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Mosquito Lake

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Chapter 2

Summer was slowly turning into fall. The leaves were changing their bright colors of amber, auburn, and crimson, turning brown and gliding to the ground.

The weekends left to camp out before winter were few. School would be starting soon.

Growing bored, McKenna turned and searched her backpack for her phone. She popped in her earbuds, tapped the Spotify app, leaned her head back and closed her eyes. The gentle rocking of the van lulled her into a light sleep.

It only seemed like minutes before her father tapped her on the shoulder.

“We’re here, sleepyhead,” he said. “Time to wake up. There’s lots to do.”

She yawned and rubbed the sleep from her eyes. Her phone was still blasting the music through her earbuds, so she closed out the app and put her earbuds away. She crawled from the car.

The weekend of her seventeenth birthday had finally arrived and even though she’d be camping with her parents and under the watchful eye of her mother, McKenna was excited.

The food would be scrumptious, there would be games of volleyball and badminton, and the slowly lapping waves of Mosquito Lake would hypnotize her as she lay on the beach.

But not swimming. McKenna didn’t swim.

She turned from the window of the camper and searched her backpack for her phone. She popped in her earbuds, tapped the Spotify app, leaned her head back and closed her eyes. The gentle rocking of the van lulled her into a light sleep.

It seemed only minutes before her father tapped her on the shoulder.

“We’re here, sleepyhead,” he said. “Time to wake up. There’s lots to do.”

She yawned, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. Her cell was still blasting music through her earbuds, so she closed the app and put her earbuds away and crawled from the camper.

The day was warm and muggy, the temperature reaching eighty-five degrees, warm for August, but not for Indian Summer. Earlier, McKenna piled her thick ginger hair on the top of her head, and even though she stood in the shade of the pavilion, the heat from the barbeque grill was already making her so hot she felt ill.

Some of her cousins had set up a volleyball net and were starting a game. Their laughter reached her, and she watched with envy as they batted the ball back and forth.

“McKenna.” Her mother’s voice interrupted her thoughts.

She dragged her eyes from the game. “Yes, Mother?”

“Stop daydreaming. I need your help.”

“I’m sorry, Mother. What do you need help with?”

Her mother sighed heavily. “I need help with everything.” She swept her arms wide. “Please, pull your head out of the clouds. This weekend is all for you. It is your birthday and your party.”

“Yes, it is my birthday,” she grumbled. “And my party.”

“And your birthday is tomorrow, not today, so it won’t kill you to help me.”

McKenna flipped open the latches on the coolers and threw open the lids. Grabbing the mustard and ketchup bottles, she yanked them from their icy bed and slammed them on the table.

Her mother turned around, her eyes blazing.

“Sorry,” McKenna muttered, shoving her hands back into the ice.

She wasn’t sorry and almost repeated the action when her eyes shifted once again to the volleyball game. She wished she could be out there playing, not working like a dog on her birthday.

A sudden movement beyond the game drew her attention, and she shielded her eyes. Stepping farther away from the pavilion, she squinted against the sun. For a moment, McKenna thought she saw someone watching them from the clearing. But it could have been the swaying of the tree branches in the wind.

“McKenna, what are you doing?”

McKenna spun around and dropped her hand. “I thought I saw. . .”

“Saw what?” Her mother pushed a strand of hair off her forehead.

“. . . someone.”

“I’m sure there are a lot of someone’s here.”

“That’s not what I meant.” She pointed toward the clearing. “I saw someone over there.”

“Well, if someone were there, that someone is not there now. So, stop stalling and help me.”

By the time McKenna could sit down to her plate, she was hot, sticky, and dog-tired. Unable to eat a bite, she rose on weary legs and tossed her plate into the trash.

Night was falling, and with it, the temperature, and a gentle wind drifted in from the lake. She left her party behind and strolled in lazy steps to the beach. Tugging at her hair clip, she shook her head, letting her hair cascade down her back. She kicked off her sandals and stood for a moment on the shore, enjoying the breeze as it swept through her clothes. Then she plopped down on the sand.

A sudden shadow fell across her lap. Startled, she raised her head.

“Company?” her father asked. He wore his favorite khaki shorts and polo shirt, and white socks with his sandals. She hated when he wore socks with his sandals. It looked stupid.

She patted the ground beside her.

Grunting, he dropped on the sand and adjusted his glasses. “Having a nice time, Kenna?”

Should she say no that she was exhausted? Should she tell him she never wanted to see another birthday like this one? What would he say if she told him she would have had a better time staying home with her grandparents?

“Yes, I am.”

“Liar.” He chuckled.


“You’ve been your mother’s slave ever since we arrived.”

She shrugged. “It’s no big deal.”

“It is. Try to find things to do away from her the rest of the weekend.”

“Yeah, that’ll go over well.”

“That’s my one and only suggestion, especially where your mother is concerned. Take it or leave it.”

“Thanks,” she said, turning back to the lake.

The moon peeked through the clouds and reflected on the water. McKenna wrapped her arms around her knees and rested her chin on them. “I love it here.”

“Me, too. It’s just too bad you’re so afraid of water.”

“I know. But I’m fine sitting here. Sometimes, I wish Grandma and Grandpa would come with us. They’d enjoy the sunshine and fresh air. How can they stand being in the house all the time?”

Her father didn’t answer.

“Maybe Grandma and Grandpa . . .”

“I heard you,” he said sharply, then softened his tone. “Don’t worry about them. Enjoy yourself.”

“I’m sorry, Dad, I didn’t mean . . .”

He reached out and patted her on the knee. “It’s fine, Kenna.”

“So,” she smiled at him, “are you enjoying yourself, Dad?”

“Of course, I am.” He laughed. “I have lots of memories. Your mom and I had a brief honeymoon here.”


“Yep, here at good old Mosquito Lake.” He glanced at her. “We couldn’t afford anything else.”

“You never told me.”

He didn’t answer. When McKenna looked at him, he was gazing at the water.

She nudged him with her elbow.

He gave a slight shake of his head. “Hm?”

“You never told me that.”

“Told you what?”

McKenna gave up. “Not important.” However, there was something else weighing on her. “Did Mom not want me when I was born?”

He turned to face her, reached out to take her hands, but stopped and let his hands fall into his lap. “Listen to me. When your mother brought you home from the hospital, she could barely contain her happiness. All she ever thought she wanted was a child of her own to love.”

“All she ever thought she wanted. What changed? What made her hate me?”

Her father slowly shook his head at her statement. “Oh, honey, she doesn’t hate you.”

“Are you sure? Because she sure acts like it.”

“I promise.” He wiggled his little finger at her. “Pinky swear.”

“Oh, Dad. Really?”


McKenna wrapped her little finger around his. “Pinky swear.”

A shadow fell across them. Her father glanced up, his lips curving into a smile.

“So, this is where the two of you ran off to.” Her mother sat down on the sand next to him.

He wrapped an arm around her. “Tired?” he asked as she leaned her head on his shoulder.

“Completely exhausted,” she said. “I almost wish we hadn’t planned this. It’s going to be a long weekend.”

“But it’s worth it.” He gave McKenna a wink. “We’ve never been able to afford something like this before.”

McKenna waited for her mother to agree. But her mother didn’t.

“I’m going to bed,” she said instead. “I have no help and I have to make breakfast for this group. No one has offered.”

McKenna wanted to say, but what about me? I helped. Instead, she said, “If you wake me, I can help you some more.”

“Oh.” Her mother snapped her fingers. “That reminds me. You have company coming in. You might want to greet them.”


“Yes, your party crashers. The usual gang. You know who they are.”

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