Authors: K.K. Allen
Summer Solstice Novel
Copyright © 2014 K.K. Allen
All Rights Reserved
This book is
dedicated to my son –
my biggest motivation to succeed. And to my principal
supporters who encouraged me to take something that was just a fun hobby and
share it with the world. You know who you are. Thank you.
As the air around
me begins to swirl and the ocean waves before me grow, I stand still. Allowing my feet to sink beneath the
sand, I watch in solitude. There are voices – no – screams on the
other side of the beach. It takes me a moment to turn my head in that
direction. All I see in the near distance are orange billowing flames and a
screen of black smoke that is suddenly suffocating me. My hands rush to my
throat – I can’t breathe – and I’m falling into the sand. I am
bound to this spot, sand holding my feet prisoner as I attempt to make out what
is going on before me. The screams grow louder as I grow weaker. Then I
I gasp and throw myself back against the white
Escalade’s leather seat. My eyes fly open and I suck in a deep breath of air as
if I’ve been choked.
My breathing returns to normal
but I’m unable to shake the reality of my dream. A warm hand rubs my bare arm.
The voice beside me is calm and
understanding. I turn to look briefly at the shorthaired blonde woman who
speaks to me. I shake my head, still groggy from the short nap. “
was not a dream. I don’t know what
Charlotte places her hand on
the steering wheel and faces forward into the looming darkness. “You’ve been
through a lot Katrina. I expect you’ll have many more unpleasant dreams.”
I shake my head and turn to
look out the window.
I hope not.
thought echoes through my head.
I squint, barely making out
smokestacks in the near distance as Charlotte drives along the coast. The
distance from the Tampa Airport to Apollo Beach is just over 40 minutes but
it’s as if we’re moving through quicksand.
For almost 16 years now I have lived
with my mother Grace in Spring Lake, North Carolina – until three short
months ago when my mother left for the store and never returned.
I’ll never forget that hollow,
rhythmic pounding of the door. Assuming it was my mother who’d forgotten her
keys again, I sauntered my way across the two-bedroom box of an apartment we
shared to answer it. Two sheriffs and a woman from Department of Child
Protective Services stood in the doorway to deliver the news.
I insisted they had it wrong
– that my mother was just around the corner. And then they described her
bicycle – a blue vintage bicycle with a brown seat and large woven
basket. That was when my entire world went black.
My mom’s life was taken by a
heart attack. After 36 years of healthy eating, frequent exercise, and regular
doctor visits, her life was stolen, and mine – changed forever.
The only life I’d ever known
was that with my mother. Alone. My dad – or Paul as she called him
– was never part of my life, abandoning my mother and me soon after I was
born. So I have never known what it’s like to have a father. But my mom always
said that she was enough for me and I believed her.
We were close through the
years, though some would call her overprotective. I was homeschooled –
public school was never an option. The only friends I made were the ones I’d
find playing at the basketball court after school let out. I’d go there as
often as my mother would allow.
We rode our bicycles everywhere
because my mom didn’t believe in the luxury of having a car.
There’s enough to do and see in the distance
we can travel by bike
, she’d say
After our homeschooling sessions we’d cook together, play a game, and settle in
for the night with our favorite shows. Our weekends were filled with much of
I have no idea what to expect,
moving off to a city I’ve never heard of with my estranged grandmother.
Turning back to Charlotte I am
reluctant but curious – I forge ahead. “Tell me about my grandmother.”
Charlotte is my grandmother’s caretaker. And now, I assume, she’s mine as well.
A hint of a smile plays on
Charlotte’s face before she answers me. “Rose,” she begins, and the name
lingers in the air just long enough to raise the hair on my arms. “I imagine
you two have a lot to discuss when you meet tomorrow.” It’s as if the thought
of Rose and me meeting is to be a happy occasion. I am anything but happy.
Charlotte turns down another
dark road and continues to speak, as if she senses that I want to hear more.
“Rose is well-respected in Apollo Beach but you will see that. She is very
involved in preserving the community. Since she is one of the oldest living
residents, people often look to her as the leader.”
From the corner of my eye I see
Charlotte glance at me – her hesitation evident. “I really shouldn’t give
you details about your grandmother. You can form your own opinion when you meet
her. I can tell you that she’s excited to meet you finally. It’s all she’s
spoken of since…”
An uncomfortable silence fills
the car and I turn away. Rose didn’t attend my mother’s funeral but she did
send her condolences with Charlotte – her condolences and a large check
to me with an offer to move in with her.
My initial response to move in
with my grandmother and transport myself to Florida’s West Coast was a
resounding “no.” Things changed quickly, however, once I realized that I
couldn’t bear to live in Spring Lake without my mother.
My foster family forced me to
enter the wild and crazy world of public school where I was excluded from lunch
tables and chatty circles between classes. It was as if I were a ghost walking
through the hallways. My peers rarely noticed me – but when they did,
they laughed. How else would they react to an
? I kept a stone face and continued to walk past their
rejection of me. If I thought about it any more, I would fall apart.
After three months of constant
efforts of my grandmother to move in with her, I eventually gave in and decided
to give my new life a try.
“Welcome to Apollo Beach.”
There is an unmistakable excitement in Charlotte’s tone.
Just as she says this, I see a
sign for Apollo Beach Drive.
Apollo Beach is the kind of
place you hear about in specialty magazines or in afternoon specials on the
Travel Channel. There is an immediate sense of distinction and exclusivity in
this coastal city just south of Tampa.
We drive through Main Street,
past the colonial-style homes and make a few short turns, eventually leading us
through a large main gate. Houses the size of museums whizz by. I take in their
long winding driveways and immaculate lawns. My stomach churns.
No one needs a home this big.
handcrafted sculptures at the front of almost every home. Soon enough, I come
to grasp that my grandmother’s home is among one of these monstrosities.
My mom had mentioned briefly
something of my grandmother’s wealth. But this is not what I had pictured. “I
had no idea…” the sight now looming before me silences my voice.
“Welcome to Summer Estates,”
Charlotte beams. “You are home, Katrina.”
It isn’t until this moment I
realize how formal my name sounds to this woman. I look at Charlotte closely
for the first time since I’ve met her. She is beautiful. Around my mother’s
age, with a nice figure and flawless skin, perfect hair, and shining light blue
I give her the best smile I can
muster under the circumstances. She really has been kind to me. “You may call
me Kat if you’d like.”
Charlotte smiles and turns off
the car. “Leave your things. I’ll have them brought up shortly.”
The peaceful sound of a water
fountain comes from the base of the steps. I notice a large circular fixture
made of marble and recognize Apollo and Daphne at the center. I only know this
from my Ancient Greek Mythology class last year. I follow Charlotte up the
brightly lit, rounded marble steps, taking each stair carefully, as if not to
disturb the stone at my feet.
The home in front of me –
more like a mansion – is as big as my entire four-story apartment
complex. I’ve never seen a home this large.
I seriously going to live here?
Just thinking about my new home sends a
shudder down my spine.
I don’t want this.
I was perfectly happy in the small apartment that my mom and I shared.
“Do you like it?” Charlotte
asks me, hope filling her voice. She doesn’t wait for me to respond. “The
residents here take pride in their homes. I think you’ll love it here.”
Charlotte continues to talk about a rock pier and private beach where neighbors
gather for festivities.
I am barely listening as I
follow Charlotte up to the front doors of the Mediterranean home. I expected
something nice and luxurious, but not this.
Charlotte unlocks the large
double solid mahogany doors with hand crafted leaded glass. I regard the
elaborate shiny brass door handles. She pushes the doors out to give us space
to enter and I inhale sharply. A circular foyer greets me. In the center of the
room sits an elegantly sculptured round glass top table with a vase filled with
white, blue, and yellow fluffy flowers are its centerpiece. We walk straight
past the foyer and bright white room with light blue accents. It almost reminds
me of heaven.
“This is the great room,”
Charlotte says proudly. “Your grandmother likes to have her tea here in the
afternoon.” I hear Charlotte speak but I barely acknowledge her words. My eyes,
transfixed, catch sight of a large set of windows that overlooks the waters of
Tampa Bay. I’m drawn to them and the bits and pieces of memories my mom shared
with me surrounding Summer Estates.
I can hear
Charlotte tiptoe out of the room, as if she understands I need a moment.
Time passes as I
stare down at the water. I take in the Bay front before me as the moon towers
high over the water’s reflection. For a split second I forget why I am here in
the first place. Memories of my mom flood my mind as I stare out into the vast
empty space before me.
This is the
My heart catches in my throat
as I recall a story my mom had once told me about how she met my father Paul
and fell in love.
The last thing Grace remembered was waking up on the sand in
Apollo Beach, right in front of the
’s home when
she was 16 years old. There had been an accident, but Grace could never recall
what brought her to Rose’s home. Grace didn’t know where she came from or who
her parents were.
Rose insisted on caring for Grace, at least until they could
help her find where she came from. Rose’s son Paul, a boy Grace’s age, carried
her into their home. The mysteries surrounding Grace’s appearance on the beach
that day were never uncovered, and Grace became a permanent member of the
Grace had a crush on Paul from the moment she laid eyes on him
but Paul looked at Grace as just a strange girl who lived in his home. But the
more time he spent with her and got to know her, the more he began to look at
They became friends first and then one day when they were taking a dip
in the Bay, Grace got caught in an undertow. Paul was right there to save her.
He pulled her out of the water and held her in his arms. And then he kissed
moment Grace and Paul fell in love. And as they continued to live under the
same roof they tried to keep it a secret from Rose and George, but it was no
secret. Once they graduated from high school and turned 18, Paul proposed to
Grace and they were married. They were married for just over one year before Grace
found out she was pregnant. That’s when the fighting began. And once Grace had
the baby, Paul disappeared. And a heartbroken Grace took her baby and moved to Spring
Lake to start a new life.
My mother never told me more than that, so I
always believed that she was too upset at my father’s disappearance to ever
want to talk about it. And though my mother did tell me about living at Summer
Estates with my grandmother, she conveniently left out the mansion part.
It’s hard to imagine that I’m
about to live under the same roof as the woman who raised my mother. A woman,
for whatever reason, hasn’t been in my life until now.
Just the thought of my mom
brings sadness to me now. I touch the Bay-facing glass that wraps wide around
me as a tear runs down my cheek.
There are quiet footsteps
behind me, shaking me from my thoughts. I turn to face Charlotte and she gives
me a patient and considerate smile. “Your belongings are in your room. It’s
late. But I’ll give you the full tour tomorrow. Would you like to see your room
I nod my head. Exhaustion
Charlotte leads me up the
winding white marble staircase to the second floor. We take a right and stop at
the far end of the hall. Holding my duffel bag tight in front of me, I allow
Charlotte to push open the double doors to my new room.
My room is over abundant in
riches with floor-to-ceiling windows that cover the rounded wall facing the
Bay. The bed clearly belongs in a castle, with its thick four posts and
handcrafted wood. A dresser lines the side wall along with an oversized vanity
mirror that looks as if it was chiseled cautiously from hand.
Charlotte then opens the double
doors, which I assume lead to the bathroom and I’m right. With an oversized
walk-in closet and a pearl garden tub sitting next to a glass shower, I should
feel like the luckiest girl in the world. But I am numb to feelings such as