You can read Among the Fireflies: Part 2 here.
You can read from the beginning here.
On December 26th, the skies opened up, and dumped just over a foot of fresh, fluffy snow down on Wakefield, New Hampshire. Christmas, and the days leading up to it, had been utterly disappointing in terms of snow accumulation, and my entire family was thrilled.
“Sophie, you march your butt back in here and put your hat on! And your gloves!” My mom was in the process of chasing my younger sister, Sophie, around the house, trying to force her to put more layers on, “Don’t you dare go outside in that sweatshirt, young lady. Where is that new coat I bought you? Sophie! Where is your coat?
Sophie, who had just turned twelve, was in this weird phase where she thought it was just so cool to not wear a coat, or any proper clothing for cold weather. Preteens could be so obnoxious. I know for a fact that I was never that annoying when I was twelve.
“Mom, just stop! Oh my god! Amber is waiting for me!” Sophie was stomping around the kitchen, with our mom hot on her heels, and even though I couldn’t see them, all I could picture was the two of them, facing off against one another, and running in circles around our kitchen island. It was hilarious.
“Sophie Elizabeth Desjardins, you are not leaving this house without a coat! It’s freezing outside, and I don’t want you to catch a cold!”
My dad and I exchanged glances, and I heard him sigh behind the open pages of his newspaper before clearing his throat, “Sophie, listen to your mother, and put your damn coat on, or you’re not going anywhere.”
“Okay, fine!” I heard Sophie stomp out of the kitchen.
Defeat! The dad voice never fails.
It sounded as though my parents had the Sophie situation under control, so I grabbed my phone, and headed upstairs to my room to finish packing. Cassie and Sam were on their way to pick me up, so that the three of us could begin our epic journey up to the White Mountains. Sure, I wasn’t thrilled about the fact that Sam was intruding in on the trip that we had been planning for years (even if I had been the one to invite him), but with this being possibly the last trip Cassie and I would ever get to take together, I was determined to do everything in my power to make it perfect.
Cassie was seated in the front of Sam’s red Jeep Cherokee when they pulled up to my house. As usual, the two of them were hand-in-hand, and I wondered if it was possible that they might have accidentally super glued themselves together, and just hadn’t told anyone. I threw my stuff into Sam’s trunk, where I noticed that Cassie had brought her skis, but Sam had not.
As though she had read my mind, I heard Cassie call back to me, “Sam doesn’t own any skis, so we’re going to have to rent him a pair. He’s never been skiing before, can you believe that, Naomi?”
Of course I believed that. Sam was born and raised in a big city, which he never had left, until he and his dad moved to Wakefield. That, and as Sam had told me in the past, Kentucky doesn’t really get much snow at all. Shortly after he and I first met last winter, I heard him marvel to another student at the whopping six inches of accumulated snow that we had gotten that week, and was shocked that we all still had to go to school. I actually laughed in his face. I just couldn’t help it!
We stopped at the Tumbledown Cafe for breakfast before leaving Wakefield. Cassie, Sam, and I sat down at the same booth that Cassie and I had sat in every time we went to the cafe, and when Sam reached for a table menu, Cassie and I exchanged amused, knowing glances with each other.
“Just order me my usual,” I told her, “I have to pee.”
Cassie smiled, “Two eggs, sunny side up, wheat toast with extra butter, an order of extra crispy home fries, and a hot chocolate with extra whipped cream,” she recited my usual order perfectly, “coming right up!”
We laughed, as Sam looked on in confusion, before returning to look at the menu. I made my way to the bathrooms at the back of the cafe, running my hands over the smooth wood of each booth seat as I walked past.
The small, two stall bathroom was empty, and I paused to look at my reflection in the mirror above the sink. The dim, fluorescent light magnified the bags under my eyes, and I immediately noticed that a pesky pimple had popped up on my chin. I poked and squeezed at it futilely, before giving up, retreating away from the mirror, and entering the closest stall to finish my initial task.
I washed my hands, and walked back out into the cafe, where I was immediately confronted by the sight of Cassie and Sam sucking each other’s faces in the booth where I left them.
I rolled my eyes, and cleared my throat, “I sure hope I’m not disrupting anything important, but need I remind you two lovebirds that we are in public, and there are people trying to eat in here?”
They immediately jumped apart, and I took my seat across from them in the booth. Cassie’s face had brightened into such a vibrant, red shade, that I thought she might burst into flames. We sat in silence for several minutes, until the waitress brought over our food. Cassie had nailed placing my order, but when I looked up to see what was on her plate, I thought that there must have been some mistake.
“Cass… is that a salad?” I asked her, raising an eyebrow, “Since when do you eat salad? You know it has vegetables in it, right?”
Cassie’s face reddened even more, and she shot me a look, “Don’t be silly, Naomi, you know I’ve been trying to watch my weight lately. And besides, I love salad! The croutons, the dressing, the… lettuce…” she delicately maneuvered a forkful of salad into her mouth, “Mmm! What is this, French dressing?”
I laughed, “Well, let’s see, it’s a Caesar salad, so logically, I assume that it’s Caesar dressing.”
“My Southwest omelette is actually really good,” Sam had finally spoken up, “Cassie, do you want a bite-“
“And since when are you watching your weight?” I hadn’t meant to interrupt Sam, but for some reason, I just couldn’t let it go, “You’re so skinny already, that doesn’t even make any sense!”
Her stare could have melted my face clean off my skull, “So, how’s your plate of grease, Naomi? Did they remember your extra butter?”
Her tone was icy, and I immediately regretted pushing the topic. I looked down at my plate, suddenly feeling embarrassed about my order.
Damn, they had forgotten my extra butter, but I wasn’t about to tell her that. Not after the attitude she just pulled. What was her problem anyway? I had never seen Cassie eat a salad, not even when her parents tried to force it on her, let alone spend her own money on ordering one at a restaurant. And why the hell was she watching her weight? Cassie was a size six, the same size she had been for years. Her body was the type that women pay obscene amounts of money to try and achieve. It’s not like anyone was going to see her nak-
My face suddenly felt hot, “I’m sorry,” I mumbled. Cass said nothing.
We paid our bill, piled back into Sam’s Jeep, and left Wakefield for the snowy mountains of Bartlett. Cassie turned on the radio, and for an hour and twenty minutes, we drove without speaking a word to each other. It wasn’t that bad though, at least she had picked a good station to avoid speaking to me.
However, despite the upbeat music of the Top 40 station hitting my ears, I felt anxious. Worried, even. I couldn’t help but wonder what Sam thought about Cassie’s diet. Or worse, had he said something that made her want to lose weight in the first place? And what exactly were they planning on doing once we got to the resort? We were all going to be sharing a room, and I had just assumed that Cassie and I would be sharing a bed, but maybe they-
“Look, we’re here!” Cassie announced excitedly, snapping me out of my thoughts, “Look how beautiful it is!”
It was beautiful.
The lodge hadn’t changed at all since I was a kid. The walls of the massive lobby were plastered with framed photos of famous skiers and snowboarders, while the wall above the front desk displayed beautiful photos of snowy landscapes, and various wild animals found on the mountains.
“Is that Naomi Desjardins I see?” A familiar voice made me turn around, “My goodness, you’ve grown up so much!”
“Debbie!” I smiled at the welcome sight of Miss Debbie, the woman who had checked my family into the Attitash Mountain Resort every year, for as far back as I can remember. I turned to Sam, “This is Debbie! She works at the front desk, and we used to see her every time we came up here. Cass, do you remember? She was here last time we came up.”
“I remember,” said Cassie, “You helped me find my book, when I thought I had lost it somewhere in the lobby. You were always so nice.”
Debbie placed her hands over her heart, “Bless you, you sweet girl!”
“I’m so glad to see that you still work here,” I said to the woman, “That makes me feel a lot better about being away from home for a whole weekend.”
Debbie clapped her hands on my shoulders, “Oh, honey, your whole family isn’t here with you this time? That’s a shame, I would have loved to see your little sister again. How old is she now?”
“She just turned twelve,” I responded, suddenly feeling guilty that I hadn’t even thought to invite her, or my parents, along on the trip, even though I knew they probably couldn’t come.
“And how’s your mom? Does she still paint?”
“Of course! She even sells her paintings now. There’s this really cool site called Etsy, where you can sell the stuff you paint, or sew, or build. It’s so cool. She actually bought a new car last year thanks to all the money she was making.” I informed her.
“I didn’t know your mom could paint, Naomi,” Sam chimed in.
“Oh, she’s wonderful!” Debbie exclaimed, “Here, come with me, I’ll show you!”
“Show us? You have one of my mom’s paintings?”
“One of them? Honey, didn’t she ever tell you? Every time your family visited the White Mountains, your mother would donate every beautiful painting that she created to the resort. We kept them all!”
Debbie was walking us down a long hall that branched off from the main lobby. I recognised it as the hallway that lead to the main dining area of the resort. We entered the large room, and the first thing I noticed that it had undergone some serious renovations since the last time that we were there. The second thing that I noticed, was that there were dozens of beautiful paintings hanging on the walls around the room. There were paintings of the mountains, scenes of people skiing the slopes, and even a painting of a moose. Each painting had a familiar signature at the bottom: NJD.
Noel June Desjardins. My mom.
“Wow!” Sam exclaimed, turning toward me, “Your mom is really good, Naomi. Do you paint, too?”
“She used to,” Cassie told him before I had a chance to respond, “But when you have such an amazing artist in the family, I imagine it can feel pretty intimidating to try and compete.”
That stung a bit. Even Sam raised his eyebrows at her comment.
“I used to love to paint,” I told them, “I wish I had kept going with it. I never felt like I was competing with anyone, especially not my mom. I guess I just grew out of it or something. Who knows, maybe I’ll paint something, and donate it to the lodge, too.”
Once again, Debbie placed her hands over her heart, “That would be so wonderful,” she said, “Two generations of beautiful art on our walls. What a lovely thought!”
Back in the lobby, Debbie checked us in.
“Alright, let’s see here. Ah, rooms 118 and 120, here you go!” She handed two keys to me, and I stared down at them.
“Oh, um, there must be some mistake,” I told her, “When I made the reservation, I only booked one room. We don’t have enough for-“
“I changed the reservation,” Cassie said matter-of-factly, “I had more money saved up than I thought, so I figured, why cram all of us into one room, when we can afford two?” She grabbed one of the keys from my hand, and handed it to Sam, who seemed just as taken aback as I was.
“You’re going to make Sam stay in a room by himself?” I asked her.
She rolled her eyes at me, “Really, Naomi? Obviously not.”
“Then, who… oh,” I stared at the key in my hand, “I see.”
Cassie grabbed Sam’s hand, and walked away from me. I stared at them in disbelief for a moment before I turned back to Debbie, thanked her, and headed up to my own room.
I could hear that Cassie and Sam had already gone into the room next to mine. Despite the closed door, the sound of Sam’s voice drifted out into the hallway.
“I can’t believe you didn’t tell Naomi that you changed the reservation,” Sam sounded upset, “You told me that you had talked to her, and that she was cool with it.”
“I don’t know why you care so much about what Naomi thinks,” Cassie said to him, “Do you not want to share a room with me or something?”
“What? No. I mean, of course I do,” Sam stammered, “I’m just saying, that was a really uncool thing to do. She’s your best friend, and all you’ve done all morning is treat her like-“
“Like what, Sam?”
I tried not to listen. Did they usually fight like this? I went into my room to escape their conversation, but their voices penetrated the wall, forcing me to listen further.
“Look, I don’t want to fight, okay?” Sam sounded like every ounce of energy inside of him had been depleted, “This is stupid. I came here to make this weekend amazing for you, but if you’re going to act like this the whole time, then maybe-“
“What? You’re going to go share a room with your best friend, Naomi? Go right ahead, Sam!”
I heard the slam of a door, followed by Sam calling out Cassie’s name. After a minute, their door closed again, and there was silence. My stomach suddenly hurt. Why was Cassie acting like this? Why was she so mad at Sam? And at me? What the hell did I do?
I put my bags on the floor, and collapsed onto the bed. The walls of my room were bare, and I suddenly wondered if there was anywhere nearby where I could pick up some paint supplies. I would have to ask Debbie next time I went to the lobby.
I sat up, and looked out the window. The sun was shining outside, and all I wanted to do was ski the slopes with my best friend, while her boyfriend stayed on the bunny slopes with all the other little kids who couldn’t ski yet. Unfortunately, I didn’t know where my best friend was, or if she was even my best friend anymore. I didn’t know what to think.
“Stupid Sam…” I mumbled to the empty room, “Why did you have to move to Wakefield?”
I could already feel that it was going to be a long, weird weekend.
To Be Continued…