It was a year after the funerals, two years after the party, and a week before Winter Break. I was a senior in high school and eighteen years old. I couldn’t wait to graduate in June. Life seemed to be going well.
It was on a Saturday afternoon rich with blowing snow and howling winds, that my parents decided to talk with me about Winter Break. I was up in my room, working on a book I was trying to write. I had been working on it for about six months, but couldn’t get very far. I had some strong images and scenes that would not leave my head. I knew it was about a girl who dreamt often and vividly of a girl who looked exactly like her, yet it was not her. Nor was it her long-lost identical twin, or the likes. I also knew I would title it Stranger is Me if I ever got around to finishing it.
I was summoned downstairs by my mother. She needed to have A Talk with me. I honestly thought it would be about studying, grades or some other grueling topic.
Instead, I got a wonderful surprise. They had decided to ®go away for Winter Break. My dad’s boss had informed him that he needed to go to Chicago on business, and since my mom loves that city, she decided to go along. It was short notice, they said, and hoped I wouldn’t mind.
Mind? Mind a week of freedom? Hell no! My mind began to wander as to all the things I could do with a week to myself. I could throw a party. I could work a lot more on my book. The possibilities seemed endless.
Then they dropped the bombshell. Mom and Dad didn’t want me staying home all alone for an entire week, especially considering how far away and unreachable they would be. I would have to find someone to stay with. Just great. Just when I had begun to let my imagination run wild. Life works out in weird ways. Or should I say, strict parents make it so? Maybe they were afraid I’d kill myself with food poisoning if I ate the food I cooked for an entire week.
I didn’t have a clue as to who I should stay with. I told Jill of my predicament the following day in school, as we were walking to lunch.
“I’d ask you to stay with me,” Jill said, “but unfortunately my Aunt Laura and her daughter, Beth, are coming from England and staying over for the week. It will be a madhouse already, with my three brothers and all. I’m sorry. Maybe you could stay with Eve.”
“Eve’s mother hates me. I doubt very much that she’d let me stay for an entire week. She thinks I corrupt her perfect daughter.” I laughed, but really it was not funny. Things weren’t looking too good for finding anywhere to stay.
“We-ell, you could always ask Justin if you could stay with him.” She grinned. I must have given her a look that told her I thought she was out of mind, which I did, for she replied, “No, Andi, I’m serious! Think about it. The two of you could share a room or . . .” I cut her off with another incredulous look, this one edged with annoyance.
“That’s not even funny,” I protested. “Besides, who would want to spend an entire week with my ugly face?” I was in the habit of putting myself down and being cruel to myself. It was wonderful fun.
“I wouldn’t mind,” a voice said from behind me. I whirled around to see Justin smiling at me. My face flushed a scarlet red. He must have heard the entire conversation!
He continued. “I didn’t mean to be eavesdropping, well not really, anyway. It’s just that I heard about your dilemma and I might have a solution. My family owns a cabin in upstate New York. I was planning to take a trip there this vacation. You’re welcome to come.” He turned to Jill, “As are you and Eve. In fact bring Karl and Don, too. The cabin holds ten people so there should be no problem. I wasn’t honestly looking forward to spending a week up there all alone.” Were my ears playing a sick, cruel joke on me or had Justin really just said that?
“Are you serious?” Jill exclaimed. “You don’t know how annoying Beth is, and I’m supposed to share a room with the five-year-old brat. If I can go, then you are a real lifesaver, Justin.”
“I am serious; will you come?” It was probably my imagination but it seemed as though the question were more directed towards me than towards Jill. “Yes, I’d love to,” I managed to say, wondering again what cruel jokes destiny had up her sleeve.
“I just have one question,” Jill said. “Are you sure that it’s all right if I bring Karl?”
“It’s fine,” Justin said. “And Andi, if you have someone you want to bring, that’s cool too.”
Damn it! It’s not supposed to be OK with him that I bring someone else! And I had thought maybe he liked me. I realized with clarity that Justin was not inviting us because he was passionately in love with me or anything, but just because he didn’t want to spend the week alone and he happened to hear of my situation. Not like I had really expected Justin to like me, anyway. I would not wish that torture on anyone.
“No, there’s no one.” I replied flatly.
“So, I guess it’s settled,” Justin concluded. “Why don’t we all check with our parents about this and get back to each other. And you guys can tell Eve, Karl and Don about it.” I decided it didn’t matter why Justin was offering, as long as I was going to spend a week with him. I could not really ask for more.
Then Justin turned and left, finding a separate table to sit at for lunch. I was sad to see him go, but I knew for sure he wasn’t walking out of my life forever, and that gave me a sense of happiness I was unaccustomed to. I could not wait for the trip.
Amazingly, all of our parents agreed. Mine took some persuading, as Eve’s did too. The fact that really bothered them both was that there would be no phone in the cabin, no way for the parents to contact their kids. But mine were going to be out of town anyway, and Eve reminded her mom of her many years of camping experience she’d had with Girl Scouts.
In the end, though, we were all permitted to go. We worked out the details. We would leave on Monday, at five in the afternoon. Justin was allowed to borrow his parents’ van, and so would be our personal chauffeur to the cabin and back. The ride would take about six hours, including stopping somewhere to eat dinner. We would leave early Saturday morning. It would be my dream vacation.
The only thing we really had to coordinate was the food. Justin decided to bring a toaster and microwave oven, informing us that there‚ was already a refrigerator and a stove at the cabin. Karl was assigned all the pots, pans and other things we would need for cooking. Eve chose to bring all the utensils, plates, napkins, cups and all that. I brought a cooler full of drinks and mixes for iced tea and hot chocolate. Don and Jill took care of buying and bringing all the actual food.
By Sunday night I was so excited I could barely contain myself. I was completely packed and ready to go. My parents left early Monday morning. It seemed the longest day of my life, waiting for five o’ clock to roll around.
About an hour before leaving, I threw in the work I had for Stranger is Me into my bag on the spur of the moment. I might get some work done on my book, and if not I could write down about my heavenly vacation in the notebook. The world seemed so perfect that I knew it could not last.
Another installment of Affinity for Darkness, a novel I wrote in the winter of my junior year of high school. To read from the beginning:
- Affinity for Darkness – Prologue
- Affinity for Darkness – Chapter One
- Affinity for Darkness – Chapter Two
- A Star is Born
- Josie – Sunshower Chapter One
- The Colors
- What Color is Your Eight?
- Night of Evils
- Paper Doll Delusions