Temmuz 14, 2024

Stargazing Pt. 01

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Amateur

Author’s Note:

This is not intended to be a quick get-you-off type story. If that is what you are in the mood for, this may not be for you.

When I started writing this story, I intended it to be a quick break from my ongoing series. A chance to participate in the Summer Lovin’ contest and dabble in some new characters, a different genre and a much different setting. To be part of the contest, this was intended to be a stand-alone story. As you can probably tell from the “Part 1”, things didn’t quite go according to plan.

*****

The directors had painted a nice, orderly picture during counselor orientation week of how camper arrivals day would go. Everything would be fine as long as everybody followed the process. All we counselors had to do was act as guides for the arriving campers and their parents. First, check them in at the office in The Lodge, then health check at The Infirmary, then take them up to the cabin and help them unpack their bags. Always be accommodating to the parents – but suggest firmly that this was the time to say goodbye to their kids. Finally, keep the campers occupied until everybody had arrived. Easy. The steps even formed a neat, orderly loop on the map.

They neglected to mention that it was actually complete chaos. Campers didn’t arrive in a nice, even stream. They clumped together. My co-counselor Alexis and I had nothing to do until lunch, then we were suddenly overwhelmed as five campers in our cabin all came at once.

We were placed in Cabin 2, the second youngest age group. These were girls young enough to have infinite energy, but who had mostly been at camp a year already and were bursting with excitement unrestrained by nervousness. They dashed around us, running away to hug all their friends, wanting nothing to do with waiting in line for the nurse and everything to do with having fun.

This arrivals process designed around holding campers still as soon as they got out of the car might not have been the wisest thing in the world.

I thought that the unpacking part would be easy because parents would want to organize their kids’ beds and lockers to make sure they were neat at least once during the summer. It couldn’t be that much stuff. After all, how much can 10-year-olds pack? If left to their own devices, they’d probably have just come with the clothes on their backs. However, in today’s age of helicopter parenting? Every one of them had two tons of bags each.

Of course, it simply wouldn’t do to have their parents labor to carry it all up the hill. Alexis and I were straining and sweating under bag after bag while trying to keep up enthusiastic conversation, get to know our campers, and reassure their parents that we weren’t crazy people.

I loved it! It kept me so busy that I barely thought about Sarah all day, which was the whole point of taking this job in the first place. To force myself to stop agonizing over her. To give myself the time and space to untangle the confused knot of feelings I had for my straight best friend and not let my stupid heart destroy the best friendship I’d ever had.

It had seemed like a straightforward enough plan. I’d never gone to a summer camp before, but I’d always enjoyed sports and hiking, and I got along well with kids. How hard could it be?

That confidence didn’t even make it all the way through arrivals day. It was crushed by Lillian’s parents, who took Alexis and I aside as they were leaving. “We know she can be a handful sometimes, but she’s really sweet once you get to know her.” Her father shook both of our hands and I felt him leave something behind. “We hope you have an amazing summer, and we’re sorry.”

Then they left!

Alexis and I looked, dumbfounded, at the hundred-dollar bills in our palms. “We’re sorry? What the hell does that mean!?” We both turned to look at Lillian, who was sitting calmly on her bed smiling back at us. That wasn’t the smile of a 10-year-old. It was a smile that seemed to have ‘hail Satan’ written all over it.

Fortunately, our other campers didn’t seem like devil spawn. They were cute, if a bit exhaustingly energetic. Once we got them unpacked and their parents left, we sent them off to play soccer with the rest of the arrivals. Watching from a distance while trying to catch my breath before going to start the process again, it looked more like a mad dash to tackle whoever had the ball than any kind of organized sport. There were at least 60 kids going at it, yelling and laughing hysterically, neither knowing nor caring who was on what team or which goal they were meant to be trying to score on.

I tried to pick mine out of the throng. The one with golden blond hair done up in pigtails was Nora and the tiny mouse of a girl sprinting to keep up with her was Kim. Another of mine, I was pretty sure she was the one wearing the Taylor Swift shirt, was also named Alexis. We’d have to get a nickname for her soon. Following the trend of terrible music fans, Bonnie had One Direction’s faces printed across her t-shirt.

Note bahis firmaları to self: no campers allowed to play DJ in the cabin.

There would be twelve of them all together once they were all here. I’d read a few advice guides before coming, and they varied wildly. Some people claimed that young children were like wild animals, and you needed to establish yourself as the alpha on day 1 or it would be too late. Others said that you should befriend them and gently guide them along the path you wanted. Counselor orientation week had been similarly confusing, seeming to say both of those things at once. Alexis – co-counselor Alexis, damn, that was already mixing me up! – and I had decided to divide the roles. I’d be good cop friend; she’d be bad cop disciplinarian.

One thing everybody did agree on, though, is that children love being read stories. No matter how old they are or how much they claim to be too cool for that, they all enjoy it. When we finally got them settled down that night, at least most of their teeth brushed, and into their beds, I lay out my trump card. If they promised to be quiet and well behaved, they could pick a book and I’d read it to them.

Of course, they all voted for Harry Potter. I’d brought a bunch of books – part of me thought they would have all already read Harry Potter and would want some variety – but I should have known better. After all, Nora had just been bragging about watching Frozen every single day for a year.

It did make it a bit easier for me because I’d grown up listening to the Jim Dale narrated audiobook version of Harry Potter. I can’t match his skill with voices, but I did my best to make Harry sound heroic and The Dursleys sound like selfish pigs. Before I had to figure out how to drop my voice low enough to play Hagrid, I realized that my audience was all asleep. Even Alexis was out cold, snoring louder than all our campers put together.

I smiled and sighed, tiredly. It was early by the standards of the rest of the world, but camp has its own timetable, and I was bone weary. Being surrounded by people constantly for all of orientation week plus today’s constant activity was tiring work for an introvert like me! I wasn’t used to having to be socially ‘on’ constantly. It was seriously draining.

Sarah would love it here. She was the extrovert who thrived on people. She’d have such a blast swimming in the lake, throwing Frisbees and belting out lyrics to Let it Go with the campers. For the thousandth time, I felt my heart cry a little, wishing my best friend were here.

Except, that wasn’t really what I wanted. What I really wanted was for Sarah to be here and for her to magically be just as gay as me.

I stepped out of the cabin onto the porch. It was a dark, mostly overcast night – perfect for solitary introspective self-loathing. For the thousandth time, I shoved my emotions down. I’d finally gotten some space to decompress, and that’s the first place my mind went? Down that same depressing track of self-torture? It made me feel so pathetic.

It would probably have been easier if I wasn’t so used to her company. If I wasn’t conditioned to remember all the funny and interesting things from my day so I could share them with her later. If she wasn’t such a great listener and she didn’t make me feel special just by caring about me. If her hair wasn’t so soft and caressable, her lips didn’t look so cute and kissable, her—

“That was amazing.” A soft voice in the darkness made me jump a foot in the air! “Quiet!” The voice whispered, stifling a laugh, “You’ll wake them up after all that effort getting them to sleep.”

When my heart stopped beating itself out of my chest, I realized there was a darker shadow sitting on the porch railing. “I – uh – I didn’t see you there,” I said, embarrassed.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you. It’s Jess, if you can’t see me.”

Jessica was one of the veteran counselors I hadn’t gotten to know much yet. She had seemed friendly, but there was a constant group surrounding her, and I was a little intimidated by the way all the returning counselors looked at her. We were both regular cabin counselors, but she’d been coming to camp for years, and the veteran staff seemed to respect what she said more than they listened to the actual head counselors and directors.

“Leah,” I said, trying to muster up the energy to sound friendly while keeping my voice low. “It’s nice to finally meet you. So… what brings you to my porch tonight?”

“They sent me and a few other senior counselors to see if you guys in junior camp needed any help with bedtime. You were fantastic in there and I didn’t want to disturb it. Are you sure you’ve never done this before?”

There were two sections of campers broken up by ages: juniors and seniors. The seniors got to stay up a bit later than the juniors. That’s what she meant by senior counselor – that she was with the older age group, not that she was higher ranked.

“Thanks. That means a lot, coming from you.”

She kaçak iddaa seemed amused by that. “They hold me up as this pillar of experience, but I can’t do the babies for shit. They walk all over me. Getting them to bed on time is seriously impressive. Honestly, I have no idea what I would have contributed if you didn’t already have them under control.”

I sat down next to her. “It was nothing really,” I said, trying to be modest.

“You don’t think so?” Jess motioned to the lights still on in Cabins 1 and 3, each a little way away through the trees on either side of my peacefully quiet cabin. “Seems your neighbors can’t say the same. Want to go help them?”

“Oh god, please no,” I groaned. “I feel like I’m already about to fall asleep.”

“I’m glad I’m not the only one. I’m a little jealous you can just go to bed. I’ve got to stay up until the bus with the kids from the airports gets here.”

“How late is that?”

“It’s scheduled for an hour from now, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it get here on time before. If I didn’t love Elyssa and Mary-Kate, I swear I’d never forgive them for keeping me up all night every year.”

“Oh. So, you’ve been with these campers before?”

“Oh yeah. I guess you could say I’ve seen them grow up.”

“They must be a great group for you to want to stick with them.”

“They are. Well, not all of them. Marisa and Hannah have already got me wanting to pull their hair out, but every cabin always has a bitch or two.”

“I think I might have one. Tell me if you think this is weird.” I told her about Lillian’s parents and their cryptic warning. Something about Jess made her easy to talk to. Maybe because it was dark, and I didn’t need to put any effort into eye contact or nodding along. Maybe her openness was inviting and made it easy to relax with her. Whatever it was, I found myself drawn into telling her everything I’d just been thinking about wanting to share with Sarah.

“No way! They didn’t say anything else? They just apologized and left?” She put her hand on my arm leaned into me, stifling laughter. “Sounds like you’ve got a real winner there. Has she done anything yet?”

“No, she’s actually been the most well behaved so far. She just has this smile that makes you think she’s imagining your blood on her hands.”

We continued chatting quietly about nothing in particular. Some about of her favorite campers, some about trouble kids to look out for, some of my impressions of the first week, things like that. It was nice because it felt really low key and relaxed. Sometimes the conversation lulled, and it wasn’t awkward at all. Sitting together quietly felt comfortable until one of us eventually thought of something else to say.

The warm air and darkness surrounding us made it difficult to stay awake. I started nodding off a few times, but I didn’t want to go to bed. I found myself liking Jess, and I wanted to keep this going and make a good impression. It was cathartic, and sure as hell beat brooding by myself. Her voice had a vaguely musical ring to it that made her whispered words seem soothing. Fireflies glowed in the trees and stars peeked between branches as we talked, creating little pinpricks of light that flashed and danced before my eyes.

I mentioned hoping I’d get the chance to go stargazing and felt her perk up by my side. “That’s my absolute favorite thing in the world.” The way she said it, completely serious and earnest, made me think it wasn’t hyperbole.

“Yeah? Do you think you could you show me a good spot for it one night?”

For some reason, she found that hilarious. She gripped my again arm and struggled to keep herself quiet. She smelled nice leaning into me. I guess I’d gotten so used to everybody smelling like sweat and bug-spray that Jess simply having showered made her seem appealing. “I’m sorry,” she eventually got out between breaths. “It’s just that I usually have to beg people to come out on adventures with me. It’s kind of a joke that I get a little extreme sometimes and I think it scares people off. Yeah, I know the camp pretty well, you could say I know a spot or two.”

That surprised me. “Really? I… well, you seem pretty chill to me.”

“I hope you still think that after stargazing with me.”

I smiled wide. I’d made a friend who seemed excited to do something together! That simple thing made me happier than I thought it would have.

———-

The next few days passed in a blur of camp activities, quick conversations and meaningful looks.

If I had one take major take-away, it was that camp people are fucking insane. Seriously! Take a regular, down to earth person and drop them into a summer camp, and they’ll have lost their mind within a week. It happened to me. For just one example, I got into cheering.

I’ve never been a morning person. Last semester, my earliest class was at 11:30, and I had to set an alarm to wake up for it on time. Yet, somehow, I found myself cheering in the Mess Hall at breakfast with everybody else.

For kaçak bahis the uninitiated, cheers not a quick an easy “huzzah”, nor something with skirts and pom-poms. Cheers are full body, full audience participation ritualistic singing, chanting, yelling, screaming, table banging and stand up dancing affairs. They transform the Mess Hall into a madhouse, and they take place at every single meal. And, despite being a lifelong quiet introvert, I found myself loving it! Once I got some coffee down and let myself give in to the hive mind, it was a lot of fun.

Jess was the craziest of them all. She was often the instigator, riling everybody up and inspiring them to new heights of volume. She swept between tables like a tornado, sweeping people up into her storm until the building shook. It was hard to believe the voice I’d found so peacefully soothing by night could produce so much sound the next morning.

At least all that didn’t get started until everybody was finished eating. I had more than enough to keep me occupied during meal times between making sure my homesick campers ate enough, my overeager campers didn’t stuff themselves with nothing but sugar, and nobody spilled anything too messy. And, of course, stealing glances at Jess from across the room.

Being the center of attention that she was, it was impossible not to take more notice of her when there was actually light to see by. She was cute in a way that set my incredibly unreliable gaydar hopefully buzzing. Her hair came down to just above her shoulders, and it apparently rebelled at being tied back in a ponytail as a few errant strands kept falling across her face. Even from a distance, her eyes were striking in their green tinged sharpness. She had a medium build overall, and honestly wouldn’t stick out in a crowd too much if not for one thing – her tattoo.

Jess had a nearly full sleeve tattoo down her left arm that really drew the eye. Multiple interwoven patterns of trees, branches, leaves, flowers and birds cascaded from her shoulder down nearly to her wrist. It seemed to naturally flow across her arm from one angle, and then she’d shift slightly, and I’d find myself following a different pattern back up the other direction. It was beautiful. I’m usually not really into tattoos, too many of them look like their owners got them just for the sake of having one, but Jess’s was truly a work of art on her skin.

The more I looked at her, the more I saw that seemed appealing to me. Her close-cut nails and rough hands that spoke of an active lifestyle outside of camp – her firm jawline and the way it softened ever so slightly whenever she smiled – her cute earlobes that seemed to have been designed specifically to be nibbled on… It all combined with the comfortable and friendly way she’d made me feel that night on the porch to send little butterflies of warmth fluttering inside me.

Of course, she eventually caught me staring.

I glowed red in embarrassed, and I’ve no idea what she saw in my face, but she smiled wide and let her intense eyes have their way with me. It’s hard to describe – like she was stripping me down and looking into me, and she clearly liked what she saw. Her eyes met mine, then she slowly let them wander over my body, lingering on my lips and chest, her expression subtly shifting to convey hungry desire. My own eyes went wide as the seconds ticked by and she didn’t look away, and I realized this wasn’t the kind of look straight women give each other. It was hard, but I forced myself not to get completely overwhelmed by her attention and the rush of heat it evoked in me. Deliberately, I brushed my hair to the side and smiled playfully, letting her see my eyes wandering over her body, appreciating the erotic swell of her breasts and her oh so kissable ears.

Unfortunately, I was called back down to earth by instinct and a flash of danger in the corner of my vision. I spun just in time to rescue Kim from spilling milk all over the table. Kim, our smallest camper by at least ten pounds, desperately wanted to be self-sufficient and not look like she was being babied in front of anybody else. At the same time, she didn’t quite have the strength yet to do things like pour milk from a full gallon without losing a bit of it. Alexis and I needed to keep a constant eye on her at meals.

Kim glared at me. She needed our help, but she resented it when we gave it to her. Damn! Was this what I’d put my parents through constantly for years?

Upon reflection, I was probably worse. At least Kim could make a case for being cute. That definitely wasn’t me at her age.

The moment was long gone by the time I looked back. Was it a moment? Was I reading too far into it? Did one nice evening’s conversation suddenly make me enough of an expert on all things Jess to tell? I mean, after all, it was only a look. A hot, erotic look… but just a look!

She was surrounded by people again now. I sighed, feeling the heat seep away. It was the way I was used to seeing her – in the middle of a group. Crowds just seemed to materialize around her out of nothing. It’s why I’d felt shy about approaching her before. I was still a little too new to the camp crowd to feel comfortable trying to break into a clique.

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