Too Much Missing

by Tara Prakash, age 11
Too Much Missing Tara Prakash lives in Washington, DC. Her favorite form of writing is free verse poetry and she loves long bike rides under a canopy of trees. She plays travel basketball and travel soccer and enjoys them both. She loves to do acrylic painting, and she has fun coding.

“It was the kayaking trip that ruined everything. It had started out fine — together me and my best friend, June, eased into our life jackets, splashing each other playfully.”

Chapter One: Kayak Trip

It was the kayaking trip that ruined everything.

It had started out fine — together me and my best friend, June, eased into our life jackets, splashing each other playfully.

After everyone in our group was settled and ready, our counselor, Kirstin, led us to the icy water. Even though it was summer, the water was still cold, because Maine, where this camp was located, had a very cold spring, and the lake was just starting to melt.

I dipped my fingers in the lake and quickly yanked them out again, my fingers feeling frozen.

Kirstin laughed, “Don’t want to fall in!”

June, two other girls I hardly knew, and I piled into one kayak, and the others kids clambered into theirs. Kirstin pushed the six kayaks off the sandy shore, and I smiled as we glided into the water. I tried to make eye contact with June, but my friend looked away, wiping her cheeks. Something was off about her, but I couldn’t figure out what.

So why was I so scared? Why were my hands sweaty and my heart pounding inside my ribcage? Why did it seem like my stomach was having a butterfly fiesta in there?

June and I had signed up together for Camp Skyglow, the four-week sleepaway camp, and we were going to stay together, as a team.

So why was I worried?

A lot of times, when June was with me, it seemed like she didn’t want to be. She was distant, like her body was here, but her mind was a million miles away.

We were both eleven years old, and I was practically a mirror of her with the same shoulder-length, dirty blonde hair and bright blue eyes.

I looked over at June and saw she was happily chatting with those two girls, entirely oblivious to my silence.

“The skirt… yeah… I asked… and she said no…”

“My mom… yeah. So I was like… c’mon..and she was like… no you already have a million skirts… she turned… I stole a couple bucks from her purse…”

“You… jeez… did she get mad… my mom… have…”

They kept babbling on, but I had tuned them out. Skirts and makeovers and all that were no interest to me. I kept my mind hungry with sports, and schoolwork, and poetry sparks that I wanted to write.

June and I had very different interests in life. Yet, for more than six years, we had been closer than close.

Now… I’m not so sure.

Playfully, I scooped my paddle into the water and splashed a little water on June to get her to laugh and, maybe, to notice that I was still there on the kayak with them.

June whirled around, her eyes ablaze. “Just leave me alone, Adeline! Do I have to be with you every second?! I have a life too, you know!”

I nervously leaned back, as if an invisible hand had pushed me. June had never gotten mad at me before — not like this. Before camp, we’d always hung out, and it was really fun and relaxed. Now it seemed like I was trying to have fun and not succeeding. I felt like I had to earn her laughter and her trust all over again. Now it was the middle of camp, and June was basically pretending I wasn’t there.

She ignored me in our bunk room, and in the Mess Hall, she pretended I was gone. I had tried once more on the kayaking trip, but this was the result. I hated myself for not knowing how to fix it, and I hated June for acting like this.

“Sorry.” I said softly, tears pooling into my eyes. June rolled her eyes and turned back to the other two girls and resumed her babbling.

I turned away from the girls so they wouldn’t see the tears begin to stream down my face.

 

Chapter Two: Coral

As we paddled back to shore, my heart felt like it would drop to my feet. Every couple seconds, I would look at June, hoping to catch her eye and give her a small smile. No such luck. When she talked to those girls, it was like she was in a private nebula tuning out any background noise and, in this setting, me.

Once we got to shore, I climbed quickly out so I could try to sort out the screaming thoughts that whipped around my head like a blender set on full-speed.

Kirstin smiled at me. “You okay, Adeline?” she asked.“Did anything happen on the kayak?”

“No.” I forced a smile that felt like it would run off my face at any second. “I had fun. Promise.”

“You look like you’ve been crying…” Kirstin’s voice trailed off.

“It’s just my seasonal allergies,” I said, my voice cracking, “You know, summer and all.”

Kirstin touched my shoulder. “I think we should talk about thi-”

Before she could finish, I yanked myself out of her grip and started to run to my bunk. Without turning around, I could see everyone’s eyes lasering in on me, probably asking  themselves, Does that freak girl have mental issues?

I practically heard June say, “Immature.”

But I wasn’t trying to be. I wasn’t trying to get all the attention. I wasn’t trying to be a spoiled brat. I wasn’t trying to be dramatic. I just missed June so, so much.

Running always helps me cool down when I’m mad or figuring out how to calm my anger, especially when it’s hot like today with June.

But today, it didn’t help. I choked up on my tears, and a cramp jabbed me in the side. My head throbbed, and my legs felt like noodles.

I suddenly wished my older brother was here with me. He’d calm me down, guide me to breathe deeply, and help me sort out my feelings. But he wasn’t here, and I was alone, and no one was on my side, and everyone was on June’s.

It was unfair. Full of sadness, anger, and who knows what, I opened the door and stepped in. I closed the door, and sank down to the floor, relieved to be alone and able to turn my thoughts over on my own.

Just then, I saw a head poke out of a bed. So much for that. I quietly crept up the ladder, hoping she didn’t see me, and I fiddled with my thoughts alone.

I climbed up to the top bunk that I shared with June. I laid down silently on the pillow and closed my eyes. Gee… that felt good.

“You’re here?” A voice came from below. Uggghhhh. I just wanted time alone. Today was like watching a line of dominoes fall. First, June ignored me in the Mess Hall, then June snapped at me in the kayak and now, right when I wanted to be alone, a girl who might be the biggest chatterbox in the world, wanted to talk. Amazing.

I didn’t answer, hoping the girl would get the hint and shut up. No such luck.

“I know you’re awake,” the girl said, her head poking above the railing. She was standing on the lower bunk, her hands on the railing.

I fought the urge to scream at her, but then I didn’t because I knew it would hurt the girl’s feelings just as much as June had hurt mine.

I sighed. “I am trying to rest, okay? Please leave me alone.”

“Aren’t you supposed to be at kayaking?” The girl rose her eyebrows like I was in court, and she was the judge.

“No. Aren’t you supposed to be at an activity?” I gently nudged her off the bottom bunk, and the girl slid down to the floor.

“I left the camp,” the girl stated.

“Huh?” I wanted to ignore her, but curiosity took over.

“I left the camp. I quit. I would’ve gone home, but my parents are on a trip in Alaska and I have to stay here. But I quit.”

“So what do you do every day? Sleep?”

“Of course not. I write in my journal.” The girl acted like that was the most obvious answer in the world. Maybe I should have known that, but my mind was full of sadness, and it was hard to think straight.

“About what?” I asked. “Your family?”

“Of course not. My family is so boring.”

“So what do you write about?” I asked, climbing down from my bunk.

“Cool facts. You know, about the world, and the atmosphere we live in.” The girl smiled.

“Can I read it?” I asked, forgetting about June for a moment. She seemed very smart.

“Yeah, sure.” The girl fished around a blue and gold duffel bag and then produced a red notebook with white lining. She handed it to me.

“Thanks.”

“I hope you like it.” The girl twisted her shirt in her fingers.

“Bet I will.” I said, opening it.

“Wait!” The girl put her hand up “Before you start to read it, and if we’re going to be friends, I need to know your name.”

All at once I had a flash of memories before my eyes. June and I were friends for so long, and then suddenly not. Her hanging out with others was the pain I felt when I saw that. But I loved June so much that I wouldn’t give up on our friendship yet. Our bond was so strong it should be able to push past this. I felt the lense of heat and anger behind my eyes again, and I narrowed my eyes.

“We are not friends,” I said, in the iciest voice I could manage. I thrust her journal at her chest. “I don’t need your stupid journal, either!” I snapped coldly. “Only nerds write about stuff like that!”

I stormed out as the girl called out, “My name is Coral, by the way!”

 

Chapter Three: A Nasty Prank

I didn’t know how bad this friendship problem was until June did a nasty prank when I was sleeping. When I woke up, I didn’t see anything.

But when I went to comb my hair in the mirror, I saw it was dyed.

“Ahhh!” I yelled, my fingers grazing my sticky, red hair. I screamed and ran to the bathroom. It wasn’t all colored, but I didn’t have my brown, silky hair. Instead, I had hair sprayed an ugly red. I looked like a cherry head. I sucked in a deep breath, forcing myself to be calm.

I didn’t know what to do, so I headed over to Coral’s bunk, leaned over, and shook her body

“Wake up, Coral! Wake up!”

Coral opened one eye. “Go away, I’m tryi — ahh!” Coral sat up so fast that I thought she was sitting on a hot pan.

“Your hair!” Coral gasped.

“I know,” I whined “Does it look that bad?”

“Yup.” Coral replied honestly, as she climbed out of bed. She added hastily, “But I think we can fix it!”

“Who do you think did it?” I asked. “I want revenge!”

Coral was thinking a bit more logically. “Well… to dye your hair, they’d have to have a crayon sort of dye. So maybe we should look for a dye packet or something and, whoever it’s closest to, we could add as a suspicion.” Coral headed to her golden blue duffel and pulled out her notebook.

“What do you need that for?” I asked.

“To write down suspicions and narrow it down until we find the victim.”

“That’s a good idea. You’re a good detective.” I said, trying to make up for the unkindness I had acted toward her yesterday.

If she remembered, she decided to ignore it. “Thanks. My dad is Sherlock Holmes. It runs in the family.”

I laughed for maybe the first time in days. “You’re really funny.”

“Oh, forgot to tell you, my uncle is Adam Sandler. It’s in my genes.” Coral said, with no hint of a smile. I grinned.

Coral opened her journal, flipped to the first open page, took a pencil from the spiral bound wire, and wrote at the top: SUSPICIONS For The Hair dyEing cULPRIT?

Coral and I scanned the room, looking for red hair dye packets. After a few minutes, Coral stopped short. “Adeline! Look! A red packet!” She pointed her finger toward June’s bunk. I followed her gaze and, sure enough, a ripped open red packet, stuck out of the blue and white starred sleeping bag.

I sucked in a breath and raced over to June’s bed. I slapped June hard on the back, and her eyes immediately opened.

She burst out laughing. “Your hair!”

My face was contorted with fury. “I can’t believe you did it!”

“Well… duh! You are so annoying and mean!” June rolled her eyes. I was still stunned that the same girl who was my best friend just three weeks ago could now be my worst enemy.

Coral stormed up to June. “You’re the mean one!” she yelled.

June smirked. “I beg your pardon, Squeaky. I can’t hear your pathetic voice.”

Coral looked at me “Were you seriously friends with this girl?”

I nodded weakly.

“Geez, you’ve got bad taste. She is such a jerk!” Coral said loudly. June didn’t reply.

I stared coldly at June. “She wasn’t a jerk three weeks ago. But Coral, I agree, now she is.”

“I’m not being a jerk!” June protested. “I was just hanging out with new friends!”

“Puh. Excuses, excuses. Only pathetic people make those.” Coral sounded amused.

I climbed up on my bed and that’s when I saw a piece of green paper poking out of my pillow. I picked it up and read it:

Get the hint.

We are not friends.   

                        -June

I sighed and handed the note down to Coral. She read it, paused, then stared icily at June.

“Where’s the trash can?” She asked.

I laid back and smiled slightly.

“You’re looking right at it.” Out of the corner of my eye, I saw June flinch. That felt good.

“I’m gonna go see Skye,” June said, backing away. “Adios, dorks.” June walked out the door then turned. “Wait… you won’t tell a counselor, right?”

Coral looked smug. “Try me.”

“Please?” June looked desperate.

“Nope.”

“Adeline?” June asked hopefully.

“Fine.”

“Thank — ” June began.

“Bye,” I said, pointing to the door and June hurried out.

“She wishes,” I said. Coral and I exploded into giggles.

“Now, let’s get down to business.” Coral clapped her hands “Let’s wash that ugly red out of your hair. June has a really bad taste of color.”

“No kidding,” I said. We walked to the sink, and turned on the faucet, and I dipped my head under the cool stream of water.

“Is it coming off?” I asked.

“Hardly,” Coral said, her fingers pressing against my sticky, strands of hair. Her voice grew urgent. “It’s not coming… never mind! It’s rubbing off. Slowly, but it is!”

I breathed a sigh of relief. A question nagged at me: Would June be cruel enough to use permanent dye? And did June know she would do this prank before she came to camp, because who would give her the dye?

Before I left for Maine, Dad said this camp would be awesome. So far, I couldn’t really describe Camp Skyglow as awesome, but meeting Coral was definitely a plus. I smiled to myself. I had certainly learned a lot about June and myself, and I had made a friend along the way.

Maybe I just had to take the good with the bad and be okay with that.

And as I thought about Coral, and the fun activities I loved, and all I learned about myself, it was.

 

Chapter Four: Campfire Night

As I walked up to the campfire, I overheard June talking to one of the kayaking girls that I think was named Skye.

I stopped to listen. I didn’t feel bad about it; June would have done the same thing to me.

“I can’t believe Adeline is so annoying. And babyish,” I heard a voice say.

A lump formed in my throat as I hoped beyond hope that was what Skye said, not June. But no.

“I can’t believe you were ever friends. She is so weird,” Skye said, her voice full of disgust. I sucked in my breath, trying to channel my anger and sadness.

“I know. I don’t know how I ever could be friends with her in the first place. She’s so clingy and strange.” June’s voice. They kept talking, but my mind was stuck on those words just spoken from June’s mouth.

I don’t know how I could ever be friends her in the first place. She’s so clingy and strange.

The words echoed in my ears over and over like I was in a tunnel and couldn’t get out.

After the Camp Skyglow chant, we had to play a game called Two Truths and a Lie. As I sat down on the stone hedge around the fire, I rested my hand on the spot next to me to save it for Coral.

As Coral passed by, I tugged her hand.

“Here,” I said, forcing a smile. “I saved you a spot.”

Coral smiled so big that I thought her face would burst. “Thanks.”

“I should be thanking you,” I told her. “You really helped me with the prank drama.”

“I’m sorry about what’s happening to you and your friend.” Coral’s voice was soft.

“I can’t believe she did that prank.” I paused. “Well, actually I can. She’s been a real jerk, lately.”

“Oh.” Coral seemed at a loss for words.

I looked at her and gave her a hug. “You’re a better friend then June will ever be. I’m glad you didn’t leave; I needed you.”

Kirstin came over and sat down next to me. “Can I sit with you?”  

I shrugged. “Sure”

Another counselor, Michael, clapped his hands to get everyone’s attention. “Now we’ll play Two Truths and a Lie. Everyone knows how to play, right?” Everyone nodded.

Michael smiled. “Who would like to start?”

I had an idea. I shot my hand up with many others, but Michael spotted me first. “How about you start, Adeline?”

I didn’t even need to think about mine. “Number one… June Windstyle is a jerk and she is such a traitor.” I snuck a look at June. Her mouth was open wide, and her eyes were pleading. Perfect. Who cares if I’m being mean? She did the exact same thing to me. “Number two… she is scared of the dark and has to sleep with a night light which is so babyish…” People laughed. I was enjoying this. “And number three… she — ”

“Adeline!!!” Kirstin cut in sharply “That is inappropriate camp behavior. What has gotten into you?”

I shrugged.

“If you and June are in an argument, you can privately talk about it later. Not at a campfire game. Apologize to June right now.” Kirstin’s voice was stern.

Mine was colder. “I’m not sorry.”

The campers all sucked in their breaths. I was going to get it now. I tried to hide my fear of what would happen, but I was really scared.

“Okay, enough with the attitude! Let’s go to the office,” Michael said.

I didn’t move. I couldn’t move. I was frozen in my spot.

“C’mon,” Kirstin urged. “All behavior has its consequences. Now go follow Michael.”

“No, don’t make her go!” A voice called out. Confused, I spun around. At first, I thought it was Coral. But… no. I knew that voice way too well.

“June?” I looked at her through the flames, and she smiled sheepishly at me.

“She has to leave, June,” Michael said.

“She has very unkind behavior that is not acceptable at this camp.” Kirstin added.

I was the one with unkind behavior!” June cut in. “It’s not her fault; it’s mine!”

I was shocked. Was this the same June who had ignored me constantly, who had snapped at me many times, who had played a nasty trick on me? This same June was trying stand up to me. Was this the same June who had done all those things?

“June…” I started, but I didn’t know what to say so I didn’t finish.

“I was being so mean to her at the kayaking trip — ” June began to say but was interrupted by Kirstin. “Campers, keep on playing. June, Adeline, come with me.” As June and I walked away with the counselor, I cast a look at Coral. She gave me a thumbs up and I smiled back at her.

Kirstin walked further from the campfire area, then knelt down and gazed into me and June’s eyes. “What is up with you two? I thought you two were friends.”

“We used to be,” I said, looking icily into June’s eyes. She looked away.

“What’s changed?” Kirstin asked quietly.

“Let’s see,” I said sarcastically. “Nothing much, only June has now officially blocked me out of her life.” I shrugged.

“That’s not true.” June spoke up.

“Oh, yeah?” I challenged “Can you explain the kayaking trip, or the Mess Hall, or the prank?!”

“What prank?” Kirstin asked, her eyes narrowing.

“I think June should explain.” I crossed my arms and glared at her.

June didn’t reply, just kept staring at the same spot on the ground.

“June, what prank?” Kirstin’s voice got louder.

June still didn’t answer.

I rolled my eyes and sighed. “Oh, for heaven sake, we don’t have all day! Kirstin, June dyed my hair. When I was asleep. In the middle of the night. With a red dye packet.”

Kirstin was stunned. “June? You seriously did that?”

June nodded meekly.

“A punishment is going to be needed. Maybe even you leaving the camp.”

“I think that’s a good idea,” I said loudly. “June, all behavior has it’s consequences.”

“Are you and Coral friends?” June asked.

“Yeah.” I paused “So?”

“Just asking.” June shifted uncomfortably.

“I’ll leave,” Kirstin stood up. “You two talk.”

“Why do you hate me?” June asked, once Kirstin and walked away.

“Huh?” I was confused.

“I overheard you speaking with Coral about me.”

“I overheard you speaking with Skye about me,” I shot back.

“Sorry,” June said. I didn’t reply.

June continued “I thought that when you spoke with Coral, you were saying mean things about me, and I kind of flared. I was actually going to use the red hair dye for me, but when I heard you and Coral talking, I used it for you instead.”

“Really?” I asked.

“Really.”

“Oh.” Suddenly, I wasn’t sure what to say. There was an awkward silence, but then I thought of something.

“Wait, but even before I met Coral, you were mad at me in the kayak.” I said “How come?”

“I was homesick and — ”

“Wait, what?” I was surprised. “You never get homesick.”

“Well, I did. I was homesick and I missed my family, and then in the morning that day, I got a letter from my mom, and she said that Jack had gotten severely hurt.”

“Wait, what? How? Is he okay?” I was shocked, then scared. Her thirteen-year-old brother was awesome. I had been to her house enough times to know it. He was fun to play with and laughed a lot. He was pretty much the dream sibling. Him and June were closer than close. I knew it must have been a big blow to June and her parents.

June sniffled. “He was riding his bike with a friend, and a big truck turned, and he didn’t see it, and it hit him. His friend didn’t get hurt, but he did and now he’s in the hospital and I don’t know if he’s okay… ” June’s face crumpled, and tears started to stream down her face. I wanted to hug her, but I wasn’t sure how and I knew it would be awkward, so I just patted her on the back.

June wiped her eyes. “I wrote six letters back asking if he was okay, but she hasn’t responded. And when we went to the kayak, I wanted to be alone, but then when Skye and Annabelle started talking to me, I thought it would take my mind off of things, but it didn’t. I’m really sorry and please forgive me.”

“I want to forgive you, June,” I said. “I really do. But why didn’t you tell about your brother before so I’d know why you were being all mean and cold toward me?”

“I was just really sad.”

“We can be friends, but maybe not close, okay? We are friends, but not like before. I think our relationship has changed.”

“Okay,” June nodded, her face hopeful. I could tell June was thinking we would just patch up this fight and move on. I wish I could tell her it wouldn’t happen, but I didn’t want to push it.

June stuck out her hand “Friends?”

I nodded and shook it. “Friends.” We both knew that neither of us was ready for a hug.

It will never be like before, I thought, a bit wistful.

We glanced at each other for a long moment, and then, together, we headed to the fire.

 

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