“Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen. This is the pre-boarding announcement for Delta flight 4823 to Lexington, Kentucky. At this time, we invite those passengers with small children, and any passengers requiring special assistance, to begin boarding. Please have your boarding pass and identification ready. Regular boarding will begin in approximately ten minutes time. Passenger, Allison Moon, would you please come to the flight attendant’s desk. Thank you.”
I stood up and grabbed my backpack and charger.
“Remember, your Aunt Sarah will meet you at the airport. You’ve got your debit card, right?”
I pulled it out of the very handy built-in pocket on my cell phone case.
“Good. Don’t be afraid to use it if you need anything. Just remember to keep track of everything you buy. Let me know if you need more.”
“Mom,” I stopped and smiled with a slight chuckle, “relax. I’ve done this before.”
She sighed, “I know, but I still hate putting you on a plane all by yourself. I read too many mystery books I guess.”
I laughed again, “Seriously, I’ll be fine. I’ll call you as soon as we touch down and I’ll text you when I get to Aunt Sarah.”
She smiled and gave me a hug, “I love you, Baby.”
“I love you too, Mom.”
We approached the desk and handed the lady our paperwork for me being an unaccompanied minor. This meant very simply that for the next couple of hours I would be watched like a hawk. I had to board first and was encouraged to sit towards the back of the plane so that flight attendants could keep a better eye on me. I’d also be the last one to leave the plane. From the time that I got off the plane to the time I was handed over to my Aunt Sarah, someone would always be with me. Today the lady who was in charge of me was a middle aged, dark skinned, Hispanic woman.
“Hi, my name is Lupe.”
We made quick introductions, including Lupe introducing herself to my mother, which, I think calmed her nerves a bit. Lupe was relieved to know that I’d done this countless times so her trek through the rules of being an unaccompanied minor was quick and painless. I turned to give my mom a final hug goodbye.
“Be good and have fun.”
I smiled brightly, “Of course I will! Carrie will be there!”
“Give your cousin a hug from me.”
I nodded and turned to leave, stopping just short of getting onto the bridge that led to the plane.
“Take care of Alex, please?”
“We will,” she nodded with a smile. “Now go!”
I settled into my window seat at the back of the plane. With my backpack safely stowed away underneath my seat, I removed a sketchbook and started adding details to a random drawing I had started a few days earlier. I was going to need a new book by the time I left camp. I had wanted to get a brand new one before I left, but things at the ranch were so hectic that none of us really had time to get into town before I had to leave.
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome aboard Delta Flight 4823 with service from Atlanta to Lexington, Kentucky. We are currently second in line for take-off and are expected to be in the air in approximately five minutes time. We ask that...”
I tuned out the rest of the announcements. I’d been on so many flights at this point that I could practically recite them, especially this flight. I started flying to Kentucky with my dad the summer after we moved to Georgia. He had to return to Kentucky for a few weeks for business. I was supposed to spend time with my cousin, but she was going to be at camp so they enrolled me at the camp as well. For the first few years my mom or dad always flew with me. By the time I was ten, my parents started letting me fly by myself as part of the unaccompanied minor program. Not only would this be the last year that I had to be an unaccompanied minor, but it was probably the last time I would be heading to Catchfly Acres.
Catchfly Acres as the large campground that I had been going to for years. It was located on a large peninsula that was in the middle of Cave Run Lake, about an hour and a half drive from the Blue Grass Airport in Lexington. There was just one road that led to the campground and it was protected by a security gate. It wasn’t a gate like you see on cheesy kids’ movies either. There weren’t any cliché logs posted up with some handmade arts and crafts signs. This was a solid brick wall, with a wrought iron gate. All you had to do was take one look at the security gate and you knew, Catchfly Acres wasn’t a place you came to unless you had money.
The thing you have to remember about Kentucky, especially the Lexington area, is that it’s horse country, and not just any type of horse. It’s racehorse country. Racing horses was an expensive business. Stud Fees for a stallion with a good record can average in the one hundred grand range, and if you get a horse like Galileo, an Irish Thoroughbred, you can get five to six times more than that. Considering that racehorses typically have very short careers, it means their owners are all the time looking for new horses. Racing families had money and status, so wherever they sent their kids to, it had to match their status.
Catchfly Acres lived up to the lofty status required of those in the horse racing industry, so the roads around the place were very well maintained. There were three main housing areas. Aristides Hall was located close to the gate. Named after the first ever Kentucky Derby Winner, it was a large multistory, coed dormitory for many of the newer campers. Lakeside Cabins were, as you can guess, right on the lake, though they didn’t have swimming access or any sort of dock. This is where most of the boys would be staying. Most of the girls would be housed in an area called Garden Cottages. They got their name because of the large flower garden that started just behind the cottages.
The Garden, as we called it, was a bit of a misnomer. There weren’t any fruits or vegetables, and there weren’t any flower beds. It was just a good-sized wildflower field located in the center of the campgrounds. This was also where Catchfly Acres got its name, from the Royal Catchfly wildflower that grew prolifically in The Garden. It was by far my favorite place in the entire campground. I loved to go out in the mornings or early afternoons, sit down on a blanket or a bench, and just watch the hummingbirds that came to drink. It was an absolutely breathtaking sight.
Catchfly Acres had just about everything you could think of, and way more than enough to keep teenagers busy for weeks. We had archery ranges, a large lake, a man-made beach, fishing, and even a small community theater. Since ninety percent of the campers came from horse families, we had horses. Whether you were a trail rider, a racer, or into the English disciplines, there were horses for you. In fact, outside of the western style things like barrels and broncs, we had it all.
“Ladies and gentlemen, as we start our descent, please make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position. Make sure your seat belt is securely fastened and all carry-on luggage is stowed underneath the seat in front of you or in the overhead bins. Thank you. Flight attendants, prepare for landing.”
I pulled the earbuds out of my ear, stopping the repeat of Adele’s album 19, one of my favorites. I looked down at the picture I’d been working on and smiled at it. It wasn’t quite finished, but I was more than happy with where it was. I tucked it away into my backpack and settled back into my seat to get ready to land.
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Blue Grass Airport in Lexington, Kentucky. Local time is 11:17 and the temperature is eighty-three degrees. For your safety...”
Once again, I tuned out the announcement and smiled as I thought about my Aunt Sarah who would be waiting for me. Sarah was actually my grandfather’s brother’s son’s daughter, which technically made me her cousin – I think. The whole thing really confused me, but I had grown up with everyone calling her “Aunt Sarah” so that’s what she was. Being over twenty years older than I was, she never gave me reason to question it. My cousin, Caroline Becker, was really the only cousin that was close to my age. Carrie, as we called her, was the opposite of me in just about every way. Whereas I was short, she was tall – almost as tall as Alex. She had dark chocolate hair that, last I saw her, was straight and thin and cut into a bob that stopped just below her chin with dark brown eyes. In fact, the only thing that we had in common was the same slender build. That gene seemed to be dominant among the women on my dad’s side of the family.
Lupe walked with me out of the terminal. She had made small talk with me throughout the flight and knew that I was coming to see family and go to camp. As soon as we got to the exit, Carrie spotted me and came running. She was at least six inches taller than me, but that was about the only thing that had really changed since I had last been to Kentucky.
“ALLIE!” I laughed as she nearly knocked me over.
“Carrie,” I was hugging her, but also using her to keep myself from falling, “you’re going to knock me over.”
“Oh,” she snickered, “sorry.”
Lupe checked Aunt Sarah’s ID before making sure I didn’t need anything else. When I told her no, she was gone.
“O-M-G! Allie, you are not going to believe everything they’ve done at Catchfly. It’s, like, completely different.”
I paused for a second, “They didn’t get rid of The Garden, did they?”
She shook her head, “No. They wanted to, but decided not to.”
I sighed with relief, “Good cause that’s my favorite thing about Catchfly. I love the hummingbirds.”
Aunt Sarah gave me a hug, “Okay, Allie, let’s get your bags and then go grab some lunch and then we’ll go back to the farm. You guys aren’t scheduled to check in until lunchtime tomorrow.”
I smiled, “Okay, but can we go to Gerald’s?”
They both laughed before Sarah nodded, “Of course.”
One last time at Gerald’s, the world’s greatest homestyle cooking. It wasn’t just that I felt like I was closing a chapter of my life. It was the end of an entire book. On the one hand, it was sad, but on the other hand, I had great memories, and at least three more weeks to make even more memories. I didn’t have time to be sad about it. I only had time to live in the moment.
As soon as we pulled up to the gates at Catchfly Acres, I fully understood what Carrie meant when she told me that they had completely overhauled the campground. Before we just had a small room barely big enough for two people. There was enough room for someone to give out a visitor pass, but that was about it. Now when you pulled up there was a large security room with what looked to be several rows of security cameras. The older gentleman who was just there to make sure we got our visitor pass had been replaced with an actual security crew who seemed to take their job rather seriously.
We immediately went to the main office, which had been torn down and completely rebuilt to have a remarkably similar look to the gate house. The large gray colored stones were displayed in a mosaic pattern. It looked beautiful, but somehow to me it just seemed out of place. I mean we were in the middle of nature, but the building and the way it had been constructed was so modern that it almost made me sad.
Once we were inside the office, I noticed more changes. It seemed over the last year that Catchfly Acres had completely digitized things. They were taking advantage of the fact that all the campers had smartphones by making an app. Each cabin was assigned various things to do each day. They made it a priority to make sure that at least once during the three weeks we were here everyone did every activity, whether you wanted to or not.
The good thing though was that each cabin was also given a certain amount of free time every day in which they could do whatever they wanted to do. Every morning, before breakfast was over, you could get onto your app and sign up for whatever free time activity you wanted to do. This was the one time you didn’t have to stay with your cabin mates. At the end of breakfast if you had not signed up for something then you were automatically assigned an activity. At that point you had no choice but to do what you were assigned. Out of fairness for everyone you weren’t allowed to start signing up until five in the morning and cut off was at nine. Because certain things were limited in space, this made sure that everyone had an opportunity to do what they wanted and that certain activities weren’t hoarded by the same group of people.
“Okay girls,” Aunt Sarah said as she finished up the checking in process, “you’re all set. You’ll be in Garden Cottage twelve. Let’s get you over there.”
Along the way I noticed a ton of other changes that had been made to the grounds as well. Walkways had been redone, the cafeteria, once a beautiful log cabin style building, had been torn down and a large monstrosity of a building erected in its place. All sorts of other buildings had also been torn down and rebuilt, each of them having a very similar look to the others using the same gray stone mosaic walls.
I was relieved that little had changed about the Garden Cottages, other than a fresh coat of paint. The cottages were designed to look like something you would see while walking the English countryside. On the outside it looked like a house, but on the inside, it was clearly a girl’s bunkhouse. There were two large bathrooms, one on each side of the cottage, and ten beds scattered throughout the large open room with each bed having a small dresser that you could put your clothes in. There was a private bedroom and bathroom on an upstairs loft which belonged to the counselor for that cabin.
“I can’t believe they kept this the same,” Aunt Sarah started as we came into the room. “I thought for sure they would have torn this down and made a large dorm for the girls.”
“I’m glad they didn’t,” I said without thinking.
I nodded, “Everything else looks so fake now.”
“Fake? I think it looks good.”
“Yeah, it does if you were in some high-rise apartment building in the middle of New York, but we’re not. This is a camp. On a lake. In the middle of Kentucky. It just doesn’t seem right, somehow. The cottages are my favorite place here. It’s the only thing that I’ve seen that actually looks like it belongs in nature.”
Aunt Sarah laughed, “Well I think you’re being a bit dramatic, but to each their own.”
You must understand my family dynamic. My grandfather and great uncle inherited a farm from my great grandmother when she passed away. My grandfather didn’t really want to deal with the day-to-day operations of a farm, so he became a silent partner, giving money when needed but never really making any decisions. When my grandfather passed away and my dad took over, things changed. My dad did want to have a say, but my great uncle refused. So, to save the family from being torn apart my dad sold his share of the farm and used that money to eventually buy the ranch in Georgia.
When we moved though, things changed. My family in Kentucky cashed in on the racehorse market and moved away from the idyllic farm life to a more corporate machine whose purpose was just to breed horses. It drove a wedge between us. We were still family, but we just moved in two entirely different worlds. Carrie and I were the least affected by everything. We were just kids when all this happened. We only got to see each other once a year at camp so most of the lifestyle changes, I never really noticed. The biggest toll was taken by my dad. At one time he was close to my aunt and her husband, a man he had grown up with. After moving to Georgia, he not only didn’t have his family there, but he just didn’t want to be around them because of who they had become.
“Okay girls,” Sarah said after we had gotten all of our stuff in the room, “I’m going to go. I’ve got a spa appointment in a couple of hours. You be good and I’ll see you in a few weeks.”
Our counselor took a few moments to introduce herself, go over the rules, and make sure we knew where everything was. We were the first two to arrive for our cabin, and since there weren’t any activities planned for the first day, that meant we could do pretty much whatever we wanted for a few hours. Carrie took the opportunity to show me all of the changes they’d made. The more we walked around the less I liked the changes, but at least I still had The Garden. It was the one place they hadn’t really touched anything other than adding a few benches for us to sit on, it was really the best improvement of the whole camp in my opinion.
“So,” Carrie smirked, “how’s the boyfriend?”
We had come to the beach on the west side of the campground. We didn’t have our bathing suits on, so we weren’t swimming. Instead, we were just sitting on the dock with our feet in the water. Carrie had wanted to talk last night, but we never got the chance.
“Don’t have one.”
“You and Mark broke up? Why? I mean he wasn’t that great looking, but he seemed nice the one time I talked to him. And you were going out for over a year, right?” she asked as if she were shocked.
“Because he’s a jerk! Besides, I never really liked him.”
“If you didn’t like him, then why did you go out with him?”
“So, he would stop picking on Alex.”
“Psycho-Autistic boy?” she asked.
That got me as mad as I had ever been with her.
“DON’T CALL HIM THAT!” It was probably the first time I’d ever yelled at her. “He’s not psycho and he doesn’t have autism!”
“But he’s still weird.”
“No, he’s not! He’s my best friend. He’s smart and naturally good with horses. I think my dad is wanting him to start training horses soon. People who say he’s autistic don’t know what they’re talking about. He has anxiety and depression, but he’s not autistic.”
“Sorry,” she sighed, “I didn’t realize you liked him.”
“I don’t like him like that. He’s just my best friend. I’ve known him since first grade.”
“Still, didn’t you say you haven’t talked to him in forever?”
I let out a frustrated sigh, “It’s a lot more complicated than that. Yeah, Alex and I had a big fight, but I was just as much to blame as he was. We were both stubborn about wanting the other to apologize. Then I kept hanging out with people that I knew he hated without really thinking about how it would look to him.”
“So, if Alex was your friend, and you knew he hated Mark, why did you go out with him?”
“To keep Alex from getting bullied.”
“I try to be friends with everyone, you know that, right?” Carrie nodded. “Well one of my friends was a girl named Jennifer. Jennifer had a boyfriend named David, and David had a friend named Mark. Mark used to bully Alex all the time. I tried to get him to stop but he wouldn’t. Jennifer had the idea that maybe if Mark were my boyfriend, he would stop bullying Alex.”
She shook her head, “So you went out with him just for that? Did you and he ever...” the question dropped off, but I knew what she was asking.
“OH GOD! NO!” I shouted. “The most I’ve ever done is kiss him on the cheek and hold his hand.”
“So, did he stop bullying Alex?”
“He told me he did, but he was lying to me. He just got better at hiding it.”
“I’m guessing you found out and broke up with him?”
I shook my head, “I didn’t figure that out until later. I broke up with him because he started spreading rumors that he and I were sleeping together.”
“UGH! As if someone like you would actually sleep with a gelatinous neanderthal like him.”
“I’d tell you to be nice, even to him, but after what he did. He deserves it.”
“Are you and Alex still not talking?”
“We’re finally talking again, but that’s only because he almost died.”
I nodded and took a moment to collect myself since the whole ordeal really did make me emotional, still.
“Long story short, after I broke up with Mark, he made Alex pay him a hundred dollars a week or he was going to beat him up.”
“What?! No one our age has that kind of money.”
“Alex did. He had been working for my dad for the last few summers and had saved up all his money, but eventually he ran out. When he told Mark that he couldn’t pay him anymore, Mark beat him up. I mean bad. Alex ended up leaving school that day and walked home. I didn’t see him at all during school and I knew that he had been dropped off. I knew something was wrong. After school got out, I rushed home and called him. When he answered the phone, he was slurring his words so bad I could barely understand him. The only thing I could really understand was him saying ‘no choice’ and he kept apologizing.”
“Mom and I rushed over to his house. She called 9-1-1 on the way. When we got there, Mom found a bottle of Tylenol and some sleeping pills. He had tried to kill himself.”
I heard her gasp.
“I put his head in my lap and I just held his hand. I wouldn’t let go,” I felt a tear falling down my cheek. “He almost died in my lap, Carrie.”
“I’m sorry, Allie, I didn’t know.”
“It’s okay. He lived. We got him to the hospital in time. Then they discovered that Mark had beat him so bad that, even if he hadn’t tried to overdose, he would have ended up in the hospital anyway. Mark almost killed him.”
“Yeah. My ex-boyfriend almost killed my best friend.”
“What did they do to Mark?”
“He was arrested. Sometime after we get back from camp he’s supposed to be on trial. They’ve asked me to testify against him.”
“Are you going to?”
“Of course! Alex needs me.”
“Is Alex okay?”
“I think so. He seems like it at least. I still worry about him though. I mean, he’s really trying, but I don’t want to lose him.”
Carrie stared at me for a while before saying anything else.
“Allie,” she started cautiously, “are you sure that you don’t like Alex as more than just a friend?”
I nodded, “I’m sure. Yeah, we’re really close, but that’s because he’s my best friend. We tell each other things that we don’t tell anyone else. There’s nothing wrong with me having a guy as a best friend!”
She acquiesced, “You’re right. I’m sorry.”
A little while later we were back in the room and by this time a few of the other girls had started to arrive. I had managed to grab a bed on the back wall right beneath a window so that I had a full view of The Garden and Carrie snagged one of the beds beside me. On the other side of me was a girl named Jenna Blevins. Jenna was a short dark-haired girl with major attitude problems. I remembered her from the year before. Her father was a horse jockey. He wasn’t a good one, either. He had one year where a horse fell into his lap, and he managed to turn that into nearly two million in winnings. He then did the smartest thing he could do. He quit being a jockey and went straight into ownership. Her dad had a reputation as a jerk and Jenna seemed to inherit a good many things from her dad. Despite all that, she was always nice to me.
“Can you believe they kept this place here? They were supposed to tear it down.”
Carrie cut me off knowing this was my favorite place, “Why did they keep it?”
“Mom said it was because of some rare bird that they found in the gardens. They wanted to build a huge new dorm with big screen TVs and stuff, but these eco freaks stepped in and refused to let them do it.”
“Well,” I smiled, “I’m glad they didn’t. I love The Garden. It’s my favorite place in the whole camp.”
Jenna looked at me questioningly for a moment, “Well, in that case I guess it’s good they’re still here.”
“So how has your summer been so far?” I asked Jenna.
“Daddy and I went on a cruise!”
We spent the next half hour letting Jenna, who seemed to dominate the conversation, tell us about her summer and all of the wonderful things that her daddy was spending money on. Carrie seemed to flow right along with the conversation, even going as far as throwing in a few of her own new things. I just seemed to sit quiet and listen.
“What about you? You go anywhere special?”
I smiled, “Not this year. I had a lot going on back home. I didn’t really want to go anywhere.”
Carrie smiled to Jenna, “Allie had a...”
I cut her off quickly, “I had a friend who really needed me. So, I stayed home to be with them.”
Jenna tilted her head to the side and smiled, “Aww, that’s sweet!”
I just smiled, though I couldn’t tell if she was being sarcastic or if she really thought it was sweet.
Thankfully, the awkwardness of the conversation didn’t have to linger much longer. All of the other campers had now gotten there, and it was time to go to the commons area. This was another one of the big changes. Aside from removing the log cabin that had once been the cafeteria, they also tore down several other smaller buildings, all which seemed to go along with the nature theme, and replaced them with the monstrosity of a large central building. This building would serve as a cafeteria, a gym, and an auditorium as well. Outside was the commons area, which was one of the only changes that I actually enjoyed, though it still seemed to be out of place.
There was a large central area that had five different fire pits set up. Around each fire pit were several different styles of seating, from single chairs to benches, all of course made to give off a high society appearance. I could do without the haughty attitude that they projected, but the place itself did seem comfortable. I could picture myself sitting by the fire reading a book, or if there was enough light, drawing something.
With all the campers gathered together it was time to have the official welcoming orientation so that we could, once again, go over all of the rules and introduce all of the staff and faculty. Once more I was noticing more changes. It seemed that part of the change had been brought on by new ownership, and with new ownership came an almost entirely new staff. The orientation lasted only about half an hour and led straight into dinner, and this was where I finally realized that Catchfly Acres wasn’t the same place that I remembered it to be.
The home style cooking that I had come to expect from camp was no more. Camp food was never great mind you, but it still brought some form of comfort. Burgers, hot dogs, and fries had been replaced with far more upscale offerings. Salads made with all manner of organic vegetables as well as bland tasteless food that looked far better than it actually tasted.
“You okay?” Carrie asked as she saw me picking at my salad.
“Yeah, just really wishing I had a good bacon cheeseburger right now.”
“No way!” Jenna started, “Do you know how many calories are in those? They’re so greasy.”
“I know!” I laughed, “That’s what makes them so good. The trick is not to flip the burgers too much when you’re grilling them. My dad makes the best burgers.”
Jenna was giving me a look that said she couldn’t believe what she was listening to me say. Thankfully, another round of awkwardness was saved by the emergence of one of my other friends, a beautiful tall black girl named Imani Parker.
“Imani!” I got up quickly to go give her a hug.
“What cottage are you in?”
“They put me in two.”
“You should have been in with us.”
“I know!” she sighed with a smile, “but my little sister is here for the first time and really wanted to be with her friends. Dad wanted me to room with her since it was her first time.”
“Sometimes I wish I had a little brother or sister.”
Imani laughed, “No you don’t.”
Imani stood out for two reasons, neither of which had to do with the color of her skin. First of all, Imani was stunningly beautiful. I’m talking Gabrielle Union type beautiful. The other thing that made her stand out was that she was one of the few people whose family had nothing to do with horses. Her family had made its fortune through other means. Her dad was a top tier manager for a chemical company in Lexington and her mother was one of the most sought-after doctors in the state.
After dinner, when things would start winding down, you generally had one of a few options. You could hang out in the commons area, go to the fire pits, or you could go back to your cabins. Occasionally they’d have an activity at the playhouse, our own version of a community theater. The one thing you couldn’t do though, was roam around the campground at night by yourself. The reason they gave was so that some sort of wild animal didn’t come and attack you, which may have been partly true, but the real reason was that it was a coed camp, and they didn’t want you to sneak off and get too comfy with your boyfriend or girlfriend.
Imani, Carrie, and I had decided to settle down by one of the fire pits while Jenna was inside the commons area with her boyfriend of the week. Our conversation was kept light, most of the time. I managed to steer the conversation away from talk about Alex. I just didn’t want to answer questions about him, at the moment. It was too private of a conversation and we were out in the open. What I did notice was Imani. She kept staring across the way but would look away if she thought I was noticing her.
“Imani,” I finally caught her, “who are you staring at?”
She looked at me and shook her head, “No one.”
Carrie and I both laughed at the guilty look on her face.
“Girl,” Carrie slapped her lightly on the shoulder, “if you were staring any harder, you’d have lasers coming out of your eyes.”
“Come on, Imani, who is it?”
She looked at us both and then motioned with her head, “Jimar Washington.”
We both turned immediately which made her admonish us.
We both giggled, but I recognized him. “Wait, isn’t he the guy you started talking to last year?”
She nodded, “Yeah.”
“Y’all have a thing going?”
She shook her head, “No, but we’ve kept in contact.”
“So, is it serious?” I couldn’t help but ask.
“Maybe?” she shrugged, “He lives on the other side of Louisville.”
“Have you seen him much?”
“No. I mean we text and call all the time, but we don’t get to see each other a lot. My dad hardly ever lets him come around. We’re in two different schools so it’s not like we see each other every day. My dad insists on seeing all of our texts and emails.”
“It’s stupid! We fight about it all the time, but there’s nothing I can do. Every time we fight about it, he threatens to cut my phone off. He knows that my phone is the only way I have of communicating with Jimar.”
“So, what do you want to do?”
She looked frustrated, “I don’t know yet. We talked about trying to get some alone time while we are here, but how do we do that? I mean they watch us like hawks watch mice. If my dad were to find out he’d kill me!”
“We’ll help you,” I said without thinking.
“We will?” Carrie asked.
“Yeah, we will.” I looked at her, giving her no room to say anything other than yes.
“Like she said, we’ll help.” Then Carrie looked at me, “How?”
“I don’t know yet. We’ll figure it out.”
The next morning, I was up early, something I typically did since I always heard my mom or dad messing around downstairs, even during the summer. In this case though, it was time to enjoy one of my favorite activities. Still wearing my pajamas, which consisted of one of Alex’s old shirts and a pair of shorts, I wandered out to The Garden and sat on one of the benches and just watched. It didn’t take long before they started coming out in droves. One quickly turned into ten and that quickly became a hundred. It was, to this day, one of the most breathtaking sights I’ve ever seen.
They were moving too fast for me to draw with any sort of accuracy, so I took out my phone and managed to get several shots of them as close as I could. It wasn’t easy since I couldn’t get too close to them or they’d flit away, but with my phone’s camera I was able to get a few decent shots. The one that surprised me the most was a bird that I hadn’t seen before. It was definitely a hummingbird, you could tell by the way it moved, but its color was remarkable. It had green iridescent feathers on its body that became almost a black color on its tail. Right around its eyes it had a blue color that sometimes looked purple in the right light. I hadn’t seen it before, but this was surely the one that must have saved my Garden. I was just raising my camera to get a picture when everything was ruined.
“Allie!” my counselor called, her voice sounding a little irritated.
“What are you doing out here? I thought you ran off.”
“I’m doing what I’ve always done. I come out here and watch the hummingbirds.”
“I take pictures of them and draw them.”
She sighed, “Tell me next time.”
“You want me to climb up into your room, wake you up, just to tell you that I’m going to come less than fifty feet behind the cottage to do the same thing I do every morning?”
I don’t know why I was getting so irritated with her, but they were changing so much of the campground and suddenly it felt like they were trying to take this away from me too.
“No one told me.”
“Did you ask my cousin, Carrie? She could have told you exactly where I was.”
“Well...” she huffed. “Hurry up. You need to get ready for breakfast and make sure you sign up for your free time.”
She spun on her heels and quickly left, but by that time the damage was done. The hummingbirds were gone, and I really did need to take a shower. I went back into the cottage and immediately Jenna took one look at me and what I was wearing and laughed.
“What, in God’s name, are you wearing?”
I looked at her and then down to the old Star Wars t-shirt that I had lifted from Alex, “Last I checked it was called a t-shirt.”
“Did you get it from the Salvation Army or something?”
“No, it was an old shirt of a friend of mine. It’s comfy and I like it. Is there a problem?”
Jenna just laughed, “Not at all. Let me know if you need to borrow my razor, Chewbacca.”
I rolled my eyes. I knew she wasn’t trying to be mean, but it was annoying. “Grow up, Jenna.”
By the time that I finished my shower everyone else in the cottage was gone, which I had expected. For a moment I thought about what to wear. Jenna had already started making fun of my choice in clothing. What else would she make fun of? That concern lasted all of a minute before I realized I didn’t really care what she had to say about me or my clothing. I enjoyed who I was.
One of the things that Mom had taught me was how to sew. Mom had told me something about Home Economics, which was apparently a class they taught when she was in school. It seemed interesting to me and I was a little sad that they didn’t seem to offer it anymore. At first my sewing was just to make small things or repair clothes, but after a while, I discovered that I really liked it. What really piqued my interest in it was the day I saw a video about upcycling. From that moment I was hooked.
Upcycling, specifically for clothing, is when you take older clothes and make them new again. It’s not hard at all. I think I spent about a week watching any videos I could find, looking for ideas, and searching for tutorials. After my first few tops I was hooked. I wanted a dress form, but after seeing how expensive they were, that wasn’t going to be an option. So, I found an alternative, and it turned out to be a great mother daughter bonding day.
One weekend when my dad was out of town looking at some new horses, Mom and I went to the dollar store and bought just about every roll of duct tape they had, and quite a few rolls of saran wrap. The idea was quite simple really. I had mom wrap me in saran wrap and then duct taped over that to make a dress form. Mom cut along the back of the duct tape so that I could get the form off. After that we taped it back together, and stuffed it. We used some scrap pieces of plywood we had laying around the barn to top off the neck and the bottom. We found an old coat rack that we cut off for a base and for less than thirty dollars I had my own dress form. We even did one for Mom. I don’t think we’ve ever laughed as hard as we did that day.
I was amazed at how easy it was to recycle things, and once I started, I didn’t stop. Mom even had me make some things for her. Men’s shirts were by far my most favorite thing to recycle. They had so many different patterns and materials that you could use, and they were easy to manipulate. All you had to do was cut off the sleeves and slightly alter the top of the shirt and you had a new look instantly – add in some sort of black or white lace and you were done. Most of my wardrobe now was what some would call country chic or bohemian chic.
Breakfast proved to be just as interesting as I expected it to be. First of all, Catchfly Acres apparently truly believes that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It’s also the easiest to serve. They had the staples you’d think of like scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits and pancakes. We also had a whole section set up for more of a “continental” breakfast with fruits, toast, pastries, and yogurt. I wasn’t surprised to see Jenna, Carrie, and most all of my cottage with a small plate of fruit and yogurt. I sat down beside Carrie with a plate of eggs, sausage and bacon.
“Allie, how can you eat all that?” Carrie asked with a chuckle.
“Easy,” I smirked, “like this.”
With that I picked up a piece of crispy bacon and popped it in my mouth. When I say crispy, I purposely went through and found the bacon that was black and almost burnt.
“Ew...” Jenna said with a little disgust.
“You have a problem with bacon?”
“Bacon is so bad for you.”
“Yet it tastes so good.”
There was a tiny break in the awkwardness while everyone finished eating, but sure enough Jenna started once more.
“What are you wearing, Allie?”
This particular top was one I had made from an old flannel shirt I found in dad’s closet. I had cut off the sleeves and the top. Then I sewed on some black lacy material that wrapped up and buttoned behind my neck. Some black lace along the bottom and I had what I thought was a cute little top.
“Is there a problem with it?”