I take a deep gulp of air as I head out of the elevator. Zack and his buddy rush into the caravan first. When I get there I see why they had rushed. He and the other boy have taken seats in the back so that everyone has to pass them. They shrink back out of the way, as if touching me would be deadly.
“I hope she’s had her shots. I don’t want to get any disease from a wet mutt.” He tells his friend.
His friend laughs. I sit at the very front, as far away from them as I can. Part of me wishes I could make a snappy come back. I can’t think that fast. I can’t be that mean. I hold my bag in my lap and hope this trip won’t be long. I hear a girl mutter a curse.
“Ops, did the air head trip?” Zack’s voice carries to the front. The girl turns to glare at him, he makes a cross with his fingers. “Stay away halfy!”
She shakes her head and joins me up front. I sit my bag next to me and lean back to rest my head on the canvas. Another voice up front makes me look that direction.
“I don’t think you should talk,” a boy leaps in to the wagon and then over Zack’s out stretched foot. He turns to face them, “Seeing as they beat you in the fitness test.”
Zack sneers, “I’m just saving my energy for the real test tainted-lover.”
The boy turns to us and rolls his eyes before sitting next to the other girl. I turn my head to look up at the ceiling, closing my eyes. I hear the two sitting opposite me exchange names; Martha and David. I can feel their attention on me, but I don’t respond. David comments that I must be asleep, and they converse in quiet tones.
I’m not asleep of course. The truth is, I don’t want to talk to anyone right now. If I had my way, I’d be out in those woods, alone. My stomach is still turning flip flops from being cooped up with all those parents and children in one conference room for an hour. Not to mention the elevator managed to turn my stomach upside down again.
The light dims and I open my eyes. The back flap has been closed. A man hopes up to the driving seat of the covered wagon. He winks at me as he goes to close the front flap as well.
“Sorry kids, can’t have anyone knowing where we’re going.”
He smiles as he closes the flap leaving us in near darkness. There is one lantern attached to the middle of the caravan roof. I hear a whip crack and we start to move. The lantern begins to swing making our shadows dance. Silence settles over us as the wagon rocks us back and forth. Nerves have taken over, and I can see why. One of us has already been eliminated.
I lean back again and close my eyes. The wagon seems to be moving in ever increasing circles and I’m reminded of the Wizard of Oz. I picture myself as Dorothy sans Toto, I don’t think I’m in Kansas any more.
The image is all too true. This place is more vibrant that home, nor do I know what lies ahead. But if Dorothy, a girl with a good heart and a pair of magical slippers, could defeat an evil witch and find home, then I, who have magic within me, can too. Even if my evil witch is a bully named Zack.
Of course compared to the Van Helsings beating Zack ought to be as easy as accidentally dropping a house on him. I have the air affinity for it.
I wake as the wagon pulls to a halt. Focusing on listening I hear the man hop down and walk around back. I close my eyes against the blinding light as he opens the back. Zack shrinks away from it like a vampire as others groan. Apparently I’m not the only one who fell asleep. I wonder if that was their intent.
“Welcome, my Candidates, we have reached our destination. A place you’ll come to know affectionately as Blue Base Camp.” He grins as a few of us groan.
This is no summer fun camp. We are here to be tested and judged worthy of our wings. He claps his hands.
“My name is Charles Ravencroft and I’ll be your Camp Supervisor for the duration of your stay.” He pauses a moment. “Now if you’ll grab your bags, you can toss them in the bungalow. I’ll give you a few moments to stretch and the like before we un-load and set up our tents!”
He is way too enthusiastic for me. I stay seated, eyes closed as everyone clambers out. I relish the relative quiet and take deep breaths to center myself. I can feel nature around me. We are here in the wilderness only six of us at this camp. I can do this. Someone clears their throat.
I open my eyes and give the Camp Supervisor an apologetic smile. I grab my bag move to the back.
“Morgan of Ollerond, eh?” His smile is genuine. He glances at a sheet with a slightly puzzled look. He shakes his head and smiles again as he offers me a hand down. “Water Faerie. Good to have you here.”
I return his smile hesitantly. I walk down the bungalow’s porch and look around me. Being a nice day, all the doors are open and I can see into the kitchen, dinning room, and lastly a living room like area.
“Bathrooms are around back of the lounge,” Charles tells us as he walks by with the Ox that pulled our covered wagon.
I set my bag down and quickly make for the bathroom. When I’m done I visit the Ox, who’s been placed in a paddock behind the kitchen. I find some choice grass, out side the paddock area and proffer it to the Ox. He lumbers over, his large brown eyes studying me. I smile as his tongue tickles my hand as he accepts my offering. Someone chuckles. I look over to see our Supervisor leaning on a stack of hay. I realize that’s what had made our seats. I feel my face flush.
“You good with animals? he asks as he approaches.
I nod. Animals are like children. They are what they are and they make no excuses for it. Nor do they bully people to make up for their own flaws.
“Do you know how to scrub an Ox down?” he asks, leaning on the fence next to where the Ox and I stand.
“I know how to do a horse,” I admit softly, keeping my eyes on the Ox. He’s a beautiful creature.
“Same thing.” I feel him studying me. “Tell you what,” I glance and see him smile. “Why don’t you scrub him down, while I supervise the unpacking of the rest of the wagon.”
I turn to face him, smiling. “Can I?”
He beams and ruffles my head just like Dad had done. “Certainly. I think I’m leaving Daisy in good hands.” He turns and leaves.
I stand for a moment longer before ducking between the fence railings. “Thank you,” I call back. I am grateful.