Akai has had a troubled past, growing up in and out of different foster homes. Despite being an adult, he cannot forget his best friend growing up.
When Akai visits Grand Rapids in a last ditch effort to find his long lost friend, he is determined to finally sled without backing out. But when he meets Collins, there is more than just courage at stake.
I didn't expect snow to be brown and mushy. Growing up in California, I had envisioned snow was always fluffy and pure white, like the fur of an Arctic fox, but stepping out of the airport and into Grand Rapids, Michigan, to see the snow for the first time was a real eye opener.
And I wasn't entirely certain I was pleased with the outcome of reality.
Still I'd left my last foster home just after my eighteenth birthday, and six long years had passed. Now I had a decent job and an apartment in New Mexico; it was time I stopped putting off my promise.
I closed my eyes and inhaled sharply, so I could take in the smell of snow. It smelled, well, kind of dirty.
Situating my suitcases next to me, so they were half leaning on my legs, I opened my hand and waited for the falling snow to collide with my skin. Just my luck that the sun was high in the sky, and there was no falling snow to be found. Oh well.
I retrieved my rental car keys from a young man who looked like he was going to fall over. As I filled out the paperwork, he clucked his tongue and crossed his arms. "Here to visit family?"
Of course, I should've expected that question, especially when Christmas was less than a week away.
"No, just looking for some time away."
He gave me a shallow smile. "You and me both, Mr. ..."
He did a double take, and I knew why. I'd inherited my dark black hair and brown eyes from my Japanese mother. The rest of me was from my father. They'd died when I was nine, an accident that happened so long ago it was little more than a vague memory.
"Well, have a great stay. Don't forget to check out the lights set up downtown. They're pretty cool."
"I'll check it out." I pocketed the rental car keys into my loose jeans and then stooped to pick up my suitcases. "Thanks for your help."
He waved halfheartedly before going back to his magazine spread out on the counter. Then I was back outside in the somewhat stale air. I sure hoped when there was a new snowfall, it'd be more exciting.
After loading my luggage into the trunk of the car, I plugged in the hotel's address into my GPS and made my way there, but I'd slammed down too hard on the gas, and instead of my car lurching forward and then speeding down the dry highway like I expected, I could almost feel the wheels of the car spinning beneath me.
"Damn." I fiddled with the heat, cursing myself for not thinking to pack my gloves in my carry on bag.
More slowly, I eased onto the gas, and my rental car, with slight protest, began to climb over the snow. I knew from the news it was a light snow on the ground, but to me it seemed like I was climbing a mountain.
Every time the tires got marginally stuck, I started to panic and tried to think about what I had to do, but with a little nudging, the car slowly made its way over the snow. Just to be safe, I stopped several feet before the red light, just so I wouldn't careen into the intersection.
When the hotel finally came into sight, I laughed in relief. My forehead was covered in a cold sweat, the heat pushing into my face and making it hard to breathe.
My small laugh reminded me why I was there. I had a promise to keep, and no matter what, Grand Rapids was the place I had to be.
I checked into my room and began to unpack. I was tired from the long flights, but I needed to find something first.
I shrugged out of my cold coat and placed it neat the heating vent and then unlaced my boots. Being used to sandals and sneakers made unlacing my boots a little harder than I thought.
Then I lifted my largest suitcase onto the bed and sifted through jeans, heavy wool socks and long sleeve shirts, my scant winter wardrobe. Nestled between two socks was what I was looking for. To anyone else I was just holding a tall, narrow glass jar no bigger than the palm of my hand. I shook the jar, swashing the water inside. The memory of the jar crept back to me.
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