Dust swirled around my parents’ station wagon as they left Camp Challenge. I sighed and picked up the duffel bag and suitcase beside me.
“Come on, brother. Let’s get you registered and find our cabins.”
Jakey flashed me that lopsided grin he always wore when he was excited. I wished I could have felt the same way. A whole week of my summer vacation was ruined because Jakey required a family member at camp.
A stream of drool slipped from the corner of his mouth and down his chin. I shook my head and dabbed at his mouth with his ever-present towel.
“There’s the office. Can you manage the path?” Again he grinned.
“Well, okay,” I grunted. “Let’s go.” I shouldered the duffel and pushed on ahead. The gravel crunched under Jakey’s walker behind me.
I trudged up the wooden ramp and held the office door open. A camper and her chaperone waited at the desk as a frazzled woman, a pencil gripped in her teeth, rustled through pages on a clipboard. My brother and the wheelchair-bound girl cast curious glances at each other, their mouths twitching into shy smiles. Another glob of drool escaped Jakey’s lips. I scrubbed at it with the towel, avoiding the chaperone’s intent gaze. Rude people always stared at Jakey. You would think by now I would have been accustomed to it.
“What did you say the name was?” the woman mumbled around the pencil.
The chaperone, a guy a little older than me, smiled down at the girl with blonde curls. “Our last name is Baxter. I’m Reece and this is my sister Karen.”
“Oh, yes, here are your names.” The woman checkmarked the list and turned toward Jakey and me. “And your names are?”
I felt my cheeks tinge pink. “Marcia and Jake Bailey.”
“Well, this a pleasant surprise,” the woman with the clipboard said. “Jake, Reece is your cabin counselor. You two will be in cabin seven. Karen, this is your counselor Marcia. You’ll be in cabin one. I know you’ll enjoy your stay at Camp Challenge and become good friends.”
Reece flashed me a good-natured smile. “Nice to meet you, Marcia.”
The office lady led the way to the door. Pointing down the row of cabins with her pencil she showed Karen and me where we would be staying. I handed Reece the suitcase, mumbling, “These’re Jake’s things.”
“And these are Karen’s,” he replied, handing me a pink suitcase. “If she gets scared, let her tuck a lit flashlight under her pillow. I have extra batteries for it if it dies out.”
I nodded, then strolled beside Karen as she manipulated her chair along the path. At our door, I gazed across the courtyard to where Reece stood, holding the door for Jakey. He stared directly at me with those dark blue eyes. I thought I felt my heart flutter a second. Then he waved and disappeared into the cabin interior. Maybe Camp Challenge won’t be so bad after all.
The evening meal was grilled cheese sandwiches with chunky beef stew. Jakey would love this, his favorite food combination.
“May we sit here?”
Reece, his blue eyes twinkling, stood at the head of our table with Jakey. I forgot how to breathe for a minute. My brother looked at me with such a pleading expression that I said yes.
There was that lopsided grin again on Jakey’s face as he gazed at Karen. Karen, for her part, had so much of her attention on my brother that she did not eat a bite.
“C’mon Jake.” Reece unsuccessfully tried to entice Jakey with a piece of sandwich. “You need to eat.”
My brother pointed at the sandwich, then at Karen and clenched his lips together.
“He’s saying that if Karen doesn’t eat, he won’t either.” Reece and I stared at our two charges, then at each other.
“Well, what do you suggest?”
I shrugged and shook my head. My brother could be very stubborn.
Then Karen did something that broke the mutual impasse. Breaking off two pieces of her own sandwich, she ate the first piece, then offered the second to my brother. Jakey opened his mouth and Karen fed him the morsel.
Is it possible for two individuals like Karen and Jakey to fall in love? I believe it is. Throughout that week, they were inseparable. And they were not the only ones. But that is another story for another time.
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