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Summer On Mystic Lake This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   The stairs creaked as I descended to the kitchen of our summer cottage. I was trying my best not to wake my parents or little sister. I only used the moonlight to guide me. As I reached the screen door, my anticipation of the night ahead increased. I slipped out the door like a prowler in the shadows. I looked back one last time as I walked down the gravel driveway. No lights had been turned on; I had made it. But this was just the first obstacle of the night I had planned for so long.

My relatives had been spending summers in the little cottage on Mystic Lake for generations. We started coming when I was three, and came every summer since. About the beginning of June every year, when the flowers appear in full blossom, I start imagining the many adventures to come. Momma tells my sister and me to begin packing. The last day of school never comes soon enough. Each day drags on like ketchup out of a bottle. That day always comes, though.

My parents pick us up at school, the car packed to the brim, and we begin our long trip to the camp. This year, especially, I can remember looking out the back window of the car, waving farewell to the city buildings and hello to the wonder and wilderness awaiting us at Mystic Lake.

Tonight was a very special night, one I had been planning for weeks. Tomorrow, you see, we were going home. It had been a wonderful summer, full of swimming, barbecues, hikes, everything a summer should be. But there was one thing I hadn't done, something that would make my vacation complete. That's where I was headed now ...

The driveway stretched before me in the moonlight. I could see the opening in the pine trees not far ahead. As I approached the beginning of the path, I pulled the flashlight from my jacket pocket, grateful I had remembered it. The woods looked welcoming; I had never been afraid of the dark.

The path seemed to go on for miles, weaving in and out of the tall trees. I looked up frequently, admiring the starry sky through the silhouettes of the treetops. I came to the first fork in the path and went left as the map had said.

I discovered this map while rummaging through the attic of our cottage. I was looking through a trunk of my great-great-grandmother's. It was mostly full of old clothes, but as I neared the bottom, I noticed a small envelope wedged in the corner.

This was really interesting, so I carefully opened it. Inside was a single piece of white paper. It was torn and very fragile. Although faded, I was able to make out lines of a map.

The next few days, I copied its every detail, studying it until my head ached. It was a map of Mystic Lake. Our cabin appeared as the starting point, and it ended at a large "X." I spent hours at night, alone in my bedroom, memorizing the dotted trail. Tonight was my last chance to find out exactly what was at that "X," and I was determined to succeed.

The towering pines seemed to be closing in as I travelled deeper and deeper into the woods. After what seemed like hours, I stepped into a clearing.

It was absolutely breathtaking! The small meadow was covered with thick grass, rolling into the distance like an ocean wave. At the far side of the clearing, I could hear the faint trickling of a brook. The most amazing sight of all, though, was in the center of the meadow. There, sitting silently in the darkness, as if awaiting my arrival, loomed a huge oak tree. Its branches spread everywhere, as if reaching out to touch the outside of this wondrous clearing. And the trunk was wider than any tree I'd ever seen.

As I stepped closer to this "beast," I realized this was it, the great oak that my great-great-grandmother had spoken of on the map. I went to the far side of the tree and, sure enough, there was a single root projecting from the ground, forming a small arch.

The shovel I had lugged with me was worth the inconvenience. I only dug about three feet when I hit something. It sounded like a metal box. I picked it up, surprised that it was so light.

This was the moment I had been waiting for ... The small, black box opened easily. I raised the lid slowly. I don't know what I was afraid of, maybe I just wanted that moment to last forever. I peered inside and found that the box was full of pictures, old pictures.

Pictures! Pictures! What kind of treasure was that? I had come all that way, so I figured I may as well see what was there.

The pictures were black and white. Most were of beautiful young women and very handsome boys. On the backs were names, all with my last name. These were relatives from generations ago!

Most of the pictures were taken at Mystic Lake. The dock was in some of the pictures, probably now rebuilt. Those young people seemed as if they were having so much fun, just as my family does now. These were my great-great-grandmother's memories of the summers she and her cousins, brothers, and sisters had spent here.

It was clear to me then that Mystic Lake was not only a summer vacation, but more importantly, a part of the family. For years and years my relatives had spent summers here, and would for generations to come.

This must have been a very special spot, under this oak tree. I promised myself to keep this place secret, as well as the pictures. They were obviously buried there for a reason, and I was going to respect that.

Somewhere off in the distance, I heard an owl call, bringing me to attention. It had gotten cold and very late. Gently I replaced them as I had found them, giving one last glance at those smiling faces, and shut the lid.

I put the box back in the hole, and replaced the soil. Making sure to completely disguise the hole, I covered it with grass and branches.

As I approached the opening of the path, shovel in hand, I turned to look at that magical place one last time. I smiled to myself, realizing that I had, in fact, discovered a treasure. Though it wasn't silver or gold, it was worth just as much to me. I waved good-bye to the big oak and to Mystic Lake. "Until next year," I whispered, and ducked under the pines, making my way home as the summer night came to an end. 1


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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