Chapter 1 - The Letter
“I’m finished!” Lilly called to her cousin.
‘’Okay. One minute. I am too. I just have one more picture to glue on,” Ellie replied. “There,’’ she said fondly, slapping a picture of Mia Hamm cut out from a soccer magazine onto her finished collage. “Do you like it?”
“Yeah, I love it,” Lilly replied in her loud and a little bit show-offish voice. “I really like how you did the rainbow color thingy with the picture of that elephant.”
“Lilly!” Ellie groaned. “How many times do I have to tell you to stop saying “thingy”? It is driving me CRAZY!!”
“Okay, okay. Gosh!” her tall, blonde cousin replied.
The two cousins were laying in the damp green grass with Lilly’s old German Shepherd Birdy and listening to the soft chirping of the sparrows feeding at the birdfeeder on the other side of the house. They were working on collages for their sixth grade Passion Projects for school. A weak sun shone through the clouds, lifting the girls’ spirits. It was the first sunny day that they had had for three months. Spring was on its way.
“Girls!” Lilly’s mother’s voice drifted out the open front door, “I’ve made some cookies just now and you are welcome to them, but first I would like you to go get the mail.”
“Okay auntie,” Ellie answered, standing up and brushing the grass off her front. “We will be there in a second.”
The two cousins raced off, their feet barely touching the damp ground as they leapt over puddles and dips in the old dirt road. Ellie’s brown braids bobbed while Lilly’s blond hair flew out behind her like golden fire. They dashed around different sides of the great maple tree that was plopped down in the middle of the driveway like a ancient weather-beaten sculpture. It had been there as long as the girls could remember. Down the hill they ran to the large black mailbox. The mailbox was not special. Its black paint was chipping with age and its rusty red flag carelessly pushed up indicating that the mailman hadn’t come yet.
The girls were just about to turn around to run home when the sound of the mail truck’s horn met their ears. There it was, trundling up the dirt road as it had so many times before, its shiny new paint job glistening in the early afternoon sun. The girls ran to meet it. Mr. Belkins the mailman was old and tired, not unlike the mailbox he was delivering to. He grinned as he saw the girls racing down the road to meet him.
“Do you have any thing for us, Mr. Belkins?’’ Ellie asked politely.
“Why yes.” Mr. Belkins replied, “I have one magazine, three bills and one letter from Seattle addressed to you, Miss Lilly.”
“Okay, thank you very much.” Lilly said
“You’re quite welcome,” he replied.
The girls said their goodbyes and ran up the to the house. They dropped the stack of mail on the table, except for the letter addressed to Lilly. They each grabbed a cookie and dashed outside again. This time, instead of going straight as if to go down the driveway, they turned right towards the yurt that Lilly’s mother used for teaching yoga. They crept through some tall grass and over a fallen barbed wire fence into the woods. They disappeared through a gap in the ivy to reach the top of a large ravine. They then bounded down an old muddy path to a small stream called Whiskey Creek, the site of their secret fort.
The girls had discovered the site when they were very small. There was a hollow log that was perfect for use as a table and a storage place. Over the years they had added furnishings they had collected from around the property. It was a wonderful hide out that the girls spent almost all of their time in. They pulled up two river rock chairs and got comfortable.
“The bird feeder is almost empty,’’ Lilly remarked.
“I know.” Ellie replied, “Now lets open that letter!”
“Birdy!” Lilly called behind her, “Come here girl!” Birdy came slowly waddling up and collapsed in her bed in the corner of the fort. Lilly happily plopped down at the table and tore open her letter while Ellie refilled the bird feeder.
“Ahhhhhh!!!!!!” Lilly screamed, jumping up and down and almost turning over the rock that she was sitting on.
‘’Oh my gosh! What is it?!” Ellie said excitedly.
“Listen to this!”
On official letterhead from the outdoor sporting goods giant Recreational Equipment Incorporated, the letter read,
February 2, 2010
Miss Lilly Jane Chase
5752 New Wiggins Road NE
Bainbridge Island, WA 98110
RE: Whistler-Blackcomb Vacation Drawing
Congratulations! You have won a week-long trip to Whistler-Blackcomb Ski and Snowboard Resort thanks to a special REI drawing for members that took place on January 5th. This package includes: lift tickets for you and a friend (and a parent or guardian if you are under the age of sixteen), a week’s lodging at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler hotel, passes to use the Village ice rink, pool, gym, and other amenities, meals and beverages, a new set of skis or a new snowboard and helmet, and a new ski outfit and boots from REI. Please contact your local REI store for further details and to get geared up for the trip. You can visit our website at ww.rei.com to find the number for your local REI store.
Once again congratulations on winning a the drawing. Have a great time at Whistler/Blackcomb!
Sally Jewel, CEO of Recreational Equipment Incorporated
“Whoa!” said Ellie in a state of shock. “Oh my gosh!” She started jumping up and down, yelling “That is so awesome!!! You are so lucky!” Then she stopped with a start. “Who are you going to bring?!”
“Hmmmm,” Lilly said, pretending to think. “I think I’ll bring Angela Adams. Do you think that’s a good idea?”
“Oh,” answered Ellie, her face falling. “I thought you….” her voice faded away into nothingness.
“Ha Ha!” Lilly laughed. “I tricked you! I was just kidding. You’re the only one I want to come on this trip.”
Ellie fake-punched her cousin.
“Besides,” added Lilly, “I can’t believe that you would think that I would invite Angela Adams! Don’t you remember that I have had a bit of a grudge towards her ever since she pushed me into that dumpster on the field trip to the art museum last year? She said trying to suppress a sneeze.”
Ellie laughed. “Oh, I remember that,” she exclaimed, “And then there was that other time where she stuck some silly-putty onto your chair and you sat in it and it got suck onto your jeans. She then convinced the entire class to call you “Putty Butty” for the rest of the year. That was so funny!”
“Oh don’t remind me,” Lilly groaned. “I had tried to block one that out!”
“Now come on.” Ellie said excitedly. “Let’s go on the computer and find out the number of the store in Seattle.
“Wait a minute,” Lilly said. “Remember? My dad goes there at least once a week because of his work. I bet he has their number imprinted on his brain.”
“Oh yeah. I forgot,” Ellie agreed. “But you still have to tell your parents! And which one of them are you going to ask to join us?”
“My Dad, of course. Now come on.” Lilly replied.
Ellie whistled for Birdy to follow and they went racing back up the creek to the house to tell Lilly’s mother.