After the death of her beloved grandmother, Sarah Williams, an 18-year-old aspiring writer and recent high school graduate, goes to her grandma’s cottage on Pine Lake. Sarah spent many happy childhood years in their cozy cabin nestled in the ancient pine trees, but she is plagued by her lifelong crush on Scott Roberts, her summer neighbour. They have a long history of summers together. Tired of her unrequited love, Sarah bravely pursues the gorgeous Swiss exchange student who is staying with the Roberts family for the summer.
Sarah’s summer begins to unravel when her family is rocked by a scandalous secret. Before the dust begins to settle, an unexpected tragedy sends Sarah into a tailspin. In her despair, she pushes everyone she loves away, even Scott. In order to find the path to healing and love, Sarah must rely on her grandmother’s lessons from the past.
16+ due to adult situations and sexuality
The campfire burned brightly as Sarah and Mabel arrived at the Roberts’ cottage. Sarah was surprised to see how many people the guys had invited over and only recognized a few summer kids from the cottages around the lake.
The others must be townies.
Big red Adirondack chairs sat empty around the campfire. Most of the guests were gathered around the keg and the makeshift food table that the guys had set up. Sarah was impressed with their spread—veggie trays with spicy hummus, charcuterie boards decorated with cheese, meat, crackers, olives, fancy mustard, and pickled carrots. Overhead, pretty strings of twinkle lights hung across the trees and illuminated the outdoor space. Fireflies flashed in the forest, like tiny magicians that appeared and disappeared in the blink of an eye.
“You made it!” Jeff called out to them. He left the group that was gathered around the keg and welcomed Sarah and Mabel with a warm kiss on the cheek. “Let me get you a drink.”
“I can get one myself, thanks,” said Mabel. She smiled at Jeff and squeezed Sarah’s hand before she walked toward the group of people gathered at the keg.
“Coke for me, please,” said Sarah.
Jeff sat down in one of the big Adirondack chairs and reached into a cooler beside him. Sarah sat down across from him and graciously accepted a dripping ice-cold can of Coca-Cola. She took a small sip of the sweet bubbly drink.
“I’ve missed you,” she said. “Tell me everything. Did you meet anyone special at school this year?”
“Between my courses and hockey, I didn’t really have time for a girlfriend. I mean, I did have some fun.” He winked.
“Of course, you did,” she laughed.
“You’re going to love going away to school. I heard Concordia’s writing program is one of the best in the country. Congratulations.”
“To be honest, I’m a little nervous.”
Jeff reached into the cooler and grabbed a brown bottle of Labatt Blue. “I get it. When my parents dropped me off at university last fall, it felt like they had thrown me into the deep end of a pool and told me to learn how to swim. It’s the unknown that gets you. Trust me, Sarah, university is a pretty great place.”
Sarah looked into Jeff’s friendly blue eyes and smiled. He always knew the right thing to say. They spent the next hour catching up and feeding the fire. The dry logs crackled and hissed, releasing their intoxicating sweet aroma in the smoke. A couple of new guests arrived at the bonfire, and Jeff got up to greet them. Sarah kept watch over the fire and scanned the party, looking for Scott. Mabel was still at the keg with two red cups in hand, but Scott was nowhere to be seen. She took another sip of Coke and looked into the pine grove that separated their cottages. She could make out the remnants of the fort they had built when they were kids.
“Help me with this dead branch,” Jeff had said to Sarah one summer afternoon when she was ten.
“What are we going to do with it?”
“We’re going to build a lean-to shelter.”
Jeff always had the best ideas. They had worked together all summer on their top-secret fort. They gathered fallen branches from the forest and cleared the debris at the base of an old pine tree. Jeff and Sarah leaned the large sticks all around the tree at a 45-degree angle until they had built a robust circular wall with an opening for a door. Next, they gathered small twigs, fallen leaves, and moss to pack into the cracks. Mabel and Scott would help them from time to time, but Sarah and Jeff built most of the fort on their own. It became their sacred place.
After showing his new guests how to pour the perfect cup of beer from the keg, Jeff returned to the campfire.
“Do you remember the treasure maps we used to draw in our fort?” Sarah asked.
Jeff looked into the forest and smiled. “Hell, yeah, I do. We hid Happy Meal toys all over this place.”
They looked at each other and burst into laughter. They laughed so hard tears streamed down their cheeks.
“Do you remember how we used to set up booby traps?” she said.
Sarah and Jeff would dig shallow holes near the entrance of their fort and cover them with sticks and leaves. If someone stepped in one, it alerted them that an uninvited guest had been in their fort.
Scott stepped into the firelight, beer in hand. “I almost sprained my ankle in one of your death traps.”
Sarah wiped away her tears with the back of her hand, careful not to smudge her mascara. “Hi, Scott.” She smiled as she stood up to greet him. He enveloped her in a big bear hug. She nestled her face into his neck and breathed in his scent. He smelled clean, like crisp, fresh sheets.
“Look at you,” he said as he placed his hands on her shoulders. “You’re all grown up.”