The pandemic’s name was Corona, and Abigail did not like her. Not one little bit. No one ever actually saw Corona, but she kept stealing things. Corona was a thief.
First, Corona stole Abigail’s school. It was a nice school with a big gym and artwork hanging on the walls. There was a reading corner in the library filled with beanbag chairs. Abigail’s teacher, Miss Owen, had a hamster and three fish in her room. The playground had swings and slides and monkey bars. Abigail and her friends loved to play there at recess. But not anymore. Corona stole the playground too.
When Abigail’s mother drove past the school, Abigail looked at it through the car window. The doors were locked and the parking lot was empty. The school seemed lonely and sad.
“I miss my friends and my teacher,” Abigail said. “When can I go back to school?”
“I don’t know,” her mother said. “It all depends on Corona.”
Abigail’s heart sank. “Corona steals everything.”
“Not everything,” her mother said. “Corona hasn’t stopped us from reading good books or making art projects or playing outside.”
Abigail thought about that. Last week, she and her four-year-old sister, Lucy, had painted rocks. They’d set them out in a colorful line along the edge of the sidewalk in front of their house. Abigail had painted a sign that said Free Rocks, and stuck it in the grass beside them. Then she and Lucy had gone inside to watch through the window. Everyone who picked up a painted rock had walked away with a smile.
Her mother was right. She still talked to her teacher and friends on the computer and could do fun things at home. Corona may have stolen her school, but she hadn’t stolen everything.
When Abigail had been home from school for a month, Corona stole her birthday party. Abigail had had everything planned. Her friends were supposed to come over to play games and paint their nails and open presents and eat her favorite chocolate cake. All together. But because of Corona, no one could come.
“Happy birthday, Abigail!” Lucy came running into her bedroom that morning.
Abigail wasn’t so sure. Could she have a happy birthday without a party with her friends?
“Happy birthday, Abigail!” her father said when she walked downstairs.
The living room was full of colorful streamers and balloons. Three wrapped gifts sat on the table, and beside them was an enormous chocolate cake with seven pink candles on the top.
“Happy birthday, Abigail,” her mother said. She gave Abigail a big hug. “Grandma and Grandpa said there’s a package coming in the mail for you today.”
Abigail smiled. It was her birthday. Her family loved her, and her mother had made her favorite cake. Corona may have stolen her party, but she hadn’t stolen everything.
Not long after her birthday, Abigail learned that Corona had stolen their family vacation. The little house they stayed at by the sea was closed and the airplanes were not flying anymore. Abigail was very sad. She had been looking forward to going to the beach for a long, long time. She wanted to play in the water, dig in the sand, and collect shells. But they could not go. All because of Corona.
Her father gathered everyone together in the living room. “I have an idea,” he said. “Since we can’t go to the beach this year, why don’t we drive to the mountains? We can take our tent and some kayaks, and we can camp in the woods by the lake for a few days.”
“I love camping!” Lucy was so excited she jumped up and down like a rabbit.
“That sounds like fun,” her mother said.
Abigail wasn’t so sure. The mountains weren’t like the beach. They didn’t have the sea or sand or shells.
“I guess so,” she said.
It took a few days to get ready. Abigail’s mother filled two big coolers with food. Her father packed the tent and the sleeping bags, the camping stove and the folding chairs. He strapped two kayaks to the roof of the car. Lucy ran around excitedly talking about seeing squirrels and collecting pinecones. Abigail tried not to think about Corona the Thief or the beach.
Driving to the mountains took a long time, and the sun was starting to set when Abigail and her family arrived at the campsite. Abigail helped her father set up the tent across from a big lake. Her mother started cooking dinner on the camp stove. Pretty soon, the delicious smell of chili and cornbread mingled with the scent of pine needles and everyone gathered around the campfire to eat.
When they finished, Abigail stood on top of a big rock and listened. Lucy was running around dropping pinecones into a blue plastic bucket. Her parents were clearing away the dishes. She could hear birds and the rustle of leaves, but no waves.
“Did Corona steal the lake’s waves?” she asked.
Her father chuckled. “No. Only the ocean has waves. Corona can’t do anything to the mountains or the lake.”
“Nothing at all?” Surely Corona could steal something here. She was a very good thief.
“Nothing at all.”
Abigail jumped off the rock and her father took her hand. Her mother took Lucy’s. Together they walked down to the edge of the water. There was no sand, but there were lots of rocks. Her father picked up a smooth one and sent it sailing over the lake. It hopped four times before disappearing with a small plop.
“There are many people working to stop Corona from spreading, Abigail,” her father said. “Someday it will be gone, and then we will go to the beach again.”
Her mother smiled. “And you will go back to school, play with your friends, and attend birthday parties too.”
“I like birthdays and pinecones and big splashes,” Lucy said. She picked up a rock and threw it into the lake.
“What about toasted marshmallows?” her father said.
“Yes! Marshmallows!” Lucy started running back toward the camp. Her father chased after her. Their mother started to laugh and soon Abigail was laughing too.
Corona was a thief, but she could not steal everything. She could not stop Abigail’s family from loving each other or having fun together. Those things would last forever, but Corona would not.