Jill shut the door behind her, and squealed with excitement! At 14 she was grown up enough to have a cabin to herself, and not have to share with Mum and Dad anymore. Her brothers, Ben and Don, had moaned that they had to share a cabin, and said they should have one each too, but Jill didn’t think they meant it, they just liked to argue.
She quickly unpacked and hung her clothes in the dresser, then looked around to see where she could hide her drawing paper and pencils. She never left them in sight in case one of her brothers found them, or, even worse, Mum or Dad. She sighed. No one would understand the fascination she found in her drawing; she knew that, so she never shared this secret passion with anyone. Dad worked long hours in a factory, and Mum worked in the local grocery store. She had it drummed into her from an early age that it was important to get a job and make money. Hard work was all that counted, and she had studied hard so to get good grades in Math and English so that she could get a well-paid job in an office one day.
No, Jill knows that her passion fro drawing was a waste of time, but still, in the quiet moments of the night, she dreamt of drawing and art and longed for the time when she could steal a few minutes with her book and pencils. She picked up the journal on the table next to the bed and was momentarily disappointed to see only one entry in it, and that it was a very short one about some old couple. But the mention of a bridge over a stream interested her; now that would be a good idea for a drawing.
Without further thought, she gathered up her paper and pencils and headed down to the stream. Only when she was half way there did it occur to her that maybe she should have told someone where she was going. Then she realized she’d left her phone back in the cabin, but it was too late to go back now. In any case, she was sure she’d be back before anyone noticed her absence.
It was about that time that Ben and Don were getting ready to go to the beach. The sea was a 20-minute walk away, 15 if you ran, and the boys were keen to get there as soon as possible. Just as they were packing up, Mum came and told them to knock on their sister’s door, and see if she wanted to go as well. They grumbled a bit; Jill was OK, but she was a girl, and always wanted to stop and look at things along the way. So when they knocked and got no answer, they weren’t too upset.
“Should we go and tell Mum?” Ben asked his brother.
“No, we were told to knock, and we did,” Don answered. “Now let’s see who can get in the water first!”
With that, he was off at a fast run, and Ben had to scramble to catch up. By the time they had gotten to the beach, breathless and excited, they had forgotten all about Jill and just concentrated on having fun.
About an hour later, Mum tapped on Jill’s door too. She didn’t get an answer, so she peeked round the door, and saw that Jill had unpacked but was not in the room. Mum smiled, thinking that Jill had gone off with the boys to the beach. She did worry about Jill sometimes, just recently she seemed to be preoccupied, and always having her nose in a book, or staring off into the distance. Jill was a sensible, hard working girl and was doing really well in the academic subjects at school, but Mum felt that something was troubling her daughter. She was hoping that this time away from the regular day-to-day routine would bring her out of it, whatever “it” was.
She went back to her own cabin and found her husband busily cleaning the barbecue grill, ready for tonight’s supper. Here was another one who could not stop working, she thought, not for the first time. She was proud of him, of course, and amazed at the hours he put in at the factory. Still, it would be nice if he would relax a bit sometimes, not everything had to be about work.
Meanwhile, Jill had discovered the perfect spot for her drawing. She had found the bridge over the stream that she had read about in the journal, and thought it was full of action, and yet calming at the same time. Jill looked around and found somewhere to sit, with her back to an old gnarled oak tree. The location also had the advantage that anyone walking along the path would not be able to see her, so she was sure there would be no interruptions.
Soon she was entirely focused on her work, trying to get the reflections and the shadows just right, even though they kept changing by the minute. As she sat, the sun filtering through the treetops had a mesmerizing effect, and a gentle warm breeze further relaxed her. She tried a number of times to capture the essence of what she was seeing, each time being pleased but unsatisfied at the same time. The warm sun had a soothing effect on her, and without being entirely aware of it, she slipped into a deep sleep.
“Where are the kids?” Dad asked, fretting over the fire in the barbecue. “I’m just about ready to start cooking.”
“They all went down to the beach; I’m sure they will be back soon,” Mum reassured him. Just then the Don came running along the pathway, closely followed by Ben, who was eager to show off the dead fish they had found on the shore.
“Where’s Jill?” Mum asked, looking back along the path.
“Oh, she wasn’t with us,” Ben said.
“What do you mean?” Mum said, suddenly concerned.
“Well we knocked like you said, but she didn’t answer, so we went without her.”
“Oh, I expect she’s back in her cabin enjoying the quite,” Mum said, “I’ll just go check on her.”
Within a few moments, she was back. “She’s not there, and her phone is on the counter. Dad, where is she? Where’s my Jill?” Mum was trying desperately to keep calm, despite thoughts of her baby girl being abducted and murdered, or worse, while she had just been enjoying the sun.
“Now, let’s get this straight,” Dad took over, “exactly who saw Jill last and where?” He quickly found out that the last anyone had seen his daughter was when she had taken her bags to her cabin, several hours ago.
“OK, there is no need for anyone to panic” Dad tried to reassure his increasingly tearful wife and overexcited sons. “Mum, you go to the office and let them know what’s happened, and then came back here in case she turns up. I’ll go and search the woods. Don, Ben, you go back along the beach road, maybe she followed you and you missed her. Call me if you find her, but come straight back here if you don’t, is that clear?”
The boys said they understood and set off, calling Jill’s name every few minutes, Mum ran to the office, and Dad ventured into the forest. He met a few people coming the other way, but none of them had seen a young girl, and his grip on the composure he had tried to show the family was slowly ebbing away. His phone rang, and it was just his wife reporting that the boys were back, but with no news. He told her to get them to try around the campsite and hung up. He had reached a bridge over a stream and was unsure what to do next. He was not a religious man, but as he sttod there he suddenly found himself praying with all his heart that his little girl was safe. He called Jill’s name for the hundredth time, and then held his breath; had he heard a reply?
In her dream, Jill was floating along a red river on a golden sailboat, the wind gently wafting the sails. Someone far away was calling her name, over and over, and she idly wondered how to bring her boat to shore. Then the voice was nearer, and Jill became aware that the red was not a river but the sun setting across the valley. She started to wake slowly, groggily wondering where she was, and then suddenly she was jolted awake by the sound of her father’s voice calling her name.
“Dad?” she said unsteadily, raising from her vantage point, but still unsure if she was asleep or awake.
When Dad spotted movement, he ran towards the old oak tree, more in hope than expectation. Then he saw her, his beloved daughter, standing in a clearing surrounded by papers. He gathered her up in his arms, and for the first time in her young life, Jill saw her father cry.
“Oh Jill, thank God you’re safe. We were so worried!”
He held her in his arms, and then noticed the papers that the wind was starting to blow around. “And what are there?” he asked, picking one and studying it.
“Oh, it’s nothing” Jill tried to stop him looking, but he picked up a few of her sketches and looked them over. “I know it’s silly; I need to study and get qualifications so I can get a proper job, just like you and Mum. It’s just that, well, this is what I love to do. I love sketching, drawing, all that art stuff. But it’s stupid, I know.” She blushed and looked away, as her father reached for the remaining pages and studied them.
“Stupid?” he said. “These aren’t stupid; these are excellent. I tell you what would be stupid, and that would be not pursuing your talent.”
“But Dad, how can I make money doing this? If you’ve taught me one thing, it’s the importance of hard work and diligence.”
“And you think being an artist isn’t hard work?” Dad looked at his young daughter, no longer the baby he had once held in his arms, and not quite a woman yet. A thousand memories came to mind all in an instant, and he sat down on the soft earth, patting the ground for Jill to sit next to him.
“Let me tell you a story.” He started as Jill looked at him in amazement. “When I was a young kid, maybe a year or two younger than you, I dreamt of being an actor. I just loved the whole thing about being on stage, I was in all the drama at school, and nagged my Mum and Dad to take me to all the plays that were on in anywhere in town. Then when it came time for me to take exams, my English teacher said I had talent, and suggested I go on to drama school.
“I wanted that with all my heart, but Dad had just passed away, and Ma, your Grandma, she was struggling to bring us kids up and keep us fed. As the eldest of the boys, I decided that I needed to get a job and earn some money, but I vowed to carry on acting, and to go to drama school when I could.”
Jill looked with new eyes at her Dad. She had always thought of him as someone so down-to-earth and practical, and now it seemed that he had dreams too.
“And then I met your Mum and got wed, and you kiddos came along. Not that I would have changed any of it, but still, sometimes in the middle of the night, I wonder what would have happened if I’d gone to drama school.”
“But the point is” Dad took a deep breath, got to his feet, and held out his free hand to Jill, the other one still holding tight to the drawings, “I’m not going to let you throw away the chance of using this talent of yours. Stop double guessing yourself, and be proud of your talent, I am!”
Just then his phone rang. “Oh, it’s your Mum, here, you answer it, tell her you’re OK.”
All the way to the cabins Jill and Dad talked about drawing and art classes, and when they got back, she told everyone that she had fallen asleep while drawing, and showed them her pictures.
For the rest of the week she spent many happy hours drawing, and when it came to packing to go home, Dad drove into town and brought her a portfolio case to carry her pictures. As she scanned the cabin one last time before leaving, she saw the journal, and just had enough time to scrawl an entry.
Cabin 22 Journal.
This is the first time I get to stay in a cabin by myself, and that means I get to write in the journal too! I am 15, well, almost, I will be later this year, and I am Jillian Mary Robertson, I have two older brothers, who are a pain, but I love them anyway. Mum and Dad are here too in one of the other cabins, and Ben and Don have one to themselves. Oh! Ben and Don are my brothers, and I’m called Jill, not Jillian, that is just my given name.
This is a magical place, and something about the magic has rubbed off on me this week! I have discovered that I am not a misfit, that I have Talent, and that it is OK to dream. My Dad is an amazing man, who gave up so much for us and I love him more than anyone in the whole wide world.