The reflection of the moon on the surface of the lake resembles a pathway leading up to the stars. In the dark, the water is navy, like it’s spring and the ice has just melted, yet as it laps around our feet, it’s warm. There’s a silence hanging around us. Far off, the laughter of families sharing stories around their campfires can be heard, and the air smells like smoke and pine trees. The leaves and needles of the woods around us rustle gently in the night breeze. 

    “Okay, your turn,” Kyle murmurs. There’s something about darkness that makes people feel like they need to be quiet. 

    Haley and I say nothing, thinking.  “What is your biggest fear?” she finally asks. 

    “Bees,” Blake answers. “I hate those things.”

    “You’ve got to be at least six feet tall, and you’re afraid of bees?” I laugh. 

    “They’re scary,” Blake digs his hands into the sand around us, dissatisfied over not being taken seriously. 

    “What about you, Kyle?” Haley nudges him with her shoulder as if to push an answer out of him. 

    “Probably clowns.” Even in the darkness, I can see his cheeks flush. 

    “Clowns?” Haley says, trying hard not to laugh.

    “I must have watched too many scary clown movies when I was little,” he explains. “I’ve always been terrified of them.”

    A comfortable silence falls over us again. An owl hoots somewhere off to the right and a bat darts after invisible insects high above our heads. This is always what it’s like when the sun sets at Acres of Wildlife. It’s as if the campground drains away all of your worries. It’s my perfect place, a place where I can make new memories and new friends each year. I run my fingers through the sand and watch moths flit around a lamp nearby; its creamy glow casts a small, solitary pool of light in the sand below.

    I hear Blake begin to stand up, and before I know what’s happening, I’m being thrown over his shoulder and carried down the beach. I laugh and squirm and tell him to put me down. I hear Haley cracking up behind me as she chases after us. I laugh harder and pound my fists on Blake’s back, suddenly worried that I’ll soon find myself in the lake. The rest of the world disappears until all that remains are Haley, Blake, Kyle, and me. Nothing else matters but family, friends, and the perfect summer.   

                                                                                                    Jennifer Cole ‘15