Note: For those of you voting in the "Summer Vacation" contest, please read the other six chapters as well. This chapter does not stand on its own; it must be taken in context with the rest of the story.
"Mom! Tell Trevor to stop touching me!" Melinda Clifton whined.
Trevor stuck out his tongue at his little sister, enjoying the annoyed look on her face that it caused.
"And tell him not to stick his tongue out!" she added.
Their mother sighed, no doubt in frustration at how soon the kids had started bickering, and glanced back at them. Just in time, Trevor turned his head and stared out the window to make it look like he hadn't been doing anything.
"Trevor," his mother said, and he turned his head once more to look at her.
"What?" he asked.
"Don't bother your sister."
"I wasn't bothering her!"
"Yes you were," Melinda insisted. "You were touching me!"
"Why would I want to touch you?" he asked. "I might catch a disease or something."
"I hope you do. I hope it's fatal."
"Melinda," their mother told her, "don't egg him on."
"I wasn't! I--"
"If you wouldn't let it bother you, he wouldn't do it."
"He'd just find some other way to annoy me."
"Aren't you kids too old to be fighting like that?" said their father, his eyes staring at them out of the rear-view mirror of the van.
"Tell that to Trevor. He's so immature," replied Melinda.
"I'm two years older than you, so what does that make you?" Trevor grinned.
"You're both teenagers now," said their mom. "Why don't you start acting like it?"
"So I should be going out doing drugs and trying to get laid?" asked Trevor. "Thanks for your permission, Mom."
"That's not funny," she told him sternly.
"See?" Melinda pointed out. "He's such a pervert! That's all he ever thinks about!"
"Like you ever think about anything else," her brother taunted. "All I hear at home is 'Jason this' and 'Jason that.'"
"Shut up!" she snapped, growing red. Ever since he found out about her secret crush, he teased her about it to no end. At least he didn't mention it to anyone else, especially to Jason Walters, the object of her affections. Despite how much they fought with one another, there was an unspoken rule between the siblings, a line that they just did not cross.
"Look," said their dad, "can't we spend one week together in the cabin without all this fighting?"
"I'd almost settle for just the drive up there," their mother added. "Do we need to separate you like we did when you were kids?"
"Can I sit up front?" asked Melinda hopefully.
"How about we stuff her in the trunk?" Trevor suggested helpfully.
Melinda stuck her tongue out at him.
"Mom!" Trevor whined in a mocking imitation of his sister's voice. "Tell Melinda not to stick her tongue out!"
She punched him in the shoulder, hard enough to hurt, but he wasn't about to give her the satisfaction of knowing it. Instead, he laughed. "And tell her to stop touching me," he continued in that same whiny voice.
It was much the same for the rest of the trip. Trevor and Melinda teased each other incessantly, driving each other, and their parents, crazier and crazier. A dozen times their mom or dad had to turn around and tell them to behave, threatening them with grounding, withholding allowance, or anything else they could think of to try to make their kids settle down. It didn't work.
Finally they pulled up to the front of the cabin, none too soon. It looked like the kids were about to start killing each other. Everyone hurried out of the van to stretch their legs and breathe in the fresh air.
It was a modest log cabin, a quaint and cozy little place that fit in well with the surrounding pine forest. Despite it being a sunny day in the middle of the summer, here in the mountains, especially in the shade of the ancient pines, the temperature lingered in the high sixties. After the stuffy atmosphere and high tempers in the van the whole trip, the cool air was a welcome reprieve.
Trevor glanced around, his disgust at having to spend a week unable to get away from his sister tempered by the serenity and silence of the alpine environment. Despite the isolated locale, a set of power lines and poles running from the cabin into the woods gave them the reassurance that they were not entirely cut off from civilization.
Their father fit the key to the lock and opened it, peering in. His family followed, stepping into the place that would be their home for the next week. It had only four rooms: the living room and kitchen formed a single area with not even a divider separating them. A fireplace in the front room would provide heat; it would likely get pretty cold at night, and despite electrical power for the lights and kitchen appliances, the cabin had no thermostat. Two bedrooms surrounded the living area, and a single bathroom off to the side completed the quarters. Trevor and Melinda had both groaned when they had first discovered they would be sharing a room. At least it had two beds. But not, apparently, a door. That was an unpleasant surprise; both Trevor and Melinda liked their privacy, and the vacation would have been almost bearable if one of them could hide out in the bedroom while the other one was out in the living room. At least they they would have been able to stay away from each other.
At least the bathroom had a door, so they had a place to change. It was small, but there was room enough for a toilet, sink, and shower.
"Well, here we are," said their dad. "Let's get everything unpacked. Trevor, help your sister with her suitcase."
"I can manage by myself," she insisted. "I don't want Trevor deliberately dropping it."
"I wouldn't have deliberately dropped it," he said with a wounded tone. "It would have been an accident."
Their parents sighed in unison.
Melinda hauled her suitcase out of the back of the van while Trevor and their father carried the cooler full of food for the week to the kitchen. Then Trevor returned to fetch his own suitcase. Their mother set to work putting the perishables in the refrigerator as Trevor carried his bag into the bedroom to discover that Melinda had already claimed the bigger of the two beds and had her suitcase open on top of it.
"Move your stuff," he told her.
"Go to hell. I got here first," she replied.
"Watch your language, young lady!" their mom called from the kitchen.
"But he's trying to take the bed that I already picked," she whined.
"I'm bigger than you," he replied. "I should get the bigger bed."
Their dad appeared in the bedroom doorway. "Look, you two, I've had just about enough of your fighting. I happen to know a secret that means it doesn't matter who gets the bigger bed."
"What?" asked Trevor.
"I'll tell you in a minute. Let's just finish unpacking the van."
Muttering under his breath, he followed his father back out to the car to retrieve the last of the gear. He was about to grab his mother's suitcase when his dad told him to leave it for last. The two men carried the other things back to the cabin to find their mother just finishing putting away the food in the kitchen.
The two parents gave each other a knowing glance, then their dad gave their mother a nod.
"Melinda," she called. "Would you come in here for a minute?"
The girl emerged from the bedroom, deliberately avoiding close proximity with her brother.
"All right kids," said their mom. "Here's the deal. Your father and I have had enough of your bickering. So we're going to do something about it."
"What?" asked both of the kids.
"Remember how we used to threaten to lock you two in a room together all day if you didn't stop fighting? We're going to go even further than that. In about two minutes, your father and I are going to climb back into the van and drive off. You two are going to stay here."
"What?" Trevor and Melinda exclaimed at the same time.
"You two are going to spend a week alone together. No parents to get in your way, no TV or video games or phone calls to distract you, and most importantly, no way to leave. For the next week this cabin is your home, and your only way to pass the time is talking to each other."
"But Mom--" Trevor began.
"This is not negotiable," their father cut in. "You have plenty of food, hot water, and wood for a fire if you need it. Trevor knows how to start a fire in the fireplace, and we're leaving a whole box of matches in one of the drawers in the kitchen. You'll survive. Physically, at least."
"Unless Trevor kills me," mumbled Melinda.
"He won't kill you," their Mom reassured her. "If he does, he can forget about the car we said we'd buy him for graduation next year."
"Hey!" Trevor exclaimed.
"Don't worry," she smiled. "I've set the bar pretty low. All you have to do is not kill your sister. I think you can handle that, don't you?"
"Spoil all my fun," he grumbled, though jokingly.
"Anyway, you two will
spend a week alone together in this cabin. What you do while here is up to you. The way I see it, you have two choices. You can either spend the time making each other miserable, in which case this will be the worst week of your entire lives, or you can learn to get along and even enjoy one another's company."
"Yeah, like that'll ever happen," mumbled Melinda.
"It's up to you," their mom shrugged.
"But you didn't leave us any books or anything!" said Trevor. "You said we weren't allowed to bring them!"
"Exactly," said their father. "That's by design. If you had books, you could spend your whole time reading. The whole point of this vacation is to get you two to talk to each other. And now, I think we've made ourselves quite clear, so your mother and I are going to leave."
Their mom came over and hugged each of them. "This is for your own good," she told them with a smile.
"But Mom..." Melinda started.
"But nothing," their dad told her. "Our minds are made up. We love you, but you've given us no other choice. Besides, it will be good for your mother and I to get away from you two for a week. We plan to have a lot of fun. You can have fun too; all you have to do is learn to get along."
"Bye now," their mother smiled. "We'll be back to pick you up next Saturday afternoon."
The two adults left the house, leaving their children to watch in resignation as their parents climbed back into the van, waved goodbye, and drove away.
"This is all your fault," said Melinda.
"I'm not going to argue with you," Trevor told her. He opened up a pouch in his bag and pulled out a deck of cards. "And now if you don't mind, I have a lot of solitaire to play."
"You jerk!" she exclaimed. "And what am I supposed to do in the mean time?"
"Who cares?" he shrugged.
"Fine." She reached into her own bag and brought out a notebook. "At least I have my journal. I can write for the thousandth time what a creep you are."
"Only a thousand? I must not be working hard enough."
She stuck her tongue out at him.
"By the way," he said, "since you already claimed the bigger bed, I claim the one in the other bedroom."
"Good. At least we don't have to sleep in the same room."
Those were the last words they spoke to each other for several hours. The silence was awkward and depressing, but at least it was preferable to yelling. Trevor kept one eye on his sister as he played cards, expecting her at any time to say something that would start an argument, but she managed to keep quiet the entire afternoon.
It's not fair,
he thought. Just because Melinda's a brat who keeps picking a fight, I have to be cooped up with her all week. It's all her fault.
He half wished she could hear his thoughts, so that she would know exactly what he thought of her.
Trevor was the first to break the silence, and he immediately wished he hadn't. It was nearly time for supper, so he told his little sister to go fix it. Of course she jumped on that and told him in no uncertain terms that just because she was a girl didn't mean it was her job to fix the meals or clean the house or wash the dishes, and if he didn't like it he knew exactly where he could shove it. Trevor countered with an ominous tone of voice that maybe he didn't need a car so much after all. Melinda tore out a sheet of paper from her notebook, crumpled it into a ball, and threw it at his face.
They only yelled at each other for ten minutes this time, a surprisingly short duration considering how long they had been saving up. But as soon as Trevor stormed into the kitchen to put a can of soup on the stove, both siblings shut back up, refusing to speak to one another again.
As if to make their mood even darker, it started raining during supper. Maybe if Trevor and Melinda were talking to each other it wouldn't matter, but with their silence, all they had to listen to was the incessant pounding of the rain on the roof. With the rain came a drop in the temperature, inside the cabin and out. There was apparently no heating other than the fireplace, and when Melinda suggested that Trevor go out to the woodpile out back and bring in some wood so they could build a fire, he told her that just because he was a guy didn't mean it was his job to chop wood or bring it in or start a fire. The truth was that he was getting kind of chilly, but he wouldn't give Melinda the satisfaction of seeing him back down. So despite the rain, they had no fire that night.
With nothing to do but sit and try to ignore each other, it came as no surprise that they went to bed early. As Melinda unpacked her suitcase in the smaller bedroom, Trevor did the same in the larger. The door had been closed most of the day, and when he opened it he was delighted to find that his bedroom was quite a bit warmer than the rest of the cabin. Perhaps it was insulated a little better. With that cheery thought (the first one all day), he changed into a tee shirt and sweat pants, then plugged in his alarm clock, set it according to the time on his watch, climbed into bed, and settled down for a good night's sleep, relieved that he was finally free of his little sister for the rest of the day. Granted, he had almost a whole week alone with her ahead of him, but for now he had a few minutes of peace without her.
He should have known it wouldn't last. She had a talent for finding just what would most annoy him, and in this case, it was interrupting his solitude. He had been lying in bed for ten minutes and was just starting to grow drowsy when his obnoxious little sister knocked on the door. Without waiting for a reply, she opened it, letting in a blast of cold air.
"Trevor," said Melinda. "Can I... can I sleep in here with you?"
"What? No way!" he exclaimed.
"But there's a crack in the window in the other room, and it's letting all the cold in."
"Not my problem," he told her.
"Come on, please?"
"Go to bed, Melinda."
"Fine, you jerk!" she snapped, then left the room, slamming the door behind her.