The Edge of Summer
Delaney Owens had been looking forward to this day for months. She’d even marked it with a big red circle on her calendar. It was the first day of sleep away camp!
The first day of camp was always exciting for Delaney. It felt like being on the edge of something big and new, where anything could happen. Well, anything that pertained to camp that is. This was her second year at overnight camp and as she unpacked her duffel bag, she found the list she’d made at the end of camp the summer before, a list of things she hadn’t tried but wanted to this year. At the top of the list was – SWIM TO THE FLOATING DOCK. She’d been too afraid the previous summer to even try to swim to the dock because it was 100 yards offshore and the water was over her head. But this year, she was determined to try. She was digging in her bag for her favorite pair of flip flops, the ones with yellow flowers on them, when she heard a noise. It was muffled, which made her think maybe she’d made it up. She spun around in search of the source, but there was no one else in the cabin. Everyone was already at dinner, the scent of which came wafting through the screened window – burgers mixed with fresh air and pine. Delaney’s stomach grumbled.
Then, another sniffle.
Delaney was sure she’d heard it, that it wasn’t in her head. She bent down and looked under her bunk, hoping that there wasn’t a mouse or something gross under there. There wasn’t, thankfully, but she spotted pink sneakers and polka dot shorts and realized there was a girl lying on the floor a few bunks down.
Delaney quietly shuffled over and bent down to peer under the bed. “Hey, are you OK?” The girl looked startled and wiped at her teary eyes. But she didn’t answer. “I’m Delaney,” she said, and took a seat on the neighboring bed. “Are you new?” The girl slowly crawled out from under the bed and sat on top of her mattress beside her unpacked bag. She nodded slowly. “It’s my first time at overnight camp. I’m Mikah.” “Nice to meet you, Mikah.” Delaney remembered her first night away from home, how she’d crawled into her sleeping bag at lights out and for a moment been scared — scared of not being in her bedroom, which was so familiar, scared of having to pee in the middle of the night and not being able to find her way to the bathroom, scared of trying new things. But she also remembered how fun camp had been the rest of that week, once she’d made friends. “Last year was my first time away from home and I was scared, too. But it’s really fun here, I promise. And you already have one friend.” Delaney smiled, hoping that it’d be contagious and Mikah would start to feel better. But Mikah still looked sad. “I’m not scared, really, I’m worried my dog will forget me. And then when I go home, he won’t know who I am.” Delaney watched new tears bubble up in Mikah’s eyes, and knew just what to do. “Come with me,” she said, pulling Mikah off the bed and out of the cabin. They passed the main building, which housed the dining room, and doubled as the arts and crafts room when it wasn’t meal time. Delicious smells bubbled up and out, teasing them. “Wait right here,” Delaney said, sitting Mikah on the big rock that was called The Meeting Spot. It was in the center of camp and painted every color imaginable. Delaney made her way into the dining
“I’m not scared, really. I’m worried my dog will forget me. And when I go home, he won’t know who I am.”
room, squeezing her way through people so she could pile her tray with two burgers, french fries and two milk cartons – one chocolate and one plain – she wasn’t sure what Mikah would like. She spotted a table of familiar faces from the summer before and waved to them before heading back outside to The Meeting Spot. Mikah’s cheeks no longer glistened with tears. She still didn’t look happy to be there, but she also didn’t look like she’d burst into tears again, so Delaney considered it progress. “Come on,” Delaney said and started leading the way down the hill toward the lake. “I want to show you my favorite spot.” Mikah trudged along behind Delaney, past the boys’ cabins, to the water’s edge. They stepped out onto the wooden dock and walked to the end. Delaney sat and placed the tray of food between them. “Do you want regular milk or chocolate? I wasn’t sure what you like.” “Regular, thanks.” Delaney handed the milk carton to Mikah, thankful that she’d ended up with the chocolate since it was her favorite. They listened to the water lapping at the dock and ate in silence for a while. The wind whispered softly through the trees at the water’s edge, tickling Delaney’s bare legs on
its way across the lake. Delaney took a big bite of her burger, maybe too big, and a piece of gooey cheese oozed out of the bun and stuck to her bottom lip. She could feel it there, clinging, threatening to fall off and land in her lap. She scrunched up her face, trying to get the cheese with her tongue, and when that didn’t work, she tilted sideways, hoping that would work. Mikah started to giggle. “I’m going to get it!” Delaney insisted, her tongue waggling and wiggling until finally it latched onto the cheese and devoured it. “Why is this your favorite spot?” Mikah asked as she crunched away on a fry. “Because of the sun. It rises over there,” Delaney pointed to one end of the lake, “And it sets over there.” She pointed to the far end where the sun was already beginning to hide behind the trees. Above them, the sky was turning shades of peach and orange and pink. “It looks like sherbet,” Mikah said. “I love sherbet!” Delaney agreed as she took another, less messy bite of her burger. “My mom puts it in a glass with Sprite and it’s so good and the bubbles tickle your nose.” Delaney was afraid that thinking of home would make Mikah sad again, but Mikah was smiling a tiny bit. “Usually after dinner there’s ice cream in the dining room. It’s usually just chocolate or vanilla, but it’s still really good. And then at the end of the week, there’s a big bonfire and they let us make s’mores,” Delaney explained, getting excited at the thought of sticky, melted marshmallow. She looked out at the floating dock out in the lake. The water around it was splashed with sunset colors, which made it impossible to see what was below, and that somehow made it scarier to Delaney. But, she’d told herself that this would be the year she’d swim out to it. “This summer, even though I’m kind of afraid to do it, I’m going to try and swim out to that,” she said, pointing.
Delaney was afraid that thinking of home again would make Mikah sad again, but Mikah was smiling a tiny bit.
Mikah looked out at the floating dock and back at Delaney. “I can swim with you if you want, then it won’t be so scary,” Mikah offered. “Really?” Delaney was surprised. Delaney hadn’t thought about it, but the idea of swimming that distance with someone made it seem not scary at all. “Sure. I’m a pretty good swimmer.” “Cool!” Delaney finished her burger and balled up the wrapper. “We should head back to the cabin because the first night is pretty fun,” Delaney explained. “We do lots of games to get to know everyone and it gets kind of silly.” “OK!” Mikah agreed. They stood up and headed back towards camp. Delaney had a feeling that there wouldn’t be any more tears, and that it would be fun week ahead of them, in which anything was possible.