I know you usually come visit me for a week but I was hoping we could make it a little longer this year. What about the whole summer? It’ll be great, what do you think?
Not “love, Dad.” Just “Dad.”
I looked at mom. She shrugged.
Two weeks later, I’m sitting in the mess hall of the Summer Camp for Supernatural Kids–the camp my dad has owned and run since he and mom split. He knew what time I’d be arriving but I’ve been here for an hour and still haven’t seen him. I clutch his letter in my sweating hands. For some reason, I’m nervous. My parents divorced when I was eight and my dad hasn’t seen me for more than a week straight since. Seven years later and my mom and I both accept that he cares about the kids at his camp more than he cares about his own daughter. But maybe this letter means things are changing.
“It takes all my time to run this camp, you know that,” he’d said one time when I asked why I couldn’t see him more. “I can’t hire too many people because I don’t want anyone knowing where the camp is.”
Rule number one of the Supernatural Summer Camp was that it was super-secret. Word got out to the Supernaturals through word-of-mouth and my mom and I were the only other humans that knew about it. Even though it had been years since they were invited to come out of hiding and live with the humans, the Supernaturals still weren’t treated great.
“This is their haven and it’s important it stays secret,” he told me.
I sit up straighter and hide the letter as the door from the kitchen opens. But it’s not dad. It’s not anybody. It looks like a carton of eggs.
The carton is floating through the mostly empty mess room, toward the exit, and I bet I know where it’s headed. The beginning of camp means pranks and this Shape Shifter is trying to be sneaky.
Dad says these kids are forced to hide their true selves when they’re out in “our” world. “They’re encouraged not to use their powers and stay in human form. Here, they can be as special as they actually are.”
I don’t recall him ever calling me special.
“Hey,” I say it quietly but it’s enough. The eggs to drop the floor with a series of cracks and a shocked kid a few years younger than me appears.
“Geez! Why’d you do that!?”
I shrug, “Sorry.”
He looks around. “Why are you sitting here alone?”
“I’m waiting for…”
The main door to the mess hall opens and my dad comes in. He sees the kid standing there but doesn’t say anything about the eggs, just opens his arms.
“Troy! How ya doing, kid?” He wraps him in a big bear hug and then leans back. “You started middle school, right? How was it?”
“Aw, it’s all right.” My dad laughs. Then he sees me. “You head outside, I’m gonna say hi to my daughter.” The boy shoos me a curious look then heads out.
“Hey, Dad.” He throws an arm around my shoulder. His version of a hug for the daughter he barely sees. I pat his hand.
“You’re taller,” he says. “Get your driver’s license yet? Pass the test?”
“I’m fifteen. Not till next year.”
“Oh. Right.” He nods. “Well, that’s ok. You can still drive the gator. I can drive the truck when we need it.”
I shake my head and lift an eyebrow in confusion.
“I think you’re ready to come on as a counselor, Lex!” He says it like it’s a privilege he’s bestowing upon me, like a Knighthood or an Oscar.
“That’s why you asked me to come for the whole summer.”
“Well, yea. I thought it would a chance for us to spend time…”
I cut him off. “You wanted free labor.”
“What? No. Lex, this camp will be yours one day.”
I snort and he cocks his head like a confused little puppy. “Have I ever shown any interest in taking over this camp?”
He opens his mouth to say yes then closes it. I see my weeks here playing behind his eyes as he searches for one clue that I share his passion for this camp or these kids. I shake my head and push past him.
Across from the mess hall is a small building the kids turned into a makeshift post office. There are ledges with pens and boxes where the kids can put letters they write to each other. They can also sit and write letters home then bring them to the counter where my dad puts them in a mailbag that the postman picks up. I slam the door shut behind me, blocking out the sounds of games and laughter.
It’s stupid to be this upset. Letting myself think Dad was thinking about me for once instead of these freak kids was dumb.
The funny thing was, I’d never really had anything against the Supernaturals. I was fine when they moved into our neighborhood and it didn’t bother me seeing them on the street. What bothered me was when they stole my dad.
I move behind the counter where the only phone in camp is located. I think about my friend Becky, her dad the reporter, and the super-secret camp. It would be easy enough to reveal dad’s little secret. But I pause before I lift the phone.
Out of nowhere the boy from the mess hall appears in front of me. I jump.
“Ha,” he says. “We’re even.” He starts to leave then turns around. “I’ve never heard Mr. W. mention a daughter. You’re pretty lucky.” His statement lands like a punch to the gut. He leaves.
I pick up the phone and dial. “Becky? Tell you’re dad I’ve got a neat story for him.”