WISH YOU WERE HERE
A YA Novel by Elle Welch
For as long as I could remember, I had wanted to go away to summer camp. My older sister, Rachel, was five years my senior and seemed to be allowed to do anything and everything that I wasn’t. I would sit on her floor watching as she would carefully fold her clothes and place them gingerly into her duffel bag. Denim shorts, halter tops, multiple swimsuits, and boxer shorts with baggy t-shirts were the lucky chosen items that got to go away with her. Even her flip flops got to go, but not me.
Every year it was the same routine. Rachel would find some incredible sounding far off place, fully equipped with not much more than a bed and a roof to cover her head, and my parents would write out a check. Next thing I knew, I was back on her floor, sulking while she opened and closed drawers, muttering to herself.
“Mom, where’s the sunscreen?” she hollered one year.
I had hidden it under my bed. It was my way of sticking it to her, I guess. Her punishment for being born years ahead of me and having the gall to happily board a plane that would whisk her off to somewhere, while I would remain behind, bored and alone.
I hope you get a terrible sunburn and you have to come home early!
“We’ll pick some up on the way to the airport,” my mom shouted from the other room.
Rachel nodded to herself and continued packing. I stomped out of her room, but she hardly noticed me. I bent over and took a quick peek under my bed. The sunscreen lotion sat between my stuffed monkey wearing a tuxedo and my box of Barbie clothes. Even if they stopped to buy some more before Rachel left, I still retained my satisfaction from having made them slightly inconvenienced at most.
I found that sunscreen bottle four years later when I was cleaning under my bed. You’d think I’d laugh at my childlike behavior. But as soon as I saw it, the same jealousy and anger came flooding back and I wore a smile of satisfaction for the rest of that day knowing it was still safely hidden away.
My mom would try to even things out by offering all types of day camps for me. Dance camps, sports camps, horse riding camps, and even space camp....I’d heard of them all. But I turned them all down because my mom never said the one thing I had really wanted. Sleepaway camp.
Finally, one year as I was preparing for yet another summer of lying around the house or walking down to our community pool, my mom stood in the doorway. Her face had an expression that reminded me of the time she had first tried sushi. Confused, unsure, but committed.
“Ry,” she said one afternoon. “You still want to go away to camp over the summer?”
I stared at her. Was this a joke?
“Okay, then. You can go away to camp, like your sister,” my mom said and I ran and hugged her, my arms stretched around her waist as I thanked her over and over again.
That summer and every summer thereafter, I would go away to camp. It was always somewhere new, always by myself. I loved visiting places I’d never been to and going somewhere where no one knew me. It was the chance to meet new friends, reinventing myself, and leaving the school year behind. I was carefree, adventurous, and naively excited.
But all of that changed the summer after I turned sixteen.