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Footprints-Chapter 1

Prologue
 

 

Sandy St. Angelo, better known as Squirt, was filled with the spirit of her Louisiana bayou home. The slow movement of the water coursed through her veins, and she reveled in the sights and sounds her young senses had grown to love. One of the few things she loved more than their home was her older sister Cam. Sandy, the youngest of the St. Angelo girls, spent every waking moment possible with Cam. Saying Cam was her idol didn't even begin to touch the depth of their relationship. Most young women of Cam's age would have seen Squirt as a pesky younger sibling, but Cam's overwhelming patience with Squirt was remarkable. Instead of chasing her off after the hundredth “why” question, Cam would sit down with her and answer each question as honestly as she could. Cam seemed to sense at an early age that Sandy, much like her, would never permanently leave the bayou.


Sandy lived for the time she spent out on the water with Cam and devoured every ounce of information Cam passed down from their father, Ronny. She was eager to attend Cam's sporting events at which Cam excelled, further ingraining the ideal of worship for Sandy. A much smaller version of her older sister, Sandy was determined to be just like Cam.


When Cam arrived home one day after Sandy started school, she entered the house and found her mother, Camille, waiting for her in the kitchen. She noted the worried look on her mother's face.


“What's wrong?”


Camille wiped a tear from her eye. “Squirt came home from school, tossed her book bag on the couch, and flew out of the house. I only caught a glimpse of her as she ran past me, but I saw blood on her shirt. If I had to venture a guess, I'd say she is out in the treehouse you two built for her. Will you please go check on her?”


Cam wrapped Camille in a warm hug. “Of course, I will.”


Cam spied the fresh-baked cookies and grabbed a handful before exiting the back of the house. She walked along the edge of the bayou until the large oak came into view. She and Sandy had built the treehouse several years earlier, and it had become a refuge for Sandy, a place to go and live out her dreams of being a pirate in the bayou. Cam finished off a cookie and then stored the rest in her hoodie's pocket to free her hands for climbing. Sandy wasn't in sight, but Cam could hear her moving about inside.


“Ahoy, Captain, permission to come aboard?”


Squirt's head popped up at the sound of Cam's voice. “Permission granted,” she called down to her sister.


Cam slowly climbed the steps to reach the treehouse, then entered to sit beside Squirt. She noticed the dried blood on her shirt and face from a bloodied nose but didn't comment. Instead, Cam reached into her hoodie and pulled out the cookies, handing two to Squirt. She bit into a cookie and moaned. “I swear these get better every time Mom makes them.”


Squirt took a bite. “I think you may be right.”


“You think? Of course, I'm right. I am the great Cam St. Angelo,” Cam answered with a chuckle. “Do you want to talk about what happened at school today?” When Sandy looked up at Cam, she could see tear stains on her cheeks, and Cam’s heart ached for her baby sister.


“It was that danged Riley LaRue's fault. He tried to kiss me when we were waiting for the bus to come home. I didn't want to kiss him, so I pushed him away, and he slugged me.”


“That little brute,” Cam growled. “Wait until I get my hands on him.”


“You don't need to do anything,” Squirt told her. “Riley won't be trying to kiss me again after the whooping I gave him.”


“Did ya beat the brakes off him?” Cam smirked.


“He ended up with more than a bloody nose. He will have one heck of a shiner for a few days, and I think I loosened up a tooth.” She lifted her right hand to show Cam.


Cam saw skin scraped from her knuckles after contact with Riley's teeth and face. “That looks painful.”


“It did hurt for a little while, but Riley sat in front on the bus ride home. I think he got my message.”


“I'd say so,” Cam said as she ruffled Squirt's hair. “You know, though, that you can't always use your fists to settle an argument, right?”


“Yes, Cam. But he wouldn't take a no for an answer. Ms. Judith, the school bus driver, stopped me when I went to get off the bus.”


“What did she say?”


“She whispered to me that the little shit had it coming, and winked as she opened the door for me to leave.


“That sounds like something Ms. Judith would say. She's seen many of us kids grow up in the years she's been driving that bus.”


“She looks older than dirt.”


“Hey now. Ms. Judith ain't that old. She's delivered your sisters and me home from school for years without fail.” Cam popped the last bite of cookie in her mouth as she sat next to Squirt. The sun was beginning to set across the bayou, and the bellow of a bull gator broke the silence. “You know what? I think it's time for me to tell you the story of the day you were born.”


“What story, Cam?”


“I was sitting out on the front porch the night you arrived. Our sisters had already gone to bed, but I was determined to wait up for Dad to come home.” Cam paused to look down at Squirt to find she had her full attention. “I was nearly asleep when the truck's headlights lit up the driveway, and I snapped to attention. Dad sat down beside me when he arrived and wrapped his arm around my shoulders. He said that you had finally arrived, and you both were resting well.” Cam took a deep breath. “Then he told me this story. You would be the last born into the family, and as the oldest, it was my responsibility to look after you and help you on your path in life. As you grew older, it would be your choice with my guidance to follow in my footsteps or choose to make your own path in the world.”


“So, I'm like a job for you?” Sandy squinted up at Cam, not fully understanding the story.


“I reckon some would see it like that. Not me. I see it as a great privilege to bond with someone I love so dearly and to help you along your way. I'd be honored if you follow in my footsteps, but even more proud if you choose to blaze a path no one else has taken.” Cam could still see the confusion on Sandy's face. “Does that make sense?”


“I think so. I'm just proud to have the great Cam St. Angelo for a sister.” Sandy bumped into Cam with her shoulder. “I'm just teasing, but I do love you and feel closer to you than my other sisters.”


“We are destined to be a team. I wouldn't want it any other way.” Cam slipped an arm around Sandy's shoulders. “Are you ready to head home, Squirt? We need to get you cleaned up and that shirt soaking before that blood sets in permanently. You know, I think Mom is cooking pork chops for supper.”


“That sounds good. I'm hungry.”


“You know what else?” Cam asked as she stood and pulled Sandy to her feet. “My love for you grows with each passing day. I couldn't have asked for a better partner to share this world. I hope the world is ready for the two of us.”

 

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