Becoming Robin Book Three: Chapter 29

Becoming Robin Book 3 Cover/Image
Bk3C2011ZoeTaylor.png~* Aloha Means I Love You *~

“Uh oh,” Allison laughed. “Your aunt’s Cynthia Dunham?”

“Yeah, on my mom’s side. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’ve heard a lot of wild stories about other people too,” she added with a grin. “Like the time that Crystal girl accidentally knocked a snake silly with her canoe.”

Natalie practically cackled. “Oh my God, I forgot about that. She felt SO guilty. The snake was okay though. I’m just glad it didn’t crawl into our boat!”

“So how are we doing the Island Princess vote this year anyway?” Natalie asked as we entered Margie’s clothing shop, ‘Touch of Style’.

“Probably an informal vote,” Allison answered. “We’re already taking nominations. As organizers and staff, we’re pretty much disqualified from voting or being nominated,” she continued as Margie approached.

“Hey you,” she cheered as I rushed over to hug her.

“Hey!” I bubbled. “Sorry we’re late. We went a little overboard on the flowers this year.”

Margie laughed and shook her head. “It’s fine. I needed to touch base with my art team anyway.”

“Art team?” Rachel and Natalie asked in unison. Margie grinned, turning to me.

“Can I trust them?”

“Absolutely,” I answered. “But it’s up to you if you want to tell them. I’m not sure if they’re as big comic book geeks as Nikki and I.”

Margie motioned for us to follow. “I’ve been working on the story board in my spare time, but it’s still pretty rough. I’m working with an unknown of a clothing designer, trying to help her break into the business. I don’t know if selling her stuff here will count for much, but it’s better than nothing. But with designing a window display I haven’t had time to sketch as much as I’d like.”

“Oh, she did the stuff in the window?” Nicole asked. “It looks really good. Not really my style, but I could see a twenty-something wearing it.”

“That’s the target audience,” Margie answered. “Good eye,” she added, and then, reaching behind her desk, produced five large pieces of posterboard. The first one depicted a large office building on fire, and a narrator’s speech bubble, talking about the unbelievable turn of events at the end of the Aria Blade run. In the next panel, a silhouette vaguely reminiscent of Raven Wing had been added to the scene, dashing bravely into the building as the narrator noted Raven Wing’s redemption.

“Shadowcraft right?” Natalie asked. “My brother loves comic books. I never could get into them, but still, this is so cool. I never knew you were a comic book artist!”

“I never set out to be the semi-anonymous author behind the Shadowcraft series,” Margie explained with a giggle as she set the panels aside. “It just sort of happened. Internet rumors started about who it could be, and my last publisher was just as content to keep it under wraps since when I started, they didn’t want anyone to know for fear it would damage their reputations.”

“And now they’re paying for it,” Allison mused. “Serves ‘em right.”

“They were furious when I didn’t renew my contract, but their hands are tied,” Margie added as she picked up a cloth measuring tape. “Anyway, let’s see about getting you girls something to wear. Floral prints are big this year.”

~oOo~

I couldn’t remember it ever raining during camp week. It started with just a few drops here and there, but by the time we reached camp we couldn’t see three feet in front of us. At least I wasn’t driving; I was enough of a nervous wreck sitting in the front passenger seat.

“COLD!” Allison squealed as she barreled out of the sliding door of Alice’s van.

“Run for the main office!” Rachel shouted, chased quickly by a clap of thunder, and a chorus of terrified squeals as we raced down the path.

The sting of the massive drops turned over to small hail as we ducked under the covered entry to the administrative lodge. A couple of other girls had gotten stranded in the administrative lodge as well, practically cheering as we raced inside, closing the door behind us.

“Thank God, someone in charge,” an older girl I didn’t really know sighed with relief, motioning to the small gathering of younger girls. “I was helping these three find the Arts and Crafts pavilion when the rain started. We’ve been waiting here for it to stop ever since.”

Jennifer nodded. “Good idea. It’s started to hail out-” she paused as a flash of lightning outside the near window sent us all scurrying for the main sitting room area. “Where’s Director Meredith?”

“No idea,” the as yet unnamed girl responded. “... You’re Spirit, right?” she asked hesitantly, looking at me. I nodded, causing her to chuckle. “Thought so. My aunt talked me into coming this year. It figures she’d get hurt and not be able to make it. I’m Denise, and I’ve heard a lot of wild stories about you guys,” she added with a giggle.

“Uh oh,” Allison laughed. “Your aunt’s Cynthia Dunham?”

“Yeah, on my mom’s side. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’ve heard a lot of wild stories about other people too,” she added with a grin. “Like the time that Crystal girl accidentally knocked a snake silly with her canoe.”

Natalie practically cackled. “Oh my God, I forgot about that. She felt SO guilty. The snake was okay though. I’m just glad it didn’t crawl into our boat!”

The younger girls seemed to relax and even join in the laughter as we gathered around on the sofas and chairs and swapped stories, as much to take our own minds off the storm as to make them feel more at-ease.

The more I thought about it though, the more I realized this was probably the first time Natalie had ever really opened up and talked about Crystal. I enjoyed hearing more about her. It made her more real, less a face on the wall.

“I don’t usually talk about Crystal very much,” Natalie finally admitted, “But I think about her all the time. I really miss her.” She smiled though, pulling Jennifer and Rachel into a hug, as they were sitting on either side of her on one of the sofas. She giggled. “But if it wasn’t for Spirit and these guys, I never would’ve made peace with her passing, either.”

“You know,” Jennifer began, “They say that as long as you keep a person’s memory alive, they’re never truly gone. Crystal’s become a part of camp mythos now, and in a good way, so really, she’ll always live on in the hearts and memories of future girl scouts.”

Suddenly the front door flung open, and Meredith rushed inside, panting heavily as she stepped into the sitting area. “Oh, good, you’re all safe! I got caught out by the lake when the storm hit. When the hail let up I started going around, making sure everyone was accounted for.”

“Is everyone else okay?” I asked. She nodded.

“Other than one poor girl with some minor bruising from trying to save her canoe,” she admitted with a wry smile, “But to her credit she got it to safety.”

“Sarah,” I immediately answered. She laughed.

“She’s nothing if not dedicated. It looks like the worst of it is over, but you’re all welcome to stay here until it’s passed. I have a few spare umbrellas if you change your minds though.”

~oOo~

After a couple of days, we really fell into a stride with our counselor duties, to the point that by Wednesday evening, we actually had some free time to sit around and unwind. We stayed in the camp mess hall, chatting quietly and watching the kitchen staff clean up. I started to feel guilty though, watching them do all the work, and I was bored stiff, so I approached one of the ladies wiping down a table.

“Can I help?” I asked.

Before she could answer, Nicole called over, “Hey, no fair! You didn’t ask if we wanted to help too!” she teased. The others giggled and hopped up from our table, as the poor woman looked overwhelmed from one of us to the next, then laughed.

“Well I know you’re considered staff now, but you don’t need to feel obligated to help us out here.”

“I - we - insist,” I corrected myself. “Really, this’ the first time we’ve had a lot of free time, and it just feels wrong not doing anything. I’m so bored,” I added. She grinned.

“Well in that case, dears, grab a dish cloth and start wiping down tables. When you’re done with that you can help me scrub down the kitchen, mop the floors, and take out the trash.”

Rachel giggled, playfully elbowing me.

“What?” I asked, trying not to laugh.

“Notta thang,” she teased, causing Nicole to crack up laughing now.

It only took us about an hour to completely clean the whole dining hall and kitchen, working alongside the kitchen staff. The trash remained to be dealt with, but they told us not to worry about it due to sanitary safety regulations that had to be followed, so after we washed our hands and returned our borrowed aprons, we started back for our cabins when a strange sound on the wind caught my attention.

It sounded vaguely like a bagpipe, but without the drones. Jennifer noticed it too, judging by how she seemed to be straining to listen.

“Do you guys hear that too?” she asked. “Sounds like a practice chanter.”

“A what-what?” Allison asked. Jennifer giggled.

“A practice chanter. Bagpipe players use them to practice when they can’t carry a full bagpipe set with them somewhere, or when they just don’t want the full pipe sound.” She paused as we all stared back at her, and giggled. “Don’t look at me like that! I love cultural history, remember? Anyway, I think it’s coming from this direction. Let’s go see who’s playing!”

“It’s kind of nice,” I admitted as we followed the sound. “I mean, I’ve never been a fan of world music, but this is kinda cool.”

We followed the sound down to the lake where, in the late evening sun, we could just barely make out a figure sitting on the bank, slightly hunched, but definitely one of the girls. As we stepped closer, we could more clearly see that it was Elaine, the mousy writer and coaches’ assistant. She had really been letting her hair grow this past year. Her golden hair had a certain wave to it as it lay loose on her shoulders.

She suddenly stopped, looking back over her shoulder at us like a deer caught in headlights.

“I’m sorry!” she exclaimed as she shot up. “I didn’t think anybody’d hear way out here. I’ll stop.”

“No, wait,” Allison quickly shook her head. “Don’t stop. We were just wondering where that pretty music was coming from.”

“... Pretty?” Elaine echoed, looking a little confused. “Well, I mean, I like it, but my cat runs for the hills for days at a time when she hears me tuning the drones.”

Nicole giggled. “I love all kinds of music, and even Robin likes it, and we’re still indoctrinating - err, I mean, broadening her musical horizons.” She giggled Elaine smiled, even as her cheeks turned several shades redder.

“It’s weird. Whenever I’m playing, it’s like I turn into a different person - a person who’s not scared of her own shadow, or constantly self-conscious about her weight. It lets me be free for awhile, if that makes any sense at all.”

“It makes perfect sense,” Allison answered with a smile. “For me music is all about relaxing and enjoying it, just, you know, having fun. Hey, you know, I brought my travel guitar with me. Do you want to play along a couple of songs with me at the bonfire later tonight?”

Elaine blinked several times, parting her lips to speak, but hesitating. “B-but it’s just a practice chanter, plus the tuning’s going to be off, and I don’t think anyone really wants to hear me squawk and squeak to Kum-ba-ya,” she rambled. Nicole giggled.

“Well, I’m pretty sure Ally brought her capo so between the three of us we can figure out the tuning beforehand, and find something that sounds nice.”

“Plus I do know a couple of traditional songs,” Allison added with a giggle. “Loch Lommond, MacPherson’s Rant; you know, the popular stuff. They were great for learning chords and strum patterns before I started getting into learning rock and metal riffs.”

Elaine bit her lip. “I dunno guys. I really don’t think everyone else is going to want to hear this.”

“One song,” Allison begged. “Please?”

She sighed, defeated. “Okay. ONE song, but I swear if I get laughed out of camp-”

“You won’t!” Jennifer insisted. “Remember when Robin first came here, how everyone was all ‘Cali girl OMG’ on her? This camp is the most exposure to non-surburban boredom most of these girls have ever seen. Trust me.”

~oOo~

Jennifer’s prediction turned out to be quite accurate. If anyone had any complaints, they hid them amazingly well because more than a few applauded at the end of “Loch Lommond”. I’d never even heard the full song, myself, so it was a nice treat for me as well. Of course, it’s always nice to hear Jennifer sing.

“That was so cool,” I overheard one girl whispering not far behind me, and the other giggle back.

“Yeah. I thought bagpipe music was just noise. Guess I just never heard a good player.”

I giggled to myself as Elaine stood and approached to sit beside me. “What?”

“Nothing,” I answered with a smile. “That was great.”

“No, really. Your opinion means a lot to me. What was so funny?”

“Not haha funny, really. I heard someone whispering behind me just before you sat down, saying they thought they must’ve just never heard a good player before because they really liked that.”

Her cheeks turned bright red again, and she smiled. “Um, wow. Someone really said that?”

I nodded. “I wouldn’t lie to you, especially about something like that.” She giggled, and I had to smile. “See? It’s giggle-worthy!”

“Before I left, my dad made a crass comment about me bringing my practice chanter with me this session.” She sighed. “He’s never supported my music because I didn’t choose something “normal” like the piccolo.” She grunted then sighed. “He’s a good man, don’t get me wrong. It’s just frustrating. I thought moms were the passive-aggressive ones.” She paused, biting her lip. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to just dump that on you.”

I shook my head as I pulled her into a hug. “Don’t apologize. I consider you a friend anyway, but even if I didn’t you know I’m always happy to listen.”

She smiled brightly at that. “Thanks. And thank you,” she added as she looked over at Allison, who had been watching us the whole time. “For talking me into playing tonight. I really had fun.”

“Hey, you’re welcome to come jam in my garage anytime. We pretty much own the culdasac - me, Robin’s sister and Sarah. There’s one empty house just at the corner too, but behind us is forest and field, so nobody complains about the music.”

Her eyes lit up. “Wow, really? That would be great! I don’t know how my pipes would sound accompanying you guys though,” she added, shaking her head.

Nicole giggled as she leaned forward to glance over at Elaine. “What, you’ve never heard of Dropkick Murphys, or Nightwish, for that matter. Plus I have it on authority that Heedless Despair might be re-releasing their single for Lady in White with a bagpipe theme.”

“Wow,” Elaine answered quietly. “I guess you’ve got a point. Just um, let me know what kinds of songs you guys like to play together, and I’ll start looking for sheet music I can adapt when I get back home.”

“I can ask Katelyn to help if you want,” I added. “She mentioned once she has entire hard drives dedicated to sheet music. I’m sure she’d be happy to print off anything you’d want.”

“Oh, wow. That’d be great!”

“So, ready for an encore?” Allison asked. Elaine grinned and nodded.

~oOo~

The rest of the week really passed us by quickly. We spent our free time Thursday and Friday setting up for the luau, meeting with the caterers to help them get the food in-place, and setting up our torches and decorations. Like last year, the younger girls were more than happy to volunteer to make leis for everyone. We decided, in order to make the voting even more fair, that we would ask the other counselors to tally votes for the Island Princess rather than doing it ourselves.

That had the benefit of getting the staff in on the fun, too, and gave us more time to prepare and take care of our other duties. As a result though, none of us knew who it would be, other than that it wouldn’t be one of us, as we had already decided early in the week.

That night, the six of us gathered on the banks of the lake. I in my purple strapless dress with white flower designs, and a white flower in my hair, Jennifer and Allison in pale pink and dark navy, Nicole and Rachel in a deep golden yellow and vibrant green, and Natalie in bright red. We went over the ceremony one last time before the others left Natalie and me standing by our canoes. Natalie sighed nervously.

“You okay?” I asked. She nodded.

“Yeah. It’s just … I’ve never done anything like this before. I guess you could call it stage fright.”

“Ohh. Try yawning.”

“Wha?”

“Seriously. At cheer nationals, I was so nervous I almost got sick all over the bathroom floor. One of the girls from another school told me how yawning relaxes you. It sounds crazy, but it really does work.”

She stared at me for a moment then yawned, which of course, made me yawn too. We giggled.

“Wow. I do feel better.”

“Me too,” I added with a grin, and as the soft music started to drift to our side of the lake, added, “That’s our cue.”

We climbed into our canoes and began to carefully, slowly paddle out to the middle of the lake. As Jennifer spun her tale, our canoes slowed, and together we lifted the lei and set it gently on the water, afterward carefully maneuvering away and making our way to shore.

“And so we honor our fallen Scout, our first Island Princess. Crystal Grace, we love you sweetie, wherever you are now.” She paused and turned, pressing a button on the small remote control in her hand, which caused the music to shift to a more upbeat drum rhythm.

“And now for the honoring of this year’s Island Princess. I want to remind everyone that we, the organizers, haven’t had any involvement whatsoever in the voting process. We don’t know who was chosen.”

“Elaine!” a chorus of cheers rang out from somewhere in the gathered, causing Jennifer to laugh.

“Hey, she’d have my vote if I could! That was some righteous music the other night, am I right?”

A round of applause followed, and she egged it on, throwing her hands up in a ‘more, more!’ motion before clearing her throat, and opening the envelope. “Okay, all kidding aside, this year’s Island Princess is … Oh wow. Amanda Greer!”

“No way!” Amanda squealed in disbelief. Applause and giggles followed as her friends urged her forward. She looked up at me in disbelief. I smiled and hugged her, gently nudging her toward the stairs.

“Congratulations Amanda,” Jennifer smiled as she carefully draped a non-fake flowered lei over the girl’s shoulders, helping her pull her hair through. “Do you want to say anything?” she asked, offering Amanda the microphone.

Tears streamed down the girl’s face as she answered. “Thanks everyone! This is SO cool!” she giggled as she hugged Jennifer, who smiled and kissed her forehead.

“And now, let’s party!” she announced, going over the list of foods available to sample even as Amanda bounded down the stairs to hug me.

“I dunno what to say,” she giggled excitedly. “Why me though?”

“You’re energetic, friendly,” I began.

“Adorable,” Natalie added with a giggle.

“And finally, the girls formerly known as the CITs of Cabin 13 will be providing hula lessons for anybody who’s interested. Just come on over and talk to one of us, and don’t be shy; it’s a party!”

Sarah grinned as she approached, first hugging Amanda. “Hey, congratulations!” she bubbled happily. The girl beamed back at her.

“Thanks!” she responded happily before racing off to rejoin her friends.

“I know I voted for her,” she added a moment later. “This camp has been so much fun. I’m really glad I came.”

“And there’s still another week left,” Allison advised cheerfully as Jennifer stepped down off the stage to approach.

“Yeah. I still owe you a canoe race, don’t I? With the luau setup and stuff I didn’t want to get in the way.”

“Oh, psh. You’re never in the way,” Jennifer answered playfully. “Just say the word whenever you’re ready. It’s just a shame Robin will miss it.”

“Huh?” she asked, turning back to me. I nodded.

“C’mere,” I offered, motioning for her to follow me. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust Natalie or Rachel, but the less people around to overhear what I had to say, the better. Sarah followed me down the bank of the lake, oddly, to the spot where I talked with Natalie last year.

“What’s up? Is something wrong?” she asked. I shook my head.

“Something’s right, actually. You were out cold when I talked to you about all this.” I smiled sheepishly. “But basically I’ve made arrangements with your aunt that, once the first week of camp was over, I’d be ready to talk to a surgeon.”

“About...” she paused, recognition dawning on her face. “Oh my God. Spirit, that’s great news!”

“Yeah. I’m nervous, but it’s something that’s just got to be done, otherwise I’m going to have to quit cheer and basketball. I can’t take the pressure anymore.”

“I know exactly what you mean,” she mused, quickly adding, “Err, I mean-”

“It’s okay. I know what you mean. You had it pretty rough too,” I replied and hugged her. She seemed to relax, smiling back at me.

“So, can you teach me to wiggle my hips?” she teased. I laughed.

“Sure. Jen’s the best, but I can show you a few things too. Let’s head back.”

“Coolness.”

As we rejoined our friends and fellow scouts, there was no scent of lilacs on the breeze, no disembodied voices from beyond: just a bunch of girls having a great time at a great party. I couldn’t help feeling an overwhelming sense of accomplishment though.

In a year, I’d lived more than some girls would live in their lifetimes, and I wasn’t even a “proper” girl yet - at least not in my own mind. But hopefully I’d take care of that sooner rather than later. For now though, I grabbed a coconut-cup of fruit punch and watched Jennifer and Allison giggle as they tried to give some basic instructions. I’d worry about the rest, and cross my bridges, when I came to them.


Author's Note:
So due to clerical error, I was worried over nothing, and posted the last chapter way too soon. Sorry about that :-( Anyway, this is technically the last chapter of Book Three! Yay!

Don't worry; I'm not going to leave you hanging, wondering how things went though. I said technically because the next chapter I'm considering more my traditional Epilogue chapter, where I tie up some important loose ends and drop some hints about what to expect in the next book. :-)



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