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As I walked into the hot, sticky gym to say goodbye on the last day of the summer at Camp Glenn Taylor, the air seemed to be trying to smother me. Outside, the rain was bouncing off the sidewalks, keeping the campers inside that day. The kids didn't notice me at first. They were too busy chasing each other around the gym with the frenzy of being trapped indoors for a day. Then, someone spotted me, and I was suddenly swarmed by hugs coming from all directions. Wriggling through the arms of the other campers was Savannah. She buried her dirty, snot-covered face into my side. I chuckled to myself, remembering my first day with her three months ago.

The counselors had decided to take the campers for a hike. We corralled them into the cabin and instructed them to apply bug spray because of all the mosquitoes in the woods. Left and right, little fingers squeezed out the spray, gradually covering each body. But not the mischievous Savannah. No, she insisted upon carrying her bug spray with her and zapping the mosquitoes in mid-air. Unfortunately, this also generated a large quantity of insect repellent into the air. Every time I took a breath, my lungs were filled with noxious fumes. I could taste the bitter air on my tongue. It stung my eyes.
"Savannah," I called, "Stop using that bug spray! It's making me sick!!!" Savannah scampered behind a tree, and I could hear the "sssssss" of the aerosol can. "Savannah, I'm warning you, leave that can alone. Either put it on your body or give it to me. Do not spray it into the air again." Before I'd hardly finished my last sentence, Savannah was bolting down the trail ahead of me, out of sight. I let out a sigh of exasperation. The summer ahead of me suddenly seemed to get longer.

The most distinctive feature of Savannah, besides her ornery personality, is her face. She looks like a sprite or a tree-nymph. She has a heart-shaped face, which is dark brown: a combination of sun tan from many hours of playing outside and dirty from the same thing. Her almond eyes are deep and dark, but almost always carry a twinkle of mischief. Her face is framed by long brown stringy hair that falls below her shoulders.

Savannah is a girl of few words, in English at least.

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Her primary form of communication is through animal noises, which only reinforces the forest nymph impression. If someone tells her "no," she is liable to growl at him or her. When she wants something, she clicks her lips together, much like people do when something tastes good. Instead of running, she scampers like a wild animal. She is a shy girl and tends to lurk in the corners of one's peripheral vision. Every inch of her is a little elf.

I always thought that Savannah didn't like me. She never crawled on my back like she did with some of the other counselors. She spent more time growling at me than anything else. But, one day I realized I was wrong. It happened in a pretty backwards way. A friend of mine was visiting the camp and was playing with the little campers, entertaining them while I made sure no one got hurt. Savannah was toting two Beanie Babies around with her that day, two Call of the Wild-type wolves. She clung to these as if they were her life support, even though I had advised her to leave them behind in the cabin so they wouldn't get dirty or lost.

I had taken the younger kids, Savannah included, to the playground to spend a spare hour before lunch. My friend came along to keep me company. Savannah, in her mischievous style, began tossing her wolves onto the tree house roof, which towered above us, high in the treetops. Eventually, she managed to get both of the ferocious wolves stuck on the leaf-strewn roof of the tree house. My friend took pity on her plight and climbed on to the roof to save the wolves. Finally he managed to bring them back safely to land. Unfortunately, he must have been feeling mischievous himself, so he decided to tease Savannah for a while. He held the wolves just above the grasp of her seven-year-old arms. She leapt like a tiny toad but couldn't quite reach her beloved wolves. She ran around him in circles trying to reach them, but with little luck. Just as she was about to grab one, my friend flung them over to me to keep them away from her. I caught them, and, before I could even blink, Savannah was by my side. Before I could hand them to her, Savannah grabbed my arm and bit down as hard as she could into my forearm.

I screamed. Admittedly, I probably didn't choose the most kosher words that I could have. All I know is that after I was done letting out the pain of the nip, the playground was silent. It was silent the way it is in a western movie right before a showdown. I almost expected to see tumbleweed drifting by. Swings creaked aimlessly in the wind, freshly abandoned during my explosion. Thirty big doe eyes stared at me from behind trees and inside the sandbox. Savannah froze; staring up at me, lip quivering, and eyes squeezing out tears. I had forgotten that she was not a devil or a monster; she was a seven-year-old girl who just really wanted her Beanie Babies back. We stood there staring at each other for a second, not knowing what to say to each other. Then, in a flash, she took off into the woods.

My heart dropped. A scene flashed in my mind of her being lost forever in the large thick woods. All of this was my fault for yelling at such a young girl. I took off after her and finally found her crouching next to the trail, clutching those wolves of hers. "Savannah," I said, "you mustn't bite people. I'm very sorry for taking your wolves, but you should never bite someone, no matter how angry you are. You hurt me. Can you say sorry for hurting me?" Savannah glared intently at a small beetle, which was climbing up a blade of grass. A tear sneaked down her cheek. "Savannah, honey, I never meant to yell at you or to say those things. Please forgive me." Suddenly, she threw herself into my arms with the force of a freight train. She buried her teary eyes into my shoulder. I hugged her back.

Looking back at this moment on the last day of camp, I saw parts of myself in Savannah. That feistiness and that mischief in her that I both loved and could live without existed in me also. As she buried that familiar, dirty face of hers in my side for the last time, I said a silent prayer for her that she would learn to live in the civilized world while holding onto her feisty, wild personality. I hoped she would get good grades in school and that her parents would treat her well. I prayed that no boys would ever break her heart and that she would have a happy life. But, after a moment, our shared hug was over. Savannah scampered behind a pile of mats in the gym, disappearing like a little elf.
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