Just when your life could not get any worse, it does. They say once you plummet into the abyss, referred to by most as rock bottom, there is no other way but up. Exactly, how far up do you get to go before you plunge back down into your previous crater, to a life that sucks the “big one?” You may be thinking that everyone’s life is like riding a rollercoaster and one should just “Suck it up, Buttercup.” Try telling that to fifteen-year-old Janie Leadermier. This is her story…
The bell at Tisdale Middle School rang, letting out the last class of the week. Janie Leadermier grabbed her books and rushed off to her locker, weaving her way through the crowded hallways. It was the beginning of March Break, and Janie couldn’t wait to go on the first camping trip in years, with her dad. It has been six months now since his cancer had gone into remission.
“Janie don’t forget, I want an outstanding essay about what you did on March Break,” Ms. Capillary said, pausing at Janie’s locker as she passed by in the hallway on her way to the staff room.“You need to get your grade up if you want to graduate with the rest of your class at the end of the year.”
“Yes Ms. Capillary, I know. I promise to work very hard on it. I guarantee it will be awesome,” Janie told her grade, eight English teacher, as she shoved the remainder of her books into her locker.
“I’m counting on it, Janie. I know you’ve had it rough since your Dad took ill seven years ago, but he is better now. So, I expect nothing less than exemplary work from you,” Ms. Capillary lectured Janie, “and don’t forget this essay counts as thirty percent of your final grade.”
“Yes Mrs. Capillary, I know,” Janie mumbled, rolling her eyes as she snapped the lock shut on her locker door.
“Good, now have a great time camping with your Dad,” she told Janie patting her on the shoulder in a motherly manner, “and don’t forget to take lots of pictures,” she added.
“Thanks, Ms. Capillary, I intend too.”
Janie’s school-bus ride homeward bound was noisy. The kids jumped around in their seats, chattering enthusiastically about their plans for their week off. Janie ignored them and drowned them out with the tunes on her iPod. Her mind raced with many thoughts of the week ahead and of the years past. Janie’s mother had passed away nine years ago. Sadly, she had died in a car accident caused by a drunk driver. The driver was lucky to be alive to talk about it in the slammer, but no amount of punishment would bring Janie’s mother back. Since, then it had just been Janie and her dad, John. Then a year later, her dad was diagnosed with cancer. Janie’s Dad had thankfully had periods of remission.
Janie’s bus stop finally came up. She pulled off her earphones and pushed her way through the crowd, up to the doors at the front of the bus.
“Looks like you’re going on a trip Janie,” said Byron the bus driver, as he pointed at Janie’s Dad through the windshield of the bus. Her house was just up the block a bit from the bus stop, and they could see John loading the old green van with camping gear.
“Yes, finally, I’ve been looking forward to this trip forever,” Janie told the driver trying to contain her excitement.
“Well you have a good time, Lord knows you’ve earned it,” Byron added as Janie hopped down the steps and ran up the street towards the house to meet her dad.
Janie arrived in front of her little, green colored house in a matter of minutes. Just in time to follow her dad, back into the house for more supplies. They used to live in a much larger house before her father took sick, but the mortgage became too much of a burden. So, her dad downsized and purchased this house out of her mother’s life insurance.
“Are we leaving early Dad?” Janie asked.
“Nope, we are still leaving bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in the morning. I’m just loading us up now to save wasting precious travel time in the morning,” he informed Janie.
Inside Janie mounted the stairs two at a time, which wasn’t hard with her long slender legs. She tossed her almost empty knapsack in the corner of her room, where it would be spending the next week. Then she quickly slipped out of her school uniform into more comfortable, grubby wear.
“Here Dad let me help you finish loading,” Janie offered, returning to the garage where her dad was carrying the camp stove out to the van.
“No that’s ok honey, I’m fine,” he assured her, “but could you go check on the chili that’s cooking on the stove?”
“Oh how marvelous, Dad you made your famous chili for us to take with us on our trip?”
“Indeed I did. We also have it for tonight’s supper. I know you love it and it will help warm us up when the sun goes down while we’re camping in the woods.”
“Awe Dad, how thoughtful and considerate you are,” Janie said laughing.
“Nothing, but the best for my girl.”
“Dad if you spoil me too much I may just get a big head over it,” Janie teased.
“You, too spoiled? Nah, that’s never going to happen, it’s just not possible,” John said giving Janie an imaginary punch in the arm followed by an attempt to tickle her.
“Dad, stop,” Janie, laughed as she tried to jump out of the way.
“Then go check on the chili, silly girl, or I’ll tickle you to the ground you stand on,” he hollered, and playfully lunged for Janie again. Janie screamed happily, as she dodged his grasp and ran back into the house.
After John finished loading the van, they sat down to their dinner of chili and warm crusty bread that oozed with garlic butter. They made polite small talk about how their day went, which eventually evolved into them excitedly making plans of things they wanted to do on their holiday.
John used to be a high-powered lawyer, but when Janie’s mother passed, he had retired. He decided to open his own Firm so he could be home more for Janie as she grew up. That didn’t last very long either. The iller he became, the harder it became to pay the accumulating bills and keep the Firm afloat when he was spending most of his time in the hospital for his cancer treatment. Eventually, he was forced to sell the Firm to Gerald Fenway, one of their closest family friends. Fortunately, Gerald decided to keep John on as a freelance lawyer, which worked out well for everyone. Money was tight for John and Janie, but the two of them made the best of it. They were just grateful for what they had, which included each other.