-) Hey Dad (-
The early morning sunlight filtered into the bedroom through the thin curtains, casting an eerie light onto a lonesome figure lying curled up under light blue sheets. Not the idyllic chirps of birds, but the low honk of the garbage truck pulled him from his dreams. Wildly curling blond hair and a set of deep brown eyes appeared from under the covers to peer at the alarm clock placed on the nightstand. His gaze travelled to the pocket-sized calendar standing next to the red digits that read 7 a.m. Realising it was seven in the morning on the twenty-ninth of June, he swung his legs over the edge of the bed, stifling a yawn and rubbing the back of his neck while doing so.
After all those months he still didn't understand why he woke up at 8 a.m. on regular days, but always at seven on June 29. It seemed to be a habit engraved in his being; a habit dating back to that faithful day three years ago. The pain of losing the man who had partly raised him had softened, but apparently the memory of getting up early at 7 a.m. like he had done on the day he had lost his father was still roaming his mind, waking him up at the exact same time like an internal alarm clock.
Parker moved through the tiny bedroom, picking up his bundle of clothes on the way before running his fingertips over the cupboard that used to be in his father's apartment. The piece of furniture looked awfully out of place, he reminisced, but he couldn't imagine ever getting rid of it. Some people had a box full of photographs to remember their deceased family member, others had trinkets; he had a dark-wooded cupboard with a squeaky drawer.
The rest of his morning ritual passed in a blur since his mind was already elsewhere, in a quiet place with hardly a living soul around to be more precise. He picked up his car keys and put on his leather jacket. It used to belong to his father; for years it had been draped around Booth's broad shoulders. Parker usually was reluctant to wear it since it hung loosely like a gunny sack around his rather skinny frame, but on a day like this he needed something to feel closer to his father.
During his drive to the cemetery he kept a close eye on his surroundings. He easily recognised where his father had taken him, like Chuck E. Cheese when he was five years old and that small guitar store at the age of fifteen when he had been nagging weeks in a row for his own acoustic guitar.
The lady of the flower shop he had pulled up at made him smile. She didn't seem aware that he wasn't buying flowers for a girl, but for a tombstone. On a beautiful day with sunshine painting smiles on everyone's faces it was surreal that a young man had other intentions with a bouquet than conquering a fair lady's heart.
Soon thereafter he parked his car at the entrance gate of the city's cemetery. Flowers in one hand, the other stuffed in the pocket of his jeans, Parker sought his way through the collection of tombstones spread out over several square feet of lawn. The stroll over the still damp with dew grass, past a lime tree with daffodils in full bloom at its feet, gave him a chance to fully relax for his confrontation with his father's gravestone.
A strange sense of grief washed over him when the familiar grey stone, proudly standing upright a bit further along, came into view. It wasn't the kind of grief that brought tears to his eyes - he had shed enough tears three years ago - it was more a deep feeling of loss mixed with acceptance. His father, Seeley Booth, was gone; Parker realised he was finally coming to terms with that fact when he knelt down to lay his flowers at the base of the tombstone.
"Hey Dad," he quietly greeted the gray piece of stone. "It's been a while, hasn't it? It's been three months actually."
He first gazed a long time at the headstone partly dominated by moss. Then, as if his father had answered him, Parker continued his monologue, "You of all people should know how crazy life can get, Dad. Cindy threw me out two months ago. It was a struggle to find a new place for me to stay at that was close to work. You know how my boss hates his employees coming in late."
Somewhere along his explanation, he had reached out and had begun peeling the green moss off. Piece by piece he uncovered the stone, revealing the inscriptions underneath.
"Yes, the same Cindy I met at graduation. It's a shame you've never met her; you two would have clicked right away. Dark brown hair, heavenly blue eyes, face of an angel and legs of a model. She was a fine catch, Dad, but she kicked me out of the apartment. I refused to marry her." Parker shook his head at his own words. "Stupid of me, I know. No need to rub it in, Dad."
He fell silent, pausing a moment before falling back in the usual routine - recounting every detail of the graduation his father had missed. "I graduated with great honour. I was among the top ten of my year. You would have been proud, Dad." He paused again, sighed deeply and for an unknown reason decided to steer his monologue away from the one topic that always returned. "I know we always discuss graduation, but I feel it's time to break our ritual. Don't you feel the same way Dad? Why don't I-" Biting his bottom lip he mentally reviewed various different topics.
Parker turned around at hearing a pair of shoes coming to a stop behind him. A bright smile illuminated his face when he saw it was someone he knew, his father's old partner as a matter of fact.
"Dr. Brennan," he addressed her.
Kneeling down beside him, she nodded at him, "Parker."
Even though she was in her mid-forties, she still looked like the woman he had first seen at Sid's and a couple of times at his father's place afterwards. A wrinkle here and there, a few gray hairs woven through her auburn locks, but still as beautiful as ever. She had been the one who had discovered Booth's lifeless body when she had let herself in to go through some paperwork with him. He had been lying in bed, looking like he was ready to wake up any second, oblivious to the fact that his heart had given up on him. She had been with Parker and Rebecca in the church and at the cemetery later on when he was buried in the ground they were currently kneeling on.
He nodded at the flowers she was holding. Smiling softly, she placed the bouquet next to the one Parker had put down ten minutes ago. "Your father's influence," she explained. "He eventually rubbed off on me."
Parker smiled in understanding. "He rubbed off on everyone."
Brennan first nodded, and then proceeded to quietly pull a couple of weeds that were ranking at the foot of the headstone. Parker finished scraping the moss off the stony surface.
"Seeley Booth. Born May 16, 1969; died June 29, 2019. Simmered down for good," Brennan read. She traced the epitaph with her fingers as she spoke. "I always thought they should have put 'Smart-ass' instead."
He chuckled softly at her comment. "He was one, wasn't he? Always had to be right, always had to have things his way."
"Always had to have the last say," Brennan supplied. "Booth and his infectious smiles always came out victorious." She sighed and went back to running her fingers over the headstone. "I miss him."
"I miss him too," Parker agreed.
They quietly stared at the gravestone, both lost in thoughts, one staring at the inscriptions while the other one rested her hand on the cold stone as if she was seeking physical contact with the man lying beneath them.
A few minutes later, Brennan discretely cleared her throat to attract Parker's attention. "What were you telling him about right before I broke up your mono-, I mean dialogue?"
"Graduation." Parker slowly got up to his feet and swatted a few stray blades of grass from his trousers.
She, on the other hand, remained in her kneeling position. "You still regret that he wasn't there, don't you?"
"Of course I do," Parker replied. "But it's not like he planned on passing away five months ahead of graduation. It's just," he ran a hand through his messed up haircut, "It's one of those things that keeps haunting me, you know? Graduating is a major event for an eighteen year old. Not having your father around is something you don't count on. You just don't see something like that happen."
Brennan kept quiet for a moment. She could easily detect the strain in his voice, how he was still partly struggling with his father's death while he was in high school. It must have been hard for a seventeen year old to say goodbye to the man he saw every once in a while. She quietly shook her head. They had missed so many chances; they had missed their moments. And now the only way for Parker to connect to Booth, was by filling him in on the details of what had been going down ever since his decease.
Getting up as well, she said, "Why don't you share something else, a different memory, with him? I think he'd like that."
Parker stared at her for a second, then at his father's headstone, slowly nodding his head. "Yes, I suppose I could. What about..." He seemed to plough through a ton of memories before his lips curled into a smile. "He once took me to the circus, to see the clowns and the trapeze artists. I think I was six years old, about to turn seven." The smile on his face grew larger as he travelled back to the past, back to the days that he was only a young boy tagging along with his father. "You impressed on me to never let go of your hand, Dad, remember? You were afraid that I'd get lost in the crowd."
He suddenly burst out in chuckles, breaking the tension that had hung in the air and making Brennan frown.
"I'm sorry," Parker apologised. He tilted his head to look at the anthropologist with gleamy eyes. "I just remembered how Dad got covered in peanut butter when he tried to pet one of the monkeys. The little bugger smeared it all over his face."
Brennan began to smile as well now, busy with visualising her former partner being peppered with peanut butter by a monkey.
"He never fully understood how the monkey got the peanut butter in the first place. When I tried to tell him, he pretended that I was telling the truth, but I could see that he was sceptical. After all, who would believe an explanation given by a six year old about a clown handing a monkey a jar of peanut butter when no one was looking?"
He fell silent again, a rather dreamy look roaming his eyes. "I had fun that day, Dad. Thanks for taking me there." Parker lifted his head to meet Brennan's gaze. Offering her his arm, he said, "Would you care to join me for a cup of coffee, Dr. Brennan? To revive more old memories about my father?"
"I'd like that, Parker," she answered, sliding her hand in the crook of his arm. They threw one last look at the solid gravestone before turning around and trailing their way back to the entrance gate. "I have to admit that I'm quite sceptical as well, Parker. Why would a clown give an animal a jar of peanut butter?"
With a look of mock hurt, Parker sighed deeply. "Not you too, Dr. Brennan. Why is it so hard to believe that a clown tiptoed to the monkey cage, winked and motioned for me to be quiet as he slid an open jar of peanut butter between the bars, before encouraging the monkey to dip its fingers in it and rub it all over Dad's face when he came closer?" At seeing Brennan smile broadly while shaking her head in disbelief, he exclaimed, "And I swear, that's how the monkey got the peanut butter!"
Well, that was my take on the June's CBPC. I enjoyed last month's challenge so much that I decided to write something just for fun. But since I was a judge, I couldn't participate. I hope you enjoyed how I worked the challenge criteria in.
EternalConfusion, thanks for the fast beta-job.