"What were we thinking?" Liz asked.
I'll admit it had been my brilliant idea. As a matter of fact, most of our ideas started out as my brilliant idea.
It's not that my best friend, Liz, isn't creative. She is. She's incredibly artsy, especially when it comes to craft projects. She made the shoulder bags that we carried around at school. Mine was pink with fringe and sequins. Hers was blue with felt-shaped puppies on it. They actually started a trend, and for a while she had a business going. She also created a lot of the jewelry I wear: earrings, bracelets, necklaces. She always makes them kinda whimsical: a lady in a flowing gown sitting on a crescent moon, a unicorn. Stuff like that. Real originals. So Liz is definitely creative.
But the idea to rearrange the furniture in our dormitory was definitely mine.
"We were thinking that four beds lined up along one wall looked like something from the mental ward in a psycho movie," I reminded her. Maybe we'd been a bit harsh with our original assessment of our surroundings. Maybe it more closely resembled an army dormitory. Which I figured was fitting since we were basically at boot camp. Counselors' boot camp.
Anyway, I suggested we shove the beds so each one was angled out from a corner of the room.
"Now we have something from Charmed," Liz said. "All we need is a pentagram in the middle....." Her voice trailed off and she released a tiny giggle. "Bad, bad idea, Jess." She giggled again. "I mean, it just doesn't.....work."
I started laughing and fell back on the bed. It wasn't often that my ideas didn't work. The problem with this one was that one of the beds angled in a corner blocked the door to the bathroom. So yeah, it definitely wasn't going to work.
"Okay," I said. "For now, let's just put everything back the way it was."
I got up and started pushing my bed back against the far wall, while Liz started pushing hers.
We had spent the past four summers coming to Camp Lone Star. In the past, we'd been designated as nothing more than campers, having a great time, goofing around, working on the craft projects that Liz was so good at, telling scary stories while sitting around the campfire, becoming friends with kids from other schools in the area. Last summer, our favorite pastime had become checking out the guys and rating them according to cuteness factor.
But this year we wanted to do more than follow orders. We wanted to be the ones issuing orders. And we wanted to do more than check and rate the guys. We wanted to seriously connect with them. And one of the things that our previous observations had shown us was that guys tended to gravitate towards the counselors. Since Liz and I were now old enough, we'd applied to be those all-attention-getting counselors.
And we'd both been selected!
I was totally psyched!
Of course, the first step in being a counselor was attending leadership boot camp--- "a week of intense team building," according to the letter we'd received announcing our selection as counselors. Not that I thought either of us needed leadership training. My younger brother, Alex, was always telling me that I was way too bossy. So I figured I'd be a natural at this job. Since Liz and I tended to excel at the same things, I was convinced she, too, would make an excellent counselor.
Our parents had dropped us off almost an hour ago, with the usual hugs, tears, and promises to call, to be careful, and to have fun. We wouldn't see our parents for almost a month, a week longer than we'd ever been gone before, since the summer camping sessions were divided into three-week intervals. Strange how a month seemed so much longer than three weeks. But I had Liz and she had me, so we knew we'd survive the longer separation from our families. No problem.
We'd registered, received our uniforms, and headed to the dormitory. We'd put our gear in the footlockers at---you guessed it!---the foot of the beds. Then we'd decided to do the extreme room makeover. Now we had everything back to the way it was. Boring. Maybe when the other two girls we'd be sharing the room with arrived we could come up with another arrangement.
"Guess we'd better get ready for our first" ---Liz wiggled her fingers, making quotation marks in the air--- "official team meeting."
"Yeah, we don't want to be late for that."
Quickly we got dressed in our "official" camp counselor uniforms. Then we stared at each other. The clothes didn't exactly come from the Gap. They looked like they'd been made with the "one size fits all" approach.
"This is so not going to work," Liz said.
As usual Liz spoke out loud exactly what I was thinking. I wasn't sure if she could read my mind because she'd been my best friend forever or if she'd been my best friend forever because she could read my mind.
"I don't remember counselors wearing anything that looked like this," Liz said. She swept her hand from her head to her narrow hips, like a sorcerer about to cast a spell that might rid her of what she was wearing.
"Maybe these are just our 'in training' clothes," I offered hopefully.
"Jess, they stitched our names over the pocket. That's a lot of trouble for something we'll wear for only a week."
Good point. Above my left pocket was stitched in red JESSICA KANE. Above Liz's was ELIZABETH STEWART. I didn't know anyone who called her Elizabeth. Not even her parents. At least mine called me Jessica.
But that wasn't the worst part. The worst was the baggy brown shorts. They looked like something my granddad wore with white socks and sandals when he walked the grounds at the assisted-living facility. And the shirt matched in all ways possible: color, bagginess, hideousness. Could the outfit get any more out of control?
Liz and I had sorta thought that this summer, the summer before we entered high school, would be the summer of transforming ourselves into guy magnets. But no way was that going to happen with our present clothing. It was like wearing a sign --- WARNING: LOSER CROSSING.
I'll admit that in addition to becoming a guy magnet, I wanted to be a counselor because they were totally cool. They knew everything. They were the ones people turned to in a crisis. Like last year when the canoe I was in tipped over because the guys who'd also been in it had been goofing around, it was a counselor who helped get us all safely back to shore. They were the ones who decided our indoor activities --- Did we play games like Twister or did we string beads or create artwork using leaves? ---and our outdoor adventures --- hiking, plant-life identification, trail marking, swimming. They had total control.
As much as I loved camp, the previous summers I'd experienced a few moments when I'd felt totally out of control. And very uncool. Thanks to one Sean Reed. We lived in the same large town north of Dallas but didn't attend the same middle school --- although our schools flowed into the same high school so our paths might cross more often in the near future --- something I definitely not looking forward to. Anyway, in the past, we sorta had that school rivalry thing going. At least, I think that's what started his let-me-see-what-I-can-do-to-irritate-her shenanigans. From there it had escalated into obvious can't-stand-the-ground-she-walks-on dislike.
He'd gone so far as to nickname me Twinkle Toes the first summer. Simply because he'd spotted me sitting alone on the dock at the lake painting my toenails bright red. According to him, toenaiil polish shouldn't be anywhere near hiking boots. As though he would know.
Last summer he'd said I was like Paris Hilton. (But, trust me, I don't look anything like her!) Just because, one evening, some of the girls in our cabin had decided to have a makeover session. And all right --- it had been another one of my brilliant ideas. But after two weeks of hiking, bugs, and "roughing it," I was more than ready for a little pampering. And so were they!
And I'll admit that we had gone totally extreme on the makeup and hair and nail polish. But we'd never planned for anyone outside our dormitory to see us. And no one would have if the guys hadn't decided it would be wicked hilarious to make us think a bear was trying to get in through our bathroom window. We'd all run out the front door, screaming for help.
The guys had laughed and snickered for days.
"There aren't any bears in these woods," Sean had announced, like we'd been totally stupid for falling for their gag.
If Sean Reed showed up at camp this year, I planned to assign him toilet-scrubbing duty. We'd see who was laughing then. Yep, this year I'd be totally in control. It was going to be the funnest summer yet!
"Okay," I said to Liz now. "This is fixable."
Do you consider yourself adaptable?
Question five on the application I'd completed in hopes of being selected as a counselor. I hadn't hesitated one sec before using my number-two pencil to shade in the oval next to Yes.
I knelt beside the footlocker where I'd put my things shortly after we arrived. I pulled out a red camisole and waved it at Liz. "Find something red that matches the stitching, so we're at least color coordinated."
"Do you think it's okay for us to alter our clothing?"
All right, so maybe Liz wasn't leadership material just yet. I was usually the one with the ideas, and she always had to make sure we weren't going to get into trouble --- or at least she wanted good odds that we weren't going to get caught. I didn't blame her. Her mom's two favorite words were "You're grounded," for the smallest of infractions. Like once, during a sleepover at Liz's house, our friend Joanie brought over the DVD of Brokeback Mountain. We're all huge Heath Ledger fans. Unfortunately, Liz's mom came into the room while we were watching the movie. Liz isn't allowed to watch R-rated movies. So she was grounded for a week. Getting away from the grounding machine was one of the reasons that Liz loved summer camp. The worst that happened here was an hour in the "jail."
"Do you really want to go out there looking like the UPS delivery guy?"
"Good point." She knelt beside her footlocker and began scrounging around. "I spent a lot of time looking at Cute Casey last year, and I sure don't remember him wearing this."
Cute Casey had been one of the counselors last summer. He was tall with dark hair, and looked exactly like this guy in an Abercrombie ad. He was way older than us --- way out of our league, of course --- but that was okay. If we were honest with ourselves, he was another reason --- a major reason actually --- that we wanted to be counselors this summer. Counselors had a later curfew than campers. After we all were supposed to be in bed, we could hear the counselors outside our dorms laughing and talking, just loud enough to be heard but not understood. They had secrets and we wanted to be part of their secrets.
Another reason was Gorgeous George. He had shaggy blond hair and blue, blue eyes. We didn't want either one of them to view us as kids any longer.
"Maybe we didn't notice what they were wearing because we were too busy studying their faces," I said. I pulled out a scarf that had red, white, and blue swirling through it. Talk about patriotic. I could use it as a belt.
"They?" Liz asked.
"Cute Casey and Gorgeous George."
"Oh, right, and don't forget Hot Hank."
It was a game we'd played last year, identifying the counselor with a word that began with his name. We'd done the same thing with the girl counselors, but we weren't nearly as complimentary. Crazy Claire --- she hated the outdoors and was always finding reasons for us to stay indoors. It was crazy to come to Camp Lone Star if you didn't like the outdoors because the only time we were indoors during the day was when it rained. Moaning Mary --- she moaned about the heat, the rain, the bugs. Patient Paula --- she was never in a hurry, which meant if you got her for a counselor, you were the last in line for everything.
It wasn't that we didn't like them or tried to find fault with them, but they were competition. And I have kind of a competitive nature. The girl counselors held the attention of the guy counselors a lot more easily than lowly campers did.
This summer would be totally different. We would be sure of it. For one thing, we would be counselors. For another, we'd come better prepared. We'd brought these cute American Eagle visors, lots of short tops, and low-riding jeans and shorts.
It didn't take us long to add some flair to our outfits. Liz wore a red tank top beneath her brown shirt, whil I wore the camisole. We'd unbuttoned the shirts, gathered the shirttails, and tied them at our waist. Then we'd rolled up our shorts until they were mid-thigh.
"When we have more time, we'll have to cut and hem these babies," Liz said. "I'm so not going to start high school in the fall with a half-tanned leg."
"I know. This uniform is the worst. It still needs major surgery." And we could only take accessorizing so far. "Remember the crafts we did with beads last summer?" I asked.
"Absolutely! Are you thinking---?"
"We could cut the sleeves into strips---"
"Braid the strips---"
"Thread them through the beads. Add some color, some pizzazz."
"I like it!" we both said at the same time, following our mind-reading session.
"Think we can do it before we head to the meeting?" Liz asked.
I glanced at my watch. IT was actually my dad's, on loan for the summer. It was really way too big for my narrow wrist, but Dad had punched extra holes in the wristband so it wouldn't slip off. It had all kinds of gadgets. A compass --- he worried about me getting lost in the woods. A face that lit up with the flick of my wrist --- he worried about me getting lost in the dark. A button that would take me through the various time zones, just incase I ended up in London or Australia and needed to know the time. As if.
"We have only a couple of minutes before we need to report." I looked in the mirror that was on the back of the door that led into the bathroom. "I think we have a fashion statement going here that'll do for now."
I'd gathered my strawberry-blond hair into a ponytail and pulled it through the hole at the back of the brown baseball cap that has CLS embroidered in red on the front. I really wanted to toss the hat into my footlocker and grab my visor, but I figured we were pushing the limits on rebellion enough already.
Liz had also pulled her red hair through the back of her cap. She was several inches taller than me. Most people are. I tried not to be bothered by that, but sometimes I couldn't help it. I wished I was taller.
White socks and hiking boots completed our outfits.
"Are we ready to rock?" I asked.
"As ready as we'll ever be," Liz said.
We headed out the door. Towering oak trees circled the encampment. I could smell the scent of dirt and dampness and vegetation --- nature as a whole. Several wooden cabins made up the camp. The main building was where registration took place. The nurse's station was also located inside. Then a couple of cabins where the campers were housed had been built nearby. A lead counselor slept in each cabin, to be on hand for emergencies or homesickness and to keep campers indoors after lights-out.
Liz and I were Counselors-in-Training. Otherwise known as CITs. We'd live in the dormitory with other CITs. Which was fine with me. I didn't particularly want to look after a dozen kids through the night. I was hoping to spend some of the evening looking after my love life.
I pulled my cell phone out of my shorts pocket. Its display was flashing, NO SIGNAL.
"Still no luck?" Liz asked.
"Nope. I wonder why we never realized that cell phones couldn't get a signal out here," I stated.
"Maybe because we never had cell phones before."
We'd both recently turned fourteen, me two weeks before Liz. We'd both asked for the same thing for our birthday. Cell phones. Big surprise. Having the ability to constantly keep in touch with our friends was such a must. Text messaging was also the absolute best, and we had the code down long before we could put it to use.
I'd had visions of text messaging a guy counselor, "U R 2 CUTE." Yeah, right, like I'd ever be that bold.
My vast experience at communicating with guys mostly involved my brother, who was six years younger than me. Our conversations usually began with him whining, "I'm gonna tell Mom."
And my witty response: "Whatever."
I needed to seriously develop my flirtation skills --- like figuring out what guys found interesting and what they wanted to talk about --- and my brother was so not good practice material.
"Maybe once we go hiking, get farther away from camp, I'll be able to pick up a signal," I suggested hopefully, although I was beginning to suspect that the camp had been built in the one place that the Verizon-can-you-hear-me-now? guy had yet to visit.
Liz shook her head. "We're in the middle of nowhere. We should have expected this."
Or as my dad said, we were "on the farside of nowhere," which he seemed to think was worse than being in the middle of nowhere. I sorta figured nowhere was nowhere and it didn't have map coordinates. You were just there. Nowhere.
"I think I'm going into cell phone withdrawal," I said, only half jokingly. My dad had constantly teased me for the last couple months that my hand was permanently curled in cell-phone-holding position. Of course, he said Mom's hand was permanently curled in credit-card-holding position.
"I'm already there," Liz said. her phone wasn't getting a signal either.
Evern though Liz was the person I called most, and we would be side by side most of the summer, we'd planned to use our phones for communicating on the sly.
QT 2 R = Cutie to the right.
QT 2 L = Cutie to the left.
I angled the phone and snapped a picture of Liz. At least the camera still worked. My dad was all about gadgets. No way was he going to get me a plain old cell phone for my birthday. Like my dad, I saw the value in multifunctional products. I intended to take lots of pictures, so bringing the cell phone along wasn't a total waste.
As Liz and I approached the main office building, we spotted a group of people milling around in front. Judging by their uniforms, they were all CITs. None were the counselors from last year, although I did recognize some people how had been campers during previous summers. I guess everyone had the idea of moving up to better things.
"I wonder where Cute Casey is," Liz whispered.
I shrugged. "He's already trained. Maybe this week it's just the newbies."
"Right." She scowled.
I watched her freckles scrunch up. With red hair comes freckles. When we were a lot younger --- and really bored --- we would use a Sharpie to connect the freckles on her arms to create pictures. So whenever I looked at her cheek really closely now, I always saw a kite that I'd drawn by connecting freckles. Actually, kites were pretty much all I'd ever seen and drawn. It's fairly easy to see a kite in freckles. Does that make me unimaginative?
I didn't want to contemplate that it might, since being a counselor meant coming up with creative ways to keep the campers occupied and away from the boredom zone.
"But if the older counselors aren't here, who's going to train us?" Liz asked me. Obviously her scowl had represented her thinking face.
"I'm sure someone will."
"Hey!" A couple of girls had turned, noticed us, and hurried over. We'd met them last summer. Caryn and Torie --- Victoria, according to the name embroidered on her shirt. They'd shared a cabin with us and participated in our makeover session.
We didn't have much time to catch up on the exciting things we'd done since last summer --- which was fine with me, since I'd done very little that I would classify as exciting. Now that I was actually here, I was beginning to have doubts that I could be an amazing counselor. Could I lead? Could I keep the campers entertained? Could I protect and serve.....oh, wait, that was the job of the police. Could I care for and console those who got homesick?
I was pretty sure I could, but soon I'd be tested.
Liz, Caryn, Torie, and I teased each other about the fact that none of us had kept our promise to stay in touch through e-mail or instant messaging. School has a way of taking up your time.
"I don't remember the counselors wearing these uniforms," Liz said. She was still hung up on not being entirely fashionable. Although trekking through the woods has a fashion of its own.
"Last year it was T-shirts," Caryn said. "I guess they wanted something a little more classier."
"Classier?" Liz asked. "You think this is classier?"
"No, but I guess they thought it looked better than T-shirts."
"Maybe we'll get T-shirts after we finish this week of training," Torie said. "You know what I'm saying?"
"I liked T-shirts on the guy counselors," I admitted.
"Especially on Cute Casey," Liz said. "Anyone know if he's going to be here this year?"
Before anyone could answer, a clanging began. An iron triangle hung off the porch of the main lodge. Whenever our attention was needed, someone banged its insides with an iron rod. Our adventure camp had a rustic feel to it. While we had electricity, the bulbs always seemed to burn dimly. The TV in the dining hall, where we all gathered if we wanted to watch any television shows, was a very small screen and not high-def. The reception was lousy. No satellite dish. It did have a VHS tape player, but it wasn't exactly modern.
A woman --- the tallest woman I'd ever seen, and her blond hair was practically buzzed --- stood on the porch beside a man whose long dark hair was held in place with a leather tie. Excitement hummed on the air. In front of them stood four counselors I recognized from last year. Unfortunately, there wasn't a Casey, Hank, or George among them. I wondered what happened to those guys. They'd probably been the oldest of the crew, and it seemed like they'd been around forever. Surely they hadn't moved on to other things. Like college or the army or a real job.
Everyone who'd been standing around --- talking and waiting for the meeting to begin --- shuffled closer, jockeying for a better view. And that's when I noticed him.
"Oh, my gosh," Liz whispered harshly beside me. "Do you see---"
"How are they even letting him be a CIT?" she asked. "That is so not fair!"
As usual, she was totally reading my mind.
Sean Reed. My arch-nemesis. Four years running. And it looked like we were going to make it five. He couldn't be a CIT. Absolutely couldn't be.
But he was wearing the uniform. And he was standing in the midst of the crowd, waiting to hear whatever She and He standing on the porch had to say.
The first year we'd met Sean, we'd rated him a nine out of a possible ten. But that was before we really got to know him. His ranking quickly desended to zero for a variety of reasons, including some dumb pranks that involved flying mashed potatoes during supper our first summer here. He was an absolute loser, although it wasn't apparent just looking at him. You had to get really close to him to see beyond the dark hair and the blue eyes and the killer smile.
Against my better judgement, I angled my head slightly to get a better look of him. Something about him was different. Was he a little taller? Definitely. But something else was different. He looked older. Duh?!? He was older. But he looked way older than he had last summer.
I wondered if they'd sent him to juvie hall for what he'd done last year on the last day of camp. Maybe being a counselor was part of his rehabilitation process, because he certainly needed rehabilitating. Still, I couldn't believe after the way he'd sabotaged our games that they would trust him---
"Jessica Kane," the woman on the porch said.
I snapped my attention to her. She was reading from a clipboard. What had she been saying before she announced my name? Was she taking roll call?
"Here!" I called out, raising my hand, standing on my toes so I could be more easily seen. Lacking in height had its drawbacks. And I was seriously vertically challenged. Not that I was a midget or a dwarf, but I had definitely inherited my mom's height, and she barely topped five feet.
Sean jerked his head around. Our gazes clashed, and I felt that little thrill of recognition that I'd experienced the first time we met---
"Put your hand down," Liz whispered harshly beside me.
"And Sean Reed," Amazon woman announced.
He snapped his head back to her, then twisted around completely to look at me. He took a defensive stance, crossing his arms over his chest. Something funny registered in his expression. A look of incredible disbelief. As though he'd been hit with a Taser gun. And then his mouth slowly turned up into that killer smile for which he was so well known.
A smile that before I got to know him made my heart beat a little faster. Just like it was doing now. Old habits were hard to break. But I was so over Sean. Not that we'd ever been an item, but there had been a time when he'd drawn my interest. A time way before I really knew him, before I discovered he had the maturity level of a five-year-old.
"Why doesn't he answer roll call?" I asked.
"She's not taking roll, dummy," Liz said. "She's partnering people up. Weren't you listening?"
"So whose name did she call out before she called mine? Who's my partner?"
"Geez, Jess, where were you?" Liz asked. "You're team member one. Team member two is.....ta da! Sean."
"Do you see any other Sean around here?"
"That is so not going to work," I said. Now I completely understood the look that had crossed Sean's face. I figured my expression was looking exactly the same. It said, "No way, no way, no way. Absolutely not! That was so not going to happen."
Our matchup would be worse than the counselors' shorts and shirts. At least I could do a little creative altering with those. Sean had been unchangeable for four years. Always goofing around, playing practical jokes, never serious. Totally irritating. A royal pain in my---
Clang! Clang! Clang!
Again with the clanging of the iron triangle.
"All right, everyone, find your partners and form a circle," the woman said.
Liz started to walk off. I grabbed her arm. "Wait a minute. I'm totally lost. What is going on?"
She jerked her thumb toward the porch. "That's Edna and Ed. Apparently, they're the new people 'in charge' this year and are the ones who are going to train us. They're twins, by the way."
"They don't look anything alike." Although really, what did I care about their relationship? They were setting me up for disaster.
"Whatever." Liz said. "Torie whispered to me that she'd heard they were twins. Anyway, they've paired everyone up---"
"I don't like the pairing."
She was looking seriously irritated with me. "I can't believe all this went totally over your head. This is lesson one. Learning to get along with whomever---"
"So what? They picked the worst possible matchest they could come up with?" I couldn't help it, bu tI was starting to get a little freaked out!
"Could have said it better myself," Sean said. "We have absolutely nothing in common."
I hadn't seen him approach. I wished that he hadn't. I could feel myself blushing. What could I say? We did have nothing in common. Last year proved that without question.
"Is there a problem over there?" Amazon Edna called out.
"I've gotta go," Liz said. Typical Liz, worried about getting into trouble. Shouldn't a leader lead? Like lead a revolt against this insane pairing?
Liz walked away, leaving me facing Sean. His hair was cut shorter on the sides, but since he was wearing the CLS cap, I couldn't tell much about the top. Last year, he'd worn it spiked. It had made him look tough. And I'd sorta fallen for that tough-guy look. It had also made him look like a loner, but he'd spent a lot of time hanging around with a younger kid named Billy. I'd learned later that Billy was his brother. They looked nothing alike.
Now Sean shook his head. "I can't believe they paired me up with Paris Hilton."
I glowered. "I can't believe they paired me up with a cheater."
He shrugged like I'd said his worst offense was parting his hair on the wrong side.
"You weren't going to win anyway, so what difference did it make?" he asked.
I glared at him. It had been the final day of camp. The game had been Capture the Flag. Two teams competed for the prize: a plaque with the name of each member of the winning team iscribed on it. The plaque was given a place of honor on the wall inside the main office. My name was inscribed on three plaques.
Last year I had been the captain of Team One. Sean had been captain of Team Two. Each team had been given compass directions to help us locate our base camp where our own flag flew. Once we reached our flag, we would find a map hidden beneath a nearby rock that gave us directions to the location of the other team's flag. The object, of course, was to find their flag, take it, and return it to our base camp --- without being caught. Only Sean had somehow managed to replace our map with one that gave us a bogus location for his team's flag. Totally unfair!
"It makes a difference, Sean," I said, knowing it was pointless even to say it.
His attitude angered me. His actions had put an end to my teams three-year winning streak. Maybe I could have accepted the defeat graciously if it had come about because the other team was better. Okay, probably not graciously. I had this thing about winning. I really, really liked to win. But I could have accepted the defeat grudgingly.
However, to lose because someone had cheated? How could he even think I would be okay with that? How could he not see that what he'd done had made him untrustworthy? I mean, who did he think he was?
And this first exercise was supposed to be about learning to get along? I don't think so!
To get along with a person you had to trust him or her. Trust and Sean were two words that did not go together --- at least not in my dictionary.
Maybe the PTB (Powers That Be) at Camp Lone Star had forgiven him. But I never would.
Another clanging of the iron triangle set my teeth further on edge.
"All right, everyone! Form your circle with partner one facing into the circle and partner two standing behind them," Edna said, sounding like a strange version of The Cat in the Hat with Thing One and Thing Two.
Put my back to Sean so he could stab me in it? Had she totally lost it?
"Come on!" Edna yelled.
Apparently, she had. What choice did I have? I didn't want to cause a scene and hadn't I answered yes to question eight? Do you respect authority?
Like everyone else, I shuffled around until I was standing in front of.....my arch-nemesis. The Joker to my Batman. No way would I refer to him as my partner. I looked around the circle. Every partner one was as girl. Every partner two was a guy. Had the camp gone sexist?
"This week is all about trust," Edna announced. "Learning to trust yourselves. Learning to trust each other. Girls, I want you to close your eyes and fall backwards. I want you to trust your partner to catch you."
Trust Sean? How?
"On the count of three," Edna said. "One, two, three!"
I spun around and stared at Sean. His blue eyes widened. His arms were actually outspread as though he'd planned to catch me. Yeah, right, Jess. And if you enter American Idol, you'll be the next national sensation.
"I'd rather fall facedown in mud than fall into your arms," I said.
"Fine," Sean ground out. "Play it that way."
Huh? Before I could react, Sean turned and fell backwards.
I shrieked and staggered as his body knocked against mine. Of their own volition, my arms wrapped around his chest, holding him tightly against me.
I stood there stunned, doing what I thought I'd never do: Clutching Sean Reed as though my life depended on holding him as closely as possible.
Do you consider yourself mature?
Question fifteen on the counselor application. I had, of course, shaded in the yes oval with enthusiasm. My response was now questionable. A mature person didn't release her hold on a guy who had trusted her to catch him.
I'd let him go to prove a point. But when he'd landed on the ground with a hard thud, I wasn't exactly sure what my point had been, except to maybe demonstrate that I wasn't going to let him manipulate me this year. I wasn't going to fall for him, much less fall into his arms.
And Sean.....what had Sean done after my demonstration of independence?
He'd just laughed, gotten up, and made a big production of rubbing his backside, and announced, "Guess I was just too heavy for my partner."
Then he'd actually had the audacity to squeeze my upper arm. "We're going to have to work on building up your muscles. Miz Edna, is that part of the program this week? Getting stronger?"
He'd spoken loudly enough that everyone had heard. His comments had resulted in chuckles and snickers. I knew my face had turned red, because suddenly I was uncomfortably hot, embarrassed, and wondering when Sneaky Sean had become a Vince Vaughn wannabe.
Miz Edna seemed totally unconcerned that our little two-person team hadn't followed the exact directions regarding who was supposed to fall into whose arms. She simply said, "Everyone will definitely be stronger before the week is out."
Then she had tapped her clipboard. "Lunch is ready. We'll meet back out here in an hour to continue with leadership training."
So now I was sitting in the dining hall at a table with Liz, Caryn, and Torie. The partnering didn't extend to lunch, so girls were at one table, guys at another. For the moment, I could not have been happier with that arrangement. Having Sean at my table would have seriously ruined my appetite. As it was, I was struggling to eat anyway. My stomach was knotted tightly. I couldn't believe they'd hired him to be a counselor. What were they thinking? And how was I going to survive this?
"Falling into a guy's arms is so the way to start summer camp," Torie said. Last summer her hair had been blond. This summer it was black. Really black. Pulled back tightly into a ponytail. "You know what I'm saying?"
"Uh, actually, no, I don't," I said. I tried to sound like I was joking, but it came out sounding snippy.
"Yikes, girl," Caryn said. She was tall and slender with golden brown hair and eyes the same brown shade as her hair. "Be cool. Just because you couldn't trust your partner---"
"Would you have trusted Sean?" I interrupted.
She shrugged. "Maybe. He seems different this summer."
"In what way?"
"I don't know. We talked for a bit when we first got here. He seemed" ---she shrugged again--- "nicer than I remembered."
Tag der Veröffentlichung: 11.05.2012
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