Sunday morning dawned cloudy, and with the window open, it was cool enough to make me sit up and reach for the blanket folded at the foot of the bed. Evan clutched the sheet to his chin and wiggled closer to me when I lay back down, pulling the blanket over us as I turned toward him. He burrowed his face into my chest and conked out again as I lay there dozing in and out of sleep, almost awake enough to get up, but not quite willing to leave the warmth of our bed just yet. Evan's hair smelled faintly of chlorine when I put my nose to it, even though we'd showered when we got home last night.
After a bit, I heard a toilet flush and then the guest shower started up, ran for no more than a minute, and shut off again. And I thought I took quick showers. When I heard his bedroom door open, I finally eased away from Evan, pulled a pair of shorts on, took a leak, and started for the kitchen. As I got close, I slowed down and peered around the corner to see what he was up to. Brendan had gotten as far as dumping some beans into the coffee grinder and was studying the selection of buttons. Thanks to his comment yesterday morning, I knew he'd never seen a coffee grinder in his life, so I was curious to see what he'd do. Finally, he poked one of them. The grinder clattered into action and he jumped a foot off the floor as he said, "Shit!" in a loud whisper. He looked around for a moment, then grabbed a dish towel and wrapped the grinder up in it before trying the button again. This time the sound was muted enough that he jabbed it several times, taking the lid off and shaking the grounds around in between. When it looked like he figured it should, he took the French press pieces out of the dish drainer and examined them, fitting the parts together and giving it a trial push.
Next came the water kettle. The lid on ours fits pretty tight, and when he yanked it off, it flew out of his hand and landed in the sink with a bang that had him covering his face with his hands and shaking his head. I decided to step in at that point to save the kitchen from getting trashed and so that we'd have decent coffee to drink.
"Fill it to the rim with cold water and put it on to boil," I told him as I came into the room.
"God, did I wake you up?" he asked with a grimace. "The grinder is so noisy."
"Nope. Let's see how you did."
I shook the grinder a bit as Bren put the kettle on the stove and flicked the knob to high.
"I was gonna surprise you with coffee, but I wasn't sure how that thing" he waved at the press "worked."
"This looks fine - dump it in the pot. When the water's boiling, pour it in up to the line, then put the lid on and wrap the towel around it."
I leaned against the counter and watched the horses as we waited for the water to boil. Brendan stood by the stove for a minute or two before coming to stand next to me, and we gazed companionably out the window in silence as the day brightened. Once the press was bundled up and brewing, I began pulling stuff out of the fridge to make scrambled eggs. As Brendan chopped onions, tomatoes, and zucchini, I threw together a batch of Bisquick biscuits. They may not be home made in the purest sense, but with fresh blueberries stirred in and sugar sprinkled on top, they're damn good.
I ran Brendan through the rest of making real coffee, and just as he was pouring out the first cup, Evan appeared in the doorway, his arms sticking out of a t-shirt for a moment before his head popped out the neck opening. He grabbed the cup of coffee, doctored it up with creamer, closed his eyes and took a sip. When he opened them, Brendan and I were both watching him.
"What?" he asked warily. "There's something wrong with the coffee, huh? What? Mouse turds? Mold?"
Just before he poured it into the sink, I stopped him. "It's fine, it's fine. Bren made it, is all. Is it good?"
Evan looked back and forth between us to make sure he wasn't being conned, then took another cautious sip, rolling it around in his mouth for a second, then nodding. "Perfect. You're hired."
Brendan grinned and poured two more cups as I dished up eggs and Evan buttered toast. I gotta say that I like breakfast better than any other meal, and sitting there with the two of them, drinking the good coffee and eating Sonny's eggs was the perfect start to a Sunday. Evan volunteered to clean up, and while he did the dishes, I looked at Bren.
"We got a few hours till brunch. Wanna make cookies?"
"Sure!" he replied enthusiastically with a big wide smile. So we lined up all the ingredients on the counter and made a double batch of chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. I spent most of the time at the table, sipping coffee and supervising while Brendan did all the grunt work. I could already see one advantage to having children a built-in workforce. When the first sheet came out of the oven, the aroma of chocolate and toasted oats was enough to get Evan off the couch where he'd been reading and back into the kitchen for a sample. We filled the cookie jar and packed up the rest for Bren to take home, or at least get on the bus with. I wasn't convinced very many of them would make it the whole way.
Evan and I showered while Bren cleaned up after the cookies, and while we were dressing, he tapped at our door. We both had boxers on by then, so I told him to come in. He pushed the door open further and looked around, taking in the big bed with its rumpled covers, then glancing quickly at me and then away. He held up a wrinkly shirt.
"I, um, brought a real shirt, but it's totally wrinkled. Do you have, like, an iron or something?"
I pointed at it set up in the corner. "We do. You might give your shorts the once over, too."
"Really?" he asked, looking down at his baggy shorts, which were every bit as wrinkled as his shirt. "Ok."
He stepped out of them and stood there in a pair of crumpled boxers as he spread his shirt out on the ironing board. The kid was just one big wrinkle. I tossed my shirt on top of his shorts for him to do next, grinning at him when he frowned at me. I glanced at what he was doing once in a while, but he knew what he was doing no ironed-in seams in the wrong places. By 10:45, we were as ready as we could be, in clothes freshly ironed by Brendan, and trooped out to the Lexus for the ten-minute drive to the club. The main building was once a plantation house and sits on a rise in a bend of the river south of town, with the golf course spread out behind it. It's a swanky looking place and Bren was suitably impressed when we pulled around the big circular drive and handed the keys to a valet, a la Rhett Butler dropping off his horse.
Don and Maggie broke away from chatting with another couple and joined us as we entered the dining room. On the way to our table, we passed the buffet, laid out in a U-shape, and Brendan's eyes stayed glued to it as we went by. I saved him from running smack into Evan's back by grabbing his shoulder when Evan stopped to seat Maggie. As the others ordered drinks, Bren leaned toward me and said in a low voice, "That whole thing is lunch?"
"It's called brunch, and, yeah, the whole thing. They'll make you eggs or waffles, and there's ham and roast beef, and all sorts of salads and breads. And a big table of desserts. You can go back as many times as you want, but just be sure to eat whatever you take."
"Ha no problem," he assured me.
So we brunched. Brendan ate an incredible amount of food, but he did it neatly and politely, and no one gave him shit about going back too often. Or maybe they were just amazed to see how much he could put away. We were there about two hours, chatting and eating, drinking coffee and lingering over the chocolate ιclairs that I had developed a passion for. Bren had one of those, a slice of raspberry cheesecake, and a brownie with ice cream for dessert, washing it all down with his third glass of milk. Finally, he sat back and put a hand on his stomach.
Maggie smiled at him and asked, "All done?"
"Yes, ma'am, thank you. That was amazing." He said it with a note of awe in his voice that made us all chuckle.
"Well, good. We're glad you enjoyed it. We'll be sure to come back the next time you visit," Don assured him.
Brendan chattered about the food all the way home and only shut up when we all crashed in the living room with our books but really for a nap. Well, I took a nap. I don't know what Bren and Evan did, but when they woke me up at 2:30, we got back in the Lexus to take Brendan to the bus station.
We were a bit early for the next bus heading south, so we sat on a bench and watched all the people. A bus station is like an airport, only the people are a lot grubbier, and we entertained ourselves by making up stories for the weirder ones. When the 3:10 pulled in, we wandered over to it and stood there as Brendan shuffled his feet uncomfortably and fidgeted with the strap on his backpack.
"Um... well... thanks for, um... letting me visit. I had a good time."
"Glad to have you," Evan said. "What was the best part?"
"Um... either the ribs or getting to ride Brownie."
"Not my coffee?" I asked with a pout. "Or my cookies?"
Bren grinned at me. "Um, maybe your cookies, but not the coffee, although it was way better than I thought it would be."
When he began to turn away and get on the bus, I suddenly didn't want to let him leave, so I stepped forward and pulled him into a big hug. He immediately stiffened up in my arms, but gave me a quick squeeze before pulling back and sticking his hand out at Evan, who shook it solemnly as he said, "See you next time."
"Ok," Brendan replied with a nod. Then he trotted up the steps. When I'd agreed to Bren's visit, it had been grudgingly, more because Evan urged me to. At the time, it wasn't because I really wanted to. Then, when he stepped off the bus and I saw him in person, with my hair and eyes, shy and a little defensive, I slowly began to appreciate the fact that he had wanted to come see me, to meet me and stay in our house. I doubt I'd have done something like that at fifteen-and-a-half.
I stared at the bus windows as Evan and I backed away a little and after a few moments, he appeared toward the back and waved self-consciously to us. We stood there watching until the bus let off its brakes with a whoosh and pulled out of the station. I remembered an old saying I'd seen some place that said it was bad luck to watch a loved one out of sight, so I turned toward the parking lot before the bus rounded the corner and disappeared down the freeway ramp. Evan caught up with me and slung an arm around my neck.
I wasn't sure if he thought I was glum over Brendan's departure and was trying to cheer me up or what, but I told him, "Sure," and grabbed the keys he dangled in front of me before he could change his mind.
The Lexus really was a nice car and I could see me with something like it in another, oh, say twenty years, maybe. But right now I felt the need to cut loose a little and when I turned into the parking lot at the pool bar, Evan smiled at me.
"I had a funny feeling we wouldn't be going straight home."
The place was about half full, and we spent a pleasant couple hours drinking beer and shooting pool against a variety of locals. Around five, I called Raf.
"Hey come on out to the bar for burgers. Then we'll whip your butts in a little eight-ball."
I listened to his good-natured bitching for a minute, then snapped my phone shut. "They're already in the car," I told Evan, who was lounging in our booth eating peanuts from the bowl on the table. "They'll be here in a few."
A lot of things about being in a serious relationship were new to me, now that I'd been with Evan for longer than I'd ever made it with anyone before. One of the things that I was still getting used to was how sometimes I felt like I liked Evan more than other times. I mean, I loved him all the time, but it seemed like I went through periods when I just really felt it more strongly. I was in one of those phases right now, and watching him toss a peanut in the air and then catch it in his mouth with a grin made me wanna crawl across the table and do him right there in the booth. Or at least kiss him until both our faces were all tore up from each other's beards. But all I did was soften my grin into a smile and bump my foot against his under the table. He studied my face for a second, then leaned forward and whispered, "I love you, too."
I shook my head slowly. "That's not what I was thinkin'"
"No? Sure looked like it. What then?"
"I was thinkin' I'm glad you talked me into having Brendan come visit."
Evan tipped his head slightly and looked at me for a long moment. "Well, good," he said, finally. "I was hoping it'd work out ok. He's a nice kid and you're a pretty good uncle. Getting Bill to bring the horse over was a hit."
"Yeah," I snorted, "best part of the weekend."
"What was the best part of the weekend?" Raf asked as he slid in next to me. "Swimming at our place?"
"No, riding a horse."
Kenny's eyebrows went up. "You rode a horse?"
"No, Brendan did. Our neighbor, Bill, brought one over you can ride and Bren bounced around the yard for a while."
"Sounds great," Raf said with a roll of his eyes as he caught the waitress's attention and made a pouring motion with his right hand. When she showed up with a pitcher of beer and two more glasses, we all ordered food. Just as I was eating my last onion ring, my cell rang. Guess who?
"Hey, you get home in one piece?..... Good..... Got any cookies left?..... Really... Um, ok." I put my hand over the receiver and looked at Evan. "She wants to talk to me." He grimaced, but before I could reply, Barb's voice was in my ear.
"Hi. He's been talking non-stop since I picked him up. Horses and ribs and cookies and gardens and chickens. Sounds like you were going the whole time."
I tried to read her tone of voice. Was she implying that I wore him out or kept him up too late or something? "Well, we did this and that. I imagine it seemed more exciting than it really was, since it was all mostly new to him."
"Well, he had a wonderful time and he looks great tan and happy so I, uh, I just wanted to say thanks. I know you're not used to having a kid around and I wasn't sure if it'd put a crimp in your weekend or what."
"No, not at all. We mostly did stuff we do anyway, we just took him along. And..." I wanted to say something about how good it was to meet him, to have a bit of a connection with family, but talking to her was too awkward, there was too much history between us that hadn't been resolved and I just couldn't get the words out. "He's, uh, a good kid and we'd be glad to have him back."
She seemed pleased with that. I could hear the smile in her voice when she said, "Good, cause he's already making plans for the next visit... Well, I'll let you get back to whatever you were doing... sounds like a bar. I just wanted to say thanks. Oh, and the cookies are good."
"No problem, bye." With a sigh, I snapped my phone shut, set it on the table, then dropped my head forward until the heels of my hands were pressing against my eyeballs.
"That bad?" Raf asked as he reached past me for another napkin.
"No, not really," I replied, as I watched the fireworks behind my eyelids. "Just weird. I haven't talked to her for, like, fifteen years, and now we're chatting on the phone like old pals. It's just... weird."
"Don't feel like the Lone Ranger - all families are weird," Kenny said. "Table two's free."
He headed over to claim the pool table, and Raf stood up and clapped me on the shoulder before following him. I opened my eyes, blinked a few times to clear my vision, then looked at Evan.
"Weird, maybe, but not too bad, huh?" he said with a smile. "It sounded like she was being nice."
I nodded. "She was. She thanked me for showing her kid a good time. I guess he couldn't stop talking about it." I smiled, too, thinking about Brendan in Sonny's chicken coop, picking tomatoes in our garden, snarfing down pancakes in our kitchen. I decided it had been a good first visit. Evan tugged me to my feet by the shoulder of my t-shirt.
"Come on, time to whip some ass with the long stick. Then we can go home and duel with the short sticks," he added with a chuckle.
"Speak for yourself," I said as I racked the balls.
Later that night, after we'd gone home and napped off the beers in front of the TV, we took a walk up the lane in the moonlight.
"So...," Evan began. "What did you think about having him here? Was it anything like you thought it would be?"
"Yeah, I guess." As close as I was to Evan, I still had a tough time talking about emotional stuff, but I knew he enjoyed hearing it, so I thought about it for a few moments. "I was surprised how quickly he seemed like someone I needed to look out for, you know? Like when he was gonna ride the horse." I thought a bit more. "It's a lot like how I feel about you. It's not like I need to protect you, exactly, but more like I just wanna make sure you're safe."
That sounded like I thought Evan couldn't get out of bed without breaking his arm or something, but he didn't seem to take it that way because he gave me a slow smile and squeezed my hand.
The following weekend was the big county fair, and it seemed like half the people we knew were involved. Bill assured us he'd be in the running in some of the draft horse events. Sonny was entering some of his huge vegetables and one of his prize hens. Maggie had been working away on an intricate sweater. She informed us one evening when we had dinner with them, that she'd won the knitted sweater blue ribbon five years ago and was more than a little annoyed that she hadn't won it since. This year she'd designed a difficult pattern, bought some fancy yarn that cost more than I thought yarn could, and as he walked us to the car later, Don said that if she didn't win, it certainly wasn't for lack of trying and that he'd be glad when the whole thing was over.
The fair opened on Thursday, and I learned quickly that fairs are a big deal in a small town. Everywhere you went that week, all people could talk about was the hog so-and-so was entering, or the strawberry jam somebody's grandma had made, or the fact that the Ferris wheel was gonna be the double-wheel type this year.
By the time Sunday rolled around, I was pretty excited myself, especially after Evan assured me there'd be plenty to eat. Sunday morning we blasted through laundry and garden chores before Raf and Kenny came over to go to the fair. Around 10, I heard Raf's truck pulled in, so I went out on the porch with Evan close behind me. Rafael was alone, and when he saw our faces, he said, "Kenny said he wasn't in the mood to bump around a dusty field all day."
It was the first time I'd known Kenny to beg off doing something fun just because he was in a wheel chair, so I hiked an eyebrow in a silent question, but Raf didn't offer any more explanation. I glanced at Evan, but he was holding Raf's gaze as they did some sort of silent communication thing that I wasn't tuned into. After a moment, Evan shrugged and said, "We'll just bring him back something."
We hopped into the Jeep and took off for the fairgrounds where the parking lot was already filling up. As we walked toward the gate, I raised my head and sniffed corn dogs, cinnamon rolls, cow manure. Smelled like a fair to me. The cinnamon roll booth was conveniently located not far from the entry gate, so we stopped there first.
I should mention at this point that Rafael was wearing cutoff Levis, really old ones that were practically white over the wear areas and tight around his butt. His white tank set off his dark skin really well, not to mention his muscles, and he'd buzzed his hair recently. Add to that the ball cap on backwards and the sunglasses, and the total look was enough to have every woman and more than a few of the men eyeing him as we wandered around. He looked like a Puerto Rican hustler from a third rate movie, and it totally worked for me. I had half a hardon all the way to the fairgrounds and for a while after we got there, until Evan realized what my problem was and made me walk next to Raf instead of a few steps behind him, where I'd been enjoying the view.
Anyway, we snarfed down the rolls, then walked through the livestock barns looking for Bill and Sonny. There were lot of sheep and pigs, and not quite as many goats, but I really liked them. They were friendly and curious and I stopped to pet so many that I finally said, "We need a goat. It can live in back with the horses."
"We don't need a goat," Evan replied dismissively.
"Well, how about I want a goat, then?" I said with a little more heat than necessary. First, no chickens, now, no goats; Evan apparently just didn't care for farm animals. "How much trouble could a goat be?"
"God knows, but I don't think I wanna find out."
I let it go, but decided I'd research goats when I got a chance. We had a barn and a field - what more did a goat need? Purina Goat Chow? And we almost had a chicken coop, so I planned to research chickens, too. Speaking of chickens, they were in the next barn and we found Sonny without too much trouble simply by following the sound of his crotchety old voice. He was holding a chicken under one arm and pulling its wing out straight with the other hand as he told a young couple with a squirming baby what to look for in a healthy chicken. The chicken had a resigned look on its face and I figured it was one of Sonny's pets. When he saw us, Sonny's face lilt up.
"Here's my neighbors. Not chicken farmers yet, but I'm workin' on 'em."
The young couple turned out to be George, our mailman, and his wife of the marvelous muffins that had been in our mailbox that time. After Sonny introduced us, George said, "Caldwell and Tanner, Computer Weekly and The Law Advisory, right?" When we nodded and laughed, he smiled. "I mostly know everybody by their last names and their magazines, so it's nice to meet you."
We shook hands all around, but when the baby added crying to squirming, they rolled their eyes and said it was nap time. Sonny watched them leave with a smile. "They're gettin' a dozen eggs from me to start their own flock. Ya'll boys 'bout ready for some chickens?"
I said `yes' and Evan said `no' at the same time. After I explained that the coop just needed a few more weekends, Sonny chuckled and told me to come see him when it was done and he'd fix me up with `the best layers in six counties,' meaning eggs. Evan snorted and whispered to me that I already had the best lay in six counties, meaning himself.
Rafael heard him and laughed out loud. "Yeah, what you want chickens for when you got him?" he asked me.
Luckily, Sonny had been putting the chicken back in its cage and missed the whole thing. Just then a pair of pointy fingers poked me in the ribs. I leaped out of their grip and turned to see Callie laughing at me. We talked on the phone at least once a week, but I hadn't seen her in a while and she looked good. Apparently, life as Sonny's lady friend agreed with her. We talked for a few moments before Sonny announced that he was hungry and they set off for the food booths. By the time we found the horse barn, Bill was busy harnessing Brownie for the single horse pulling contest at one o'clock.
"We're in the finals," he said as he bent and stretched, buckling what looked like miles of leather straps onto the patient horse. After assuring him we wouldn't miss it, we went through the Arts & Crafts exhibits and were happy to see that Maggie's sweater had indeed won a blue ribbon. ("Praise Jesus," was Don's comment when we saw him later that week.) It was a beautiful sweater, a soft grayish green and covered with a pattern of some sort. I stood in front of the case and looked at it for a minute or two with the sneaking suspicion that I was missing something but couldn't put my finger on it. We walked on a bit further, and just before we turned the corner to leave the hall, I glanced back, and saw it. The cables and bumps that I hadn't been able to figure out close up, formed a gnarled old tree when you saw them from a slight distance. I grabbed Evan's sleeve and turned him around.
He stared at the sweater for a moment. "Oh, my God," he said. "She's been working on that thing for weeks and I never noticed."
"Well, you can't see it till you're a ways off. It's pretty neat," Raf added.
I made a mental note to congratulate Maggie the next time I saw her. I didn't know diddly about knitting, but even I could tell it was an amazing piece of work. It was getting close to one o'clock, so we made a pass through the food area and climbed into the bleachers for the horse pulling contest armed with nachos, corn dogs, a gyros, fried zucchini, and three beers. And that was just for me...
Kidding, kidding! We all worked on the food, passing it around after a few bites and moving on to the next flavor as we watched the horses do all the work. They dug in their toes and flexed their huge butts as the owners yelled and flapped the reins on their backs. They started with a certain weight on the cart and you had to pull it across a line. Then they'd hook the next horse on the other end of the cart and pull it back to the other line. Back and forth, adding more weight until by the third round horses began to drop out, and then it was down to Bill and two other guys. They all knew one another and stood around shooting the shit while the judges and crew loaded the cart. The first guy had a gray horse that was smaller than Brownie but really powerful, and he made it across the line. Then Bill and Brownie pulled and made it. The last guy's horse just couldn't haul the load all the way and the guy stopped him before he busted a gut or whatever horses do when it's just too much for them.
By this time our food was gone, we'd made another beer run, and we were totally into watching the pulling. This was another example of something I never thought I'd be doing. Hell, I didn't even know horse pulling contests existed until I'd met Bill. Now I was all wrapped up in the outcome and was ready to take on anyone who said Brownie wasn't the best horse in town.
The gray horse backed up to the weight cart, its owner talked to it for a second, then stepped off to the side and slapped the reins. The horse set his chest into the harness and leaned until his nose was almost on the ground, but he couldn't even get the cart started before the 30-second buzzer went off. I was just about to ask Evan what that meant when the announcer said that Bill not only had to get going but he had to cross the line to win. If he didn't cross the line, the winner would be the horse with the fastest time in the previous round. This was getting tense, so we bought ice cream from a vendor who came walking through to cool ourselves off.
Bill backed Brownie up, hooked him to the cart, and then picked up the reins in both hands. Instead of slapping Brownie with them, Bill just said, "Hut!" Brownie leaned into the harness like the gray horse had, and for a long moment it looked like nothing was happening. The crowd was yelling encouragement but the three of us were holding our breath. After about fifteen seconds, which is a hell of a long time for the poor horse to be straining with every muscle in his body, I thought Bill would call him off, but just then the cart broke loose and rolled forward a few inches. Brownie moved one hind foot forward by about the same amount and dug in again. The cart kept rolling, and the crowd came to its feet in a wave of noise that drowned out the announcer. Brownie crept forward, foot by foot, with Bill walking by his hip, talking to him, until the cart crossed the line.
We leaped around, high-fiving each other and yelling like Brownie had just won the Kentucky Derby, instead of a small-town county fair horse contest. But, as I was discovering, celebrating the small stuff was what made it special. Bill and the other two guys accepted their ribbons and Bill led a tired Brownie back to the barn. We clambered down the bleachers and followed along, careful not to step in the piles of horse shit.
"Congratulations!" Evan called when we got close.
Bill looked up from unbuckling all those buckles. His grin was huge as he gave Brownie a couple hard pats on his massive behind. "Yeah, he did good."
"He did great!" I said, as I rubbed his big flat forehead. Having the mares in the field had taught me what horses liked, and Brownie closed his eyes as I moved to his ears, scratching behind them as he lowered his head.
We hung around until Bill had Brownie hosed off and back in his stall, then we walked through the carny booths where Raf won a large blue stuffed elephant by throwing baseballs through a small hole. We bought a 6-pack of cinnamon rolls on the way out, stopped by our place for Chewy and Raf's truck, then headed to Raf's where we found Kenny floating around the pool sound asleep with an open book face down on his chest.
"Sleeping beauty," I called, waving the blue and white box as we walked out onto the patio. "We brought ya somethin'."
Kenny yawned and stretched, then squinted at the box for a second before his face lit up. He paddled over to the edge of the pool, snagged a roll and ate it in three big bites, then took another one and pushed off. We were hot and dusty from the fair grounds, so it only took us a couple minutes to strip to our shorts and jump in with him. We told him all about the pulling contest, and the 800 pound hog, and the goats, and Maggie's sweater, and the food.
"Sounds great," he said as he licked his fingers clean before dabbling them in the pool to get the final bit of stickiness off.
"It was," I replied. "It was awesome."
And I meant it. Today at the fair had been the perfect ending to a really good summer. Evan and I were settling in under the same roof, learning many little things about each other in the process, and being pleased to find that we meshed well as a couple.
Brendan's visit had been a pleasant surprise in many ways that I had family I actually liked, that Brendan was a neat kid, someone whose company I enjoyed, and that maybe Barb and I could mend whatever damage there was between us, for Brendan's sake, if for no other reason.
It had been hands down the best summer of my life, and that was a damn good thing, because, although we didn't know it yet, it was about to be a weird and frightening autumn.