I'm finally updating! Thank you for being so patient. I struggled with this chapter! I knew what I wanted to have happen, but I had a hard time deciding HOW to write it. I'm sorry if it's not exactly what you were expecting, but I did what I could. Some of it might be a little far-fetched, but it's fiction, so... :) I hope you enjoy!
When Matt's dad pulled up to the campsite, Will jumped out of the car and breathed deeply. While Middleton was certainly not a big city, and the air was clean, there was something special about being in the woods. The birds were chirping happily, and he could hear the rush of a river close by. Matt came around the car and punched him lightly on the shoulder.
"Not too bad, huh? We come here all the time, so I know my way around pretty well," he said with a grin. "My parents said we could go swimming today, and we can go out on a hike tomorrow if you want. There's a really high spot that overlooks the river that's really cool."
Will grinned. "Sounds good!" he said, punching his friend right back.
The lake house was not used as much as they would like, but Cassie and Sam made it a point to go as often as they could. It had become a kind of haven for most of the family, both separately and together. Sam pulled up and walked around to open Cassie's door before wrapping his arms around her. "It's been a long time since we've been up here," he said, kissing her cheek.
Cassie grinned and captured his lips in a kiss. "Too long."
Sam laughed and nodded before growing serious once more. He looked into her eyes and spoke what they both were wondering. "So...Will?"
Cassie shrugged. "Like I said, I think it just needs to be played out. He's getting older and becoming more independent, and he needs a chance to spread his wings a little." She paused for a moment and smiled. "While our son is doing that," she said, nudging him with her hip, "I would like to have dinner out by the lake with my handsome husband."
Will woke early the next morning to sunlight streaming through the tent. He sat up and stretched his limbs, thinking about how much fun they had swimming the night before. He had thought about bringing his microscope with him, but he decided to just enjoy playing in the river instead. Maybe he would observe the microbes in the river water later, but for now, he was content to relax and have fun. He could hear voices by the campfire and could tell that Matt's parents were awake. He got up and slipped on his shoes, taking time to toss a pair of socks at the head of his snoring friend before leaving the tent.
"Good morning, Will," Matt's mom, Sarah, said with a smile. "Did you sleep well?"
Will nodded. "I did, thanks, once I learned to tune out Matt's snoring."
Matt's dad, Greg, laughed. "Yeah, we're thinking of having his room sound proofed," he joked.
Just then, Matt tripped his way out of the tent with a frown on his face. "I do not snore," he grumbled.
Everyone laughed and shook their heads. "So, boys, are you ready for our hike today? It doesn't take too long to get there, but it's mostly uphill climbing. We'll leave right after breakfast, so go pack some snacks and water!"
Matt's face brightened and he ran to the tent. Will laughed and got up to follow before he was stopped by a powerful feeling of uneasiness. It was like a jolt of electricity that ran from his head to his toes. He stood there, feet frozen to the ground, in a kind of haze, until Sarah came up and put her hand on his shoulder. "Hey, are you okay?" she asked with concern.
Will shook his head, as if to clear it. "Umm...I think so. I just got a weird feeling. Is this hike going to be hard? I mean, is it safe?" he asked shyly.
Sarah smiled. "There are a few spots that are harder than others, but it's safe."
Will gave her a half smile in return and headed into the tent to get ready. Still shaken, he readied himself for the hike. Matt, oblivious to his friend's discomfort, rambled on about how awesome their destination was. Will tuned him out and sat down on his sleeping bag, thinking about what just happened. He still felt uncomfortable about going on the hike, but he didn't know what to do. Matt and his parents were really looking forward to it. Just then, the electricity hit him again, though not as strongly, and he knew what he had to do. Will grabbed his dad's old medical bag with all of his supplies and began stuffing them into his backpack.
After breakfast, Will, Matt, Sarah, and Greg started off on their hike. The three family members chatted to each other, not noticing the solemn countenance of the boy trailing behind them.
"Good morning, my beautiful wife," Sam called out cheerfully before wrapping his arms around her waist as she stood at the stove cooking breakfast. "How are you this morning?" he asked, nuzzling her neck.
Cassie laughed and squirmed as his stubble scratched her neck, and she turned around in his arms, placing hers around his shoulders. "Very well. I believe a weekend with my husband is just what I needed," she said, tipping her head up to meet his lips.
When they pulled away, Sam stretched to reach an apple on the island behind Cassie. "What should we do today?" he asked, taking a bite. "Do you want to take the boat out? Or, we could go shopping at some of those antique stores up here that you love so much."
Cassie, who had just folded a delicious looking omelet, paused, spatula still in the air. She turned toward Sam who was looking back at her innocently. "Sam Radford is offering to go antique shopping?" she asked incredulously, pointing her spatula at him. "What's wrong?" she asked, teasingly.
Sam laughed and walked back to her, grabbing her hand. "Nothing. I just feel bad that we haven't been up here in awhile, and that's mostly my fault."
Cassie shook her head. "You need to stop blaming yourself for everything. We have BOTH been busy," she said, stroking his cheek. "Meanwhile, I believe we can come up with a third option, one that both of us will enjoy," she said with a smile.
Sam raised his eyebrows and she laughed. "Hiking," she said with a grin.
Sam laughed and nodded. "That sounds like a great idea. It's a beautiful day, so a hike along the lake will be perfect."
A little while later, Cassie and Sam strolled along the path that cut through the trees beside the lake. Hand-in-hand, they talked about Sam's practice, the Bell, Book & Candle, and Grey House. They also discussed their family and how proud they were that their kids were all doing so well. Nick and his wife Lauren had recently welcomed a son, Parker, so Cassie and Sam were planning a trip to California to meet their new grandson face to face. Grace was still enjoying her job, and they were loving watching Kinley grow up. No surprise, Will was doing well in school, but he was also thriving socially. Even though he was a year younger than most of his classmates, he still had a good group of friends. That being said, he was beginning to spend a lot of his time with his experiments and lab equipment, so they both agreed that this weekend would be good for him.
"Do you think he's actually enjoying himself?" Sam asked Cassie as they walked along the path. Cassie thought for a minute.
"I think this weekend is just what he needs right now," she said with a smile.
Matt and his parents laughed and joked the whole way up to the overlook. Eventually the group reached a fork in the path and stopped. Pointing to the left, Matt said, "This way is shorter but steeper. The path to the right is about two miles longer." Again, Will had a strange feeling come over him.
"I think...I think we should take the longer path," he said hesitantly.
Greg shook his head. "Taking the other path will take us way too long. Really, it'll be okay. We have made this hike a dozen times. It'll be worth it in the end."
Will nodded before following the group. The trail became narrow as they hiked upward, the cliff to one side becoming steeper and steeper. They continued along carefully until Greg's foot slipped off the side of the cliff. He yelled and flailed his arms, attempting to regain his balance. Sarah reached out to steady him, but her husband's momentum sent both of them sliding down the side of the cliff.
"Mom! Dad!" Matt yelled out.
The boys on the trail lost sight of the adults as they disappeared into the trees. Will and Matt just looked at each other, fear obvious on their faces.
Cassie and Sam were enjoying their hike back to the lake house when a powerful feeling came over her. She stumbled a little, causing Sam to catch her. "Are you okay?" he asked, concerned.
Cassie nodded. "I am, but something is going on with Will. I'm pretty sure he's okay, but we need to find him."
Sam sucked in a breath before nodding. "Okay. I spoke with Greg before they left, so I know where they are. Let's go."
The boys stood still, staring over the edge of the cliff the adults had just slid down. Suddenly, Will knew what to do. Snapping out of his shocked stupor, he grabbed Matt by the arm and they carefully made their way back down the trail. "What are we doing?" Matt yelled. "My parents are back there! We need to go help them!"
"Matt, I need you to trust me. I don't know how to explain it, but I know how we can find your parents. You just need to follow."
Matt looked at his friend skeptically. "You've never even been here before. How do you know where to go to find them?" he asked, narrowing his eyes.
Will shook his head. "I don't know. I just know we need to go now!" He took off down the path before leaving the marked trail and heading down through the trees, giving Matt no choice but to follow. Will became more and more confident as they descended through the trees. The powerful feeling that was guiding him told him when he made a wrong turn, sending him back to the correct path.
"Stop!" Matt yelled, pointing at something in the distance. "That's my dad's backpack! We've got to be close! DAD! MOM!" he screamed, hoping to hear a response.
"Matt?! Over here!" they heard faintly. The boys looked at each other and took off toward the sound, ducking tree branches and sliding sideways as they ran. They came to a small clearing and saw Sarah cradling her husband's leg in her hands. When she saw the boys, she reached her arms up and grabbed Matt in a hug. "I'm so glad you boys are okay!"
"Are you two okay?" Will asked with concern. He could see cuts on Sarah's face, but nothing too bad.
Sarah shook her head. "I'm fine, but I think Greg's leg is broken."
Will put his backpack on the ground and knelt on the ground near Greg's leg, hands hovering over it. Greg looked at him confusedly. "What are you doing?" he asked.
Will smiled. "Son of a doctor, remember? I also researched how to care for injuries in the wilderness," he said somewhat sheepishly. "Can I look at your leg?" he asked cautiously.
The two adults looked at each other and shrugged.
"Where does it hurt?" he asked as he began palpating the leg. Greg grimaced and hissed as Will's fingers hit the spot in his leg that was obviously broken, but not luckily not through the skin. He gently slid Greg's pant leg up slightly before checking his lower leg for a pulse. He sighed with relief when he felt the steady beat under his fingers. Will then used his fingernail to jab his leg in different spots below the fracture. "Can you feel that?" Matt nodded, and Will smiled. "Obviously you need a doctor, and I am just a kid, but it doesn't look like there's any nerve or blood vessel damage." He reached into his bag and pulled out what looked like folded foam.
"What is that?" Sarah asked in surprise.
"This is called a SAM splint," he said, holding it up for them to see. "It's made of foam and aluminum so it's easy to fold up and carry with you. I'm going to use it to splint Greg's leg and stabilize it."
The two adults looked at each other. "Will, do you really know how to do this? I know you're a bright boy, but you are only 11 years old," Sarah said.
Will nodded. "I understand, but believe me, I can do this. I was splinting legs and arms on my stuffed animals when I was 5 years old, my dad taught me how to do it for real when I was 7, and we practiced again before this trip. We even used his leg," he said with a smile.
Sarah and Greg looked at each other and chuckled. They knew that Will Radford was an extraordinary kid, but this was something else.
Will then began to fold the edges of the splint into a curve and placed it along the length of Greg's leg and under his foot to the other side. He placed gauze along the ankle before wrapping it all up with compression tape.
When he was done, Will looked up to see his companions staring at him. He blushed under their gaze and started searching through his bag again. He then handed Greg a couple of Tylenol and a bottle of water. "Here. This isn't perfect, but it will help a little with the pain," he said.
Pulling out some antiseptic, gauze, and tape, he gestured towards Sarah. "I can take care of those cuts for you if you'd like…" he said hesitantly.
Sarah smiled and nodded.
Will crawled over toward her and began cleaning the cuts and bandaging them. Greg smiled. That was something he could have done, but he could tell that Will knew what he was doing and he loved it.
When everyone was taken care of, they looked around at their surroundings. "Do you know where we are?" Sarah asked Greg.
He shook his head and reached into his bag that Matt had retrieved. Pulling out his cell phone and finding no service, he flung it back into his bag in frustration. "We can't be too far from camp. Most of our hike was upwards, so the slide down the face took care of most of our return trip for us," Greg said with a grimace.
Sarah nodded. "I can hear the river from here, so our campsite will be close by. Do you feel well enough to walk, Greg?" she asked.
Greg nodded. "I'm going to need some help, but my leg feels pretty good right now...thanks to Will," he said with a smile.
Will shook his head humbly. "Happy to help."
Cassie and Sam pulled up to the campsite to find it empty. After looking around for a few minutes, Cassie took her husband by the hand and pulled him toward the hiking trail that headed toward the river.
Meanwhile, Will's group began their slow return back to camp. Will was pretty confident in where he was going, so they began walking, making sure to help Greg as he limped his way through the woods. Sarah wasn't sure why, especially considering Will's young age, but she felt good about following him. As they walked along, Will suddenly felt an overwhelming sense of love and protection. He knew exactly where it had come from and who was close by. "Mom! Dad!" he yelled. Greg looked at him, startled. Why was he calling for his parents? Will picked up the pace, more confident than ever in the way he needed to go.
Cassie could feel his presence before she could hear him, but shortly thereafter, Sam stopped. "Did you hear that?"
"Mom! Dad!" they heard.
Cassie and Sam looked at each other and began running toward the sound. When they found each other, Will ran into his parents' arms, smiling broadly. "I knew you were here! I could just FEEL it!"
Cassie smiled. She had known that this weekend would be life-changing for Will, but wasn't 100% sure it was what she was thinking. Now, having just received confirmation that her son was displaying Merriwick powers, she glanced at Sam. He looked shocked, so it seemed that he, too, had figured out what had happened.
Will stepped back from his parents and pointed back to where he had come from. "Sarah and Greg had an accident and Greg hurt his leg, and I splinted it, and we weren't sure where we were, so we started coming this way towards the river to try to get back to camp, and I just KNEW that this was the way we needed to go... " he rambled. Cassie just put her arm around her son and squeezed him.
Sam examined the splint on Greg's leg before smiling at Will. "Great job, son," he said, clapping him on the back. "This looks like professional work." Both Will and Sam beamed with pride.
Sam then turned to Greg. "Do you think you can make it to camp? It's not far from here. Or, I can call for an ambulance if you want. I have full bars."
Greg looked surprised. "Full bars? I don't have any out here."
Sam smiled and glanced at Cassie who gave him a knowing smirk. Looking back at Greg, he shrugged. "I'm lucky that way. I tend to have service when I need it."
With some help from Sam and Sarah, Greg was able to make his way back to the campsite and they got him loaded into his car. While he waited, the rest of the group quickly broke camp. Before leaving for the hospital, Greg reached out and shook Will's hand.
"You're an amazing kid, Will Radford. Thank you for your help," he said with a smile. He looked at Sam and Cassie. "And thank you. I don't know how you ended up here today, but I'm so grateful you did." Sam shook his hand, and Cassie squeezed the other one.
"Just get well soon," she said with a smile.
As Sarah drove her family away, Sam and Cassie turned to their son, who had been quietly watching.
"Well, that was an interesting day," Will said with a chuckle.
His parents laughed and pulled him into another hug. "We're so proud of you, Will. You kept a clear head, remembered what you had learned, and...probably followed some pretty strong feelings," Cassie said with a small smirk as they headed toward their car.
Will stopped in his tracks, shocked. How did his mom know that?
Sam noticed the look on his son's face and chuckled. "I think I'll invite Luke and Kinny to the Bistro tonight. I have a feeling the three of you will need to chat."
Will's brow furrowed. "The three of us?"
"I'm pretty sure it's a good idea to invite your sister into the conversation. You're all Merriwicks, after all," he said with a grin.
Cassie smiled and pointed at Will. "Maybe, but this one is a Merriwick AND a Radford, and that made all the difference today."
Sam, clearly touched, put his arm around his wife's shoulders and watched as their son climbed into the backseat. "A perfect combination."