Chapter 25: Journeys and Stories
The night sky grows dark on the young group of kids. Still, the steady fire keeps things lit up enough for each to see and laugh. Stars can be seen clearly, giving extra light from the sky. For the first time in what seemed like months, the eight young kids all sat together, without a bit of drama on their brains. From a trip to the beach earlier to now talking and laughing about, as they enjoy the pristine weather. The kids are spread out in a circle, aside from Sam, with his arm wrapped around Reggie right next to him. Harmony roasting a marshmallow, a tradition by the fire she did every time the kids made a fire. She looks over to the boy next to her and asks him a question.
"You want one, Jorge?"
Jorge looks to the s'more Harmony made for him with a smile.
"Of course! That looks delicious!"
Harmony wears a bright, white smile as she hands the treat over to Jorge. Reggie looks to Harmony with an intrigued smile as she speaks.
"They do look really good. You really love making those, don't you H?"
Harmony begins to put another marshmallow on her stick, as she responds to Reggie.
"Yeah. It's something I always remember about being a little kid. The family going out into the woods and making treats, while we laugh and talk about life. When I was little, I got so frustrated when I would burn them. I put so much time into learning how to make it perfect. I was a weird kid."
The laugh at the end of her statement got everyone else to join in. Anna, perking up in her seat, begins a story of her own.
"I feel ya, H. I remember going with my older cousin to the park. The one with the slides and everything. Neither of us could fit in them, but we'd swing forever. One time I got stuck in it and needed three people just to get me out of it."
The group collectively laughs. Just the image of Anna getting stuck in anything surprised a few, but it still is a humorous one. The next one to speak up is Jorge.
"I was with my Mom and Dad once. I was pretty young. We went to the community pool sometimes. Dad forgot the sunscreen somewhere in the house. All I remember is all of us being so sun burnt. And my Mom just sassing him all day "Look what you've done! You've turned your wife into a strawberry!". It was hysterical."
The laughing continues through his story. Reggie enters the storytelling next.
"We have so many crazy memories together. Remember our band?"
Otto perks up.
"Oh ya! Surf Town!"
Anna happily speaks up.
"You guys had a band?"
Twister chimes in.
"I was drums! Remember the time we tried to sneak out at night to play hockey?"
Reggie answers Twister with quite a giggle to her voice.
"Oh man we got in so much trouble with Raymundo."
Twister thinks for a second and adds another memory.
"And what about Sam's game? That was awesome!"
Jorge looks over to his friend, still with his arm around his girlfriend.
"You made a video game, Sam?"
Sam smiles with confidence as he answers.
"Yup. Squid Power. I kinda made these three look like dorks."
Anna laughs quite hard, along with the rest of the crew.
"That's too funny."
Soon, after a few seconds, the one voice left to speak up finally uttered words.
"I skipped class once to play UNO."
Everyone looks at Rick with surprise. Otto is the first to respond his entry.
"Skipping class seems to be a theme, Rick."
Twister speaks next in confusion.
"I didn't know you spoke Spanish!"
Everyone laughs a bit before Harmony speaks to Twister.
"It's a card game. It's fun. But why sneak out of class for it?"
Rick chuckles to himself a bit before answering.
"My best friend asked me to. And we didn't get caught. Just wanted a break from school. So we went to the library, went to the back section for studying and just played cards. It was pretty fun. Thinking back, maybe I shouldn't have such a knack for getting into trouble."
Harmony speaks to him in a semi-sarcastic tone.
"Gee, ya think? No more skipping school. For real, though."
Rick smiles at Harmony, as he answers.
"Deal. So long as you never give up on that singing dream."
Harmony gets bashful as she reluctantly agrees to his terms.
Rick thinks for a second before bringing up a question to everyone else.
"What is everyone else's dream? Like what you wanna be in the future?"
Otto confidently answers first.
"Easy. Pro skater."
Reggie and Twister giggle as Sam responds.
"No surprise, there. I want to program games or something."
Reggie answers after her boyfriend.
"Probably a publisher, since I have experience."
Twister smiles as he follows up.
Next up was Anna.
"Maybe an actress?"
Jorge was hesitant, but followed up Anna.
"I've always been interested in Engineering and stuff. Maybe an Engineer?"
Everyone nods to the suggestions. The fire continues to give a warm feeling as the silence begins to set in. Anna is the one to break the silence.
"Wait a minute, what about you Rick?"
Rick looks up with surprise.
Anna is quick to fire the question back at him.
"What do you want to be in the future?"
Rick grows quiet for a while, as everyone waits in anticipation. After a few seconds, Rick speaks.
"Well….I don't know…."
He thinks again.
It does not take long for Rick to notice everyone looking at him speechless. He retreats from his original answer choice.
"I guess a writer. I like creating stories. So...that."
Reggie is quick to continue on Rick's words.
"You have a way with words in your songs. Like the one you played for us."
Rick thinks for a bit, looking towards the ground before speaking up.
"Yeah. I wrote that right before I got here. For someone important."
Twister sits up straight as his intrigue enters.
Rick looks at Twister for a second before letting his eyes hit the ground again and lets his voice take over.
"I just called 'em "J", like the letter in the alphabet. We were really close, but it's in the past."
The silence returns for a long time as they stare by the fire. After a short while, Harmony speaks up again.
"I miss this. A lot."
Jorge's voice is heard next.
"Yeah. I agree."
Harmony takes a deep breath as she prepares. After hearing Rick's words and the mood engulfing the air, she made a decision on something. This feeling of family and happiness was too important for her to let somber thoughts overtake it. The words she's been thinking deep on begin to come out.
"You guys are all amazing. None of you should feel down about yourselves. Ever. It's been so long since we've all been together, talking like this. If you want to be confident, Rick, then we'll help you get that confidence. Just like you'll help us in all our dreams."
Rick gives a small, sheepish smirk as he responds to Harm.
"Man. You should be dreaming of being a motivational speaker."
Harmony gives a small laugh.
"Thanks. My mom was always amazing at cheering me up. She always knew what to say."
Anna quickly perks back up.
"That sounds exactly like you, Harm!"
Harmony grows bashful again.
"You really think so?"
Reggie speaks up in agreement.
"Yes we do, girl."
Harmony begins to tear up a bit as she answers.
"She would always check in on me. It drove me nuts at times, but I miss it more than anything else right now. It's amazing how much I'm like her, even without her here. I still remember her taking me out for a snack or for some ice cream, whenever I was feeling down or had anything on my mind. She knew I would talk if I had a sweet treat in the picture."
Otto chuckles to himself and speaks.
"Dad does that with us and shakes. It definitely helps."
Reggie, Otto and Harmony laugh at their similar tales. Sam, looking at his girlfriend, spoke up with his own story.
"My Mom always used to come tell me stories, to help me sleep. Even if it was a silly kids story, it always felt so comfortable."
Twister nearly jumps from his seat as he speaks.
"My mom did that too!"
Rick joins in as well.
"My mom always got really animated and brought the story to life. It was pretty amazing."
Each starts to laugh, recollecting on past memories fondly. It was a moment of peace, one that had escaped them for so long. After a slight pause, Harmony once again speaks out loud.
"I love all of you guys so much."
A collective of "same" and "love you too" can be heard throughout the other seven kids. After being quiet most of the conversation, Jorge stands up, raising his water bottle.
"This crew. You're all my family. Cheers. To us."
Agreement comes from all the room as they laugh. They all seemed to understand the true strength they had gained as a group. The feeling seemed to spread in positive spirits throughout the night. As everyone continued to talk and joke around, the night almost passed in what seemed like seconds. It was amazing to them how fast time flies when everyone is enjoying themselves. But for each of them, it finally started to ring home the importance of their friendship. Even after the turmoil and chaos that ensued over what seemed like forever, their bond still shines over everything else.