The Way to Acceptance by Karen Seeley

Lightening flashed so close that I cringed. Here I was, out in the middle of the lake, the highest thing around. I’m not sure what the canoe is made of. Fiberglass maybe. It looks like wood, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t. At least it’s not metal, but it does have metal reinforcement in a thin strip around the top of the canoe.
I heard all the warnings my mother ever gave me. “Don’t go out on the lake if there is a storm” she would say. “If you hear thunder, get off the lake! Lightening will follow” and “Lightening strikes whatever is higher than the water. And it will strike anything that has metal in it”.
When I started out this morning, it was nice out. A little overcast maybe, but nothing too ominous. I could see the dark green line of evergreens and firs on the island far across the lake. To the west, an arm of land jutted out. I knew there was a cove on the other side of that arm. I had always found peace there, and I needed some of that.
“We’re leaving at noon, so be sure to be back by then” dad said. I rolled my eyes. I know, I know. Be back by noon. Geez. I’m not a baby, I’m fifteen.
I had to get away and think, and I had to be alone. Even though I had already thought and thought about it. I knew something was wrong last night when I went to hold Darryl’s hand, and he moved it out of the way. Not subtly enough because I noticed. I stopped walking and turned to face him. He turned his face away. “What is it? What’s wrong?” I asked.
He kept looking away from me, but said, “I don’t think we should see each other any more. I like you, but I don’t like, like you. You know what I mean?”
I remember gulping. He liked me enough to hang around all summer. He liked me enough to fool around with. Rat bastard. I kind of smiled, or something like it, trying not to show how he hurt me. Really, I don’t know how I came off. All of my feelings were battling it out at once.
I managed to spit out, “What did I do? What can I do?” I remember repeating it a few times.
He finally turned and faced me. “You didn’t do anything. Sometimes, things don’t work out” he said.
I felt a kind of dread. I thought we had a good thing. How could I be so wrong? Maybe if I kissed him. I got closer to him, and leaned my head in for a kiss. He gently pushed me away. On top of my hurt, I now had humiliation. He wouldn’t see me cry though. No way.
“It has been good, the time we had. Let’s leave it at that” he said.
This would all go in my diary once I got home. What would I write? That I was livid? That I was devastated? I couldn’t decide. It was dark, so I couldn’t see his face very well, and had to go by what he was saying. I was only half listening, struggling to keep my dignity and wondering if I should make a scene.
“I’ll walk you back to your cottage” he said as he started walking again. He wanted this over with. That was for sure. We walked in silence for a while.
“Goodbye” he said once we were at my cottage. “Bye” was all I said. I watched as he disappeared into the darkness.
I sat on the porch in that darkness. It was Meghan, wasn’t it? I saw how he looked at her that time. I imagined him kissing her. I hated Meghan.
I spent an hour out there, going over the smallest of details, over and over again. It all happened so suddenly. But I knew that it wasn’t sudden, and that he must have been thinking about it for a while. I felt so stupid. And ugly. And fat.
“Howdy, stranger!” my mom greeted me when I finally decided to go inside. Should I join the card game? Mr and Mrs Warden from a couple of cottages down were there, watching as I entered, while Mr Black was counting his chips. What else was there to do? I wouldn’t be able to concentrate, for sure. I decided not to join the game, even though it would be a good way to pass the time. My mom quietly followed me to my room.
“What’s wrong?” mom asked. “Nothing” I said, giving a shrug so she would accept my answer. My mom knew, though. She always knew. I had always been a pretty quiet kid, but eventually I always told her everything that happened in my life. She knew she just had to wait. This was a big one to keep inside. My first boyfriend. And he had just dumped me.
I had kept Darryl a secret. Here at the cottage, I was part of a gang of kids that hung out all summer, and we all knew each other since we were little. He was new to the neighbourhood, and my parents had never met him. Never would, now.
I turned into the cove, in perfect balance in the canoe. My arms kept up their motion. Those canoeing lessons I had at camp really paid off. My paddling came naturally and I didn’t have to think about it. So my mind was free to take me back once more to last night.
I wondered again what I did. Or what I didn’t do. I went over the last few days we had been going out, trying to remember everything in our conversations, looking for clues.
I remembered meeting up a few days ago. Darryl came to the usual place at the right time, but he didn’t have any licorice for me. He saw my look.
“Miller’s ran out of licorice” he said. He shrugged. “Sorry I didn’t have time to check anywhere else”.
He knew I loved licorice and he always had some for me. Except that day. I had become accustomed to his gift of licorice. And he couldn’t be bothered to find some? Was that the beginning?
Then there was Meghan. It seemed to me that Darryl found a way to maneuver closer to her when she was around. He laughed at all her jokes and he seemed to be more goofy around her, like he was extra nervous or something. Could I blame him? Meghan with her blue eyes and big boobs. She was smart, too. I saw it all happening and said nothing. I hate that I said nothing.
The wind had picked up considerably and was blowing me away from the direction I wanted to go. The lake was a bluish grey colour, with white lines of bubbles on the waves. Weeds that had been churned up were floating on the surface. The lake that I loved, the lake that was usually so friendly turned angry. The choppy water started to tire me out as I tried to get back to the dock in front of my cottage. Between the wind blowing droplets off the lake and the waves splashing over into the canoe, I was getting soaked. My clothes were beginning to chafe me, too. I wore my favourite blue jacket and black jeans. It was just about the end of summer, so I wore the jacket and jeans because it was a little chilly in the mornings now. I hadn’t given a thought that what I was wearing would get wet. I didn’t expect this. I felt the first tinge of fear.
Mom would be worried, and dad furious. It wasn’t like me to keep them waiting. When I said I was going to be back by noon, I meant it. Mom would know my lateness wasn’t intentional. I kept looking to the skies and hoping the storm would pass. Instead of passing, the wind just got worse. Scheduled departure time was noon. I figured it must be about noon now. I had to get back soon or there would be hell to pay.
I’ll bet my dad is pacing, and my mom is smoking a cigarette to calm down. I could just hear them.
“Jesus! We told her to be here by noon, Paula. Where the hell is she?” my dad would say.
“Come on, Frank. She’ll be here soon,” would be her answer. Then a puff. I could also see a smirk on Keith’s face. I was in trouble, but he wasn’t. Stupid little brother.
I aimed the canoe for the dock on the horizon. More rumbling of thunder. That dock was a little bit of comfort in my day right now, a sign that I would be home soon. I paddled with all my might and hardly made any headway. The fear that had been in the back of my mind came to the forefront. I have to admit, it made me start to cry. Then, the downpour began. This storm had come on so quickly and was acting strangely. Was it a twister or something?
The crash of thunder and another flash of lightning made me cry harder. Sheets of rain were obscuring the view of my goal, but I didn’t stop. All I wanted right then was to get to that dock. The rain had made the oars slippery, and I felt blisters forming. What could I do but ignore the pain in my hands and carry on?
And now here I was. My parents are going to kill me. I began to feel exhausted as well as afraid. I had to get back to the dock. I rested for just a second. That was all I needed. Just a second. But I still felt uncomfortable and cold.
My thoughts went from losing Darryl and everything I did, or didn’t do, to all the things I had done wrong in my whole life. Seems to me I screwed up a lot in my life. I began to wonder if I would ever make it to the dock. Was this it, then?
I needed to think of how I got through those mistakes. The ones that made me feel like my life was over, and yet were behind me now. The ones that resolved themselves. The ones that I could see were no big deal in the rearview mirror.
Like the time I got caught smoking. My dad had to be the one to lecture me, because my mom smokes. It was stupid. I knew better than to start, but my friends were doing it. And when I copied my friend’s project on Haiti and handed it in. I like doing projects, but I had run out of time. I changed a few words. Still, it was copied. Then there was that time I fell in the shower after Phys Ed and was too hurt to get dressed, and I waited, naked, until the school nurse came and she ended up calling the ambulance. One of the EMT guys was cute and I wanted to die. Why did I have to think of these things?
“And what have we learned?” my dad would ask every time I screwed up. I hated that. But it made me look at how I could get through problems.
I cried out when lightening lit up the sky again, but it gave me renewed purpose and I paddled like I had never paddled before. I could see that I had made some headway, and it pumped me up. I was strong and made use of all the strokes. I focussed my energy even more.
I made it to the dock and hastily got out of the canoe, the wind and fatigue making everything extra difficult. I took the time to pull the canoe to the canoe rack. I trudged to the cottage, knowing I was in for it. I had never been so happy as when mom ran out of the cottage to greet me and give me a hug, with no concern that I was soaking. “I have water boiling for hot chocolate” she said. “Now let’s get out of those clothes.”
She brought a couple of hot chocolates into my room and we both sipped quietly for a couple of minutes. Sure, I was grown up enough to have a boyfriend, and lose him, but there were times when I still wanted my mother, so that I knew I was loved.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This