“You look like a land whale,” the bikini girls giggled. Mandy was so used to the hurt, she buried it deep inside, where she hoped it would never resurface. Her cramps were beginning to feel normal now; they didn’t go away, but she wasn’t suffering from them either.

“Hot chocolate, that’ll make me feel better.” And she went to the stand. Lenard was there. His eyes were huge. “A fudge sickle,” he said. He was one of those boys who would grow up to be a billionaire. Right now, he wasn’t concerned about anything. He didn’t care that he didn’t have any friends. Mandy envied him. He would slowly gain self-awareness and use his intelligence to solve his problems, problems that he didn’t even know he had.

She didn’t like what she saw in her future, lonely nights with ice cream, after an anonymous job. She looked around for the kind students. They would be friends with anyone for a period of time because it made them feel virtuous, and they had to check off that box, but spending time with them never filled her cup; it’s different when a person actually likes spending time with you, rather than when they just feel sorry for you.

Mandy followed Lenard up the trail. Maybe she would try talking to him. He had a strange book under his arm. It was old. Mandy didn’t put it past Lenard to read strange fiction, but it looked more like a diary than a novel. “Hey Lenard, where did you get that book?” Mandy asked.

“I found it in the store.”

“What’s it about?” But Lenard wouldn’t say anything. He just held it tighter and walked a bit faster. There was a nervous quickness in his step, that gave him away. He had something to hide and Mandy knew it; the boys who usually left him alone, also knew it.

“Hey Lenard, what do you have there?” The bicycle boys asked.

Lenard tried to stuff the book down his pants like a playboy, but that only encouraged them to grab it.

“Hey, that’s mine!” Lenard screamed.

“My love affair with a mermaid?”

“The fisherman who started this camp fell in love with a mermaid, and she pulled him under. The old lady at the store told me. There’s a lighthouse just beyond the lake, no longer in use. And at night, you can see the fisherman’s ghost, lost at sea.”

“That’s nonsense. You’re going to grow up to be a conspiracy theorist wacko.”

“What’s wrong with that?” Lenard asked. “It’s better than a suburban dad with a house payment.”

“We ought to teach you a lesson.”

“That would be hard, seeing that you don’t know anything.”

To be continued…

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