Kimberly, Elaine, Susan, and Miriam are no strangers to the principal's office at Anne Beaumont Private High, where the administrators strongly believe in bending the tree before it becomes too old. Guilty of one too many infractions throughout the school year, the four teenagers are sent, along with other wayward souls, to a wilderness camp in Alberta, Canada.
After a two-day bus ride and a sleepless night, the girls leave the Running Brook Mountain campground to embark on their first day of hiking. But it is not long before they break the most important rule- stay with the group. Now lost, alone, and unprepared for the dangers that lurk within the woods, the girls soon discover every new and terrifying experience brings them face-to-face with their limitations. As they are forced to do whatever it takes to survive, friction builds among the teenagers as they forage for food, sleep in a cave, and fight off a bear. Now the girls only have one choice-to change their ways or die.
In this tale of adventure, endurance, and self-discovery, four teenagers put their survival skills to the test as they come to terms with their fears and tenaciously fight to keep the lives they once took for granted.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.29(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Lost at Running Brook Trail
By Sheryl A. Keen
Abbott PressCopyright © 2012 Sheryl A. Keen
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Letters
Susan and Kimberly
When Susan was sent to the principal's office, she wasn't surprised. This was the sixth or seventh time this school year she'd been sent. It had become a habit that she had no inclination to break. This time it was Miss Carter who had sent her for her failure to do her English homework. Apparently, it was imperative to her future that she write pages and pages about justice in To Kill a Mockingbird.
Susan walked slowly, prolonging the inevitable; she could only imagine what Mrs. Hamilton would say to her this time. She knocked on the door and heard "Come in" from the other side.
"Have a seat, Miss Scotti," Mrs. Hamilton said, pushing her glasses further up her nose.
Susan sat and smoothed her grey pleated skirt in place. She fixed her tie, not sure what to do with her hands.
"What brings you to my office this time?" Mrs. Hamilton wore a sly smile that seemed to say that she knew exactly why Susan was there.
"Like, I don't—"
The principal held up an open palm that indicated Susan should stop talking. "In this office, at this school, and hopefully outside of here, we never start a sentence with like. It makes absolutely no sense. We use full sentences that are grammatically correct. I know it's probably cool to you to talk that way, but it really isn't. Let us start again. Why are you here?"
"Mrs. Carter sent me." Susan felt like biting her tongue. In fact, she simulated the motion in her mouth. She had been reprimanded in this very office before for using the word like at the beginning of a sentence. There were other words and slang terms too that students were not allowed to use or misuse. Mrs. Hamilton loved to say that some words are legitimate, but how they are used is illegitimate. These illegitimate words and uses were against school rules. But those were soft rules, because everybody used them in their cliques and their groups, so it was hard to keep language separate, depending on the audience.
"Yes, I know who sent you, but I want to know why she sent you." Mrs. Hamilton leaned back in her high-back leather chair with her fingers clasped across her ample bosom. The office was vast, and the desk the principal was sitting behind was huge. Books and paper piles were neatly stacked up, and a tidy path had been cleared between where Mrs. Hamilton sat and the chair directly in front of her, where Susan now sat.
"I forgot to do my homework." Susan squirmed as she said the words, just as she had said them on several occasions before this one. Plus, Susan was lying. She hadn't forgotten; she just didn't have the energy to write a paper about justice or anything else.
"Maybe," said Mrs. Hamilton, leaning forward and looking straight at Susan, "you have a memory problem. Maybe we need to have your brain checked out, since you have the recurring problem of forgetting to do what you're supposed to. What do you think?" She leaned back again, her green-grey eyes piercing behind the black-rimmed spectacles.
"I don't know." Susan felt cold. The office was air-conditioned to the max. She wished she had brought the school-issued grey sweater, stamped with its emblem of stars. The blouse she was wearing wasn't enough to ward off the frigid air.
"You don't know. You never disappoint me with your answers because you always take the easy way out. Weasel! Well, here's what I know for sure." Mrs. Hamilton leaned forward again, picked up a pen and pressed the top every time she made a point. "You don't have a memory problem." Click! Click! "You're in my office every other week." Click! Click! "You're one of those students who just does enough to get by." Click! Click! "I take that back; you don't even do enough to get by." Click! Click! "It's pathetic, really, because you can do so much better. You're here because you lack diligence." Click! Click!
Susan watched, as if mesmerized, Mrs. Hamilton's thumb pressing down on the pen.
"Maybe I, like you, lack the diligence to get the job done." Mrs. Hamilton threw down the clicking pen onto the desk. Susan couldn't avoid the grey-green eyes that continued to change colour in the shifting light.
"Why else would you be almost a permanent fixture in my office?" Mrs. Hamilton's eyes shifted to the large window, as if she could find the answers out there. "Well, since you don't know and I should know, I'm going to suggest an experiment. It's a fast-moving world out there, and it needs attentive people to move with it. Your failure will not be on my watch, not if I have anything to do with it."
Mrs. Hamilton pulled out a desk drawer. "You're almost at the end of grade ten. We have a reputation for excellence at this school, and I have no intention of allowing you or anyone else to damage this image, so fall in line. This kind of lackadaisical behaviour will not do for the future."
A white envelope emerged. Mrs. Hamilton pushed the drawer shut with a thud that felt final.
"Give this to your parents." She handed the envelope to Susan.
Susan dreaded the contents. Could it be? No, it couldn't. But there was one way to find out. She would have to open it before it reached the judging hands of her parents.
* * *
Recess at Anne Beaumont Private High was a sea of grey and white, a cacophony of shrieks and laughter, and perhaps, on this particular day, a twinge of dread. Susan sat in the late June sunshine against a wall that separated the school from the adjoining property and ripped open the envelope. School envelopes were easy to come by, so she would just replace this one. She unfolded the letter. The white paper was glaring in the sunshine, but the black words were clear. It was what she had dreaded—the Alberta trip!
"So you got one too."
Susan looked up to see Kimberly Carter, her blonde hair golden in the sunshine. It reminded her of straw or hay, which they would surely see where they were going.
"Yes, what are you in for?" Susan knew Kimberly from most of her classes and also knew Kimberly liked to catch her reflection in a mirror every minute of the day.
"It's really hard to say. I was caught in the bathroom during class time, checking my makeup. So they say I'm not serious enough about school and too taken with myself—self-involved, they say, or some crap like that. And since this has happened over and over, I guess I've pissed off teachers who want me to reach for the stars." Kimberly rolled her eyes in disgust and hiked up the sleeves of her white school blouse, trying to give them style, Susan imagined.
"You would think I was beating up someone in there, when I was just checking my face." Kimberly's five-foot-eight-inch frame was blocking out the sun. She was not only tall, but also as slender as a blade of grass that could be blown with the slightest bit of wind.
"Have you ever heard of this place in Alberta?" Susan asked.
"Rumours, that's all. This Running Brook place is in some backwoods, and it's supposed to be brutal." Kimberly dropped her backpack and sat beside Susan.
"So what are we supposed to do there?" Susan didn't like the sound of these backwoods. She was beginning to regret all the times she'd watched TV instead of doing her homework.
"Hiking and camping!" Kimberly spat on the ground with revulsion. The white suds of her spit fizzed and then disappeared in the June sun.
"That really blows." Susan knew that the legendary trips to Alberta involved some kinds of outdoor activities, but hiking was just not her. She could just imagine what her father would say to all this: "The walking will do you good." This would be in reference to her weight, of course. Susan knew she was of average height and a bit stodgy, quite the opposite of the lanky Kimberly.
"I don't care for this kind of stuff. The only time a prospective supermodel should be among wildlife is for a photo shoot of some kind." Kimberly combed her fingers through her hair and took a mirror from her bag. Susan was envious of her straight hair, her long limbs, and the high prospects she had for herself. Susan didn't bother to look at her own curly black hair once in the day, not even when she was heading home.
"You would think there are no backwoods or rugged outdoor places in Ontario. No, we have to go all the way to Alberta, like we're playing Survivorman or something." Kimberly continued to look at her face in the mirror, turning this way and that to get a better look. Susan was lost in her own thoughts, musing about how she would survive out there. She didn't even like the name Running Brook. It suggested too much activity. And the thought of sleeping outdoors with mosquitoes and all sorts of other insects was too much to fathom.
Elaine Johnson walked home deep in thought, the sun blazing on her back. She could feel watermarks beginning to form around the pits of her arms. Although she was a straight-A student, she was carrying a letter that would send her to the wilds of Alberta. Her mother would have pointed questions about why Elaine was being sent on this trip.
Elaine opened the door with her key and stepped into the house. All was quiet. She knew her mother was working upstairs in her home office. She padded upstairs in the direction of her room, hoping to take off the sweat-stained grey-and-white tunic before she faced her mother.
"Is that you, Elaine, honey?" her mother called out.
Well, so much for changing into fresh clothes. Elaine stepped into the office. "Hi, Mom."
Elaine's mother was alternately typing on her laptop and tapping the keys of a large calculator. She looked up and drummed her fingers on the glass-top desk. "Sit down and tell me about your day."
Elaine sat in a black swivel chair with wheels. There was nothing interesting to tell, with the exception of the letter. She may as well just get it over with. That was how she got on with her parents, her mother in particular.
"I'm going to Alberta for a part of my summer holidays. I have a letter for you to sign. I just know you're going to give your consent." Elaine half pivoted in the chair. She didn't want to pre-empt what her mother was going to do, but experience had taught her that there were not a lot of objections when a letter came from Anne Beaumont High. It wasn't that her mother was a follower; she wasn't. She was the quintessential "strong black woman." But letters from school were rare, and they usually meant something not so good. Girls weren't sent to Alberta on a bus for nothing.
"So you know how this is going to go down?" Elaine's mother laughed.
"I just know how you make decisions when it comes to certain things. I've had to live with them for fifteen, almost sixteen years, so I know." Elaine swiveled in the chair again.
"First of all, stop spinning. It's distracting. Second, I need to know what you did so I'll know if you're right about my decision-making skills." Elaine's mom clasped her hands in anticipation.
"I borrowed a couple books from the library. These books are in high demand, so they have to be returned in a few days. I kept them too long, and other people wanted to use them. That's really the long and short of it."
The phone rang, and Elaine's mom held up an index finger. She picked up the phone and listened. "No, no this is what I want done. Close the account and use the set procedures and guidelines. We don't want this to come back and bite us in the butt. Let's go by the book."
She hung up and sighed. "Rules are rules." Elaine wasn't sure if her mother was referring to the phone call or to what she'd said. But her mother was looking right at her.
"I understand that, Mom, but Mrs. Hamilton said that I was greedy to be hoarding all those books. I can't see how that's greed."
"Were you using all the books?"
"Not all at once, but if you don't keep them, when you need them you'll never get them. They'll all be out, and then I'd have to wait forever for them to come back. They should just buy more books for the library. They have the money."
Elaine's mother leaned back in her own black, high-back leather swivel chair and gave Elaine one of her famous looks—the one that said the system may not be perfect, but we have to work within said system.
"Whether they should or shouldn't buy more books isn't the issue here. That's just your way of skirting around what you did. Books have due dates for a reason."
"But do you think I should be going all the way to Alberta because I missed the due date? Isn't that a bit out there?"
Her mother entwined her fingers behind her head, bunching up her jet-black hair. "The letter says this isn't the first time." She took her fingers from behind her head for a moment and held the letter high in the air to get Elaine's attention. "You didn't just miss the dates. Your actions were deliberate, excessive and selfish." She sighed. "You were born and bred in Ontario. It's good to go somewhere different from where you know. Alberta is a beautiful, interesting place. It wouldn't be so terrible."
Elaine inspected her shoes. Black shoes and grey socks to match grey skirts and grey ties. Michael, her older brother, would no doubt be doing something exciting in Ontario while she was off doing God knows what in some cowboy's paradise.
"So I'm going?"
"There's a lesson to be learned somewhere in all of this, and hopefully you'll be the better for it."
"I can't see what that lesson could be."
"That's why you're going, so you can find out."
"Aren't you going to get Dad's input on this?"
Her mom unclasped her hands and moved her body and the chair forward so that her face was close to her daughter's. "We could wait for him, but why put off the inevitable? My decision is his decision." She took the letter, gave it a precursory read, took a ballpoint pen from its holder and made a flashing movement of the hand. She pushed the sheet toward Elaine, who looked down to see a perfect "Marjory Johnson" that almost matched the black of the typeset in its intensity against the pure white paper.
"You were right after all," Marjory Johnson said. "You're going to wild rose country."
Elaine walked to her room, still looking at her mother's signature. Her fate wasn't only signed in black; it was also sealed, because there would be no changing her mother's mind in this matter.
When Miriam received her letter, she thought it was about the soccer camp that would take place that summer. But when she opened it and saw that it was the infamous trip to Alberta, Miriam felt simultaneously hot and cold. Mostly she felt hot, like the rush of adrenaline that she got when she was playing soccer and knew she was going to score a goal.
Miriam thought she could hear her heart thundering in her chest. It was almost as if it was racing to beat itself out. When she'd received the letter from Mrs. Hamilton, she had gone into the gymnasium to sit, hoping for distractions when she saw what the letter contained. Mrs. Hamilton had said nothing about going to Alberta, although in hindsight it now became clear why she had asked if Miriam loved the feel of fresh air in her lungs. Again Miriam had thought that the principal was referring to the impending seasonal change of soccer from indoors to outdoors.
Mrs. Marks, one of the gym teachers, was conducting an aerobics class in the background. Miriam sat on a bench close to some lockers and listened to the sounds of girls doing jumping jacks. She listened but didn't really hear because her entire body shook so hard she could hear the letter rattling in her hands. Her breath came in rapid gulps. It seemed like she was struggling to get it in. She wanted to calm down, but it wouldn't happen, and this lack of self-restraint caused her to shake even more. All she could register was the paper flapping between her fingers. So she ripped the letter into tiny bits until all she could see was a ragged stream of confetti in her hands, some fluttering to the ground. The tension in her head eased a little.
"What have we here?" Ms. Cross, the soccer coach stood before Miriam. She carried a match ball under her right arm.
"Nothing, just poor test results." Miriam was so out of it, she didn't even know which direction Ms. Cross had come from.
"So that's how you fix it, huh?"
"I just didn't expect it to be this bad."
"Well"—Ms. Cross moved the ball from under her arms and held it with both hands in front of her—"those little shreds you have in your palms won't make it any better."
Miriam thought it might be a good time to tell Ms. Cross that she wouldn't be going to summer camp. She really didn't want to say it because it meant acceptance of what was written in the letter. But if she didn't say it, what difference would it make? It wasn't going to change anything. That was probably the crux of the matter; she was unable to alter any of the circumstances that mattered most to her.
"I won't be coming to soccer camp this summer."
"That's not good news. You're one of my best players. You could learn a lot and enhance your skills there." Ms. Cross put the ball back under her arm. "This doesn't have anything to do with that Amanda incident, does it?"
Excerpted from Lost at Running Brook Trail by Sheryl A. Keen Copyright © 2012 by Sheryl A. Keen. Excerpted by permission of Abbott Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Susan and Kimberly....................1