(And the second part of Kari and Grace’s tale, Days of Summer, Part 1 of 3)
“Wild! Days! Wild days of summer! The city life is hot from our blazing power! Wild! Days! Wild days of summer! The action never stops even as the elders glower!” – Chorus to ‘Days of Summer’ by the Tokyo Dragonboyz.
“Eight times now, Kari!” Grace pretended to sob. “I know you love this group, but can we at least listen to a different song?”
“Just one more repeat, please?! I’m almost done with this.” Kari called back from her desk, where she had spent the morning scribbling down notes, browsing the internet, and then scribbling down more notes.
“Can you at least tell me why?” Grace asked from her position on the floor, leafing through a copy of Bishoujo Senshi Hana-Hime the wrong way, with little interest in the translated dialogue of the manga.
“Because I’m working on our planner. What kind of stuff we can focus on and when. That’s why I asked for those dates, so I could mark off when you’d be away or when I’d be away. Give ourselves plenty of time for R&R,” The answer was an enthusiastic one. Since she had gotten up, she’d taken the note-pad they’d jotted ideas on the night before and had been hard at work, only stopping for a quick trip down to the kitchen to get breakfast that was eaten at the desk.
“That’s really interesting, but it doesn’t explain the song.”
“It’s about the days of summer! Summer planner. It’s like it’s meant to be.”
Grace raised an eyebrow. “That’s a pretty… weak link.”
“Check out Miss Moody!” Kari laughed. “All because it’s pouring it down outside.”
“It said it’d be sunny! And how’s your summer plan going to cover the weather?”
“That’s easy. Dry and Wet Weather boxes. If it’s wet, we do one thing and if it’s dry we do another, and then adjust the chart as needed.” Her friend said proudly, patting the chart on her desk.
“That’s… actually really smart, Kari.” Grace admitted before letting out a long sigh. “Sorry, I think yesterday caught up with me, the weather’s not helping, and I need to pop home and get some more suitable clothes than a skirt and blouse.”
“Don’t worry about it. Head home and grab something else to wear, we’ve got a few hours before Daddy said he’d take us out to lunch.”
“All right.” Grace said, pushing herself up and putting the manga book back on the pile. Wandering over, she hugged Kari from behind. “I’ll be back soon, good luck with the planning.” She smiled, giving another little hug.
“I’ll be wrapped up by the time you’re done.” Came the reply, before Kari nudged back a little. “Sooner you go, sooner you’ll get back.”
“Sooner you can get back to work, right?”
Her friend laughed as Grace let go. “You know it.”
“Hi Mister Gray.” Grace smiled to the older man as she came down the stairs. Walter Gray was in his late forties, with hazelnut hair greying just a little at the temples and the slightly serious expression of a man who had worked in finance for most of his adult life. He was seated in the lounge, reading a broadsheet paper with a studious gaze.
“Good morning, Grace. Terrible weather we’re having today.” He replied, looking over the top of the paper at her.
“I know, speaking of, could I borrow an umbrella? I packed for sun, and want to head home quickly to get something a bit more suitable.”
“Of course, Grace. There’s some by the front door, behind the coat rail. Though if you want, I could run you home in the car?” Walter made the offer, nodding towards the front window and the black sedan in the driveway.
“Thanks, but it’s really not too far.” Grace laughed, rooting behind the rail for a slender umbrella with the Channel 6 Weather logo on. Kari’s mom was one of their weather forecasters, so her place of work was the likely source of it. “I’ve not seen Mrs Gray this morning, is she okay?”
“Hikari? She’s out getting the shopping. Careful when you go out then, just in case she pulls in.” Walter warned.
“I’ll keep an eye out, Mister Gray!” Grace called, letting herself out.
Kari’s family lived in a nice part of Atlas Heights, a residential area situated between the war walls of Steel Canyon and Atlas Park. Near the walls were apartment complexes and high rises, while the middle sections tended more towards semi-detatched and detatched premises for the affluent, with small front gardens and larger rear ones. Checking as she walked out of the driveway, it was just a short walk to her home. Rain pattered down on her umbrella as she walked into the front garden of the next house along, her dad’s silver Buick Regal sat on the paving by the front door.
There was a garage, but that was her dad’s ‘games room’, for when his friends from work would come over to play darts or pool. So the car sat outside. The rest of the front garden was laid to lawn, as opposed to the more ornate shrubs and bushes of the Gray’s garden, but the houses were of similar design.
“Dad, it’s me!” Grace called out as she slipped through the front door, waggling the rain off the umbrella before standing it under the porch.
“Gracie? You’re back early, I thought you were going out to lunch?” Her dad called from the kitchen. As she headed in, he was busy pouring over a cookbook, a large ham sat just behind it on the counter. Travis Ritchie was a short man, only a few inches taller than his only child, and had a fatherly portliness to him that, coupled with greying blond hair and crow’s feet around his eyes that made him look older than he actually was.
“I wanted to put something else on, the weather’s horrible today.” Grace pouted, wandering over to give her dad a hug. “You got the guy’s coming over for lunch?” She said with a gesture to the ham.
Travis wrapped an arm around his daughter’s shoulders. “Yeah, a good meal, a few cold ones and shooting some pool. I’ll be heading over to Darren’s next Sunday for the meet, that going to be alright with you, Gracie?”
“Of course!” She smiled. “Me and Kari are planning on spending a lot of time together this summer, so you don’t have to worry there.”
“I’ll warn the city, two seventeen year olds, likely up to no good!” Her dad laughed. “Can I ask what you’ll be up to? … Do I want to know?”
“We’re going to be training. Mister Connor said we might be good enough to compete in some competitions.” Grace lied on the specifics. “And we’d like to try out, if that’d be okay with you?”
“If there’s any way I can support you, just let me know. You little slugger, you.” Travis playfully shadow-boxed in her direction. “Speaking of self-defence, I heard on the news there was some trouble on the tram yesterday.”
“Yeah, some guy tried to rob a carriage apparently. It’s why me and Kari were late getting back, it delayed our train.” Grace lied again. She knew that if she’d have said they were on that train and in that carriage her father would worry excessively. If he’d have known just -what- they did… she’d never be allowed out on her own again.
“That was lucky then. I swear, it’s so dangerous in the city. I worry every time you go out. Especially since…” Travis’ eyes flicked to the large photograph of his wife, Grace’s mother, in the hallway.
Grace followed his gaze and put her hand over her father’s, giving it a gentle squeeze. “I know, Dad, but Mom would want me living my life, right? And it took me so long to be happy to go out again…”
“You’re right, Gracie… but I’m your dad. It’s my job to worry and fret.” He smiled sadly, taking a short breath before clapping his hands together. “Right, you get ready, I’ve got to tackle this ham.”
With a nod, Grace headed upstairs to change into jeans and a soft woollen top. She was glad in part to be out of the house. Her dad’s friends from his job at the city council could be rather boisterous and loud, but they kept him in good spirits, much the same way that Kari helped her after the events of seven years ago. She checked in on her father just before she left, busy as he was loading the ham into the pressure cooker, there was still time to slip her arms around his waist and hug him tightly before leaving.
In predictable fashion, the rain had let up and the sun was out as she started the walk back to Kari’s. Her mom’s SUV was pulling into the driveway, the back loaded down with groceries. Hikari Gray was a coupon clipper to the extreme, and when she was younger Grace would help out in the clipping of little vouchers and discounts along with Kari, while Hikari sorted them into folders for each supermarket and shopping list. It was a simple activity that passed the time, and gave them time to talk. Grace even picked up some Japanese from it.
“Grace, would you help me with the bags?” Hikari asked as she climbed out of the car. She always dressed as smart as she would for a weather forecast, with the exception of having her dark hair out of the bun she usually wore on screen. Her features were more Japanese than her daughter’s, and what she lacked of Kari’s exuberant nature she made up for in natural elegance and grace.
“Sure thing, Mrs Gray!” Came her reply, dashing over to open the front door and put the umbrella to one side before starting to ferry bags in.
“You know,” Hikari said as she carried several bags of shopping in. “you can call me Hikari.”
“I know, but… you’ve always been Mrs Gray to me.” Grace apologised, taking the bags through to the kitchen before heading back to the SUV. “I remember when me and Kari used to help you out with your coupons. You get a good haul today?”
“Very good!” Hikari laughed. “It’s a fun game with big savings. I do miss those times though.”
“Maybe me and Kari will have to make some time for it this summer then…” Grace mused.
“It would be lovely to catch up some more,” She spoke as she gathered some more shopping bags up. “Though it is nice to see you more outgoing. We’ll be going out for lunch soon, though I’m not sure where Walter is planning on taking us.”
“I’m looking forwards to it. Dad’s got his friends coming over, so wherever we go, it’ll be quieter.”
“I can’t believe Daddy took us to Chuckleduck’s Cheeseporium…” Kari groaned, collapsing on her bed. “Last time we went there we were, what, twelve?!”
“Your mom seemed to have a good time though. Even if she did have to order a pizza without cheese.” Grace admitted, sitting besides her friend to pat her on the head.
“Of course Mom was happy. Dad had coupons for it. And what the hell does a duck have to do with pizza?!”
“There there, Kari. We’re home now. Chuckleduck can’t sing at you any more. Or do the Margherita Macarena.”
The girl on the bed groaned more. “I know you’re trying to help, Grace, but you’re just bringing all the memories back.”
Grace kept silent for a few moments, before bursting into a singsong voice. “When I order, I order Margherita and Chuckleduck says I’m in for good eating, I want pizz-” Her singing was cut off by the sound of a pillow hitting her face.
When the pillow fight had settled, Grace mopped back her hair and looked over to her friend. “I forgot to ask about the planner. What’s on the cards today?”
Kari took a moment to catch her breath before replying. “Today? We rest. And chat about stuff. Your dad’s at work tomorrow, right?”
“I’ll bring over some breakfast and we can a start on things. Warm ups with your Wii.”
“I haven’t touched that in ages.” Grace replied. “I’ve got some spare batteries for the remote though.”
“Good. We can work out a little routine to do, I’ll borrow my mom’s. Balance stuff, flexibility, that kinda thing.” Kari said, grabbing her notepad from the bedside table.
“We’re really gonna use the Wii to help?”
“Definitely! Wii Fit, Wii Sports, it’ll keep it fun. Build reaction times and all that.”
Grace stretched out a little on the bed before looking up. “I could borrow some of dad’s dumbbells for us to use, do some reps and all.”
“Great idea, I think Daddy’s got some I can use here.”
“Running, jumping, those are all things that heroes do. I might grab us some passes for that gym over in Steel so we can use the equipment, and go swimming too. That’s really good exercise.”
“Still got your bicycle?” Grace asked.
“Out of my head, you.” Kari laughed. “Was gonna ask the same. It’d save on train travel too, we can use the cyclist path through the tunnels to get there.”
Propping the pillow she had been using to batter Kari with under her head, Grace looked up to her. “I told my dad that we’re getting in shape to maybe compete in some self-defence competitions. Oh, I also said we were on the tram after the one we were actually on.”
“Smooth.” Kari nodded. “It works well, I’ll let Mom and Daddy know so we’re all on the same page.”
“I’ll see if Mister Connor will give me any books or the like on combat stuff to read, then we can spar together. I’ve still got some of my birthday money leftover if we need some equipment to help us train.”
Tapping a finger against her lip, her friend spoke up. “See if he can get some nutritional stuff too for us, recipes and all that. If we’re gonna be training hard, we need good food to keep us going.”
“Definitely… and what about those hero skills things you mentioned, like lockpicking?” Grace inquired.
“You let me take care of that! So, we’re young, it’s a Sunday afternoon… what should we do?”
“… Well, at three there’s new episodes of Paragon High and Talos Beach on Channel 5?”
“Jeez, I nearly forgot! Isn’t today the episode where Cody finds out about Jasmine and Tristan’s fling at the beach party?!”
“Not only that, but on Talos Beach Sarah finds out if she’s pregnant or not.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow, Kari.” Grace smiled as she stood on the doorstep, the sky now dark with night. TV had been watched in massive quantities, a nice dinner prepared by Mrs Gray had long since been eaten, and both girls were yawning heavily when they decided to call it a night.
“Bright and early.” Kari added with a grin, before giving her friend a big hug. “Sleep well, the days of summer really begin tomorrow.”