Underneath the Willow
CHAPTER
1
Brand New
Arabella slings her satchel over her shoulder, “Ok, time for a new summer camp!” Her camp only admits one child from each country to attend. Or so she had heard. ‘It’s like a private boarding school’ she thought, when she first got the sign up sheet. But, it sounded like fun, so she signed up anyway. “Camp Ember, here I come!” She tugged the laces on her brand new tennis shoes and tied a bow of the little white threads that made up the laces. She checked herself to make sure she was wearing the camp uniform and opened the door. “Bye sweetie! have a nice time!” said her mother, doing the dishes from breakfast, waffles and eggs. “Bye mom! And I will! Love you!” The bus honked its horn and drowned out her mother, “I love you too!” The bus driver yelled at her so Arabella shut the door and hopped down the concrete steps surrounded by flowers that she and her mother planted when she was six. The bus driver glared at her while the glass doors opened. She gave a shy smile and ducked her head as she walked past all the seats, expecting to hear laughing and screaming and paper airplanes flying past her head like her school bus in JubilyHeights, but, there was no one on the bus. No laughing, no yelling, no paper airplanes flying past her head. Nothing. Everything was completely silent, except for the mumble of the engine and the occasional grunt from the bus driver. She felt something cold go by her and saw a flash of a boy her age sitting down next to her. She rubs her arms and pulls out her notebook to sketch the boy. “Who is that? Is it me? Cool.” Arabella hears it a as faint whisper, she thinks she was just imagining it, but when she feels the coldness above the notebook, she can tell that he is leaning over the sketch. “Uhh, thanks?” The coldness goes away, and she sees flashes of kids on the bus, they aren’t being noisy and naughty, but talking, some reading, some sketching, and some just laying in their seats, as if no one wanted to be their friend. Arabella feels the chill go up her spine and her hairs stand on end, her breathing gets rough, afraid. She takes long shuddery breaths to calm herself down. “I’m just imagining things, it’s just anxiety of a new camp. And I am just the first one to be picked up, that’s all! Yea, that is all that is happening. Just anxi-“ The bus halts to a stop. “Get off!” Booms the bus driver. Arabella packs away her notebook and scrambles off the bus. She manages to jump off as the bus driver pulls away. She sees the bus tilt a bit as it makes a horrid screeching sound. She sighs and turns around, smoothing down her camp shirt, it had a sash, but no badges. She looked up from her shirt and saw a cabin with rows of wood planks and and green forest behind it. She walked up the path with rocks tucked tightly into a snake of pulled up grass. She looks to the side as she walks and sees a small pond with mud surrounding it. A frog hops around in the mud pulling it up and letting go as he flies. A bird chirps as it flies above her and into its nest, a worm dangling from its little beak. It lands in the nest of sticks and small blades of grass, dropping the worm into the throats of hungry baby birds. Arabella finishes walking across the stones up to the wooden porch. One of the steps made a creaking sound as her foot made contact. She was just about to knock on the door, when a stout woman with short, red hair, opened it. “Why hello Arabella! May I call you Bella?” Arabella opened her mouth to respond but the woman went on. “You are lucky to be attending this camp, Bella. Not many little girls get to come. But you, Bella,” she bent over and tapped Arabella’s small nose. “ are a lucky child, and you are going to change history.” She straightend back up and opened the door a little farther, pushing up next to it, leaving room for Arabella to walk through. She cautiously walked through the doorway, nodding to the woman as she smiled. “Oh! I think I forgot to mention, my name is Feona Grenter, but you kids call me Ms. Grenter. For I am not married.” Arabella nodded again as Ms. Grenter shut the door. Arabella looked around the cabin. There was a fireplace with couches surrounding it. A green rug was placed in between the big gap of the couches. There was a hallway that started in the right corner. Ms. Grenter lead her to a door labeled ‘kitchen’. The door swung open as she pushes on it and they hurry inside as it swings close. It was a small kitchen with one tall man with a stubble for a beard and blonde hair down to half of his neck. He was washing plates from what Arabella guessed was from breakfast. He looked at them and nodded, looking content while washing the plates. Ms. Grenter lead her past a countertop with around 50 peanut butter sandwiches and ham sandwiches in 5 rows, 10 in each row. They entered through another door and get to a bigger room with many rows of picnic tables. There were windows and as Arabella peeked through them, she saw even more picnic tables under the shade of a couple of trees. She tilted her head and saw a big willow tree. It seemed to have a sparkle to it. She looked into the willows and saw a small bare foot hanging from it, when she blinked, it was gone. She looked at Ms. Grenter, but she was going on and on about the rules in the dining hall. “No food fights, of course, and no yelling, um, you may move your seat if you would like, but no saving seats. And that’s about all that i can think of” Ms. Grenter led Arabella to the hall with the many doors and each one was marked with a number and decorated. One had a skull and crossbones with a rainbow arching over it. Another had two names written in tape, Lily, and Zuri. One of the two peeked out of the door as they passed by. A voice from inside the room asked, “what does she look like Zuri?” The girl peeking out eyed me. She had dark skin and rainbow hair, made into small braids all over her head. “Umm, she seems nice, I guess.” The other girl, Arabella assumed was Lily peeked out too. She was tall with short brown hair and medium skin. Freckles dotted her face. She gave Arabella a small smile and popped back into the room. Zuri waved and popped in with her, closing the door. You could hear the muffled whispers as they discussed how to become her friend. Ms. Grenter led her past many other doors and then stopped in front of a door with nothing on it. “Am I gonna get my own room Ms. Grenter?” Arabella asked. Ms. Grenter chuckled, “No, Bella dear, you are sharing.” She knocked on the door and you could hear a squeak as something rolled across the floor. The door slowly opened and a small girl showed up. She was in a wheelchair and had thin blonde hair, a pixie cut. She smiled at Arabella. Arabella waved back. “This is Molly. She’s mute so she uses a little notepad to talk to everyone.” Ms. Grenter explains. Molly takes a pen from a small pocket in her wheelchair and writes on a small notepad in the same pocket. hi, she writes in neat, thick, handwriting. Arabella smiles and says hi in almost a whisper. Molly wheels backwards and opens the door more so that Arabella can step in. Molly closes the door softly behind them. Arabella looks around the room. There is bunk beds and two birch desks on each side of it. One of them has papers all over it, so Arabella guesses that the other one is hers. There is a purple rug in the middle of the room and on the other side of the room is a window showing the willow. Arabella feels a light tap on her shoulder, when she turns around, Molly is standing, no sitting, there holding up her notepad, Arabella looks at it. I don’t know your name but you know mine. Arabella laughs and says her name. “Arabella. But people call me Ara. Well, except for Ms. Grenter, she calls me Bella.” Molly nods slightly, as if thinking but then looks up at Arabella and grins. She wheels past Arabella toward a little box labeled ‘roomie’. She took it into her small hands and wheeled back to her. Molly held out the box to Arabella. It was purple with a small red ribbon tied around it. Arabella smiled politely at her and took the box. She pulled at one of the pieces that make up the bow. The whole bow collapsed into one red ribbon. Arabella sat on her bed and set the ribbon next to her. She took the lid off to find a little locket set neatly inside a mound of tissue paper. Arabella picked it up an clasped it around her neck. The locket rested lightly on her collarbone. The cold metal ran shivers through her spine and she shivered. She rand her hand lightly around the edges. A notebook got shoved into her face. Do you like it? Arabella laughed and answered. “Yes. I love it.” The two played board games and sometim pushed their heads up to the wall, listening in to the conversations of the rooms next door. “Have you seen David’s new haircut? I heard, he cut it himself!” Then they leaned against the other wall. “Have you seen the new girl? Her hair is so wacky!” Arabella felt her hand go up to touch her caramel colored hair with blue highlights lining the tips. She wove the hair through her fingers. They slipped through her fingers as a notepad got stuffed into her hand. I think your hair is pretty! Arabella smiled and thanked her. She tugged the locket out of her shirt and opened it. Inside was a little picture of the logo of the camp. It was a little clock with a wooded area behind it. Underneath it was the words Camp Ember. Arabella smiled at the souvenir. She leaned against the wall and Molly slumped into her wheelchair. have you ever wondered if each of us are from different worlds? Arabella laughed at the thought. “That’s not possible”
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