What started two years ago as a summer project to get fit has become, for Kiki, a lifestyle of fitness. Rain or shine, she loves the hour she spends outdoors, walking or running. Add yoga on top of that, and daily movement becomes her best tool for regulating her mind, senses, and emotions.
Also a habit, she discovers, has become the pre-schoolyear anxiety, and it’s no different as she gets ready for junior year to start.
“OK,” she tells herself, trying to psych up for the first day, “After today, you only have to do this one more time.” Somehow, she doesn’t expect to feel these same jitters before the start of a new year at college.
But she soon realizes there was nothing to worry over, after all. Socially, she seems to be invisible, which is how she likes it, and academically, she’s in the spotlight, which is also to her liking.
Ira is deep in drafting an art history dissertation, and she and Kiki keep each other company studying at the breakfast table.
Mostly, they don’t talk. Kiki likes the sound of Ira’s pencil scratching on the pages of the notebook.
Now and then, they both stop simultaneously to catch their breath.
“Do you think Elizabeth Murray would be better known if she had called the group she founded ‘The Society of Artists,’ rather than ‘The Society of Female Artists’?” Ira asks.
“When was it founded?”
“Oh,” says Kiki, “then definitely.”
Kiki enlists Ira to be her editor for the essays she writes for her Advanced Placement course.
“This is really good!” Ira proclaims. “The way you describe the process of turning pigments into paint. I mean, I didn’t know half of this stuff! And I should! This is my degree program!”
But junior year isn’t only about study success.
This is the year that Kiki’s life, once again, is touched by grief. Or, maybe it’s more than a touch.
It’s a series of body slams, one after the other, that entire winter.
Moira Fyres, Case’s old friend, is the first to pass, and her loss hits Kiki hard, for they’d just begun to become friends themselves, the last time Moira was over. Moira had offered to teach Kiki how to save heirloom seeds this coming summer, and now, this would never happen.
But it isn’t just Moira. Tina Tinker, Aadhya, and even Knox all pass on that winter.
“Most of my friends were old,” Kiki realizes, “and now I don’t have any friends. Except that one art person I met last year at the Romance Festival. I wonder if she even remembers me.”
Having most of her friends die is hard. But what hits her even harder is not that she’s lost them, but that they had to die. That they’re gone.
They’re missing out on everything now. On eating cake. On seeing the gray night slowly gain color again. On the sound of the fridge and the stillness between the hums.
She remembers how, when she was a little girl, she saw her mom and dad in the light of the candles. She believed that they carried on in light–their spark became the spark that shines wherever there is light.
How did she know that? How was she so sure? Was it just wishful thinking, or a way to survive the trauma of grief? Or was she on to something?
She keeps her senses open.
She pricks her intuition, opens that third eye. Maybe they’re still around, though not in physical form. Maybe, just as when she was a little girl, she still had her mom and dad around as angel parents, maybe she still has her friends around on the spiritual level. She doesn’t have to believe that, but it couldn’t hurt to be open to the possibility.