Blossoms In August
Chapter 1 Natasha
Beep! Beep! The alarm clock buzzed. Beep! Beep! It buzzed even louder. Natasha struggled out of her bed sheets. She banged the button on her alarm clock. It shut off and blinked 9:30 am. She climbed sleepily out of bed and yawned.
Suddenly, and strangely just then, the phone rang. She jumped and reached for her phone. "Hello?" she said half-heartedly.
"Dad?" she said.
"Where are you?"
"Well, I'm in Egypt right at this point. I'm actually just calling to check on you and to let you know that I'm missin' you, sweetie."
Natasha frowned and paused.
"Hello?" came the voice on the other end.
"Yeah, I'm still here," she replied, "When are you coming back?"
"Well, depends when we get something worth bringin' home, you know. But speaking of bringing stuff home, I've sent the latest cheque and I'm really calling to tell you to tell Lucas to go and pick it up at the office. Where is he, anyway?"
"Sleeping," she lied automatically, "you know how Saturdays are." Truth was, she had no idea where Lucas was. He could be anywhere from the back of a chicken truck heading south to at the top of her high school declaring this day a local holiday.
"Right, so pass on the news. I think the cheque should be in by now. I sent it a week ago."
"Yeah, I'll do that."
"So when's school starting?"
"Soon," Natasha shrugged.
"When?" her Dad persisted. Natasha knew this mode of behaviour. It was her dad trying to pretend that he was a normal dad again. She didn't like it, but she knew that it was because he sat in his room there in Egypt or wherever he was now thinking how he should be at home, but wasn't. Actually couldn't…because he hadn't the mindset to remain in the house more than a week because everything bloody reminded him of his late wife. It was all a cliché angst, which Natasha didn't want to hear again and again every time he called.
"In September, quite obviously after Labour Day which is the same day school begins every year, Dad," she replied tonelessly, giving her dad the clue to stop trying. Really there was no more he could do.
"All right, all right," he answered jovially, determined not to hear how testy his teenage daughter was sounding. "So…. twelfth grade, huh….are you ready?"
Natasha actually smiled. "I don't think anyone's ready for what I'm about to face."
He laughed in return. "You'll do just fine. You'll graduate and I promise I'll be there to see you snatch that diploma from that principal of yours."
"Yeah," she answered. It came out softly, wistfully, but nothing more.
There was a silence on the other end.
"Well, kiddo; I gotta jet," he finally broke out. "It's the middle of the afternoon here and I'm skipping out on the action."
"All right, Dad."
"Don't forget the cheque and say hi to Lucas."
"Yup, bye Dad."
Natasha paused with the phone in her hand. She looked at the receiver blankly. Then she closed her eyes for a moment and sighed. Whoever it is who's taking care of me, give me a new life!
"Where are you, wait, never mind…. Dad called."
"Really? What did he say?"
Natasha heard a feminine giggle in the background and rolled her eyes. That could be any gender. Her twenty-six year old brother was, well…. let's put it this way: When it came to food, her brother had no favourites and was happy just so long as he was fed; it applied the same in certain other areas of his life. "He sent another cheque for the payments this month. He wants you to go to the office and pick it up."
"OK, yeah, I'll do that. I'll be home soon."
"See you soon- oh- and Lin says hi."
"Lin?! You're with Lin now?"
She could actually hear her brother roll his eyes. "Not exactly. Tash, I'm never with anyone. To be with someone, you must be with him or her all the time. Lucas can't do that."
"I don't wanna hear it, please Lucas!" she cried and hung up abruptly.
Closing her eyes again she shook the remnants of sleep from her head and moved to her closet and began to dress.
Natasha was never a normal girl. Not in the least. Of course what's the definition of normal…. part of the every day? Yeah, she didn't fit into that category. She was now eighteen and past all obstacles, so it seemed, for soon she could escape. She was in a motherless home with a loose, fun loving brother as her guardian and a father who traveled around under the pretence that he loved history and needed pieces of it to fill the local museum. Nope, she was not normal at all. The one question nagging her, though, was: why did it seem that life had become so decadent.
Her mother died even before she could grab the concept of mother. Her father ran away and began traveling more frequently as Lucas became old enough to take care of her. She was a straight A student with two of the most wonderful best friends. She wasn't exceptionally pretty. She had layered red hair. It was red hair that was well, really red. Nicknamed Flare at school because of that hair. Her eyes went unnoticed. She liked to insist they were just plain blue, but they were not. When one looked at her long enough, they tended to go a vibrant green. No one knew if it was some kind of optical illusion that could change a plain blue to deep green.
Natasha wasn't blasé although more often than not she seemed to behave in that manner. It wasn't an affected manner; it just came like that. She was tired, but she was happy. The only thing troubling her was that she should definitely not be happy. Look at her life! She wanted a normal father, a normal brother who didn't sleep with every attractive thing on legs, and a mother who didn't die before she could even know her. Maybe even normal eyes?
Now every month around this time, their father would send in his pay cheque to his home office at the Anthropology department at the local university. He didn't really need any of the money, which was quite a nice sum for a working young man like Lucas and a moderate young girl like Natasha. He was doing all this traveling on the back of his associate…female…who he was also sleeping with and planning to marry someday if he was really all that stupid. It was Lucas job to go in, ask for the envelope, cash it and divide it into Natasha's bank account and his own. Although, Natasha had a vague suspicion that Lucas put more in her account than he should.
So it was routine when Lucas stepped into the house saying, "Mission Accomplished."
"How much was it this time?" she asked
Lucas shrugged heading straight for the refrigerator. He grabbed the carton of milk from the fridge. "So what now?" he asked, about to drink.
"Well, you could use a glass for starters," Natasha, said, handing him one. She looked around the table. "Are you hungry?"
"Yeah, Tash, I'd love some pancakes," he replied as if she suggested it.
Sometimes she wondered what Lucas heard when she was talking to him. She shook her head and started getting the ingredients out of the fridge. Lucas sat at the table downing his milk. There was a long silence as only the sound of the mixer rang in the air.
When it stopped Natasha broke out. "I really wish Dad would come home."
Lucas looked up, his narrow brown eyes blinking in confusion. "Sorry?"
She turned around, looking, really looking at her older brother. He was a sweet guy, really. He had this constant wicked grin going on and brown eyes that were narrow and made him look like he had a smile in them all the time. His style of dressing didn't suit his lifestyle. He was very impartial as he was with everything. He walked around in any old jeans and t-shirt except when he went to work, whereas then he would wear his uniform. (Lucas worked the cash register at Safeway.) His dark, dark brown hair was worn spiky and framed his head like a halo of darkness. This guy was completely responsible for her and had been taking care of her since she was twelve. God, that had been a confusing time for both of them.
"I said that I really wish Dad would come home…." She paused, "for good."
"Why? I mean I know you miss him, but why this sudden outburst?"
"I want him to come home and be home and stick around. I'm sure he wants to leave instead of staying with us," Natasha explained, pouring the batter on the sizzling pan.
"That can't be true. You're just imagining things." Lucas said, getting up from the table.
"No…I'm really not!" Natasha replied, "I'm sure of it; he always sounds more cheerful on the phone than when he's here."
"Well, do you want him to be home more?" he asked, leaning on the counter, looking at her thoughtfully.
"Ok, well, during school its not a problem but during summer time I realized how much we're missing out," she sighed.
"I don't know. It gives me a happy feeling knowing I might come home late and have someone asking me where I was and easily explaining I wasn't up to anything because I wasn't. Or when my report card comes in, someone to show who actually cares-Lucas, don't give me that look; I know you don't! – even when I'm dumped by some creep, I'd like a shoulder to cry on. You know what I mean?"
"Tash, I had all that when I was in school and believe me, its not as great as you make it sound."
"Then you're very ungrateful!" she accused.
"Yes!" Lucas exploded suddenly, making Natasha jump. "Of course, yes! Because all that fatherly guidance really led me up the right path, didn't it!"
"Oh," was all she could reply.
"And look at you! I practically raised you. And I am very well aware thanks to your friends that you are still a virgin, get top marks, haven't touched a drop of alcohol, never even thought of picking up a cigarette, don't listen to satanic music, don't watch pornography, and you definitely do not threaten other people with knives, guns, or the like! And you're telling me I was lucky to be raised by that man!"
Natasha was burning red. Why on earth would her best friends tell him she was a virgin still? That was something one's brother shouldn't know. Besides, she was sort of proud, but it was more along the lines of lack of opportunity than principle.
Lucas gave a rueful smile at the look on her face. "Come on, Tash, you don't got anything to worry about. I mean, you're eighteen now, aren't you? You'll soon move on in life and get a boyfriend and any need for a male role model in your life will vanish.
Natasha handed Lucas the maple syrup as he moved to sit down. "Seriously?"
"Yeah, seriously," he nodded.
Natasha didn't look at her brother for a while as she pretended to be very engrossed in setting down the plates and the pancakes. It couldn't be possible that a boyfriend could fill any void that her life might be missing. Dating was overrated, isn't that what her best friend kept saying.
"Yummy," Lucas muttered between mouthfuls and Natasha grinned.
"Oh, I'll get it!" Natasha got up and grabbed the cordless phone.
"Oh my gosh, Faira!"
She could hear the sarcasm cut through the phone line. "Who else? Jesus, Peach; you answer the phone like a prep."
Natasha rolled her eyes. "What do you want?"
That was her best friend Faira, a girl with a lot going for her. She was original and pretty all at once. She was half Japanese and half Italian. She had the nicest almond shaped black eyes and short black with dark red streaks. Her sarcasm was trademark, her looks pleasing, and her grades top notch.
"Hey, ask her if she doesn't mind coming over!" Lucas whispered, between mouthfuls. "She and I didn't finish our talk last time." Even Natasha's brother appreciated Faira's…assets.
Natasha gave him a look of disgust and for maybe the hundred and twelfth time in a month said, "Not with my best friend."
"Well, seeing as how it's Saturday and the ice rink is open and a lot of people like going to the ice rink on Saturdays. I thought that we might want to go."
Natasha sighed. "Let me guess, you heard that David's gonna be there so you decided to go, hope he takes notice, be disappointed and we go to Dairy Queens or something and binge on ice cream until we're sick?"
"No!" Faira yelled into the phone vehemently, "We are going there to have fun, visit Craig at work and go to Luigi's afterward!"
"And gawk at David…" Natasha teased.
"Shut up, I'll be over there in a few."
Natasha hung up and raced upstairs to grab her skates.
"So what's new?" Faira asked.
"Nothing much. My dad called this morning…"
"Oh yeah, that's exciting," Faira rolled her eyes.
"Well, he sent a cheque."
Natasha laughed. "Whatever, its all half going towards my college fund which is," she paused and gave Faira a sly grin, "in a year or so."
"We're actually graduating. I still feel like a kid."
"I know what you mean."
They walked a little further in companionable silence. They had passed the street where Natasha lived and were just passing toward Merena Park.
"Why's Terrette so quiet all of a sudden?" Natasha murmured, feeling uneasy speaking in the sudden silence.
"Well, it is August."
She nodded in return. Terrette was the small Canadian town in BC where they lived. It wasn't so small as it was full of action. Of late, however, things seemed to have quieted down. Natasha had lived in this town her whole life. It had two supermarkets, two elementary schools, one public high school, and one private school. It was quite a pretty town, often visited for its decorated gardens and the five adjoining caves of Merena Park. Natasha looked over the park vaguely, watching the trees sway to the summer breeze, which caused the blossoms to float in a graceful slow manner.
Wait, Natasha's thoughts broke in, blossoms?
"Faira, there's blossoms…." She whispered to her friend who was already looking at the cherry trees in surprise.
They flittered down and swayed along the breeze creating what seemed a collage of pink over the green grass. It was beautiful, it was superb, and it never ever looked like this even in the spring. Each blossom seemed to have its purpose as it floated down.
"B-but it's August…" Natasha stuttered, "…. how?"
"And so many at one time, as beautiful as it seems, this is not normal," Faira said slowly.
Natasha looked into the park closely, the grass was now completely covered.
Then she saw him…standing there, his arms spread out as the petals fell on and around him. She grabbed Faira's arm. "Faira," she whispered, "look at that guy!"
Faira gasped. "What the-?"
"Who is he?" Natasha asked faintly.
"What on earth is he doing?" Faira shook her head with a faint smile, then she shrugged. "Probably one o' those nature lovers."
"Well, uh…. maybe…" she agreed slightly, but didn't think so at all.
Suddenly he collapsed and the birds in the tress began to chatter loudly and frantically. "OH!" Faira cried and dropped her bag.
"Come on!" Natasha pulled her arm as she pushed over the wooden pole that fenced the park.
They both ran into the park, they reached the spot where he lay. Natasha, for some reason, led the way as she stepped over the dying blossoms, each step a crush of petals. He was on his back, spread-eagled over the grass, his hair mussed with blossoms. The first thing Natasha could look at for a long minute was his face. It was pale, extremely pale-like a mask- with skin that looked like ice, smooth. He had dark eyebrows, lined under a forehead crowned by hair that was shocking silver. The silver wasn't grey, but a faint dark white. An odd, frightening colour over an already extremely pale face. His lips were thin and just as white. As soon as Natasha registered all this, she knelt beside him.
He was dressed in black, all black. A coat, buttoned to nearly his throat and jeans, the same shade of black. "Do you think its real?" Natasha asked suddenly.
"His hair, its….silver."
"He died it, of course. No one's born with that sort of hair."
Natasha was tensed, she had her hands clasped, feeling as if it had suddenly become winter. Hmm, Natasha thought, Spring in summer that feels like winter.
"He's beautiful," she wound up whispering.
Natasha was surprised at the sudden laughter that broke from Faira. "You know what? Instead of sitting here looking at this guy like he's the next heart throb from Teen Magazine, how about we call an ambulance and get this guy some help," she said in mock realisation.
"No!" Natasha found herself crying.
Faira gave her a very surprised look.
"Uh…..well I don't feel as if he needs help, I mean look at him." Natasha explained.
Faira shook her head. "He's very much human, Natasha. As strange and angelic and scary as he seems to look, he is still human."
"You are sucha realist! I mean, doesn't he look powerful to you?"
"No…" Faira laughed, "Peach, come on, we gotta call someone. I got a few minutes on my cell and I guess its worth saving a life."
"If I could just look at him….a little longer."
Faira rolled her eyes. "And you choose now to fall in love?! I don't got a picture phone, Peach."
Natasha looked up, the blossoms continued to fall as if they would never run out. She saw Faira's hair covered in them and her own was probably just as smothered. She looked down at him. His hair and face were beginning to be buried under them.
"He's so pale."
Natasha's fingers tingled as she reached out to smooth his hair out of his face gently. She looked at his own hands, one was lying over his chest and the other stretched out. The one over his chest was holding something. She pried his fingers open and her eyes widened as a necklace with a silver chain fell. It was a delicate necklace with a pendant made of something that looked like glass. She raised it up to her eye level and saw that inside was a tiny dragon, the tiniest of replicas which she couldn't believe the detail of. Her other hand reached out to smooth his hand back to normal. The breeze was up again and she was seized with shivers as her fingertips touched his cold skin.
Suddenly his hand shot up and grabbed her hand. She was vaguely surprised at the strength of the grip. She gasped and looked at him. His eyes shot open revealing a clear, pale blue. He stared at her as Natasha gaped back at him. This went on for a moment until he released her hand.
All Natasha could do was gaze at him, he slowly got up not lookinh at her anymore. He dusted the petals from his hair.
"Umm…are you all right?"
He looked her up and down without any expression. He had the look of someone who was trying to remember something. Probably the reason he had been standing there in the first place. She offered him a smile. His eyebrows bunched together, then he turned and walked away.
"Wow, what was that all about?" Faira asked.
Natasha shrugged weakly.
"Anyway," Faira sighed, always the one to recover from anything first, "how 'bout some ice, eh, Peach?"
"………." Natasha looke towards where the man went.
Faira touched Natasha's shoulder. She jumped in surprise.
Faira smiled. "Can we go now?"
"Uh…yeah, yeah, let's go."
As they headed toward the rink, it was then Natasha realised that she was still holding the necklace.