Chapter 1: A Breath of Fresh Air
Nikki sat in her seat, squirming down so that she was more comfortable. The car drove on, the blurs of the outside world whizzing by. She could see mostly trees, tall in nature and giving shade to unknowing squirrels who hastily ran around in search of food. The entire cycle swam its way through Nikki's head, clogging her thoughts and fogging her mind.
"Excited?" Her mother asked from the steering wheel, quicjly glancing back to make sure her daughter was okay.
"A little. I'm still pretty tired from my nap, though, so it might take me a while," she said, yawning at the thought. Her mother only chuckled warmly.
"You must be sleepy, because you don't even realize how close we are."
"No, to Alaska." Nikki smiled at the remark, rolling her eyes and peering out of the window once more. Blurry trees had changed to less blurry trees, and Nikki could actually make out the dirt road they bumped and banged on. The car had slowed significantly, and Nikki's heartbeat quickened. They were finally here! She had been looking forward to this trip for months! A large sign confirmed her thoughts and spread a huge smile across her face. In white print the words stated,
"We're here!" Nikki exclaimed.
"I told you so, now you're excited!" Her mother grinned from the drivers seat. She pulled into a parking spot among several other vehicles that were already parked with both kids and adults filing out of them. Nikki noticed that all of the kids were her age, and a rush of adrenaline ran through her. Making new friends was always a thrill to her, and this was no exception.
"Just think hon, one of these people could very well end up becoming your greatest friend in the world. Why, you could be together for the rest of your life!"
"Mom! That's maybe a little too optimistic..." But on the inside, Nikki hoped the exact same. Nikki's mother hummed to herself, ignoring her comment and getting out of the car, Nikki following suit. They went to the trunk and pulled out a large, very full duffel bag, and a small backpack that contained everything a girl could need for a week at camp; clothes, a flashlight, a s'more kit, tampons, she was all set!
"Do you have your pillow?" Her mother clarified worriedly.
"Toothbrush? Please tell me you brought deodorant..." These questions followed for the entire walk down to the sign-in area, where a fairly long line had already formed.
"Tampons?" she whispered that one, as to not embarrass her, but Nikki blushed anyway.
"Mom!" She tucked a strand of long, nutmeg hair behind her ear. "Yes," she muttered after a second.
"Um..." A squeaky voice shyly announced itself behind us. "H-Hello! It looks like we're, um, in the same cabin..." Her curtain of ivory hair hid her shallow, pointy face. The girl was quite short, significantly more than Nikki, and twiddled her thumbs as she spoke. At first, Nikki thought that she had to be years younger than her, but a quick reminder from her brain told her that everyone at this camp was in between fifteen and seventeen years old.
"Oh, hi. I'm Nikki. Nikki Abergrone." She held out a hand to shake. The girl hesitantly shook her hand. Nikki uncomfortably noted that her hands were freezing, not to mention tiny in comparison to hers.
"Jenna," The petite girl said quietly, a faint smile caressing her lips.
"Next, please!" A woman's stern voice ordered. Nikki mouthed a quick 'bye' and quickly caught up with her mother at the sign-in desk.
"And you are...?" She scrolled through a large file of papers.
"Abergorne. Nikki Abergorne. I'm her mother, Felicia." Her mother answered for her. The woman looked up from her massive paper pile and shook her mother's hand. "Pleasure to make your acquaintance. Aren't you...?"
"Yes. I'd rather not have everyone know, if you may." The woman nodded, the magic of feminine understanding crossing her mind as she waved the comment away. "Not to worry, my dear, but I am a big fan. Though I won't pester you for anything, it's lovely to finally meet you." Nikki got a better look at the woman's features now that she had lifted her head from that ungodly stack of shredded trees.
Her baby blue eyes shined among the many wrinkles that covered her face. Though her wrinkles were definitely evident, she still had to only be in her forty's, for she still looked a little youthful. Her graying ebony hair was pulled into a tight bun with a loose strand of hair nowhere to be seen. Her dress was that of a nice maroon, which went from the collar of her neck to barely an inch from the ground. She definitely liked to keep herself covered. Nikki forced some stereotypical thoughts about religion out of her head. She had popped in a pansy, perhaps from a nearby garden, in her breast pocket, and gave an official look to all that surrounded her. You could place her beside a shabby, ill-dressed person and she could shine an aura of business across them.
"And who might you be?" Nikki's mother asked politely.
"I am Miss Constance Bloom, the head of this camp. Campers will know me by Madam, nothing more, nothing less, and it will be noted that I am one of very few staff members, so patience and respect will obviously be expected." She casted a wary eye upon Nikki, her glare turning icy.
"One of the only staff?" Her mother sounded surprised. "My, my, it must be difficult running things with such limited people!" Madam chuckled warmly, taking her hawk eye off of Nikki. Nikki breathed a sigh of relief, the tightness in her chest gone.
"Once you get into the swing of it it's not so bad. Ah, Nikki Abergorne. I have you checked in now, and I hope it will be a pleasure having you here. Next, please!" she called.
"Bye!" Nikki and her mother waved.
"Ooh, I'm just so excited for you!" Her mother squealed.
"That definitely makes one of us," Nikki grinned. Her mother rolled her eyes at her.
"I know you're excited on the inside. Now, I'll walk with you to your cabin, help get things set up, and then I'm gone. For an entire week!"
"Yep," she clarified.
"For a week!" Her mother repeated with the same amount of brisk enthusiasm.
"Mom, it'll be okay! I can even write you a letter if it makes a difference, they let you do that here."
"No!" She raised a hand directly in Nikki's face. "This is going to be a week of friendship building and life relationships! At least, I hope so. Anyway, I'll hear it all next Saturday morning."
"Alright, but don't complain when you miss me!" Nikki joked, unable to stop the smile. Her mother nudged her arm. "Come on, Nikki. Be kind to your mother." She giggled a little.
They made their way up a short forest path that led up to a wide circle of cabins. All of the cabins indeed circled each other, all of them looking the exact same except for one. Rather than the traditional log style cabin look, one cabin was painted white and had wooden planks instead of logs. There was a towering bell that stood beside it, and Nikki had the sudden inclination to jump and see if she could ring it. Though she knew that her dream of bell ringing would never quite happen, since the bell was another Nikki taller than she was.
"Which cabin are you in again? They all look the same..." Her mother squinted at the circle, shading the sun out of her eyes.
"I'm in the 'Eye of the Eagle' cabin. Weird names, don't you think?"
"Every camp has weird names to their cabin, I do think. Ah - here we are!" They stopped in front of a log cabin, a dusty sign reading Eye of the Eagle in a dark font. As Nikki and her mother stepped inside, Nikki was pleased to see that some of her cabin mates were already getting their beds ready. Upon their entry, all of them looked up to see who had entered. One of the girls who had already finished setting up her bed jumped down from the top bunk and bounced over to them.
"Heya!" she said. "I'm Britney!" Her blonde curls bounced with her body, swirling around soft, hazel eyes that stared right through Nikki.
"Hi," Nikki said nervously. "I'm Nikki." They shook hands as Britney gave her a once over. She cocked her head to the side curiously, but whatever she thought of, she must have shaken it off, for the look vanished and a wide grin appeared again.
"Make yourself at home. There's the bunk underneath mine, and the top over there available, and just so you know we're in tight cahoots so don't let anyone hate you. Other than that, I hope you're just as excited as I am!" Nikki saw a slight bit of her red lipstick had made a dot on one of her front teeth. She said nothing about this. Britney's batting eyelashes barely supported a fine layer of violet eye-shadow and ebony eyeliner. Something about her appearance told Nikki that this girl wasn't all that prepared for the nitty gritty that came with camping.
She looked to the top bunk on the other side of the room.
"I think I'll take that one," she said, slowly making her way over to the bunk. Her mother had said nothing thus far, but still seemed to be enjoying herself. Nikki took out her blankets, beginning to tuck in her thin sheets and then covering the entire thing with the best part of the bed - a big, warm, fuzzy blanket. Nikki swore that this thing could save her in a blizzard. Who needs real protective wear when you had a blanket home! Nikki reached into her duffel bag one more time, and grabbed something very familiar. She removed it slowly, making sure that no soul (except her mom) would see her holding such a thing.
It was an old stuffed animal, a beanie baby monkey that had a kind face which calmed her down in any situation. A week without Baby Monkey was a week faced with horror, so she couldn't help but bring him. Nikki hid the monkey under her pillow, silently apologizing for suffocating him for a few hours until she would be able to cuddle with him again.
"I think I'm finished, then." Nikki said matter-of-factly.
"Well, then perhaps we should say goodbye." She motioned to go outside. Nikki smiled, knowing that she wouldn't want to embarrass her in front of new people. They stepped outside, and as soon as they were out of sight, her mother enveloped Nikki in a tight embrace.
"I'll miss you," she said, squeezing her daughter tightly. Nikki hugged her back.
"I'll miss you, too."
They broke apart, her mother wiping her eyes and smiling. As they did so, the huge bell over by the white cabin rang out with a clear, echoing sound. Other people broke from their cabins, eagerly running towards the white cabin.
"Looks like I"ll be taking my leave, then. Go on! Have fun and make some new friends. I love you." She kissed Nikki's forehead.
"I love you, too!" Nikki waved goodbye, beginning to run to the cabin with the other people she saw flocking towards it. Her mother slowly vanished from view, and Nikki turned to the white cabin that came closer and closer, where Madam stood on the porch, accompanied by about five other people. Nikki was stuck on the excitement that fluttered inside of her chest like a butterfly trying to get out of its cage, ecstatic for what the week would bring.