"Heather, are you just gonna stand there all day or what?" At fourteen, my baby sister already towered over me by four inches.
"Shhhhh! Look up in the pine tree just ahead... it's a scarlet tanager!"
Ruthanne's glance followed my finger. "What are you talking about? I can't see anything!" She flounced ahead of me on the rocky woodland path.
"Well, he's gone now," I sighed, following her.
The path wound around dozens of potholes, ranging in size from a few yards to fifty feet in diameter. Apparently they had been formed in the rock by the swirling action of the receding glaciers following the ice age. Smooth as glass on the surface, the water in them was not stagnant. In the stillness of early morning I had heard the faint trickle of the underground springs that fed them. This entire area was riddled not only with potholes, but crevices and caves, too small to explore, but just right to make the terrain infinitely intriguing to a nature lover.
"This is your idea of fun? I mean, c'mon, what do you do for excitement? Walking through the woods looking at stupid birds and green slime?"
"Algae," I muttered. "Big difference. And if you look around you just might see a few other interesting things."
"Crayfish. Great blue heron. A tiny patch of white trilliums."
"You're an old woman!" Her pretty mouth drooped in a pout.
Another sigh escaped me. Even a year after the death of my husband, I felt like an old woman. "You could always turn back, you know."
"Yeah, right. We're almost halfway around the lake. See, there's the old mill just up ahead."
"Why did you come with me anyway?"
"Beats me. You made it sound like fun."
The difference in our ages stretched between us like a chasm and I wondered if we would ever have anything in common.
"Hey Heather, how 'bout a game of water tag?" Ruthanne twirled a bright yellow beach ball on the tip of her left forefinger.
"C'mon, Victoria Harding can wait!"
"You come around bothering me once more and I'll throw the book at you!"
"Stick in the mud," she grumbled, scowling as she turned away. "Old woman."
"Oh alright!" I set my novel aside reluctantly and pushed myself up from the lawn chair.
"Hey, you're gonna hafta be faster than that!" Ruthanne laughed as the ball got me square in the eye.
"Just you wait!" I squinted and heaved it back at her. Chest deep in water, she lithely swam to dodge the yellow missile - and rammed into a young man's solar plexus.
"Oh! Uh... I'm so sorry! Hey - where did you come from anyway?"
Still gasping for air, he waved toward a knot of young people off to our left. "You really oughtta watch where you're going!" he managed.
"Yeah well, last I checked there was nobody there!"
"Well, now that I'm here - my name's Barry. What's yours?"
"I'm Ruthanne. She's Heather."
"Hi Barry," I said, smiling. He looked to be about fifteen.
Barry looked us both over and asked, "You two bin friends long?"
"Um, yeah. All our lives." Ruthanne snickered. "We're sisters."
"Sisters! I thought you were just good friends! You don't look alike!"
"We're half sisters," I explained. "I look like my dad and she looks like hers."
"So who's older?" He looked from me to Ruthanne.
This was getting interesting. "Ruthanne, tell him how old I am."
Ruthanne burst into laughter. "She's twenty-six!"
"No way! Okay then, how old are you?"
Seventeen? It was my turn to be surprised.
An hour later, as my sister and I headed back up the road to our campsite, I asked her, "So do you still think I'm an old woman?"
"Not a chance! The way you joined right in with the rest of us? Even the way you were goofing off before Barry popped up out of nowhere. It's no wonder he thought you were a teenager! He's one cool dude..." Ruthanne sighed rapturously and hugged the beach ball to her breast as her voice trailed off. "Wasn't it cool when he brought all his friends over?"
I nodded. "It was a blast!"
"Oh, and um... Heather?"
"You're cool too. One cool dudette!"
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