Paradise This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

   It seemed to take an eternity to reach myhome away from home. Going to another state was a long journeyfor a little girl, but it was always worth the wait to hearthose wonderful words from my dad's mouth.

"We'rein Michigan!" he would enthusiastically shout. Even afterwe reached the border, we still had six long hours until wereached Lake Leelanau, surrounded by gorgeous trees andoutrageous homes.

I remember the excitement as werounded the last curve that revealed a glimpse of theshimmering lake. As we pulled into the lane, my heart wouldrace, and I would have an uncontrollable urge to jump out ofthe car and run as fast as I could to the sandy shore. WhenDad parked the car, I would jump out and breathe in as much ofthat northern Michigan air as possible while the cool breezegently danced across my sunburnt nose.

Just when Ithought things couldn't get any better, my grandpa would comeout of one of the four tiny cabins and yell, "Time to putthe boat in," which meant a ride back down the windingroad to where Grandpa kept his old white boat. As my dad, myuncle and grandpa tried to get the boat into the water withoutscratching the already-dented and chipped body, my cousins andI would play on the dock, trying to catch a glimpse of ascaly, little creature swimming along the sandy bottom. It waslike looking through glass as I stared through the cleanwater.

"All right, you little squirts, climb intothe boat," Grandpa instructed, as he admired hisgrandchildren. He would always reach out one of his strong,tanned arms to help the littlest of us over the edge of theworn-out dock.

On the ride to the cabins I would sit atthe front of the boat trying hard to keep from losing myglasses and my breath. The sparkling eyes of my youngercousins would peer at the spectacular lake. You could almostplay connect-the-dots with the boats and jet skis scatteredacross what seemed like a sheet of glass. Grandpa would pointout the new houses built in the past year and say, "Whenyour grandma and I win the lottery, we'll buy a brand-newhouse on the lake so you kids can come up whenever youwant."

"OOH!" I screamed as big drops ofcold water stung my red cheeks, interrupting mydaydream.

"We're almost there!" my littlecousin excitedly shouted. He was right. The strange noisescoming from the motor indicated we were rounding the lastbend. I could barely make out the olive-green roof of thefirst cabin. The cabins always looked so safe nestled in thetall trees. The boat slowed as we coasted to the crooked dock.When Grandpa docked, I jumped out.

"Ouch!" Iscreamed. As I looked down at my foot, I already knew what hadhappened: I had a splinter. The sweat began dripping down myforehead as I attempted to doctor my wound. I should haveknown better than to walk on that ancient dock without shoes.I turned my sandy foot over and examined the jagged piece ofwood jutting out from my pale skin.

"Onthree," I said. "One, two - three!" I cried asI ripped the foreign object from my body. I tossed thesplinter into the lake and tiptoed onto the soft sand and intomy mother's arms. She always wore her bathing suit and smelledof coconut oil from sun-bathing.

"Can I goswimming?" I impatiently asked as I looked up at herthrough squinted eyes.

"Sure, if you take yoursister," Mom replied. There was always acatch.

"I guess," I said under my breath. Mylittle sister came bounding out of the cabin in her neonbathing suit, her long curls falling in her face causing herto trip, and her orange swimmies wrapped around her littlearms.

I ripped off my New Kids On The Block t-shirt andraced my sister to the lake. I always beat her. At first thechilly water was a shock, but as soon as we dove under,rubbing our bellies on the sandy bottom, we grew used to it. Iloved to feel the squishy sand beneath my toes as I trudgedthrough the water. I was always on the lookout for clams; theywere like hidden treasures.

"Wow, I think I'mstepping on one, Abby!" my sister cried withjoy.

"Move out of the way so I can grab it,"I told her in my bossy voice. I closed my eyes tight and heldmy nose as I dove into the three feet of water to retrieve thebumpy clam.

"I got it!" I screamed as Ierupted from the water, almost knocking over my sister. Isqueezed the oval-shaped object until it started to spit waterfrom its small opening. The mussel that my sister and I had sorudely disturbed slowly squirmed back into its shell. I feltbad so I hurled it as hard as I could back into the lake. Assoon as I let go of the creature, I could hear the faint soundof Grandpa's boat getting closer. Grandpa, my uncle and Dadwere returning from their fishing trip.

"Did youcatch any?" I hollered.

"Yep, and you'regonna help clean 'em," Uncle Tim replied. This meant atrip to the fish house which was about the size of a bathroomwith a sink with a long counter. It had the worst smell in theworld, but I always went inside to pretend I was as brave asthe men. The cool breeze made me shiver as I stood at the doorwith my beach towel wrapped tightly around me. The door madean awful creaking noise as I opened it to reveal the mengutting the fish.

"Gross!" was always myreaction. It smelled so strongly of fish that I had toleave.

"Baby," my uncle jokingly shouted as Iscampered out the door toward the cabin. I could smell thecampfire as I approached the bright flames dancing in front ofthe painted lake. It was getting dark outside, and the sunlooked as if it was melting into the lake.

"Anyonewant s'mores?" My aunt asked.

"I wantone," I alerted her.

"I saved one just foryou, Abby." My mouth began to water as she handed me mychocolate treat. When I bit down on the gooey s'more,marshmallow got all over my face and lips. Everyone laughedand told stories as the fire danced across our faces, makingthe night even more special, but all good things must come toan end.

After a week of heaven my family had to pack upand make the long trip home. As I stepped out of my cabin forthe last time, I turned to witness the peaceful scenerysurrounding the calm lake. Trying desperately not to bawl, Iwiped my tears, climbed into our car and counted the daysuntil we would return, all 365 of them.

So Close, Yet So Far Away by Michelle R., Westerville, OH

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By Hadley B., Marblehead, MA
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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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