Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Camping (07/11/05)
TITLE: Family Campground
By Marjorie Arrowood
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They arrived at the campground in late afternoon. Tom cooked and after dinner, explored the campground with the kids while Jill and Monica cleaned up.
Somehow their conversation turned to their parents’ divorce so many years before. They rehashed their father’s abandonment and affairs, their mom’s tough life, never receiving child support, often not knowing their father’s whereabouts.
“Having my own children makes it even harder to understand,” Monica sounded more sad than angry.
“Remember how we always wanted a little brother? And then we found out we had one? I was eight and he was three when we found out. Now that Mom’s gone, do you think we’ll ever meet him?” Jillian asked cautiously.
“Again, parenthood changes your perspective. Mom was against our having a relationship with him. I’d feel guilty initiating one now. Even with Tom, parenting is overwhelming. I don’t know how Mom did it alone. She didn’t want us to know Jessica’s son. Wouldn’t it be wrong to look for him now?”
“Maybe. But after Dad came to my graduation last year, I talked about it to Mom. She’d been afraid the immoral lifestyle that brought him into existence would be a bad influence. Once we had a firm foundation, she said she wouldn’t mind our meeting him.”
“Really? Still, I don’t know. When Mom died so suddenly and we couldn’t reach Dad, I got so angry. Especially when Dad acted like it was our fault he didn’t find out till three weeks after the funeral. But then it dawned on me. In his own way, I think Dad never stopped loving Mom. Anyway, I decided being angry with Dad took too much energy.” Silent tears trickled down Monica’s cheeks.
“I understand,” Jillian whispered.
“Listen. You’re a single adult. You don’t need my permission or approval to meet Daniel. But I can’t. I don’t hate Dad, but hey, he forfeited some rights when he walked out on us. While I may be curious about his son, I can’t complicate my life by meeting him.”
“I understand. But if Dad invites me to meet him, I won’t refuse. Who knows? Maybe I’m still single for such a time as this!”
“Oh, so now you have to live up to your middle name, Jillian Esther? Maybe I’ll have to muster up the energy to find you a husband!”
They were still bantering when Tom and the kids returned.
“Did you see any eligible bachelors for my little sister?” Monica asked playfully.
“Well, I met four guys who just finished high school.”
“That’s what I get for hanging out with old married people,” Jill retorted.
“I’ve never been so cold in my life,” Jill thought each time shivers nudged her from fitful dreams. In one she and Monica rowed a canoe down a river. They rescued a little boy caught in a current, but then were alone again. They rounded a bend as their father emerged from a deep forest on the river’s western bank. He shouted that their mother was trying to help him cross, but he couldn’t understand her. Jill turned east where her mother stood in lush grassland and bright sunshine. Her mother was smiling and waving when Jill felt the warm fingers of dawn on her face.
As Jill headed for the public shower, four teenagers sat outside their tent watching the sunrise.
“Good morning. Was it cold enough for you last night?” The voice was friendly.
“Oh, yeah,” Jill replied. “You must be the guys my brother-in-law met last night.”
“Yeah. We’ve been camping together every summer since kindergarten. My dad took us till we got old enough to go by ourselves.”
“So are you all going to the same school?”
“Nah. I’m Chad and I’m going to Duke. Mike here is going to State.”
“Really?” Jill interrupted. “I graduated from State last year. You’ll love it! Where are you guys going?” She looked at the other two.
“I’m Danny. I’ll be at U.T. and Ray’s going to Carolina.”
Jill eyed the speaker and watched her father step out of his high school photo. She knew instantly.
“Danny?” She hesitated. “Daniel? I’m Jill. . . Jillian.” His eyes widened in astonishment. “I’m here with my sister Monica . . . Maybe we should talk?”
Golden sunlight highlighted a shy smile. He nodded slowly.
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