The house was quaint in the ‘there was way too much space around the tiny house for the house to look anything other than out of place’ sort of way. It was far outside the city, and on plantation lands, which Alexis resented. It was painted white with a wrap around porch and just enough space for her and her sister when they came back from college. The yard had rows of flowers only native to Alabama, and green, green grass. There were a few trees sprinkled over the land that now belonged to her family and a long driveway that turned to gravel the closer it got to her house.
Alexis Myung looked to her father who smiled up at the house with elation. There was enough space for them to put the boat he wanted and his truck. He had plans to use the barn in the back for his future cars and motorcycles. Alexis knew that her parents had chosen to move out to the middle of nowhere after living in New York for years, because they wanted the space. Her father was retired. He wanted to relax, was what he had told her when she had directly protested the location.
Her father did not look a day over forty, but the laugh lines at the corners of his eyes betrayed his age. He was shorter than her mother and gaining a bit of weight now that he had been retired for more than a year. She knew her father wanted a place where he could get active again with his hobbies. He had also picked the land because it was good for Alexis’ mother.
Her mother had her head wrap over her curls. She had not washed her hair in a few days. She looked worn out and with a solemn face she starred at the land. This home was closer to her sister and mother. When Alexis’ mother had gotten sick five years ago they had all done their best to help her, but their home in New York only made her worse in time. She may have beat the physical disease but the mental one was berating her daily.
Alexis watched as her father took her mother’s hand and pointed out towards the back. He told her that was where he wanted to get a studio constructed for her art. He then pointed a bit further away to where the greenhouse would be placed. Alexis’ mother had once loved gardening and painting. She had always filled their home with music, flowers, and art. It had been so long since Alexis had heard her mother’s laugh. Alexis hoped with her father that this would help. A community to support her, family to love her, they were doing what they could for her mother.
Alexis could not, however, for the life of her, figure out why her father had picked a home on former plantation lands. Did her father not know that the energy could make her mother worse? She’d read, at least, that plantations could harbor so much resentment from the past. If anyone could have cleansed the land, it would have been her mother. Only, her mother was incapable of cleansing herself at the moment. Alexis had yet to feel wrong about the land, but she was certain that the sensation would ripple through her spine at any moment. The land had to have its ancient grudges just waiting to be displayed, not the warm buzz of hope that she felt radiating now.
“It’s not bad.” Nia handed Alexis a bag. Alexis looked at the white bag. Inside were her clothes she had packed for the night. They were not supposed to start unpacking the truck until the next morning, when the moving truck arrived with the rest of their furniture. They’d bring in what they could carry and sleep. It was the plan at least.
Laila Myung looked to her husband and kissed his forehead, a slight smile on her lips. Alexis stomach dropped when she saw the smile. The vibrations of the ground, rippled through her, beckoning her into its sweet embrace of safety. This place was good for some reason.
“Mom looks good.” Nia shifted her weight with a sigh.
“I know.” Alexis told her, watching as her father smile at her mother and walk towards the front door. She loved her parents, deeply. Her mother had met her father while she had been in college in New York. Jae-Hwa Myung had been studying abroad at the time. They had fallen in love and chosen New York as their point of residence despite it being a city neither of them had called home before that.
It had been Alexis’ home.
Her sister said some Chinese proverb before shooting Alexis a smile and walking into the house after their parents. Alexis rarely resented her sister. Nia was a goddess with languages. She’d learned Spanish at ten and French by twelve. She knew Hindi by fifteen. She had learned Chinese and Arabic before graduating High School. She was in the process of learning Greek and Latin for her classics degree. Along with her Korean, Nia was a polygot who wanted nothing more than to learn Gaelic and Swahili on the side as she worked towards her degree.
Alexis wished she were as good as Nia when it came to languages. Alexis knew the distinction of languages and some words in each of the languages that Nia knew. When it came to being fluent, Alexis could only claim it in English, Korean, and Spanish — and AAVE she often forgot its validity, forgot her own validity.
Alexis rarely resented Nia since they had both gotten into college. Nia was the genius translator who would use her classics and language degree to do great work. Alexis, in contrast had little compare. Yet, in this moment Aleix resented her sister. Nia had given up New York too easily.
“We don’t even live there anymore. We’re in college. You graduate in a year, and then what? New York is expensive, you can’t live there.” Nia’s harsh words before their arrival still hurt Alexis. Alexis did want to live in New York. The energy of the city had raised her, the breath of the city had seeped into her soul, and the music of its life was ingrained into her bones. New York was as part of her as the sky was blue.
It had been Alexis’ home and they had moved to the middle of nowhere Alabama.
It’s near a city, Aleix reminded herself. It didn’t matter. It was not her city. It was some other place that she would never fully understand. Clenching the white bag in her hands, Alexis felt her wrist vibrate. Tapping her headphones she answered the call knowing only one person would call her.
“What’s it look like?” Tiana Drayke’s voice came over the headphones crisp and clear despite the sound of metal clanging in the background.
“Cute. I’ll send you pictures.” Alexis would have to do it in the light of the day. It was already too late in the night for her to take photos.
“You sound enthused.” Tiana hissed a second latter, before snapping out a few expletives at whatever machine she was fixing. Tiana did not know much Spanish, but her vocabulary of curse words was colorful and elaborate.
“Mother will like it here. Aunty Jada will be here tomorrow to help us with the move.” Alexis eyed the house trying to find even the slightest inclination that it was wrong somehow. She found none.
“So, the whole family will be there?” Tiana laughed.
“There is supposed to be a cook out at Uncle Randy’s tomorrow night.” She’d see all six of her mother’s siblings, her grandparents, and all of her cousins and their children. She remembered their names, but it had been a year since she had last seen them. The younger ones were going to be hard to identify. She wondered if they’d remember her.
There was a muffled sound of shouting on Tiana’s end. “Yah! Okay!” Tiana yelled out to someone else.
“Tony?” Alexis sensed the way the voice resonated, even over the phone she could feel it.
“He says dinner is done.” Tiana sighed. “I will FaceTime you in an hour. Adios.”
“Bye.” Alexis rolled her eyes as she tapped her headphones. Tiana was not giving her the option to say no. She didn’t know how much she had needed the order until she took her next breath, walked forward, and stepped into the house.
It was cute. Empty, but cute. Locking the door behind herself, Alexis double checked to make sure the truck was locked. She glanced around and saw a large mirror on the wall next to the door, showing the window on the other side of the room. It was situated in a way so that someone could look out it and see the outside world, and the world would not see them. She walked up the stairs towards and saw four doorways. Two had shut doors and one was a bathroom. Walking to the last room, Alexis examined the room and sighed. The room was bigger than her room back home. Tossing her bag the floor, Alexis examined the walls and the window that faced out towards the land that they now owned.
There was a knock at her door. Turning, Alexis for her mother holding the air mattress motor and box with the mattress. “I know this is hard for you Alexis.”
Alexis paused for a moment before smiling and walking up to her mother. She took the motor and kissed her mother’s cheek. “It’s for you. I’ll get over it. I love you.”
“I love you too.” Her mother kissed her head. “Thank you.”
Alexis put the motor down and the box, before hugging her mother. “Do you want me to do your hair tomorrow?”
Her mother paused for a moment before saying yes. Alexis was already planning it out in her head. They’d watch reruns of their favorite shows as Alexis helped her mother with washing, drying, and then braiding her mother’s hair. Her mother did not say much more as she left Alexis to her own devices. For a moment Alexis paused, searching again for horror and only finding relief, before she began to blow up the mattress.
The second knock at her door was familiar with a rhythmic percussion to it that only he used. She looked over her shoulder to her father. “I got your speakers from the truck.” In his hand were not her portable speakers, but her larger ones that she used to blast music in her room. She knew that he had packed it in an easy to retrieve location. She had not expected him to break his own rule and to take it out of the car.
“Thanks.” She smiled at him, feeling the tears in her eyes before they actually fell.
“I would appreciate it that you picked something soothing for the night.” He placed the speakers down before walking to her and wiping her tears.
“I have a playlist already made.” She smiled at him, knowing that she’d cried enough about the move and that she had no more need for the tears. “Thank you Appa.”
“Don’t stay up too late.” He kissed her head and let her be.
“I won’t.” Alexis shut the door behind him and changed into her pajamas, wrapping her curls up in a scarf before placing on her bonnet to sleep. She laid on the air mattress for what felt like forever, watching videos and listening to music, when Tiana called her again.
Tiana’s face appeared before Alexis. Her skin was tanned golden from all the time she had already spent outside that summer. She had her hair up in a loose pineapple bun on the top of her head. Tiana’s piercing grey eyes starred Alexis down, examining her. Alexis and Tiana had a similar skin tone when Tiana was tanned. Tiana’s hair was closer to a 3A where Alexis’ hair was closer to a 4A. Tiana was half black like Alexis. Whereas Alexis was Korean, Tiana’s mother was Brazilian. She spoke fluent Portuguese and some Spanish as a result. Unlike Alexis, Nia, or her own siblings Tony and Tori, Tiana had startling eyes. Alexis had dark brown eyes and Nia’s were even darker. Tony had light brown eyes with some green and Tori’s eyes were a rich brown that seemed to have hazel. Tiana had eyes the color of clouds, a storm grey that made her stare impossible to meet when she was angry.
“You look like you could use some sleep.” Tiana said the words that made Alexis immediately yawn. Alexis saw her face, heard her voice, and felt calm, steady, safe.
“The drive was tiring.” Alexis smiled back.
“Hmm? Tell me about it.” Tiana’s face slipped into a soothing smile that told Alexis that Tiana’s attention was fully on her. It was one of the reasons she loved Tiana. Tiana could enrapture an audience, strike terror into hearts, and convince anyone that they were the most important person in the world. As Alexis vented to her best friend, she felt more at ease than she had in all the time leading up to the move. She got it all off her chest, and then when Tiana started talking her through the emotions, she did not feel as if she were being talked down to. Tiana heard people. Or at least she made people feel like she heard them.
Alexis had met Tiana their freshmen year. It had been a complete coincidence. Alexis’ roommate had convinced her to go to a party. Tiana had been there talking to some senior about how he could fix his car’s engine and that he needed to do it soon or else there could be damage. The two of them, Alexis and Tiana, had jammed out to a song at the same time, as the only ones who had recognized it. Alexis remembered the smile Tiana had given her. It was unfitted joy and the energy that had radiated off of her and enticed Alexis. The two had left as strangers that night. Alexis’ dreams had been haunted for days by that smile, so she had gone back to the party house to see if the senior knew her name and number.
Tiana had been there, under the hood of the car tweaking some things, talking, and refusing the beers that they offered her. When their eyes had met the second time, Alexis had sworn in her heart that Tiana would be the death of her. Tiana had remembered her, and they’d exchanged numbers. From there they started talking, finding similar interests in movies, music, and hobbies. Tiana was a mechanical engineering student with a passion unfathomable and breathtaking. Alexis found Tiana more comfortable in a pair of worn oil stained pants than a dress. The music she made by talking and breathing, left Alexis in a state of absolute bliss.
“I love you.” Alexis whispered to Tiana.
“I know. That’s what best friends are for.” Tiana smirked back.
Alexis was convinced that the two of them were soulmates. Their relationship was far greater than mere romantic interest. She and Tiana would do anything for the other. They’d always be together. They were destined to meet and destined to be aligned. Tiana was her’s and she was Tiana’s. There was no ones soul who harmonized with Alexis the same way that Tiana did.
When Alexis hung up she was ready for to take on the world, which started with her first good night of sleep in a week.