This was a big day, not just for J.P., who’d become a young adult, but for the whole family. Especially Cypress.
This was J.P.’s last chance to become heir. If he rolled Goofball for his final trait, he’d claim the heirship, as the firstborn. And if not, it would fall to Cypress, the sole carrier of the exemplar trait.
She didn’t really care either way. The legacy was fine–it was a family thing, and she’d do whatever was needed for the family. But there was this other vision pulling her, as if a string wound right around her, and only this dream could tug it, moving her along through time.
“Congratulations,” she told J.P. when she found him in the kitchen. “No more high school, huh?”
“I’m gonna miss the homework,” he told her. And he meant it.
It was funny, Cypress thought. Not that much changed, even though the years passed by. She was still sitting at the same computer she’d sat at as a little child, still talking with her uncle Alder.
“I’m so proud of you, Cy,” her dad said when she went out to the patio kitchen to grab some breakfast.
While they were waiting for the guests to arrive for J.P.’s birthday party, it struck Tomas: it was all happening so quickly!
Hadn’t Pepper Doodle just been a child yesterday? And J.P.’s teen years seemed to fly by!
Now here he was, an elder. In three days, Cypress would be a young adult. And then, she’d meet somebody, have a baby, and it would all be over. For Tomas, it seemed to be over before it had even really begun. Turn around, and life is done.
That’s not the way to think about it, he reminded himself. There has been so much.
And as he sat alone in the study, he thought back on all the high points of his life: marrying Red, discovering the joys of being so right with her, having their two babies, who each could carry the world with their smiles and bright eyes. Dancing in the moonlight. Playing music. Painting. Watching the kids grow. It was over in a blink, yet it was all there, too, like the memory of the taste of a cup of tea, after the pot has grown cold.
I’ve experienced so much! He thought. All that love. Life is truly good.
While Tomas was feeling the gratitude that comes from sweet nostalgia, in the kitchen, the Bough women were looking to the future with excitement.
“I can’t wait until it’s over!” Cypress said. “There’s so much to do!”
When Jade came, she described to him her vision for a community garden.
“We’ll grow every variety we can! Just maybe not a cowplant. And then we’ll have a tea house, and roses, and trees! And we’ll form a garden club! I’m so excited, Jade. It’s going to be like nothing this community has ever seen before!”
Before we knew it, it was time for the cake.
When we found out J.P. rolled “Snob,” we showered him with confetti, congratulating him on being the spare, and even more, celebrating that Cypress was officially the heir.
J.P. joined the men dancing by the poolside. Aleksey, one of the old family friends, was doing the flirty dance, and that seemed, to J.P. just a little strange, not knowing exactly what–or who–was prompting those flirty feelings.
He headed inside, where onezero was whipping up another cake. His mom wrapped him in a bear hug.
“Happy birthday, son,” she said. “So proud of you.”
They headed outside.
“Are you ready for the life of a spare?” she asked. “You know, everything will be changing soon. You’ll have freedom. To stay. To go. It’ll be your choice.”
“Ah, man!” said J. P. “I hadn’t thought about that! I thought I’d just live like Uncle Alder, and your uncle Doug Fir. Just hanging out and working on aspirations. But choice? Man, Mom. I don’t know what I want to do!”
Right before the guests left, Redbud realized that she hadn’t seen Clarence. He was there yesterday for Tomas’s birthday. And he never missed a party at Cradle Rock. It wasn’t like he’d choose to do anything else instead. There must be another reason he didn’t show.
At that moment, the camera panned over to Aleksey, who had stopped mid-track on his way to the corner.
He smiled and looked up toward the sky. “Dag dag. Sul sul,” he said, in a voice thick with emotion.
As the family gathered round, Redbud realized why Clarence hadn’t come.
She was crying for Aleksey, who’d been a good friend of hers for a long, long time, but she was crying for Clarence, too, who’d been a better friend for even longer.
It hit Tomas, too. He wasn’t that much younger than Clarence and Aleksey. He’d be hearing his name before long.
After his job was done, Grim stuck around. He’s not in a hurry. He and his brothers have been visiting this lot for decades, as the 29 tombstones will testify.
Sugar, an old acquaintance of the Brothers Grim, introduced him to Cypress.
“You’re gonna have to get to know the Grim Reaper if you’re the heir,” Sugar told her great grandniece. “Heirs and Grim have a long history, going all the way back to the first heir of all, Acacia, who, it’s said, chose Grim for her first love.”
“You never get over the Reaper,” Grim said, thinking back to his brother who’d visited Cradle Rock back in the day when it was just tiny casita with a few daisy plants in the garden.
Cypress invited Grim to join their card game, but he refused.
“Don’t you know?” he said. “Never gamble with Death.”