This is the first chapter in a serial romance written by local author and Limington resident Judi Phillips. Join The Windham Eagle as we return to Campfire Circle with new characters who are excited about a few winter fireworks.
Karrie Brady had successfully evaded coming home for the Christmas holidays since she'd left for college. This year she hadn't been able to avoid it. Christmas had been nonexistent, overshadowed by sadness at her grandmother's death.
She'd lingered at the graveside, saying a final good-bye. Last to arrive home, when she walked into the house, she heard her parents, as usual yelling at each other.
"I don't know how this happened." Her mother's voice held that edge indicating an imminent verbal escalation.
"Of course, you had nothing to do with it." Her father returned a volley.
"If you had treated my mother with respect, this never would have happened. Her mother's voice reached the screaming stage.
"And if you had respected me, the way you promised - remember the love, honor, and obey - when we got married, this wouldn't have happened," her father bellowed.
Karrie raised her voice to be heard. "What's going on?"
Her mother turned and glared at her - probably mostly for interrupting them. "My mother left the camp to you."
That bombshell explained the glare.
Grammy Lou had been the anchor in Karrie's life.
Living a couple of blocks away, Gram had been Karrie's only haven during the screaming matches between her mother and father.
Her parents were always more interested in winning battles with each other than supervising Karrie and her twin sister, Kayla. It was no wonder Karrie had ended up with a rep as the bad girl in high school.
Kayla had been the good girl. Except today she was still in California. The only year she hadn't made it home.
Putting in ear buds and turning up the music to dull the sounds of parental warfare, Karrie stuffed her clothes into her duffel bag, grabbed her laptop and went downstairs.
"I'm out of here."
They both turned to look at her.
"Why?" her father asked, a hurt expression on his face, probably more from his war with her mother than Karrie's leaving.
"Where are you going?" her mother demanded, eyes narrowed.
"To Birch Haven."
Dad held up a hand. "Hold on. We'll come with you."
It was New Year's Eve. She'd hunker down and hide out from the usual New Year goings on at Campfire Circle. "No. I don't want . . . any company."
It was her camp now and she refused to let her parent's wars spoil her new sanctuary. In a cul-de-sac at the end of a dirt road, she'd spent time with her grandmother and the kids she'd grown up with during the summers. The camps of the five other families had been added as children grew up and land was divided. Even after her death, Gram provided a refuge for Karrie, giving her Birch Haven, the camp Gramps had built.
In a couple of days she'd return to Colby-Sawyer College and the sanity of classes.
* * *
Parker John Thompson, III had hated his name from the first day of kindergarten. What had his parents been thinking? Not about him, that's for sure. They were all about how others saw them and the family. He'd been teased right up to graduation, the worst name being third eye--precipitated by having to wear glasses since fifth grade.
Having a father who was the superintendent of schools made it worse. He had to be the good boy, the model child, the proof that his father had succeeded in leaving his trailer trash past behind. Marrying money had only helped on the surface. Dad still had an inferiority complex firmly imbedded on his back.
As soon as Parker left for college, he dropped the third, changed his name to Jack, joined a fraternity, and spent his first year in party mode, making up for all the freedom he'd missed in high school. When that didn't go so well in the grades department, he moved out of the frat house and got back on track. He'd done okay and would at least graduate.
This year, his parents had opted for a holiday cruise which was fine with Jack. He didn't have to endure their endless questions about what he'd done wrong so far and what he planned to do with the rest of his life.
He hadn't spent New Year's Eve at his family's camp, Rainbow Willows, since junior high. Those had been happy times. None of his tormentors had been there.
Driving over the snow-rutted road to Rainbow Willows, another of his mother's naming disasters, he was happy to be here - and alone. He passed Birch Haven--a normal name for a camp. An older compact car was parked in the drive the Brady sister with the blond ponytail was pulling a bag out of the back seat.
He stopped the car and rolled down the window. "Karrie?" He hadn't seen her since graduation. Although she'd had a rep, he'd envied how free she was to do whatever and be whoever she wanted.
She turned. "Parker, how are you?"
"It's Jack now."
Her lips curved in a small smile and she nodded. "Good choice."
"Nice that someone from my past appreciates the change."
"Not your parents?"
He shook his head. "Your family coming later?"
"Nope." She looked away.
What was that all about? He shrugged. "I need to turn up the furnace and make sure nothing's frozen at camp." Jack lifted his hand. "See you later tonight." He made it a statement rather than a question.
As he drove the short distance to his family's camp, snowflakes drifted down. He hoped it wouldn't get in the way of the traditional New Year's Eve fireworks around the campfire circle.
He did not want to spend the night trying to figure out where he'd screwed up. Or plan the rest of his life. Or make resolutions, only to break them and then fix his mistakes.
At least his parents weren't around to get on his case about getting into law school. That was the last thing he wanted to do, reading stuffy books and droning on and on in court.
A party. No complications. No thinking. Way more his style for New Year's Eve.