Azura

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Summary

Summer vacation. A time spent differently among the masses. Some with friends, others with family. Cece and Litha, the Lawrence siblings, take an overdue flight to visit their grandparents in LakeShore. The epitome of a small town; picture-perfect and idyllic. And it was. But fate’s hand is at work, weaving the fabric of destiny. The providence of the town and a forthcoming long foretold. It is about to change all their lives forever. In one fell swoop, the siblings are the cause of the town’s damnation and yet they are it's only salvation.

Genre:
Thriller / Mystery
Author:
A Believer
Status:
Ongoing
Chapters:
12
Rating:
4.7 12 reviews
Age Rating:
13+

Chapter 1: Homecoming.

At the backseat of the car, a pair of siblings sit waiting to arrive at a strangely familiar place. Alike to clockwork, her head swivels repeatedly to look at her brother out of sheer boredom. Litha has his headphones on, his trap music echoing so loud he might as well put it on speakers.

Her face turns to view the soul-quenching scenery of LakeShore straddling the Azura; he largest lake that runs along the edge of the town, where it feeds into five other enmeshed lakes.

Flinching. “Ow.” Cece grits her teeth, rubbing her arm, dousing the short flare-up of pain. Her head whips to the side. Litha shoves his headphones down to rest it on his shoulders.

“We’ve been driving for hours. Yeah, it’s been a long time since we’ve been here, but grandpop’s hometown ain’t that big.”

Her initial response is resigned to a flippant shrug. “First. The GPS said that Lakeshore is a drive that takes over two hours from the airport. And secondly—” She points to the window behind him, “—we’re already here.”

He twists his torso, gazing out the window. His phone slips from his grasp and plops unto his lap. The car streams down the road that meanders alongside open crystal-blue waters. The beaming bright sun in full bloom, illuminating the spread of still waters like its cast under a spell, the surface shimmering with pools of white. Further ahead, divisions of stretched land are encrusted with opulent houses that sprawl unto the lake like terrestrial fingers, adorned with a verdure of foliage.

Litha blows an impressed whistle. “Definitely more beautiful than I remember.”

Unable to disagree, she nods absently.

The vehicle cuts through the central business district of the town. They catch flashes of the townspeople and the pastel-coloured buildings as the car zips by. Driving on and on, past a band of stores, neighbourhoods and standalone homes. The car seems to journey farther to the end, as if at one point the road will just end and after. It will only be water.

Eventually, the car slows to a cruise and Cece immediately perks up. When the car stops completely, the Uber driver casually remains inside, eyes fixed ahead of him.

Litha widens his eyes and pops the car door open. “Guess we’ll help ourselves,” he mutters under his breath. He exits and Cece follows suit as they round the car. With the boot already unlocked, Litha heaves it open, lugging out their luggage one by one. Emptied, Litha slams the boot close and merely seconds later. The engine grumbles a farewell and the vehicle rolls away until its nothing but a speck on the horizon.

Both of them pause. Standing on the sun-beaten asphalt, taking it all in. Over fifteen yards forward, down a slight decline is a paved way that leads down to a detached one-door garage that stands beside a homey wooden cabin settled on the brink. From the side to the rear is a vast swath of water, a part of the Azura as their backyard with a narrow pier that elongates on the body of water. Cece draws her gaze back to the cabin and the single oak door opens.

An elderly couple shuffles out, their skins a deep sepia like the colour that bathes a forest floor under golden sunlight. The only betrayal of age is not weathered skin or slouched backs, but their sterling silver hair.

Cece straps her handbag over her shoulder readily. Aligned with her hip, she takes the lead of the large suitcase and together they trudge down the slope. Litha drags the others behind him as they both respectfully follow the cobblestone pathway, avoiding the evergreen grass on either side like it’s lava.

Closer on approach, their grandmother clasps her hands together, squealing, juddering excitedly on one spot. Their grandfather opens his arms in a grand welcome. In one big engulf, they envelope their grandkids in a desperate embrace.

Gradually breaking apart, Litha steps back to give him a full body scan with a stunned look. “That’s quite a grip, old man.”

“Old man?” His orotund voice is raspy, grated by time but still maintains its strength and vigour. “As if you can talk beanpole.” Abruptly, gramps charges forward and effortlessly throws Litha over his shoulder, knocking his suitcase to the ground.

“Walter!” She yells reproachfully. “Careful with the boy.”

Gramps continues to jog ahead of them in mindless circles on the grass. Litha’s lithe frame squirming over his shoulder, laughing uncontrollably.

Cece looks back at her, a mirrored image of her mother. “Hi grandma.”

Her gran takes a moment to soak in her granddaughter’s resplendent features: Her curvaceous outline, honeyed shea butter skin that flatter her golden-flecked hazel eyes. Gran’s face contorts into a merry sob and she reels her into a bone-crushing hug.

“You have grown to be such a beautiful young woman.” She holds back a cry. “Aren’t you fortunate to have my genes,” she says and gives her an extra squeeze.

They part and her gran shoots a punch at her shoulder.

Cece gawks at her, jaw hanging. “Grandma!”

“No, no, don’t grandma me.” Fists on her hips, her weight shifts to one side. “I have not seen my grandbabies in ten years. I practically had to force your mother to book them international flights to get you two here. Now look.” She gestures to her expansively. “You two are all grown up.”

Cece pouts apologetically, shrugging helplessly. “I know and I’m sorry…but at least we’re here now?” That’s got to count for something.

Gran outstretches an arm, steering her to stand on her flank politely, hand resting on her shoulder.

Litha finally escapes gramps’s siege. Then he walks up to her briskly, stopping before her with a toothy smile.

Gran looks at him from head to toe with an impish smile. “Clearly your mama has a favourite because it look like she don’t feed you.”

Cece snorts and stifles a laugh with her fist, watching Litha inspect himself in pure offense.

“Just because I practise self-care and actually work out—” He shoots Cece a pointed look, “—unlike others I know. It don't make me skinny."

“Who am I kidding?" gran says, her smile an immeasurable length. "This milk chocolate hunk of a grandson is most definitely a heartbreaker.”

Litha flaunts a knee-weak worthy smile. “Well….” His hand sweeps over fresh buzz cut, trimmed on the sides. He looks over at Cece and winks, and her eyes nearly roll out of its sockets.

“We should take a picture,” gramps says, pulling out a sleek black phone from his brown trouser pocket. He then holds it in front his face at a peculiar slant. Deliberating with himself, whether he should take the photo landscape or portrait.

“So that everyone’s in the photo, lets rather take a selfie,” Cece suggests.

A groan rumbles in Litha’s chest, swallowing down a protest.

Gramps nods assertively, walking to them as everyone huddles up together for a group shot with the house as their backdrop. He holds up the phone with only their heads cut in the frame, so close that they all look like bobbleheads.

Cece cringes and moves forward to swipe his phone from his hand.

Briefly admiring his new-looking phone, she says, “For old folks who seem to be clued up with technology, you sure don’t seem like you know how to use it.”

"As most old people," Litha slips in, earning him a light jab to the ribs.

Cece extends her arm, capturing an optimal angle with everyone fully captured, natural light pouring down on them perfectly.

“Smiiile.”

After a brief series of taps and minor expression changes, all of which are filled with bright eyes and stretched smiles. Cece hands him back his phone and gran finally guides them inside the house.

Walking in single file, Cece’s eyes wander around the rustic and cosy interior, the floor to ceiling glass window beside the sliding door welcomes in a wealth of warm light that emblazons the living room with a delicate glow. The lounge bears beige English rolled arm couches: tight back with large and plush seat cushions. Completed with an elaborate plasma tv stand in the corner. All the colour-matched fixtures flatter the glazed walnut wooden tiles.

A wide path is interspaced between the four-seater, dark Bordeaux dining table and the living room. A few steps further on, an oak laminate countertop kitchen is tucked away in a round crook. In the short distance, a string of hooked keys are embedded in the wall beside a shadowy passage, housing three closed doors and an open archway.

“Wow.” She looks up at the light metal pendant with geometrical lights that hang from the ceiling. “I guess a lot has changed.”

Gran smiles, thoughtlessly pulling the thin material of her cardigan to wrap it around her torso, arms folded. “Your gramps and I had the house redone a few years back. You would know if you ever visited.”

Litha snickers. “I have a feeling that you’re not going to let that go.”

“Smart and handsome, quite a package you are.” She quickly pinches his cheek, rotating on her heels to make her way to the kitchen. “You two go in your rooms, settle in and I’ll prepare lunch. I’m sure your starving, forced to eat tin-canned airplane food. My poor babies.”

Litha and Cece pickup their luggage, rolling it with them as they walk to the passageway slowly.

“First door on your left,” gramps directs.

Continuing, Litha flashes a thumbs up to the ceiling. They arrive at the room and Cece pushes the door open, entering with a bewildered grin. Her eyes bounce from left to right at the single beds on either side, both of them pressed against the walls with a twin cream duvets layered on top. Narrow wooden closets are positioned on either flank of the door.

Cece steps inside, ankle boots clicking on the furnished floorboards. She swivels and looks up at Litha with a quizzical expression. “So, which one do you want?”

Litha grumbles a sequence of incoherent words. He moves to park his luggage at the foot of the bed on the right. Wordlessly, he walks around and collapses on the bed, shifting irritably for a while until he faces the wall with his back towards her.

“I guess that jetlag is starting to hit, little bro.”


Once Cece’s head hit the pillow she instantly joined her brother in the land of dreams. What was supposed to be a quick power snooze turned into an afternoon nap, and lunch became an early supper.

Involuntarily hauled back to reality. Litha wakes, he flops unto the other side and sees the bed opposite him is empty. The only proof that someone was there is a human-size dent and a few corner creases. He forces himself upright, then starts unlacing his black doc martins, kicking them off to freely walk in his thick woolly socks.

Shortly, he leaves his shared bedroom and returns to the living room. Cece and gramps sit together trading stories, whereas gran hustles in the kitchen. His senses awakening, he’s greeted by a cheesy, mouth-watering aroma that fills the house effortlessly.

“Litha,” gran calls from over her shoulder, standing in front of the stove. “Please be a dear and set the table.”

Rubbing sleep from his eye, he shambles to the kitchen and rounds the island, only to realise he doesn’t know where anything is. His eyes darting to each cabinet and draw aimlessly.

Gran barely twists her torso to face him. “Table mats, last draw on your left and the utensils are in the first door on your right.” Her gaze lifts and she pokes a slender finger in the third cabinet’s direction. “And the white porcelain plates are up there.”

Litha does as commanded and starts the quick process of setting the table. Once he is done, only then does gramps and Cece migrate to the prepared dinner table. The siblings seated opposite from each other. Gran only visits the table to make a drop offs, setting down two steel platter stands before returning to the kitchen.

“So,” Cece begins, placing her folded arms on the edge of the table. “On our way through, we saw a glimpse of Lakeshore and it seems like the town went through a serious upgrade.”

A look of untainted pride shines in gramps’s eyes and he places a hand on the small bulge of his belly. “The town underwent a life-altering gentrification and expansion, we even a few worldwide stores. But it still doesn’t overshadow its natural beauty.”

“I don’t mean to sound like a typical teen, I really don’t,” Litha says, sitting slouched against his chair. “But what is there to do around here?”

Gramps’s hand lifts from his stomach and falls back down. “Much to do, many lake water activities.”

Litha arcs a brow. “Grandpop, I don’t know about LakeShore but out there, everywhere else.” His index finger twirls in a circle to gesture universally. “Only white, boojey people do lake water activities.”

Gramps lets out a throaty guffaw and it fades peacefully, lapsing into a short-lived silence. He straightens. “I’ll tell you what, if one of you has your licence. You can take my car and take a drive into town.”

Litha and Cece bolt upright automatically. “I’ll drive!” They say simultaneously.

“No, no, none of you will.” Gran walks back to them with her hands protected in heat resistant mitts, a large rectangular glass dish in her hands. She walks to the corner, extending herself to set it down on the one stand in the centre. Homemade lasagne with a thick coat of bubbling cheese, layered with sheets with: Ground beef mince, Italian sausage in between, crushed onion, tomatoes and cloves of sliced garlic. Garnished with green specks on top.

“Not until you two reorganise the storage shed out back,” she says and waltzes back to the kitchen.

Litha drags out a groan. “We’ve literally only been here for several hours and you already want us to clean?”

“Not clean, reorganise,” she corrects firmly, “besides its mostly for you than it is for me. A way for you to look at the past, see what you two left behind when you were last here. Look at some old photo albums, see your mom’s old belongings. It will be fun.”

Litha snorts. “Said literally no-one, ever.”

Gran returns with a round dish, placing down the pie with golden puff pastry brimming with braising steak and lamb pieces diced inside, stewing in Worcestershire sauce.

“Make fun all you want, but there’s a lot of history in there.” She captures Litha’s gaze. Her dark coffee-roasted eyes stare back at him penetratingly. “Your history.”

Making one last round trip to retrieve the chef’s knife for the pie and the serving utensil for the lasagne. She finally plops down at the head of the table, releasing a content sigh.

Litha’s arm stretches to reach for the spatula and gran twitches. She swats his hand away.

“Uh, uh, you animal,” she scolds. “Did your mama, my daughter, not raise you with basic manners?”

He falls back into his chair. Cece shakes her head at him disappointedly, he flaps a flippant hand at her.

“My bad, where are my manners?” A mischievous look sparks in his eyes and a smile carves itself on his face. “My dear sister, will you lead us in prayer and say grace?”

Although Cece showcases a charming smile. Her eyes slay him a thousand times over.

“I would love to.”

Soon each plate is filled with their preferred serving, both gramps and Litha’s plate is dominated with lasagne and oversize slices of pie, the white of the plate is barely visible. Whereas Gran and Cece match with reasonable and decent size portions.

Grandmaaa,” Litha moans, closing his eyes for several pleasurable moments. “This is pwobably the best lasagne on planet earth,” he manages to say with an entire mouthful.

Cece forces herself to lessen her speed, munching slowly to savour each delectable taste that seems to tango with her taste buds. “I thought mom’s lasagne was good, but it clearly doesn’t compare to the master’s.”

Gran laughs, irritated by an itch, she lightly beats the side of her head with a flattened hand. “I hope you two will be just as excited eating as you will be washing them dishes.”

Both Cece and Litha blare out twin groans.

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