Authors: Rosemarie Naramore
All the characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
© Copyright 2012 by Rosemarie Naramore
All rights reserved.
Holly Halsey trudged along the well-worn path to the rustic parking area below her stepfather’s cabin, carrying an armload of wet towels. An occasional stream of sunlight managed to penetrate the thick, towering evergreens above, enlivening the highlights in her sun-kissed, honey blonde hair. Despite the predominance of shade in the Washington woods, Holly could tell it was going to be a warm day.
Her flip-flops kicked up a cloud of dust as she shuffled down the slight incline to her stepfather’s car. Reaching the trunk, she paused long enough to cast a longing look at the sparkling Yale Reservoir below. Created by a dam on the Lewis River, the huge lake was an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. In a couple hours, she intended to be out there with her friends, boating and enjoying some long-anticipated summer fun.
It wasn’t that she hadn’t enjoyed the past week at the cabin with her family—well, part of her family was here anyway. Her mother, brother Harry, and newest addition to the clan—her stepfather, David—were still in the cabin, tidying up. It was an effort Holly knew would be for naught. Five of her friends were on their way to join her at the cabin, and none were known for their tidiness.
No matter, the next week was definitely about fun in the sun. This was her first and last real hurrah of the summer, and she aimed to enjoy it. A marathon cleaning spree could follow at week’s end.
Holly had finished up her junior year in June, but a vacation to parts distant hadn’t been in the cards for her. She’d watched many of her classmates head off for Europe, Hawaii, and Mexico, while she had sat around waiting for the county fair to start. She’d gotten a job there cleaning up the food court. If she never saw another half-eaten corn dog, it would be too soon.
She grimaced at the memory of that particular work experience. Her twenty-year-old boss, Lucy, was a tyrant and Holly was glad the girl wasn’t in charge of her own country. Mass graves would have dotted the landscape of a country ruled by the overbearing Lucy. Holly forced the thought of her former boss from her mind.
Happy thoughts. Happy thoughts.
Suddenly, she heard the click of a keyless remote and the trunk popped open. Her stepfather approached, carrying a large duffel bag she recognized as her mother’s. “Getting everything loaded up?” he asked.
“Yep. What’s your ETA for getting home?” she inquired.
“Is that a polite way of asking when we’re getting the heck out of here?”
She grinned sheepishly. “Just eager to see my friends,” she told him honestly.
He dropped the duffel into the trunk and stuffed it toward the back, before catching her gaze. “I was young once,” he said, smiling wistfully, but roused himself, and aimed a mock, warning finger at her. “Best behavior, young lady. I’d like to find my ol’ cabin still standing when I come up here again.”
“No worries,” she told him. “My friends can be rowdy, but for the most part, they’re responsible enough.”
“Good to hear,” he said, taking the soggy towels from her. “Probably should have bagged these,” he muttered.
As if on cue, Holly’s mother Mary approached, hurrying down the dusty path and carrying a huge lawn bag. “Holly, are you sure you’ll have enough towels if we take these home with us?” she asked.
“There’s plenty in the linen closet. Besides, I’m not about to use unlaundered towels.” She made a face to make her point.
“We need to get the washing machine in the cabin fixed sooner than later,” Mary observed, planting a quick kiss on her husband’s lips.
“We’ll get it taken care of,” he assured her, smiling into his new wife’s eyes as he dropped the sopping towels into the bag she held open for him. He quickly took the bag away from her, and then planted a lingering kiss on her lips.
Holly turned away, since their public displays of affection still left her uncomfortable. Although she was seventeen, and no longer a child, she missed her father terribly. Despite his physical distance from them, thankfully, there was no emotional distance since he called her and her brother every other day to talk. Between the phone calls and internet social networking sites, he remained a constant presence in her life. She was looking forward to an end of summer trip to Seattle to see him.
“Okay, well, where’s Harry?” David asked. “We should really hit the road if we want to get back to Vancouver by two. What time did you say your friends are arriving?” he asked Holly, and then glanced at his wife and winked. “She wants us gone.”
She didn’t bother denying it, but laughed instead, before listing the friends soon to arrive. “Uh, Kendall and Niqui are coming at three, Daniel will arrive sometime after four, Zack, around five… Oh, and Aaron is coming tomorrow, around noon or so.”
“Boys…” David said in a sing-song voice, arching his eyebrows and letting the word trail off.
“Holly has known them since kindergarten,” Mary reassured him. “They’re all good kids.”
“Oh, I know they are,” he said. “Just … be careful.” He shot a quick glance behind them at a shed several yards away from the cabin, barely discernible through the thick trees. “And remember, that old shed way back there is about to fall down. I don’t want you kids anywhere near it. And Holly, you’re sure your friend Zack can drive a boat?”
She nodded. “He learned on his father’s knee. Besides, I’ll keep an eye on everybody. You don’t need to worry.”
David tousled her hair. “I know. You’re a good kid.”
Holly took a quick step back from her stepfather. She hadn’t meant to, and she noted the flash of hurt in his eyes. But she wasn’t a small child, and the gesture seemed more suited to a little kid. She was a young woman now.
“Where’s that Harry?” Mary said, and Holly was glad for the distraction. Was it her imagination, or was David watching her a little too intently? Or, was she simply reading something where there was nothing?
Admittedly, she hadn’t been gung-ho about her mother’s marriage to him, however, subsequent to the recent wedding vows, she was determined to improve her take on the situation. What else could she do? He had moved into their house.
Harry suddenly came bounding toward the group, his new ipod clutched in his hand.
“Don’t drop it!” David called a warning.
“I won’t! Nothing’s gonna happen to this ipod. It’s the sweetest gift I’ve ever gotten,” he gushed. “Thanks, David! You’re the best!”
David tousled Harry’s wavy brown hair and the boy beamed in return. When Harry gave him an air punch, deliberating missing his stepfather’s face by inches, David grabbed him up and the two wrestled playfully until Mary intervened. “Boys,” she said with chagrin. “We have to go. You can wrestle at home.”
Holly fleetingly wondered how her dad would feel about the developing bond between Harry and his stepfather. When Harry had asked their father for an ipod, he had insisted he take on odd jobs around the house in order to earn the money to pay for it. He had suggested coordinating with his ex-wife, to assure that specific jobs were done. Being twelve and impatient, Harry had turned to David.
She wasn’t sure how she felt about that, but what could she say? The sporty, red Jetta presently parked in the driveway at home had been a gift for her seventeenth birthday. She’d turned seventeen December of her junior year, and David’s gift had definitely upped her cool factor at school. It had also negated her right to complain about David lavishing gifts on her brother.
“Okay, your mom’s right. Time to go,” David said. He turned to Holly a final time. “Listen, I need to know you understand the lay of that big, bad lake out there…”
“It’s a reservoir,” Harry said enthusiastically. “Right, David?”
“That’s right, and in some places Yale is over 400-feet deep,” he informed, as he sought Holly’s gaze again. “Okay, remember, from the dock, you’ll want to back out several yards before turning the boat. There’s a patch of tree trunks that can tear up the hull if you’re not really careful.”
He aimed a hand out toward the massive lake. “Stay toward the middle if you decide to pull someone on a towable. As you head south, it’s fairly safe to stay close to the shore, but…” He sighed loudly. “Do not forget—about midway back to the dock at Saddle Dam, off toward the left, there’s an island that peeks out. Don’t go anywhere near that island.”
She nodded. It was strange to think there was an island down there, all but the tiniest tip with a few sparse trees springing up through the water. “Yes, I know exactly where it’s at and I promise I won’t go anywhere near it. Frankly, I have no desire to. It’s kind of creepy thinking about what’s beneath all this water.”
He nodded in agreement. “And then there’s the stump patch that can be a real hazard if the water level is lowered…”
“Yep, off to the right if you’re going south, and … I won’t go near it.”
“And if you decide to go under the old logging bridge and toward Siouxon Creek…”
“Make sure the water level is low enough so that we can clear the underside of the bridge, but keep an eye out that the water isn’t rising so we won’t get trapped back there,” she recited.
“Be careful navigating the channel back, because it’s fairly shallow in many areas and I could clip the bottom of the boat or ruin the prop,” Holly intoned.
David waved off worries about the boat. “It’s not the boat I’m worried about. I have insurance. It’s…”
“Me, I know,” she said, deciding his concern was actually kind of sweet, but unwarranted. She had no intention of engaging in dangerous behaviors on a boat, and wouldn’t let her friends, either. She’d been in a boating accident several years before, and it had left her with a healthy respect for the dangers of going too fast. Fortunately, it hadn’t turned her off boating all together, but then, she’d always been a water baby.
“Also,” he continued, “if you decide to boat over to the washout across from Yale Park, be extremely careful if you do any exploring on land. Some of those fallen trees aren’t stable, and you never know, they could come down on your head. In fact,” he added worriedly, “I’d prefer that you stay away from that slide. It’s just too dangerous.”
Holly raised both hands, as if warding him off. “Okay, okay, I give you my word. I’ll steer clear of the washout. We’ll be careful.”
David gave her an assessing glance, and then turned to Mary. “Should we wait until her friends arrive before we leave? Will she be safe up here all alone?”
“No and yes!” Holly and Harry cried in unison, but Holly took her voice down a notch when she spoke. “I’ll head into the cabin and lock the door the minute you guys leave. I won’t come out until my friends get here.”
David cocked his head, and then appeared to relent. “Okay, but call us if you need anything. We won’t have cell phone service until…”
“Until just outside of Battle Ground. I know!” she cried, laughing now. “David, you’re worse than my dad!”
An hour or so later, Holly heard a car drive up and dashed out of the cabin to greet her friends, Kendall and Niqui. She was surprised to see Daniel had driven along with them, rather than drive his own small truck.
“Truck’s in the shop,” he explained, and then caught Holly up in a hug. “Are you ready for some fun in the sun?” he shouted to the treetops.
“Yep. Now put me down,” she told him, laughing.