It was late in the afternoon when the truck came to a stop. Everyone piled out and took a moment to look at their surroundings. Their site was at the end of one of the lanes of the campground, and the only neighbouring site was unoccupied. It was just the four of them and the trees.
“Alright.” Thomas’s father commanded everyone’s attention. “We had better get the tent pitched before the sun goes down. Thomas, give me a hand.”
Thomas reluctantly helped his father carry the bundle that somehow would become their sleeping quarters over to a relatively smooth and flat area. While they figured it out, Briar and Logan unloaded the rest of the truck.
“Thread this through those holes.” Thomas’s father handed him a long pole that he had finished snapping together. He directed Thomas’s attention to the flat tent they had laid out, specifically to the loops of material on top.
Thomas did what he was told silently.
They were almost finished by the time either of them said something unrelated to the tent. “So, you’re almost done high school, right?”
“Uh, yeah.” The hair on the back of Thomas’s neck stood up. He didn’t like thinking the worst of his father, but it was hard when the only effect he had on his life was paying child support. “But I won’t be eighteen until May.”
His father nodded along. “Right. May twelfth, right?”
“Oh.” He tried to smile apologetically. “Guess I transposed the numbers. Sorry.”
Thomas shrugged. “It doesn’t matter.” Sure, it hurt when his father had first forgotten his birthday, but he hadn’t received so much as a card for five years now. Not even on the wrong date.
“I, uh…” His father rubbed his neck and looked around. “I guess all that’s left is to move in the sleeping bags.” He jingled his keys in his pocket. “I also have to go get firewood.” His voice trailed off as if he was talking more to himself than to Thomas.
“I’ll get the sleeping bags.” Thomas offered, already headed for the truck. He grabbed two, then studied the other two. They weren’t heavy, so he wedged the two in his hands under his arms and snagged the last two by the elastic ties holding them closed.
The truck drove off and Thomas sighed with relief. Then he turned to the tent and realized that he had a problem.
He didn’t have a free hand to unzip the entrance. He couldn’t put the bags down, because he was pretty sure even outdoorsy Briar would be mad if she had to sleep in a dirt covered sleeping bag. He stared at the tent, trying to work out what to do.
He jumped when he heard laughter behind him. “You look stuck.” Briar patted him on the shoulder before crouching in front of the entrance and unzipping it. “Toss.” She held her arms wide.
Thomas clumsily tossed her one of the sleeping bags and she disappeared into the tent. He followed, barely making it inside before the bags slipped from his grip. They bounced and rolled into the middle of the surprisingly spacious area.
Briar untied the sleeping bag she was holding and unrolled it on one side of the tent. She grabbed another, then paused before laying it out. “I guess we should decide who’s on which side.” She looked over at Thomas. “Do you have a preference.”
Thomas shook his head. He thought it might be awkward if he was beside his father, but he didn’t want to make a big deal out of it. Besides, Briar loved their father, and he didn’t want her to have to think about how Thomas viewed him.
“Alright.” Briar stuck her head out of the entrance. “Logan!” She shouted. “Who do you want to share a side of the tent with; me, dad, or Thomas?”
A quiet reply came from outside. Thomas couldn’t be sure what had been said, but Briar was soon back to unrolling sleeping bags.
When Briar was done, one side of the tent had two matching sleeping bags laid out side by side. The other was occupied by Thomas’s sleeping bag and one with colourful swirls on it.