Become a Book Nerd
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There were two nights of Camp Artsy left. We were neck and neck with another team for first place. We needed to win another activity to be in the lead. There were two big events left – the talent show and the relay race. Elle and Ry took it upon themselves to put our well-oiled machine into hyper drive in hopes of beating our opponents.
I was less concerned with that, to be honest. I was having a good time, but I missed being able to talk to Iz in public and hold her in private. We were not allowed to have our phones with us during activities, which eliminated the option of texting for the majority of the day. There was a rumor circulating camp that I played Tiny Dancer for Anna. I didn’t think about the connotations when I selected it, but I thought of Iz as I played. I obviously could not say that. I was stuck with allowing people to speculate what they wanted.
“I’m changing the relay race order.” Ryan announced as we left our cabin for breakfast.
“Absolutely not! I perfected that list! Strongest runners first and last, weakest in the middle.” She argued as the four of us exited our cabin.
“Your data’s skewed. Finn doesn’t like cardio. You have him second.” The two of them walked in front of Iz and me on the path to the mess hall.
“He runs from things all the time during his schemes with Sami. He also has long legs. He can add to the head start Milo gives us. You’re our anchor, as you requested.”
“Adrenaline effects speed. Have you ever tried to get him to care about something legal? He’ll take his sweet time.” He continued.
He managed to keep their argument going all throughout breakfast. In the end, the race order remained the same. We completed a few group activities before heading to lunch. After eating, the junior class hiked up the trail to go to the relay race location. Our group moved as a pack. Izzie was walking ahead of me with Elle. Ryan was with them. Morgan, Sami, Finn, and Nick were a few steps behind me.
“Hey, Milo. How are you?” Anna walked up beside me.
“Fine.” I kept my eyes on the path ahead.
“You don’t have to play it cool. I’m receptive to your attempt to win me back.”
“Excuse me?” I glanced over at her.
“I miss you too. I took you for granted when we dated. It’ll be much better this time. We know what it feels like to be apart.”
“I played that song to complete a challenge for my team, not to impress you.” I corrected.
“It’s her, isn’t it?”
“You know who I’m talking about. You haven’t been the same since she showed up.”
“Things changed when you didn’t call on my birthday. Besides, I am not your boyfriend. I do not have to explain myself to you.”
“I hope she knows it’s not real, that you’re only with her because you can’t be alone for too long. I was just a warm body to you.” She spat beneath her breath.
“Everything is always my fault. Our relationship was exhausting. That’s why we’re not together!” I roared.
Several people ahead of me looked back, including Izzie.
I looked down and tried to play it off. My eyes caught Iz. She raised an eyebrow, nodded to Anna and flashed me a look of concern, silently asking me if I was okay. I smiled and subtly nodded. A crooked smile crept onto her face and she winked at me before turning around.
“I did everything I could, but I still wasn’t good enough. It’s not me, it’s you – you’re the problem.” Anna’s voice yanked me back to reality.
“You’ve always had this idea of what I am supposed to be. I will always fall short of that expectation because I’m not perfect. I did not care as much as I should have, but I was faithful to you. We were never on the same page in terms of what we wanted. I apologize for that, but nothing else.” I walked faster to get away from her.
Our class arrived at the cone-lined field minutes later.
“Why do you look distracted?” Ryan demanded as we stretched.
“Anna picked a fight.” Sami answered.
“Her team’s playing dirty. We need to up our game.” He replied.
“That’s possible?” Nick questioned.
“I’m pretty sure we’ve taken this competition to its furthest level of extreme.” Morgan agreed.
“That’s what it takes to win. If her team wins this, we’ll be tied. There will be even more pressure to win the talent show. Don’t let her get inside your head, Miles.” Elle pointed at me.
“She’s not. It was an unexpected confrontation that was inconvenient, nothing more. Let’s drop it.”
I went first and Finn went second, providing the lead Elle knew we would. Morgan, Elle, and Nick were able to coast. Sami and Izzie were responsible for picking up the pace before Ry’s big finish.
“Wish me luck.” Iz smiled at me, prepping to go.
“Good luck.” I called after her.
Sam tagged her in and she bolted off at full speed.
“You could’ve given her a good luck butt tap. It’s a sign of good sportsmanship.” Elle advised.
“What?” I looked to her in confusion.
“You know, when a teammate does something good or is about to go into the game for the first time, one of their teammates does this — nice work, Ry –” She slapped Ryan’s back side.
“Way to hustle.” He did the same to her.
She returned her attention to me. “It’s all the rage in professional sports. You’ve seriously never seen that before?”
“No. I can honestly say I’ve never seen nor done that before in my life.”
“Hmm, I guess it’s just an American custom.” She shrugged
“Missed opportunity, Man.” Ryan shook his head.
Iz started out strong, maintaining our lead. However, on the way back, she slipped on a slick patch of grass. Her face was flushed as she scrambled to her feet. She returned to the starting position to tag Ryan in. He jetted off at full speed in hopes of obtaining the win we needed.
“Are you okay?” Elle engulfed her in a hug.
“Yeah, just embarrassed.” She dusted the blades of moist grass off of her pants.
“It’s all right. It happens to the best of us.” I said.
“You’re a bad influence on me.” She narrowed her eyes at me and tried not to smile.
We shifted our attention back to the race. We cheered on Ry, who was neck and neck with the runner from Anna’s team. He was paying attention to the course while his competitor was eyeing his location. He was sure to leap over the area where Izzie slipped, Robbie ran right through it and suffered the same fate she did. Finn and Sami laughed hysterically. Nick nudged him and Morgan had a word with Sami. We applauded and cheered as he jogged back to us.
Elated, we joined in a celebratory group hug. I secured a spot by Izzie, finally able to get away with touching her. We had lunch and spent most of the afternoon rehearsing our talent show performance. Our last activity of the day was a noncompetitive scenic nature hike to the grand fire pit for a class bonfire. Some people were in their element, others lacked the ability to stop complaining.
“I still don’t have a signal out here. I liked this at first, but I’m kinda over nature. Being one with it is seriously overrated. I feel so out of touch with celebreality.” Elle held up her cellphone, searching for coverage.
“That doesn’t exist.” Iz snapped a picture of our surroundings with a digital camera.
“I appreciate their fantasy and aspire to create my own one day. I can’t wait to tweet that I’m baking and have millions of people care.”
“More accurately, they’ll pretend to, while simultaneously waiting for you to fall.” I interjected.
“Literally.” Sami chortled.
“Thank you for not laughing when I fell earlier.” Izzie addressed her.
“I only laugh at my friends in private. We have to keep a united front.”
“Because we’re a cool gang.” Iz stopped walking and turned to the lake.
The cliff-side platform had a rope swing that allowed summertime campers to swing out into the water. It wasn’t utilized during our class trip, it being early spring and all, but it was still a landmark worth capturing externally, especially at sunset.
“If you keep stopping, you’re going to get lost.” Morgan called to her as we kept moving forward.
“It adds to the adventure.”
“The birds will find you.” I taunted.
She stuck her tongue out at me. I slowed the pace at which I was walking, lingering near where she was so that she could catch up. Anna started shrieking. I turned around to see what she was going on about. She shook out her hair and flailed her arms and legs.
“Anna, there’s no spider.” Robbie half-heartedly attempted to reason.
Her attempt to rid herself of it didn’t cease.
“You’re not going to help her?” I asked her girlfriends.
Heather was fascinated by her hands. Layla was studying a leaf with an abnormal amount of intensity, and Kimber kept swaying her hips to an imaginary beat.
Robbie gestured me over to him. Curious as to what he would say, I moved in close. “We’re tripping on shrooms. I’m sure Blake has more if you’re–”
“I’m fine, thanks.”
“You used to be down for a good time. No wonder she got bored.”
I rolled my eyes and walked away.
As I was walking to return to my group, Izzie sat her bag and camera on the ground and approached Anna, who was still panicking. “Tell me where it is and I’ll try to get it.”
I took Izzie’s hand and pulled her away from her. “She’s high. We’re near water. I don’t want you to fall in trying to help.” I breathed into her ear.
“You’re going to take care of her?” She turned her head slightly to look me in the eye.
“I can’t leave her like this.”
She nodded to herself. “Okay.” She forced a smile. She pulled away and picked up her things.
“Iz, –“I called after her.
“We’ll talk later.”
I pulled Anna away from the ledge. To keep her from panicking, I gently guided her face to mine and made her focus her eyes on mine. “The spiders are gone.”
“Yes, go back to your friends.”
She put her hand on my bicep and plastered her side and head to me instead. “I need to lay down.”
“Do you feel sick?”
She nodded. I walked her over to a nearby bush. She knelt down on the ground and vomited. I cringed and looked up at the sky to keep myself from feeling nauseous.
“Anna, would you like me to escort you to the nurse?” Ms. Jones watched from afar.
“Laying down.” She laid down in a patch of grass beside her regurgitated puddle of dinner.
“She has a delicate stomach. Camp food, running, and hiking resulted in what you’re witnessing.” I fabricated an excuse on her behalf.
“In that case, do you mind carrying her back to our cabin so that she can rest? I’ll stay with her and you can go to the bonfire.”
I crouched down on the ground. I scooped her into my arms. She loosely wrapped her arms around my neck.
“I miss you.”
“You don’t know me.”
“I know enough.” She buried her face in the crook of my neck. “She’s not like us. The good boy thing’s getting old.”
“I meant what I said earlier.”
“Does she know about the pills?” She snickered to herself, “You couldn’t keep your hands off of me.”
“Twice. I was the new kid. You were the first person to approach me. That was what you were into, I did what I needed to fit in with you and your friends.”
“You loved it.”
“Drop it.” I growled loud enough for only her to hear.
“I’m still under your skin.” She poked my cheek.
She wasn’t the easiest load to carry because of her lack of help, but walking downhill, as opposed to up, made it bearable. I wasted no time putting her on her bunk as soon as we reached their cabin.
“Thank you so much, Milo.” Ms. Jones tucked Anna into bed.
I promptly escaped and went to the bathroom to scrub my hands. On my way to the bonfire, I removed my phone from my pocket. I clicked on Anna’s name and typed the following message:
We’re not one in the same anymore. I helped because we once were. I’m not your hero or the monster that used you. We’re even. Have a nice life.