The next two weeks past like snails on a salt-bed. Uncle Sam called every night, talking mostly to me, but still refused to divulge anything. He told me to be patient, I would know soon enough. Strangely, this little tease actually helped my daily activities. While I still cried at least once a day, I found it easier to interact with everyone. Though not originally the plan, my parents decided we'd stay the summer to help Grandma tie up loose ends. She still wanted the cabin to be a summer retreat, but not her full-time home. Day after day, while sorted and packed, we ended up reminiscing about Papa's strange ways and fondness for all things dead. We spent hours trying to top one another with tales of Papa Glen's lunacy, leading to tears from laughter.

Possibly one of the more disturbing tales of morbidity was Papa's actual consideration to mummify his precious Widow Johnson, for preservation. The deliberation never made it past our family circle, but for several days we all worried about Papa Glen's sanity. Eventually, it just became another hilariously perverse story in his repertoire.

My mother kept my work-load light; always assuring me I was allowed to visit the boardwalk. I refused at first, sure that I wouldn't enjoy it all. However, after several days I began to long for my second favorite place in Santa Clara. So, after packing up a storage room full of treasures, in which only Papa would find any value, I decided to go.

I gently knocked on the doorframe to prevent startling my mom, who was covered in dust and staring intently at an obnoxiously-sized set of antlers. Her sudden head movement knocked some grime from her bandana, setting off a barrage of sneezes. I couldn't help but smile.

"Sorry. You okay?" I asked between grins

Mom wiped her nose, "Yeah! I'm good. What'd you need?"

"I was gonna go to the boardwalk, if that's okay?" I asked, sure of her answer, but still asking permission

Her face lit up, "Sure! Go! Be careful and back before dark."

I rolled my eyes, "Mom, I'm 21. I think I can handle being out after the streetlights come on."

Mom's smile suddenly vanished, "Sammy, please, just do as I ask."

I inhaled deeply, biting my tongue, "Fine. Can I barrow the car at least?"

"Keys are hanging off the rabbit's ear on the console table by the stairs."

With that I gathered my bag and the keys, excited to visit the second best location in Santa Clara.

Everything was just the same. Salt-scented, loud and bright, even in the retiring sun. I strolled along the boardwalk, no real destination in mind. Kids pushed eagerly past, attempting to escape their parents' grasp; high pitched screams issued from the highest hill of the roller coaster; a cacophony of music streamed from each shop; the waves crashed audibly against the beach. I sat at a random bench, near the middle of the whole commotion, and scanned the hundreds of people and vendors. As I gazed across the crowds, my attention halted at the display window of Dually Noted Music Emporium. Displayed was a beautiful Gibson Hummingbird Artist. I glided over to the window without thinking and took in every detail.

"Do you play?" a familiar voice startled me back to reality

I laughed, instinctively, at my extreme reaction. It was Seth, once again tall, blonde, and blue-eyed. It took and eternity to muster a response.

"Hi, um, yes," I said finally, "Well, I used to."

His furrowed his brow, inquisitively, "Used to?"

"Long story. Actually, I used to play a lot of things. I sang too."

"But not anymore?" a small grin broke across his face

"Well, I haven't for awhile, but..." I trailed off, attempting nip this conversation in the bud.

"Gotcha. Not a topic for conversation," he answered knowingly

"Thanks. So what are you doing down here?" I asked in a lame attempt at redirection

He laughed, softly, "What else is there to do?"

I smiled back, helplessly. "Yeah, well, I guess Santa Clara isn't as interesting to someone who lives here full-time. Still, summer after summer, I love coming here. It feels more like home than home does."

His brow furrowed again, "If you're here every summer, then why didn't I meet you last year?"

I gazed away as stepped toward the traffic of the boardwalk, "Another part of that long story."

"Oh," he acknowledged falling in-step with me, "Well, that's too bad. It would've been a much better first Santa Clara summer if you had been here."

I scoffed, surprised at his presumption, "You barely know me."

He stopped, looking directly into my eyes he said, "True, but I read people. We'll be good friends." With that he took my hand and gently shook it.

"I'll see you," he said simply before walking away, not so much as gazing back once. I, however, watched him saunter away, dumbfounded and smiling. It was when Seth disappeared from sight that I noticed how much darker it had become.

Oh, shit. I thought to myself, scrambling for the keys and racing toward the parking lot. The sun had set long ago by the time I got home. Needless to say, Mom was less than pleased. She sat at the base of the stairs, her eyes shooting daggers the moment I stepped inside.

"What did I say?" she asked, fully aware of her own words.

"Mom…" I began

"No!" she interjected, "You agreed home before dark, Samantha. Why are we still having this issue?"

The thin veneer we'd all kept since I moved back home had been slowly stripping away for awhile; but now, it just utterly fell apart. I'd given them cause to distrust, worry, and fear for me, but I'd had enough. I wasn't a child. I made mistake and was tired of the relentless guilt my parents fed to me daily.

I exploded, "Because neither of you will fucking trust me! I screwed up, Mom, but that doesn't give you the right to hold it over my head! I've apologized every way I can think of and conceded to you, both, on ridiculous rules. Rules I inflicted on me like I was twelve years old! It's enough!" I tossed the keys back onto the console table and ascended the stairs.

Unexpectedly, my mother said nothing as I exited toward my room, formerly Sam's. Instead, I heard soft conversation downstairs. Though most was unintelligible, I knew the subject of discussion. My father's baritone voice mumbled in the affirmative, only to turn around and provide a new point of interest. Mom responded in like, when later Grandma chimed in, putting the room below to silence for several minutes. I knew Grandma had defended me, or at least did some damage control. Hopefully, Dad wouldn't completely remove my head when I woke up in the morning.

I listened awhile, catching various words that made no sense by themselves, before sleep caught me.