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!

Girls' World - - Fiction - BY STEPHANIE BLACK­BURN

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.

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