The climb through the mountains of Northern California finally leveled off when Art called the grandchildren to the front of the motorhome.
“You see that little teeny tiny square down there?” he said pointing down into the valley. “That is where we are going. It’s got camping and fishing and a great big pool!”
Zoe clapped her hands, jumping up and down. “Grandpa, I want to go swimming!”
“Uh, dad,” Ophelia said. “It’s in the middle of nowhere.”
“Yes, it is,” Art said, a broad grin blooming over his face.
“But . . . civilization?” Ophelia said.
“The website says that there’s a small town about 10 miles from there. There’s some civilization for you,” Ellen said.
“I’m not sure a backwater town qualifies,” Ophelia said, unimpressed.
Anna looked at her sister. “Phee, it has all the modern amenities, like wifi and flushing toilets. We’re hardly roughing it.”
“You’re not helping,” Ophelia said, crossing her arms. “Fine, you made me do it. I have just one word for you all – salmonella.”
Ellen threw her hands in the air. “They will never let us live that down, Arthur.”
“Grandpa,” Zoe said, pulling on her grandfather’s shirt sleeve. “Where’s the pool? I want to go swimming.”
“Baby,” Anna said, pulling her daughter into a hug. “We have to wait until we check in first. Kind of like at the hotel in Reno except we park the motorhome in our spot.”
“It’s probably some lame splash pad,” Brody’s voice sounded from the back.
“You don’t know that,” Anna said.
“If it’s not a splash pad, the first thing I will do is throw you into that pool, clothes and gaming system and all,” Ophelia said. Brody ignored her.
Art pulled into the park after reaching the turnoff. “Everyone stay here. I’ll check us in, we’ll get settled and then you can run around all you want.”
“I hope it’s not a splash pad,” Zoe said.
Art got a pad close to the lodge which had blocked the view of the infamous pool when they first came in. Anna was glad because it was also close to the bathrooms and showers. Showering and mid-day potty runs wouldn’t be a problem. She looked around the grounds that spread out in front of their pad. It was a large expanse of lawn. It was dotted with trees and looked to be a perfect place to let the kids run around and play. The pool sat behind the lodge and tucked behind that was a playground. Along the road that led to the pads further back in the resort was a large metal pavilion.
It’s probably where they have the chuckwagon dinner, Anna thought, trying not to shudder.
Squeals of delight erupted from the motorhome. Zoe and Brody jumped out, already dressed to swim.
“Hey, guys,” Anna said. “I like your enthusiasm, but let’s get the lay of the land first.”
Brody immediately went behind his mother and started pushing her towards the lodge. On closer inspection, she saw that the pool was small but deep enough for the kids to have fun in. Off to the side was a jacuzzi.
Bonus, Anna thought.
They had built the lodge log-cabin style. Once inside, they saw a glass case full of toys and candy. An older woman came up to the counter.
“Most everything in there is 25 cents, except for those at the bottom. We also have slushies and ice cream treats for a dollar.”
Zoe and Brody immediately started begging for money.
“Ok, one dollar apiece,” Anna said, as she handed out the bills.
“Those are some darling children. Are they yours?” the woman said.
“Yes,” Anna said.
“I remember when my son was around your boy’s age,” Marg said. “His best friend and he used to run around crazy like that. He looks to be around 10?”
“Brody is nine and my baby, Zoe, is six.”
She couldn’t help smiling with pride at her beautiful children.
“I love it when we have children around. So much energy,” she said, sighing. “Sorry. My name is Marg. My husband and I run this place.”
“Nice to meet you,” Anna said, shaking the woman’s hand. “I’m Anna and these two knuckleheads are Zoe and Brody.”
“Mom, look,” Zoe said, almost reverently. “They have a unicorn pencil.”
“Those are one of the dollar ones,” Marg said. “Are you sure you want to spend all your money on that one?”
“Yes, yes! I love the little unicorn eraser!” Zoe said.
Marg looked at Brody. “What’ll you have, mister?”
“Can I get a slushie?” he said, holding out his dollar.
“Coming right up, sweet thing.”
Anna looked around the rest of the room. Event announcements hung on the wall. Another sign indicated no smoking was allowed except for a bench behind the bathrooms. Stuffed animal heads and mounted antlers adorned the walls. She wheeled closer to a Native American display on a shelf. There were the usual arrowheads and feathers, but what interested her most was a little carving of what looked like two people embracing.
“You found my display,” Marg said, coming up behind her.
“This carving is fascinating. Does the figure mean anything?”
“It ties into a local legend,” Marg said. “They say if you find love in Sweetwater, then that love will last against all obstacles.”
“That’s beautiful. Is it true?” Anna said.
“Well, Hank and I are going on 30 years of marriage. That should count for something because it sure feels like a lifetime.”
To the right of the shelf was a large shadowbox. Displayed inside was an American flag folded into a triangle, a smaller flag with a yellow star embroidered in the middle, and a picture of a serious-looking man in uniform. Below that, among assorted medals, were a pair of dog tags that read, “Sgt. Scott Teague.”
“My boy,” Marg said, wiping a bit of dust off the frame. “I lost him in Afghanistan.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“It was hard, God’s honest truth,” Marg said. “His friend Phil took it the hardest. They were like brothers.”
“I lost my husband four years ago in a car accident and that was hard,” Anna said, breathing out. “But I couldn’t imagine losing a child.”
“Loss and heartache are a part of life, as much as joy and love,” Marg said. “But for a gal as young as you are, life has a funny way of making up early sorrows.”
Anna gave Marg a slight smile. “Maybe.”
“Well, you tell your folks that on the 4th of July we have a little celebration with a picnic and fireworks. It’s included in your stay. Just something Hank and I like to do for our customers.”
“That sounds like a lot of fun. I’ll let them know. Thanks!”
Zoe came up to Anna, swishing her unicorn pencil like a wand. “Mommy, can we go swimming now?”
“Not until I get my suit on,” Anna said. “Wait for me near the motorhome.”
She watched her kids speed towards the motorhome with soft eyes. She couldn’t even imagine losing either. Even the thought of it made her a little sick. She tried to shake off the feeling. Darren always had the knack of being able to live completely in the moment and pushing aside her ‘what if’s. It was one of the things she loved about him. She needed to do that now.
She sorted through her carry on as soon as she got back to the motorhome, but it soon became apparent that the swimsuit was not there.
“Mom, do you remember if I put my swimsuit back in my bag at Tahoe?”
“Not that I recall.”
“I can’t find it,” Anna said, viciously shoving her clothes back in the bag.
“Check all the outside pockets. You might have stashed it in one of them,” Ellen said.
“I am. I’m not seeing it,” Anna said, sighing. “I knew it. It figures I would forget it!”
“Does the lodge sell swimsuits?” Ophelia said.
“No. I was just up there,” Anna said. “Just basic stuff like toothbrushes, sunscreen, and candy.”
“Ooo, candy!” Ophelia said. “Wait! Mom, didn’t you say there was a little town not too far down the road?”
“Yes, it looked like it was about 10 to 15 miles.”
“These little podunk towns always have a BoxMart or something,” Ophelia said. “Let’s go after dinner and see if they have any swimsuits.”
“You know, that sounds like a decent plan.” Anna said.
Homesite of author Whitney Sivill. I'm a mother of three, a wife and a student. In between, I write clean romances, fantasy tales, and mid-grade & young adult fiction. I might throw in the occasional fanfiction, too.