Find Wonder in All Things - By Karen M. Cox
James Marshall bent over the tackle box, picking through the various lures from Mr. Pendleton’s collection, a bucket of bait on the dock beside him. He was so engrossed in his task that he nearly jumped out of his skin when he heard the harsh hiss from behind.
“Quick! Over here!” Stuart Pendleton urged him in a stage whisper as he raced by the aft end of the Pendleton’s houseboat.
“Wha — ?”
“We’re hiding from Laurel and Dylan and Crosby. You wanna take the runabout up to the tunnel, don’t you? If the little brats find us, then Mr. Elliot will make Virginia mind them — and then she can’t go with us. Hurry!” He waved his hand in a frantic gesture, urging his friend to follow.
James hopped up on the weather-beaten boards of the dock and took off after his buddy. “Where are we going? It’s a dock; there aren’t too many places to hide.”
“Virginia said to wait behind the ice machine up by the gas pumps.”
The boys ran up the dock, their traitorous footsteps thundering in their ears till they reached the marina shop and the safe haven of the gas pumps behind it. Stuart grabbed the metal pipe rail and sailed over it, landing in a crouch, ready to spring at any moment. James followed, but he was too skinny and little to leap over it like Stu. He climbed carefully over, and the two middle-schoolers huddled close together, peering around the corner of the ice machine to watch for enemy six-year-olds and the eleven-year-old tagalong.
“You don’t have to hide, you know,” a voice piped up from behind, making James’s heart leap into his throat.
He and Stu whirled around to see a girl sitting cross-legged between the gas pumps, eating cookies from a bag, a Coca-Cola can beside her. She looked at them, munching as they gaped at her.
“Laurel, how did you — ?”
“You don’t have to hide,” she continued as she brushed crumbs from her lap and wadded up the bag, “because Daddy took the boys fishing this morning. They won’t be back till lunchtime.” She stood up and swept her long, red braids behind her. “So all four of us can go to the tunnel.”
“You’re not going,” Stuart declared. “You’re too little.”
“I’m not too little. I’m eleven, and I can run as fast as you.”
James took a dubious look at the little round frame and short legs. “I don’t know. . . Stuart runs pretty fast, Laurel — faster than me even.”
She turned. Big, blue eyes that seemed to take up half her round, lightly freckled face pleaded with him. “I’ll keep up, I promise. I won’t be any bother.”
James wavered. “Well, I guess it wouldn’t hurt — not really.”
Stuart shook his head. “I don’t want to be babysitting all day while we look for artifacts.”
Laurel looked at him with disdain. “There aren’t any real ‘artifacts.’ Most of the stuff is just old junk you tourists dump off your boats.”
“Then why do you even want to go?”
Laurel opened her mouth to answer, but a soft voice drifted from behind them. “I said she could go, Stu. She was going to be all by herself today.”
The boys turned around, and another girl stepped around the corner of the ice machine. Her hair was red too, but more of strawberry blond, a gentler color that matched her gentle demeanor. She walked over, put her arm around her younger sister’s shoulders, and faced the two boys with a self-assured smile.
James watched in amusement as his friend stammered and stuttered and finally acquiesced. He’d noticed a difference in Stuart that summer where Virginia Elliot was concerned. The previous year, he and Stu spent long days on the runabout, exploring around the lake, talking about Reds baseball, and fishing. But this year, Virginia had been a constant in most of their plans. Granted, she wasn’t a ‘girly girl’ — growing up on the lake had ensured that she could fish, water ski, and hike as well as any boy — so James had to admit it wasn’t a huge pain to have her around. She didn’t care much for baseball though, and there were some things the boys couldn’t discuss when she was there — like her, for instance — and now, she was Stu’s favorite topic.
Stuart looked sheepish, but James just shrugged. “I don’t care if the kid comes with us.”
Laurel beamed at him, and he gave her a grin in return.
“Come on, then.” Stuart’s voice was gruff in an attempt