Akita stepped off the bus onto the busy sidewalk. The city always made her feel like she was part of something bigger; its diversity always amazed her.
She glanced at the sky; the sun was peeking out from behind the grey clouds. "It's about time," she muttered.
Today she was picking up groceries for Mrs. Macnary, her eighty-seven-year-old neighbour. Akita was always helping everyone; it made her feel good.
Last week she spent the entire day cleaning the local women's shelter; she didn't mind.
She rushed to the storefront pulling open the door for an elderly man struggling to get his cart out. "Thanks," he said as he proceeded to his car.
Akita smiled as she entered the store. She peered around, attempting to recall what was needed. Then, grabbing a cart, she made her way through the store.
Akita paused at the meat section, searching for pork chops. She glanced at the butcher. He was approximately five foot eleven, with a muscular build. He was always sweet; his smile made her blush. This was the part of shopping she loved, even if it only lasted a few minutes. He usually was working when she came to the store. Who wouldn't enjoy looking at him, she thought while nibbling her bottom lip.
He glanced over; the corner of his mouth lifted. "Hey, Akita. It's nice to see you. Are you shopping for your neighbour?"
Akita smiled; they all knew her so well. "Yes, that's precisely what I'm doing. Am I that predictable?" She said, turning a shade of pink.
He nodded. "You're always helping someone."
She smiled, walking away. Life was good, but had she become foreseeable? She was an ordinary girl, or at least she believed she was. Life was tedious; she wanted more. Akita wanted to be spontaneous, doing things; no one saw coming. Yes, Akita was a dreamer, she knew this wasn't the case, but it didn't stop her from craving it. She went to the cashier and unloaded the groceries.
It had been months since she went on a date, even longer since Akita had a girl's night out. Maybe she should give her friends a call.
She filled the bags, then set them in the cart. Who would she call? Everyone Akita knew had busy lives. She was the only one who wasn't in a relationship. It was more important to help others, but she never knew that meant being alone.
Akita was turning eighteen tomorrow; her plans consisted of sitting on the couch, eating take out. Hopefully, she'd get to see the movie she had been waiting to see. Later that night, she'd read her favourite book, The Golden Compass. Akita must have read it a dozen times this year alone. She ordered a new novel last week, The Lord of the Rings. It was supposed to be here yesterday, but it hasn't come.
Akita placed the groceries in the taxi's trunk, then headed home. She thought about the reoccurring dream she was having. It was of her walking through the woods; the birds were chirping while the wind rustled in the trees. She was always smiling; a large black wolf was shadowing her. Oddly, it didn't scare her until that wolf disappeared into a swirling black shadow; that same darkness came for her. Akita woke in a terrible sweat each time; she hated that dream.
Mrs. Macnary placed her hands on the side of her face as Akita pull into her driveway, "Oh, sweet child. You're my angel! You never let me down."
Akita beamed, "No! It's you that's the angel; you're the kindest old woman I know. You make me feel I'm not alone."
Akita brought the groceries into the house. "The holidays are coming. Is anyone visiting for Thanksgiving this year?"
The elderly lady sat at the kitchen table, "No. They all have families of their own, they live their own lives. It'll be Milbert and me this year."
The grey-haired lady sat patting Milbert's head while he purred into her ear. She was tiny, tottering when she walked. Her face was long, thin, with a wart on the side of her nose. Her hair was grey, tied back into a bun, but that was expected with her age. "What about your family? Will they be coming around?"
Akita pressed her lips together tightly. The thought of another empty holiday was depressing, "I don't think so. Lacey will probably be out of town again. She spends a lot of time taking care of her parents." She exhaled loudly, "I'm pretty much on my own here. My folks died a long time ago. My twin brother lives on the other side of the world, so we don't get to see each other."
Mrs. Macnary sighed, "I'm sorry to hear about your parents."
Akita glanced over, "It's okay. I never knew them; no one told me about them. They turned us over to foster care when we were quite young; we didn't get to stay together. That's why Levi's on the other side of the world. It's home to him, this place is mine."
The lady smiled, stroking her chin. "You've been like a granddaughter to me. I hope that's okay to say. You're always here for me. So, is that your foster mom you live with?"
Akita leaned against the counter, "Yes! That's Lacey. She was my guardian, now we're best friends. We are roommates since I'm of an age now. She took care of me most of my life, she is my family." She smiled, "I feel as if you're my grandma. I enjoy running errands for you and appreciate it when you make me cookies; the taste always leaves me wanting more."
The elderly woman tilted her head, "You're so sweet! Oh, I ordered you a birthday gift, the mailman dropped it off yesterday. It's in the front closet." A crooked smile crossed the old woman's face, "Go see!"
Akita ran to the closet, then grabbed the brightly coloured box with a red ribbon wrapped around it, "It's pretty. Can I open it today?"
The old lady agreed, then smiled. Akita, filled with excitement, slowly opened the box. Inside was a platinum watch; the numbers were replaced with a mixture of jewels. Each one held a distinct purpose. There was a button on the side that changed faces.
Akita smiled, "This is beautiful, thank you so much!" She put on the watch, then lifted her arm to admire the gift in the light. It locked, making it impossible to take off. She peered nervously at the old lady. "What's happening?"
Mrs. Macnary smiled, "It syncs with the owner's body, that's all dear. Don't worry!"
Akita furrowed her brows while twisting her lips, "If you say so."
She pondered about her evening plans. She really wanted to go for a run. That's what she needed, a good run through the untouched woods behind the house. "I should head out. I'm hoping to go for a run tonight. You know me, I love to keep in shape."
The old lady smiled, "Okay, dear. Have a fabulous night. Drop by on your birthday; I'll make you dinner. Maybe we can make thanksgiving plans."
Her eyes glazed over, "Can we make it for the day after? I have plans to watch a movie plus I'd also like to talk to Lacey before she heads out of town."
The kind old lady smiled, "But, of course, we can."
Akita walked to the door of the place she called home. It wasn't much, but the house was clean looking, with a room of her own. Lacey was an amazing woman. She let Akita run her own life and didn't interfere with her decisions. She always said if anyone in this world is trustworthy, it was Akita.
Lacey never treated her like an adolescent, yet she gave her a great childhood. She spent plenty of time in the playgrounds, running around with the other children, yet always wanted to be part of the adult world. It fascinated her, making her own decisions, understanding the world as a grownup.
Akita opened the door then headed into the kitchen, "Are you home, Lacey? I picked up dinner." She looked around, but no one was home.
She prepared the burgers for the grill, grabbed a beer then went to the patio. She set the beer next to the barbecue while she put dinner on. The anticipation took over; I hope Lacey's home soon.
She closed the lid, picked up her beer; leaning against the railing of the patio, she watched the woodlands in silence. Akita loved the sounds the forest made. The birds singing, leaves blowing in the wind and the sound of animals running through the bushes. Nothing made her feel better than her nightly run.
The air hitting her in the face with the harmony of the leaves crunching beneath her feet. but there was more to it; there was a feeling uniting her to the path she ran. It felt empowering, like her soul was on fire. She was a queen at that very moment; nothing could touch her.
The wolf in her dreams kept her wondering why a majestical creature like that would visit her each night? Some nights she dreamt she was the wolf; she could feel the full impact of the dirt path hitting each paw as she bolted among the trees. Akita would wake jealous, wishing it was real.
Lacey always offered to run with her, Akita turned her down each time. She could never run with anyone, knowing they could never understand; besides, they could never keep up.
It was her time; Akita would run her little heart out until she couldn't run anymore. It made her feel alive; the speed of her heart had become a rush.
Akita stood drinking her beer when a voice rang from inside the house, "Are you home?"
It caught her attention quickly. "I'm out here! I put dinner on. Where were you?"
Lacey wandered to the patio, "I was at the grocery store. It looks like we had the same idea. I grabbed the essentials for our movie night tomorrow."
Akita's eyes widened, "Really?"
Lacey tilted her head, grinning, "I have all intentions of joining you. You're not sitting alone on your birthday anymore. We can barbecue some ribs; I can make potato salad. I know how much you love my potato salad. I also picked you up a cake, but you can't see it until tomorrow."
Akita stood rubbing her hands together, "That sounds great. I can't believe you'll be home this year. There's a new vampire movie I want to watch. I'm so excited!"
Lacey felt chills go through her body, "Oh! That sounds fun," she said with a sarcastic tone, "I'll be watching it from behind you." Lacey laughed while placing the bag on the counter.
Akita grinned, "You wimp. It's not like it's real; none of that stuff exists."
Lacey blushed, "I can't help it. I get frightened, especially if we watch it before going to sleep. Thoughts invade my mind. I keep thinking that something's waiting for me beneath the bed or in the closet." She grimaced, "I know I'm much too old to be afraid of the bogey man."
Akita smirked, "Age has nothing to do with it. On the contrary, I think it's human nature to be daunted. Some of us are just oddballs. I don't know why I was born with a broken fear button; maybe I'll find something that'll scare me someday."
Akita finished her beer, then flipped the burgers. "Do you want barbecue sauce on them?"
Lacey walked over to her, "You're not that odd. I think you're just stronger than the others, you always see the good in everyone. That might be what makes you fearless. You're like a wind angel."
Akita laughed, "Yeah! Whatever!"
Lacey took a deep breath, "Are you going for a run tonight?"
Akita nodded, "It'll be after dinner. I know you worry about me running all by myself, but I'll be fine. I'm fast on my feet, besides the woods, and I get along. It's like they were meant for me; it covets me as much as I want it! I cherish the feeling of the leaves against my feet, I know it's unusual to run in bare feet, but I love it."
Lacey grinned, "Okay. I just worry about you. I know you're not my kid, but I consider you, my family."
Akita smiled, "We are family! I have you and Mrs. Macnary. She told me I'm like her granddaughter."
Lacey smiled, "It's been the two of us since you were knee-high. That's the day my life began."
Akita sat eating her burger, "So what made you stay home this year?"
Lacey shrugged, "I spent the last few years flying home to care for my parents. I think it's my siblings turn, besides none of the family sees me. They have no idea who I truly am; they constantly want something from me. I don't remember having a conversation with any of them about what I like or how I live."
Lacey let out a giant sigh, then picked up her burger. "I'm not complaining; I have you. I love the time we spend together."
Akita smiled, "Me too."
Her attention turned to the forest. She never knew why the woods fascinated her so much, but there was an undeniable love for it.
Lacey laughed when she noticed Akita gazing at the trees. "I'll never understand your connection to those woods. It's been like that since you were little. You used to get me take you on long walks through the trails. It's all you ever wanted. You just really love nature."
Akita grinned, "Must be that!"
She finished her burger, then wiped her face on her shirt, "I'm going for a run." Akita kicked off her shoes then headed down the deck stairs, "I won't be too long; maybe we can talk later?"
Lacey waved her off, "Go have fun. I'll be here when you get back." She smirked while watching Akita race into the woods.
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