Buy the Book

"But the vulnerable, lonely, affection starved emotional refugee was, ironically, the stronger side of me, and would take even more oxygen deprivation, welcome it really, if that was the price for feeling loved. I couldn’t imagine a better bargain."

Do you like what you've read here?

If so, please make a comment in the box at the end of this chapter.

16 – Great Wolf

Great Wolf Lodge

We didn’t stay at King’s Island until it closed at ten o’clock.  Thank goodness for that.  There are only so many times you can ride roller coasters with no waiting, over and over again, until you get bored with it…even if you are mentally unbalanced enough to enjoy riding them in the first place.

We finally pulled away from King’s Island around four o’clock and pulled in right next door to our hotel, Great Wolf Lodge.  Once inside our room that had three queen size beds, one of which was positioned in a cool upstairs loft, with its own bathroom up there, we took turns cleaning up.

Sam went first in our shared bathroom and Trevor used his own private facilities in the loft area.  I was surprised when he came down looking completely normal instead of ghoulishly Goth.  I’d seen him this way only very rarely…just a few times during the winter.  It was a little unsettling because it wasn’t what I was used to, though he was so incredibly handsome I felt sure I could get used to it pretty quickly. 

Why couldn’t they both just be gorgeous all the time?  But then again, how would I feel about myself if they were?  Makeup not withstanding, I would always be the odd one out, but it would still be worth it.   They both had their reasons for going Goth, though, and I loved them no matter how scary or gorgeous they chose to be.

I was sitting on my bed digging in my wallet and dumped out a handful of change.  I had noticed a pop machine in the hallway on our way in, and I wanted to get a bottle of Cherry Coke that I could stash in the refrigerator for later.   As I carefully picked through the coins, I separated out the quarters I would need for my drink from the special quarters (state quarters) I hadn’t had the chance to review and isolate since I’d received them in change earlier in the day.  I’d been distracted at the time thinking I’d seen Ash, but it was a false and disappointing alarm. 

It happened after lunch, during a Goth free period, after I’d just bought a cherry Icee at the concession stand.  I felt the eyes on me and glanced up in a different direction so that I could get a quick peripheral view.  It was a young man with medium length curly black hair and light coffee colored skin sitting at one of the tables on the far side of the food court, facing me.  My heart skipped a beat as I raced in my mind to explain why Ash would show himself so plainly, looking directly at me, after months of careful, but not always successful concealment. 

I couldn’t come up with an answer that made any sense, but I was thrilled any way and turned my gaze directly at him, only to be deeply disappointed by the face of a stranger.  This face wasn’t handsome at all.  It featured a disproportionately large nose, beady dark eyes and a scruffy goatee.  It was a huge let down, like black licorice instead of dark chocolate. Plus, moving the encounter even deeper into dissatisfaction was the dawning realization that he was leering at me, intentionally moving his eyes up and down my body until they rested back on my face.  Then he took long drag on a cigarette and stood up like he was coming over.

The warning bells in my mind were ringing furiously as I scurried away in a panic to the Ladies Room, as if that would actually deter a bad guy.  I hung out for a while inside the handicapped stall with my feet up, all alone, listening intently.  No one ever came in, either to use the facilities or to accost me, and after a good five minutes of cowering, I summoned the courage to step out into the sun again.  I’d given myself a pep talk about not being paranoid and trusting the security people to do their job, and how cool it would be to see someone like that guy get his butt kicked, possibly by Ash!  That last line of reasoning had me rushing out the door actually hoping it wasn’t too late to run into creepy goatee guy.  But alas, I never saw that character again, though I was on high alert the rest of the day.

That episode had disrupted my normal change review procedure where I check for quarters received in change that appeal to me.  Now as I looked through my money, I made a point to separate out the coins that were important, generally any quarter that pictured something other than an eagle on the back, carefully sealing them away in a separate little zipper area of the change purse section of my wallet.  Then I put my wallet on the dresser and picked up the room key card.  I’d been so engrossed in what I was doing, and rethinking the paranoia episode, that I didn’t realize Trevor was standing over me, watching my entire obsessive-compulsive ritual as it played out unmistakably.

“Do you have enough quarters there Ellery?” 

He was amused, of course.

“Yeah, I brought extra in case we ended up at a laundromat,” I joked and moved away, not wanting to be interrogated any further on this subject. 

Then I stepped out into the hall and purchased my drink.  When I returned to our room, Sam was out of the bathroom so I moved in for my turn.  I took a quick shower.  The water was off now and I could hear the conversation fairly well on the other side of the door. 

“Do you want anything?  My treat,” I could hear Sam asking, and then she laughed after the last part. 

She was right outside the bathroom, by the hallway door.  Trevor’s voice was harder to understand since he was farther away.

“Okay.  I’ll be right back,” she said and then I heard the door click shut. 

Wait a minute!

 What was Sam going to do at a vending machine with her debit card?  She was the incredible cashless wonder girl.  I’d never seen anybody get by so smoothly with no actual money.  I’d even witnessed her buy a pack of gum with her card, which had embarrassed me, on her behalf.  Then with sickening clarity it dawned on me.  They must have been discussing the quarter situation in my wallet, and she’d just helped herself to my collection. 


In a panic, still dripping wet, I pulled on my jeans, not wasting precious time with underwear first.  Then I desperately grabbed a towel and wrapped it around my top and bolted out the door and down the hall to the scene of the crime, hoping I wasn’t too late. 

I called frantically to her before I got there, “Sam!  Wait!  Don’t use my quarters!” but I could hear the clinking sound of deposited coins even as I approached.

She looked shocked as I rounded the corner in double-time, making the turn bouncing on one foot, crazy half dressed outfit and all. 

“Sam!  Stop!  Let me have those!”  I demanded breathlessly. 

I was being totally ridiculous and I knew it, but it was the principle of the thing, and I was afraid she’d taken my special quarters.  When I grabbed her hands and emptied them of my coins, sure enough, she’d taken all of them, including the very ones I was most loath to part with. 

I scanned the face of the machine, searching for the tally in red lighted digits.  It read seventy-five cents.  So she’d sacrificed three already. 

Darn it! 

I carefully pushed the metal ‘change return’ button, the vending machine equivalent of a parking brake on a car; a feature with the appearance of purpose but not always accompanied by actual functionality.  

To my amazed and thankful great relief, that familiar clinking sound tinkled out again, as the quarters dropped into the change bin with the little clear plastic door, and I rescued my treasures from certain doom. 

If only there was a way to rescue my dignity at this point!  Nope.  That was now completely forfeit.

I fingered through the pile in my hand and pulled out six acceptable quarters, the kind with the eagle on the back, and turned them over to her.

“Here.  Use these.  And please ask me before you get in my wallet next time.  You can’t spend my Kentucky Quarters in a vending machine,” I pronounced with finality and deep conviction, at the same time hitching up the towel around my middle and pushing a section of tangled, dripping wet hair out of my eyes.  Then I turned and quickly walked away before she could respond or anybody saw me half dressed and totally crazy.

After that, we headed out to get some dinner at the Outback Steakhouse, that we had spotted when we were getting off the exit for King’s Island that morning.  I ordered the coconut shrimp (our food choices really are indicative sometimes), which was great, as usual.  We took our time, ordering appetizers, our entrees and then dessert, but afterwards we found ourselves at a loose end and it wasn’t even seven o’clock. 

My interpretation of ‘loose end’ was greatly mistaken, though, when it was revealed that the hotel Sam had chosen for us had its own indoor water park.  This fact had been suspiciously concealed from me until the last moment, but I didn’t really care.  They could go swimming if they wanted.  I had my book.  I had finished it, but I would just start over.  I was tired anyway; so hanging out in our cool room that looked like a summer camp was fine with me.

Neither of them was having any of it, though.  In fact the whole conspiracy became shockingly clear once we were back in our room and Sam produced a swimsuit for me to wear.  She guilt-tripped me into joining them downstairs with the whole ‘Please?  I need you’ thing that worked every time, no matter how bad the consequences seemed like they would be for me.

Her dark sense of humor never failed to assert itself, even in her attempts to be solicitous, though as things unfolded, ‘dark’ didn’t seem to capture the essence of the situation.  Upon my inspection of her gift, ‘evil’ seemed a more fitting description. 

The swimsuit, a misnomer, as there was nothing remotely ‘suitable’ about it, but evil in and of itself, was not a swimsuit at all.  It was a bikini; something I would never consciously choose to wear.  Oh, but it got better.  It was a Hannah Montana bikini. 

I had no ill will towards Hannah herself; I would just prefer not to be identified with the demographic of her fan base, even if every person knowledgeable enough to make such determinations would put me there, based on my appearance, whether my bikini actually said ‘Hannah Montana’ on my butt or not.

“Do you hate me?”  I asked as I exited the bathroom, fully clothed over the top of my joke swim fashions underneath. 

My button-up shirt was open so she could see I was in compliance, though highly passively aggressively so.

“Would you be serious?” Sam replied, rolling her eyes in mock affront.

“Right after you.” 

It was the most edge I’d ever used with her.  There was a deeper nervousness at play here than being embarrassed about my swimsuit.  She thought she knew exactly what I meant and didn’t play dumb about it. 

“It was the only thing I could find that would fit.  You’re a stick you know.”

“Yes.  I’m quite aware of my figure, thanks,” I cut back, with more edge.

“Now Ellery, you know that’s not what I meant.  There are people who would trade their soul for your figure, so I don’t want to hear it.  Now, let’s go have some fun.  We’re having fun on this trip, remember?”

I just shook my head. 

Well I can see that you certainly are

I moved past her out the door with a towel in one hand and my book in the other.  Trevor was standing there with us, but had remained intelligently silent throughout the exchange.  He closed the door behind us as Sam led the way to the water area.

The chlorine smell grew in intensity until we passed through the doors leading into the water park and I could actually feel warm wet waves of the chemical in its semi-liquid gaseous form sticking to my face and burning my nose and throat. 

I hated swimming pools.  I always had.  

So gross. 

Chlorine might kill the germs, theoretically, but the bodily fluids mixed in the water in which those germs were transferred remained completely unaltered by the chemical…diluted a little, but still…so gross.

As if in answer to my silent reflections, the first person I saw was a toddler, probably only a year old, ready to have big splashing fun in the pool, his swim diaper in place making him all set to go—literally. 

So gross!

I tried to distract myself from the growing panic attack gathering strength like a storm at sea heading for shore.  An interesting way to do that was to closely scrutinize my uncharacteristically natural looking framily members.  They had both shed their Goth personas when they got cleaned up for dinner, in preparation for pool time, I now realized.  Sitting across the table from them had not been the best venue for gawking, obviously, but now in the pool as they held on to each other and fooled around splashing and dunking and enjoying being semi-dressed together, I had ample opportunity to observe. 

It was no secret now.  They were both fabulously good looking—especially when you put them together, even wet, maybe more so that way. 

As I stood ankle deep in the water, I felt an overwhelming need to turn and run.  My theme song was starting to play in my mind, a song called ‘Creep” (radio version, of course).  This had been a key mental soundtrack in my life, which had become distinctly and pleasantly absent since I’d made friends with Sam.  I could hear the music now and my own voice singing “What the hell am I doing here?  I don’t belong here.” 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

No, I did not.  I slowly turned my back on them, preparing to slink away since I wasn’t part of what was happening anyway.

I got as far as the table, one hand on my book, the other reaching for the keycard, when hands on both sides looped under my arms and picked me up off the ground, hauling me backwards towards the pool.

“I can walk, guys.  Put me down.” 

They didn’t.  The hurricane was breaking ashore now.  The panic was rolling in like a storm surge. 

“Seriously, let me down.  NOW.” 

It was like I was talking to myself.  We kept moving, maybe faster.  I couldn’t even see where we were going because I was turned around the wrong way, though I already knew, I guess.  My feet hit the water now, but we kept moving. 

“Okay.  Please?” 

I sounded panicked to me.  They didn’t care. 

We were moving into deeper water now.  The imaginary storm turned real as the wave pool waves started up.  It was very serious now.  I couldn’t swim and they were going to let me loose in deep water in the waves.  My friends were actually going to kill me.  Well, at least they’d feel guilty when they had to explain what happened to my mom and the police.  There was some satisfaction in that.  No, actually there wasn’t.  

How about if I just confess that I can’t swim while they still have me?  Will they believe me or think it’s just a trick to get released so I won’t get my hair wet?  Too late.

They hoisted me so that I broke free of the water, just as a break between the waves rolled through, so that I would fly farther into the deep end.  Would it be my pride or my friends that was the death of me?  A little of both I thought as I sucked in a last breath of air and then plunged under the water. 

Just like that snowy day when I slipped on the ice, I wished for so many reasons that it wasn’t happening to me.  Though, I hadn’t actually expected to die that time.  This time I was counting on it.  Even my security team couldn’t help me now.  This would be fast, and the waves would obscure the situation somewhat, costing me critical rescue response time. 

Oh well

That’s what I got for cutting school and being deceitful with my mom and wearing a Hannah Montana bikini. 

I tried to fight and stay afloat, but I had precious little experience with that, and as soon as I got nasty pool water in my mouth I panicked and started going under.  And that was it…

“Oh God!  I’m sorry!  I’m so sorry!  Ellery!  Ellery!” 

Sam’s voice was fading in and out.  She was crying and pleading at the same time.  I couldn’t see but my ears were working.

“I’m sorry, man.” 

Trevor’s voice was apologetic too.  Then he spoke soothingly to Sam.

“Just give her some space.  She’s gonna to be all right.” 

Sam was still having frightened hysterics. 

“Honey, she’s gonna be fine.  Look, she’s sitting up.  It’s fine.  She’s fine.”

I was in a sitting position, but a very loose interpretation of that pose, doubled over, my legs wide apart and bent.  It felt like I was having a dream about throwing up and choking and being beaten all at the same time.  It was painful and awful and gross and embarrassing and the scopophobic sensation was all over it.  


I played high low in my mind with how many people might be gathered around me, rubber-necking.  I was not fine—Trevor was delusional.  I was the opposite of fine.  I was still coughing convulsively but the beating on my back had stopped.  I couldn’t bear to open my eyes.  I took a chance and started to slump, hoping somebody would catch me, but if I happened to knock myself out, that would be good too, maybe better.

“Okay.  Let’s get you to a chair,” Trevor directed.

His voice sounded authoritative and calm.  If no one had been paying attention, as I suspected, he would get all the credit for my rescue and none of the blame for being one of the culprits in the first place. 

I kept my eyes closed tight and purposely made myself into dead weight, not helping a bit.  I wanted them to sweat.  I would have loved to play dead, but I couldn’t control the coughing—just one of the many facets of disappointment the evening had produced.

I was placed in a chair.  I could feel Sam’s hands on me as she was putting towel after towel over and around me.  Then she was on her knees in front of me holding my hand. 

“Ellery?”  I had smoothed out some.  The coughing was toning down, starting to recede.


My voice broke, even in a one-syllable reply. 

It hurt to talk. My nose and throat burned terribly.  I opened my eyes to her upset face, streaked with tears.

“I’m so sorry.” 

She was still crying. 

Oh whatever.

“Sam?” It hurt but I had to say it anyway—I sounded like the Albino dungeon guy from the movie Princess Bride.


Her red-rimmed wet eyes were wary.

“Are you sure you don’t hate me?” 

I couldn’t stifle the sarcasm, but it made me smile.  She laughed and sniffed, shaking her head vigorously.

She rose and leaned into me, wrapping her arms tightly around my middle.  So tight, in fact that it was difficult to breathe.  My prideful side wanted to be angry and indignant about the attempted involuntary manslaughter thing, but the vulnerable, lonely, affection starved emotional refugee was, ironically, the stronger side of me, and would take even more oxygen deprivation, welcome it really, if that was the price for feeling loved.  I couldn’t imagine a better bargain.

Curious about Ash’s reaction to this scene?  Click on the ‘Perspective Passport’ below and find out…

Perspective Passport

Are you enjoying this chapter? What do you like about it? Enter your comment below. Thank you!

Chapter Index | 1 Comments

1 Comment (Leave a comment »)

  1. GREAT! I wondered about the “Sorry, Man” comment. Ash to the rescue…again!

    Comment by Marilyn — March 23, 2012 at 10:44 pm

Leave a comment