Pick Up Lines and Flirting | Teen Ink

Pick Up Lines and Flirting

August 17, 2013
By iWriteForFood SILVER, Murfreesboro, Tennessee
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iWriteForFood SILVER, Murfreesboro, Tennessee
9 articles 0 photos 21 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Logic will get you from point A to point B. Imagination will take you everywhere." ~Albert Einstein

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." Ralph Waldo Emerson


Day 1 – Sunday
“Clara, come on, you’re going to be late!” My mom called from the lower level of our house. I groaned and stuffed my last few items into my backpack before slinging it onto my back and racing down the stairs.

“Alright, alright, calm down, I’m here. Let’s just go.” I replied, grabbing the handle of my duffle bag and opening the door.

I had planned for this summer to be a lazy one, filled with days laying out at the pool and hanging out with my friends. That is, until a week and a half ago, when my mom surprised me with an eight-week-long trip to Camp Willow Lake in the mountains of North Carolina. She said I needed to “make new friends” and “do something with my life this summer.” What she didn’t understand was that the point of summer was to do nothing. I had the entire school year to “do something,” why couldn’t I just relax?

The point was, I wasn’t real happy about this whole ‘camp’ thing. I’m supposed to stay in a cabin full of random girls I’ve never met before, with no cell service, for eight weeks? I must have done something wrong.

“Clara, you have to at least give this place a chance. It’s one of the top rated camps in the country, all the reviews said fantastic things,” my mom raved halfway through the trip.

“If it’s so fantastic, why don’t you go?” I muttered under my breath.

“I heard that. Promise me you’ll try. And be nice,” she replied with a warning tone.

“Fine, whatever.” I said.

I spent the rest of the drive to camp scrolling through my Twitter feed, sulking, and looking at all the pictures of my friends at the beach. Lucky ducks, I thought. What I wouldn’t give to be at the beach instead of camp.

Forty five minutes later, our car turned onto the long gravel driveway that led up to the main grounds of camp. There was a large log building in the middle, surrounded by a row of log cabins on either side of it. Other buildings stretched out into the distance, along with a soccer field and the lake.

My mom pulled into a parking space amid several other teens unloading their stuff. I grudgingly got out of the car and pulled my bag and backpack out of the car.

The staff building we first entered was at least air conditioned, in addition to being very plain. Simple wooden furniture sat around the room. A large desk cluttered with papers and a shrilly ringing phone sat in the back corner. A couple of other tables and several chairs sat in the rest of the space.

A youngish woman with bright, fiery, red hair rushed over to answer the phone. Fifteen or twenty other kids walked around the building to the different tables to check in.

“Hello, Camp Willow Lake, Lisa speaking, how may I help you? Yes, check in is until three o’clock. Alright, buh-bye!” Lisa wiped a hand across her forehead, then turned and strode towards us. “Hello! What’s your name?”

“Uh, Clara Thompson,” I said cautiously, glancing over at my mother.

“Well hi, Clara. You’ll check in at that table right over there!” She replied, pointing to a table along the left wall. “Welcome to Camp Willow Lake!”

“Thanks,” I turned and drug my bag over to the table marked Q-T. She seems happy, I thought. A little too happy for my tastes, but to each her own, I guess.

“Hi! Last name please?” Another way too peppy girl with blonde hair greeted me as I reached her.

“Thompson.”

“Clara?”

“That’s me.”

“Alright. Here’s your nametag that you’re required to wear for the first week. Your counselor will be waiting for you when you get there. If you have any medicines, please turn them in at the table across the room. Otherwise, you’re free to go to your cabin! Welcome to Camp Willow Lake!” The girl handed me a lime green lanyard with my name, the camp’s name, and cabin seven written on a laminated card attached to it.

I gave her a small smile and walked back out of the door we had come in.

“Well, I guess I better get going. Write me, okay?” My mom asked, turning me to face her. According to the sign on the door, parents were supposed to leave before the kids got to the cabin in order to “promote quick friendships.” Sounded like a load of bull to me, but whatever.

“Yeah, Mom, I will.” I replied, giving her a quick hug.

“See you on visiting day!” She turned and waved as she walked off.

“Bye!” I called after her.

Looking around, I noticed that the girls’ cabins were to the left of the staff building, and the guys’ were to the right. I sighed and walked off the porch, following a small group of three girls. All three of them turned onto the short path leading to cabin six, giggling all the way.

Cabin seven was a medium sized log building that backed up to an L-shaped cabin and a wooded area. It looked fairly clean, at least on the outside. I was about to discover what the inside looked like.

As I pushed open the front door, I was assaulted with the smell of Pinesol. The place had obviously been thoroughly cleaned before the campers arrived. There were two rows of three bunk beds, and a door on the left wall that I assumed led to the bathroom. Four girls had already arrived and taken two of the bunks. One was busy making her bed, one was reading, and the other two were whispering quietly on a bottom bunk covered in a shocking pink bedspread. There was also a single twin bed situated at the right of the room, where I guessed the counselor slept.

“Hi! What’s your name?” A tall girl with dark brown hair wearing a lime green Camp Willow Lake T-shirt and a white baseball cap asked as she approached me.

“Clara. Clara Thompson.”

“Well hey Clara! I’m your counselor, Danielle. You can call me Dani, everybody else does. You can take your pick of bunk. After you get your stuff set up, you can just chill until three thirty, when our cabin will meet up and get to know each other a little bit before opening ceremonies. Sound good?”

“Yeah, whatever,” I replied.

“Hey,” Dani said gently, catching my arm as I walked past. “Give this place a chance. Trust me, my first year here, I was not a happy camper, no pun intended. But look at me now, I’m a counselor! You’ll end up loving it here, I guarantee it.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’ll give it a try.”

“Thanks, Clara,” she said with a smile and let me pass.

I chose a bottom bunk in the back corner. If there was a fire or something, I did not want to die because I was on a top bunk and couldn’t get out on time. Plus, I didn’t feel like climbing up and down that ladder eighty times a day. Hopefully I wouldn’t get some annoying chick above me. With my luck, I probably would. Making my bed was fairly easy; the small twin bed was half the size of my queen back home. We had had to go out and buy new sheets for me, as we had no twin beds in our house, therefore no twin sheets. There were two sets of drawers at the end of each bunk, one on top of the other. I chose the bottom one and unloaded my clothes and things into it. Then I flung back onto my bed, pulled out my iPod, and put in my ear buds to tune out the world until three thirty.

My music was interrupted about twenty minutes later, when a tall girl with blonde hair and braces tapped me on the shoulder. “Hi, my name’s Hannah. Mind if I take the bunk above you?”

“No, go right ahead.” I replied.

“Awesome, thanks. What’s your name?” Hannah asked as she threw her bed stuff on top of her bed and climbed up the ladder.

“Clara.”

“Well, I already told you my name. Where are you from, Clara?”

“Sevierville, Tennessee. What about you?” Figured I better make friends with girl if I was going to have to spend the summer with her sleeping above me.

“Cool, I’m from near there! I live in Gatlinburg.”

“Seriously? That’s so cool!”

“Yeah, it’s awesome. Some pretty hilarious tourists come through, too.”

“Really? Like who?” What can I say? I’m a sucker for cheesy tourism.

“Well, you know Dolly Parton comes through fairly often, what with Dollywood and all, and this one time, a man ran up to her, pulled down his pants, and asked her to sign his boxers.”

“No way! I mean Dolly’s awesome and all, but that’s crazy.”

“That’s not even the worst of it. I’ll tell you some more sometime.”

Well. Maybe this camp wouldn’t turn out to be so bad after all.




By the time three thirty rolled around, Hannah and I were already becoming pretty fast friends. We both played soccer and the clarinet, hated the sight of blood, and loved anything and everything to do with books.

“Alright girls!” Dani began as soon as we had all gathered around her bed. “Welcome to Camp Willow Lake! How many of you are returning campers?”

I did a quick count. Seven girls raised their hands, including Hannah.

“This is only my second year,” she whispered to me.

“Okay, so I’m assuming the rest of you are first timers?” Dani continued.

I and the rest of the girls nodded our heads.

“Well, old- and new-comers alike prepare yourselves for the best eight weeks of your lives! I myself grew up coming here every summer, meaning I came here every summer from the year I finished ninth grade to the year I finished senior year. I loved it so much, I came back to be a counselor! And I hope you girls will love it just as much. Now I’m going to pass out a schedule of what your typical weekday schedule will look like. This does not include weekends; those will change a little bit depending on the day.”

Dani picked up a stack of lime green papers, divided the stack in half, and gave half to the girls sitting on either side of her. When I finally got one, I glanced down to see it read something like this:


7:15-Wake up call


8:00-9:00-Breakfast


9:00-11:30-Chosen activities (Photography, crafts, etc.)


11:30-12:30-Lunch


12:30-1:30-R&R


1:30-3:00-Swim (Lake or Pool, staff’s discretion) or other structured activities (may include geocaching, tie-dye, etc.)


3:00-5:00-Free time (a few activities will be posted on the mess hall door.)


5:00-6:00-Dinner


6:00-6:45-Change for nightly activities, free time


7:00-9:00-Camp-wide activities (may include dances, scavenger hunts, etc.)


9:00-10:00-Free time within cabin, get ready for bed


10:15-Meeting with counselors in cabins


10:30-Lights out
“Your wakeup call is the stereotypical bugle call, and you are required to wake up at 7:15. Your ‘chosen’ activities change every two weeks, and basically how that works is you’ll rank your top three choices, and the staff will do their best to put you in one of those. You’ll rank your choices for the first two weeks tonight. Um, let’s see, what else…Oh, here we go, during R&R, you are allowed to use your iPods, but only to listen to music. In case you haven’t discovered this yet, we do not have cell service out here.” Several groans came from the group. “I know, I know, it sucks, but you’ll get used to it. You can use R&R to write home, sleep, read whatever. Any questions about the schedule?”

We all looked around at each other. Apparently no one had any questions.

“I know this is probably boring all of y’all, but we’re required to tell you all of this. Few basic rules to start with. No girls in boys’ cabins, no boys in girls’ cabins. Pretty simple. PDA is limited to hand holding and hugging. We understand that relationships sometimes happen, that doesn’t mean we want to see it. Yes, Shelby?”

“So does that mean if you don’t see it, it’s okay?” Shelby asked as the two girls sitting slightly behind her snickered. I was already starting to be wary of this girl.

“Not necessarily. I’m pretty cool with a lot of things, but I have my limits. Make good choices, let’s leave it at that. Going on. Prank wars do sometimes start between cabins, all we ask is that you keep them tame and no one gets hurt or majorly embarrassed. No food fights, or fights of any kind for that matter. Don’t get into anyone else’s stuff without their permission, and don’t lie about having their permission either, because that’s real easy to check. Understand? We can go over more detailed rules later if needed. Oh, and in case you haven’t noticed, our cabin’s color is lime green. Cabin two’s color is also lime green. This color becomes more important for things such as capture the flag and scavenger hunts. We also use colors in cabin competitions, sort of a Hogwarts house cup type thing. Any questions about anything else? No? Alright then. How about a little get-to-know-each-other game? Maybe two truths and a lie? Does everybody know how to play that?”

Everyone nodded. “I want you to say your name and where you’re from before you start, just so we can start learning names. Why don’t you start, Sarah?”

Sarah, a frightened looking girl with thick glasses and mousy brown hair, looked up at the mention of her name. “Um, okay…Well, my name is Sarah, obviously, and I’m from Charlotte, North Carolina. Let’s see, I play softball, I’ve never been out of the country, and my dad’s Russian.”

We all blurted out our guesses, with the majority going for the Russian dad as being the lie. I went for being out of the country, as did Hannah.

“You two got it right,” Sarah said after a couple of minutes. “I’ve never been out of the country, but I do play softball, and my dad is Russian. So I guess I am too.”

“Really, that’s so cool!” I replied. She seemed to brighten at my enthusiasm. In spite of my earlier thoughts, I was actually starting to enjoy this camp. These girls seemed really nice.

Ten minutes later, it was my turn to go. Hannah had already gone, since she was sitting to the right of me. “Okay, I’m Clara and I’m from Sevierville, Tennessee. I play the clarinet, I used to be a gymnast, and I was born on a leap year.” Somewhat surprisingly, most people went for the gymnast one. I guess I didn’t look much like a gymnast now. I was five foot seven, which is a good deal taller than your average gymnastics girl.

“No one got it right. I wasn’t born on a leap year. The other two are both true.” I said, smiling. I loved it when no one guessed the lie.

“Wait, so you used to do gymnastics?” A girl opposite from me asked. I think her name was Jennifer.

“Yeah. I was pretty good too, until I hit my growth spurt. Got too tall, my mom thought I was gonna blow out a knee, so she made me quit. I play soccer now.”

“Awesome, I’m a gymnast! What was the highest skill you had?” She asked enthusiastically.

“Well, I quit when I was ten, so I didn’t get a whole lot of tumbling done, but I had a back tuck and was working on a layout when I left.”


“Alright girls, let’s settle down. We still have several people that haven’t gone yet.” Dani interrupted.

“Sorry,” I said.

Several minutes later, after everyone had had their turn at the game, Dani checked her watch and announced that it was four thirty, and time to go to the gym for opening ceremonies.

“The gym’s on the second level of the large building in the middle of the grounds. It’s right above the mess hall, where you’ll eat all your meals. Some activities will be held there, along with dances and things like that,” she explained as we walked.

When we reached the gym, about half the camp was already there. Dani led us to a row of seats in the middle of the room, and had us all sit together.

“We’ll sit together for the meals on the first day, after that you’re free to sit anywhere you want. That sound good to everyone?”

We all nodded, except for Shelby and her two cronies, whose names I think were Emmaline and Carlie. They were too busy checking out the guys and whispering frantically to each other. I caught the words ‘ex,’ ‘Samuel,’ ‘hot,’ and ‘together.’ I rolled my eyes. Something told me camp would not be boring with those three in my cabin.

“Alright ladies and gentlemen, let’s settle down now!” Lisa, the woman from check in this morning, said into the microphone from the stage at the front of the room. “It’s great to see your shining faces once again. I welcome you all to another wonderful summer at Camp Willow Lake! As your counselors have already told you, there are four ‘houses’ so to speak, each assigned a color. You guys will have a chance to come up with more creative names at the cabin meetings tonight. The house with the most points at the end of the first and second four weeks, as well as the total eight weeks, will be declared the winner! Here’s your first chance to win some house points. Let’s hear from the red house! How about the green house! The blue house? And last but not least, the yellow house!”

To me, it seemed that our house had been the loudest, but red house was pretty close. Lisa turned to confer with a few other people sitting behind her.

“And the winner is…green house! Way to get camp off to a great start, good job. Y’all will be awarded five house points! I’m Lisa, your camp director and staffer extraordinaire. All of your counselors report back to me, and I’m here to make sure you have the best eight weeks of your life. I’m now going to turn it over to your cabin master, Tyler.”

She handed the microphone off to a shorter guy with blonde hair and tan skin. “Hey guys, how’s it going? Our camp is completely full this year, which means eight cabins full of teenagers. My name is Tyler, as Lisa already told you, and my job is to make sure your cabins stay clean and in working order. As you returners already know, surprise cabin inspections do happen often. So make sure you keep those cabins clean!”

An older guy, mid-forties maybe, with slightly graying hair stepped up to take the microphone next. “My name is Frank, and I’m your head cook here at Camp Willow Lake. If you don’t like something, I didn’t make it, alright? We do make an attempt to feed y’all right, none of this bug juice business, but, well, accidents happen.” Lisa shot him a glare and Frank’s face turned red. “Uh, maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned that…Moving on!”

Frank turned and hastily gave the microphone to the final person, a younger woman with dark brown hair and pale skin. “Hey all you guys and gals, my name is Alyssa and I’m your head counselor and activities director. Think of me as your cruise director, camp style. My job is to bring you the most fun activities possible and make this summer awesome. Lisa?”

Lisa jumped back up on stage. “Thanks guys. We are the upper level at camp, and you’ll probably see us around pretty often. We’ll take charge of some the major activities, but your counselors will be in charge of most of them, in addition to a few other people you’ll meet later on.” She glanced down at her watch. “Looks like right now it’s time for dinner! We’re going to dismiss you by cabin. Cabins two and seven may head down to dinner.”

Our cabin cheered and got up to leave the gym. As we were walking down the stairs to the mess hall on the first floor, a tall guy wearing khaki shorts and a brown t-shirt caught up to me.

“Hey, how much does a polar bear weigh?” He asked.

“Uh, I honestly have no idea,” I replied, thoroughly confused.

“Enough to break the ice! I’m Jace. What’s your name?”

I had to laugh. What can I say, I love pick up lines. “Clara.”

“Clara. That’s a pretty name.”

“Thanks. So where you from, Jace?”

“Jefferson City, Tennessee. It’s about thirty, forty five minutes from Knoxville.”

“Really? I’m from Sevierville. And my bunkmate’s from Gatlinburg. Small world, huh?”

“It’s a small world after all, it’s a small world after all…” Jace sang.

“No, please don’t sing the song!” I exclaimed, clapping my hands over my ears.

Jace laughed. “I know, that song is almost evil. You can’t hear it without it getting stuck in your head!”

As we reached the food line, the smell of freshly baked pizza hit my nose. “Mmm, that smells good. Let’s hope it tastes good, too.”

Jace nodded his agreement as the line steadily moved forward. In addition to the pizza, there were also fries, salad, green beans, and Jell-O or cookies for dessert. I ended up grabbing some fries and a cookie along with two slices of pepperoni pizza.

“Hey, I know we have to sit with our cabins for tonight, but I’ll see you later, okay?” I asked Jace as I left the line.

“Yeah, that’d be cool,” he replied, smiling. I had a feeling he was starting to develop a crush. This ought to be interesting.

The rest of my cabin was already sitting down, with the exception of Shelby, Emmaline, and Carlie. I think we could all guess where they were. Jace and I had fallen near the back while we were talking. Dani had gotten them involved in some sort of ice breaker game, something about names and adjectives.

“Who was that?” Hannah asked as I set my tray down next to hers.

“Uh, his name’s Jace. I don’t know, he just came up to me and started talking.” I replied.

“He’s cute! And I think he likes you,” she said winking.

“Yeah, but I’m not really interested in a camp fling. I mean, what’s the point? What are the chances that you’ll ever see them again, besides camp?”

“I don’t know, I think it could be kind of fun and romantic. Forbidden love type thing, you know? Maybe I’m just a hopeless romantic.”

“Now that I can believe. You’re the one with the Bachelorette obsession, not me.”

“Shhhh, you promised you wouldn’t bring that up in public!” Hannah exclaimed, face turning bright red.

“What, it’s not like anyone’s listening.” It was true. Shelby and her gang had finally bothered to show up at our table when they saw Lisa frowning in their direction. They were still whispering excitedly about who knows what. The rest were talking in groups of two or three or just quietly eating their food.

“Still, you promised.” Hannah said sheepishly. It was amazing how close we were already becoming, even though we had only known each other for a few hours. I was starting to not hate my mom so much for sending me here.

“Fine, I won’t talk about it anymore. Happy?”

“Very,” she replied, going back to her pizza.

“Alright girls,” Dani said, gathering our attention. “Tonight’s activity from seven to nine is a human scavenger hunt, or as some of you might know it, Bring Me. You’ll have free time until six forty-five to change or do whatever, but then we’re going to meet up and walk over to the field by the pool for the scavenger hunt. Now, during free time, you’re allowed to go into other girls’ cabins and in any open field. The lake and pool are all off limits unless an activity is being held there. The woods aren’t totally off limits, but use common sense, please. There are foosball and pool tables on the third floor of this building, along with some board and card games and things like that. Or you can just chill in the cabin if you’d like. Questions?”

Sarah raised her hand.

“You don’t have to raise your hand Sarah, we’re not in school,” Dani said gently.

“Oh. Sorry,” Sarah pulled down her hand, blushing. “Um, are the stables off limits during free time too?”

“From my understanding, you can go in the stables and see the horses, you just can’t ride them. But let me check on that, so let’s not go there tonight.” Dani replied.

“Awesome, thanks,” Sarah said excitedly.

The rest of dinner passed fairly quickly, with some of the returners chattering about the events they were excited for this year and reminiscing about memories from last year. Us newcomers listened intently, trying to get a scope of how the rest of our summer was going to play out. Some of the events sounded really fun, especially the dances, socials, and pool parties.

“Attention campers and camp staff!” Lisa called from her position on top of a table at the front of the mess hall. Her red hair was now falling out of her ponytail and around her face. “It is now free time until six forty-five! Remember, no girls in boys’ cabins, and vice versa! Use this time to get to know your new cabin mates and future friends! At six forty-five, please meet with your counselor at your cabin door to head over to the field for the human scavenger hunt!”

Lisa hopped down from her table and the room erupted into activity. Thankfully, our cabin had picked a table near the doors, so we beat the mob rushing for the exit.

“Good night, you’d think the zombies were chasing us or something!” Hannah exclaimed when we escaped the building.

I snickered. “Except for the fact that nobody ever considers: traditionally, zombies are really slow. We wouldn’t have to run. We could just speed walk. If that.”

“Well, then, you’d think that exceptionally fast zombies were chasing us. Happy?”

“Very,” I said, still laughing. “What do you want to do during free time?”

“Well, first I want to get out of these flip flops. Definitely not one of my smarter ideas.” Hannah replied, glancing down at her black flip-flip clad feet. As we walked, she narrowly avoided stepping on a large and very pointy stick coming up out of the ground.

“Yeah, I wouldn’t wear those too often around here if I were you.”

She shot me a look. “Shut up, they were comfortable, okay? I didn’t stop to consider the fact that we would be walking outside. Or running.” The smile on her face told me she didn’t really take offense to my comment.

I snorted and nudged her with my elbow. “The blonde hair suits you real well sometimes, you know?”

Hannah laughed. “Yeah, I know, I’ve been told that a lot. I’ll have you know I’m top of my class.”

“Mmhm, sure…” I replied, laughing along with her.

“Hey! 4.0 GPA is nothing to shake a stick at you know.”

“Shake a stick at? Really, Hannah, really?” I laughed harder.

“Oh, whatever. Just remember I know where you sleep. And I’ve been here before, so I know where all the good ditches are.”

I just looked at her, shocked. “Is that a death threat?”

“Not necessarily,” she replied innocently. “I never said you were dead in the ditch…just slightly unconscious.”


“You’re starting to scare me girl. Kinda starting to wish I took that top bunk when I had a chance, it’d be harder for you to get me down from there. But at least if there’s a fire, I have a better chance of getting out alive.”

“I’ll also have you know I rock climb every weekend. It’s not that hard to get down that ladder. And I have the arm strength to carry you down from a top bunk, even unconscious.”

“I give up. Just remember I also know where you sleep. And where the warm water and whipped cream are.”

“Whipped cream on the face and wet the bed. Classic, but not very creative. You should see what some of the kids here come up with.”

“Yeah that’s what I’m scared of,” I replied, abruptly changing the subject. “Ever seen the remake of The Parent Trap? The pranks that got them sent to that isolation cabin? Not something I really want to experience.”

“Then honey, you’re at the wrong camp.” Hannah paused for a moment to get a good look at my astonished face. “I’m kidding, Clara. The prank wars do get pretty intense, but nothing to that extent.”

“Thank goodness. I did not want to wake up with chocolate in my hair and syrup all over me.”

By that point we had gone into the cabin and were standing by our beds. Hannah opened one of her drawers and pulled out some socks and a pair of tennis shoes.

“You wanna just chill here? I have cards that I brought with me,” she asked when she had finished tying her shoes.

“Sounds good to me. We can explore tomorrow when we have a little more time.”

Hannah climbed up the ladder, grabbed her cards, and came back down. “We might as well play on your bed; it’ll be easier than both of us sitting on mine.”

“What if I don’t want you sitting on my bed?” I teased.

“Then you’re just gonna have to deal,” she replied, raising her eyebrows.

“I’m kidding, I really don’t care.”

“Yeah I figured. What game do you want to play? War, go fish? I would suggest Egyptian Rat Slap, but that’s a little hard to play with just two people.”

“Did we just hear Egyptian Rat Slap?” Jennifer said, sticking her head out from her bottom bunk. Sarah, who had the bed above her, leaned around her

“I love that game!” She said.

“If y’all want to play, you can. It’ll work with four people. Do you know how to play Clara?” Hannah asked.

“Yeah of course!” I replied. ERS was one of my favorite card games; I played it all the time with my friends back home.

We all gathered in a circle (or I guess you could call it a square) on the floor. Hannah appointed herself as the leader, shuffled the deck, and dealt the cards out to the rest of us.

“Clara, you start since you’re left of the dealer,” she said when she had finished dealing.

I flipped a card onto the table and started the game. Jennifer immediately spoke up. “No, you have to flip out!”

“Huh?” I replied, confused.

“Like this,” Jennifer stated, pulling her card from the top and putting it on top of the one I had put down.

“Uh, okay, whatever,” I said, still not understanding why the card had to be flipped a certain way.

“Sorry. It just bothers me when people don’t flip it right,” she apologized.

“No, it’s fine, I’d just never heard that before,” I answered, and we continued on with the game.
*****

Twenty minutes later, we had finished the game. I had won, and Jennifer had come in second. By this point, it was six thirty, and there was no point in starting another game.

“So have you guys seen Samuel? I think he’s even hotter than last year, if that’s even possible,” Jennifer remarked when we had put all the cards back in the box.

“Yeah, but I think Shelby’s already put her claim on him. Did you see her at dinner?” Hannah replied.

I glanced around the cabin to make sure we were alone before contributing to the conversation. “Is Samuel the one they were pointing to at opening ceremonies? The tall one with black hair?” I asked. Sometimes it sucked being a newbie. I had no clue who half these people were.

“Yeah. They dated last summer, but he dumped her because she was too clingy. At least, that’s what he says. She says he cheated on her with Chrissie, this girl that graduated last year. I think every guy at camp had a crush on her, but none of them acted on it. Not even Samuel,” Jennifer explained. Sarah looked just as confused and fascinated as I probably did.

“Wait, so he didn’t cheat on her?” I clarified.

“Not according to him,” Jennifer replied.

“But if you ask me, they looked pretty cozy at the final dance,” Hannah jumped in.

“So, did you guys have that Jell-O at dinner?” Sarah asked quickly.

We all looked at her strangely for a moment before looking out the window and seeing Shelby and her gang approaching the cabin.

“Yeah, that was some pretty strange stuff. I think they forgot the jiggle in mine,” Hannah jumped in.

“I wouldn’t know, I got a cookie,” I said.

“Yeah, me too. That pizza was good, though,” Jennifer agreed.

I checked the watch I constantly kept on my wrist. “We should probably head outside, it’s almost time for Bring Me.”

The others nodded their agreement and we stood up to go out. I threw the cards onto my bed and we walked out of the cabin. Shelby, Carlie, and Emmaline passed us on the way out. A couple of other girls in our group, I think their names were Traci and Irene were already standing outside. Dani was also there, reading something off a paper and smiling.

A couple of minutes later, the rest of our cabin showed up. Dani did a quick head count before speaking. “Looks like we have everybody. Before we go, they asked us to explain the rules. I know you all probably all have played this before, but just in case. So what’s going to happen is we’re going to split up into houses, meaning we’ll be with cabin two, and Alyssa’s going to stand in the middle with Lisa and Tyler. She’ll call out something she’s looking for, something like ‘bring me someone who can walk on their hands all the way to the center,’ or ‘bring me two people who have the same birthday,’ or something like that. Some, like those, will be speed based, but some won’t be, like ‘bring me someone who can recite the most digits of pi.’ If that applies to you, you have to grab the bandana from me or the boys’ counselor and run to the middle. You have to have the bandana, otherwise it won’t count. Everybody understand?” We all nodded our heads. “Good, we can head over to the field now,” Dani finished with a smile. She seemed really happy tonight. Not that she didn’t always seem happy, but she seemed extra happy right now.

When we reached the field, most of the camp was already there and in position, including cabin two. As we walked up to them, I noticed Jace, the guy from before dinner, standing among them. He waved, and I waved back, shooting him a smile as I did.

“Looks like someone has a crush on you,” Hannah whispered in my ear as we walked.

“Shut up, he does not,” I replied, my face flushing.

“Oh yes he does. Did you see the way he lit up when he saw you?” She countered.

“How could he like me? We’ve only talked once!”

“Once is all it takes, honey. Trust me, been there, done that.”

“Whatever Hannah.”

Hannah smirked, giving me a look that I had already deemed the I’m-right-and-you-know-it look. I shook my head and kept walking.

“Hey Charlie,” Dani called to who I assumed was cabin two’s counselor. He was tall, with tan skin and spiked up dark brown hair. I had to admit, he was pretty attractive.

“Hey Dani,” he called back, then turned to the boys of cabin two. “Guys, these are your housemates, the girls of cabin seven. Y’all will probably be spending a lot of time together, so be nice.” He then turned back to Dani and they started talking in tones too low for the rest of us to hear. Hmmm, I thought, suspicious…I wonder if that’s why she’s so happy?

My thoughts were interrupted by Jace coming over to join Hannah and me.

“Hey, Clara, right?”

“Yup. Hey Jace. This is Hannah,” I replied, pointing my thumb in her direction.

“Hey Hannah,” Jace said, giving her the standard boy head nod before turning back to me. “I think we got this, don’t you?”

“Yeah of course! Green house is the best house,” I replied.

“Goodness I can’t wait til we come up with different names. I hate saying green house, we sound like a bunch of plants.”

I snickered. “Yeah I know. We could be Slytherin, like Harry Potter.”

“Isn’t Slytherin, like, evil?” Jace asked.

“Not entirely. I mean, sure, they had a few rotten eggs come out of there, but that doesn’t make them inherently evil,” I replied.

“I wouldn’t know, I haven’t read the books. I just watched the movies,” he replied, shrugging.

“Dude, you need to read the books, they’re so good!” I exclaimed. Harry Potter was one of my favorite book series ever.

“But they’re so long!” Jace whined.

“Oh don’t be such a baby. I could be telling you to read War and Peace.”

“You read that?!” Hannah exclaimed, jumping into the conversation.

“Shoot no! Are you crazy?” I answered.

“Okay, I was about to say, you might be certifiable to read that book for fun,” Hannah said, looking relieved.

“Yeah, I know. That thing’s huge.”

All of a sudden a siren rang through the field. The three of us turned along with the rest of camp to see Alyssa standing in the middle of the field flanked by Lisa and Tyler. “Hey y’all, and welcome to your first night at Camp Willow Lake! Tonight, we will be playing Bring Me, also known as the human scavenger hunt! Your counselors should have already explained the rules to you, so let’s get started! For our first item, bring me someone who is double jointed!”

A boy with red hair ran up and grabbed the flag from Dani’s hand. He ran to the middle and proceeded to do something with his arms that about made me want to throw up. The three staff in the middle immediately declared him the winner and awarded a point to our house.

The rest of the game went in much of the same fashion. A fairly equal amount of boys and girls went up from our house, and I was pretty sure we were in the lead. I had gone up for one of the items, as had Hannah and Jace. The three of us had gone up for ‘three people who can leap frog to the center the fastest,’ and we had won. Hannah and I had both won our other items; Jace had come really close, but lost his.

A couple of rounds later, the game was over. Green house won, of course. Man, Jace was right, that does make us sound like plants. Blue came in a close second, and red and yellow were pretty far behind the two of us. The camp staff dismissed us, announcing that we once again had free time until our cabin meetings at ten fifteen.

“Bye Clara, bye Hannah,” Jace said as he turned towards his cabin.

“Bye Jace!” We called back in unison.

“Hey are you showering tonight or in the morning?” Hannah asked as we made our way back to the cabins.

“Tonight. I hate showering in the morning,” I replied.

“Yeah me too. There’s six showers, but I think some of the girls will shower in the morning. I hope so, at least.”

“At least there’s six. There could only be like two or three,” I said, trying to look on the bright side. “There’s probably not room for twelve showers either.”

“Yeah you got a point.”

When we reached the cabin, Shelby, Carlie, and Emmaline immediately ran for their stuff and took off for the showers. Hannah and I took two more, and Jennifer got the last one.

“Thanks guys, I see how it is,” Sarah called after us.

“Sorry Sarah! I’ll be fast!” I called back.

When I jumped in the shower, it was obvious we were the first to use these stalls in a while. The water was absolutely freezing. While I managed to suck it up and deal with the chill, I think Shelby’s squeal could be heard in Canada. I rolled my eyes and quickly washed my hair and body. The water finally warmed up near the end of my five minute shower. Sarah would be one of the lucky ones to get hot water. Pulling my towel from the bench outside the shower stall, I quickly dried off and dressed in my pajamas, my gym shorts and a tie-dyed shirt. I wrapped my hair up in a towel and walked back into the main part of the cabin.

“There you go Sarah,” I told her as I put my shower stuff back into my drawers.

“Huh?” She asked as she looked up from her book.

“Shower’s free,” I replied, chuckling.

“Oh, thanks,” she said. She gathered up her stuff and headed towards the bathroom.

I pulled the towel down from my hair and hung it on the hook attached to the bed post. After digging my hairbrush out from the rest of my bathroom stuff, I brushed my hair and sprayed it with some leave-in conditioner before braiding it.

Ten fifteen rolled around eventually, after Hannah and I had brushed our teeth, taken out our contacts, and were basically ready for bed.

“Okay girls, tonight’s meeting will be a little longer than most since it is the first night. So tonight you will give me your activity requests. The way that will work is I’ll give you a piece of paper and I want you to write down your top three choices for your activity. The activities are: photography, crafts, improv/acting, martial arts/stage combat, archery, horseback riding, sports, dance, and the camp newspaper. You’ll end up doing four of these before the end of camp, in case you hadn’t figured that out yet. Any questions about activities?” Dani asked. “Yes, Traci?”

“Do we have activities tomorrow since we’re just asking for them tonight?” Traci asked.
“No, you won’t. Instead you’ll sign up for one-time activities at breakfast. I think there’s going to be tie-dye, board games, and a few other things. Does that answer your question?” Dani replied. Traci nodded and Dani continued. “Um, let’s see, regarding lights out, I am required to turn the lights out, but if you want to use a book light and stay up a little later and read or whatever, I don’t really care. I do ask that you try to get a good amount of sleep, because you do need a good amount to keep you in a good mood and participating in camp. I also have the first edition of the camp newspaper for you. After this issue, it’ll come out every three to four days and made by the campers in the newspaper class, along with the staff.”
Dani passed out black sheets of paper covered in white writing. There was a welcome letter from the staff, along with the house point totals posted across the top. There was also a box in the corner listing the activities we could sign up for tomorrow. It looked like there would be tie-dye, board games, kayaking, horseback riding, and yard games.
“Woo, green house is winning!” Jennifer exclaimed.
“Oh, that reminds me! Thank you Jennifer!” Dani said.
“You’re welcome! Wait, what did I do?” Jennifer replied, confused.
“You reminded me about house names. Thankfully, we can come up with a new name for our house. I think we can all agree that it needs to be something other than green house,” said Dani.
“It almost makes us sound like plants,” I joked, remembering Hannah and I’s conversation with Jace earlier.
Several members of our cabin giggled at my comment.
“I have to say I agree. We can either come up with one name as a group or you can all come up with suggestions. Either way I’ll take the name or names to Charlie and see what his boys have come up with. In my opinion, the girls always come up with better names, but we’ll see,” Dani said with a wink. “So what do y’all think?”
“I think we should just come up with one name as a group,” Irene said. A bunch of the girls nodded their heads, including me.
“Well I think we should do it individually,” Shelby spoke up. No doubt she wanted her name to be the one chosen for the house.
“Okay then, let’s take a vote,” Dani said diplomatically. “How many of you want to come up with one name as a group?”
Everyone but Shelby, Emmaline, and Carlie raised their hands.
“How many want to do it individually?”
Those same three raised their hands this time.
“Looks like we’re doing it as a group. Any starting suggestions?”
“What about Pink Princesses?” Carlie said, looking proud of herself for coming up with that.
Hannah and I struggled to hide our snickers behind our hands. Carlie glared at us. If looks could kill, I…well; actually, I’d still be alive. I thought, still trying to hide the giggles.
“Um, you know there’s guys in our house right?” Rosalie, who liked to be called Rose, spoke up from across the circle. Beth and Kate, two girls who were obviously friends with Rose last year, nodded on either side of her.
“Oh…well, they can be pink princes then!” Carlie said, trying to redeem herself.
The entire group just shook their heads, including Emmaline and Shelby.
“I think we can successfully rule that idea out. I’m sorry Carlie,” Dani tried to make Carlie feel better.
“That rhymed,” Hannah leaned over and whispered in my ear, still snickering herself.
“How about the Space Cadets?” Kate suggested. “It could be shortened to Cadets, even.”
“I like that. What do you think girls?” Dani asked.
We all nodded our heads and spoke our agreement. Shelby and them didn’t look to happy, but they agreed anyway.
“Alright, I’ll take our suggestion to Charlie tomorrow and see what his guys came up with, and we’ll see what our official name will be. One last thing before we go to bed. We will sit as a cabin at breakfast tomorrow, but after that you’re free to sit wherever you want. Oh, and here are your sheets for your activity requests.”
Dani passed around half sheets of paper and set a cup of pens and pencils in the center of our circle. I reached for a pencil and jotted down my choices.
1.
Photography
2.
Horseback Riding
3.
Archery

“Good night girls! Sleep well,” Dani said as we handed in our sheets.

“Night Dani!” We chorused back.

I crawled between my covers of my bunk and set my glasses on top of the drawers.

“Night Hannah,” I called up to her on the top bed.

“Good night Clara,” she replied.

Dani flipped out the lights a couple of minutes later, and I was asleep soon after.

Day 2 – Monday

I woke up in the morning to the loud bugle. The sound was made even louder by sending it through a PA system set up throughout camp. I groaned and rolled out of bed, grabbing my toiletries as I headed towards the bathroom. I groaned once again when I saw my hair. I had stupidly forgotten to tie the end of the braid, so it had fallen out in the middle of the night, and now my hair was a messy, tangly mess. It looked like it was going to be a ponytail kind of day.

After I finished in the bathroom, I went back to my bed and dug some clothes out from my drawers. I picked out some light jean shorts, a navy blue tank top, a sky blue cami, and my trusty gray Chuck Taylors. A couple girls went into bathroom stalls to change, but after three years of gym class, I really didn’t care about changing in front of other girls. I brushed my hair and pulled it into a ponytail after I changed, then slathered on some sunscreen and sat down to wait on the rest of the cabin to be ready to go to breakfast. I jumped up a moment later when I remembered cabin inspection and made sure my bed was made and everything else was clean.

“Hey, Hannah, what activity are you signing up for?” I asked when I saw her returning from the bathroom.

“I don’t know, I was thinking about kayaking. What about you?” She replied as she put her stuff back into her drawers.

“That’s what I was thinking too. What are you guys gonna do?” I leaned out from under the upper bed to look at Jennifer and Sarah.

“We were thinking kayaking, too. But we need to get there first, cause I think that one’s gonna fill up fast,” Jennifer said as she rubbed sunscreen onto her face.

“Yeah, I think I heard Dani say something about leaving a few minutes early so we can have our food before Alyssa gets there with the sign-up sheets,” Sarah said, tying her New Balance shoes.

Just then, Dani’s voice called out to our cabin. “Girls, if everybody’s ready, we can head on over to the mess hall.”

“Just a second!” Beth yelled back. She flipped her head back up and tied her hair up. “Okay, I’m good.”

Dani quickly counted to make sure we had everybody and started to lead us out of the cabin.

“Oh! Does everybody have their lanyards on?” She stopped abruptly and turned around. About half of us groaned and turned to go back and get them.

When everyone had retrieved their lanyards and put them on, we continued on our way. As we entered the mess hall, cabin two was already there, as were two other cabins, I think they were cabins six and one.

“Whenever you guys get done getting your food, sit down at that table right there,” Dani told us quietly, pointing to a circular table near the end of a long, rectangular one in the middle of the room. “That’s the staff table, where Alyssa will sit with the sign-up sheets.”

We nodded and went to the line to get our food. There was a big spread for breakfast: eggs, bacon, hash browns, fruit, yogurt, muffins, and bread for toasting. We would obviously be well fed at this camp. I grabbed a tray and a plate and filled it up with eggs, bacon, and a blueberry muffin. At the end of the line where the drinks were, I took a glass and filled it with apple juice before heading to the table Dani had pointed out. Hannah, Jennifer, and Sarah had all been in front of me in line, and were already seated at the table. I took the seat between Hannah and Jennifer.

I was unwrapping one of the rolls of silverware at the table when a voice spoke up from behind me.

“Hey pretty lady,” said a male voice. I jumped slightly and turned around to see Jace standing behind me. Hannah cleared her throat and kicked me what she probably thought was lightly under the table. I cringed and glared at her.

“Hey Jace,” I replied. I was sure my face was the same shade of bright red as Jace’s shirt.

“So, what activity are you signing up for?” He asked, running a hand through his floppy dark brown hair.

“Uh, I think I’m going kayaking with some of the girls from my cabin. What about you?”

“Awesome, that’s what I was going to do with some of my friends too.”

“Jace!” Charlie called and motioned him back over to their table.

“Guess I’ll see at the lake then, yeah?” Jace said as he turned to walk back to his table.

“Yeah, sure,” I answered with a smile. He smiled back and headed towards cabin two’s table at the other end of the staff table.

“Ooooh, who was that?!” Jennifer asked when he was out of hearing range.

“Just this guy I met yesterday,” I replied, digging into my breakfast. I think my face got even redder, if that was even possible.

“That doesn’t look like just some guy, if you ask me,” Sarah remarked.

“Definitely not,” Jennifer agreed. “Look,” she told me, nodding over at the boys’ table. I glanced up to see Jace looking at our direction. He quickly looked away when we caught him.

“That boy’s got it bad for you, girl,” Hannah said, wiggling her eyebrows at me.

“Shut up, he does not,” I said, my mouth full of muffin. It looked like that was becoming my automatic response to any comment relating to Jace liking me.

“Swallow first, please,” said Sarah, faking a gag.

I swallowed. “Sorry,” I said, grinning at her and taking a drink of my apple juice.

“Anyways, I think she’s got it pretty bad for him, too,” Sarah continued.

I promptly choked on my apple juice. “Excuse me, what?!”

“I said that you-” Hannah started to repeat.

“No, don’t say it again!” I exclaimed, wiping my mouth of apple juice.

Just then, Alyssa walked in carrying the papers. Alyssa, you may just be my favorite person in the world right now, I thought to myself. Anything to get out of this conversation. I felt bad for her though, because no sooner than did she sit down, than all the teenagers in the room mob her at once. Since Dani had gotten us the table right next to the staff’s we were at the front of the mob to sign up. I grabbed the pen, signed my name in the top spot for kayaking, and handed the pen off to Hannah. I wormed my way back through the crowd and sat back down at our table.

“So, do you like him?” Hannah asked when the three of them rejoined the table.

“Who Jace? No, he’s just a friend. Besides, I just met the guy!” I told her.

Hannah raised an eyebrow and gave me a knowing look. To be honest, I wasn’t so convinced myself.
*****

On the walk to the lake, Jennifer filled the silence all by herself, switching between the topic of me and my ‘soon-to-be boyfriend’ as she put it, and some hot guy she saw in the breakfast line this morning.

“He was on the shorter side, but still taller than me, with blonde hair and bright green eyes, and a really nice tan. Oh, and he had on glasses, too!” She exclaimed.

“Uh, Jennifer?” I asked tentatively.

“What?” She sighed.

“I think that was Tyler, the cabin master,” I told her, unwilling to have the conversation turn back to me and my love life, or lack thereof.

“What? No, it couldn’t be…Oh. Um, never mind…” Jennifer trailed off, her cheeks flushing a light pink.

Hannah, Sarah, and I burst into a fit of giggles. Jennifer shot us a dirty look and crossed her arms.

“It’s not funny you guys! He looks different with glasses on, okay,” she grumbled, obviously embarrassed.

“Hey, it’s okay. I’m pretty sure all the girls at camp think Tyler’s attractive,” I said, putting a hand on her shoulder and trying to stifle my laughter.

“It’s also illegal,” Sarah pitched in. For whatever reason, that sent the three of us back into laughing and Jennifer back into glaring at us.

“This is true,” Hannah agreed.

“This is very true,” I added, and we laughed even harder.

Jennifer huffed and tried to keep a smile off of her face, but eventually ended up laughing along with us.

We were still laughing when we reached the lake, and I missed Jace and three of his friends coming up to us.

“Wow, is my face that funny looking?” He asked, faking hurt and grabbing at his chest.

I snorted and avoided Hannah’s eyes for fear of her setting me off again. “No, it’s just something that happened on the way here. Oh, by the way, this is Jennifer, and this is Sarah.” I told him, pointing at them as I said their names. I sent Jennifer a look that said ‘you say anything, you’re dead.’ At least, that’s what I hoped it said. Her smirk said ‘message received, but no promises.’ I rolled my eyes and turned back to Jace.

“Hey Jennifer, Sarah. These are my buddies from cabin two, Matt, Chris, and Oliver. They call us the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” Jace replied.

“Dude, no they don’t,” Oliver said, smacking Jace’s arm.

“Fine, dude, whatever,” Jace answered.

I rolled my eyes. Boys.

“So, you ever kayaked before?” Jace asked.

“Yeah, of course. My house is close to Douglas Lake, so my family goes all the time.” I replied. I noticed that the other six had wandered a few feet away. Hannah caught my eye and gave me her know-it-all look before going back to her conversation. Looked to me like she might be sweet on that Matt guy. I filed this information away and brought my mind back to the conversation at hand.

“Really? My family goes there a lot too,” Jace said. “Weird we’ve never bumped into each other before.”

“Maybe we have and you just don’t remember.”

“I think I would’ve remembered a pretty girl like you,”

I flushed and quickly flipped my hair in front of my face to hide it. Jace, however, noticed and smirked.

“Come on, I think the counselor wants us over there,” I said, turning away from him.

We walked over to where the counselor was standing near the dock, gathering our six friends as we passed them.

“Hello, guys and gals, my name is Adam, and I’m the counselor for cabin three! On my right is Paige, and she’s the counselor for cabin six! How many of you have ever kayaked before?” The guy standing on the dock yelled. About half of the thirty or so campers raised their hands, including the eight of us. “Alright, I want you guys to go stand on my side. I’m assuming the rest of you haven’t, so I want you to go stand on Paige’s side. These are two-person kayaks, so you’re going to need to pair up. I’m going to take those of you that have done this before and get you all in life jackets and get you out on the water. Paige will take the inexperienced ones and explain the basics to you before we set you loose.”

I looked around for Hannah, but I couldn’t see her from where I was standing.

“Wanna be my partner?” Jace asked from behind me.

I turned to look at him and shrugged. “Sure, I guess. But I call the front, and don’t you dare flip us.”

“Yes ma’am,” he replied, giving me a mock salute.

I chuckled and looked again for Hannah. I finally saw her standing with Matt on the other side of the group, smirking in my direction. I glared at her. In all honesty, I didn’t really mind kayaking with Jace, but I knew she had probably hid on purpose and figured he would ask me. Trying to play Cupid, I suppose. Hannah just laughed and turned back to talking to Matt.

“Okay guys, ground rules: Obviously, stay in the lake. No bumper cars with your kayaks, no horseplay, and if you get stuck, just yell for either me or Paige and we’ll come help you. Now, who’s first?” Adam asked as he approached our group.

No one stepped forward; we all just looked at each other. After a few seconds, I rolled my eyes and walked up, tugging Jace’s hand to make him follow. Adam looked us both up and down, then reached to grab two life jackets from the pile at his side.

“These should work,” he said.

Jace and I both pulled them on; Adam nodded in approval and told us to pick a kayak and we were free to go out on the lake.

“No flipping the boats either!” He called after us. I gave him a thumbs up as we continued towards the boats. Jace and I picked out a bright royal blue kayak and I climbed into the front of it. Jace pushed us off the beach before hopping in behind me.
*****

Two hours later, Adam yelled into a megaphone that it was time to come back to land. Jace and I had managed not to flip our kayak, although there had been a couple close calls. Jennifer and Chris had flipped twice, and Hannah and Matt flipped once.

When we reached the beach, we climbed out of the kayak and Jace pulled it to shore. After pulling off our life jackets, we hung them up in the storage shed and Adam told us we were free to go to lunch. We caught up with Hannah, Jennifer, Sarah, Matt, Chris, and Oliver on our way. Four of them were soaked, the other two weren’t.

“Hey guys. Decided to take a little swim, huh Hannah?” I said when we fell in step with them.

Hannah glared at me. “Shut up. This genius here decided it would be hilarious to flip us,” she said, jabbing her thumb in Matt’s direction. Matt grinned, looking pretty proud of himself.

“Hey, at least you guys only flipped once. Chris here flipped us twice!” Jennifer exclaimed, though she didn’t look that mad.

“Dude, awesome job!” Matt told Chris, and gave him a high five.

Hannah and Jennifer just looked at each other. “Boys,” Hannah muttered.

“Aren’t you glad I was nice and didn’t flip us at all?” Jace asked me as we entered the mess hall.

“Yes, I am thank you,” I replied, truly grateful to be nice and dry.

“Looks like we got the nice ones out of the bunch,” Sarah remarked, falling behind me in line.

“Mm hmm,” I replied as I surveyed the food. It looked like spaghetti, meatballs, bread, salad, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches if you didn’t like the spaghetti, and cake for dessert. I went for the spaghetti and meatballs, grabbed a couple rolls, and carrot cake for dessert.

“Where do you guys want to sit?” I asked the rest of the group as they came out of the line.

“How about over there in that corner?” Oliver said, pointing to a table near the back right hand corner.

“Sure,” I said, shrugging. Oliver started in that direction and the rest of us followed.

I ended up setting my tray down between Hannah and Jace, another thing I think she did on purpose. I went back for a drink, filling a glass with Diet Coke.

“Do you guys know if we’re swimming in the lake or the pool today?” Hannah asked when I reached the table.

“The board outside said the pool,” Matt told her.

“Oh, right, I forgot to check that,” Hannah said. I looked at her curiously. I knew for a fact that she had an incredible memory. It seemed unlikely she would forget something like that, especially being a returning camper. I for one, being a newbie, had no idea what board they were talking about.

“What board?” I asked.

“There’s a board attached to the wall next to the doors where you come in this building where they post announcements about activities and stuff. You’re supposed to at least glance at it when you come in for every meal,” Jennifer replied, giving Hannah a sidelong look. Looked like she noticed the same thing I did.

“Oh, ok,” I replied, going back to my spaghetti.

“Y’all are all swimming, right?” Jace asked, glancing at me as he said it.

We all responded with a mix of ‘yeahs’ and ‘of courses.’

“Good. The pool here’s really nice,” Oliver said, looking at me, Sarah, and Matt in turn. We were the only new campers in our new little group.

“Does it have a diving board?” I asked.

“Yup, two of them, one and three meter ones,” Jace replied.

I smiled. “Sweet.”

“Do you dive?” He asked.

“Yeah, occasionally. I prefer to go feet first though. Going head first just unnerves me,” I replied. It was true, back at the pool at home, I rarely did a true dive. I had been taught how to do it properly, but it still got to me a lot of the time.

“I’ll help you. By the end of the summer, you’ll be a diving pro,” Jace assured me with a wink. I was skeptical, but I figured I’d humor him.

“If you say so,” I replied.

“Hey. Lovebirds over there,” Jennifer called from across the table, snapping her fingers in our direction. Jace and I glanced at each other and then at Jennifer.

“Us?” I asked dubiously.

“Yes you two,” she replied.

“We’re not-” I started to protest.

“Oh save it,” Hannah cut me off. “We were trying to let you know that we’re meeting up outside cabin two before we head to the pool. That okay?”

“Yeah, that’s fine, whatever,” I said. I was sure my cheeks were flaming red, and a quick glance at Jace showed me that his were, too.

Hannah smirked and went back to eating her lunch. The rest of the meal passed quickly, and soon it was time to leave the mess hall for R&R.

I grabbed Jace’s arm as we were leaving to make him hang behind for a minute. When the rest of the group had gone on, I spoke up.

“Sorry about Hannah, she’s a little…overbearing sometimes. As is Jennifer,” I told him, still feeling embarrassed.

“Naw, it’s okay. I have sisters, so I’m kinda used to it,” he replied.

“You have sisters? How many?” I asked.

“Two, one older, one younger. What about you, do you have any siblings?”

“No, I’m an only child,” I said. “I’ll see you for swimming, okay?”

“Okay, see you later,” said Jace, turning towards his cabin with a wave and a smile.

I set off at a quick pace for my own cabin. I wanted to talk to those three before Dani made us quiet down. They were in for it after what they said at lunch. Well, maybe not Sarah, she had been pretty quiet. But the other two were gonna get it.

When I entered the cabin, Hannah and Jennifer were talking quietly on Jennifer’s bottom bunk. Sarah had taken up residence on her top bed, book in hand as usual. I went to stand in front of Hannah and Jennifer, hands on hips.

“Seriously guys?!” I exclaimed. Dani shushed me from the front of the cabin.

“I don’t care if you talk, but please do it quietly,” she said.

“Sorry!” I whispered yelled back to her. “But for real, why? You know we’re just friends!”

“Yeah, for now,” Hannah said slyly.

I glared at her. “Guys, it was embarrassing, to me and to Jace. I’d appreciate it if you’d stop making comments about us in front of other people. Especially him.”

“Sorry, Clara. Y’all are just so cute together though!” Hannah said.

“Yeah, we’ll stop. But I agree with Hannah, y’all are too cute!” Jennifer agreed.

“Yeah, well, we’re not even together,” I said.

“Do you want to be?” Hannah asked.

“I don’t know…I mean, he’s cute and all, but I’m just not sure if I want to get involved,” I answered.

“Awww, why not?” Jennifer replied.

“Cause I’ve seen my friends date their best guy friends and have it ruin their friendship. Jace’s a great friend and I don’t want to ruin that. Plus, it’s summer camp. I mean, what would happen when camp ends and reality checks in?”

“But you like him, right?” Hannah persisted.

“I never said that. I said he’s cute. There’s a difference.”

“But you didn’t say you didn’t like him like that. That means it’s a maybe!” Jennifer exclaimed, and high fived Hannah.

“Even if I did like him, I doubt he likes me back,” I remarked. I’d had several crushes in the past couple of years, but none of them had become more than that, a crush.

They both looked at me incredulously. “Are you kidding us right now? That boy lights up when he sees you, and he’s called you pretty at least three or four times, am I right, Jennifer?” Hannah ranted. Jennifer nodded her agreement. “His first words to you were a pick up line. He wanted to be your partner for kayaking, and y’all might as well be attached at the hip any other time. And you’ve known each other what, a day? Even if he doesn’t think he likes you, he’s at least interested.” Hannah took a deep breath.

“You should probably breathe more during your speeches. Besides, that’s part of my point. We haven’t even known each other a day. How are we supposed to like each other when we barely know each other? Plus, he’s probably just being nice. He has sisters.”

Hannah and Jennifer both shrugged. “I don’t know. You just do. And what does him having sisters have to do with anything?” Jennifer asked.

“Guys with sisters are usually nicer to girls than guys with brothers or that are only kids,” I replied. It was something my friends and I back home had noticed among the guys in our grade at school.

“I still say you guys like each other, you just don’t want to admit it yet. Guys don’t just walk around saying those things to every girl,” Hannah said, then rethought her sentence. “Correction: most guys don’t. Some do, but I don’t think Jace’s like that.”

“Well, you’re both wrong. I don’t like him like that, we’re just friends,” I said, stalking off to my bed. I flopped down and pulled a book out from between my pillows. It was one of the books I was required to read for school, The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom.

A few minutes later, Hannah came over and sat on the edge of my mattress. “Are you really mad at us?” She asked, looking guilty.

I sighed and bookmarked my place. Sitting up, I said, “No, I was never really mad. Mainly just embarrassed. Even if I did like Jace, that’s not exactly a fact I would like him to be aware of unless I knew he like me back.”

“Good. Cause this pool time was gonna be really awkward if you were,” Hannah replied, smiling.

I smiled back as Dani called out to the girls of cabin seven. “Alright girls, there’s about fifteen minutes until R&R’s over, so if y’all are going swimming y’all need to change now, otherwise, keep doing whatever you’re doing.”

Rose spoke up from her bunk in the front of the cabin. “Do you know what the activities are if we choose not to swim?”

“Um, I think either board games on the third floor of the mess hall or yard games in the field by the pool,” Dani replied.

“Cool, thanks,” Rose said, lying back down on her bed.

I stood up to grab a swimsuit out of my drawers, and Hannah followed. When I glanced over at Dani’s bed by the door, I noticed she was reading from another sheet of paper. I wondered idly what was on those papers as I went into a bathroom stall to change. My suit was a sporty navy blue bikini outlined in a white stripe around all the edges. I slipped on black running shorts and a purple V-neck t-shirt over my suit before leaving the bathroom.

“Hey, Hannah, will you rub some sunscreen on my back?” I asked as I redid my ponytail.

“Yeah, if you’ll rub some on mine,” she answered from her position on the top bunk. “Just give me a minute.”

I pulled a towel out from my bottom drawer and reapplied sunscreen everywhere else while I waited. I burned pretty easily, so I was always cautious about using sunscreen. When Hannah finally climbed down the ladder, we rubbed sunscreen into each other’s backs and waited for Dani to tell us we could go.

“Girls, if you’re ready you can head to the pool. I’ll be down there in a few minutes. Be careful!” Dani called a couple minutes later.

Hannah and I joined Jennifer and Sarah as we walked out of the cabin door. It looked like about half the cabin was going swimming: the four of us, Shelby, Carlie, and Emmaline. The other five went in the direction of the mess hall, I assumed to play board games.

“Why wouldn’t you want to go swimming today? It’s hot as all get out!” I exclaimed. This morning while we were kayaking it hadn’t been too bad, low eighties maybe, but this afternoon it had to be at least mid-nineties, plus humidity. I bet the heat index was over one hundred. A long swim in the pool sounded amazing right now.

Cabin two was leaving their cabin as we approached it. Jace, Matt, Chris, and Oliver joined the four of us as we walked towards the pool. Hannah went straight to Matt, stretching up on her toes to whisper something in his ear. I caught her eye as she finished speaking. I smirked and raised my eyebrows. Looks like somebody has a crush, I thought. I gave her a look that said ‘we will talk about this later.’ She blushed, looking slightly scared, and turned back towards Matt. Serves her right, after my interrogation earlier.

“Hey,” Jace said as he fell in step with me.

“Hey yourself,” I replied, looking up at him. At probably 6’1 or 6’2, he towered over my 5’7. I was tall for a girl, really short for a guy.

“You excited to jump in this pool and learn how to dive?” He asked.

“Yes, because it’s hot as Hades out here, and I think you got that backward there, dude,” I said.

Jace thought for a moment. “Yeah I guess you’re right. You’ve gone off the high dive before right?”

“Yeah, all the time, why?” I asked warily.

“When we get in there, I want you to go up there and show me what you’ve got so I can see what I have to work with.”

“Goodness you sound like a coach. But I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“Gotta take the swim test first,”

“Aw, crud I forgot about that. It’s super easy; all you have to do is swim across the deep end.”

“Yeah, that’s what it usually is for most pools. Easy as pie. I never understood that, pie’s not that easy to make,” I mused.

Jace laughed. “I know, I never really got it either. Have you ever actually tried to make a pie?”

“Actually, yes. I attempted to make an apple pie during my baker phase when I was eleven. Once I finally got the pie put together, after completely failing once and starting over, I put the thing in the oven, forgot to set the timer, and ended up with more of a brick than a pie.” I said.

Jace burst out laughing.

“Shut up! My eleven year old self was crushed. My mom had made it look so easy!” I protested, holding back giggles myself.

By this point we had entered the gate around the pool and were standing near the edge. An attractive guy, probably in his early twenties and wearing fire engine red swim trunks, came running out from a small building (shack more like) with a sign that read Lifeguard hanging above it.

“Hey guys, sorry I’m late. My name is Luke; I’m the head lifeguard here at Camp Willow Lake. The other two lifeguards are in the bathroom, you’ll meet them later. How many of you are planning on going off the diving boards?”

About three quarters of us raised our hands.

“Awesome. I want all of you to go stand near the edge of the deep end in five minutes. The rest of you, stay out of the pool until another lifeguard comes out and tells you that you can get in. If any of you change your mind and want to go off the boards, just let one of us know and we’ll let you take the test.”

Jace and I walked over to where our friends had set their stuff in a set of cubby holes. I took off my running shorts and t-shirt, kicked off my flip flops, and shoved all of it into a cubby hole with my lanyard. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Jace taking off his shirt. I had to admit, he had a nice six pack. I wondered idly if he worked out. Snap out of it Clara, he’s your friend, remember? I shook my head, trying to clear my thoughts out of it.

We all walked over to where Luke was standing next to the deep end. “Okay, as many of you as can comfortable fit, go ahead and get in the pool. When I blow my whistle, simply swim to the other side and back.”

I ended up in the second of three waves of people to take the test, along with Hannah, Sarah, and Jace. The pool was twelve feet deep at its deepest point, and then sloped to nine directly underneath the one meter board and up to the shallow end on the other side. The pool was huge, at least for a camp.

When our turn came up, Jace and I slid in the pool next to each other and waited for Luke to blow his whistle. The cool water felt amazing in comparison to the heat of the day. Luke signaled for us to go, and we took off. I completed the test with ease, as did Jace. After we climbed out of the pool, a tan girl with long blonde hair asked what house we were in and tied green plastic bracelets around our wrists.

“If these get lost or break, just come to the lifeguard station and let us know, we have plenty of extras,” she told us as she tied them.

“Okay, thanks!” I told her, and we walked off.

Five or ten minutes later, everyone that wanted to take the swim test was finished. Jace and I had been lounging in the shallow end, along with the other six. They had all taken the test too, but only Sarah and Hannah had been in our group. Jennifer and Matt were in the first wave, and Oliver and Chris were in the third.

“Ready to show us what you’ve got?” Jace asked.

Hannah looked at me, confused. “What?”

“He wants me to get more comfortable diving head first, so he told me to go off the high dive to quote unquote ‘see what he’s got to work with,’” I explained.

“Well, what are you waiting for? I want to see you jump too!” Sarah said, excited.

“Fine, I’m going, I’m going,” I grumbled, and got up to go to the three meter board. The rest of them swam to the edge of the shallow end to watch.

There was no one at the high dive when I got there, so I climbed up. I had taken a quite a few diving classes in the past several years, had even been on a team at one point, so I had some pretty sweet dives, although I still preferred to go feet first. I had seen some nasty injuries from ‘real’ dives, both on TV and in real life. That didn’t help my situation any. Don’t think, just do, I told myself.

I decided on a double front somersault, entering the water feet first. I walked out to the edge of the board, took a deep breath, and jumped. Quickly pulling myself into a tuck, I somersaulted twice in the air and entered the water perfectly, straight as a board.

All of my friends were clapping as I emerged, wiping my face free of water. I swam over and ducked under the rope separating the deep and shallow ends. Jace, Hannah, and Sarah all high fived me when I reached them.

“That was awesome, Clara!” Jace exclaimed.

“It really was. I wish I could dive like that,” Sarah agreed.

I blushed. “Thanks guys.”

“After that dive, I may have to rethink my teaching methods. We’ll start practice tomorrow,” Jace said.

“What if we’re at the lake tomorrow?” I asked. Please, please, please let us be at the lake tomorrow!

“Then next time we’re at the pool.” Jace amended. I really, really hoped we weren’t at the pool tomorrow. Or for a long while, however long it took Jace to forget about this whole thing.

“Have you ever thought about being a coach? Cause you sound just like one,” Jennifer commented.

“That’s what I said!” I exclaimed.

“I’ve thought about it. I would like to work with kids, though. Teaching, coaching, something like that,” Jace replied.

We spent the rest of swim time going of the diving boards and goofing off. Plans were made to meet up at the mess hall at three thirty to see what activities were being offered before figuring out what to do during free time.

I was standing in the water chatting with Hannah about that night’s activities when all of a sudden I was lifted into the air and onto somebody’s shoulders.

“Jace! Put me down!” I exclaimed, flicking him on the head.

He laughed. “As you wish,” he said, and promptly dumped me backwards into the water.

I pushed back up to the surface, sputtering and rubbing water out of my eyes. “I’m gonna get you, Hayes!”

“Ooh, the last name threat, I’m so scared,” Jace said.

I glared at him, about to make a retort when I was cut off by Luke’s whistle. I switched my glare over to him.

“Okay guys, swim time’s over. Make sure you get all your stuff and then you have free time until five o’clock,” Luke said into a megaphone.

The eight of us climbed out of the pool, retrieved our stuff from the cubbies, and toweled off. I pulled by clothes back on and slipped my feet into my flip flops.

“You didn’t get a chance to exact your revenge,” Jace told me as we left the pool.

“Oh, I’ll get my chance. When you least expect it…expect it,” I replied.

“That doesn’t work.”

“What doesn’t work?”

“Expecting the unexpected. Then the unexpected is expected, and nothing is unexpected, because everything is expected,” he explained. Or at least, tried to.

“You just used the word expected way to many times in that sentence.”

“Actually, it was two sentences.”

“You’re impossible,” I said, exasperated.

“But you love me for it,” he teased with a wink.

I shoved him lightly. “Whatever, you wish. I’ll see you during free time, okay?” We had reached cabin two, and Hannah and the rest of them were waiting for me a few steps ahead.

“Yeah sure,” he said, grinning, and headed through his cabin door.

I jogged to catch up with the girls.

“You guys are too cute!” Sarah exclaimed when I caught up.

“Oh no. You two did not get her into this too,” I glared at Hannah and Jennifer.

“Oh yes, they did. And I’ll have you know I agree with them wholeheartedly. Y’all so like each other!” Replied Sarah.

“We do not! We’re just good friends,” I said.

“You know what they say; all the best relationships start out as friendships,” Hannah cut in.

“Mm hmm. You need to start taking your own advice,” I replied.

“What are you talking about?” Hannah asked, faking confusion.

“Oh, I think you know what I’m talking about,” I looked at her, and her face instantly started turning red.

“Looks like somebody has a crush!” Jennifer said excitedly.

“Ooh, who is it?!” Sarah asked.

“Seriously guys, you don’t see it?” I asked. I didn’t see how the whole camp didn’t see it.

“Guys! Not here! We’ll talk about it later,” Hannah said, her face as red as a tomato.

“I’ll hold you to that you know,” I told her. If she was going to tease me about Jace, I fully planned on dishing it back about Matt.

“Believe me, I know,” she replied.
*****

Twenty minutes later, we had all changed back into our normal clothes. I had rinsed my hair in the sink so it wouldn’t dry out so bad, brushed it, and left it down.

“Do you guys know what the activity is for tonight?” I asked as we headed towards the mess hall.

“Photo riddle scavenger hunt. It always is on the night of the first full day of camp. They give us riddles hinting at different places all over camp and we have to figure them out and take pictures with them. It’s super fun, and it earns house points,” Jennifer explained.

“Awesome, sounds like fun!” I said. Sarah nodded her agreement.

The guys were already there, waiting for us when we reached the mess hall. They stood around the message board, reading the list of activities posted there. When we got there they turned to greet us.

“Looks like there’s soccer on the field, a group going horseback riding at four, and the archery range is open,” Chris told us.

“Eh, nothing really catches my attention. What do you think guys?” Hannah asked.
“Wanna go see if there’s a couple decks of cards? We can teach these guys how to play ERS,” I suggested as the rest of the group nodded.

“ERS?” asked Jace.

“Egyptian Rat Slap. Or Egyptian Rat Screw, I’ve heard it both ways. I think you’ll like it,” I explained.

“Oh, I’ve played that before!” said Oliver.

The rest of the group shrugged, and we headed up the stairs to the lounge on the third floor. Several campers were already up there, sitting in groups around the lounge and in one of the multipurpose rooms that lead off the main area. The sounds of a piano and a guitar were coming out of two other rooms, people practicing their instruments. I dug two decks of cards out of the bin of board games and strode over to where the others had pulled chairs up around a square table.

“Anybody good at shuffling? Cause I’m not,” I said.

“Oh, I am!” Jace exclaimed and proceeded to stand up and shuffle, as per the LMFAO song.

I rolled my eyes. “Anybody know how to shuffle cards?”

“I do,” Sarah said, taking the cards from my hands.

“So, I’m assuming you three don’t know how to play?” I asked, gesturing to Chris, Matt, and Jace, who had finally stopped shuffling and sat back in his seat. All three of them nodded. “Okay. So how it works is I’ll deal all the cards to everybody, and play will start to the left of me. Everyone puts down one card as their turn comes around. You’re looking for someone to put down two of the same card on top of each other, or what’s called a sandwich, such as a seven, three, and seven. When that happens, you want to slap it, and you get all the cards in the pile. If you slap the pile and it’s not one of those, you have to burn a card, meaning put one on the bottom of the pile. The goal is to get all the cards. If someone puts down a face card, like a jack or an ace, you put down as many cards as it is away from ten and hope to get another face card. So if someone puts down a queen, that’s two away from ten, so you have to put down two cards. Jacks are one, kings three, and aces four. Got it?”

They still looked kind of confused, but nodded anyways. Sarah had finished shuffling the cards and handed them back to me. I took them and dealt them out to everyone sitting around the table. When I was done, I took one of my cards and flipped it out to start the game.

Ten minutes later, Matt and Sarah were both already out, Matt after one too many bad slaps.

Fifteen more minutes passed and it was down to me, Chris, and Jace. Jennifer and Hannah had both gotten out but slapped back in, only to get out once more. I had the most cards in my hand, slightly more than Jace did. On my next turn, I ended up putting down an ace, causing Chris to go out.

Five more minutes, and I had beaten Jace.

“Good game. You sure you’ve never played this before?” I asked as I began to separate the decks back into two. We had voted not to play again, instead to go sit out on the dock of the lake.

“Pretty sure. Beginner’s luck, I guess,” he replied, shrugging and giving me a boyish grin.

I chuckled and finished sorting the cards out, shoved them in their respective boxes, and put them back in the bin.

“Alright guys, let’s go,” I said as I rejoined them at the door to the stairwell.

The dock was fairly empty when we reached it. A few campers sat along the edges, and a few others along the beach, but the end was clear. We all sat down in a circle - well, more like an amoeba type shape. I checked my watch and saw that it was four ten, so we had almost an hour until dinner.

“So, how bout them Mets?” Chris asked after a couple of minutes of silence.

“I don’t follow baseball,” Jennifer told him.

“No, it’s not a legit question, it’s just something you’re supposed to say when it gets really quiet,” Chris explained.

“I always heard it ‘how bout them Red Sox,’” I said.

“Yeah that’s what I’ve heard. Not the Mets,” Hannah agreed.

“I’ve heard Red Sox too,” said Jace. Matt and Oliver nodded their agreement.

“Think you’re on your own on this one, buddy,” I told Chris.

He shrugged. “Whatever. You all are weird,”

Hannah and I snickered. “Where are you from Chris?” I asked.

“Southern Virginia, right on the border. Why?” Chris replied.

“The way you talk. You said ‘you all’ instead of ‘y’all,’” Jennifer said.

“No wonder you think it’s the Mets. Northerner,” commented Sarah, faking contempt.

“I’ll have you know that Virginia fought with the Confederacy in the Civil War,” Chris said, trying to defend himself. It wasn’t working.

“I’ll have you know this is 2013, not 1865,” replied Jennifer.

“Whatever. The North won anyways,” answered Chris. “Am I the only one from ‘up North’ here?”

“Let’s see, me, Hannah, Jace, Jennifer, and Matt are all from Tennessee. Sarah and Oliver are from North Carolina. So yep, it’s just you,” I concluded.

Chris made a face. “All you Southerners and your Southern pride.”

“Hey, don’t be hating on the Southerners,” Jennifer warned.

Chris lifted his hands in surrender. “Okay, okay, calm down.”

I laughed. I was beginning to be really thankful towards my mom for sending me here. Correction: I already was grateful. I could already tell it was gonna suck leaving. At least most of us lived in east Tennessee, so we weren’t too far from each other.

“There’s a lot of east Tennesseans here, have you noticed that?” Jace said after a moment.

“Yeah, probably because we’re just over the state line. It’s not that far of a drive, and there’s not many camps like this out there,” I replied.

“Oh…yeah…you got a point there…” he said, looking embarrassed.

I chuckled and looked at my watch again.

“Guys, it’s four forty five, do you want to start heading to the mess hall?” I asked.

“Yeah, sure,” several of them responded at the same time.

“Jinx!” Hannah and Sarah yelled.

As we walked, we talked about the upcoming photo scavenger hunt during that night’s camp activities.

“I wonder if they’ll do it by cabins this year?” Hannah wondered. “Last year they tried doing it by houses, and that didn’t turn out so well,” she explained to me.

“Yeah, one house ended up accidentally breaking a window in one of the music practice rooms. Lisa was not happy,” Jace said.

“The year before they did it by cabin and it worked out fine. I don’t know why they changed it,” Oliver added. Out of our group, he was the only third year. It seemed like most kids went one or two years before not coming back. I, for one, planned on coming back, a fact which surprised me, considering my attitude before I got here.

“I’m surprised they’re doing it at all, if somebody broke a window,” said Matt.

“Yeah, well, it’s tradition, and nobody wants to mess with tradition,” Jace replied.

“If you do, the ghost might get you,” said Oliver.

“What ghost?” Sarah asked. Great. I hated ghost stories, they always terrified me.

“You’ll find out at one of the bonfires. There should be one coming up in the next few days,” Oliver answered.

“Probably tomorrow or Wednesday. I think it was Wednesday last year,” Hannah said. “It was also absolutely terrifying. At least, it is if you’re afraid of ghost stories, like me.”

Well, at least I was sleeping in a cabin full of girls and not by myself. And I had a bunk in the back corner, so hopefully if something came in the cabin, Hannah and I would be the last to go.

The mess hall was open when we got there, and a few other campers were already in there getting food. We had walked slowly, so it was about five until five. It looked like dinner tonight was hamburgers, hot dogs, fries, the ever present salad, and cookies for dessert. Since I knew what was in hot dogs and they didn’t exactly appeal to me much, I grabbed a hamburger, with some cheese, pickles, and a packet of ketchup. I also got some fries and a sugar cookie.

Our group ended up sitting at the same table we’d sat at during lunch. Conversation drifted between tonight’s activities and the activities we wanted for the next two weeks.

“I really hope I get photography, but horseback riding would be cool too,” I said, dipping a few fries in ketchup.

“That’s what I want too!” Hannah exclaimed, and high fived me.

“Girls,” Jace said. “I want sports or martial arts,”

“Shut up! Y’all aren’t exactly perfectly normal either,” Hannah said.

What ensued was a battle of the sexes that lasted through the rest of dinner, and I suspected it would last over the next few days, if not weeks. One thing I had discovered about Hannah, she could be very stubborn when she set her mind to something. It ended up mainly being between her and Matt, apparently the two hot heads of the group.

“At least our cabins don’t look like pig stys,” Hannah said.

“And how would you know that?” Matt replied, crossing his arms.

“I have a brother, and his room constantly looks like a tornado went through it,” Hannah retorted.

“Is this my fault?” Jace whispered in my ear.

“Yes, it is,” I replied. “If you hadn’t acted like we were so strange, she wouldn’t have gotten on this.”

“Sorry. Remind me to never get on Hannah’s bad side. I see what you mean about overbearingness,” he said.

“At least you don’t have to live with her.”

“I heard that!” Hannah exclaimed, and went back to arguing with Matt. She so liked him.

Thankfully, Alyssa set off the alarm on her megaphone to get our attention, successfully cutting off Hannah and Matt.

“Alright campers. It’s almost time for the photo scavenger hunt, so I need you all to head back to your cabins. You have free time until six forty five to get changed and get whatever you need for the hunt. Your counselors will be waiting for you at your cabin with the clues. We’ll make an announcement on the PA system when it’s time to begin!” Alyssa yelled into the megaphone.

The worst thing about our table choice was that it was on the opposite side of the hall from the doors, so we were in the back of the sea of people heading for the tray drop off and doors.

“We’ll see you guys later, yeah?” Jace asked as we headed towards our cabins on either side of the mess hall.

“See ya!” I called back, waving a hand in their direction.

“Hope you don’t have to do a lot of changing, cause I have some questions for you,” I told Hannah as we walked.

“As do I. I think I figured out what you were talking about earlier, Clara,” Jennifer added. ‘Matt?’ She mouthed, eyebrows raised. I nodded, smirking. Jennifer had a mini fangirl moment, but collected herself before Hannah could notice. The girl in question looked as both uncertainly, face as red as Luke’s swimming trunks.

“Hey, if you can’t handle it being dished back, don’t dish it out in the first place,” I told her.

“Still…am I that obvious?” Hannah asked.

“I don’t know. Maybe Jennifer and I are just extra perceptive,” I said.

“Nah, I think she’s just obvious,” Jennifer disagreed.

“Hey, be nice. It’s more obvious sometimes than others,” I allowed, trying to make her feel better.

“Shoot,” was all she said as we entered the cabin.

“You have five minutes,” I told her as I walked into the bathroom to see how my hair had dried. It actually didn’t look too bad, but I pulled it half up to keep it out of my eyes during the scavenger hunt. I sprayed it with some hairspray to keep it in place and walked back out to the main room and over to Jennifer’s bunk where her and Hannah were waiting. Hannah sat with her hands folded in her lap, looking like she was waiting for test results at the doctor’s office.

“Don’t be so nervous, we’re not gonna be that harsh,” I said, trying to reassure her. “At least I haven’t made any comments in public…yet.”

We waited a couple of minutes for Sarah to come running out of the bathroom before we began.

“So…” Jennifer started.

“You and Matt were looking awfully…close today,” I hinted not so subtly.

Hannah’s face turned bright red. Again. “Fine, you caught me.”

“Seriously? That easy? Wow,” I said. Then, “Aww, you guys would be so cute!”

“Y’all really would,” Sarah agreed.

“Now that y’all know, can we stop talking about this?” Hannah pleaded.

“Fine. But don’t expect us not to talk about it later,” I said, winking.

The four of us laughed and settled in various positions on Jennifer’s bed.

“Wait a second. Why are we all on my bed?” Jennifer asked.

I shrugged. “I don’t know. I walked out and here you were.”

We sat and laid there talking aimlessly about nothing really until six forty five rolled around. Then we all dragged ourselves off of Jennifer’s bed and went outside to meet Dani.

“Okay girls, the way this works is I have a sheet of paper with a list of riddles that point us to different places around camp. We have to figure them out and take pictures in those places. The first girls’ and guys’ cabin to finish both get ten house points, as will the two teams with the most correct pictures. Also, any house that gets the bonus riddles right gets a point per bonus riddle, up to four points. Any questions?” Dani explained. “No? Alright, now we wait for the announcement from Alyssa.”

Luckily, we didn’t have to wait long. About ten minutes later, Alyssa came over the PA system and told us we could now begin the hunt. Dani looked down at the papers in her hands. She took one of them, folded it, and put it in her back pocket. Her cheeks were tinted pink. There’s those papers again. What’s on those, love notes? I thought. Oh my word. I bet it is! I couldn’t wait to tell the other three about this tonight.

“First riddle: Who lives in a ______ under the sea? Find me,” Dani read from the paper left in her hand.

“Oh, that’s easy. Pineapple, which would be the kitchen, right?” Emmaline said.

“Or the staff office,” I countered, remembering the pineapple sitting on Lisa’s desk. Why it was there, I had no idea.

“Clara has a good point. We’ll take pictures at both, just in case,” Dani said. Emmaline shot me a dirty look. I pretended to yawn to hide my snickering. A questioning look from Hannah told me I wasn’t doing a very good job. I shook my head, signaling that I would explain later. We headed for the kitchen first, since we would reach it before the office. We snapped pictures at both locations before going on to the next clue.

“Katniss Everdeen would be likely to frequent this place,” said Dani as we stood outside the staff building.

“The archery range,” Hannah and I blurted out at the same time.

“Jinx, you owe me coke,” we said, again at the same time.

“Slap jack you owe me a twenty four pack,” again, at the same time. We erupted into giggles and the rest of the cabin just stared at us in amazement.

“While you girls figure all that out, on to the archery range!” Said Dani.

We went with them, falling to the back as we finally managed to quit laughing.

“You two sure you’ve never met before? You’d think you would have been friends for years instead of days – or rather, one day,” Jennifer commented.

“Yup. Never seen this girl in my life. I probably would have run screaming if I had,” I replied jokingly, whispering the last part just loud enough for Hannah to hear.

“Hey, I heard that!” She exclaimed.

“You were meant too!” I sang. “You know I’m kidding right?”

“Yeah I know. I’m just gorgeous, aren’t I?” Hannah said as she flipped her hair over her shoulder.

“I’ll settle this: you’re both beautiful, and you’re both certifiable,” Sarah said.

“Aww, thanks. Hey, wait a second!” said Hannah.

“I think the blonde’s showing,” Jennifer mock whispered to Sarah.

“I think so too,” Sarah agreed.

“I can hear you, you know!” Hannah exclaimed, faking hurt.

“Oh, we know,” Jennifer said.

We had fallen a little behind the group, so we hurried to catch up to them and made it just in time to pose for the archery picture. The rest of the night went much in this fashion, the four of us would get lost in conversation, fall behind, rush to catch up, pose, and move on.

Finally we were down to the last riddle, which was a bonus one. We were pretty confident we had gotten the first three right, along with most of the regular clues. No cabins had been seen going to the checkpoint in the middle of the field, where Alyssa was waiting to receive the teams that finished.

“Last riddle! This one says: We gotta put our hands up, like the ceiling can’t hold us,” Dani read.

“Isn’t that from a Macklemore song?” Sarah asked.

“Yeah I think so. If the ceiling can’t hold us, wouldn’t that be the roof?” I replied.

“Sounds right, but what roof?” asked Rose.

“Well, where are the dances held?” I asked.

“One’s in the field, but most of them are in the gym, above the mess hall,” answered Irene.

“So it’s probably the roof of the mess hall,” I concluded. “Is there a way to get there?”

“Yeah, there’s a door at the top of the stairwell that leads to the roof,” Shelby replied. I wondered how exactly she had discovered that.

Hannah’s look towards me told me that she was wondering the exact same thing. “Alright, let’s go then.”

After a long hike up four flights up stairs, we reached the roof and quickly took a picture. “Come on girls let’s go! I don’t think anyone’s finished yet!” Dani said excitedly.

We took off down the stairs and towards Alyssa’s station in the middle of the field. As we were approaching it, we saw cabin eight also heading towards it. We beat them with seconds to spare.

“Congratulations cabin seven! You’re the first cabin to complete the scavenger hunt! Results will be posted on the board at breakfast!” Alyssa told us with a smile. Cabin eight groaned in disappointment. We smiled at them as they passed us to turn in their camera.

“Okay girls, you have free time until cabin meetings at ten fifteen,” Dani told us when we reached the cabin. Since we had finished early, we had a little more free time than most nights. “Yes Shelby?”

“Are we allowed to be out of the cabin during this free time?” She asked. Carlie and Emmaline giggled behind her back.

“No, I don’t think so,” Dani replied.

Shelby made a face and nodded.

I grabbed my shower stuff from my drawers and headed to the showers. The only bad thing about getting a shower first, was the lack of a lot of hot water. But at least I got it over and done with.

Twenty minutes later, I had showered, brushed my hair and teeth, and switched from my glasses to my contacts. My hair was braided, and I had made sure to secure it this time.

“Guys, come over here,” I motioned Hannah, Sarah, and Jennifer over to my bed. They were all showered and good to go, too.

“What? Have you finally come to realize your eternal love for Jace?” Hannah asked as she was climbing down the ladder.

“Dude, no. It doesn’t have to do with me,” I said, glancing around the cabin to make sure no one had heard Hannah’s comment.

“If this is about the papers that Dani always has, I’ve noticed it too,” said Sarah.

“Bingo. Have either of y’all seen those? Seems like every time I look at her she has one in her hand. And when she gets caught with one, her face gets as red as a tomato,” I turned towards Hannah and Jennifer.

“I saw them, but I didn’t think anything of them,” Hannah told me. “I figured they were just stuff about activities or something.”

“If they were about activities, why would she be embarrassed to be seen with them?” Jennifer asked.

“My point exactly. I think they’re love letters,” I said, leaning back on my pillow.

“That’s what I was thinking. But who could they be from?” Sarah agreed.

“What about Hank?” asked Jennifer. Hank was the sweet but very awkward counselor of cabin one.

“I don’t think so. I was thinking Charlie. Did you see how excited she was to see him the night of Bring Me?” I said.

“I agree. They would have to spend a lot of time together too, since they’re the two counselors of our house,” Sarah said.

“But how would they already have a thing? It’s only the second day of camp,” said Hannah.

“Training? They don’t just walk into the camp and become a counselor. They have to be trained first, so they probably met there,” Jennifer replied.

“How does she get the letters though? They’re not together that often. When Dani’s not with us, she’s usually at an activity or something,” Hannah asked.

“Maybe they have a secret place where they leave the notes for each other,” I said. “I think people did that in a book I read once.”

“Aww, that’s so romantic!” Sarah exclaimed.

I grinned. “I know right! We have to figure out if we’re right.”

“How though? We have activities and stuff, and we don’t want Dani to find out we’re stalking her,” Jennifer said.

“We’re not stalking, we’re just…investigating,” Hannah replied.

“Right, okay,” said Sarah.

“I mean, it’s not like we’re being creepy or anything, we’re just trying to find out information. Stalking implies creepiness,” I explained.

Sarah cracked a smile. “Okay, whatever you say.”

“You’re a poet and you didn’t know it,” Jennifer told her.

We laughed and chattered on about Dani’s love life and what the word stalking entails, careful to avoid Dani overhear us talking about her. I was just glad we weren’t talking about me for once.

Eventually ten fifteen rolled around, and we got up to join the rest of the girls at Dani’s bed.

“Okay girls, I have your activity assignments for you. You’ll start these tomorrow during the time you did kayaking or whatever this morning. So, Shelby: you have dance. Carlie and Emmaline, you have crafts. Hannah and Clara, you have photography. Jennifer and Sarah, you two have newspaper. Beth, Kate, and Rose, you all have horseback riding. Traci and Irene, you have archery. Everybody know what they have?”

Sarah raised her hand, and Dani nodded at her. “Where do we go for newspaper?”

“It’s in one of the rooms on the third floor of the mess hall. There’ll be signs posted outside those rooms,” Dani replied. “Anybody else need to know where anything is?”

Hannah glanced at me and I shook my head. There were old fashioned signs all over camp pointing to different locations, and I had seen the sign for the photography building during the scavenger hunt that evening. Everyone else apparently knew where their activities were, because no one else spoke up.

“Cool. Let’s see, I forgot to tell you where we were swimming today, but it is posted on the board. Tomorrow we’ll be at the lake, and before you ask, there are some fish, but no snakes or anything that’s going to bite you or try to eat you. Tomorrow night’s activity is an ice cream social on the field so you can get to know some of the campers outside of your cabin and activity. There won’t be dessert at dinner, since there’ll be ice cream at the social,” said Dani.

Thank goodness we’re at the lake tomorrow, I thought. I’m not excited for Jace’s whole coaching stint he’s trying to pull on me.

“What kinds of ice cream are gonna be offered?” Traci asked.

“It’s like a make-your-own sundae type thing, so I think there’s going to be chocolate and vanilla, with a bunch of toppings and stuff to put on it. Sound good?”

Traci nodded her head.

“I think that’s all I have for tonight, so y’all are free to go to bed or read or whatever. Sleep well girls, good night!” Dani finished.

“Good night!” We chorused back, and headed towards our individual beds.

“So, you excited to find out what activity Jace got?” Hannah asked me as we walked back to our bunk.

“I guess,” I replied, shrugging.

Her shoulders slumped. I guess she hoped to get something else out of me.

“I know you want to know what Matt got,” I told her, wiggling my eyebrows and nudging her in the side.

“Shut up,” she said as she smiled.

“Good night, see you in the morning,” I said as I crawled under my covers and Dani turned out the lights.

“Night,” she answered through a yawn.

Day 3 – Tuesday

The next morning dawned bright and clear. I hoped most days would be like this, sunny with little or no rain, but knowing the unpredictable weather in this part of the country, I highly doubted it. I got ready fairly quickly, throwing on dark jean shorts, a plain light green fitted t-shirt over a black cami, and, as usual, my gray Chucks. I braided my hair back Katniss style and pulled the braid over my right shoulder.

“Hey, you about ready?” I asked Hannah as I rubbed in my sunscreen.

“Yeah, just give me a couple minutes,” she replied from her bed above me. Dani had told us we could leave anytime after seven forty, and that breakfast would be ready between seven forty five and seven fifty.

Hannah climbed down a few minutes later, blonde hair in a ponytail and wearing black shorts with a teal tank top over a white cami.

“Okay, I’m ready,” she said when her feet were flat on the floor.

Jennifer and Sarah joined us as we left. They had both been ready for a while, seeing as they were both very early risers. I guess it was good they shared a bunk.

Breakfast was good as usual. The rest of the day passed quickly. Photography was really fun, and the instructor was hilarious. We had started with disposable cameras today, because, the teacher said, ‘if you can take a good picture with a disposable, you can take a good picture with any camera,’ which was probably true. A couple of my prints had turned out well, but some of them had turned out really bad as well. Disposable cameras weren’t exactly my forte. Swimming had gone great also; it was hot out again today, and while the lake wasn’t as cool as the pool, the water was definitely a good reprieve from the sun. The real fun of the day came during the first free time of the day.

Dani had disappeared during R&R to who knows where, saying simply ‘I’ll be back later.’ I immediately looked over at Sarah and Jennifer’s bunk, catching their eyes and raising an eyebrow. By Jennifer’s glance at the girl on the bunk above me, I knew Hannah had caught it too. We had all convened on Jennifer’s bed and considered sneaking out after her, but decided it was too risky. Dani ended up rushing back into the cabin around one fifteen, trying not to look like she had run back from wherever she was.

So this afternoon, we told the guys we had business to take care of and that we would see them at dinner. We noticed Dani walking off in the direction of the lake carrying a folded sheet of paper in hand. Keeping a good distance behind her, we acted like we were just going for a walk, chatting about the ice cream social that night.

“So, do we need to dress up for this thing?” I asked while keeping a close eye on Dani. It was a legitimate question, although I seriously hoped we didn’t.

“Nah, it’s not a formal thing. What you’re wearing will be fine. I mean, some girls do,” Jennifer said. “But most of us don’t.”

We took a slight right and walked quickly towards the soccer field. Luckily, a group of guys had started a pick-up game of soccer, so we had a reason to be over there. Sarah and I ended up facing the dock, where it had become obvious that that was Dani’s destination. The two of us pretended to be deeply involved in the nonexistent conversation, all the while telling Jennifer and Hannah what was happening.

“I was right. There’s a…no way!” I exclaimed.

“Shhh, what?!” Hannah asked excitedly.

“There’s a piece of the wood on the leg of the dock that comes out. She put the piece of paper in there, and now she’s leaving. Quick, start talking she’s looking over here!” I narrated.

“Think she suspects we followed her?” asked Jennifer when I signaled she had turned back around to leave.


“I don’t think so, she didn’t look suspicious,” I replied.

“Wonder if they carved that piece out or if it was already there,” Sarah mused.

“I bet it was already there. It would have to be lined with something so the paper wouldn’t get wet if the lake flooded. Maybe counselors in love have used it in years past,” I said.

“Aww, that’s so cute! Forbidden love,” Hannah sighed.

“That’s what I don’t get though. Why is it forbidden? I don’t see a problem with counselors dating. Why do they feel the need to hide it?” asked Jennifer.

“I was just thinking that. Maybe it’s because they’re in the same house, and if they dated and broke up it could be messy,” I answered.

“Well, I mean, they’re still together, if it really is Charlie. We haven’t confirmed if it is him or not,” said Hannah.

“Uh, guys, I think we’re about to find out if it’s Charlie or not,” I coughed. Charlie looked to be heading straight for the dock.

Jennifer and Hannah started to turn. “Don’t turn around!” I told them, lightly smacking their arms.

“Hey!” They exclaimed. I sent them a look and they quickly made up some superficial conversation so that Sarah and I could watch Charlie. Sure enough, Charlie went up to the dock, pulled out the square of wood, and retrieved the paper from inside. He pocketed it and left after looking around to make sure no one saw. Or so he thought. I quickly refocused my eyes to Hannah’s face and gave a slight nod. She began to fan girl before I shook my head, signaling that Charlie wasn’t out of sight range. When he had passed cabin one and could no longer see us, I let out a breath.

“Guys, it’s him!” Sarah squealed.

“Hold on, we still don’t know if they’re love notes or not. Somehow we have to get our hands on one of them without Dani finding out we have it,” Jennifer stated.

“Naw, we were gonna outright ask her for it. Duh she can’t find out we have it!” I said sarcastically.

Jennifer gave me a look before she started to laugh.
“For real though, guys, this is gonna kill me if I don’t find out. I don’t know about you three, but I’m a sucker for a good love story,” said Hannah.
“Trust me, we’ve noticed,” I deadpanned. I looked at my watch. “It’s about four, so you guys wanna stick around and see the rest of this soccer game?”
They shrugged. “Sure,” said Jennifer.
We climbed up onto the metal bleachers on the side of the field. The boys had dug up some pinnies from the storage shed, and it looked like it was red versus blue. There was no scoreboard, so we had no idea what the score was. There also didn’t seem to be positions, lines, or any sort of order going on here.
“I wonder if any of these boys have ever actually played soccer before,” Hannah commented.
“Somehow, I doubt it, by the looks of this game. A couple of them, maybe,” I replied. I noticed our four counterparts on the field. Jace and Matt were playing for the blue team, and Oliver and Chris were playing for the red.
The game lasted another half hour or so before they realized it was almost time to eat. Somebody volunteered to take the pinnies and ball back to the shed. All the other guys tossed their pinnies to him and walked off the field. Poor guy, those things must stink! I thought.
The four of us scrambled down the bleachers and headed towards the mess hall in front of the pack of boys.
“Hey ladies,” Matt said as he, Jace, Oliver, and Chris caught up to us.
“Boys,” we greeted.
“So, Clara, how bout a hug?” Jace asked as he walked towards me with his arms open.
“Oh, no, you don’t. You’re covered in sweat, I don’t think so,” I replied, backing away. “Shower, then come talk to me.”
“But I want a hug now,” he said and made an attempt at a puppy dog face.
“That ain’t gonna work on me, dude,” I told him.
He dropped his arms. “Fine. I’ll shower first.”
“Thank you,” I said.
Hannah smirked in my direction and gave me her soon-to-be infamous know-it-all look. This one had a sprinkle of ‘I told you so’ in it too. I rolled my eyes. She wasn’t gonna give this up, unfortunately. For all I know, the guy could have a girlfriend!
Dinner that night was fried chicken, fries, salad – of course, and green beans. Our dessert would be the ice cream at the social later that night. I got some chicken and fries, and picked up some ranch from the salad part of the line for my chicken. My plate was pretty light, so I went ahead and grabbed a glass of Diet Coke on my way to what we had started to consider ‘our table.’ Jace gave me a funny look when I set my tray down.
“Ranch and fried chicken? Really?” He asked.
“Yeah, it’s really good! You’ve never had it before?” I replied.
“No, and I don’t really think I want to,” he answered, keeping the look on his face.
“You know, if you keep that look on your face it’s gonna get stuck like that,” I told him, sticking a piece of chicken dipped in ranch in my mouth.
He immediately rearranged his expression before making another face at me. “Liar, it will not.”
I laughed and shook my head. “Just wanted to see if you’d fall for it.”
He eyed my chicken again. “You know what, I think I will try that,” he said, and reached for my chicken.
I slapped his hand away. “I don’t think so! Use your own chicken, mister.”
He sighed. “Fine, if you insist.” He broke off a piece of his own chicken, dipped it in my ranch, and popped it in his mouth. “Hey, what do you know, that’s pretty good!”
“What did I tell you?” I smirked.
“Okay, you were right,” he conceded.
The rest of dinner passed uneventfully, we spent most of it talking excitedly about the social that night and the first dance coming up that Saturday. Finally Alyssa got up on the staff table and announced that it was time to return to our cabins to prepare for the social.
“See you guys later!” Hannah called as we parted, though her eyes stayed focused on Matt.
They lifted their hands in response and continued towards their cabin.
“Are you going to change before we go?” Jennifer asked.

“Nah, I don’t think so. I think I’ll just let down my hair and maybe put on a little make up,” I replied. “What about you Hannah, Sarah?”
“I don’t think I will either, I’ll probably do the same as Clara,” answered Hannah.
“I’m not doing anything. What you see is what you get,” said Sarah.
We laughed and walked up the steps to cabin seven. True to my word, I pulled my hair down and got my make-up bag out of my bottom drawer. My hair was super curly when I let it down from its braid. I hadn’t pulled it down or redid it after swimming, so it had been that way all day. I swiped on some eyeliner and mascara and rubbed on some BB cream before heading back out to join the other girls, who were already done getting ready.
“So, Hannah, you gonna talk to Matt tonight?” Jennifer asked slyly.
“Well yeah, probably. We’re friends, remember?” Hannah clarified.
“Mm hmm, right,” I said. ”’Just friends.’”
“Oh hush, I could say the same to you,” she retorted.
I quickly shut my mouth before she started in on me.
“Egyptian Rat Slap anybody?” Sarah suggested.
We shrugged and formed a circle on the floor, Sarah pulling out her cards and shuffling them before handing them to me to deal.
Eventually six forty five came around, and Dani called us to the front of the cabin to leave. As Jennifer had implied, a certain trio of girls had changed into some pretty, um, revealing outfits that I assumed were supposed to be dressy. Dani looked them up and down; her eyebrows raised, but she didn’t say anything.
A couple of cabins were already milling around the field with ice cream in their hands when we got there. Our group quickly jumped in line to get some before the rest of the guys’ cabins arrived and ate it all.
I had finished getting my ice cream, which was a short sundae made with vanilla ice cream and topped with Oreos, chocolate sauce, and sprinkles, and was waiting on my friends to get out of line when someone tapped me on my shoulder. I whirled around with my spoon still in my mouth to see a tall, attractive guy standing behind me.
“Hey, I’m Samuel. I don’t think I’ve seen you around here before,” he said.
I shook his offered hand. “Hi, I’m Clara. It’s my first year here, so you probably wouldn’t have.”
This must be the infamous Samuel that was involved with Shelby last year. A quick glance in her direction confirmed my suspicions. She had fixed me with a hard glare, but quickly looked away when I caught her eye.
“So, what cabin are you in?” Samuel asked.
I turned my attention back to him. I had to admit, he was pretty hot. Tall and tan skinned, with dark brown almost black hair that frequently fell into his bright green eyes. However, I had learned to not judge people by their looks. Some of the most beautiful people were also the meanest. “Cabin seven, what about you?”
“Ah, green house. I’m in cabin one, the best cabin by far, I must say,” he replied.
I raised an eyebrow. Yeah, his personality was not giving me a good first impression. “If you say so.”
“I do. We’ve won house cup three years in a row. And, of course, I’m in there, so that just makes it all the more better, wouldn’t you agree?”
I couldn’t tell if he was joking or not, so I settled for a nod and an “Mm.” I looked around and found Hannah and the others standing across the field from me. I shot her a desperate look and she waved me over.
“Hey look, it was nice meeting you, but my friend needs to talk to me. I’ll see you around!” I told him, and tried to keep my pace normal as I walked away.
“Oh my word thank you,” I exhaled when I reached Hannah.
“What’s wrong? Wasn’t that Samuel talking to you?” Jennifer asked.
“Yeah…”
“Girl, he’s like the hottest guy in camp! And you wanted to get away from him?!” exclaimed Jennifer.
“I could feel my IQ dropping just by talking to him, and he seems to think very highly of himself and his cabin,” I told them.
“Now you see why he and Shelby made a good couple,” Hannah commented.
“I hope you ladies aren’t talking about me. I consider myself an intelligent individual and have never dated Shelby,” a voice spoke up from behind me.
I turned to see Jace and his friends coming up to us. “No, Jace we weren’t talking about you. Were those two statements supposed to go hand in hand?”
“Maybe, maybe not,” he allowed, taking a bite of his ice cream. I had nearly forgotten about mine. Glancing down, I realized it thankfully hadn’t melted much, so it was still edible.
“I’m taking that as a yes,” I replied.
“Fine with me,” he said. “So, do I get my hug now?”
I shrugged and set down my ice cream. “I guess so.”
“Awesome,” he replied. I had to stretch up on my toes to reach his neck, but he got his hug. At least he had showered. And boy, did he smell amazing.
Hannah caught my eye when we released me and wiggled her eyebrows. I blushed and immediately pulled my hair in front of my face to hide it. Jace obviously hadn’t seen her look, or if he had, it didn’t bother him.
The rest of the social turned out to be really fun. The staff had set up speakers around the field and blasted a mix of pop and country music through them. They had also brought out corn hole boards. I kicked Hannah, Jace, and Matt’s butts at corn hole. What can I say; it was my family’s favorite game to play on the holidays. You get pretty good after a while.
Everyone was sad to leave when it turned to nine o’clock. I hoped we had more of these during our eight-week stay; they were a lot of fun. After picking up the trash littering the field, we were dismissed to go back to our cabins.
“That was so fun!” Sarah exclaimed on our walk back.
“I know, it was! I hope we have more of those,” I agreed.
“I knew you guys would like them,” said Jennifer. “And don’t worry, we do, at least every other week. But they’re not all ice cream socials, and they’re not always on the field.”
“Then what are they?” I asked.
“You’ll have to find out when they roll around. Don’t give me that look, I’m not going to ruin the surprise!” Hannah replied.
“Did you find out what activity Matt has?” I asked her. I had meant to ask earlier, but it had slipped my mind in the middle of investigating the Dani/Charlie situation.
“Yeah, he’s in sports with Jace. He seemed pretty excited about it,” she answered.
“Jace told me about sports, he does seem pretty into it,” I said.
“Maybe that’s how he gets those six pack abs,” Jennifer jumped in, nudging me in the side and winking.
My cheeks warmed as a blush spread across them. “Shut up you guys!”
“Ooh, she’s blushing!” Hannah exclaimed.
“Dude, I know, I said shut up!” I said, glancing around to see if anybody heard. I didn’t think anybody did, but you never know.
All three of them smiled at me and Hannah gave me her know-it-all look once again. I was starting to think she reserved this look especially for me.
I was getting my bathroom stuff ready back in the cabin when Shelby came over and cornered me against my drawers.
“Look, I don’t know who you think you are, but Samuel’s mine, and you have no right to go after him,” she said, whispering so that Dani wouldn’t over hear her.
I just looked at her, speechless. She thought I wanted Samuel? “Excuse me, but I’m not ‘going after him.’”
“Yeah, you are. I saw you flirting with him at the social tonight.”
“Flirting? Are you kidding me? I was not flirting with him.”
“Just be careful. I’ve got my eye on you,” she said as she strutted away.
I blinked at her retreating figure and shook my head. Well. That was weird. How could she think I was going after Samuel? He’s seriously not my type.
“What was that about?” Hannah asked as she glanced in Shelby’s direction.
“Apparently, she thinks I was flirting with Samuel at the social tonight. She told me she’s ‘got her eye on me,’” I told her using air quotes.
“Seriously? I thought you liked Jace?” Hannah exclaimed.
“Shh! I don’t like anybody okay! Especially not Samuel! But Jace and I are just friends, for the gazillionth time!” I whisper yelled.
“Okay, fine, whatever. You have to admit he’s cute though,” said Hannah.
“I mean, yeah he’s attractive, but that doesn’t mean I like him. Samuel’s attractive too, but he’s one of the last people I would choose to date here,” I replied.
“I don’t think Shelby exactly got that message.”
“What, that I think Jace is attractive or that I wouldn’t date Samuel?”
Hannah gave me an ‘are you serious?’ look and opened her mouth to speak.
“Did I just hear that you think Jace is attractive?” Jennifer asked, jumping over to where Hannah and I were standing.
I groaned and rolled my eyes. “Oh my word, I think he’s cute, but I don’t like him! Good night! You know what; I’m done with this conversation. I’m going to take a shower.” I grabbed my things and headed off to the bathroom.
I just didn’t get why they wouldn’t back off this whole ‘Clara liking Jace’ thing. I didn’t like him like that! At least, I didn’t think I did. I’d liked guys before, I knew what that felt like. I just didn’t see Jace that way; he was my best guy friend at camp. Yes, he’s attractive, but that doesn’t automatically make me like him. You’d have to be blind to not think he was cute! Unless he was your brother or cousin or something, then it’d just be kind of weird.
This time, I actually had hot water in the shower, since I had been held up and not one of the first ones in. I showered quickly anyways, knowing I would have less time to get ready for bed afterwards since I had gotten in late. When I got out, it was nine forty five, so I had just enough time to get ready for bed before the cabin meeting.
I rushed through my nightly routine and made it to the circle just as everyone else was sitting down.
“Alright, hey girls,” Dani said as she walked through the cabin door. I exchanged a glance with Hannah, Jennifer, and Sarah. We knew exactly where she had been. “Sorry I’m late, had some business to take care of. How was everybody’s day?”
We replied with a chorus of ‘goods,’ ‘pretty goods,’ and ‘greats.’
“Awesome. So, I talked with Charlie about our house name and he liked the Space Cadet name a lot. His boys hadn’t really come up with anything show stopping, so our new house name is the Space Cadets or Cadets for short. Thank you Kate for coming up with the name.”
A smattering of applause came up from the group.
“Oh, and Sarah, I checked with Lisa and my original statement was correct, you can go into the stables during free time, you just can’t take the horses out. Tomorrow night is the bonfire, which I think you’ll all enjoy, and…looks like that’s it! Good night, girls,” Dani finished.
“Night, Dani!” We called back.
“Hey guys, come with me for a second,” I said, motioning them over to my bed. I pulled the note out from underneath my pillow, where I had stuck it earlier. “Check this out.”
“Where did you get this?!” Hannah exclaimed quietly when she finished reading.
“I saw where Dani was keeping her notes, so as we were leaving for the dance, I may or may not have grabbed one from her bag. Don’t worry, I made sure it was an older one so she wouldn’t notice it,” I replied.
“Oh my word this is so sweet! I knew there was something going on between her and Charlie!” Jennifer said happily.
“I know right? Now we just have to figure out how to get it back in her bag before she notices,” Sarah remarked.
“Yeah, well, we’ll figure that out later. Ugh, I just can’t get over how cute this is!” I said.
“I know! You’ll get to hear the ghost story tomorrow night. You’ll probably either be terrified or completely unbothered. Most people are terrified, including myself,” Hannah said, changing the subject rather quickly. I looked up to see Dani sitting back on her bed, and I understood why.
“It’s true. I almost peed myself, and I don’t scare easily at all,” Jennifer added.
Great. I had a feeling tomorrow night would not be a fun one.

Letter Home
Dear Mom,
As much as I hate to admit it, I’m really enjoying camp. Thank you so much for sending me here! Before you ask, no, that’s not sarcastic. I really do like it here. I’ve met some amazing people, and the staff are all great.
We had an ice cream social last night, and it was awesome! I beat my friends at corn hole easily. Guess all that practice finally paid off!
I have photography for my activity these first two weeks, and it’s so much fun! I’m really learning a lot, and the instructor is hilarious. I can’t wait to try out these techniques when I get home. Ugh, coming home, I don’t even want to think about it. I love you and all, but this place is amazing.
I gotta go, my friend Hannah needs to talk to me and it’s almost time to go swim. Don’t miss me too much!
Love,
Clara

Day 4 – Wednesday
The next day, we were back at the pool for swim time. Jace was determined to become my new diving coach. We had already stored our stuff in the cubbies and were walking towards the deep end when Jace stopped and turned towards me.
“Alright. I’m sure you already know this, but one of the first things you need to know is how to react if a dive goes wrong. So…” he trailed off. A mischievous glint appeared in his eye, and I wasn’t sure I liked it.
The next thing I knew, I was flying backwards into the pool. I narrowly avoided landing on top of another girl, who gave me a glare when I struggled back up to the surface. I shook my head to clear my face of some of the water and sent Jace a death look.
“You jerk!” I yelled.
“Hey, experience is the best way to learn. Think of it as hands-on learning,” he replied, shrugging. Hannah and Jennifer stood behind him laughing. I sent them a glare as well as I hauled myself out of the pool.
“Well, you could have given me a little warning first,” I grumbled.
“Naw, that would have lessened the learning experience. Come on, Clara. Forgive me?”
I sighed. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay mad at this guy. “Fine, I forgive you. This time.”
“Yay!” He exclaimed before wrapping his arms around me in a bear hug.
I laughed and attempted to pry his arms off me, to no avail. The guy had a death grip on me.
“Dude, I can’t dive with you hanging on me like this,” I said.
“Sure you can,” he replied.
“Uh, how?” I asked. I had a feeling I didn’t want to know.
“Like this!” Jace exclaimed, and pitched us both into the pool.
“Seriously?! Again?!” I exclaimed.
Jace just laughed. I scooped up some water and flung it in his direction. He splashed it back at me, and a water fight began. Eventually I turned and threw some at Hannah and Jennifer, who were lounging on the side of the pool watching our whole exchange. They shrieked, but jumped into the pool and joined in. Eventually Luke looked away from the blonde female lifeguard for long enough to notice the fight, and yelled at us to take it down a couple notches.
We just looked at each other and laughed. “Sorry!” Hannah yelled in his direction. He didn’t even look over; he was too involved in the girl.
“Let’s hope no one drowns, cause if they do, they might be out of luck,” Jace commented, motioning towards Luke and his girl.
“For real. Isn’t there supposed to be three lifeguards?” I asked as I glanced around the pool.
“Yeah, I think so,” Jennifer agreed.
“There she is,” replied Hannah, pointing to where the third guard was sitting on the edge of the shallowest part of the pool.
“I don’t see how she can see the whole pool from there, but at least she’s paying attention,” said Jace.
“Hey, where’s everybody else?” I asked. I just noticed we were missing half our group.
“They’re over there, to the right of the lifeguard,” Hannah replied.
Sarah, Oliver, Chris, and Matt all stood in the very corner of the pool, talking. Sarah waved, looking slightly awkward at being the only girl in the group. I motioned her over and she glanced at the three boys before swimming over to us.
“Hey guys,” she greeted. “How are diving lessons going?”
I glared at Jace. “Well, we haven’t got any diving done, but I’ve been thrown in the pool twice.”
Sarah laughed. “Nice. I saw the water fight. I’m guessing that was the aftermath?”
“Yup, and she dragged us into it too,” said Hannah.
“Luke’s doing a great job lifeguarding, isn’t he?” Jennifer asked Sarah.
“Yeah, we were talking about that earlier. Let’s just hope we’re all good swimmers!” Sarah replied.
“I don’t know, I wouldn’t mind him giving me mouth to mouth,” said Hannah.
“Oh really? I would’ve thought you had someone else in mind,” I told her, raising my eyebrows.
Her face turned red. “Hush, Clara!”
“Hey, don’t tease me and not expect it in return. Must I remind you about lunch the other day?” I replied.
“I think I’m gonna go talk to the guys,” Jace said. He started to swim away, looking very awkward.
“No, sorry, you can stay if you want. We’re done,” I apologized.
“It’s okay. I really do have something to ask Matt, so I’ll catch up with y’all later,” he replied.
“See ya,” I said.
“Aww, you two are so cute!” Sarah exclaimed when Jace was out of hearing range.
“Alright, I get it, we’d be cute together. Y’all keep leaving out one very important fact: we don’t see each other that way! We’re just friends,” I told them, exasperated.
“Forget you two, what was that comment about?!” Hannah exclaimed.
“I think you know what it was about,” Jennifer smirked.
“Look, I could have said it in front of Matt,” I said.
Hannah glared at me. “Don’t you dare!”
“She’s got a point,” Sarah said, pointing at me. “Don’t tease her about Jace and not expect her to tease you about Matt. Although at least you’re aware of your feelings, unlike Miss In Denial over here.”
I rolled my eyes. “Oh my word.”
The three of them just laughed.
*****
Eventually, it was time for the bonfire. I was, to put it frankly, terrified. I didn’t do well with ghost stories. My only help was that I was sleeping with a cabin full of girls, and that at least I wasn’t going to be alone after this. I had changed into jeans and thrown a black hoodie over the tank top I had put on that morning. While summers in North Carolina were hot during the day, they could get pretty chilly at night.
The counselors led us into the outer areas of the woods, to a little amphitheater type thing that just held all of the campers. A huge bonfire was set up in the middle, the fire roaring. Cabins were called up one by one to make s’mores. I was sitting, as usual, between Hannah and Jace. Matt sat on the other side of Hannah, and the rest of our friends were sitting on either side of the four of us. When all the cabins had gone up, Alyssa motioned for silence.
“Good evening, campers, and welcome to the first campfire of Camp Willow Lake! Tonight, as you enjoy your s’mores, you’ll hear the annual ghost story from Tyler. Returners, you’ve heard this story before, but you haven’t heard it from Tyler yet. Let’s give him a hand, everybody,” Alyssa said, and backed away from the campfire.
Tyler stepped out of the shadows of the forest and into the glow of the fire. He cleared his throat before starting into a tale of an outhouse that had once been on the property, and the girl who was killed there.
“This land has been a camp since long before it was called Camp Willow Lake. These woods were often used to teach campers survival skills. There was an old wooden outhouse in the middle of the woods in case you got lost. Such is the situation of little Miss Elizabeth Smith. A group of kids, all about eleven or twelve, had gone out into these same woods, sans a counselor. It was late in the camp session, and they figured they could find their way out by themselves.
“Now little Elizabeth was a curious child, and as they were walking, she spotted an interesting flower off the path they were following. She stopped to look at it for a minute, and when she stood back up, the group had kept walking and left her. She was also a quiet girl, so no one noticed her absence until it was too late.
“After wandering for a while, she stumbled upon the outhouse. Figuring if she waited there, someone would eventually need to go to the bathroom and find her there, she stepped inside and sat down. Turned out, she was right, but not in the way she had hoped.
“Most people thought that the outhouse was built in the middle of the woods, and at one point, it had been. However, unbeknownst to the camp staff, an area of the woods had been cut away to form a dueling ring for settling disagreements between men. Only a few feet of woods separated the ring and the outhouse. While Elizabeth sat there, waiting for someone to rescue her, a duel was going on just behind her. Normally most duels happened in winter, what with people being cooped up together and everything, but there was a strong dispute over land between two men, and they had decided to settle it in the ring. Neither of them knew about the outhouse, or the camp itself.
“One misfired shot was all it took. The bullet got Elizabeth straight through the heart, and killed her instantly. She was discovered by an older camper a couple of hours later, after she hadn’t returned with the group. The outhouse burned to the ground a year later. No one knows what caused the fire, or why it didn’t touch the trees around it. There weren’t even burn marks on the ground where the building had once been.
“In years past, there have been reports of seeing a young girl, hair in braids, wandering these woods, still trying to find her way back to camp.”
As soon as Tyler finished, a rustling sound came from just outside the amphitheater. A bunch of the girls screamed, including me. I grabbed Jace’s arm and cowered against him. Seconds later, a squirrel hopped out of the woods, looked around at us, and scurried up a tree.
I sighed in relief. “Stupid squirrel,” I muttered.
Jace chuckled. “The story freaked you out that bad?”
“Yes! I hate ghost stories!” I said, releasing his arm but staying close, just in case.
He laughed again and settled his arm around my shoulders. I knew I would get teased for this later, but I was about to pee myself I was so scared. Not only was the story scary, but Tyler was a great story teller. Well, I guess ‘great’ is relative. Plus, that squirrel had impeccable timing.
“Okay guys and gals, let’s give Tyler a hand for being our incredibly story teller!” Alyssa came back to the middle, in front of the fire. I clapped lightly, still kind of scared, and Jace patted his leg so he could keep his arm around me. “If anybody wants another s’more we do have extras, otherwise y’all can socialize for the next twenty minutes or so before it’s time to go back to your cabins.”
“You want another s’more?” Jace asked.
“Sure,” I replied.
“Good, cause so do I,” he said, standing up.
“Hey, we’re gonna go get more s’mores,” I told Hannah as I followed Jace off the wooden bleachers.
“Okay,” she replied. She also gave me a look that said ‘we’re gonna talk later, and you should be very scared.’ I wasn’t sure how she put so much meaning into her expressions, but somehow she managed it.
“Have you ever had Reese’s s’mores?” asked Jace.
“Yes! Those are so good,” I replied and stuck a marshmallow on a roasting stick thing.
“I know right? So few people have ever had those,” he agreed.
We finished making our s’mores and headed back up to where our friends were sitting. At the end of the night, as we headed back to our cabins, I figured it had been a good night. Except, you know, for the whole scared out of my wits thing. And a couple of my fingers were almost stuck together, but the s’mores were worth it. However, I also knew I was in for another interrogation when we got back.
I gathered my shower stuff and made a break for it the minute we got into the cabin. I knew I was going to have to face Hannah and Jennifer eventually, but it wouldn’t hurt to make her wait a while.
“Sit,” said Hannah as soon as I reached my bed. I grabbed my brush and sat obediently. She motioned Jennifer and Sarah over before continuing. “So, I noticed you and Jace looked awfully cozy at the bonfire tonight.”
“I noticed it too. Looked to me like you had a little arm around the shoulder action there.” Jennifer added.
“Guys, he just put his arm around me because I was scared. We’re just friends, we don’t see each other like that,” I told them. Even though I knew this was coming, it was still kind of annoying that they wouldn’t let it go.
“Girl, that boy’s got it bad for you. Guys don’t just put their arms around any girl. Well I guess some of them do, but not many of them, and I don’t think Jace is one of those guys,” said Hannah. She crossed her arms and raised her eyebrows.
“Still. We’re just friends, and that’s all we’re gonna be,” I replied.
“Uh huh. Whatever you say, girl,” Jennifer said.
I groaned and flopped back on my bed. Would they ever give this up? I had a feeling the answer was no.


Day 7 – Saturday
The whole camp was excited for the weekend. According to Hannah and Jennifer, they were some of the best times at camp, especially the first weekend. We were given a lot of free time, and the first dance was tonight. A couple of activities were being offered during what was normally our activity time, and the eight of us had signed up to go horseback riding. The only difference between it and the normal class was that instead of learning how to saddle up and different gaits and stuff, the horses were already saddled and we just went out for a trail ride.
After breakfast, we all strolled out to the stables, which were across from the rec field. The only thing I wasn’t looking forward to about riding, was that the trails we were riding on were in the same forest we were in for the bonfire the other night. It was daylight, so I wasn’t too frightened, but I hoped we wouldn’t see poor Elizabeth while we were out.
Jace noticed I was being quiet and settled beside me as we walked. “Hey, you okay?”
I looked up at him. “Yeah, I’m fine.”
“Come on, I know you’re not fine. Girls never mean that they’re actually fine when they say that. Is that story from the bonfire still bothering you?”
“Okay, for one, girls do mean it, sometimes, just not all the time. And second…yeah, it kind of is. I’ve always had an overactive imagination, and that kinda stuff terrifies me.”
“Hey, at least she’s a nice ghost.”
I glared at him, and he held his hands up in surrender. “Okay, okay I’m sorry. Seriously, though, if we come up on any ghosts, mean or nice, I’ll protect you, okay?”
“Okay,” I replied, smiling.
There had been twenty spots open for horseback riding, so our group had taken almost half of them. Some were already there, and the other four were trailing behind us. When they finally caught up, the instructor introduced herself as Annie and told us the basic rules. After she finished talking, she let us pick our horses and jump on up.
It wasn’t as hot today, so it was a great day for riding. I picked an almost solid black horse with a white star on her face and a large white patch covering her belly. Jace sat on my right on a large dark brown horse, and Hannah was on my left on a yellow-blonde colored horse.
“Hey Hannah,” I called over to her. “Your horse’s coat almost matches your hair.”
She gasped and smiled. “It does!”
“I think you’ll look pretty formidable to any eleven year old ghost girls, if you ask me,” Jace said. “Beautiful girl on a big black horse…I’d be terrified if I were her.”
I blushed. “Thanks.”
We set off a couple minutes later. Hannah brought her horse up beside mine, and Jace rode a little in front of us, as the trail was only big enough to fit two horses side by side.
“He called you beautiful, and offered to protect you against a ghost. What more proof do you need?” She whispered very quietly, checking to make sure Jace couldn’t hear her.
My face, which had finally returned to its normal color, turned bright red again. I shushed her and focused my attention on the trail ahead of us. I think Hannah’s watched too many episodes of The Bachelor, I thought. Even if Jace did like me, I still wasn’t sure if I wanted to get involved. Cliché as it sounded, we had a great thing going, and I didn’t want to ruin it.
I noticed we were going deeper into the forest and my stomach turned into knots. Jace turned around and Hannah nodded at him. They switched places so that Jace was riding next to me.
“You’re really, seriously, freaked out aren’t you?” He asked, noting the look on my face. I had a feeling my face was now the opposite of red. As in, green. Or white. Or both, for all I knew.
“Yes! I told you, this stuff really gets to me. Especially when it’s stuff close to where I am. If I was at home and heard that story about here, it wouldn’t have bothered me so bad,” I replied.
He nodded and winked at me. “Well, like I said, I’ll protect you from any super scary eleven year old girls.”
I rolled my eyes but grinned in his direction. That grin faded pretty fast when we passed a spot in the forest. Several feet away from the trail, a square patch of ground probably four or five feet across sat bare. No trees, no grass, nothing. The trees around it grew healthily, but not one thing touched the empty square of land.
My stomach turned. “Wait, so that story was real?!” I exclaimed.
“The outhouse burning down? Yes. The girl getting killed and haunting this place? Probably not. But you know how people talk, always trying to entertain each other. Clara, this is my second year here, and my older sister went here before me, and neither of us has ever seen a ghost of any kind,” Jace replied.
I took a deep breath. Okay. So the outhouse burned down and nothing grows there, so what? It’s just a story, Clara. Get over yourself. I wished Annie would make us go a little faster.
“You okay? You want me to go get Annie?” Jace asked. Hannah turned and gave me a sympathetic look.
“No, I’m fine. I just wish we could go a little faster and get away from here,” I answered, taking another deep breath.
Finally we turned around a bend and escaped the area around the site of the outhouse. My heart finally stopped racing. I felt pretty stupid about the way I had acted, but I couldn’t help it. That sort of stuff seriously freaked me out.
The rest of the ride went uneventfully, thank goodness. No more ghost story sites or anything. Still, I couldn’t help my sigh of relief when we got back to the stables. It was a shame, because I really liked horseback riding, but that one spot was just freaky. I hoped I’d be able to go again, and hopefully next time I wouldn’t freak out so bad.
*****
“What are you wearing to the dance tonight?” Hannah asked as we walked back from dinner. Jennifer and Sarah had gotten stuck further back, and we didn’t exactly know where they had gotten too. We figured they’d catch up eventually.
“I’m not sure. What’s the theme again?” I replied.
“Something about neon,” she said.
I thought for a second. “I think I have a grey skirt that I’ll wear, and I have a neon pink V-neck shirt and neon pink converse. Think that’ll work?”
“Yeah that sounds perfect! Will you help me figure out something? I have no idea what to wear!”
“Of course!”
“Hey guys!” Jennifer huffed when her and Sarah caught up to us.
“Hey,” I replied.
“You excited for the dance?” asked Sarah.
“Yeah, of course!” Hannah exclaimed.
When we reached the cabin, I pulled out my clothes before helping Hannah dig through her drawers and decide on something. We eventually picked out a white lace skirt, neon pink crew neck t-shirt, and sparkly silver TOMS. After pulling on my clothes, I grabbed my curling iron and headed to the bathroom, fingers crossed that there was an outlet in front of a mirror. Luckily there was, and I plugged the iron in while I did my make-up.
About half an hour later, I had finished getting ready and was back in the main part of the cabin. Hannah was already done and waiting on my bed when I walked out.
“So, you gonna ask Jace to dance?” Hannah asked when I sat down beside her.
“I don’t know. Do they even play slow dances at these things?” I replied. I wouldn’t mind dancing with Jace, but I also didn’t want to put up with the teasing I knew I would have to if I did.
“They usually play one or two per dance, but most of the songs are fast dances,” she answered.
“We’ll see. Are you gonna ask Matt to dance?” I retorted.
She flushed. “Probably not. If he asks me I’ll say yes, but I doubt I’ll ask him.”
“Who’s Hannah gonna dance with?” Jennifer asked as she sat down on the other side of Hannah.
“Well, she wants to dance with Matt, but apparently only if he asks her,” I told them.
Jennifer gave Hannah a dubious look. “Seriously girl? Don’t be a fraidy cat.” Then she turned to me. “Are you going to ask Jace to dance?”
Poop. I should have seen that coming. “I don’t know, I might. We’ll see.”
Sarah rolled her eyes and muttered something under her breath.
“You have something to tell me, Sarah?” I asked, raising an eyebrow.
She straightened up. “Nope, nothing!”
I smirked. “Okay, whatever.”
“Girls, you about ready to go?” Dani called out to us.
Most of us yelled back a ‘yes’ or a ‘yeah.’ A couple of people said they needed a couple more minutes, so Dani replied, telling us to meet her outside in five minutes. The four of us went on out there, along with Rose, Beth, Kate, Irene, and Traci.
“Your hair looks really pretty, Clara!” Rose complemented me.
“Thanks!” I replied.
We waited around for a few more minutes for Shelby, Carlie, and Emmaline to come out. Dani did a quick head count, decided we had everybody, and we headed for the gym.
The gym looked really cool. Black lights had been set up on the stage, so everybody wearing white or neon seemed to glow. A disco ball hung from the ceiling, and one of those color spinny ball things sat on the stage. Three or four cabins were already in there, jamming out to Maroon 5. Hannah, Jennifer, Sarah, and I claimed a spot near the middle of the dance floor. I looked around, but didn’t see the guys anywhere.
The boys finally showed up a couple of songs later. Rose, Beth, and Kate had joined our dancing group, but left after a few songs to join some girls from cabin six.
“I thought we were supposed to be the slow ones getting ready?” Hannah yelled over the music.
Matt shrugged. “Chris here took too long.”
“Dude, no I didn’t! I was finished before you were!” Chris yelled back.
“Whatever dude. We all know you spend too much time on your hair,” Matt replied.
“Have you ever waited on Jace to finish his hair? He takes longer than both of us combined,” Oliver jumped in.
“Dude, what the crud?” Jace yelled, smacking his arm.

Sarah leaned over to me. “Is it just me, or do they say ‘dude’ way too much?”

I nodded my agreement, laughing.

We spent the next few songs jumping around, dancing, and probably making giant fools of ourselves. Eventually, a slow song came on, and my stomach knotted up. The song was “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri, which was one of my favorite songs.

Jace walked up to me, hand outstretched. “Wanna dance?”

“Um, yeah, sure,” I replied, taking his hand.

We wrapped our arms around each other and drifted in slow circles. I glanced in Hannah’s direction and smiled when I saw her dancing with Matt. They were so precious together. Matt was cute in kind of a nerdy way, exactly Hannah’s type. Plus, he didn’t have a unibrow, like she told me the guy she liked last year did.

The worst thing about this song was that it was short. It ended way too soon, I found I actually really liked dancing with Jace, a fact I planned to keep to myself.

“Thanks for the dance,” I told him as the song came to an end. I was pretty sure my face was lightly pink, but I hoped the room was dark enough to conceal it.

Jace nodded and we wove our way back through the people to our friends. I gave Hannah a sly look, and she grinned back at me, glancing between me and Jace. Her look told me that my blush was not, in fact, hidden by the dark.

We spent the rest of the time dancing the night away. They didn’t play another slow song, which made me both happy and sad. There would be other dances, though, and the fast songs were still fun. They played the Wobble, which I had done a few times before, and the Cupid Shuffle, which Sarah thought was the Cuban Shuffle. How she got that idea, I didn’t have a clue.

All too soon, the lights lifted and the dance was over. I knew it was coming, because Jace told me they always ended the first dance on “All I Do is Win.” Still, I was sad that it was over. I was already super excited for the next game. This camp just got better and better.
*****

Surprisingly, Jennifer and Sarah left the subject of Hannah and I’s dances and dance partners alone for the night. I knew we would probably be in for it tomorrow, but I relished not being interrogated for one night. Dani kept the cabin meeting short, sensing we were all exhausted from the dance, and sent us off to bed.

Day 8 – Sunday

Sunday, Jennifer told me, was basically our relaxing day at camp. Most of the day was free time, with informal church services in the morning. Hannah, Jace, and I were all Church of Christ Christians, so the three of us went to the nondenominational service.

The service, which turned out to be more of a devo type thing, was held in one of the multipurpose rooms on the third floor of the mess hall. When we got there, we were surprised to see everyone else except Sarah and Oliver, who were Catholic, also at the service.

Songs were projected onto a wall via a projector on the ceiling. I knew most of them, a lot of them being songs we sang at my church at home. Jace sat on one side of me, and he had an amazing singing voice.

After we sang, Tyler stood up at the front of the room and read a few verses from the book of Proverbs. We then took the Lord’s Supper, had a prayer, and we were free to go.

“Do they have these every Sunday?” I asked as we walked down the stairs and out into the bright sunlight.

“Yup. I really like going to them,” Jace replied.

“Me too. You have an amazing voice, by the way,” I said.

“You really do,” Hannah agreed.

“Thanks,” he said, embarrassed.

“Do you know where Sarah and Oliver are?” Hannah asked.

“I think a bunch of the Catholic kids got together by the lake, so they’re probably still over there,” I replied. I had heard Sarah say something about it this morning on the way to breakfast.

“Alright, let’s go find them and then we’ll see what we want to do until lunch,” Hannah decided.

We found Sarah and Oliver on our way over to the lake.

“Hey, we were just looking for you guys,” Jace greeted.

“Same here,” said Oliver. “We were thinking about seeing if y’all wanted to watch the baseball game at the rec field.”

Jace shrugged and glanced at Hannah and me. “Sounds good. You guys okay with that?”

We nodded and the five of us started towards the rec field.

“Hey, wait a second,” I stopped. “Where’d Matt, Jennifer, and Chris go?”

“I don’t know, where did Matt go?” A male voice huffed from behind us. We spun around to see Matt standing there; obviously having ran to catch up with us.

“Sorry dude, we lost you. Where’re Chris and Jennifer?” Jace replied.

“I’m not sure, they said something about the dock of the lake and ran off,” Matt informed us.

Hannah and I just looked at each other.

“You know what guys? I think we’ll catch up with you later. Sarah, wanna come with?” I said slowly.

Sarah guessed my train of thought and nodded quickly. “See you later Oliver.”

“Bye ladies. See you at lunch?” Jace asked.

“Yeah, if we don’t catch up with you before then. Come on girls,” Hannah replied. She took each of us by the hand and quickly dragged us both away.

“Are you guys thinking what I’m thinking?” Hannah asked when we were out of the guys’ hearing range.

“That mac and cheese sounds really good right now? Cause if so, the answers yes,” I said. Hannah gave me an odd look, so I continued. “Dude, I’m kidding. Although mac and cheese does sound good…anyways, if you’re thinking that Jen has a thing for Chris? Yeah, I think so too.”

“Well then what are we standing here for? We have some ‘investigating’ to do,” said Sarah.

We speed walked towards the lake, slowing when Jennifer and Chris came into view. Even from a distance, it was obvious they were holding hands.

Sarah squealed and smacked my arm excitedly. “No way!!”

We continued walking, but kept a safe distance behind them so they wouldn’t notice that we were following them. As we watched, Chris must have said something funny, because Jen laughed and he leaned in to kiss her cheek. He released her hand and she waved good bye to him as she turned and started walking in our direction. The three of us quickly darted behind cabin one before she could see us.

“Oh. My. Word,” Hannah said.

“Shh!” Sarah and I both silenced her.

I peeked around the corner of the cabin to see Jennifer walking towards our cabin. “Coast is clear,” I said.

“Look, ladies, I know I’m irresistible, but is this really necessary?” A cocky voice I (unfortunately) recognized well spoke up from behind us. All three of us jumped a little and turned to see a smirking Samuel standing behind us. Hannah started to sputter an excuse but I touched her shoulder to tell her to be quiet.

“Believe me Samuel, we’re not here because of you,” I told him, crossing my arms. This, however, immediately drew his eyes to my chest, so I quickly switched my hands to my hips.

“Oh, really? Then why are you here?” He asked.

“If you must know, we’re hiding from a friend. We know something she doesn’t know that we know. If that makes sense,” I replied.

“It does. For the most part. But since you’re already here…” Samuel trailed off.

“Good bye, Samuel,” I said, brushing past him and ‘accidentally’ hitting his shoulder. Hannah and Sarah following me, we headed off towards the baseball game.

“Why won’t he leave you alone?” Sarah asked when he could no longer hear us.

“I don’t know. My best guess is that he’s normally the guy all the girls swoon after, and I don’t, so he sees me as a challenge,” I replied. “But whatever the reason, I wish he’d get it through his thick head that I’m not interested.”

We found the guys, this time including Chris, sitting on the bleachers intently watching the game. Jennifer, however, was nowhere in sight.

“Hey boys,” I greeted them as we walked up the seats.

“Hey, you made it. How did…never mind,” Jace said.

“It went well, thank you for asking,” I replied. Chris gave him a funny look, but dismissed it and went back to watching the game.

We sat down next to the boys. The two teams were using the same jerseys the soccer players had been using the other day, and it made me wonder if they had been washed. Something told me they hadn’t, and I bet they stunk something bad. I checked my watch, which told me that it was eleven, almost time for lunch. I reclined against the bleacher behind me and settled in to watch the rest of the game.
*****

“Psst, Clara!” Hannah whispered, motioning me over to the bush she was hiding behind. Tonight’s activity was capture the flag, and it was way more intense than I’d ever played it before. The flag was hidden, and hidden well for that matter. Dani had handed out our house t-shirts before we left for the game, so it was easy to tell who was on your team and who wasn’t. Green (who were now the Space Cadets) and Blue (who were now the Avengers) were one team and Red (Pirates) and Yellow (All-Stars) were another. Hannah and I were the two sent to get the flag after Rose had scaled a tree to sight there flag.

We were pretty close now; we could hear the guards’ voices. I pointed upwards to signal that I was going to climb, and Hannah nodded. I carefully scrambled up a tree, just high enough to see the flag and the jail. I shimmied back down and met Hannah at the base of the tree.

“Okay, the flag is guarded well, but the jail is not. I want you to grab some decently big rocks and throw them in two different directions, so they’ll think people are coming. Guards will leave their post and head towards the noise. Once some have left, you head to the jail and get some people back. I’ll grab the flag and you distract the rest of the guards with the people you free, got it?” I told her quietly.

She nodded and began hunting for big enough rocks to throw. When she was ready, she tapped me on the shoulder and showed me the rocks. I nodded, and the plan went into action.

It worked flawlessly. The rocks drew out more guards than we thought, so we had a clear shot to the flag. Hannah ran out first, and the two guards took after her as she freed people from the jail. I clambered up the tree, untied the flag, and slid back down. I gave a bird-like whistle to tell Hannah I was done, and made a run for the border line.

I made it over just as someone reached to tag me. Hannah and the people she had rescued ran over the border a few feet down the line. Our teammates rushed out to greet us as we whooped and I held the flag over my head.

“Awesome job guys!” Matt congratulated us. The rest of our friends voiced their agreement, along with the rest of the team. The members of the opposing team that had been chasing us retreated, shoulders slumped in defeat. Apparently, capture the flag was a big deal here.

We cheered again as Alyssa came out to us. “Good job you guys! Twenty house points to the Cadets and the Avengers!”

“That was awesome!” Hannah exclaimed as she gave me a hug.

“I know right!” I laughed.

We were ecstatic all the way back to our cabins. The atmosphere in the cabin was victorious, even Shelby and her gang. Everyone kept congratulating Hannah and me, which was kind of awkward, but hey, I wasn’t going to complain. They let us have first pick on showers, which was nice, even though, as usual, the water was pretty cold.

A while later, we were all gather, as usual, around Dani’s bed for the cabin meeting.

“Okay girls, first off, great job capture the flag tonight. A special thanks to Hannah and Clara for getting our flag. I do want to hear y’all’s strategy at some point in the near future.

“Y’all’s activities will stay the same for this week. We’ll be at the pool tomorrow for swim time. Tomorrow you’ll sign up for activities like you did for Thursday night. The choices are: tie-dye, swimming in the lake, soccer, quiz bowl, and MTV night, which is like a lip-syncing competition. Charlie and I will be overseeing tie-dye, so if y’all want to y’all can come out and see us there. And…looks like that’s all I have for tonight! Night girls!” Dani said.

“Night Dani!” We called back.

“So, I was thinking tie-dye for tomorrow night?” I asked Hannah, Jennifer, and Sarah.

“Sounds good to me. We can see what the boys are doing, too,” Jennifer replied.

I quickly glanced at Hannah. “Alright. Night guys,” I said.

“Night,” they replied as they drifted off to their own beds.

That night, after Dani had turned off the lights and most of the girls were already fast asleep, my mind returned, as it had done often the past day, to the dance, and to Jace. I couldn’t help but wonder if Hannah, Jen, and Sarah were right, that maybe there was something else there. But at the same time, I didn’t want to ruin the friendship we had. But he’s also a really sweet guy. Plus, he’s cute. How often do you find guys like that? Just thinking about this whole situation made my brain hurt.

I rolled over, tucked my hand under my pillow, and tried to put all thoughts of Jace out of my mind as I fell asleep.

Letter Home
Dear Mom,

How did I know you were going to ask that? Yeah, there are a few cute boys here, including one of my best friends, Jace. There’s another guy, Samuel, who’s pretty attractive, but he’s an arrogant jerk, so he’s out of the question, believe me.

How are Baxter and Jack doing? Do they miss me? I hope they haven’t gotten into too many fights lately. You know how dogs and cats are lol.

Sorry most of these are so short, but I only have a little time to write. They sure do keep us busy here! We’ve had dances, socials, tie-dye, and all sorts of other activities. They told a ghost story at the bonfire a few nights ago that seriously freaked me out, but I’m getting better about it. You know how those freak me out.
Gotta dash, swimming’s right after R&R, in case you haven’t noticed. Today we’re at the pool, and Jace is helping me get over my fear of diving. Talk to you later!
Love,
Clara

Day 12 – Thursday

“Clara, come here!” Hannah called across the development part of the photography cabin.

I walked over from where I had been putting some chemicals away to where Hannah was standing in front of one of my trays. I glanced over her shoulder to see a picture I had taken yesterday with the digital cameras our instructor had given us to use for a couple of days. It was a picture of Jace, actually, sitting on the edge of the dock. He had kicked his shoes off and rolled his jeans up to dangle his feet in the water, and he was looking off across the lake. It had been threatening to rain all day yesterday, but it never did, so the whole picture had a cool gray tone about it.

“This is really good! When did you take this?” She asked.

“Thanks. Yesterday during free time. I snuck up on him before the rest of y’all got there,” I replied.

“Is that why you took off so fast?” Hannah asked. I had spotted Jace sitting on the dock before any of them did, and knew it would make a fantastic picture, so I had told them to go on and quietly ran towards the dock.

“Yeah,” I said and pulled the picture off the tray. I clipped it on the line hanging across the back of the room and went back for my other pictures.

“Well, this is amazing. I wish I could take pictures this good,” she told me as she went back to her own trays.

“Thanks again. I really like that one,” I told her, pointing to a picture of the sunset over the lake she had taken last night. The light reflected off the water, making it almost look like a double sunset, or a full sun.

“Yeah, I think that one’s my favorite. Well, that one and this one,” she replied, pointing to another photograph, this one of one of the horses in the stables.

“Alright people, time’s about up, so finish what you’re developing and make sure to clean up before you leave. Also, don’t forget that tomorrow you’re presenting your favorite pictures that you’ve taken these two weeks, so be prepared!” Our instructor, a short, balding man with crazy gray hair called out.

“Will you wait for me? I just have to finish up these last two prints,” Hannah said as she put away her chemicals.

“Yeah, sure. I have to wash my trays anyways. Hey, that rhymed!” I giggled and took my trays over to one of the sinks along the back wall. Hannah joined me a minute later to wash out her own trays.

“You ready for lunch?” I asked when she was done.

“Yeah, let’s go,” she replied.

We walked out of the photography building and over to the mess hall.

“Must be a hamburger day. I can smell them all the way out here,” I remarked as we approached the tall building.

“Yup! I hope they have mac and cheese too, I love that stuff!” Hannah exclaimed, pushing open the mess hall doors.

“Hey, wait one second,” I called as I leaned out the door to check the board. Poop, we were at the pool today. I had already had four diving lessons that had gone okay. I think I was making some progress; Jace was a pretty good coach.

“What? Come on, I’m hungry,” Hannah asked, and stuck her head back through the door.

“You’re always hungry. I was just checking to see if we were at the pool or lake today,” I replied, heading through the doors to stand beside Hannah.

“And?”

“Pool. Yay for another diving lesson.”

“Oh come on, you know you love them. Any chance to spend time with Jace.”

“Shut up,” I replied, and mentally begged myself not to blush. For once, it worked. My feelings for Jace had started to become a little more than platonic over the past few days, ever since that dance last Saturday. I had so far managed to keep this information from the other three girls, but I suspected that wouldn’t last long.

Hannah smirked at me as we picked up trays and joined the line. I glanced at our table in the back and saw Jace, Oliver, Matt, Sarah, and Jennifer all sitting down. Chris was up at the drink fountains balancing three or four glasses in his arms. I chuckled, and Hannah sent me a questioning look. I nodded in Chris’ direction as I grabbed a plate and a hamburger.

“Seen any new developments lately?” Hannah asked.

I grabbed some fries. “Nope. They seem to be keeping their relationship pretty quiet.”

“Think she knows we know?” Hannah asked.

Glancing in Jen’s direction, I answered, “Nah, I don’t think so. I think she would have said something if she thought we knew.”

I took a cookie and got a glass of water before following Hannah to our table.

“Hey guys,” I greeted, setting my tray down, as usual, between Hannah and Jace.

“Hey, how was photography?” Jace asked.

“Pretty good. I got some really good prints developed,” I replied.

“Good? They’re amazing! Like there’s this one-” Hannah started, but stopped when I shot her a very pointed look. Jace didn’t know I took the picture, and I wasn’t ready for him to find out yet. “-of a bird. It’s really pretty.”

“Really? Maybe you could show me some of your prints some time,” said Jace.

“Yeah, maybe,” I said, and dug into my burger.
*****

“You need to forget that the pool even has a bottom. Just imagine it being endless,” Jace said later that afternoon at the pool.

I nodded and flexed my shoulders before stepping up onto the one meter board. Over the past week or so, I had actually learned a lot about diving from Jace. While he didn’t know many high skill level dives, he had amazing form on his regular ones.

Taking a deep breath, I pulled my hands above my head and dove in, head first. When I emerged, Jace was clapping.

“That looked really good! Just make sure you squeeze your core as you enter to keep yourself straight,” he told me as I climbed out of the pool. “You think you’re ready to try one off the high dive?”

“Uh, yeah I guess. Will I go that much deeper than off the one meter?” I asked. Jace knew about the real reason for my fear, which was witnessing the near death of one of my friends after going off just the low dive head first.


“Come on Liz, you can do it!” Our team called. It was March, the middle of dive season. Liz was one of our newest divers, and had just begun regular diving a couple of weeks ago. She was now poised at the edge of the one meter board during one of our practices. I had been regular diving for a while, and was always excited to see other people try it, because I knew the thrill of it.

Liz took a deep breath and bounced once, then executed an almost perfect dive. At least, so we thought. We all clapped and cheered, but slowly stopped when we realized that Liz wasn’t resurfacing. Several girls gasped, and stood on tiptoe to see over the edge of the pool.

Our instructor yelled for us to stay put, grabbed a flotation device, and jumped in after Liz. She swam back to the surface a minute later, and a lifeguard ran over to help her get Liz out of the pool. She was alive, but completely unconscious.

After Liz dove in, she had panicked, and gotten flipped around. She hit her head on the bottom of the pool, sufficiently knocking her out.


That experience had terrified me, and it had taken me months just to get back on the board, and more than a year before I would dive head first. With Jace’s help, I was finally starting to overcome that.

“A little, but not much. Just always keep in your head which way’s up, and whatever happens, don’t panic. I know you can do it,” he replied.

I nodded and breathed deeply. Hannah gave me a thumbs up from where she stood with the rest of the group in the shallow end. They usually left me and Jace alone during these lessons, understanding that the more people I knew were watching me, the more nervous I would get. Normally it wouldn’t bother me, but this was something completely different.

The high dive didn’t look any higher, surprisingly. I climbed up the tall ladder and walked out to the edge. Don’t look down, I thought. Just pretend you’re on the one meter. But no matter what I told myself, I couldn’t forget the fact that I was ten feet in the air. I glanced down, against my better judgment, at Jace, who gave me an encouraging smile and a nod.

I took one more deep breath, positioned my hands, and dove. I kept expecting to feel my head hitting the bottom and my consciousness slip away, but miraculously, or maybe not so much, it never did.

“That was awesome Clara!” Jace exclaimed when I swam back to the surface.

“Thanks,” I said, blushing. “It felt pretty awesome, too.”

“See, what did I tell you? You didn’t even come close to the bottom!” He said as I hauled myself out of the pool.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, you were right, oh wonderful teacher,” I said sarcastically.

He grinned as we walked over to the shallow end and got in, swimming over to where the rest of the group was standing.

“That was really good Clara!” Hannah said, wrapping her arms around me in a hug.

“It really was, you were stick straight,” Sarah added.

“Thanks guys,” I replied, sure I was blushing again. I really needed to figure out a way to stop doing that.

“I officially name you a diving master. Now you just need to combine those awesome tricks with a head first dive, and you could be an Olympic diver,” said Jace.

“I don’t know about that, but I’ll give a trick dive a shot,” I told them. After that, I felt like I could do just about anything. A nagging voice at the back of my head told me that maybe it was just an adrenaline rush, that I couldn’t really do it, but I shoved the voice out of my head and hoisted myself out of the pool.

I decided on a simpler yet in a way more complicated dive than the double back. I chose a single twist with a single front tuck, and climbed up the tall ladder once again.
*****

“I’m so proud of you!” Jace told me once again as he wrapped his arms around me in yet another hug. It was past dinnertime, and we were milling around the field as the staff got some blow up TV thing ready for movie night. I was beginning to think that Jace was just looking for excuses to hug me now, not that I minded.

“I think we’ve established that,” Hannah commented as she approached us with our drinks and some popcorn, Matt following dutifully behind her. They still weren’t together, though Jen and I kept encouraging Hannah to make the first move. She could give all sorts of advice, but she was terrible at taking her own.

“Gracias,” I thanked her and took the bottle of water from her arm.

The four of us settled on one of the large blankets they had laid out on the ground. Jen, Chris, Sarah, and Oliver took the one next to us. They were showing Get Smart, which was one of my favorite movies.

I reclined back on my hands and stretched my legs out in front of me as the movie started. Jace did the same, placing his hand behind mine so that our arms were intertwined in a way. I bit back a smile and focused my attention on the screen.

Day 16 – Monday

“You, in the yellow shirt,” the dance instructor motioned to me. I stepped forward out of the line as he continued. “You’ll be dancing with this young man. Introduce yourselves,” he finished, pulling to Jace forward to meet me.

It was the start of the third week of camp, meaning it was time for a new activity. I had chosen dance as my number one choice, but I had no idea that it involved partner dancing. Partner dancing with Jace, no less. My heart raced as he approached me.

“I don’t believe we’ve met before. I’m Clara,” I said jokingly, sticking my hand out for him to shake.

“It’s very nice to make your acquaintance, Clara. My name is Jace,” he teased back, but instead of shaking my hand, he brought it to his lips and kissed it.

My face burned as he straightened and dropped my hand. “I-it’s very n-nice to meet you, Jace,” I managed to stutter.

Jace grinned and we turned our intention to the instructor, who had begun speaking. He was a shorter man, with dark brown hair and a short beard of the same color. “Hello and welcome to dance class. This will be your activity for the next two weeks, and these will be your partners for that time as well. My name is Robert Johnson, and this is my lovely wife Clarissa.,” he said, gesturing to a pretty red haired woman standing at his side. Her abdomen was slightly rounded, like she was pregnant. “Today, we will be learning the waltz. Clarissa and I will demonstrate first.” Robert hit a button on his laptop and a slow song filled the room. He and his wife began to dance the waltz; a dance I had seen many times but never actually learned how to do.

“Now, I’ll teach the guys’ part, ladies, you take everything I say and do it opposite and backwards. For example, if I tell the males to step forward with his left foot, you will step back with your right. Understand? Good. Now, to start, the man takes a step forward with his left foot, then brings his right up to meet it.”

I could already tell that this guy didn’t like wasting time or words. Luckily, I caught on quick, as did Jace. He was actually a very good dancer. I wasn’t so bad; I was proud of myself for not stepping on Jace’s feet once. That fact surprised me, considering how nervous I was. Anyone else I probably wouldn’t have been so anxious, but Jace was a whole other matter. I was going to have to tell Hannah about this sooner rather than later, I needed to talk about it with somebody.

We spent the next hour or so learning and practicing the waltz. This dance was quickly becoming one of my favorites. It was simple, yet beautiful, and I have to admit being spun was a lot of fun too. I was disappointed when Robert told us it was time to stop, but quickly became excited again when he told us that we could have a little fun at the end and put on the Cupid Shuffle.

Afterwards, we were all laughing and breathless as we headed downstairs to lunch.

“Well, that was fun,” Jace remarked, cutting in front of me to get some of the fried fish that was offered for lunch today.

“Hey! Cutter,” I retorted, smacking him with my tray. “And yeah, it was. Not what I was expecting, but fun.”

He gave me a cheeky grin. “And even better, you have me as a partner! Aren’t I just an amazing dancer?”

“I think someone needs their ego taken down a couple notches,” I replied, eyebrows raised.

“My ego is just fine, thank you very much. You’re just jealous because you’re not as great a dancer as I am.”

I scoffed. “Uh huh, right. Jealousy, that’s the word for it.” In truth, I was glad that I had gotten partnered with him. I really didn’t want to spend two weeks watching him dance with another girl.

“Seriously though, am I that bad?” Jace asked, suddenly serious.

“No, you’re not. You’re pretty good, actually. But don’t let that go to your head,” I replied and pointed a finger like a mother scolding her child.

Since Jace and I were the only two out of our group in dance, and the only two with activities in this building, we went ahead and sat down at our normal table.

“You wanna practice during free time? I want to work on those crosses a little more,” he asked as he started to eat.

“Yeah sure. We could go back up to the third floor. I would say we could go onto the dock, but I’m really not in the mood to be pushed into the lake. Again,” I replied.

Last week during swim time, we had been in the lake. I had been talking to Hannah about the activity going on that night when Jace had snuck up on me and shoved me into the water.

“Come on, that was one time. You don’t trust me?” Jace said, attempting to make a puppy dog face. It was cute, but I wasn’t going to let it work.

“Next to a body of water?” I raised my eyebrows. “Nope, not at all.”

He sighed. “Fine, I guess I see your point. We’ll need to find a way to ditch the others though. I’m not real big on the idea of them standing there watching us the whole time.”

“Why do you need to ditch us?” I jumped, startled, and turned to see Hannah setting her tray down beside me. She raised her eyebrows and gave me a suspicious look, which I studiously ignored.

“Uh, well, we need to practice some stuff for dance class during free time and we’d rather not be stared at while we practice, so…” I trailed off, attempting to keep my face from turning red. Hannah’s expression let me know it wasn’t working.

“Okay…” She replied.

I stared down at my half empty plate of food and tried to hide my face. I knew she was probably getting suspicious, and that I should probably tell her, but at the same time, I wasn’t so sure. I had learned a long time ago to be careful who you told what. Not that I didn’t trust Hannah, but you just never knew.

The rest of lunch passed uneventfully, thank goodness. Tonight’s activity was another social, so most of the conversation centered around that. I just hoped Samuel wouldn’t make another attempt at flirting with me. Shelby hadn’t said anything to me after that one night after the first social, but I’d seen her glares every time she saw us talking, which was more often than I’d like. I was kinda scared to find out what she would do if he didn’t back off.

Once we reached the cabin for R&R, Hannah whirled on me. “Alright, spill.”

I looked at her, confused. “Spill what?”

She turned towards Jennifer and Sarah. “Can you give us awhile?”

They nodded and went off towards their bunk beds. “You’ve been looking like you’re gonna puke ever since lunch, and you turned bright red when you explained the whole free time. Something’s wrong. So spill.”

Crud. She was more intuitive than I gave her credit for. “Not…wrong, per se. I guess it could be, given the right circumstances…”

Her eyes widened. “Are you saying what I think you’re saying?”

I didn’t reply, I just flopped down onto my bed. She took that as a yes.

“Oh my word! Y’all are gonna be so cute! This is so exciting!” She exclaimed.

“Shut up! And how do you know what I’m talking about? Maybe that’s not it.” I said, sitting back up.

She gave me a doubtful look. “Girl, I knew you liked him before you knew you liked him. You’re not the hard to figure out. We are talking about Jace here, right?”

“Yeah, we are,” I conceded. Then I thought over her words, groaned, and fell backwards. “Am I that obvious?”

“I don’t think so. Oliver, Matt, and Chris don’t seem to know anything. But they are boys…Traci, come here for a second.”

“What’s up?” Traci asked.

“Do you think our young Clara here-” Hannah started.

“I’m older than you!” I interrupted.

“Shut up, that’s not the point. Do you think our young Clara here likes anybody?”

“Uh, not that I know of,” Traci replied, looking very confused. “Although, if I were her, I’d be going after that friend of hers. He is fine.”

Hannah gave me a pointed look before turning back to Traci. “Thank for your help, Traci.”

“You’re welcome!” Traci said cheerily, and skipped back to her bunk.

“See? You’re not that obvious,” Hannah assured. “So, are you gonna make the first move?”

“What? No! You know I’m not good with things like that! Plus, what if he doesn’t like me that way back? It could ruin our friendship!” I ranted.

“Seriously Clara? That boy’s got it bad for you; you just can’t see it because you’re in denial. Do I need to list the evidence? He hugs you at every opportunity, he wants extra time to dance with you, when all of us are together, he mostly just talks to you, and have you seen his expression when he sees you coming? He might as well be in love, honey.”

“Hannah, breathe. It’s kind of important,” I replied, smiling.

Okay, so maybe he did hug me a lot. And talk to me a lot. And maybe he always looked excited to see me. Maybe our crosses in the waltz looked pretty good to me, but he’s a perfectionist, what do you expect? That all didn’t mean he liked me…did it?
*****

“Okay, so it’s cross, step, together, cross, step, turn, right?” Jace asked as we walked through the steps of the waltz.

“Yep, I think that’s right,” I replied. “And then half a basic...and then you turn me under.”

We attempted the last part, but ended up just running into each other. Funny, we’d had this move down this morning. My thoughts kept returning to what Hannah had said just a couple of hours ago during R&R.

“Okay, you need to make sure you’re going to the left, and I need to make sure to let go of your hand,” I said.

Jace nodded, and we tried that portion of the dance again. This time it went flawlessly.

“You want to try it from the top?” He asked when we finished the turning part of the dance.

“Sure,” I shrugged.

We reassumed the ballroom dance position, and Jace pulled me a little closer. “I think we’re supposed to be more like this.”


All thought went out of my head at his closeness. I managed to nod my head, and we started to dance. Jace counted it out under his breath as we went through the different sections. When we finished going through the entire dance twice, Jace bowed to me, and I gave him the best curtsy I could manage.

“You’re really good. You sure you’re not a dancer?” He asked.

“Nope. Never have been, never will be,” I replied. The idea of me as a dancer was almost laughable. I was much better suited to the soccer field.

“Hmm. Well, I think we’ve got the waltz down. You wanna go find the others? Or…you never did show me your photography.”

“Fine. But you’ll have to wait outside while I get them, cause you’re not allowed in the girls’ cabins.”

“Agreed.”

We left the mess hall building and walked towards cabin seven. I was kind of nervous about showing him my pictures, especially the one of him. I was always nervous about people seeing things I created, but like a lot of things with Jace, this was different. He may not know it, but I did.

Jace waited outside like a good little boy while I went inside to grab some of my pictures. Most of the ones I got were the ones we took with the digital cameras, as those were the ones that turned out the best. I did get a couple of the disposable camera ones, but not many.

“Here we go. Should we sit down somewhere?” I asked as I exited the cabin.

“Sure,” he replied and led me over to one of the picnic tables situated behind the mess hall. A couple tables were already occupied by groups of people playing cards or talking, but three were empty. Jace and I took the one furthest away from the others.

I handed him the bundle of photographs and immediately began fidgeting. He took his time looking through them, spending several seconds on each one.

“Wow Clara. These are all so good. You continue to amaze me. Although, I must say this one’s my favorite,” Jace said when he was done and held up the one of him on the dock.

I blushed. “Thanks. That’s one of my favorites too.”

“I like this one, too,” he said, laughing and holding up a picture of Hannah passed out on her bunk during R&R one day.

“That one was actually a joke. She threatened to burn it when she saw it developing. She thinks I threw it away, so don’t say anything,” I told him.

“I won’t. You never know when you may need blackmail.”

We continued sorting through the pictures. I would stop every once in a while to explain a certain picture, situation, or inspiration.

“I really like this one too,” I said, picking up a picture of the bonfire. The flames licked up towards the sky and almost blacked out everything around them. You could barely make out a few people sitting in the front row, their feet and legs illuminated by the colors of the fire.

“Seriously, Clara, these are insanely good. Have you ever thought of being a photographer?” Jace asked.

I shrugged. “I don’t know, I’ve thought about it. I like to keep my options open. I feel like if I get my heart set on one thing too much, then something’s going to go wrong.”

“So you’re more of a fly by the seat of your pants kind of girl?”

“Kind of, sometimes. I mean, I like schedules and all, but I don’t want to put my life down in concrete right now. I’m only sixteen, I have so much life ahead of me. There’s a lot I want to do, so I kind of just take it day by day and see what happens. I’m more of a take advantage of every opportunity kind of girl.”

“That’s a good mindset to have.”

“Thanks, I think,” I replied. I glanced down, only to realize how close we were now sitting. I didn’t know if Jace noticed it or not, but either way, I didn’t move.

“Achoo!” I sneezed.

“I’d say God bless you, but it looks like he already did,” Jace said with a wink.

I sniffed and blushed. I really, really needed to stop that. “Thanks. Your girlfriend must really like you to put up with all those pick up lines.”

“Me? Have a girlfriend? Girl, I’m a single pringle and ready to mingle!” He replied.

I snorted and tried not to think about the many different things he could mean by that sentence.

“Hey, there you guys are! We’ve been looking all over!” Jennifer exclaimed. I looked up to see the Hannah, Jennifer, and Sarah coming towards us. Hannah gave me a look that said ‘we’ll be talking later.’ I gave her a quick nod.

“You guys know it’s almost time for dinner, right?” Sarah asked as they all sat down.

I glanced at my watch and Sarah was right, it was four forty five. Jace and I glanced at each other and laughed lightly. Neither of us realized how long we had been sitting there.

“Uh, where have you guys been looking? It’s kind of hard to miss us,” I said, gesturing to the open space all around us.

“Okay, so maybe we didn’t look that hard,” Jennifer admitted. “We started to, but then we got distracted by a shirts and skins game…”

“Correction, you got distracted by the game, and forced the rest of us to wait with you. For a minute there I thought you were going to pull out some binoculars,” Hannah contradicted.

Jennifer’s face turned red, a rarity for her. The rest of us chuckled at her obvious discomfort. She wasn’t easily ruffled, so we had to take advantage of every opportunity.

“Like you weren’t just as interested,” Jennifer retorted.

Hannah immediately started blushing as well, and I finally figured out where Oliver, Matt, and Chris were, and why Jennifer and Hannah had wanted watch the game so bad. I smirked at both of them.

“We’d better go, I want to put these back in the cabin before we head to dinner,” I said, standing up.

The girls stood up to follow me, but Jace remained seated. It looked like he was off in la-la land, daydreaming.

“Jace, you coming or what?” Hannah called back.

He started. “Huh? Oh yeah, I’m coming.” He stood up, and, forgetting that he was at a picnic table, barely stopped himself from face planting.

I snickered. “Smooth.”

“Shut up,” he replied. He dusted himself off, even though he hadn’t actually fallen, and jogged to catch up with us.

After we stopped by cabin seven, the five of us went on to dinner. We figured the other three boys would find us later, and besides, we were hungry.

Dinner that night was lasagna, one of my favorites, along with garlic bread, salad, and pie for dessert. As we walked to our table with our food, Jennifer glanced back towards the entrance.

“Found the rest of the boys,” she said, nodding in their direction. They stood at the back of the line, this time fully clothed; I’m sure to Hannah and Jennifer’s disappointment.

I snickered at Jennifer’s expression and turned back to my food.

Day 21 – Saturday

It was the third Saturday of camp, which meant it was time for the second camp dance. This week’s theme was “Fancy Frock Night,” which basically meant it was a dress up dance. While some girls groaned at this idea, I was extremely excited. I usually went for more casual clothes; but I almost always jumped at the chance to dress up. The dress I had chosen was a tulip-shaped dress, white on the top and grey on the bottom with a black sash just above my waist. I put black flats with it, as I knew we would be dancing and heels would kill my feet. Hannah had put my hair in an intricate braided bun on top of my head with pieces falling down around my face.

Hannah was currently curling the pieces hanging out of my bun, which kind of terrified me. Hannah handling hot tools near my face? Not exactly my idea of safe.

“Well, what do you think?” She said a few minutes later when she was done. I smiled when I saw my reflection in the mirror.

“It looks so good!” I exclaimed, giving her a hug.

“Girl, it ain’t just the hair. You look gorgeous. Jace is not going to be able to take his eyes off you all night!”

I blushed and glanced down at my outfit once more. “You sure about that?”

Hannah gave me her ‘are you serious?’ look and replied, “He can’t stop looking at you when you’re sweaty and covered in bug spray and sunscreen. He’s gonna have to pick his jaw up off the floor when he sees you tonight, trust me.”

Hannah was still the only one to know about my feelings for Jace, and I planned to keep it that way for a while. I loved Jennifer and all, but she wasn’t the best secret keeper in the world. I was terrified that if she found out, so would Jace. Not necessarily on purpose, but still.

“You ready?” Hannah asked as she finished twisting her hair into a low bun.

Dani was letting us walk to the dance by ourselves tonight, so I nodded and the two of us headed out the cabin door.
*****

“Care to dance, fair lady?” Jace asked as the first notes of “I’ll Be” by Edwin McCain played out of the speakers. He bowed and stuck out his hand.

I giggled. “Thank you kind sir,” I replied, and slid my hand into his.

He spun me into the ballroom dance position. We easily moved together in the waltz, a dance we had worked pretty hard to perfect as the first dance we had learned as dance partners. I’m sure we stood out from the numerous couples swaying on the dance floor, but in that moment, I didn’t care. I didn’t care about much really, right then, not even Hannah’s suggestive looks from her place in Matt’s arms or the fact that Dani and Charlie were dancing quite closely on the other side of the dance floor. All I cared about was Jace and his arms around me.

As the song ended, he brushed a kiss against my cheek and whispered, “I have something to tell you.”

My heart kicked into double time, both from the kiss and his words. “What?”

He pulled away with the last strains of the music but kept my hand. “Not now. Later, when there’s less people.”

My mind swirled with possibilities as we walked back to our friends and “I Love It” by Icona Pop came on. Jace let go of me as we started dancing and jumping with the rest of the group.

I more or less forgot about what Jace was supposed to say for the rest of the dance, but it was always present in the back of my mind. They played one other slow song, “You and Me” by Lifehouse. Jace and I danced together again, but he made no mention of his remark earlier.
*****

“So, you and Jace looked awfully cozy tonight. I think I even saw a little handholding if I’m not mistaken. Anything you want to tell me, Clara?” Hannah commented later that night. We were both showered and sitting on my bottom bed. Jennifer and Sarah had both claimed they were exhausted and gone on to bed. Dani had cancelled the cabin meeting for tonight after yelling a couple of reminders on the way back to the cabin.

I sighed. “No, unfortunately not. He said he had to tell me something later, but he never did. He wanted there to be less people around, apparently.”

“Ooh!” Hannah said excitedly, raising her eyebrows.

“Oh hush. He could be telling me he’s gay for all I know.”

“Honey, he is so not gay. Why would he want to dance with you so bad if he was gay?”

“I don’t know, to keep people from finding out?”

“I think you’re just in denial. You’re trying to not get your hopes up about him liking you. Am I right?”

“Maybe…” I mumbled.

Hannah sighed. “Why is it so hard for you to believe that a guy would like you? Look at you, you’re beautiful, funny, smart, honest, and did I mention beautiful?”

I gave her a small smile. “Thanks. It’s a long story, one that I’d rather not visit right now, if you don’t mind.”

“Okay. But if you ever want to talk, I’m here for ya,” she replied and gave me an awkward sitting down hug.

“I’ll keep that in mind. Now, this is depressing, we need something happy to talk about. Like maybe you and Matt, for instance?”

We talked for another half hour or so about Hannah’s relationship ‘problems’ before we decided we had better get to bed.

I fell asleep still thinking about whatever Jace was supposed to tell me.

Day 23 – Monday

“Jace, where are we going?” I asked. It was a day and a half after the dance, and still he hadn’t said anything about what he had said while we were dancing. I had a feeling he was about too, though. It was just after four, in the middle of free time, and Jace was dragging me along by the hand into the woods. Well, not so much dragging as me willingly following with absolutely no idea where he was leading me.

“Right here,” he replied, and ducked through a small opening in a wall of leaves. I went in after him and stared around me. Jace had led me to what seemed like a hollow bush with a rock at the back, shielded from the rest of the woods by leaves and branches.

“What is this place?” I settled in beside him on the moss covered ground.

“My sister told me about it after her last year here. I was going to use it as our capture the flag hiding spot, but I didn’t want everyone knowing about it,” he replied.

“So why bring me here?”

“Well,” he started, fidgeting with his hands in his lap. “Remember at the dance when I said there was something I wanted to tell you later?”

“Yeah…” I trailed off, stomach in knots. I wished he would spit it out already.

“Well, uh, this seemed like a good place to say it so…goodness how do I put this…see, the thing is, Clara, I, uh, I like you. So, uh, will you be my girlfriend? I know it’s just camp and everything, but since we live close together I figured we could give it a shot but if you don’t want to that’s okay I totally understand and-”

“Jace,” I cut him off, grinning. “You’re babbling. And yes.”

He abruptly shut his mouth before smiling widely. “Awesome. I’ve actually wanted to tell you that for a while but there was never a good time, and I wasn’t sure if you felt the same way, so I never said anything. Until today, that is.”

So Hannah was right, after all. I’d never hear the end of this one.

We sat in comfortable silence for a few minutes before I checked my watch. “Hey, we should probably head back before the others start wondering where we are. Plus, it’s close to dinnertime.”

“Yeah, you’re probably right,” he replied.

I pushed myself off of the ground and started to make my way through the hole in the leaves.

“Hey, wait,” Jace said before I could start out. He tugged on my wrist to stop me. When I turned to face him, my lips were covered by his. His lips were soft and warm and moved easily with my own. When we finally came up for air, Jace grinned. “You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting to do that.”

“That sounded so cliché,” I replied, snickering.

“Shut up! At least it’s true. Come on, I’m starving,” he retorted and slid past me to climb out of the hole.

I smiled at his back as I wiggled out after him.
*****

“So, Clara, is there any new revelations in your life that I should know about? You know, births, deaths, new boyfriends, perhaps?” Jennifer asked that night. It was another bonfire night, but this one was held in the middle of the field. Blankets were spread out everywhere, and Hannah, Sarah, Jennifer, and I had claimed two of them to lie on. We each had a plate with a couple of s’mores on it sitting in front of us. Jace and the boys were off near the fire doing who knows what, as boys tend to do. They had told us they would come over to sit with us later, but we would see about that.

I could feel my face going bright red, as per usual. Even Hannah hadn’t found out about Jace and I’s adventure in the woods earlier today. She thought, like the others, that he simply had a question to ask me about newspaper, which was Jace, Hannah, and I’s activity for the next two weeks. Unfortunately, Shelby had also ended up in that class. How, I don’t know. She didn’t exactly seem like the sharpest crayon in the box if you know what I mean. Newspaper didn’t exactly seem like something she would have chosen, but what do I know?

“Jennifer asks a very good question, Clara. Is there anything you’d like to inform us of? Especially anything involving a tall, dark headed boy whose name starts with a J and ends with an ace?” Hannah raised her eyebrows.

“Um, well…” I started.

“Yes?” Sarah said eagerly.

I sighed before telling them the whole story. I left out the kiss; I wanted to keep that to myself for a while. They all squealed and aww’d at the appropriate parts and Hannah frequently said that she told me so and that she was right all along. I grudgingly agreed with her, though I also told her to shut up multiple times. I knew I was blushing the whole time.

“See? I told you he liked you!” Hannah exclaimed for the sixth time.

“I know, I know! I get it,” I replied. I looked up from my position on my stomach to see Jace waving me over from over next to the fire pit. “I’ll be back in a minute, guys.”

“Have fun with lover boy!” Sarah called out as I walked away from them. I also heard a wolf whistle and an “Aye aye aye!” I turned and shot them a glare.

“Hey. I’m guessing you told them?” Jace asked, slipping his hand into mine.

“More like they figured it out, but yeah, they know.”

“I still don’t understand why you didn’t want to tell them immediately. It’s not like we tried to hide it or anything.”

It was true. We’d held hands most of the night and exchanged a hug or two. The staff here was pretty cool about PDA. As long as they didn’t catch you canoodling or making out anywhere, they didn’t really care about relationships that happened here. What else could they expect, with almost a hundred teens kept together for eight weeks straight?

“I just didn’t want Hannah freaking out on me in front of the camp. You know how I am. Did you run and tell Matt and them right afterwards?”

“Not exactly, no. But I told them. Plus, I’m a guy; we don’t exactly tell each other everything all the time. Or any of the time, really.”

“Still, it was kinda nice just us knowing, don’t you think?”

“Yeah, it was. I don’t mind people knowing though. Does it really bother you that much?”

I snorted. “No. I would have told Hannah later tonight anyways, I just didn’t want the whole camp’s attention on me. I’m telling you the girl has no filter sometimes.”

Jace laughed. “Oh yeah, I’ve noticed. I think they’ve noticed a lot too,” he said, nodding his head in the direction of my friends.

I turned to see them staring intently in our direction, though they acted immersed in conversation when they saw they were caught. I shook my head and laughed.

“Want to go over there?” Jace asked.

“Sure,” I replied, shrugging.

We walked over to the other three, who all looked guilty as we approached.

“Real subtle guys,” I said as I took my spot on the blanket. Jace settled in beside me and leaned back on his hands.

“Sorry. You guys are just too cute!” Hannah exclaimed. She looked quite a bit less guilty than the other two.

“Thanks,” I replied.

“You know-” Hannah began.

“Don’t even start,” I held out my hand. “I explain later,” I said to Jace, who looked confused. He nodded and wrapped his arm around my waist to pull me back against his chest.

We spent the rest of the night in much of the same fashion, just talking and enjoying the warm summer night. Matt, Oliver, and Chris all joined us eventually. Chris stuck close to Jennifer’s side. Hannah and I exchanged knowing glances, which I think Jennifer might have caught. Matt also stayed pretty close to Hannah, causing her face to flush for most of the night. Oliver, who I had noticed was shy and kind of awkward at times, sat next to Sarah but not near as close as Chris to Jennifer.

I hoped the rest of camp went much like this. I was already dreading the day we had to leave.

Letter Home
Dear Mom,

Camp’s going really great! We had a dance last Saturday, and it was so much fun! The few slow dances they play aren’t even awkward; everyone’s such good friends with everyone else. Well, mostly everybody. There’s this girl and her two friends I don’t always get along with. At first I thought they were just not too bright and harmless, but now I’m not so sure. They haven’t bothered me lately but…I’m trying not to let them get to me.

Tonight (Tuesday night) we’re having a counselor flag football game. This outta be really funny!

I can’t believe it’s only been a little over three weeks, it seems like I’ve been here forever and yet also like I’ve been here two days. I’m already dreading leaving day! Do you know if you’re coming up for visiting day or not?

Whoops! Time to go swimming. Sorry this is so short, I didn’t have much time to write but I just wanted to make sure you knew I wasn’t dead or mauled by a bear or anything. Talk to you later!
Love,
Clara

Day 30 – Monday

The past week has been amazing. I can’t imagine leaving these people, especially Hannah and Jace. Ah, Jace. He’s an amazing boyfriend, more so than any other I’ve had in the past, not that I’ve had many. I’m so glad we live close, so hopefully we won’t have to break up just because summer’s over. Ugh, summer ending, I didn’t even want to think about it. Visiting day had passed last Saturday, and my mom had come up for a few hours. Since parents are allowed to take their kids off campus, she took me to the nearest town over for a hamburger and a shake. We talked about camp and what she was doing while I was gone. It was nice to see her, but I probably would have been fine even if she hadn’t come up. I never had been one to get homesick, even when I was little.

“Hey gorgeous,” I was brought out of my reverie by a male voice that was distinctly not Jace’s. I lifted my arm off of my face to see Samuel standing above me.

I rolled my eyes as I replied, “Hello, Samuel.”

“What’s a beautiful girl like you doing alone on a beautiful day like today?”

“If you must know, I’m waiting on Hannah to get back from the drink stand.”

“You want some company while you wait?”

“Not really. And you’re blocking my sun.”

“Hey, here you go. One lemonade with a straw, as requested,” Hannah cut him off before he could reply. He made a face before stalking off.

Hannah stuck her tongue out at his back as he retreated. “What did he want?”

“I honestly don’t know, and I really don’t care. That boy irritates me so much,” I replied and took a sip of my lemonade. “Mm, this is good. Thanks for getting it for me.”

“Welcome. Water’s pretty good too,” she said.

“Yeah, but it’s water. Water tastes like water.”

“Nuh uh, not if it’s flavored water,” she retorted.

“Well then it’s called flavored water. Plain water tastes like plain water.”

Hannah harrumphed and looked out over the lake. In addition to having little to no filter, the girl also loved to be right. I smiled and shook my head. The two of us had swam for a while, but then decided to get out and talk for a bit. We both liked the pool decidedly better. You could actually see the bottom of the pool. And it was cleaner.

“Where’re the boys?” I asked.

“Over there, being stupid,” she replied, pointing towards the water trampolines near the middle of the lake. The four of them had invented some game where they tried to see who could pull the ‘coolest’ (read: most dangerous, more like) trick off the edge of the trampoline. Jennifer and Sarah were still in the lake talking to some girls they knew from their improv class this rotation.

“What do expect? They’re boys. I think stupid is a trait carried on the Y chromosome,” I replied.

Hannah snorted and nearly choked on her sip of water. “You’re probably right.”

“Aren’t I always?”

“Yeah. Like you were so right about Jace liking you.”

“Would you stop holding that over my head? We’re together now!”

“Yeah, because he made the first move. You wouldn’t even believe me, your best friend, that he liked you!”

“Whatever. At least I’m with the guy I like. Unlike someone I know,” I gave her a pointed look.

“Hey, I’ve given him plenty of opportunities and hints! I just think the boy should make the first move.”

“She can give advice all day long, she just can’t take her own,” I muttered.

“I heard that!”

“You were meant to!”

We both busted out laughing and still were when Jace and Matt walked up to us.

“Whoa, what’d we miss?” Jace asked as he appraised the scene.
Speak of the devil, I thought when I finally contained myself. “Nothing, just…I don’t even really know. Inside joke, I guess.”
Jace nodded slowly and settled down next to me on the dock.
*****
“Clara,” a voice spoke up from behind me. It was the beginning of free time, and I was alone in the cabin, or so I thought. I had needed a minute to clean up my bunk bed, so Hannah, Jennifer, and Sarah had gone on and were waiting for me at the mess hall.
I turned to see Shelby standing behind me. I have a bad feeling about this, I thought.
“Hey, what’s up?” I asked cautiously.
“Look, I’m gonna get straight to the point. I told you to stay away from Samuel. He’s mine, not yours. This is the last time I’m warning you. Stay. Away. From him. I mean it,” she spat.
I tried to respond, but before I could, she turned on her heel and walked quickly out of the cabin.
What the poop? How does she still think I like Samuel? And what was she going to do if he didn’t stop flirting with me?
My stomach was in knots as I set out to find the Hannah and the others.
*****
“Hey, you wanna be partners?” Samuel asked. Tonight’s activity was game night, and we were getting ready to play Birdie on the Perch.
“No thanks, I already have one,” I replied, looking around for Jace. He had disappeared moments before, saying he would be right back, but so far there was no sign of him.
“You sure? I happen to be amazing at this game,” he said, puffing out his chest.
“I’m sure you are,” I muttered under my breath. “I mean, I’m sure I have a partner. Oh, there he is!” I finally spotted Jace walking back towards us.
Samuel huffed and shot Jace a glare as he turned away.
“What’s his problem?” Jace asked, slipping his hand into mine.
“You want the entire list, or the main one?” I answered. I was only half joking.
He laughed and we went to join the circle that was forming to start the game.
Twenty minutes later, the two of us were laughing and breathless. This was one of my favorite games to play back home. Jace and I had lasted a while, as had Hannah and Matt. Sarah and Oliver had chosen to sit this one out, and we hadn’t seen Jennifer and Chris since we got to the field earlier that night. There was another group of kids that had gone to play capture the flag again, so they might have been with them, but we weren’t exactly sure about that.
We spent the rest of the evening playing various games, from Squirrel to Duck, Duck Goose. It felt good to act like a little kid again.

Day 32 – Wednesday
“Good thing I have my library card, cause girl I am checking you out!” A distinctly male voice called out from behind me.
I rolled my eyes and turned around to see Jace standing there. “Very original, Jace. Where do you get all these pick-up lines?”
He shrugged. “Internet, my head, my friends, other various places. What can I say, that’s one of the best in the book.”
“Come on, we have to get to newspaper,” I said, laughing and taking his hand.
In addition to Shelby being in this class, we also had to be stuck with Samuel. Which was insanely awkward, with their history and how Samuel liked to flirt (badly, I might add) with me while Jace’s back was turned. I had gotten quite a few dirty looks from Shelby, though she still hasn’t said much to me. She hadn’t said much to anybody really, besides Carlie and Emmaline and the occasional attempt to get Samuel’s attention. As far as I could tell, Jace had only caught Samuel’s lame attempts at flirting a couple of times.
When we entered the newspaper building, Hannah was already in there. She had had to go back to the cabin to get part of the article she was writing and had gone on ahead of us. Jace and I took our usual seats next to her and pulled out our folders to start working.
Fifteen minutes later I felt a tap on my shoulder. I was so involved in my work it took me a couple of times for it to register with me, but when it did, I turned to see Samuel standing behind me looking way too confident. I inwardly groaned.
“What do you need Samuel?” I tried to keep my tone polite, but I’m not entirely sure it worked.
“So, you know there’s that social coming up tonight, and I was just wondering if you’d like to accompany me to it. You know, as my date,” he said.
I slid my hand over my face. I couldn’t believe this guy. A glance at the chair next to me indicated that Jace was indeed gone.
“Look Samuel, I have a boyfriend. I’m sorry, but I’m not interested. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to finish this article before we have to go,” I replied. This time I was unable to keep the irritation from seeping into my voice.
He made a face at me before responding, “Whatever, your loss.”
I sighed and went back to my work. Before I could get started, I glanced up and caught Shelby giving me a death look from her desk across the room. I rolled my eyes and concentrated on putting the finishing touches on my article.
“He’s an idiot,” Hannah whispered to me.
“Believe me, I know. I wish he’d just leave me alone,” I answered.
Hannah gave me a sympathetic look before turning back to her story. Jace slid back into his chair a couple minutes later. I was just glad he’d been gone for that whole exchange. Boy, would that have been awkward.
*****

“Hey, where’s Jace? You guys are usually attached at the hip,” Hannah asked later that day during swim time. Come to think of it, I hadn’t seen Jace since the beginning of swim, when he’d told me he had to go to the bathroom.

“I don’t know. He probably just started talking to the rest of the boys and got sidetracked,” I responded, shrugging.

“No, cause they’re over there, near Jennifer and Sarah,” Hannah said and pointed to where the other three boys were goofing off in the very shallow end of the pool.

I frowned and looked around the pool. “Hey, wait, is that him over there?”

Hannah squinted to where I was motioning. “Yeah I think so. That’s weird, I thought he didn’t like Shelby. Like at all.”

“Maybe she just had a question about newspaper or something,” I said.

“Maybe…” Hannah trailed off. I didn’t like the tone she said that in, but I chose to ignore it. Whatever they were talking about, it had to be innocent…right?

Day 36 – Sunday

It’s been four days since Hannah and I saw Jace and Shelby talking at the pool, and lately something’s been off with Jace. He hasn’t been talking to me as much, and he’s growing more and more distant every day. I don’t recall doing anything wrong, but maybe I did. Either way, he won’t talk about whatever happened. I was just happy it wasn’t a dance weekend, or last night would have been incredibly awkward.

Today was Sunday, which meant it was devo day, thank goodness. I could use one right now. Hannah and I were walking up together. I hadn’t seen Jace at all that morning except a few glimpses at breakfast. I just didn’t understand how this happened. I miss the way we were before.

Day 38 – Tuesday

Jace still isn’t talking to me. They keep us busy enough to keep my mind off of it for the most part, but it still sits in the back of my mind constantly. I even miss all the pick-up lines he was so fond of.

I missed him, plain and simple. We didn’t hang out anymore, and the only words I got were an “excuse me” or asking to pass the glue or something in class.

What have I done? Is it even me?

Day 40 – Thursday

I was walking with Hannah and the rest of our group (sans Jace) to the rec rooms for free time when I finally found Jace alone. He was walking in the direction of the soccer field, where it sounded like a game was in progress.

“Hey, I’ll catch up with you guys later, okay?” I told them.

Hannah gave me a knowing and sympathetic look as I jogged towards Jace.

“Jace! Jace, wait up! Jace, we need to talk,” I said as I approached him.

He didn’t even turn towards me when I reached him, he just kept walking.

“Jace, talk to me. What’s wrong?” I asked worriedly. Yes, I was angry at him for ignoring me for a week, but I was still worried.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” he mumbled, kicking a few rocks as we walked.

“Jace, you know you can tell me anything. What’s the matter? Did I do something?”

He suddenly whirled around to face me. “Don’t act like you don’t know, Clara!”

“Know about what? I have no idea what you’re talking about!” I felt like I was about to cry, but I was determined not to.

“I know about Samuel, okay? I know you cheated,” he spun on his heel and turned his face away from me. He started walking again, this time towards the lake.

“What?! Jace, I seriously don’t know what you’re talking about. There’s nothing going on between me and Samuel!” I exclaimed.

“You know exactly what I’m talking about. Shelby told me about your little boyfriend you’ve been seeing on the side. I thought we really had something, Clara. But apparently I thought wrong,” he replied, his voice cracking slightly at the end.

Understanding dawned on me. Of course Shelby was behind this. “Shelby told you all this? Jace, you have to believe me, there’s nothing going on with Samuel, I promise!”

“What am I supposed to believe? I’ve seen you talking to him, and I’ve seen the way he looks at you,” he fired back.

“Jace, I would never do that to you. You have to believe me,” I said. Tears pricked at the back of my eyes.

“I just…Give me a little time,” he answered, and walked off, leaving me in the middle of the path.

My thoughts immediately skimmed over the past couple of years, bringing back memories I had been avoiding for a while and especially here at camp. Memories of being teased, of rumors being spread, of situations quite like this one, brought upon a trio of girls not unlike Shelby, Carlie, and Emmaline. Of being whispered about and left, of relationships being ruined. Tears fell down my cheeks and I quickly wiped them away before quickly walking back to my cabin and praying no one was in there.

Thankfully there wasn’t. I allowed myself a couple of minutes to cry in one of the stalls before I emerged and took a look at my reflection in the mirror. My hair was messy from my hands being run through it, and my eyes were slightly red and puffy. I sighed and retrieved my brush and make-up from my bunk. The others would be wondering where I was before long.
*****

“Hey, can I talk to you?” Jace whispered in my ear as he touched his hand to my elbow. Tonight we had signed up for our activities, and the eight of us, Jace included, had signed up for ‘outdoor chill time,’ which was basically socializing and game time outside.

I sighed. “Yeah, I guess.”

We walked over to a cluster of rocks away from the main group of people and sat down.

“First of all, I wanted to apologize for blowing up at you earlier. I was just angry and confused. Second of all, I wanted to tell you that I believe you. I should have believed you the first time around; I don’t know why I didn’t. I guess…I guess this all just felt too good to be true, and what Shelby said just confirmed my fears. I never should have listened to her. So….am I forgiven?”

I cracked a smile. “There you go with the clichés again. And I’ll forgive you. On one condition.”

Jace looked slightly worried, but more than that he looked happy. I’m sure I shared that part of his expression.
“Oh? And what would that be?” He asked.
“Never listen to Shelby again. She’s not the sharpest tool in the shed in case you haven’t noticed.”
“Done,” he said, grinning. “Follow me.”
He took my hand and pulled me up off the rock we had been sitting on. When we reached the shed lake supplies and stuff were kept in, he looked around for counselors or other interested bystanders before pulling me behind it.
“What are you-” I started to say, but my lips suddenly became otherwise occupied.

Day 42 – Friday
I sighed and ran a hand through my hair. I had just gotten out of getting hit on by Samuel. Again. Despite my repeated attempts at pushing him away, the boy was relentless. During the past several days, I had endured this as well as glares and snide remarks from Shelby and her cronies. I had put up with this for the past few years at school from three different girls who were quite similar in attitude. Frankly, I was done with it.
“Hey,” I nudged Hannah in the side. “I have something I have to take care of before dinner, so wait on me outside the cabin, okay?”
“Shelby?” She asked, giving me a knowing look. Hannah and I had become super close over the past few weeks, even to the point where people got us confused, although we looked nothing alike.
I nodded.
“Will do. Let me know if you need any back up. I have a mean right hook, you know.”
“Hannah! I’m not gonna beat her up!”
“I’m just kidding! Well, mostly.”
I laughed and shook my head. As nervous as I was to confront Shelby, I knew it had to be done.
*****
“Look, I don’t know what issue you have with me, but I’m tired of this!” I exclaimed. Shelby stared back at me, eyes wide in a feigned look of innocence.
“I don’t know what you mean,” she said.
“I think you know exactly what I mean. I know you told Jace that I was cheating on him with Samuel, when you knew positively well that I wasn’t,” I replied, lowering my voice. We were the only two in the cabin; the rest of the girls had already gone on to dinner.
“So what if I did?”
“The point is, I’m not, nor have I ever been, cheating on Jace. If you want Samuel, you can have him, because I’m not interested. At all. Whatsoever. I’m tired of dealing with people like you. I don’t know if you’re jealous or just mean or what, but stop. Now if you’ll excuse me, Hannah’s waiting on me,” I finished my rant, spun on my heel, and walked out of the cabin, leaving Shelby standing there watching me leave.
“So? How’d it go?” Hannah asked when I reached her.
“She admitted to it, and I kinda ranted at her. But I got my point across. I think,” I responded, looping my arm through hers.
“Good. Because no one messes with my best friend and gets away with it.”
I looked at her warily. “What did you do?”
“Wait for it,” she said with a sly grin.
A minute later, we heard a shriek coming from the direction of cabin seven.
“A little green dye in her hairspray. Nothing permanent, of course. And I might have put a little shaving cream in her slippers. And a plastic roach on her pillow,” she shrugged. “It wasn’t hard to figure out her routine. And she’ll never be able to prove it was me.”
“But what if Dani wants to know who did it?” I asked.
“Seriously? Dani can’t stand the girl any more than we can. I highly doubt she’s gonna care that much.”
“This is true.”
We laughed and headed on to dinner.
*****
“Samuel, I’m not trying to be rude here, but whatever delusion you’re operating under, you need to get out of it,” I said. It was that night during activity period, and we were getting ready to go geocaching. Since I had already talked to Shelby, I figured I might as well set Samuel straight too before Shelby could get to him and twist my words around. Though after what Hannah did, I’m not sure she’d be messing with either of us for a while, if ever again.
“What delusion?” He asked, looking confused.
I sighed. This boy had to be dumber than a box of rocks. “The one where you think I like you like that, or am going to date you or whatever. I have a boyfriend that I’m not going to cheat on, so I’d really appreciate it if you’d stop hitting on me. Shelby seems interested though, so that’s an option.”
“Shelby? Uh, no. But thanks for the tip. If you ever ditch you boyfriend, you know where to find me,” he winked and walked off.
I shuddered. Not in this lifetime, I thought. Or the next one, or any one really.
“Hey, you ready to hike through the woods to find meaningless boxes?” Jace asked as he slung an arm around my shoulder.
“Sure! Although when you put it like that it doesn’t sound so fun,” I replied.
“Nah, it is. For Narnia!” He exclaimed, and dragged me off to where our house was heading off into the woods.






Letter Home
Dear Mom,
You’ll be excited to know (or not) that I have a boyfriend. His name’s Jace, I think I told you about him before. He’s super sweet, I think you’ll really like him. He lives close to us, too.
You know those girls I told you about that were mean to me? Well, it got worse for a while, almost a repeat of last year. Thankfully, I managed to talk to Jace and I even stood up to their leader, Shelby. You’d be proud of me. Or I guess you are, I hope. I know I’m proud of myself.
I can’t believe camp’s almost over! I don’t want to leave! I guess I’ll be glad to sleep in my own bed and everything, but I’m going to miss this place and these people so much. At least we all live pretty close to each other. Plan on some camp reunions in the near future! This has seriously been the best summer ever! Thanks again for making me come! 
See you in a few days!
Love,
Clara

Day 56 – Friday
“I’m gonna miss you guys so much!” I exclaimed. It was Friday, and the last day of camp. You wouldn’t have guessed from my attitude at the beginning of camp that by the end I wouldn’t want to leave. The staff had given us free time after breakfast until noon, when parents would start arriving to pick us up. Dani and Charlie were talking over near the mess hall, almost out of view of most of the campers. I saw Charlie wrap his arms around Dani and the two of them exchange a quick kiss. I guess now that camp was basically over it wasn’t really necessary for them to hide their relationship anymore. They walked out to the rest of us hand in hand.
“Can you just like come home with me?” Hannah joked. At least, I think she was joking.
“At least most of us live pretty close to each other,” I said. It was true; Hannah, Matt, Jace, and I all lived within a forty five minute drive or so from each other. Jennifer lived fairly close too. The others lived kind of far, but I was determined to stay in touch with them.
“Yeah. We have to get together!” Jennifer said.
“I’ll be right back guys,” I told them, and walked over to where Jace was standing against the wall of the mess hall. We had been together all that day, but I suspected he wanted to be alone with me before our parents started arriving.
“Hey,” I said quietly.
“Hey. Guess camp’s about over,” he replied sadly.
“Yeah. I never thought I would have enjoyed it this much. Or met you.”
He smiled. “At least we live real close to each other. This doesn’t have to be the end of us. Unless you want it to be?” The smile slipped from his face.
“Of course not. I say we give it a try and keep it going.”
“Awesome,” he said with a grin.
I smiled back and stretched up onto my toes to press my lips to his. “Come on, I think their eyes are about to fall out of their heads.” It was true, Hannah and Jennifer were both staring at us intensely, and they didn’t look the least bit guilty. I rolled my eyes and grabbed Jace’s hand as we walked back to our friends.
*****
Noon came much too quickly for my liking. My friends and I were snacking from the food the staff had set out in lieu of lunch when I saw my mom walking up the gravel path towards the mess hall. I could feel tears starting to well up; I bit my lip to hold them back.
I hugged my mom and we walked in silence to my cabin. My luggage was all packed up and sitting on my bed, which had already been stripped of its linens. Dani hugged me and wished me well as we stepped out of the cabin and back into the bright sunshine.
Hannah, Jace, Jennifer, and Sarah all said sad goodbyes to me before my mom and I headed off to the office to check out. Jace gave me a quick kiss when my mom’s back was turned and told me he would text me in the next couple of days. Matt and Chris had already left with their respective parents. I waved to Traci and Irene as we passed them and chose to ignore Shelby, Carlie, and Emmaline, who did the same to me.
The tears finally spilled over as my mom walked me out to her parked car. I swiped them off my cheeks as we drove away from, as cliché as it sounded, the place that had changed my life for the better.



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This book has 5 comments.


on Oct. 11 2013 at 11:58 am
Forever-A-Camper BRONZE, Blacksburg, Virginia
3 articles 0 photos 6 comments

Favorite Quote:
JUST FOR TODAY, I will live through this day only. I will not brood about yesterday or obsess about tomorrow. I will not set far-reaching goals or try to overcome all of my problems at once. I know that I can do something for 24 hours that would overwhelm me if I had to keep it up for a lifetime.
JUST FOR TODAY, I will be happy. I will not dwell on thoughts that depress me. If any mind fills with clouds, I will chase it away and fill it with sunshine.
JUST FOR TODAY, I will accept what is. I will face reality. I will correct those things I can correct and accept those things I cannot.
JUST FOR TODAY, I will improve my mind. I will read something that requires effort, thought, and concentration. I will not be a mental loafer.
JUST FOR TODAY, I will make a conscious effort to to be agreeable. I will be kind and courteous to those who cross my path, and I'll not speak ill of others. I will speak softly, and not interrupt when someone else is talking.
JUST FOR TODAY, I will refrain from improving anyone but myself.
JUST FOR TODAY, I will do something positive to improve my health. If I am a smoker, I'll quit. If I am overweight, I'll eat more healthfully - if only just for today. And not only that, I will get off the couch and take a brisk walk, even if it's only around the block.
JUST FOR TODAY, I will gather the courage to do what is right and take responsibility for my own actions.

yay!!! you are such a great writer.  do you think you could read my poem? In Search of the Music?

on Oct. 8 2013 at 9:09 pm
iWriteForFood SILVER, Murfreesboro, Tennessee
9 articles 0 photos 21 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Logic will get you from point A to point B. Imagination will take you everywhere." ~Albert Einstein

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." Ralph Waldo Emerson

I don't know about a second summer, but I'm definitely considering writing something about after camp is over and they're all back to normal lives. If I do, it will definitely be up here, but I make no promises as to when that will be. Possibly as early as December or January, but like I said, I make no promises. :)

on Oct. 8 2013 at 5:24 pm
Forever-A-Camper BRONZE, Blacksburg, Virginia
3 articles 0 photos 6 comments

Favorite Quote:
JUST FOR TODAY, I will live through this day only. I will not brood about yesterday or obsess about tomorrow. I will not set far-reaching goals or try to overcome all of my problems at once. I know that I can do something for 24 hours that would overwhelm me if I had to keep it up for a lifetime.
JUST FOR TODAY, I will be happy. I will not dwell on thoughts that depress me. If any mind fills with clouds, I will chase it away and fill it with sunshine.
JUST FOR TODAY, I will accept what is. I will face reality. I will correct those things I can correct and accept those things I cannot.
JUST FOR TODAY, I will improve my mind. I will read something that requires effort, thought, and concentration. I will not be a mental loafer.
JUST FOR TODAY, I will make a conscious effort to to be agreeable. I will be kind and courteous to those who cross my path, and I'll not speak ill of others. I will speak softly, and not interrupt when someone else is talking.
JUST FOR TODAY, I will refrain from improving anyone but myself.
JUST FOR TODAY, I will do something positive to improve my health. If I am a smoker, I'll quit. If I am overweight, I'll eat more healthfully - if only just for today. And not only that, I will get off the couch and take a brisk walk, even if it's only around the block.
JUST FOR TODAY, I will gather the courage to do what is right and take responsibility for my own actions.

I loved this book so much.  Do you plan on writing a second summer?

on Oct. 7 2013 at 3:18 pm
iWriteForFood SILVER, Murfreesboro, Tennessee
9 articles 0 photos 21 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Logic will get you from point A to point B. Imagination will take you everywhere." ~Albert Einstein

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Camp Willow Lake is actually not real. I based some of the aspects of it on a camp I go to every summer, but for the most part, it is made up. Thanks for reading!

on Oct. 6 2013 at 5:31 pm
Forever-A-Camper BRONZE, Blacksburg, Virginia
3 articles 0 photos 6 comments

Favorite Quote:
JUST FOR TODAY, I will live through this day only. I will not brood about yesterday or obsess about tomorrow. I will not set far-reaching goals or try to overcome all of my problems at once. I know that I can do something for 24 hours that would overwhelm me if I had to keep it up for a lifetime.
JUST FOR TODAY, I will be happy. I will not dwell on thoughts that depress me. If any mind fills with clouds, I will chase it away and fill it with sunshine.
JUST FOR TODAY, I will accept what is. I will face reality. I will correct those things I can correct and accept those things I cannot.
JUST FOR TODAY, I will improve my mind. I will read something that requires effort, thought, and concentration. I will not be a mental loafer.
JUST FOR TODAY, I will make a conscious effort to to be agreeable. I will be kind and courteous to those who cross my path, and I'll not speak ill of others. I will speak softly, and not interrupt when someone else is talking.
JUST FOR TODAY, I will refrain from improving anyone but myself.
JUST FOR TODAY, I will do something positive to improve my health. If I am a smoker, I'll quit. If I am overweight, I'll eat more healthfully - if only just for today. And not only that, I will get off the couch and take a brisk walk, even if it's only around the block.
JUST FOR TODAY, I will gather the courage to do what is right and take responsibility for my own actions.

Oh my gosh!!! i love your story. I'm only half way through chapter 2 but I'm in love with it.  If my name doesn't make it obvious I'm a huge Summer Camper.  i'm just curious is Willow Lake a real camp or made up?