The Midnight Sun in June:
Brunch, and Dinner Collide
In the middle of the birch wood trees and beneath the glorious summer sun stood Joe as he looked at his youngest sister. He smiled. Gwyn stood still and wanted to freeze the moment before her. Her older brother had changed. When she last saw him, he was with Piper and they were getting ready to board on a flight back to the states. They spent a week in Paris. Joe was vibrant, and healthy. He ran every morning weaving his way through the streets of Paris, and he would come back to Gwyn’s apartment with the morning croissant.
The man who stood before her, she barely recognized. His beautiful hair had started to gray, and she noticed that there were dark circles beneath his eyes.
“Well, hello there. It’s quite rare to come across a lotus rose in the middle of the birch trees path,” Joe said.
“You know, you’re the only person I allow to refer to me as ancient flower celebrated by Buddhist. You couldn’t come up with anything else, could you?” Gwyn asked.
“I had plenty of nicknames for you, but I’m afraid Dad would not have allowed it,” Joe chuckled.
Gwyn ran to her brother, and hugged him. Joe wrapped his arms around the little sister that he protected all his life. He had given her the credit for being the father he had become—for he practiced how to unconditionally love another before his children came along.
“Joe, you look like shit,” Gwyn broke the heavy silence between them.
“You know that isn’t the way to speak to someone with cancer. It’s pretty shitty rude thing to say, Gwynnie,” Joe replied.
“Don’t play the victim card here. It’s not very becoming of your reputation.”
“I’m afraid my reputation has been crap for years around these parts.”
“No, not yours. We both know who takes that role in this family,” Gwyn said.
“Please don’t play the victim card,” Joe chuckled at his sister.
Gwyn looked at her brother, and tested herself. She did not want to show him how she wanted to cry and throw a tantrum like a child in front of him as she did when they were children.
“Don’t even think about it. Your tantrum worked when you were little to get your way. I’m afraid that isn’t going to work in this case,” Joe said.
“It would have been worth a try,” Gwyn said.
“No, it would have looked idiotic if some other person was walking along this path and saw two adults—one of them on the ground throwing a tantrum because she wants her brother to live.”
“So what my ass. I have things that I need to get done before .. I need for you to do a few things, and frankly your tantrum is not one of them.”
“You’re a little bit demanding for someone who was just told he’s got a year to live?”
“Don’t let Piper hear you and I talk this way. It upsets her that I’m being casual enough as it is. You understanding this, and responding in the same manner is going to piss her off.”
“My dear brother, she was my best friend before she became your wife. I’m sure there are sides that I know far better than you.”
“Don’t forget she’s also your husband’s sister,” Joe reminded her.
“How the hell can I ever forget that?” Gwyn rolled her eyes at her brother.
“We need to talk about this situation,” Joe said as he looked at his sister.
“There is nothing to talk about and I did not come home for that.”
“I’m only starting to interrogate you now to prepare you for what is waiting for you at brunch.”
“I know what’s waiting for me. That’s why I told Brosie to drop me off at the entry so that I can walk and prepare myself,” Gwyn’s phone started to ring. She looked at the caller ID and ignored it.
“Who was that?” Joe asked.
“Nobody,” Gwyn responded.
“You need to take care of that nobody,” Joe said.
“I did. I took care of it.”
“I heard. You took care of it with an email, Gwyn.”
“Goddamnit! Brosie can’t keep his mouth shut worth for shit!”
“Brosie knew too?” Joe asked.
“Goddamnit! Nina!” Gwyn yelled.
Nina placed the peonies that she had ordered strategically in each vase. The family that cultivated the peonies locally had early bloomers in their greenhouse, and they adored and respected Nina for her work in fundraising for awareness of peony cultivation in town. Nina admired the pinks, reds, whites, and dark burgundy colors that highlighted her table scape. Gwyn had a love for peonies and Nina hoped that she would be reminded how beautiful they grew in town.
“Emily, honey, can you start bringing out the dishes, please? Juliana, please listen for the doorbell!” Nina yelled. Just as she yelled at her daughters, the doorbell rang.
Piper and her children walked in with the fresh croissants that Piper baked earlier that morning.
“Where’s Joe?” Nina asked.
“He went out for a quick .. walk. I’d dare say run, but I know he can’t quite do what he used to,” Piper answered. Nina looked at her sister law whose long red hair was placed at the crown of her head in a messy bun. Nina knew she did not have time to even bother this morning, and who could blame her? Gwyn would have preferred her this way anyhow.
“Piper, is Dante not coming?” Nina asked.
“Nina, he said that we’re all going to have dinner tonight, and he’ll take care of it then. You haven’t told Gwyn, have you?” Piper asked.
“My goodness, no! I am not going to set myself up for that! It’s her first day home!” Nina said.
“Then, whose orders are we on that tonight’s dinner must be kept a secret? Even my brother is being quite mysterious about this,” Piper said.
“It’s Grandmama’s wish, and we all know the rule about that,” Nina responded. Piper understood immediately. They all knew that once the matriarch requested an order, they all must abide by it. No questions asked, not one hesitation. Just as Piper was about to ask how her brother had known about it, the matriarch walked in the garden.
Edwyna was walking with Miss Patty at her side. Miss Patty was already in her 60s, and she has cared for Edwyna for so many decades that the two have become great friends. Edwyna, on the other hand, was slowly coming into her late 80s, but her mind and her wit were still sharp as ever.
“Marjielina, my dear, the table looks beautiful. Do you think your younger sister would be reminded what she had missed while she was away?” Edwyna asked.
“Grandmama, who knows what state that girl is in? I’m sure she’ll be fine,” Nina answered.
“My darling, you must give your sister some sort of credit. She is much tougher than you have given her credit for. Her beauty may be delicate, but she has a ferocious tenacity for survival,” Edwyna winked at her oldest granddaughter and smiled. However, what Edwyna felt was something completely different. She worried about Nina far more than anyone. Nina has had the ability to portray a strength that she sometimes did not possess. She may have been the eldest of her grandchildren, but Edwyna knew that she was far more delicate in her state of being than she had let on all these years. As Edwyna sat at the chair that Nina had beautifully assigned her with her name on the napkin, she heard two voices coming from the other side of the garden.
“Nina is going to be pissed that we are going through this pathway of her garden instead of going through the front of the house, Gwyn!” Joe yelled at his younger sister.
“Oh poo! Really, she’s not going to care! You’re being such a hard ass!” Gwyn replied.
“You know she wanted you to ring that doorbell so that she can answer it! You’re being a little shit,” Joe said.
“I’m jet lagged, and you have to give me a break here! My brother is dying, you know!”
“Damn it, Gwyn! You are going to get us in deep shit!” Joe yelled.
As the two of them opened the little garden door, they were faced with their family standing at the table looking straight at them. Grandmama’s eyes were twinkling with glee, as Piper and Nina both had their lips in a tight line and eyes as wide as the teacups that were strategically placed at each plate setting.
“Surprise! Guess who’s home?” Gwyn enthusiastically yelled.
She was then attacked by her nieces and nephews with hugs. Joe’s children grabbed a leg each, while the teenagers wrapped their arms around her neck.
“Oh emm gee! There is no way you just got off the plane! You look fabulous!” Emily said.
“Aunt Gwyn, you have to tell me about your travels in Europe! Mom said you also went to Asia! And Korea!! She also said that you me some K-pop stars!! Is that true! Oh my god!!! You are just soo freakin’ cool!” Juliana said.
“Aunt Gwyn, Mom said that you are going to disappear again and she told me to hold on to your ankles.” Gwyn looked down to find Juniper, her 5-year old niece holding on to her ankles. Great, she’s a combination of Joe and Piper. Even her strawberry blonde hair couldn’t make up its mind whether to take after her dad or her mom.
Gwyn picked up little Juniper and gave her a hug. “Hi little Juni-bug. You were only 2-years old when I last saw you. And, you remember your Aunt Gwyn?” she asked Juniper.
“Uh-huh. You sent me ribbons, and books. See, I’m wearing the yellow ribbon you sent me. Mama made a bow for my hair,” Juniper squeezed her aunt’s face with both her hands. “That’s from Daddy. He said to squeeze your face for him when I see you!” Juniper giggled. Gwyn took a deep breath, and gave her little niece a kiss on the cheek. She hugged all of her other nieces and nephews and told them she bought them presents for later. When they all ran off, Gwyn walked over to her older sister who was standing behind the nieces and nephews.
Gwyn hugged Nina and lifted her a bit.
“Stop—just because we’re the same height doesn’t mean you can pick me up like that, Guinevere,” Nina said.
Gwyn looked at her sister and gave her a kiss on the cheek.
“I missed you Nina-ninni-noo. Give me a few hours before you start scolding me, k?” Gwynn whispered in her sister’s ear. Nina gave her younger sister a peck on the cheek and a smack on her butt as she watched her walk over to Piper.
Piper hugged Gwyn before she even had a chance. Gwyn felt her best friend’s burden within that embrace, and she squeezed Piper to remind her that they can unload all their tears later.
“I missed you. Don’t say anything now, but we’re in the shits aren’t we?” Piper whispered in Gwyn’s ear.
“The deepest shit you can imagine, Pipey,” Gwyn whispered back. Piper looked at the woman who she had known in the many stages of her life, and smiled at her. There were tears pooling in Piper’s eyes, but she knew better than to let them go in front of the family, and most importantly, in front of her children. Gwyn squeezed her friend, kissed her on the cheek, and walked over to the woman who she loved, feared, admired, and respected most of all.
“Bonjour Grandmere. I’m home,” Gwyn hugged her grandmother and kissed her lightly on her forehead.
“My darling child, you look as if you have not aged a day. Are you not jet lagged from your flight?” Edwyna asked.
“No, I’m too exhausted to sleep, and too wired to stay awake. If that made any sense at all?” Gwyn smiled at her grandmother.
“Do you ever make sense in your life to begin with?” Edwyna laughed.
“Grandmama, you are most definitely right. I don’t doubt that nothing in my life had ever made sense at all!” Gwyn’s laughter was interrupted by an incoming text—several incoming texts. She looked at her phone once again, and tucked it in her back pocket.
“You must not have taken care of your business back in Frankfurt?” Edwynna asked her youngest granddaughter.
“It’s nobody, grandma,” Gwyn attempted to change the subject.
“It’s a nobody that you obviously have not taken care of. Please, my child, do take care of your nobody,” Edwyna looked at Gwyn as she sipped her tea the way a Southern woman who spent her younger years in England only could.
Nina did not disappoint. Just as she planned, family and close friends arrived at the brunch to greet Gwynn back home. Brosie and Asha had arrived soon after Gwyn and Joe made their entrance. Asha had always been very fond of her future in-laws, and most especially Gwyn since Brosie looked up to her and valued her opinion. Asha was aware that if there was anyone who could get through Brosie, it would Gwyn. Nina watched Asha talking away as Gwyn smiled and listened. Nina knew that Gywn was looking forward to gaining a little sister in-law who made their brother very happy.
As Nina was heading into the kitchen, she heard the doorbell ring and a familiar voice echo through the hallway.
“Hellooooo, anyone home?” Lana’s voiced sang as she walked towards her best friend. Nina’s Lana had been what many would consider her soul mate in friendship. They have known each other from the moment they had the same babysitter. Lana’s parents had adopted Lana after she had spent her first two years in foster care. Lana’s mother and Nina’s mother became good friends after the two little girls began to take a liking to each other at only 2 years old.
“Hello Darling! You made it!” Nina walked over and gave Lana a hug.
“I baked this for baby girl’s homecoming,” Lana said as she handed Nina a huge platter of lemon meringue pie. “You know if there is anything a girl needs after living all over the world is a downright lemon meringue pie.”
“You know she’s not going to want to share this,” Nina said.
“That’s why I already gave Emily the other pie to put out on the table for everyone else,” Lana said as she looked through the veranda for a familiar face.
“How’s our girl doing? Have you accessed her already?”
“I haven’t had a chance. She must have bumped into Joe out in the field. I was waiting for Brosie to bring her, and next thing I know, I hear her and Joe cussing up a storm walking up through the garden.”
“Now, Love, don’t you get started on your nagging streak. The girl just got home—let her be for a few days.”
“You know.. I can tell immediately when she’s trying too hard to seem happy. She can’t hide from me very long.”
“Nina, she knows she can’t. Have you told her what’s been going on .. with everything?”
“No, she has no idea. Grandmama laid down her orders for tonight, and you know once that has been done—we are all on lockdown.”
“Uh-hmmmm, I know. She already got to me,” Lana said.
“You too? For someone as ancient as Grandmama, she sure knows how to cover all bases, as well as, her tracks.”
“You should already know that no one, no one will ever match up to your grandmother’s ways,” Lana laughed. Just then they heard a squeal only to see Gwyn running up to Lana like the little girl she used to be.
“Lana-nana!!” Gwyn squeezed Lana tightly.
“Aww baby girl! Let me get a look at you,” Lana pulled Gwyn back and looked at her up and down. “The world has been good to you, hasn’t it?” Lana asked.
“I guess you can say that. The world outside of home, anyway,” Gwyn responded.
“Now don’t you start, you just got here! Look what I made for you!” Gwyn looked over at Nina holding on to her favorite pie.
“Oh my goodness. You know I’m not going to share that,” Gywn said.
“We know, you little brat. You’ll take this with you,” Nina said. Lana smiled at her best friend and she noticed how genuinely happy Nina looked to have her sister home.
“C’mon girl, let’s let your sister flutter about. You and I need a few minutes together,” Lana took Gwyn by the shoulder and they walked out to the garden.
Lana had always been impressed at Nina’s creativity with her garden. In one section of the massive area, Nina planted all of her vegetables and crops that grow abundantly during the Alaskan summer. She strategically created rows of vegetables like squash, kale, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and so much more. In another section of the garden, she planted all variations of flowers: irises, columbines, peonies, sunflowers, and other perennials that return every year. When Nina and Lana spent time together in the garden, Lana always felt that she left Fairbanks, and walked straight into an English garden.
“How are you baby girl? Now that you’ve been back for—what—a couple of hours?”
“I think I’m alright. Trying to process, but not fully—just yet.”
“Do me a favor and give yourself some time settling back in—like, I’m sure you would. Give yourself the time to ground yourself.”
“You’re wondering if I’ve seen, right?” Gwyn asked Lana. Lana looked out into the garden of flowers not at all surprised that Gwyn went straight to the point.
“When was the last time you have seen?” Lana asked.
“When I left. At the airport. I was going up the escalator, and I turned around. They were at the bottom waving at me. I ignored it and kept on going,” Gwyn answered truthfully.
“You’ll tell me, or your sister if it happens again, right? Especially now that you’re home,” Lana looked at Gwyn earnestly.
“I will. I’ve learned to deal with it my own way, and I know it’s my mind. I mean.. I know I’m not psycho when I see my dead daughter, and my dead best friend just the way they were. I know that it was grief in its most cruelest form,” Gwyn shrugged and smiled at Lana. Lana looked at the woman standing before her, and she could not help, but also see the little sister that she lost. Her own little sister who became Gwyn’s other half. They were quite a four some: Lana and Nina the best of friends, and their younger sisters who could not be away from each other—even for a day. And now, Gwyn has had to live her life without the two people that used to breathe life into her.
“Evangeline would have been proud of you. How you’ve managed, and survived,” Lana said as she held herself from sobbing when she said her dead sister’s name.
“Hmm, I’m not too sure about that, Lana. If she were alive today, I would never hear the end of it. You forget, she was my conscious compass, and I’ve been a bit lost all these years, you see,” Gwyn said.
“There you go with your self-deprecation bit– that frankly, you just need to quit,” Lana chuckled.
“Alright, you two, that’s enough talking in the corner over there! Gwyn! Sadie just got here!” Nina yelled. Gwyn looked over to see her sister placing another plate of food onto the table, and behind her was her cousin, Sadie.
“Awww snap! It’s craycray Sadie!” Gwyn yelled back.
“What-up Biznatch!” Sadie yelled back and stopped short when she saw that her grandmother was looking right at her. “Oh shit, oh, I meant. Hello grandmops,” Sadie walked to Edwyna and gave her a peck on the cheek.
“My darling child. How many times have I told you that a grown woman should refrain from such language,” Edwyna whispered to the only granddaughter that her own daughter gave birth to.
“Grandma, I’m 32 years old. It might be a little bit too late for decorum. That’s why you have Nina and Gwyn. Give up on me already,” Sadie winked at her grandmother as Edwyna rolled her eyes.
Sadie was correct. She was by far nothing like her cousins Nina and Gwyn. She was Alaska Grown through her core. Sadie was built for the harsh Alaskan winters. She preferred fishing during the summer, whether it was dip-netting in Chitna, or halibut fishing in Valdez. She hunted for moose in the fall, and looked forward to spending time in her cabin in the middle of nowhere. Where Gwyn was always fashionably stylish and classic, Sadie preferred to live in her Carhartt overalls and steel toed boots. Gwyn hated her Carhartts, but gave up on trying to give Sadie a makeover when they were 15 years old.
“Ugh, since you’re my cousin and I love you. I guess I’m going to have to just live with you and your stupid overalls!” Gwyn told Sadie when she finally gave up trying to curl Sadie’s hair for the homecoming dance. Sadie went to the homecoming dance that night wearing her partially curled hair, and her Carhartt overalls. Gwyn wore her beautiful dress, and while all the boys wanted to be with her, she stuck by Sadie’s side the entire night.
“My god, what the hell, Gwyn? How in the world do you call yourself a food critic/blogger when you look like you eat water?” Sadie looked at Gwyn and tsk’ed at the same time.
“What are you talking about? Don’t body shame me. This is not skinny, this is healthy,” Gwyn said as she motioned towards her body.
“Well, ok. You’re right. You haven’t lost your boobs or your ass. It’s still there. You’ve got a long ways to go if you want to look as voluptuous as this beautiful beast right here,” Sadie then motioned towards her own body. “You know people mistake me for Melissa McCarthy, did I tell you that?” Sadie said as she winked at Gywn.
“You’re much more beautiful than the great Melissa McCarthy, Sadie,” Gwyn smiled at her cousin.
“Shit, we have to catch up! I have to get going. I’ll pick you up tomorrow, and we’ll go to the Farmer’s Market,” Sadie said.
“You’re leaving already? You just got here!”
“Look, I may be bigger than you, but you need to quit using me as a shield to hide from the questions that’s going to get shot at you. Bang! Bang!” Sadie pointed at Gwyn. “Plus, I have fresh king salmon to deliver. I’ll see you tonight at dinner,” Sadie gave her cousin one last hug, and started walking towards the brunch table. When she got there, in one swift motion, she took a piece of pie, kissed Edwyna on the cheek, and affectionately patted Nina’s butt. “Why are you two always smacking my behind?!” Nina asked Sadie and Gwyn. “Sadie, you need to eat something more than just a slice of pie!” Nina yelled after her.
“Quit nagging at me! You’re not the boss of me, Nina!” Sadie yelled back as she walked into the house, and straight into her Ford F150 hauling, which Gwyn was sure, several containers filled with ice and salmon.
Gwyn watched her cousin leave, and knew that they would need to catch up. If there was anyone in her family who would tell her how things were without sugar coating them, it would be Sadie.
“Wait, we have dinner plans?” Gwyn turned around and looked at everyone sitting at the table talking and enjoying their slice of lemon meringue pie. They all stopped talking. Brosie, and Joe were midway shoving a full fork of pie in their mouths. They looked at one another, and then looked to the women at the table.
“My dear, I’ve made dinner plans as part of your homecoming. We have reservations at the new restaurant that just opened up several months ago, and I had to make reservations way in advance—a month ago, I believe. We will have our first dinner as a family after years of absence,” Edwyna said with finality.
“Of course, Grandmama. I’m excited for dinner,” was all the response that Gwyn could provide.
When brunch ended, Gwyn helped Nina clean up. Everyone had to leave to attend to their own schedules. The sisters worked in silence as they finished putting away the food, and all the table setting. They washed the dishes, and dried them just as they once did growing up.
“Gwyn, I prepared the house for you,” Nina said as she immaculately dried the teacups.
“You didn’t have to do that, Nina. I could stay at Grandmama’s or at the hotel.”
“Nonsense. The house, your house. Let me rephrase, yours and Dante’s house has been sitting there, and we’ve been using it as a guesthouse for when we have family from out of town come visit. Piper and I cleaned it with some help.”
“You’re right. It’s been a few years. Plus, it’s only a house,” Gwyn said.
“Good. Because Kent and the girls already took your luggage there. My goodness! You brought six!” Nina said. Gwyn’s phone started to buzz with an incoming call. She finally looked at her phone and realized that she’s had 20 missed calls, and numerous texts.
“Darling, are you going to answer all of those?” Nina asked.
“Nina, give me a few more hours. Maybe a few more days before you interrogate me, pleassseeeee,” Gwyn pleaded.
“You know you did a band aid fix when you left Frankfurt, right? Sending an email to inform someone of your plans will not suffice.”
“You mean…to inform the nobody.”
“I happen to like your nobody, Guinevere.”
Dante was going over the menu for the evening. The task itself required that the sous chef, and all of his station chefs rely heavily on how he will set the pace for the evening’s service. The locally grown produce are abundant during the summer months. Dante always created his menu around the best produce, wild fish, or locally grown meat for the day.
He reviewed his menu, and noticed that he’s tapping his pencil on the table as if he was restless—when in fact, his nerves was getting the best of him.
“Chef, Sadie just pulled up, and she’s barking orders at the porter,” his Sous Chef, Ben said.
“Oh Sadie’s here already? Good, I need to talk to her,” Dante said.
“Chef, she looks like she’s in one of her moods, and I’m afraid she’s going to bite a hand off or something,” Ben looked at the kitchen door with apprehension as if Sadie was about to burst in the dining room to bite him.
“Ben, it’s Sadie. She will bite your hand off when she sniffs that you’re scared of her,” Dante looked at his sous chef and told him to get prepped for the day.
Dante walked out to the alleyway to see that Sadie was indeed barking orders at his staff.
“Really, man! How are you going to be chef when you don’t even know how to handle a salmon?” Sadie said.
“Sadie, let me take a look at the beauties,” Dante said as he walked up to the boxed coolers filled with freshly caught salmon. “Did you burn and turn?” he asked Sadie.
“Hell yes. Caught the max. So, these are for you for tonight. Grandma’s orders,” Sadie said.
“I didn’t expect you until a little later. You’re a bit early delivering these.”
Sadie looked at Dante, “what you really want to know is how did I get here so early when I was supposed to be at brunch with the family?”
Dante looked at the woman who he’s known for over a decade, and always relied on to be on his side when it came to navigating through the family he once married into.
“Ok, fine. Yes,” he said.
“Well, speaking of beauties. You’re in deep shit when you see her. We all know how you get when she’s around. You get this far off look in your face. It’s just pathetic.”
“Sadie, I don’t need your commentary on my reaction.”
“Oh, of course. What I’m really trying to say is the beautiful Gwyn has returned. So, it doesn’t help your cause that she hasn’t aged a day and turned into an old hag so that you would stop pawning over her.”
“You know it will never matter how she looks. She and I.. are just..” Dante trailed off with his thoughts.
“Fucked up sometimes?” Sadie asked.
“Brace yourself, my friend. I only got to chat with her for a second because Grandmother was already giving me the judgmental eye cause I went to brunch dressed like this. I had to get out of there. The only report I have for you is that the lotus rose has returned, and all that living across the ocean hasn’t changed her much. As much as I cheer you on with your quest, she is my cousin and I don’t ever want to see her broken again, you hear me?”
“We are .. or we were broken.. But, I know,” Dante looked at Sadie and gave her a reassuring smile. She’s right. I am bloody screwed.
Jin Lee Shin sat in his apartment. He did not expect the state of the situation that he returned to. He had arrived that morning from a long flight from Seoul. He and his team of chefs had trekked to the rural countries like Andong, and Boseong re-learning the ways of cooking in the rural countryside. He was looking forward to heading back home.
He looked around in his apartment debating how to handle the situation that he found himself in. He knew that there was only one way to handle such matters, and that it would require a leap of some kind of faith.
He stood up from the couch and walked to the balcony. Jin was known as one of up and coming chefs in the world. He studied at El Bulli before Chef Adria closed it down. He’s travelled all over the world collecting inspiration that contributed to his overall view of how food should be appreciated. It doesn’t hurt that at only 37 years old, he possessed a presence that commands the attention of any room he walked in. Jin’s tall and well-built frame earned him a spot on the list of handsome men of Korea, which made him one of the bachelors sought after by many women. His wavy black hair always looked effortless, and his brown eyes expressed not only his determination, but also kindness and genuine warmth towards the people that he had met along his way.
Jin could care less for the superficial, and in fact, he loathes it when he detects such characteristic in people. As a chef, he realized early on that he had no time for small conversations that do not carry any philosophical weight to them, and he preferred conversations that not only inspired him, but also made him think about the world in a different way.
His philosophy about life was the fundamental reason why he must now make a decision of what needed to be done next.
Jin needed to make some calls. He dialed a number of a colleague with the hope that he’ll answer.
“Chef, it’s Jin. I’m finally going to be heading your way for a few days. I’ll stop by and see you.”
“Chef! But, of course—finally! Let me know when you get in. I’ll show you around.”
“Sounds like a good plan. See you soon,” Jin said.
Gwyn decided that she needed to rest before facing another round of a family gathering at dinner. She hugged her sister goodbye, and declined Nina’s offer to walk her back to the house. Gwyn told her that she would like to walk up the place she used to call home by herself. Nina understood her sister well enough to let her be.
Gwyn decided to take her walk on the main road of Orendain lane. The lane’s graveled path allowed enough room for two vehicles going the opposite direction. When Gwyn lived on Orendain lane, she found walking along the road to be a way to return to familiarity. Whether she was walking, or on her morning run, the road was often the path that greeted her when she was on a mission. The other back way path were she saw her brother earlier was one taken when she wanted to escape to her thoughts and the birch trees provided her some the privacy she needed. She knew that taking Orendain lane, she would always end up bumping into one of her family members or friends.
Orendain lane surrounded the many acres of land owned by her family. Her great-great grandfather built houses along the lane for his children, and grandchildren. It was one of the many legacies he left them. There were about three to five acres of land that separated the houses—giving the family enough space of their own, but not too far that they were separated by an ocean’s distance. Some of the acres of land were flat allowing for hay to be cultivated and harvested. This flat low laying area can be seen from the highway, and Brosie’s horses and cows are often lingering and grazing around. Behind the flat lands are areas where some of the houses were built on a slight hill. Nina’s house was built on one of these hills, and it was the first house that one would see once they entered Orendain lane. Edwyna’s house was the second from Nina’s, and the house that Gywn called home was set in the middle—as it stood between Nina’s and Edwyna’s on one side, and Brosie’s, and Sadie’s houses on the other.
Gwyn was grateful that she had a bit of a walk to clear her mind before returning to a place that filled her heart with a great deal of happiness, and sadness all at the same time.
When she finally reached her home, she walked up the bit of hike that was her graveled driveway. Nina kept up with the garden, and she noticed that all the perennials she once planted have matured throughout the years, and are now heartily happy without acknowledging the emptiness of a house that was once filled with joy. Gwyn felt like the flowers were welcoming her back home. She stopped when she finally got to the top of her driveway and she absorbed the sight before her.
The white siding was still as white as chalk as if it had never experienced the darkness that occurred in the house years ago. The shutters were as black as ever as if the love that faded in the house did not affect them any. Her porch that wrapped around the house maintained its strength as if it was protecting the house so that its occupants will one-day return to the happiness they once had.
Gwyn knew that Nina made sure to hang flower baskets of petunias, creeping jennies, lobelias, and nasturtiums to brighten up the place, and she knew that there was no other place that Gwyn should stay but in her own home.
The home she once shared with Dante, and for a brief moment in time, their little girl.
Gwyn took a deep breath, and exhaled. She took out the key out of her blazer pocket. The keyring still had the letter “A” and she smiled at the one item that she used to carry with her all the time. She placed the key in the lock, and opened the door to her past.
I knew she was going to take the main lane, so I decided to ride my bike and take the back way path to her house. She smiled and laughed at brunch. But, I sensed that she was doing her best to keep lighthearted. It was not easy for her to return, but she needs to face the life she left behind.
I felt like the stalker older sister, but if she broke down, I did not want to be too far away.
I hid behind the birch trees across from her house, and I watched her walk up the little incline of her driveway, and I saw her gently glide her fingers along the petals of the flowers (like she used to) as she walked. The flowers I kept alive for the last few years in her absence with the hope that she will one day come home. I saw her observe the baskets filled with flowers that reminded her of her life back here. Did I overdo it? I may have. I watched her take a deep breath, and exhaled.
Welcome home, baby sister. The time has come for you to face your reality.
I saw Piper exhale for the first time since we learned what we are dealing with. She exhaled when Guinevere gave her a hug. Gwyn had been the one entity where Piper was reminded of who she was before she became my wife, and the mother of our children. Gwyn was a reminder of the woman she was: one filled with strength and determination.
I knew that at that very moment she laid eyes on one of her best friends, and sister in-law that she was given another wind of strength and determination to get us through this shit.
When I told her that Gwyn decided to come home for a while, I saw a look in her eyes that were between happiness, and guilt. She was happy that Gwyn was coming home, but guilty because of she was feeling such happiness during a difficult time. But, how could I tell her that just by seeing that look in her eyes gave me such hope that all will be well when I am long gone, and not create such sadness for her?
My baby sister was the answer. My baby sister whose eyes still bore that lost that she cannot seem to be rid of. There was once a will to fight in those eyes, and a will that told the world fuck you to you all. Whatever it may have been that she intended to find in her travels, she must have never found it for she came home empty handed with a sense of still trying to find what she had lost all those years ago.
Welcome home, Lotus Rose. Didn’t you know that what you were looking for had been at the place you abandoned all along?
Nina and Granny took care of everything. They left the house exactly how it was, except for a few reminders of the life that this house once held. The furniture stayed along with all the wall décor. The photos in the frames, on the other hand, they were kind enough to keep in the boxes that I left in the attic.
The kitchen of my dreams, wait, let me be not selfish, the kitchen of our dreams with its big island in the center stood still. If I closed my eyes, I could see and hear the laughter that once echoed through its space. But, I avoided such luxury that I could no longer afford.
I preferred to sleep. Just a few hours of a dreamless sleep into emptiness.
Five hours until service.
Five hours before she walked through those doors.
Five hours before all hell would break loose.
..to be continued…