The sun was low on the horizon when the beat up van pulled into the driveway of the enormous cottage. It looked so out of place, a long white van, covered in dirt, scratched and dented from years of hard use. Sitting in the driveway of the grand, manor-like cottage, it looked even more beat up than usual. As the sounds of the engine died down, silence reigned. Suddenly, the sounds of at least half a dozen girls squealing in delight pierced the calm air, followed by the sound of more than one boy telling them to shut up.
The doors on either sides of the van opened and twelve young adults poured out. Two boys went around to the back and took a large motorized wheelchair out of the back and lifted a third boy out of the van and into the chair.
“There! All set!” said one girl, a short redhead with an air of command about her.
“Well, if you all help bring the bags inside, we can get settled in” A taller blonde boy with a charmingly innocent face observed, putting action to his words by grabbing a number of things out of the trunk and trudging up the steps. His friends followed suit, and soon they were all inside.
They were sitting around in the living room, looking tired and sweaty, when one girl suddenly sat up, and scanned their faces, as if looking for someone.
“Rob and Evie haven’t arrived” she stated, sounding shocked.
“You just realized this now, Laila?” A short dark skinned boy in glasses laughed.
“No, but I still thought they would be here by now. Where are they? Gavin, stop laughing! I did realize they weren’t here, I just didn’t feel the need to comment on it until now!” Laila exclaimed indignantly.
“They’re probably stuck in traffic, or it’s taking them longer to get groceries than they thought.” A slight girl with long brown hair said hesitantly.
“Sure they are” A girl with short blonde hair a glasses snorted from beside the slight brunette. “More likely they realized that the darkened parking behind the IGA is ideal for making out. We should probably call them to remind them of the world outside, before the ice cream melts from the heat.”
“Jenn’s right” A very tall boy with curly brown hair stood up and picked up the phone. He started to dial, and then stopped and handed the phone to the slight brunette. “Katie should do the honours, since she’s so optimistic about their tardiness”
Katie took the phone, and stuck her tongue out at the tall boy “Martin, you are so mean. What’s the number?”
Rob Lake was working his way down his girlfriend’s neck when he was interrupted by the annoying sound of a cell phone. He sighed and moved back to his own seat, while his girlfriend, Evie, rummaged around in her purse.
“Hello? Oh, hi Katie! Yeah, we’re in the parking lot of the IGA. What? Uh...no, we were just, um” Rob watched the blush creep down her neck. “Um, yeah, we were just leaving. We’ll see you in 10 minutes. Bye!”
She turned to him, and seeing the dejected look on his face, put her hand up and stroked his cheek “Sorry, but we should have left. It’s not fair to them and the ice cream is probably melting” She continued in a more seductive tone “Besides, there aren’t enough beds for all of us, so we’ll have to share. And I checked out the bedrooms when Sam and I came up to see if it was suitable, and there’s one, way at the back, that is completely sound proofed from the rest of the cottage, and Sam promised me we could have it.” She looked up at him from lowered lashes. He turned on the car, and had accelerated out of the parking lot before she had even turned around.
“Anna, have you seen my toothbrush?” Jenn wandered down the hall to her room. On one of the two beds the room contained, a statuesque brunette was reading a book, looking up just long enough to stare pointedly at the offending object sticking of Jenn’s suitcase.
“Oh. Thanks!” Jenn ran back out. Anna sighed and went back to her book.
Once Jenn reached the bathroom, she was surprised to find it locked. She rattled the door knob in consternation.
“Hey!” Came a voice from inside. “A locked door means in use! I’ll be out in a sec!”
“Ugghh! Gavin, I need the bathroom! All my stuff is in there! Hey! This is the girls’ bathroom, what are you doing in it?”
“Drew is hogging our bathroom, says he needs time to fix his hair. He’s been in there since he got up, almost an hour ago” Came the reply
Frustrated, Jenn stalked down the hall to the bathroom they had all designated the night before as the ‘guys’ bathroom’, and knocked furiously on the door. It opened and the tousled head of the blonde boy with the charmingly innocent face appeared.
“Drew! Your hair looks fine! Now get out of there!” Jenn yelled “Other people need to use the bathroom!”
“This isn’t your bathroom, why do you care?” Drew replied, unperturbed. “All the other guys are downstairs, so it doesn’t matter if I’m in here.”
“All the boys, but one! Gavin is now in our bathroom, because you’ve been in here for almost an hour! Go downstairs!”
“Alright,” He sighed “Oh, wait, Katie is making breakfast this morning right? Woo, I’d better get down there before all the food is gone!” And with that, he grabbed his rather large toiletries bag, threw it in his room in passing and thundered down the stairs, yelling “Leave some for me!”
Jenn sighed and followed him, deciding she could do her morning toilette after breakfast. Besides, she didn’t want to miss Katie’s cooking either.
The scene that greeted her was sheer chaos. Nine young adults clustered around the enormous table in the center of the kitchen, while Katie and Kyle were apparently making pancakes at the stove. Martin, Drew and Laila were all fighting over what looked like the last blueberry pancake, while Audrey, the redhead with the commanding air looked on, exasperated. Evie was trying to feed Rob a crepe filled with whipped cream, but every time she tried to spear it, the whipped cream squirted out. Across the table from them, a girl with wavy brown hair and the blonde boy in the wheelchair were laughing at her efforts. Jenn went and sat down next to the latter two.
“How long have she been trying this?” she asked, referring to Evie’s sorry attempts at feeding her boyfriend.
“I don’t know, she been trying to spear that specific piece for about three minutes, but it’s not the first. I’d say she been trying on the whole for about fifteen or twenty minutes, right Charlie?” The wavy haired girl replied, looking at the boy next to her.
“Yeah, I’d say closer to twenty than fifteen. Rob is being very patient with her, even when she managed to squirt the whipped cream all the way of the plate down his shirt. It was really funny!” Charlie started laughing again, which started Sam off too. Jenn looked at Rob and Evie, who had just succeeded in spearing the crepe, and back at Sam and Charlie, shook her head and got up to see if she could help Katie.
“Need any help?” she asked, trying to steal some blueberries without Katie noticing.
“Stop that! We need those!” Katie swatted Jenn’s hand away. “Um, no, I don’t think we need any help. I think we have it under control.” She looked over her shoulder at the table and changed her mind. “Kyle? Can you make two more blueberry pancakes for whoever loses the wrestling contest? Jenn, there’s something you can do! Please break them up before they break something. We’ll lose our security deposit.”
Jenn ran over just as Drew’s elbow knocked the plate off the table. She caught it in mid air and put in back. She glared at all three of them, and they had the decency to look guilty.
“Kyle is making more blueberry pancakes for all of you, so settle down! You don’t want to face Katie’s wrath if you break something and we lose the security deposit! Drew, since you were so reckless with the plate, you get the pummelled pancake”
Laila and Martin looked smug. A moment later, the expressions was wiped of their faces as Kyle brought a plate over with two steaming blueberry waffles on it- each about a third of the size of the one that had just disappeared into Drew’s mouth. Kyle leaned over and whispered in Jenn’s ear. “Serves them right. It was the two of them that started this. Drew was goaded into it later.”
Jenn laughed and whispered back “Nice. I would have punished them by making them cook lunch, but that would probably be worse on the rest of us.” They both laughed.
“Where’s Anna?” Kyle asked “I haven’t seen her all morning”
“Oh, neither pancakes nor blueberries are her thing” Jenn replied “She’s reading a book in our room.”
“Silly girl! Um, Anna will be down later right? We were planning on…” He trailed off
“What?” Jenn was curious.
“Never mind, you’ll see later” With that, Kyle went back to Katie at the stove.
Jenn sighed. If there were two things she didn’t like, they were not being in on a joke and waiting.
The fifteen young adults spent their first days at the cottage lazily, lounging around, not really doing much. They were spending a summer away from it all before entering their first year on university in the fall. A few of them had had the bright idea to rent a large cottage in the country where they could all relax together and have fun, without having to worry about school or parents or anything. They looked at a couple of cottages and found one out in Southern Ontario that had enough rooms, was wheelchair accessible, and was remote enough to suit their needs. And now here they were, enjoying their first real vacation as adults, free from all constraints.
“Let go of me! Oh God! I need to breathe! Help!” Jenn was being mercilessly tickled by Sam and Gavin, rolling around on the grass in an attempt to escape. “Oh God! Please stop! I can’t take it anymore!” Sam and Gavin stopped and flopped down on grass next to her. As Jenn got her breath back, they lay there, staring at the clouds. Suddenly a shadow fell over them. They looked up to see Laila standing over them.
“Anna and I are going into the woods to explore. Do any of you want to come?” She asked “I think Katie and Evie are coming too, but I’m not sure”
Gavin and Sam looked at each other over Jenn, then, as one, started tickling her again. “Nope, we’re good” Gavin replied over Jenn’s shrieks of laughter.
The four young women walked slowly through the forest, pointing out interesting plants and animals to their companions as they passed. Anna kept swatting her hands around her face and muttering things under her breath at the bugs, which her companions weren’t sure they wanted to hear. They came across a small stream running through the woods. Evie immediately took off her shoes and dangled her toes in the water. After seeing the look of bliss on her face as the cool water soothed her feet, the other three quickly followed suit. All four sighed and relaxed against the bank, closing their eyes.
“This is wonderful” Katie sat up and looked around at their surroundings “Sitting in the woods, enjoying nature. No sounds but the birds and the babbling of the brook. Everything around us is bright and colourful with life and vibrancy. It doesn’t get any better than this”
“I agree, and look!” Laila pointed across the meadow that made the other bank of the stream, where a fox was cautiously making its way into the open. They all watched in wonder “It’s just perfect” Laila continued after the fox was out of sight. Katie and Evie nodded in agreement. Anna just snorted.
“It would be better without the bugs” The other three shook their heads. They were all silent for a while.
“Invigorating” Evie mumbled to no one in particular “Invigorating, but very cold. I think I’m going to put my shoes back on” She got up and did just that. After no one else moved a muscle, she announced she was continuing her explorations, and walked off.
She walked slowly through the brush, not really paying attention to where she was going, but keeping track of where she was in relation to the others at all times. She was lost in thought when her foot caught on a hidden root and she tripped, falling forward. She managed to get her hands up in time to break her fall, but was stunned none the less. She groaned and opened her eyes. She was shocked to see the truck of a tree right in front of her. She was sure that the path in front of her had been clear as she fell. She stared at the truck in wonderment. Her eyes were drawn to a large stand of mushrooms growing at the base of the tree, and she was suddenly aware of her own hunger. She decided to pick the mushrooms, which she recognized as being edible, and take them back to her companions. She gathered them up in her hands and turned back the way she had come.
When she arrived back at where she had left the others, she found them dozing with their feet still in the water. They stirred and sat up as she approached.
“Look guys!” she called “I’ve brought lunch!”
“Oh! I was just thinking how hungry I was!” piped up Katie.
Anna snorted “You’re always hungry, Katie!”
All four girls leaned in and started eating the mushrooms.
“These are really good!” Laila exclaimed “Evie, where did you get them?”
“Oh, I found them at the base of a tree.” Evie replied “It was funny though. I would never have seen them if I hadn’t tripped and fallen. It was like they appeared out of nowhere.”
“Maybe they did. Maybe they’re magic mushrooms” Anna laughed
“Well, magic mushrooms or not, a full stomach is making me tired” Katie replied, yawning “We’re not expected back until dinner, right?”
“Right. We’re fine to have a nap here if we want to” Anna answered through a yawn of her own. Turning, she realized Katie and Evie were already settling down on the ground, with their sweatshirts as pillows. She hurriedly followed their example. As she lay down, she has the strangest feeling that her clothes were turning into a big blanket, enveloping her. She also got the impression that Katie and Evie, who she could see from under half closed lids, were getting smaller. But she reasoned, it was all just an illusion brought on by fatigue. Her last thought before she closed her eyes and slept was “I hope the bugs don’t eat me while I’m asleep”.