Summer’s been fickle: warm days give way to thunderstorms, the valley wind kicks up dust, temperatures begin a slow climb, and finally soar.
Our friends on Pine Street prepare for the first real heat wave of the summer. They soak their vegetable beds, dig out their box fans, stockpile ice; they are thankful that, so far, the air has been free of wildfire smoke.
Kassandra and Jeeves take their walks early in the morning, avoiding the heat of the day. Friends gravitate to Allison’s front porch around dusk, watching for the bats that flit through the darkening skies.
It is one of these evenings, still heavy with heat and still air, that David brings little Penny to the front porch gathering. Everyone’s mood lifts at the sight of the little girl, her bright eyes, quick smile, silly giggle. She belongs to all of them, in a way, and even more importantly, they all belong to her.
Kassandra shifts, moves to sit on the steps next to David as Penny makes the rounds with the rest of the group. “How are you?” she asks, quietly, seriously, curious about how this single father is coping with everything.
Most of the time, he would answer glibly: “Fine, no legitimate complaints.” For some reason – maybe it’s the heat, or the familiarity of the group – tonight he answers truthfully.
“Tired,” he begins. “Some days, I’m absolutely certain that I can’t, won’t ever, keep up with it all. I’m so close, you know? So close. But then she gets a cold, or a toothache, or I don’t have time to go to the grocery store and I realize there’s nothing decent for her to eat, and I give in and order something and just, you know, wonder.”
“Wonder about what?” Kassandra asks, gently, because she’s pretty sure she knows the answer. The tears glistening in his eyes give it away.
“If she would do it this way. If I’m doing it all the way she’d want me to.”
“Sasha,” Kassandra says her name out loud. “I miss her, too.”
She puts her hand on David’s arm, sticky in the heat, as they remember the person they both loved.