Alexis sat in the kitchen, reviewing her class work for preparation for the new semester. She still had months to go, but with the end of June, she had to begin her preparation. There was not much she had to do, but she wanted to review her courses and the texts being taught before she showed up to class. Her teachers were notorious for bringing up things before they were taught.
“Staying in today?” Her father’s voice startled her from where she sat.
“Are you going out?” She eyed him. He was dressed for boating but he had a bag with him.
“Your mother’s brother invited me out to his friend’s boat.” Her father smiled. “Take care of your mother.”
“I will.” Alexis assumed that her aunt was coming over that afternoon to help with the garden, along with her grandmother. Nia was out, somewhere. She had told Alexis late, that she was going out with Jim to some event. Alexis had tried to inquire more and was at a loss of what she could get out of her sister.
When her father left, Alexis turned back to watching Tiana who was tinkering with something on the other end of the video call. The two of them sometimes called each other when bored, to keep each other company. Alexis listened to her music as she went back to her books, thinking about others. She really should not have been inside. Her father was right. It was her summer, she should have been out doing something else.
“Lexi.” Tiana called to her.
“Yes?” Alexis gave Tiana her full attention.
“You’re dozing off. Go take a nap.”
Alexis laughed, not sure how Tiana had noticed at all. Alexis herself had not noticed her mind drifting towards slumber. With a quick goodbye, the two hung up and Alexis closed her books. As she stretched, her mother’s footsteps could be heard from above followed by a knock at the door. Her aunt came in dressed in bright blue, a sun hat, and a wide smile. Her grandmother was dressed in a soft pink outfit with gardener’s gloves held on the side of her purse.
“Alexis!” Her grandmother kissed her cheeks.
“Where’s your mom?” Aunt Jada asked before calling Alexis’ mother’s name from upstairs. Alexis heard the resonance before she saw her mom and upon the sight of her, Alexis almost started crying. It had been so long since she had heard her mother so at peace. Usually there was a frightening agony to her mother’s existence that over powered everything. It existed, in the shallows and hidden in the moment, but it was not at the forefront. Her mother was excited for the day. Alexis hoped that she would find happiness of some sort in doing the things that she used to love.
“I did not know you were home.” Her mother smiled at her.
“Nia is the one who went out.” Whatever slumber Alexis had wanted disappeared in that moment, as she decided then that she was going to help garden too. “I’m going to go up and change. I’ll meet you out there.”
“You’re helping?” Her aunt asked.
“Of course she is.” Her grandmother laughed, before urging them to get something to drink. Alexis hurried upstairs to change into something she was willing to get dirty. She skipped back towards the kitchen elated beyond words and made both ice tea and lemonade. It was almost an hour after she had said she’d join them that she did, lemonade and waters in hand.
Alexis settled into the talk and gossip as if she had always belonged in it, and began working at weeding the garden. The world was in harmony as they moved. Alexis paid little attention to the gossip, focusing on the light laughter her mother gave periodically and letting that sound bleed into Alexis’ memory. It was a different laughter than the all encompassing bodily laughter her mother once had, but it was her laugh.
Alexis’ fingers moved about a leaf feeling its vibrations under her fingers. She could sense this life as she could all others. She’d learned to ignore it, as white noise, but in this moment she let herself hear it. It was life, true, fresh, brilliant. It struggled to survive and fought against all that came in its way. She felt terrible about ripping it apart and ending its life. Hearing its shrill call of death haunted her soul, and reminded her, once more, of why she ignored all the sounds.
Looking at her fingertips, Alexis saw green. She thought of grass and trees, and leaves. She thought of the soft summer air and a house surrounded by green on all sides. Once more she was there in the hallway in front of the door. The door wanted to be opened. It called her name and dared her approach. The door strived to exist in a way more than it had before. Alexis paused.
“Alexis, baby, what’s wrong?” Her grandmother took her hand. “Did you get a splinter?”
“More like a bug bite, baby girl is using plastic.” Her aunt disagreed.
Her grandmother tended to her hand without a word more, as if she had not heard her daughter. Alexis felt so much love for this woman, and her family. She felt at ease, the door slipping from her mind and instead music replaced it.
When Nia got home later that night, Alexis was humming a tune that she had to find in her archives. Her room was a trash heap of discarded CDs and records as Alexis tried to place the song on her computer when her personal collection did not have it.
“You aren’t answering your messages.” Nia said the words at least three times before Alexis recognized the words. She snapped her head up, still humming the tune, focused on the task fo finding the song. Nia laughed and walked away. Alexis looked to her phone to find all the unread texts. Many were from Tiana. None had to be responded to. Jordan had finally responded to their conversation from the day before. Nate’s text caught her eye.
Nate: What are you doing tomorrow?
Alexis: Nothing why?
Nate took a minute to respond. He had asked her almost six hours prior and it was almost midnight then. She had thought he wouldn’t respond, when she saw that he read the message.
Nate: I got my car back. I’ll pick you up say five?
Alexis: AM? I’ll be sleeping.
Nate: LOL PM.
Alexis: Is this a date
Nate: Only if you say yes
Alexis felt her heart flip in her chest. She was not sure what had made Nate reach out to her, but she was going to take the chance. She would not mess up this time. Jordan would not come between her and the chance of her having a normal relationship. She was only infatuated with Jordan because of his mysterious home. There was no other reason.
She said yes.
And about as soon as she said yes, she remembered the title of the song. Listening to it on repeat, Alexis put away all of her music, humming along with another tune she could not place.