The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland(4)

By: Rebekah Crane

“Camp Padua has seven distinct areas. The boys’ quarters, the girls’ quarters, the mess hall, the beach, the archery field, the stables, and most importantly—the Circle of Hope.” Madison gave me a tour when I’d arrived. She directed me across campus pointing this way and that. “Lots of options. It should be a lot of fun this summer, too. Not all . . .” She paused and looked at me. “Business. What are you into?”

I didn’t know what to say.

“You know, what’s your thing?” Madison asked again with a smile.

I didn’t respond and, after a while, Madison gave up on waiting for an answer. The truth is, I don’t have a thing. Life is better that way.

“Girls must stay in the girls’ quarters and boys in the boys’. The summer may not be all business, but we don’t want any funny business either,” Madison said, nudging my side.

“I have a boyfriend,” I said.

Madison perked up. “You do? That’s great. I remember my high school boyfriend. First love is so exciting.”

“We don’t love each other,” I said. “He just likes my boobs.”

We moved on from the subject.

She pointed out the mess hall and the paths that lead back to the stables. We finally got to the archery field and the Circle of Hope, which, it turns out, would be called a fire pit at any other place. Then she took me down to the lake.

“This is Lake Kimball. We ask that all campers refrain from going into the lake until the swim test is administered. We don’t want any accidents.” Madison looked at me. “And wear sunscreen. You’re like me. It only takes about five minutes in the sun to cook us through.”

I nodded. My mom likes to think I take after her Native American side with my black hair and almond eyes, but my skin would prove otherwise. Madison is right. I turn bright red if exposed to the sun for too long, a trait from my dad. But she’s wrong about everything else. I am nothing like her.

Just the thought of cold water brings my body temperature down. The camp may not be in India, but you wouldn’t know that by the humidity. Presently my hair is stuck to my neck, and I can feel sweat running down my back.

I take a detour on my walk to the Circle of Hope and head toward the lake. Trees speckle the entire grounds of Camp Padua. My dad pointed out how green everything is when he dropped me off. We drove through the gates of Camp Padua and he said, “Everything is just so alive here.”

I nodded but didn’t respond. I was too focused on the tall wire fence that lines the camp property. Green branches and bushes pushed out through the holes in the chain links.

When I asked why fencing surrounded the camp, he said, “To make sure everyone stays safe.”

“Safe,” I said quietly. My dad and I both know that no matter how hard you try, it’s impossible to keep a person completely safe. Even when you ship them across the country to Michigan for the summer.

The staircase to the beach is just past the big wooden mess hall that separates the girls’ side from the boys’ side of camp. There’s not a single ripple on the lake. I wipe a bead of sweat from my cheek.

Most campers are still attached to their parents, saying their good-byes. Once my dad checked me in at the admissions office, he bolted. “I have to get back to the airport if I’m going to make my flight,” he said, and kissed me on the cheek. I didn’t mind. A good-bye is a good-bye whether it’s a long one or not.

Down at the lake, I take off my old, beat-up tennis shoes and socks and dip my feet in the water. The sand is squishy between my toes, like slime, but it’s cold. A chill runs up my feet to my legs to my waist to the top of my head, and I stop sweating almost instantly.

I step in farther so the water comes up to my knees. I can’t see my feet at the bottom; the water is too murky and full of lake weed. A person could get lost underneath it and just . . . disappear.

I close my eyes and imagine sinking through the layers of cold slime to the bottom. Like drowning in one of my mom’s thick spinach smoothies. My knees bend closer to the water as I take another step. There’s nothingness down at my feet—vast, empty space where a person could just let go. The pressure of feeling and then feeling nothing doesn’t exist. Just darkness does. I know that place. I’ve been there before.

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