Sunday, January 3, 2010

School Days

Chapter 19: Spring Break

Erik's birthday kicked off our Spring Break so his mom stayed the week. She and Erik spent a lot of time together while she was here so I didn't see him much. I had dinner with them one night but the next day the rest of us left for a camping trip.

"Where's Erik?" Todd asked. "Wasn't he supposed to be here by now?"

"Yeah." I said looking toward the woods. "He's taking his mom to the airport today."

"You okay Ginny?" Todd asked concerned.

"Yeah I guess." I said with very little conviction.

"Erik's mom still being inflexible?" he surmised.

I just shrugged. "I haven't really seen Erik much this week, and we haven't talked about it."

Todd raised an eyebrow. He could tell I wasn't telling him everything - or anything really - but he didn't push.

"What about you and Mei-Ling?" I asked changing the subject.

Todd looked over to where Mei-Ling was fishing. "What about us?" he asked still looking away from me.

I nudged him with my shoulder. "You two seem different lately."

Todd just shrugged in response. "She's been busy getting ready for China..." he trailed off.

"Yeah." I said nodding. I leaned back against the picnic table and looked up at the canopy of trees. In the slight cracks I could see the stars peeking through.

I'm not sure how long I stared at the twinkling stars before Todd nudged me. I looked at him and followed his gaze across the camp ground.

I stood up slowly. I realized that a few months ago I would have been halfway across the camp by the time it took me to just stand up in order to greet him. I sighed and met him halfway giving him a hug in greeting. "Your mom on her way?" I asked.

Erik nodded. "Her flight was delayed and I stayed with her until boarding." he said answering my unasked question.

I put my head against his shoulder and saw that Timothy and Mei-Ling had come in from fishing carrying their catch. My dad had agreed to accompany us on our camping trip and he took the fish from them to clean them up and make a bit of dinner. Timothy and Todd were silently warming their hands at the fire. For March, there was a nip in the air tonight and Timothy's hands were still damp from the fishing.

Dinner was a silent affair, there was only room for four of us at the picnic table but the fire was warmer anyway. As I ate my salmon, Erik was quiet and tense across from me. Mei-Ling was also quiet and Veronica looked annoyed - probably because she stumbled into the lake while attempting to fish earlier.

My dad made himself scarce so we could have our teen trip with minimal adult presence but I knew he was around. The six of us sat around the campfire that night and it seemed like there was a growing gulf between each of us. Nothing felt right anymore I thought to myself as I looked at the faces of my friends. Erik's eyes betrayed him as being miles away, same with Mei-Ling. Todd simply looked sad. Veronica, irritated with the gulf, broke the silence first by suggesting we tell stories. No one volunteered to go first.

"Well we could play truth or dare..." she suggested looking conspiratorial.

"I'll tell a story." I volunteered. I told an old camp girls story that Veronica remembered but the others hadn't heard. Then the other volunteered their own stories and about 1AM people started drifting away to get some sleep.

My dad had brought our large tent for the girls tent and then there were two smaller ones to split amongst the guys (including my dad). Todd and Timothy shared the first couple nights before Erik arrived leaving Erik to bunk with my dad tonight.

Before I knew it, it was just Erik and I sitting by the fire. He was staring into the fire and I could feel the distance between us growing. It had been for months; every time we made an effort to close the gap it seemed to rebound us further apart.

I watched the fire for awhile with him and wondered what he was thinking. Finally I looked over at him and found him watching me. I smiled slightly at "catching" him watching me.

"My mom agreed not to registered me in school in Virginia again...yet at least." Erik said breaking the silence.

I raised my eyebrows in surprise. "She's letting you stay?"

He looked sad and gazed into the fire again. "I don't know, she's...willing to listen I guess but she didn't agree to let me stay exactly either."

"Oh...kay." I said still watching him. "This IS good right? I mean it seems to be progress at any rate. Right?"

Erik nodded. "Yeah it's a good step." he said not meeting my gaze. His eyes were transfixed on the fire.

"Erik..." I said hoping he'd look at me but he didn't. "Erik - do you want to move back to Virginia?"

He didn't answer as quickly as I expected - or hoped. "No, not really. It's just a lot to take in Gin....the pregnancy...a baby brother..."

I nodded and scooted closer to him, wrapping my arm around him. I didn't say anything, neither did he. We sat like that, not really talking until the sky started to turn a little bit pink. Glancing at his watch I realized we'd stayed up almost all night. If we were lucky we could get a couple hours of sleep before everyone else woke up and got ready to break camp. I gave Erik a quick hug and nudged him toward the tent with my dad before slipping into the girls' tent.

A couple hours later, I woke up before Mei-Ling and Veronica. Judging by the silence outside the tent, no one else had woken up either. So slipped out of the tent and looked at the bright sky. I was exhausted but couldn't fathom going back to sleep.

I almost jumped when I heard a throat clear beside me. I turned to see my dad looking pretty surly. "Erik came in rather late - or should I say early?" he said eying me.

I chewed on the inside of my lip as I looked at him. "Sorry about that, we were talking and enjoying the fire. Didn't realize what time it was until the sun started to come up." I said honestly. I met his inquiring the gaze the whole time. I knew he was suspicious but he seemed to accept my answer - he grunted slightly in acknowledgment and went over to the grill to start breakfast.

I could hear him muttering to himself and grumbling as I walked over to the lake and sat down, gazing across it in thought. Behind me the rest of the camp started to stir. I heard the shuffling of sleeping bags and feet, the zippers of the tents and early morning chatter but I didn't look back. I could pick up on small bits of conversation here and there. Todd suggested to Mei-Ling that they take a walk while breakfast was cooked and I turned back just in time to see them walking into the woods via the nature walk.

They didn't make it back in time for breakfast but when they came back they were more lovey dovey than ever before. I guess they'd spanned whatever distance there was between them during the walk. Together we broke down the camp and walked away from the lake. I paused to look back on the lake. Erik had been walking silent beside me and stopped as well. He waited a few moments. "Ginny?" he asked. I frowned a bit and then turned to join him. The distance was still there as I walked along side him silently.

End chapter

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