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Author's note: I had actually been inspired by a dream I had of myself and an old friend in some old mini mart like the one in this story. I may post what the dream was later on - "A Cheater's Kiss".
The heat was becoming too overwhelming. I thought I was beginning to sweat through my designer red dress. I could already feel my cheeks beginning to burn. My eyes were peeled wide open when he reached into the pocket of his suit. Without a word he knelt down on one knee at my feet.
I had no control of myself. My hands were glued to my lap, with no way to remove them. He pulled a black velvet box from his jacket and opened it carefully with his long fingers. The fingers of a piano player. His bright eyes glowed in the dim light as he looked up to me along with a beautiful smile showing all of his teeth.
“Will you marry me?” he asked so sweetly.
My eyes darted between him and the box. I didn’t want to look at the ring. I did not want to see how large the stone was or the cut. I wanted to read his face. And try to figure out my own thoughts. To try to sort them out for myself.
I had absolutely no idea what to say. Was I ready for something like this? Would I be able to spend the rest of my life with this man? For some odd reason, even though I did love him with all my heart, my mind was telling me that I should turn him down.
Mom finally found a way to dispose of me for the summer. She had found out about some camp off in Idaho from one of her friends at work. Honestly, I didn’t mind. I didn’t have any plans for the summer. My best friend had been planning on some basketball camp she’d been ranting about since the winter. So I would have been stuck at home without a getaway. That would have most definitely ended in countless fights with Mom that I didn’t want to get involved with. So in a way I was thankful that she was doing the both of us a favor.
“You’ve been so quiet, Mia,” Mom said as we turned off the highway. I only had a few more minutes left with her. We’d been in the car for over six hours and I was ready to let her go. But still, of course, she was concerned with my well being. For most of the car ride I had kept to myself. Mom and I weren’t very close to start off with, so it didn’t make much of a difference, I thought, if I said much of anything.
I shrugged my shoulders, hoping she would just drop it. I was tired of her constant effort to try to make me feel better. Or whatever she thought she was doing. At this point I just wanted to be left alone.
She sighed and looked back to the road. “Well you’ll have fun here. They have a huge lake and hikes and horses. Oh I remember when you used to love horses. You still like them, don’t you, Mia?” She looked to me, but I kept my eyes on the road myself. “Well anyways. You’ll have a blast. I wish I could have gone to a place like this when I was your age. They’re also supposed to be pretty lenient to most things. Just more of a getaway for the summer it seems.”
“Yep,” I said. I was so ready to find this getaway she was talking about. I could finally get some time to myself with people my age.
The car turned down a gravel road. We were almost there. Some excitement was beginning to build up, but otherwise I didn’t feel anything.
We came up to a dirt parking lot. I noticed a large brown barn off to the right along with a series of buildings in front of us. As Mom put the car in park, I jumped out to grab my bags from the back seat of the old Toyota 4 runner. I slung my back pack over a shoulder and lifted the suit case out before shutting the door. Mom came around to my side. Her hands sat on her hips. She left her large sunglasses on, not making a move to take them off, which showed she wasn’t going to stay long.
“You excited?” she asked.
“Yeah,” I replied, adjusting the shoulder strap awkwardly.
“Well I hope you have fun. Make some new friends. Write to me sometimes.” She wrapped an arm around my shoulders.
“Alright,” I said plainly.
“I love you.”
I nodded my head. I’d never been one to really tell anyone ‘I love you’. So Mom wasn’t going to be an acceptation.
She sighed as she let go. “Bye sweetie,” she said as she opened the driver’s door.
I turned to look at the camp for just a moment. I heard the gears shift as Mom put the car back into drive. I glanced back to see her wave and honk before getting back onto the gravel road. I faked a smile back in the car’s direction before picking up the suit case. The place smelled of hay and dirt, which was very different from the little suburbs I was from. But it was something I didn’t mind. Instead of worrying about it, I headed in the direction I saw a couple of other kids going.
There weren’t many people in the room when I stepped inside. I took a seat in one of the plastic chairs, like everyone else was. Already, I felt like the odd one out with all of the other camp-goers smiling at old friends from years before. But I stayed off to the side, out of everyone’s way. No one seemed to notice me anyways.
When the councilors came to the front of the room everyone quieted down. By that time there were maybe thirty kids altogether, which I thought was pretty small for a camp of both girls and boys.
I had been assigned the orange cabin with two other girls. One of them, Cathy, a very sweet girl with blonde curls framing her light skinned face made me feel at home with her warm personality. Her blue eyes stood out prominently with her dark eyelashes. Like myself, she wore cutoff denim shorts and a t-shirt with some odd saying on it. I didn’t quite take the time to read it.
“You have such pretty brown hair. The curls are so pretty,” had been the first thing she said to me when I came into the cabin. She smiled soon afterwards.
The other girl, Mattie, didn’t talk too much. She kept her hair up in a pony tail. I had to study her for a moment before noticing how green her eyes were. She didn’t wear much make up if not any. But I didn’t learn much more of her in the short amount of time.
The small cabin had been equipped with three beds. Cathy, having been returning for the third year in a row, had brought white Christmas lights to hang on the walls and give us a little more light. I made note for my own room at home.
Later that evening Cathy invited me to come with her to the cafeteria for dinner. She introduced me to a couple of her friends who we sat with, but I couldn’t remember their names. At the moment my eyes had rather scan around the room, and take in the decorations of the hall. Oak beams held up the ceiling and wood paneled wall. It looked like it was to be made to look like a log cabin, but wasn’t quite on its way to accomplishing it. A couple of chalk boards had the meals of the day written on them, while another was hung on the wall on the other side of the room showing what events were happening.
I followed Cathy out to a bonfire they had going behind the cabins. It seemed as if everyone was in attendance, laughing and sharing stories from the past year. This time I put myself out there a little more and shared some of my relating stories while laughing along with the other campers.
Cathy introduced me to a couple of her guy friends, thinking that I might be interested, but sadly I wasn’t. They were both okay, one with a buzz cut and blonde hair, the other with shaggy bleached hair. They both had great personalities, but there just was something about them that wasn’t quite appealing, even though both of them seemed interested.
I had been too caught up in new conversations to realize how late it was. When the camp councilors came by to put out the fire, then did I realize how tired I had grown. Mattie caught up to Cathy and I on our way back to the cabin. I soon crawled under the blanket on my bed and tried to get as comfortable as possible. I still felt a little out of place here without knowing many people. But I had a feeling that might change. I still wanted to be able to tell someone, a friend from home what I was going through, and how it really wasn’t that bad. But we weren’t allowed to have cell phones, so I couldn’t contact anyone at any moment. For the most part I didn’t mind that downfall. I didn’t really use my phone all that much anyways.
And I hadn’t read up too much on the camp in the first place, so I had no idea what all the camp entitled, except for the important things like, if it was an all girl camp or not, and what they served for meals.
I woke to the morning sun streaming through the windows. As I stretched I found Cathy reading and Mattie’s bed empty. In the quiet of the morning I could hear birds chirping somewhere in the distance.
Cathy looked over. “Good morning,” she said. She sat on top of the sheets in a tank top and mesh shorts.
“Morning,” I said in a groggy voice. The mattress was hard, so my back was now stiff. A good bath sounded wonderful.
“Mattie already headed down to the cafeteria for breakfast. They serve until ten.”
That gave me plenty of time. “Thanks. And where would the showers be?” I asked.
“In the building behind the cafeteria,” Cathy informed before turning her eyes back to her book.
I rummaged through my bag and found a ponytail elastic and quickly pulled my hair back, some strands escaping. “Dang,” I said. “I don’t have any shampoo.” I pondered for a moment. “Is there any place I might be able to get some?”
Cathy looked up. “There’s a little store down the path if you take a left when you go out of the cabin. Kind of like a mini mart I guess.”
I smiled. “Thank you.” I grabbed a five out of my wallet and slipped into my sneakers. “I’ll be back after breakfast.”
“Mmk,” she replied as she turned to the next page of her book.
I set off down the dirt trail, past the rest of the cabins and through a small patch of trees. A wooden building was at the end of the path. Next to the front door was a metal box that read “ice” along with a stack of news papers. As I opened the door, bells jingled my arrival. There were many shoulder-high isles with merchandise cluttering them. Advertisements hung on the walls for different sodas and candy. Sweatshirts that said Redfish Lake, Idaho were for sale at the end of the isles. My eyes wandered to the front desk where a boy with short brown hair leaned against the counter. He had glanced at me when I had looked over. He looked familiar, but I couldn’t put a finger on who he was. I turned down one of the isles and picked up a mini bottle of shampoo. When I peaked over the isle to get another look his eyes were pointed directly at me with the same questionable look I had before. I grinned and looked away to choose a mini bottle of conditioner.
“Hello,” he said when I placed my things on the counter. He still held the same look while he rang up my items. “Three dollars and eighty-nine cents.” I noticed that his voice even sounded familiar.
I handed him the five I had. His fingers looked like they had been worn from chewing or possibly tedious hours of playing guitar. His hazel eyes met mine when he reached for the money. As he got my change from the register I noticed how his hair had been gelled upward towards the center, as in a faux-hawk. He handed me the change with a smile. “Have a nice day,” he said.
I took my bottles and shoved the change in my pocket. As I reached the door I paused. I had to know for myself if he was actually someone that I knew. I turned back. “I know this sounds crazy, but I swear I’ve seen you somewhere before.” He looked towards me with a gleam in his eye. “Can I ask you what your name is?” I asked with a sheepish grin.
“Nolan,” he replied. “And can I be honest?”
“Yeah?” I said, hoping this wasn’t going to turn out to be awkward.
“I was kind of thinking the same thing.” He choked out a laugh.
“Well, I’m Mia,” I said taking a couple steps closer. “I’m at the camp right now. I guess I just forgot a couple of things at home.”
“Ah. Yeah, I’m there too. But I just work here part time. Might as well try to earn some money while I’m here,” he snickered. “Maybe we’ve seen each other around school. Do you go to Marysville Pilchuck High School?”
“Actually I do,” I laughed. “Small world I take it?”
He smiled without a word.
“Well I better get going. Don’t want to miss out on breakfast.”
“See you around then.” Another customer walked in. It had been the shaggy haired guy Cathy introduced me to the night before. I think his name was Mark. “Maybe I’ll have to come find you later on,” Nolan suggested.
“Sure. Sounds fun.” I waved goodbye before heading down the path and back to the cabin to get my things. I checked myself in the crummy mirror we had. My hair was still messy and my tank top didn’t do me any justice. Great first impression. But I figured that since that we were all attending camp, looks didn’t quite matter too much.
Later that evening, we all returned to the cafeteria where we were each assigned clean up duties for over the next month and a half. Yes, Mom had found a way to get me out of the house for nearly two months. Over July and August. Every camper received a schedule of events we would be doing. Canoe safety, camping in the woods, hiking, swimming and many types of races we could participate in were all included in the package.
Come to find out I had been assigned kitchen clean up for the next five days after the dinner hour, eight o’clock. When the meeting was finished, I still had some time to myself.
I wandered around the camp in my extra time. I took a well beaten path just around the corner of the showers that led me to a rope that hung over a small drop off into the lake. I noticed how blue the water looked from up above. From where I stood I could almost see the rocky bottom. I listened to the quiet sound of the low summer breeze blowing through the trees. Once you got away from the park, everything was so clam. There wasn’t a single boat on the lake since it was so secluded with only very few houses, leaving the lake with a glossy top.
I took in a deep breath. If only I could share this with someone I really knew.
I found myself in the cafeteria just in time to get something for dinner. The room soon cleared, even with as much light as there still was. I figured the sun still wouldn’t set until about nine this evening. I glanced around the empty hall and went through a door that I figured to lead to the kitchen. It opened up to a long white hallway, and around a corner I found a couple of stoves. A stack of dishes had already been piled in a sink that had been labeled “wash” while the sink basins “rinse” and “dry” were vacant. Another door on the other side of the kitchen swung open. At first I could only distinguish tough hands carrying the stack of plates.
“Hello,” he said as he set down the dishes. “Long time no see.”
“Well hello, Nolan,” I stuttered. “Didn’t imagine seeing you here.”
“You say that as if it were a bad thing.” He eyed me for a moment before I waved it off.
“You know what I mean,” I said while shaking my head.
He looked around the room for a moment. “Well come out with me and get some more things.”
We went through the other door, down a short hallway into the other side of the hall. I grabbed a case with some glasses.
“If you want, you can start washing. I’ll grab the last of the cases, then come in a rinse what you wash.” With a smile he headed back through the door after setting down what he had carried in his arms on the counter.
I began scrubbing plates and forks, placing each into the rinse sink. Nolan soon came back in and began rinsing what I had set in there. A couple of times he accidently sprayed me in the process, a little clumsy with his job. Neither of us said much to one another. I had never been the best with small talk in the first place. And Nolan didn’t seem to want to say anything by the look on his face. I guessed he just wanted to get finished and out of the kitchen.
I had been on my last fork when I looked down at my shirt to find it blotchy with water. I glanced over at Nolan to see that he had hardly a spot on him.
That was one way to start a conversation.
A sly grin began to spread across my face. With a quick flick of my wrist I was able to nail him right in the chest with water from the sprayer. He hardly had any dry spots on his shirt now.
His eyes darted to me with bewilderment across his brow. I took a step back, not sure what I had started now.
“Oops,” I said sarcastically. I guess I was going to risk it.
“Hey!” he shouted. “What was that for?”
“It slipped?” I grinned.
“Oh, really?” he pulled his sprayer out, arming himself. He broke out in a smile. “You shouldn’t have done that.”
As soon as he pulled the trigger, splashing the front of my shirt, I began to laugh. I grabbed for my sprayer, shooting back at him trying to take a few steps away. We took turns spraying each other, trying to avoid the water coming our way, but of course not being very successful. A few giggles escaped from us at times.
My stomach began to hurt from the laughter. “Alright, alright. I’m done,” I surrendered.
He pulled the trigger once more. “I guess I’ll be done too.”
After placing the sink head back in the basin, I pulled at my wet shirt and shorts.
“Thanks,” I said slowly.
He smiled, “Anytime.”
“What are we going to do about this?” I questioned. We had created large puddles on the concrete floor.
“We were supposed to rinse the floor, so I guess that’ll have to do. It’ll drain.” He looked back at me. “Want to head out to the fire?” he asked after a moment.
“Sure,” I said as I flashed a smile.
Our shoes squeaked as we walked through the cafeteria. On our way to the dock Nolan caught me off guard by throwing his arm around my shoulders.
“I’m sorry for spraying you so much,” he sighed.
“Don’t worry about it,” I laughed. “I deserved it. I’ll dry off soon enough though.”
He took his arm out from around me as we reached the fire where I found a log to sit on. Nolan joined me without asking, keeping some space between us. We shared similar stories from school and joked about teachers from home. Nolan and I mostly kept to ourselves, away from the group, just enjoying the heat from the fire.
“So you’re a sophomore?” he asked as we walked back towards the cabins.
I nodded, sleep beginning to sink it.
“Me too.” He sat down on the front steps of one of the cabins, his I suspected. “I’m surprised we don’t have any classes together.”
I sat down next to him. The step didn’t give us much leniency on space. I felt awkwardly squished next to this guy I hardly knew. I tried leaning against the post to the overhang, but that didn’t help much. Nolan didn’t seem to mind.
“So am I,” I replied. “We’re taking most of the same classes.” As he grinned to himself for a split second my stomach began to do little flips. I tried hard to ignore it.
We were quiet for a long moment. Nolan leaned back on his elbows, feet apart out in front of him. His eyes were diverted upward through the trees.
“Great night,” he said to break the silence.
I adjusted, trying to find a more comfortable spot against the pole. My curls fell back as I glanced at the sky. “Yes,” I said. “Yes it is. You’re able to see all of the stars here. Even the milky way.” I noticed the streak across the sky that people mostly mistake for a cloud, really being the meat of our galaxy. My eyes wandered back down to earth to find Nolan looking at me. His eyes quickly diverted away to somewhere in front of him before I was able to make eye contact. I looked back up to the stars.
“So why are you here?” I asked.
“Well, I used to have family here. Some of my cousins went to this camp. I’ve come here for the past couple of years.” He paused. “What about you?”
I rolled my eyes. “My mom found it. She wanted me to do something with summer instead of just sit at home.”
In the silence between us I could still faintly hear the crackling of the fire along with the outbursts of laughter from the other campers.
Suddenly a streak shot across the sky. “Oh!” we both exclaimed as we spotted the shooting star at the same time.
“There,” Nolan said with satisfactory after a moment. “I made my wish.”
I wasn’t planning on making a wish. I hadn’t done that since I was little. And I didn’t have anything to wish for. Seemed like I hadn’t for a while.
“What was your wish?” I questioned.
“Nope. It’s bad luck to tell what you wish for. It won’t come true. And I want this one to.” His smile glowed in the dark.
Nolan’s words only made my more curious. But I let the subject drop. I wasn’t going to push it.
“Well it’s getting late,” I said, standing up. “I probably should be getting some sleep. As same for you.”
“Well I don’t have to work at the store in the morning, so I get to sleep in.”
“Okay then.” I began to walk down the steps, thinking over how I was going to tell him good night.
“Let me at least walk you to your cabin.” He jumped down the steps.
We walked side by side down the row of cabins. Again there was only silence.
“Here we are,” I said, putting one foot on the stair.
“I had a good time tonight,” Nolan said with hands behind his back. “You’re not half bad.”
“Thanks. You aren’t either. And I had a good time tonight too.” I smiled. “Good night Nolan.”
“Good night Mia.” He turned and began to head back towards his cabin.
Nolan and I grew closer with every passing day while cleaning up the kitchen in the evenings. I learned that his favorite color was green and most of his siblings’ names. With being an only child I didn’t have much to share on that subject. I began to realize that Nolan and I weren’t too different from one another, unlike how I had originally expected from seeing him around school.