As July 1922 dawned, two girls paddled across a lake hidden deep in the woods. The rain bucketed down; several inches of water sloshed in the bottom of the canoe and every few seconds a raindrop would slide down the nose of one of the girls, splashing into the puddle at their knees. But through the drops, they could see the familiar campsite, where the treeline broke at the clearing. Once they had everything set up, they would be able to get into dry clothes. Then they could listen all night to the satisfying pitter-patter of rain on canvas.
The weather had drenched any hope of lighting a fire. It would have to be cold ham sandwiches for dinner. But that suited them fine; they were already hungry and dinner wouldn’t be for a while.
Though they were only just 18, Margie and Pat were old hands at this. They had both joined the Girl Guides at a young age and had grown up together as part of the Guiding community. They were on their way, in fact, to rendez-vous with the Guides in a few days, but had come out early to spend some time at their favourite campsite together.
The girls looked up every now and then to make sure the canoe remained on course. Otherwise, they paddled in rhythm, concentrating on their strokes rather than how wet they were.
With only a few feet to go, they stopped the canoe and jumped out into the shallow water. Wordlessly, they pulled the boat up onto the grass just beyond the narrow beach and turned it over their cargo. When they had pitched the tent, they dumped the contents of their packs inside and peeled off their wet over-clothes, leaving them hanging on a branch. Laughing with the freedom of having completed the serious work, they ran to the water in their soggy underclothes.
It was glorious swimming in the clear lake while the rain pelted down all around them. They laughed and splashed and floated on their backs, looking up into the downpour. They didn’t speak much; they didn’t have to.
When finally they climbed into their bedrolls, dry and with sandwiches in hand, Margie tentatively spoke her mind.
“Pat, this is our last summer as children, you know.”
“Oh, Margie, with all the summer days stretching out before us, let’s not think of that. Let’s only think of the woods, and cookouts and seeing the girls. Perhaps Dot will bring her lovely collie again. Prince is such a darling!”
“But we do have to think about it sometime. About jobs and where to live.”
“Margie, if things become too dire, I always have Sam. I think he may be working his way up to proposing. And we’ll find you a fellow,” she added.
Margie’s face flickered with dismay at the thought. “Does that mean that we won’t be sharing an apartment after all?” She kept her voice steady.
Pat laughed. “Oh Margie, you know I love you best! Sam is just a good fallback.” She winked slyly but seeing the look of doubt on her best friend’s face, she continued, “You mustn’t take things so seriously. Of course we’ll share a place, and I’m sure we’ll both get jobs – the dentist is looking for girls and you’re sure to get that job as a nanny with the Fields family. It will all work out! Now, stop fretting and pass me those cherries.”
Margie lay staring into the darkness long after Pat’s breath had deepened into sleep. The days she and Pat spent camping and Guiding together were her happiest. Pat was the only person who understood what mattered most to her; no one else shared her love of the wilderness. She was sure this summer would be just as wonderful as all the others, but as the rain continued almost daily, a desperate longing took hold of her.
Six months later, on another rainy day, Margie became Pat’s Maid of Honour.
Always responsible, she got a job and found an apartment by herself. Eventually, she went to live with her sister’s family, where she became a much beloved aunt. She found some measure of comfort and happiness in being part of their home but it was never the same as what she had felt in the woods, with Pat.
I will miss hanging out in the Yeah Write Bronze Lounge, sharing and critiquing stories. What a great summer we’ve had!
Many thanks again this week to the hugely talented and generous writers who offered me valuable suggestions, edits and guidance on this piece. Thanks to them, I cut unnecessary adjectives, adverbs and description; moved the year up to the front to provide relevant context; adjusted awkward sentences; and added more on why Margie felt so deeply for Pat.
p.s. I just had to change the title!