Camille's Choice

“So, Camille, are you going to Allison’s party?” Bobby’s remark sounded very casual, but Camille hoped it meant something more.

“I might, if I don’t have a soccer game,” Camille said, trying to sound just as casual.

“Well, maybe I’ll see you there,” Bobby turned and walked toward the parking lot.

“Camille!” whispered Jessica, “Bobby just asked you out.”

“He just asked about the party.” Camille smiled.

“And if you were going to be there.” Jessica gave her the ‘He likes you’ look.

“Jessica, I don’t even know if I can go. Soccer, remember?” Camille was still smiling.

“You play soccer all the time. This is Bobby.” Jessica watched Bobby walk off and gave Camille a knowing look.

“I’ve got to go. I’m don’t want to be late for practice.” Camille grabbed her soccer bag and headed toward the field.

That evening, Camille walked into the kitchen. Her father was sitting at the table eating cookies. Camille sat next to him. “Dad, I have a question for you.”

“Okay.” Her father leaned back in his chair.

“What are you supposed to do when you have two things you want to do, but they are at the same time?”

“Like?”

“Like Saturday. I have a soccer game, but there’s a party I really want to go to at the same time.”

“Doesn’t the soccer team need you?” Her father went to all her games.

“It’s only a practice game, and Stephani could play, but…” She looked down at the table.

“But?” Her dad always asked the worst question.

“She’s going to be out of town.”

“Sounds like it’s not much of a choice.” Her dad had taught her that you don’t walk out on a team once you make a commitment.

“But I really want to go to the party.”

“Because?” She knew her dad wasn’t going to let her off easy.

Camille looked down at the table. “Everyone’s going to be there.”

“Does everyone have a name?” He sounded casual, but Camille knew that he knew.

“Bobby,” She said quietly.

Her father put his hand on Camille’s arm. “Sounds important. But you have a responsibility to your team. I think you know what you should do.”

“Yeah, I guess. But Bobby said he hoped I was going to be there.”

“If he’s that interested, he’ll wait.” Her father squeezed Camille’s hand. “You’re worth it.”

“Thanks, Daddy.”

The next morning at school, Jessica ran up to Camille. “You’re not going to believe what I found out.”

“What is it, Jess?” Jessica looked very excited.

“The game was cancelled.” Jessica waited for Camille to understand.

“Cancelled?” Camille couldn’t believe it.

“Can-and-celled. The other team can’t make it.” Jessica did a little dance. Camille joined in, and then stopped.

“Who told you?”

“That’s the best part,” Jessica had an ‘I told you so’ look on her face. “Bobby told me. And he said now maybe you could come to the party.”

Camille couldn’t believe it. “Bobby? No way!”

“Yes, way. I told you he liked you.” Jessica smiled

“I can’t believe it.” Camille hugged Jessica. “This is so cool!” 

The bell rang, and Jessica turned, “Gotta go. Think about what you’re going to wear.”

Camille was still smiling when she walked in the front door that afternoon. Her father and Lauren, her stepmother, were sitting on the leather couch by the fireplace. Lauren, who was usually happier than necessary, was crying softly.

“Camille.” Her father looked up at her. “Come, sit down.”

“What’s wrong?” Camille stood still in the doorway.

“Come in,” repeated her father. Camille put her soccer bag down and sat in the flowered side chair. Her father looked at Lauren by his side on the couch. “Camille, Grandma Johnson died.”

“Oh.” Camille didn’t like the way Grandma Johnson treated her.

“Oh? That’s all you can say?” Her father sounded angry. “Lauren’s mother was very important to her.”

“I’m sorry,” Camille knew she had to be nice, but didn’t feel anything.

“Camille, I don’t understand you.” Her father stared at her. “You don’t even seem to care.”

“Well, it didn’t seem like she ever cared about me. Every time I saw her all she did was criticize me.” Camille crossed her arms and sank farther into the chair.

“She loved you,” said Lauren.

“She had a funny way of showing it. She never once said anything nice to me.” Camille stood and  looked out the window.

“I’m sorry you feel that way,” said her father. “But this is very hard on Lauren, and she could use your support.”

“Sorry about your mom, Lauren,” Camille said flatly.  Lauren excused herself and ran down the hall.

Her father rose to follow Lauren. He had a sad look on his face. “The funeral is tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow? But that’s when the party is.”

“I know, but this is important. We need to be there for Lauren.”

“Like she’s been there for me?” Camille said, half under her breath.

“Lauren loves you, and she would be there for you if you would let her.” Her father turned and walked after Lauren.

Jessica’s voice was cheerful when she called that evening,  “So, what are you going to wear to the party?”

Camille slumped back on her bed. “I can’t go. My grandmother died and I have to go to the funeral.”

“Which grandmother?”

“Grandma Johnson. Lauren’s mom.”

“I thought she didn’t like you.”

“She didn’t, I think. She was never nice to me. It was like she was mad because my dad already had a child when he married Lauren.”

“So why go?”

Camille had been asking herself the same question. “I have to, my dad said.”

Camille looked up and saw her father standing in the doorway. “I’ve got to go.”

“Sorry about the party.” said Jessica.

“Thanks.” Camille hung the phone up and looked at her father.  

“Can we talk?” asked her father.

“Sure.” Camille grabbed an overstuffed pillow and hugged it to her chest.

Her father pulled out her desk chair and sat backwards on it. “Lauren and I have talked. We know that you didn’t like Grandma Johnson, and it’s clear that you still resent the fact that I married Lauren so soon after your mother died. We are very upset, but we don’t want to make things harder on you, or Lauren. We don’t think you should go to the funeral tomorrow. You wouldn’t be much help for Lauren anyway.”

“You mean I don’t have to go?”

“No.” Her father stood up and pushed the chair back under Camille’s desk. He picked up the picture of Camille’s mother that she kept on her desk and stared at it for a long time. “You’ll accept Lauren when you’re ready,” He set the picture back down and walked out.

Camille got up and walked to the desk. She picked up the picture of her mother. Her mother smiled at her just as she remembered. She missed her mother in a way that you don’t miss anyone else. She thought maybe Lauren feels the same way. She took the picture back to her bed and lay there staring at it for a long time. Then she cried until she fell asleep.

The next morning, Camille walked into the living room wearing a black skirt and a simple gray sweater. Her hair was pulled back on the sides and held with plain pink clips that let it fall in loose curls over her shoulders.

“Is that what you’re wearing to the party?” Said her father.

Camille looked down and then at Lauren who was wearing a long, black dress. “No, I decided to go to the funeral.”

“You don’t have to go to the funeral,” Lauren said quietly.

“I know,” said Camille, taking a deep breath. “But I lost my mother, and I understand how lonely it is. I want to be there to help support you.”

Lauren smiled. She stood and hugged Camille. “I’d like that.”

 “What about Bobby?” asked her father.

Camille looked sad for a second and then smiled. “Bobby will still be there on Monday.”

“If he has any sense.” Lauren touched Camille’s arm.

 Her father stood up and put his hand on Camille’s shoulder. “If he has any sense.”