lost her mother shortly after giving birth to your Aunt Arecia. As time went on, her father wasn’t the same without his wife. When his time came, your grandmother took it as well as anyone would when losing a parent. She was hurt and felt alone. She wanted to desperately hold onto her family, which is why she took your mother’s announcement with such surprise, and even a hint of fear.” He chuckled. “She’s not here so I can say that. But all it took was for her to tell us and she would have all the support that she would need. It’s that simple,” Grandpa admitted. “It’s what family does.”

I thought about it. Everything that Mom went through during her younger years made me realize that  I really should have listened to Grandpa. He saw it happen before. And if there was ever  a moment where I thought I should follow in my mother’s footsteps, then this one had to be it.

“You okay?”

“Not really sure,” I admitted. When I leaned forward and set my elbows on my knees, I groaned wearily. “What should I do? I mean, I suppose I could send in all of my applications and then just see what will work for me? And if I get into the out-of-state school, then I could really seriously consider it?”

Grandpa chuckled and rubbed my shoulder before helping himself up from the couch. “I think you have the right plan, little one. But let’s head on down, hmm? It is Friday night, after all. I’m pretty sure we could all use a relaxing evening. Especially you.”

We ended up going downstairs not long after we concluded our conversation.Despite if being relatively brief and a lot of was going to still depend on my own decisions, I had to admit that I did feel a bit better. I just barely scraped the top layer of my load of stress, but it was something that would take some time tackling altogether. Like Grandpa said–if Mom could do it, then there was no reason why I shouldn’t even try.

Ah, well that was enough for the night.

In the living room,the boys were no longer glued to the image of Kaden’s video game, but sifting through our DVD collection. Without any added small talk, Grandpa and I rejoined the group just in time to enjoy an action flick that was suitable for Oren and Jax, which meant that we were watching Iron Man.

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Some time before the movie was halfway through, it seemed that our movie night was cut short for the majority of the family. The toddlers were passed out and Grandpa joined them–holding onto Jax, who was nestled comfortably on his chest.

Kaden and I watched them for a few minutes without ever exchanging any words until I heard the fabric of his blazer scrunch with his stiff movement.

“Looks like they’re knocked out, huh?” I said.

Taking a peek at the other side of the couch, Kaden sneered and shook his head. “Yeah, I don’t blame them. Grandpa was playing with them so much earlier, so it’s no wonder they all passed out even if Tony Stark is about to kick some ass!”

I tried to keep my laughter to a bare minimum, but the way my brother made a scene out of Gramps and the kiddos missing out on the most intense scene of the movie was too much for me! In that split moment, once I finally caught my breath and cleared my throat, I reached forward to tap the arm rest. “Hey…”

“Y-yeah?” Kaden asked, settling down himself.

“You know what Grandpa said…”

“Alma…”

“It will be okay,” I began. “If you like the girl, then I hope she likes you back. And if you want to talk about it to someone who isn’t well, Grandpa, then my room is always open, okay? Heck, maybe I could help you pick out a gift or something for her…”

With the scrunched up expression on my brother’s face, I half-expected for him to scoff and dismiss my offer to help him. Remarkably, it was quite the opposite! His expression relaxed and he shot me a side glance. “Thanks, Alma…”

“Don’t sweat it…”

After all, when school wasn’t kicking my butt, I was a family girl. And no matter what the circumstance was, family would always be there to offer support–rooting for each other to the moon and back.