Tuesday, June 25, 2013




   “Nurse Adams tells me there was an unfortunate incident outside,” Mrs. A said, staring straight at me with a knowing look. It made me feel really uncomfortable.
   “What did you do, Kelsey?” Mom said. She gave me the look, her eyes widening and her head tilted like she expected me to apologize.
   “Nothing,” I said.
   “No. No. No,” Mrs. A said. “It is I that must apologize. I had hoped that we could remove the girl without you seeing her.”
   “What girl?” Mom asked.
   “The girl in the straight-jacket,” I said.
   “One of my poor special girls, Kara. You see, the resort is owned and operated by Freedom Lake Girls Academy. It is a care facility for girls with special needs. Handicaps you call them. We teach them life skills they need to survive on the outside. So it's both a school and a home for the girls.”
   “That’s wonderful,” Mom said.
   “What’s wrong with the girl?” I asked. “Is she dangerous? Is that why she was tied up like that?”
   “No. None of my abandoned angels are dangerous. We had to restrain her to protect her. You see, she was only pretending to take her medications. Without them she became paranoid and disoriented. She wandered off and was lost in the woods. Now she’s afraid of everything and everyone.”
   “That’s sad,” I said. “Will she be okay?”
   “Oh, yes. As soon as she has her medicine. Now we must get her home. If you need anything, I’m just a phone call away.”
   We followed her out and said goodbye.
   “Why don’t you start unpacking the car. I’ll call in a food order. Okay?” Mom said.
   “Sure,” I said and went to the car.
   Mrs. A was buckling her seat belt. She saw me and waved. The nurse started the van and backed it up.
   I pretended to be unloading our stuff, but I couldn’t keep from looking at the girl in the back seat. Kara. She blew on the window, fogging it with her breath. Then she leaned forward, and with her nose marked a design in it, kind of like a zero with an arrow point through it. Even Mom would have to agree that that was a little weird. I couldn’t wait to tell Jessica about it.
   I finished carrying everything into the cabin, and went out front to look at the lake while Mom called in our grocery order. The air smelled good. Pine scented and fresh.
I hoped Mom was right and there were kids my age staying at the resort. At least one nice person to hang with. And normal would be nice. A cute boy or two would be even better.
A paved path ran in front of the deck. I crossed it and went out onto our private dock to get a better view of the lake. It was pretty big. Kind of egg shaped, and you could see across it and from end to end. I counted forty private docks along the shoreline.
   On the south end stood a large two-story building that had to be the “ school and home” for the special girls. It sat up on the hill and looked like it had been there a long time. A huge place like an old English mansion in a horror movie. Down below in front lay a large open field that served as a buffer zone between the school and the resort's cluster of Tudor-style buildings.
   I plunked down on our dock, took off my sandals and dangled my feet in the water. What a strange upside-down day, I thought as the sun dropped lower and lower. Nothing had gone as planned. Jessica was in the hospital, and I hoped she was all right. We should have gone back to see her. At least I could talk to her. I pulled out my phone.
   “Shoot!” No bars meant no reception. “Stupid resort. Some vacation this is going to be.”
   Across the lake, I saw Mrs. A’s van pull up at the side of the girls home. I couldn’t see real clearly because it had to be about the length of four football fields away. Or more. But I did see someone come out with a wheelchair.
   Wish I had a pair of binoculars.
   Mrs. A and Nurse Adams got out first. Then they put the girl, Kara, into the chair and wheeled her into the building. From my side of the lake, she looked like she’d fallen asleep on the ride home. That meant she hadn’t hurt herself, and wouldn’t have to wear the straight-jacket for very long.
   The sun dropped down to the treetops, and it was like someone had switched on an air conditioner. Suddenly my feet were ice cubes. Maybe we'd need a fire in the fireplace after all.
   “Kelsey!” Mom called from the deck. “Time for dinner.”
   “Okay. Be right there.” I jumped up and danced up and down to dry my feet.
   “Food’s getting cold,” she said.
   I spun round and raced back to the deck.
   “I thought we’d eat outside.” She pointed to the picnic table under the eaves.
   Two bowls of chili-cheese mac steamed on the table.
   “Smells good.” I sat down and started to eat. “Tastes good, too.”
   “Don’t gobble it down. You’ll get indigestion.”
   I laughed and pretended to chew one bite for almost a minute.
   “You’re impossible,” she said, but was smiling. “Oh, when I ordered the groceries, the lady on the phone told me about a new craft class that is starting tomorrow. I signed you up.”
   I put my fork down, “What kind of craft? Making popsicle-stick castles? Or paper plate animals like in second grade?”
   “No and no. It’ll give you a chance to make some new friends.”
   “What kind of a class?” My chili-cheese mac sat like a lump in my stomach. “Is it at the special girls home?”
   “No. The girls home is off limits to resort guests. It’s not part of the resort.” She drank some water and started to eat again.
   “I’m waiting. What kind of class?”
   “You’ll love it.”
   “Mom! What have you signed me up for?”
   “You said you really liked the quilt hanging in your room.”
   “It’s a lap-quilting class.”
I rolled my eyes. “You’re kidding. Right?” When she didn’t answer me, I went on. “A sewing class is not exactly the place to meet boys.”
   “I know. It starts at ten and lasts until noon.”

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