Chapter 23: July
“What month is it?”
“I think it might be July now”
“I can’t believe that I’ve lost track of time, this never would have happened when I was a teacher”
“It never would have happened when I was a student, counting down the days”
Mrs. Corum and Sara Beth were both about right, Ryan confirmed later in the same day that it was around July 5th.
“I’d be heading off to camp in a few days”, Ryan said, wistfully. He loved his summer camp experiences in past years, and this year would have been no different. It was one of the only times that his aggressiveness was tolerated in a social setting, where it served to make him a giant among boys. He wasn’t going to make it this year, but if history repeated itself, maybe he would be just as aggressive. He hoped that perhaps he could keep himself under control.
“What camp were you going to?”, Jamie asked.
“Whispering Pines, why?”
“Is that a camp that both boys and girls can go to?”
“No, it’s only for boys, although there is a girls camp across the lake that we sometimes do group stuff with. Games and competitions and things”
“What was the name of the girl’s camp?”
“Breezy Heights, Why?”
Jamie’s mouth dropped slightly.
“That’s the camp Julie was going to go to this summer.”
Mrs. Corum, Sara Beth, Jamie, and Ryan all stood there quietly for a moment. Surely so would G-ma, if she hadn’t gone for a walk.
“The mountains were more active today”, Sara Beth said, breaking the silence.
“Perhaps she’s getting ready to go… that’s a good thing, right? She’ll be happier being able to go to camp.”, Jamie asked.
“Well… I guess it depends on how I act toward her”, Ryan said, feeling slightly ashamed at having to speak of himself in the third person, especially given what behaviors he suspected he might be capable of.
“Maybe they won’t have too many group activities this year”, Sara Beth said hopefully.
“Their weren’t many – just some games and a ‘barn dance’”, Ryan replied.
“Oh…”, Mrs. Corum said, after a moment of thought.
“What?”, Sara Beth asked.
“Well… dances sometimes can be frustrating for girls like Julie… They sometimes don’t fit in that well…”
“Yeah, but it should just be awkward, right?”, Sara Beth replied.
This time they all looked at Ryan, and he knowingly lowered his head.
“Yeah… it might be a bit more than awkward…. I kinda think I might use that opportunity to really get her… since there’d be, um, a lot of things I might… comment on”.
They looked at Ryan with a mixed attitude of resignation, pity, disgust, and tiny hints of understanding. He was truly a hard person to like, but they also knew him well enough that he was also hard to utterly despise.
“What can we do about it”, Jamie asked the group.
“I don’t know if there is anything we can do. We just have to hope that the joy of having something to do, and camp, will outweigh the negative things that might happen at that dance”, Mrs. Corum replied.
At that moment, G-ma happened to wander up to the group. They eyed her suspiciously.
“Mara and I had just been talking, what’s going on here?”
The group filled G-ma in, and the older woman listened intently.
“The dance could be a problem for her”, she agreed in their assessment.
They didn’t speak too much more with G-ma about the situation, especially after her view on Julie’s situation. They hoped that perhaps she’d change her mind soon. If not, they would need to be careful about how they acted around her, lest she lecture them once more with such a horrible recommendation.
Sara Beth left the group after the dance discussion and found Mara.
“What did G-ma want”, Sara Beth asked, sitting down beside her friend.
“She’s really messed up”, Mara replied, “I don’t think she’s thinking straight. I think this place has finally gotten to her. She’s cracked, and she’s trying to take the rest of us with her. She kept trying to convince me to join her side of the suicide argument. I told her that given my past, I was the least likely to agree with her. She finally gave up after several hours of strange stories and philosophical rants. She truly believes that Julie might not be able to get through this, and if she can’t get through it, she should do herself in – and somehow this is all going to make us free. It’s just crazy”
“I’m sorry she bothered you”, Sara Beth said, feeling a bit responsible for the situation, simply due to being around G-ma longer. It was funny how one felt a sense of responsibility for no reason other than seniority in a group.
“She’s the one who has the problem, I’m fine with her as long as she doesn’t make it all of our problem”, Mara replied.
“It seems like we’re all dealing with problems”, Sara Beth said quietly. Mara got the hint that perhaps Sara Beth had something more on her mind.
“What’s up?”, Mara asked. Sara Beth felt she could tell Mara something she didn’t feel was a good idea to remind everyone else of.
“I told them all a few weeks ago, but I don’t think they remember. My family is supposed to move this week… and I don’t know how that’s going to affect Julie, or me inside Julie”, Sara Beth confided.
“What if she forgets about me? Surely I won’t stay in her mind, or will I? Will I stop growing up when she doesn’t see me physically age? Will she get a new friend to take my place – and will she show up here? There’s so much I don’t know, and it scares me”
“Life is scary”, Mara replied, “But we can make it through”.
It would turn out that Sara Beth’s suspicions were true, as were Mara’s. Both women inadvertently describing their own eventual fates.