Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction intended for entertainment purposes only. The characters and world belong to Stephenie Meyer, I just like playing with them.
Panthalassa: Low Tide
Chapter 1 - Camp
The bus had terrible shocks, which was the only reason I stayed awake for the two hour drive from Ladysmith to a camp site just outside of Ashland. I was exhausted, and had been for the last three nights.
My foster family had just taken in two small children, ages three and five. And they loved to fight and cry.
They were siblings that the State didn't want to separate; their mum had run out on them shortly after the youngest one was born, leaving them with their father. He was an addict who had recently been arrested for robbery, so off to social services the little children went. They were young and cute, which was lucky for them because some family would love to snap them up, rescue those poor little buggers.
I usually didn't like finding out anything about the other foster children I lived with, because it just depressed me more.
I knew nobody wanted me, I had more or less come to terms with that, but it sucked to hear how other kids throughout the state, heck even the country, weren't wanted either.
I was one of the TOTD kids the state moved around regularly. TOTD was what Julie called us, she had heard it from someone else and apparently that's what all the social workers secretly referred to us as. Too Old Too Damaged. Nobody wanted a 17 year old who had lived in 9 different homes since she was 10.
Sitting next to me on the bus was Julie; she was sort of my only friend. I mean sort of because we never talked about much of anything, we just shared a room at the Conner's. How she managed to sleep on the bus amazed me.
I had a few friends throughout the state that I emailed once in a while. But two of them were in juvie, not a very good influence, as the State therapist had told me on multiple occasions.
Hope was the only friend I could talk to on a regular basis. She had only been in the system for 3 years because her mum got caught drunk driving shortly after her dad had been killed in Iran. Her mum had never bothered to clean herself up for long enough to gain custody of her daughter back. But Hope wasn't going to this "Retreat".
Sometimes I really disliked how people didn't say what they meant. They used politically correct language, and it bugged the crap out of me. Retreat was their way of saying "extended psychological evaluation."
I was here on this damn bus going to a retreat in some old camp in northern Wisconsin because some therapist and some social worker got it into their heads I was depressed, and needed a little bit of "fun".
I didn't like their meddling.
I was a teenager for Christ sake, and I didn't have a stellar life, so I was allowed to be a little depressed. Going to the middle of nowhere in the spring time, with a bunch of other TOTD kids to spend an extended weekend wasn't exactly my idea of 'fun'.
But as a minor I was told to go, and go I did. It really was better than the alternative of spending a weekend with the two new boys at my foster house.
Some kids would be arriving by cars their foster parents drove because they lived closer, and some others were being bused in from other parts of the state. I and twelve others were on this bus coming from the Eau Claire area. I wasn't exactly sure of the criteria for which they chose the kids going to the retreat, and I didn't really think on it.
Once the bus pulled up the camp everyone started grumbling and stretching. The dumpy, exasperated looking social worker who rode up with us stood up and told us to remain seated. The camp councilor came on the bus and gave us the whole spiel about the history of the camp, how many buildings it had, and basically bored most of us.
I did feel a little pity once in a while for the adults in charge of us TOTD kids, most of us were to apathetic, too drugged, or too angry to really care about anything they were trying to do for us.
I gathered my things, my small bag with the few clothes I had that still fit, and my guitar I named "Hans Solo". Trudging off the bus I sighed when the fresh air hit my nose.
Ok, it wouldn't be that bad here with air this clean. I thought.
Once my feet hit the ground I stumbled because blinding lights flashed in my eyes.
I stood there frozen for a moment trying to get my bearings back.
The goddamn lights were back, and that just made my day much worse.
I had been seen by as many doctors, therapists, psychologists the State was willing to pay for, but none of them had even found out why it happened.
Once in a while I would have bright lights flash in my eyes, sometimes it hurt, and sometimes it was just distracting. But there was never any rhyme or reason for it.
The Doctors all basically said it was probably due to some head trauma from when I was a kid.
The Therapists said it was because I was stressed, and it was a coping mechanism for dealing with it. That one made no sense to me.
The Psychologist told me it was some latent emotional stress working its way out. They were all just making guesses as to why it happened.
But it happened. The first time the lights blinded me from within my own head I was 10, sitting at the courthouse with a child psychologist and my old case worker Mr. Thoms. I screamed bloody murder and they couldn't calm me down. They brought me to the ER where the psychologist took the doctors aside to suggest this was just a way for me to get attention when they couldn't find anything.
Years passed and it happened on average five times a year. I shrugged off the feeling of unease that always followed the lights, and looked around.
It was an overcast Thursday in mid April, I had heard that once upon a time this time of year in Wisconsin there would still be snow on the ground, but climate change had surely changed that. The grass was still brown in some places but it was defiantly spring time with how warm it was.
Mrs. Jordan, my case worker and the social worker in charge of the group, scanned each of our indent badges as we passed. I shoved mine back into my bag as soon as I cleared the queue, and took a look around.
I was looking at all the groups of the kids that had been forced to show up. Far too many had come from broken homes. I had lived with a few of them over the years.
Cole was standing with some other boys; they had probably ridden on the same bus. I made a mental note to avoid him.
I saw Sophila. I hoped to god I didn't get stuck with her as a roommate. As the camp councilor had told us we would be bunking in groups of three, same sex groups of course, to be drawn at random at the welcoming feast they happily called, the "Get together dinner."
Shifting my bag over my shoulder as I looked over another odd group. My eyes stopped roaming over the other clusters of kids when they landed on the six kids who all looked like models that had just walking off their private jet. I had never seen any kids quite like them; in fact they didn't look much like teenagers at all. I noticed several others looking at them with envy and greed.
There were six of them, and it was obvious they knew each other and got along well, I assumed they were foster siblings. It was impressive to me that any family would take in more than one TOTD, but six? I smiled to myself and thought it was good for them.
It was clear they were well taken care of with their designer clothes. I suddenly remembered that I hadn't sewn the hole up in my t-shirt and fingered the hole absentmindedly. Forcing myself to look away from the strange gorgeous teens I noticed as the camp councilor waved us to come closer.
He announced that we had to trek about a mile into the woods to reach the cabins. The one we were currently standing by was just the front office.
There were about 38 kids, including the magnificent six, as I started to call them in my mind. And there were enough mini cabins for us to be in the fore mentioned 3 to a cabin, with two having an extra boy in each. It seemed to me there was a discrepancy with the boy to girl ratios; 15 girls to the 23 boys.
"So they managed to drag your morose ass out for this too huh?" A harsh voice piped up behind me.
I internally grimaced and cleared my throat before glancing at the dark skinned girl behind me.
"Ah lovely to see you again Sophila, I'd hoped to never have the pleasure again, but alas we can't always get what we want. How have you progressed in your attempts to take the corner on the most horrid person in the western hemisphere gone?" For reasons I never understood, when I got angry I always slipped back into my accent.
I turned halfway to look at her behind me, she still had the ugliest shade of eye shadow on and her black hair was all matted in an attempt to recreate the current hair trends. She spluttered for a moment taken aback with my instantaneous response. I didn't wait for her, and caught up with Julie further up the path.
I turned back around when I heard a loud "ooph" and a startled gasp. Some boys were laughing as they passed Sophila who had tripped over something in the path. One of the boys that belonged with the magnificent six smirked as he elegantly stepped around her and her pudgy friend that was helping her up.
The trek wasn't all that bad; the path was well groomed and mostly flat. I could hear birds off in the distance quietly singing to one another. They seemed to get quieter as the loud group of teens stomped through the trees.
Once in a while I regretted judging things too fast. This camp and the retreat was one of those things I was regretting judging to be boring or a waste of time. I could easily see opportunities to sneak off so I could be alone. And I promised myself I would get some cherished alone time, and was so thrilled I brought Hans with.
All of us had finally managed to meet in the dining hall, a long wood cabin with hand crafted sign hanging over the door saying "Dig In!", I was ready to go to bed and it wasn't even 4pm yet.
It had taken almost 45 minutes for the whole group to walk the path from the parking lot to the cabins. Several of the boys took detours into the trees to smoke and generally make the lives of the adults in charge that much more difficult.
The camp had a staff of eight. The lead councilors name was Jeff Patters. He was the one who organized our schedule for the four day retreat.
Three of the staff would be helping us prepare our meals. Many started complaining about the fact we were going to have to help prepare our own meals. We had each been assigned to help prepare one meal in the four days. Ten meals. The meal tonight was going to be a BBQ that once they were done reviewing the rules, those that had to help would be going with the staff to get the meal ready for the others.
I basically blanked out the rest of the orientation. I generally behaved myself, especially when I knew I was being watched so closely by adults who controlled my fate and life. Some of the other TOTD kids weren't that smart. So I would just behave like I normally did.
It was classic BBQ fare, and although I didn't like messy foods I did enjoy the corn on the cob and corn bread with honey.
The sun had just started to set behind the dark swimming clouds, the brightness of the last rays of light made the clouds look like fish swimming in a dark pool of water. When I mentioned that to Julie she giggled and agreed, although she was distracted, as were most of the other kids by that magnificent six group.
"Do you think that tall one is single?" A girl sitting on the other side of Julie asked. I finished taking a sip of my bottled apple juice to look at the group she was talking about. Julie and I shrugged to her question.
They were sitting together on one of the picnic benches closest to the path to the sleeping cabins, but furthest away from the food. The boys were on one side and the girls across from them.
They didn't look comfortable, and I thought it must because everyone was taking long turns staring at them. Sadly I was included in that, they were just so... pretty, and it was hard not to look at them. It seemed like they were all picking at their food, not really interested in it.
The tall blonde girl was especially difficult for me to look away from. She reminded me a bit of my mum, what my mum would have looked like if she had been a supermodel anyway.
"I heard they were all forced here by the State. Three of them were recently adopted by their foster parents," the same girl continued.
"Now just where did you hear about that?" I asked. As far as I knew most of these kids were strangers to one another.
"I heard Mr. Cole talking to the shorter," she nodded towards the boys again, "The gorgeous one," she elaborated. "And Mr. Cole said something about how this was the last time the State would intrude with them, and hoped they would all enjoy this experience."
As the unnamed girl talked, repeating what she had overheard I realized at least four of them seemed too old to even be at a retreat for TOTD kids still in the system.
Without prompting the girl identified herself as Lucy and started telling us her life story. She was like Julie in that she had only been in the system for a few months, and was already sick of it.
Julie cut off Lucy's tantrum by mentioning that I had been in foster care since I was 10. That declaration stinted the conversation so I got up to dump my plate and head over to where some of the camp staff was making smores.
After dinner outside we did room draw.
I took my number from the burlap sack, and shortly after people started asking around to see who they roomed with.
The lights flashed in my eyes, I winced and dropped the token with my cabin number on it. The palms of my hands were pressed firmly over my eyes as I willed the lights to go away. It wasn't painful this time, just surprising and bothersome.
"You dropped this." A kind clear voice said just in front of me.
"Thanks, I just... there is something in my eyes-smoke I think," I explained, trying to calm myself from the shock of the lights blinding me.
When I opened my eyes to look at the person handing me the token back I blinked a couple times, surprised.
She was a short girl, with smooth short black hair. I recognized her as one of the magnificent six instantly. She was unbearably pretty, and her eyes seemed to reflect the golden color of the citronella candles beautifully, I wondered what color they really were.
I took the token from her; she was wearing very expensive looking red leather gloves.
"I'm Alice by the way," she chirped happily.
"Evangeline," I smiled.
"Listen… I don't mean to be a bother…" she looked hesitant. I tilted my head to encourage her. She really was adorable.
"I noticed you have cabin 5… my sisters both got cabin 5 as well, and I was wondering if..." she hesitated again and I sighed. I held the token out to her, and she grinned.
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah, well… I guess I am. But you'll owe me." I winked as she took the token back, and handed me hers. I was now cabin 2.
She giggled happily.
"I owe you big time Eva!" She happily stated just before flouncing away in a manner someone shouldn't while wearing combat boots.
I smiled to myself as I watched her pick up her bags that were next to her foster sisters.
I followed the groups of people going to their cabins to get ready for bed. When I entered cabin 2, the amount that Alice girl owed me multiplied.
Sophila was setting her stuff on one of the three beds, the one furthest from the door. A girl with straight blond hair I had never met before was setting her stuff up as well. I debated whether or not to leave the cabin before Sophila turned around and noticed me.
"Oh Hi!" The blonde said, making up my mind for me.
I stepped further into the cabin, letting the door close behind me.
"Hi," I said somberly. Sophia looked up and she was grinning evilly at me, I could almost see the cogs in her mind working on how to embarrass or hurt me.
"I'm Tina and this is Sophia," the girl gestured to Sophila.
"It's SophiLA," the evil incarnate grumbled to Tina before turning back to glare at me.
"I'm Evangeline, so… this is my bed then?" I cleared my throat and gave Tina a smile, altogether ignoring Sophila.
It was a tense few minutes as I unpacked my meager belongings, and changed into my pajamas. Sophila kept trying to make snide digs at me the whole time. Tina looked rather worried at the exchange, and when I excused myself to go to the girl's bathroom to wash up she eagerly followed me out.
I made small chat with Tina as a few other girls joined our group going to the cabin that housed the toilets and showers. We used our cabin tokens as a key to let us in, and each took up spots along the wall to clean up.
"If you think the system here is bad, I had a friend that was moved to Texas because they had some distant relative that was willing to take him in; it took them five months to come check on his living situation once he sent a complaint about having to sleep on the floor." Tina sighed sadly as the rest of the other girls murmured their shock at that situation.
"Did any of you ever meet Keith Oberman?" A fat surly looking girl with glasses asked after washing her face.
Not being too interested in hearing the plight of others in the system I quickly finished brushing my teeth and left the girls bathroom.
Later lying in the bed I tried to let my mind rest, but it just wouldn't be quiet. I wondered about the magnificent six, and Alice. I wondered about Cole, even though he didn't deserve any pity or thought from me I wondered how he was after the accident in Milwaukee.
Even though I really was exhausted I couldn't rest, especially knowing Sophila and her demented mind was less than 8 feet from me.
Tina was sound asleep, and I assumed the demon was asleep when I slipped out of bed, quietly grabbing Hans Solo and slipping on my tennis shoes. I took the flash light that each of us received with our welcome packets and stealthily slipped out of cabin number 2.
The night had cleared up some and I could see a few stars poking out through the wispy clouds. The moon was barely just a sliver so I switched on the flash light, and made my way to the lake that was supposed to be nearby. Another thing in the welcome packet had been a map and compass, so I followed the map down a steady path.
I made it to the sandy shore of Crooked Lake and smiled. I could hear the lapping of small waves on the boats tied up to the docks.
Walking to the short dock, I assumed was for people to jump off of during the warmer months when swimming would be a good idea. I sat near the edge, not getting too close and carefully set my flash light next to me before putting my guitar in my lap.
It was eerie and beautiful like some haunted or holy place. The inky blackness of the lake at night made me wonder what kinds of creatures were in that abyss.
Shaking the thought out, I looked up into the sky. I started strumming Hans a few times to check and see if he was still in tune. Before too long I was quietly playing the chords I knew, debating which song to start practicing. I settled on one of my favorite singers songs.
My mum had loved Adele, a singer that became popular when I was around the age of five. Two years later my mum and I would move to the states because of a job opportunity for her and in order to make me feel more comfortable with the big change she constantly played British bands and artists for me.
I exercised my voice a little before belting out the strong emotional song. I mostly strummed the right chords to help me keep my rhythm right. I wrapped my faded blue hoodie around myself in between my songs.
I sang, for what seemed like hours.
And when I was done I set the guitar aside, and stared out into the blackness of the lake again.
I turned my head away from the lake to stare at the guitar. It was one of the things I owned that I earned myself. No state money, no foster parent money went into it.
I worked at a little pub in Chetek Wisconsin that had jazz nights every Friday. The owner couldn't pay me much, so he gave me free food on the nights I sang with the little band, and he had his brother-in-law, the bassist; teach me how to play the guitar. When I saved up enough I bought my own used guitar when the Conner's took us to Eau Claire.
Humming a bit while I picked up my things, I headed back up the path.
I almost wished I could sleep outside, even though I didn't like the idea of sleeping outside, it would still be a much preferred alternative to sleeping in the same room as Sophila.