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This story is dedicated to every woman who bears the burden
of a dark secret from her past
About two hours from home, I stretched in the leather seat. I could see that my wife was reading a book. In the back seat, my young daughter was watching her DVD—or maybe she was sleeping. Her head was down so I couldn’t be sure. As I drove, I recognized the town names on the highway signs. Many years ago, during the summers while I attended college, I had worked in this area.
One old billboard caught my eye. It had been painted on wood and obviously needed touching up a long time ago. Most of the words were still visible, though. I hadn’t thought about that place in years. I wondered if it was still there. Looking at the weathered sign, I made a decision. I pulled into the right hand lane and signaled to exit. My wife looked up from her book when she felt the van slowing down.
“What’s the matter?” she asked.
“Nothing’s wrong, dear. I just want to make a stop.”
“Here? It’s the middle of nowhere,” she said, her tone confirming her words.
She looked around; I had to agree with her. The rice fields had given way to pine forests. There weren’t even many towns.
“I used to work at a summer camp here back when I was in school,” I started to explain. “We just passed the sign. I want to see if the old place is still there.”
I was concentrating on remembering directions from the dim recesses of my brain so I didn’t pay attention to the look on my wife’s face.
“We have a long drive ahead of us,” she complained.
“So it won’t matter if we stop for a little while,” I countered.
Whatever my wife came up with, I was committed. I was going to find the old place.
Unlike the interstate, we were now bumping along a two lane highway. It looked like the road to a summer camp. About the only things that broke the expanse of trees on either side of the road were cow pastures. We were in low rolling hills now, north of the delta that formed much of south Louisiana. I strained to remember the way. It was slowly coming back to me from more than twenty years in the past. Through the tiny town, across the bridge, and… I missed the turn. I saw the aged sign as I passed it. Hitting the brakes, I looked behind me. No traffic in either direction way out here so I just backed up the minivan at high speed. Then a left turn and over the bridge. More woods, over a few hills and it was just before the end of the road.
There wasn’t even a sign anymore at the road. It must have been knocked down years ago. I recognized the clearing though, the old gravel parking lot. I remembered how dusty it would be on hot, dry Sunday afternoons.
There was a rusty bar chained across the road into the camp so I parked. I laughed to myself as I automatically parked neatly in what would have once been one of the spaces. It wasn’t like there were going to be any cars parking next to me. By the look of things, there hadn’t been cars parking here in years.
My daughter had put her DVD player down and was looking out the window. Wherever we were, it was a lot more interesting than the monotonous expanse along the interstate.
“Where are we, Daddy?” she asked excitedly.
“Camp Kisatchie,” I said, the words almost catching in my throat. Camp Kisatchie, on the edge of the national forest.
My wife looked at me, uneasy now. I couldn’t figure out why she wouldn’t be interested to see a piece of my history.
“What do we do now?”
“We walk, Fran. It’s not far.”
“I think I’ll stay here and read,” she said in a noncommittal tone.
“Can I come with you, Daddy?” Laura asked from the backseat, a bundle of excited energy at the prospect of getting out for a little while.
“Sure, honey. Come see where Daddy used to work.”
As I opened my door, I heard Fran sigh heavily. She put down her book and got out, sliding open the back door to help Laura get out.
I looked around. So much had changed. Things were overgrown, definitely not the carefully manicured grounds I remembered. Over the gate, a rusting arch still proclaimed the name. I walked around the gate and led the way.
At first, I didn’t recognize things. It had been so long and everything looked so different now. Then, the road passed the old Quonset hut. The curved sheets of tin were no longer silver. Now they were more the color of rust, the window panes grimy with decades of filth.
“Is that where you slept?” Laura asked, her nose wrinkling as she spoke.
“No, dear. That is where the tractor slept,” I explained. “It was a tool shed. Old Mr. Higgins kept his tools in there. He was the groundskeeper.”
When I saw my daughter didn’t understand the term, I explained, “He cut the grass.”
Laura nodded in understanding.
“How far are we going to go?” Fran asked, trying to sound bored.
“Relax. Enjoy the outdoors,” I said as we moved out from under the trees and into the opening. It took me a little while of looking around to get my bearings.
Then it hit me, like a cloth was lifted from my eyes. A wave of disjointed memories suddenly flooded my mind, making me dizzy as I tried to sort them out. The memories were of places, people, events—some happy and some sad. I wondered what had happened to people I had known… and loved.
That brick building was the dining hall. Farther to the right, through those trees, was the swimming pool. The health lodge would have been about halfway there. The flagpole was in the center of that clearing, where we assembled to recite the Pledge of Allegiance every morning. The bunkhouses must be—
“Daddy, where are the doors?”
Laura’s question pulled me from my reminiscing. She was pointing to the dining hall. Well, the remains of the dining hall.
“They’re gone now, dear. It was a long time ago that we ate there.”
I took Laura by the hand and led her off to the dining hall, Fran bringing up the rear unhappily.
I walked towards the missing wall, feeling disoriented. The dining hall seemed smaller than I remembered. I felt a step up. Pushing leaves away with my foot, I could see the remains of an old tile floor. Of course! Part of the building had collapsed. What was still standing was just one end of the building.
I walked under the edge of the remaining roof, towards the fireplace and the engraved stone. I looked around, the strong memory giving me a feeling like vertigo for a moment. I was just about right here when I met her…
We filed into the dining hall, the warm summer air not yet feeling stuffy. It was time for the nine o’clock meeting and Bill was already at the front of the room. I looked around as I took my seat, recognizing old faces and nodding to them, looking at the new ones, noticing the new cute girls.
“Come on in and take a seat,” Bill said with a smile, indicating empty benches to the obviously disoriented first year counselors. You could tell them by the slightly confused looks on their faces. This was all overwhelming the first time. Once everyone was seated, Bill began his usual speech.
“Welcome to Camp Kisatchie. We’re looking forward to a great summer this year. We’re booked up for the entire season again so we’ll be busy into August.” Pointing to Phil, he continued, “For those of you with us for the first time, see Phil later to get your assignments. Most of you will be assigned in groups of twos to a bunkhouse, except for the cook staff and the health lodge staff.
“We’ve already had a few mishaps. What’s a summer at Camp Kisatchie without some disasters, right?” Laughter rippled through the room as the experienced counselors remembered past years. Bill always managed to pull things back together, though. His motto was always We’ll be alright. “Alice, our staff nurse, will be a few days late. She was in an automobile accident on her way here.” Murmurs arose. “She’s okay, but it will take a day or two to get her car drivable. So nobody gets hurt until she gets here, agreed?”
“Two of our more experienced counselors won’t be joining us. Helen is, uh…” Bill paused to consider the best way to phrase her condition.
“Knocked up!” one of the guys who knew Helen supplied.
Bill’s face showed his shock at the outburst. Then, remembering there were no kids present, he smiled. “I was going to say, ‘In the family way,’ but that about covers it. Also, Theresa called to say she’s attending summer school this year. That means we have two new counselors who will have to handle a bunkhouse by themselves. Please, everyone, give them a hand,” Bill said as he pointed to a blonde and a brunette sitting together at one end of the room. Then, to the two women, “I need to talk with you after the meeting.”
He went on about how the camp was laid out and how it was run. He reminded us about being big brothers and sisters to the campers. He warned us about not smoking in front of the campers, not drinking while camp was in session, not forming romantic relationships with the campers, the usual warnings. He explained how the campers arrive on Sunday afternoon and leave on Friday. Our free time is Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon. The usual stuff. I had heard it all two times before. My mind wandered as I looked over the new staff members. I paid enough attention to hear that nothing had changed which would affect me.
After two hours of talking, Bill was dismissing us to move into our accommodations and check out where we’d be working. I stood up and headed for a door as I noticed someone from the cook staff corralling him with a clipboard. They were having a heated discussion.
“Tim, wait a minute, please,” Bill said, stopping my exit.
I looked to him, seeing him already exasperated. Not a good sign with summer camp only underway for two hours.
“I have a problem with the food deliveries that I have to attend to. Can you talk to the new female counselors? The standard lecture about the younger girls?”
I groaned. That was Alice’s job, or his if she wasn’t available, one no one wanted to deal with. I could tell from the look on his face that whatever he had to deal with was even less pleasant. Once again, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, being one of the more experienced counselors. I really didn’t want to do this, but I liked to help Bill when I could.
“Sure, Bill. I’ll do it. Where are they?”
His job was the hardest—he managed the camp. He got paid more, but the headaches surely couldn’t make the extra money worth it.
“Thanks. I’ll owe you. They’re at the far table,” he said, pointing to the last table near the fireplace.
A fireplace here. How ridiculous. It dated back to the early days of the camp, when there was a winter camp as well. As I headed over to the table, I saw one bright spot. They were the cute blonde and brunette I had been admiring earlier, both looking about twenty. College students, like me, out to make a little extra money over the summer, probably.
“Hi, I’m Tim,” I said with a smile as I sat down on the wooden bench next to the brunette.
The blonde laughed. Seeing my confused expression, she pointed to my shirt. “We already know your name. It’s on your shirt. Counselor Tim.”
“Oh, yeah. The nametags.” I saw that the brunette’s name was Patrice, the blonde’s was Abby.
“Bill normally talks to the new counselors but he had to take care of a problem. He asked me to do it.” I couldn’t believe I was going to do this.
“I thought he already covered all that,” Patrice said.
“There are a few other things he wants to explain, and they only concern you—or rather your campers. You’re both assigned to bunkhouse 3G, right?”
They both nodded.
“You will be taking care of the twelve and thirteen year old girls. You’re going to be their big sisters.”
“It sounds like fun,” Abby said, smiling.
“Yeah. Well, there’s this, uh, there’s one, one, uh, problem we have with this group every summer.” I took a deep breath. I hated having to explain this. I felt really uncomfortable with it. One of the female counselors should be doing this, not me. “There are always a few, a few girls who have their first, uh,” I was starting to sweat and it wasn’t the heat, “uh, period, when they’re here with us.” There, I’d said it. Abby blushed furiously. Patrice was trying to not look as uncomfortable as she must have felt. “It never fails that one or two of them haven’t had, you know, the talk with their mothers yet.”
I looked at each of them, hoping recognition would dawn on their faces and spare me the rest of the lecture. No luck.
“What usually happens always seems to happen at night. There will be maybe, uhm, a blood curdling scream, uh, from the bathroom… during the night. It’s your job to take her aside and, well, explain the facts of life to her.”
“You have got to be kidding,” Patrice said, expressionless.
“Sorry, I’m not. The poor dear will be scared half to death, thinking she’s dying or something. What works best, I’m told, is to gather up a change of clothes for her and take her over to the health lodge. You can help her get cleaned up and Alice will help you explain what’s happening to her. We keep extra, you know, supplies there.”
Abby, still blushing, now opened her eyes wider. “You mean, show her how to use them?”
I nodded and wiped sweat from my brow. I didn’t think I could say anything more at that moment. Patrice noticed.
“The only funny thing about this is how you look even more uncomfortable than we do.”
“I think I am. It’s not easy to talk about. Bill wants you to be prepared. You should get, uh, familiar with the way to the health lodge. You should be able to find your way there in the dark.”
“Was that the worst of the news?” Abby asked.
“Yes, I’m happy to say,” I replied as I took a deep cleansing breath. I felt more confident with that behind me. “Except for that, this is a great job. You’ll make sure the girls get up in the morning, take them to their activities, get them to meals, and see that they shower and get to bed at night. You’ll have some of the younger girls. They’re still sweet and happy. It’s the older ones who are so… difficult. You will also alternate weeks teaching an activity. One week, Abby will teach and Patrice will take the girls to their activities, the next week you’ll switch.”
They both nodded that they understood.
“We also do an overnight canoe trip each week for the older kids. Brian is in charge of that. You’re expected to volunteer once or twice during the summer to chaperone. Everybody does it and it’s really fun.”
“What do we do on the weekends?” Patrice asked.
“We’re free from Friday afternoon when the kids leave until the next group arrives on Sunday. Most of us stay here, but you can go home if you live nearby. Are either of you from around here?”
Abby shook her head. “I’m from out of state.”
“That’s a long way for a summer job,” I observed. Most of our counselors were from the towns nearby.
“I’m an English Lit major at UT.”
Patrice brightened up at that. “My cousin goes to U Texas.”
Abby shook her head. “Not that UT. Knoxville.”
“Knoxville, Texas? Never heard of it,” I said.
“No, silly,” she said, smiling pleasantly. “University of Tennessee.”
“Oh. We get a few counselors from far away. I remember my first summer. There was this guy from some little bitty town in Indiana no one had ever heard of. Scipio, I think it was,” I remembered.
“Scipio,” Abby said with a chuckle, the unfamiliar name stumbling over her tongue. “What a funny name.”
I looked to Patrice.
“I’m from Shreveport so I’ll be staying here on the weekends, too,” she said.
I nodded. “There are lots of things to do here. There’s a picture show in the town, some of us go canoeing or swimming, or just relax. It’s nice to not have to look after campers for a few days.”
Standing and stepping over the bench, I offered, “I’ll show you to Bunkhouse 3G.”
“Thanks, Tim,” Patrice said pleasantly.
I felt a pang in my heart when she said that. I was starting to like Patrice a lot already. Abby was pretty, too, but there was something about Patrice. I only hoped she felt something, too.
They followed me out the screen door and it closed with a squeak and a bang behind our backs. Turning right, I walked down the gravel road with a girl on either side of me and pointed out places along the way.
“It’s all kind of overwhelming,” Abby said.
“Don’t worry. You’ll get used to it soon. This place isn’t as big as it first seems.”
I showed them to their bunkhouse. It was like all the others. Bunk beds on each side of a large room. Next to the door was the private bedroom the two counselors would share, and the door leading to a bathroom at the other end of the big room. I turned on the big electric fans and we all started opening windows.
“A truck is going to come around with the mattresses. We’ll help you move them in and put them on the beds. The kids will get their own linens from the supply room behind the dining hall and make their beds when they arrive each week, but you need to go pick up yours today. After you get your things moved in, I mean. It won’t take long to get things setup. Lunch is at twelve in the dining hall. They blow a siren when it’s time. We have another meeting after lunch to explain the activities you’ll be working on.”
“Thanks, Tim,” Patrice said, shaking my hand.
Her touch was soft and very nice. I tried hard not to sigh at her touch.
“Yes, thanks,” Abby added.
I hardly noticed Abby’s comment.
“If you girls need anything, I’m in bunkhouse 4B, a little further down the road. Oh, yes, there’s a map in your packets. See you at lunch,” I told them as I left.
I walked out into the hot sun. Patrice was on my mind as I walked over to my bunkhouse, the crunch of the gravel underfoot marking my progress up the hill.
“This is hard work climbing all these hills, Daddy.”
My daughter’s words jerked me out of my reminiscing.
“We got used to them. We walked everywhere we went.”
“That’s a lot of walking,” Laura observed.
“Over the summer, it sure was,” I agreed with a smile.
“Where did you sleep?” she asked.
“This way,” I pointed and started off, taking her by the hand. My wife followed along, looking bored. Well, maybe not bored, but uncomfortable.
“Uncomfortable,” I thought, as I turned over again. The night was especially hot. Even though the fans were on and the windows were open, it just wasn’t enough. I kept waking up from the heat.
It always happens at night. True to my word, it happened a few weeks into the summer. A distant scream pierced the night. I sat up, but then realized what it probably was. Why do these things always have to happen at night?
Jim was still sleeping. I knew the girls would have to find their way in the dark. I couldn’t sleep so I decided I might as well go help them find their way.
I saw the light on in their bedroom as I approached from the road. As I got closer, I ran into Anne from the bunkhouse next door to 3G. She smiled when she saw me. We both knew what had happened. Inside, I could hear people moving around. I could hear Abby’s voice trying to get some of the other girls to go back to sleep and I could also hear the girl sobbing. Poor thing.
Anne and I waited outside the door. In a moment, Patrice and Abby came out with the young girl between them. It was Francis and she looked frightened in the moonlight.
“I’ll help you find your way to the health lodge,” I offered.
The three of them looked surprised to see the two of us there at first.
Anne spoke up. “I’ll stay here with your girls until you get back,” she offered.
She didn’t wait for their answer. She walked through the screen door at once.
“Thanks,” Patrice said, greeting me with a smile. I was starting to feel like I’d climb a mountain for that smile.
Abby was carrying some clothes. I knew the routine. We didn’t talk, more for the girl’s sake. It wasn’t a long walk and I walked ahead of the girls to give them their space, more for the benefit of Francis. When we got to the health lodge, the front porch light was on, as it always was at night. We went right in but I stayed just inside the door, enjoying the cool air.
The health lodge was one of the few places that was air conditioned. It was where the sick campers were taken. Minor illnesses were usually treated with an overnight stay in the air conditioned comfort of the few beds there, under the watchful eye of the camp nurse. Alice came out of her room, looking as sleepy as the rest of us. She made a special effort to smile when she recognized the situation.
“I’ll stay with her,” Abby offered.
I looked forward to the walk back alone with Patrice, but the girl shook her head.
“I want Patrice,” she said and pointed to the girl who held my heart.
Patrice gave me a pained look and I nodded.
“Come on, Abby. I’ll walk you back,” I offered.
Abby put the clothes down on the exam table and headed out the door. Behind us, I could hear Alice and Patrice starting to explain things to their young patient.
I didn’t feel nearly as comfortable being alone with Abby. We had gotten to know each other because we worked together, and because I was spending so much time with Patrice, but Abby wasn’t as outgoing as Patrice. She was just starting to open up to me, but it was slow.
As we walked, I asked, “So how are you and Trip doing?”
“You know, it’s hard being so far apart,” Abby told me. “You and Patrice are so lucky, getting to spend the summer together.”
“Yes, but at least you will be with Trip in the fall. We’ll be at different schools.”
Abby gave a pained smile.
“If Ricky is still giving you a hard time, I’ll talk to him,” I offered.
“No need,” Abby said. “I’m okay with it.”
“He sounds like a nice guy, Trip.”
“Don’t trip, dear,” my wife said.
I blinked, looking around. We were outside the health lodge. We had taken the same walk I had just taken in my mind.
“This was your house?” Laura asked, sounding surprised.
“No, dear. This was the first aid station. It was where you went if you got sick,” I explained. I realized that I had walked right past my bunkhouse. Turning around, I led the way back.
“I stayed over here every summer,” I told her as I showed them around the old building.
The door was unlocked but the outside needed paint really badly. We entered the stuffy room, finding the place much as I remembered. I showed them where my room was and explained to my daughter how the kids’ bunks had been arranged.
“Let’s go see the pool next,” I suggested.
“I like pools, Daddy. Remember how I swam across the pool this summer, for the first time?”
“It’s not that I don’t want to, Tim. It’s just that it’s my first time, you know?” Patrice said.
I could hear the crickets outside the window. It was late but I didn’t have to worry. I had talked Jim into giving me the room for the whole night. He went on an overnight canoe trip with some of the other counselors.
I was anxious to have sex with Patrice. We had been seeing each other for a few weeks, though we only really got together for weekends. During the week, we had to keep our relationship chaste for the benefit of the campers. I had even borrowed a rubber from Jim, before I had a chance to go into town and get my own box. I was ready, but I really cared about Patrice. I didn’t want to just get into her pants. With her, it was more. I didn’t want to rush her. A girl’s first time was special. She had to feel right about it. I just hoped she started feeling right soon.
“Can we just kiss for awhile?” Patrice asked.
“Sure, hon. That sounds nice.”
I sat on my bed and she sat gingerly next to me. She put one hand on the sheet, smoothing it and feeling the texture. I reached out and touched my fingers to her chin, reveling in the softness of her face. I turned her face to mine. Her eyes closed but I could see the indecision in her expression. She wanted to yet she didn’t. I leaned forward and pressed my lips to hers.
We both took a deep breath as we started to kiss. We had kissed before. We had even touched each other. We just hadn’t done it before. The big it. Patrice said the time wasn’t right and I had waited.
I put my arm around her waist. With the other, I supported us as I tried to move her into lying down. She broke the kiss.
“No, Tim. Not yet. I just want to kiss,” she said as she shook her head.
“Okay. I was just going to kiss you.”
“Look. It’s different for a girl. I’ll never be the same again. I just want to be sure this is right.”
“It’s right, Patrice. It’s been right. We love each other.”
I meant that, especially the last part.
“I know we do. I’m just not sure I’m ready to take the next step. Maybe it will be tonight. I just need a little time.”
My heart was touched by her words. I wanted her, but I wanted her to want it, too. My body was demanding something but my heart needed her to lead. Yes, it meant a lot to be her first but she had to want me to be her first. It wouldn’t be worthwhile if she regretted her decision in the morning.
I kissed her, being especially careful not to move her. Patrice pulled her lips from mine.
“You don’t have to do that,” she said.
My face must have shown how clueless I was. She smiled.
“I’m not ready to go all the way, but it’s still alright to touch me.”
When I didn’t move, she sighed as she picked up my hand and placed it on her breast, right over the camp logo. I pressed my hand into her firm softness, feeling the t-shirt material. As I squeezed, I felt the plastic nametag with my fingertips. Then, my eyes widened.
“You’re not wearing a bra!”
“I told you I was thinking about it.”
My heart beat faster. The room suddenly felt even warmer.
“What else are you not wearing?”
“I have everything else on,” she assured me. “I thought you’d like discovering that, though. I can’t believe it took you so long to figure it out.”
I put my other hand on the other one. I could easily feel her nipples hardening under my touch. My dick, which had been semi-hard all night, stirred.
Breathing deeply, I suggested, “Let’s take off our shirts.”
“Tim,” admonished Patrice.
“Tim, your daughter asked you a question,” Fran was saying pointedly.
“I’m sorry, dear. I was thinking about something else. What did you want to know?”
“I asked why the pool is all green and yucky,” Laura said in that tone young ones use when they realize you’re not paying attention to them.
“Well, dear, it’s winter and the pool isn’t being used. The camp looks like it’s not open anymore so they probably haven’t taken care of the pool in a long time. This is what happens to a pool when you don’t take care of it.”
“…what happens to a pool when you don’t take care of it,” Harold was saying.
I nodded, trying to look interested. In reality, I was hoping to run into Patrice. I wanted another chance to talk to her before the campers started arriving. They were due right after lunch.
I kept looking around, hoping to catch sight of Patrice and Abby heading back towards their cabin. I kept looking back whenever I noticed Harold looking my way.
“What’re you looking for, dude?”
“Just seeing who’s around,” I tried to lie.
Harold smiled. “The blonde, right? She’s cute.”
“No, not her. She’s got a boyfriend. I’m more interested in her brunette friend.”
Harold nodded. “I know the one. Pat or something, right?”
About that time, I heard, “Hi, Tim.” I knew that voice. My pulse quickened at the sound but I was also relieved to have an excuse to leave.
“Hi, Patrice,” I said, turning to the sound. “Oh, hi, Abby,” I added. “I’m going to head back to the bunkhouses. See you around, Harold.”
“Later, Tim. Hi, girls,” Harold said.
I ran a few steps to catch up with the girls, falling into step beside Patrice.
“Ready for this?” I asked.
“You mean the campers?” Abby asked.
“Yes, they’ll be here in a few hours.”
“I think we have everything ready,” Patrice said. “I hope I do alright.”
“You’ll both do fine,” I assured them. “The kids will look up to you. It will be fun.”
“It’s a little scary,” Abby confided.
“Abby, this is a lot easier than you’re imagining. The kids think you’re the greatest,” I assured her.
In reality, I wasn’t as cool as I was trying to appear. I really wanted to make a good impression on Patrice. I liked her and I wanted to get to know her better. I was looking forward to a summer spending a lot of time with her. I hoped she felt the same way about me. I couldn’t really tell yet if she did. She was friendly towards me, but so was Abby (though a little more distant). I wanted there to be more than friendship between the two of us.
“Sit with me for lunch?” Patrice asked. “I mean, us,” she corrected, casting a glance at Abby. Abby just smiled.
“Sure, I was counting on it,” I told her.
Patrice and Abby shared a look that I caught out of the corner of my eye.
“I’m going to check on something at the health lodge before lunch. I’ll meet up with you later,” Abby said.
Patrice looked at me as she answered, “I have to make a last check on the bunkhouse. Tim, would you come with me?”
“Sure,” I said, confused.
Why did she need my help? I wasn’t about to pass up a chance to be alone with her, though.
“Okay, so I’ll see you two at lunch,” Abby said as she headed away to the health lodge.
On the walk to her bunkhouse, Patrice didn’t say anything. I wondered at first if she wanted to have a private talk with me because she was unhappy about something. I couldn’t think of anything I might have done yet. Maybe she just didn’t feel the same way about me as I did about her. That would really put a damper on my summer.
We walked into their bunkhouse and Patrice led the way to her bedroom. I followed along behind, anxious to see what she wanted help with. She turned around once we were inside her bedroom and she gave me a shy smile. I smiled back, unsure of what was happening. I knew what I was hoping for but I could still see other outcomes.
Patrice stepped up to me and slowly put her arms around my neck. I drew in a deep breath as I felt her arms touching me. I had dreams like this about her. When she spoke, she did so softly.
“Tim, I wanted us to have a few minutes alone. This might be the last time for the week.”
I knew what she was referring to—The campers would arrive soon. It was looking like my fantasy was coming true so I put my arms around her waist and she didn’t pull away. My heart pounded and I started to sweat a little more.
She just shook her head, her smile brightening. I took a chance, hoping I was reading the clues correctly. She had just met me on Friday, after all. That was enough time for her to capture my heart, but I wasn’t sure if I had been having the same effect on her. I tilted my head to the side, closed my eyes, and pressed my lips to hers. I felt her arms tighten around my neck, pulling us closer together. My heart melted as I realized she wasn’t pushing me away.
I pressed my tongue through my lips. I touched her lips and felt them part, allowing me into her mouth. As my tongue entered her mouth, I heard her moan. I held onto her more tightly, feeling her breasts crush against my chest. I could feel both of our hearts pounding.
It seemed like we kissed for only a moment—it seemed like we kissed for hours. I felt the delicate touch of her body against my chest, the softness of her hair against the sides of my face, her arms around my neck, the exhilarating feel of having my tongue inside her mouth. We shared a closeness we had not shared up to that time. It was the first really physical closeness we shared. I would relive that moment again and again in the future.
A siren pierced the peace, intruding on our private world. Patrice jumped and I actually groaned in frustration as we parted, both of us knowing we had to leave. Patrice gave a cute little laugh.
“I’m glad you’re so disappointed this moment has to end,” she said with a dreamy smile, slowly coming out of the reverie.
It was like we each had to take a few moments to return to reality, reluctant to leave that special place we had visited together.
I looked at her, the realization only just hitting me. She felt the same way about me that I felt about her! I reached out with one hand, caressing her cheek with my palm.
“We have to go,” she said sadly.
I nodded, slowly.
“I know. I just want to remember you like this. We won’t get to have many moments like this until next weekend.”
Patrice nodded in agreement, slowly like I had. Reality broke in and I took her hand—her soft and smooth feminine hand—and led her out into the sunshine.
I looked around as we emerged, seeing the world in a different way. I was still holding her hand, very conscious of the feel of her hand in mine, and it was like the colors of the world had been turned up four notches. Things were brighter, more vibrant. I was experiencing life more thoroughly now. I was falling for Patrice. The best part about that was she was feeling the same thing. A happiness gripped me and held on tight. It surged through my very being.
Abby was already waiting for us at our usual table, the table the two women would be sharing with their charges all too soon. Patrice’s friend greeted us with a smile.
“I can see on both of your faces that it went well,” Abby said, beaming at us.
Patrice reached for my hand under the table and gave it a squeeze as she answered her friend in a whisper, “It did. Thank you.”
“Anytime for you two,” Abby said, and the way she said it made me realize she really meant it.
I finally caught on that the two of them had planned that private time. My heart leapt when the realization hit me. I looked sidelong at Patrice and smiled a little more as I thought about what that meant.
When we finished lunch, we all went to the parking lot where the first week’s worth of campers were just starting to arrive. We helped them unload and get to their assigned bunkhouses. The arrival was mass confusion, but our job was to help the campers feel reassured and to make the activity look to their parents more orderly than it was. There were kids who were anxious to get started on this adventure. There were parents who were not especially eager to leave their children. There were young ones who looked positively terrified at the thought of being left here for the week.
Joseph was one of the terrified ones. I picked him out right away and walked over. He was trying to look brave but was actually on the verge of tears. He was holding a duffle bag against his chest and talking with his mother, who was bending over so her face was right next to his.
“You’re going to like this place, Joseph. Remember the brochure? All the things we saw in there that you like to do?” his mother was saying, trying to reassure him.
“Mom, I don’t know any of these people,” he was answering when I walked up.
“Hi, Joseph. I’m Tim. I’m one of the counselors. Let’s get your stuff moved in. Your last name wouldn’t be Harrison, would it?”
I had already scanned the list of campers on my clipboard and seen that I had a Joseph Harrison in my bunkhouse.
“Yes, yes, it is, sir,” he answered, surprised, with a slight hesitation.
I knew the look. He was relieved that someone here knew his name, even though he had never seen that someone before in his life. Instead of grinning, I managed a pleasant smile. I knew the next few minutes would be critical. He looked nervous enough that what happened next would make the difference between a great week at camp and leaving today for home with his mother.
“Then we’re in the same bunkhouse.” Turning to his mother, “Mrs. Harrison, I’m Tim Barnes. I’ll be one of the two counselors in charge of Joseph’s bunkhouse.”
“It’s very nice to meet you, Mr. Barnes. Joseph here is—“
I cut her off, but not to be rude. From my experience over the previous summers, I knew that her son didn’t need to hear his mom telling me how nervous he was about being away from home.
“Please, call me Tim. We’re on a first name basis around here. Can I carry that suitcase for you?’
I reached for the bag in her hand. She let me take it and reached in the trunk for another.
“Can I come in and see where Joseph will be staying?” she asked.
“Of course. It’s just a short walk. Come on.”
I led the way, pacing myself so Joseph stayed at my side the entire time. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see his confidence building. I had won him over.
“I saw it’s your first time here. Don’t worry. I’ll make sure you get it all figured out. You’re going to love it. It’s my third summer here.”
I was trying to talk on his level, like a fellow camper instead of his counselor. It worked every time.
I helped him pick out a bunk (he preferred upper) and locker. Some other kids were also moving in so I made sure they met Joseph. In a few minutes, he was absorbed into the group so I pulled his mother aside.
“I think he’s over the initial concerns now. Can I walk you back to the parking lot? I’m heading that way.”
“I guess he’ll be alright,” his mother said, her own nervousness evident in her tone.
I smiled my best counselor smile but tried to sound sincere at the same time.
“He’s fine. They are always nervous at first. If there is any problem, we’ll call you.”
Mrs. Harrison walked over to the group.
“I’m going now, Joseph. I’ll be back on Friday.”
“Okay, Mom. See you then,” her son said without even turning around.
I knew it was breaking her heart but I also knew Joseph was ready for her to go. He was already forming bonds with the other campers. I only hoped she didn’t try to kiss him in front of the other kids. To my surprise, Mrs. Harrison restrained herself and we left together.
Once outside, she looked back at the door.
“He will fit in. Don’t worry,” I assured her.
“You sound so sure,” she said. “Joseph is not like other boys.”
“Sure he is. It’s a new place and a new experience. My job is to make sure he has a great time. I promise I’ll call if he needs anything.”
She gave a nervous laugh. “You probably meet parents like me all the time.”
“Yes, and boys like Joseph. He’s ready to do this. Let him grow up.”
“I know. His father tells me the same thing, but he’s my baby.”
“Ma’am, Joseph hasn’t been a baby for a long time. He’s becoming a man and he needs the chance to develop some independence.”
“You’re right, and I know it. It’s just so hard to let him go.”
I nodded. “I understand.”
By then, we were back at the parking lot. Just before she got in her car, she looked back at me. I smiled and waved, and she left. Turning back to the task at hand, I rounded up more campers and escorted them to their bunkhouses. So many kids arrived like Joseph and left with greater independence, greater confidence. There were also so many mothers like Mrs. Harrison.
It took most of the afternoon to get all the campers checked in and get their bedding squared away. I stayed so busy that I hardly got to notice Patrice when we passed each other. Jim and I got the boys settled in and unpacked in plenty of time. At the appointed hour, the horn sounded and we herded our charges to the dining hall where Bill held an orientation session for everyone right before dinner.
Inside, we sat with our groups at assigned tables, where we’d be eating all summer. The first night was intended to make a good impression on the new arrivals so dinner was pizza. The smells appealed to them all as they got comfortable. Bill called the room to order at his microphone and gave his usual welcoming speech.
I knew the speech by heart so I passed the time watching each of the boys assigned to my bunkhouse. I was trying to assess their personalities. There were always the troublemakers, the shy ones you had to be sure didn’t get picked on, and the regular kids. The regulars had a good time wherever they were. Joseph had sat next to me. I took him to be one of the shy ones. He seemed to be forming a bond with me. I was determined that he would have a great week.
After checking that the boys were behaving, I looked around for the Bunkhouse 3G table, where Patrice was sitting. I spotted her nearby. She and Abby were nervously trying to keep order. I smiled, remembering my first summer as a counselor here. I was so naïve, myself, that year.
Abby happened to look up and saw me looking their way. She leaned over and said something to Patrice. Immediately, Patrice turned around and looked my way, gifting me with a bright smile. One of the girls sitting next to Abby caught on to what was taking place and whispered to the girl sitting next to her. They both looked at Patrice, chanting words I could only barely make out over the din.
“Patrice has a boyfriend… Patrice has a boyfriend.”
Patrice’s head snapped around, but not before Abby was already quieting the girls. When Abby looked my way again, she mouthed, “Sorry” to me as she made a sad face. I nodded and smiled back. Patrice had her back to me, but I was sure she was embarrassed. I looked down to see Joseph looking at me. His expression was… curious.
“You like her, don’t you?” he asked me.
I knew we were supposed to keep our personal relationships concealed from the campers, but I didn’t see any harm in being honest with Joseph. It would help build the bond between us. Kids like him need to feel they have something special.
“Yes, I do. Do you think she’s pretty?” I asked.
He thought about that for a moment.
“I guess so. I’m not into girls yet. My mom keeps telling me that will change soon.”
He looked over at the other table again.
“If I was going to pick, I’d probably go for the blonde.”
I laughed at his comment.
“Joseph, the beauty of a girl is very subjective.”
Joseph wrinkled his nose at my comment. I realized he probably didn’t understand what I meant by subjective. I explained, “I meant that everybody has their own idea of whether a certain girl is pretty.”
He nodded and gave me a smile. I had made a friend. I reached over and tousled his hair. About that time, the pizza was being served, announced by cheers erupting throughout the room. Our places were already set with dishes. Staff from the kitchen brought out the food and set it in the middle of each table. I got up and assisted Jim in serving the meal. This would change starting with the next meal as the campers took turns setting and clearing the table, and serving the food. It was all part of the routine to teach them responsibility.
Later, after dinner and the campfire, we were getting our campers settled in for the night. It was the usual routine, making sure everybody took a shower, brushed their teeth, and didn’t wander off before bedtime. Once all our boys were in bed, I turned off the lights in the main room and stuck my head in our bedroom.
“Jim, I’m going to sit outside for a little while.”
“Sure thing. I’ll holler if I need you,” my roommate said, looking up from his book.
I gave the darkened main room a last look. Satisfied that everyone was in bed, I went out the screen door and sat on the concrete steps. Lights were going off in all the bunkhouses as the camp settled down for the night. As it got quieter, you could hear little sounds. There were crickets, but there were human sounds, too. It became so quiet in a few minutes that you could even just barely pick out distant whispered conversation. I smiled at that. Friendships were being formed, bonds that might last years, rekindled each summer as the kids returned. The friendships would change over the years as the kids grew up, but most friendships would survive. In time, as adults themselves they would look back fondly at the summers spent at Camp Kisatchie.
I was enjoying the cool night air and the privacy of the darkness when I heard the sound of footsteps. Someone was walking through the grass, their feet making swishing sounds softer than the crunch of the gravel. I didn’t recognize the face but I knew the voice at once.
“I was hoping I’d find you out here,” Patrice said sweetly.
“Are yours settled in?”
“Yes, Abby is watching over them. She shooed me out to come talk to you.”
“Sorry about that incident in the dining hall,” I apologized.
“I didn’t know what to do. Girls can be so mean sometimes—and not just to each other.”
I chuckled and nodded my head.
“Don’t worry about it, Patrice.”
“But the rules—“ she started to say.
“The rules are to prevent public displays of affection. We wouldn’t want to be caught making out, or worse, but a friendly smile, or even holding hands,” I reached for her hand, my heart melting as I enjoyed the soft warmth of the touch, “won’t cause you any trouble with Bill.”
As I squeezed her hand, I felt her squeeze back and it made me take a deeper breath.
“Patrice, am I stepping on anyone’s toes?” I asked hesitantly.
“What do you mean?”
“Are you serious with anyone?” I asked her, nervous about her answer.
“No.” Then a moment later, “Are you?”
I thought about my answer. I knew what I wanted to say but I wasn’t sure I should take the chance. I warred internally for a little while. Then, I decided I should go for it and take my chances. I answered her question.
“Only about you.”
There was a silence during which my heart pounded and I sweated in the cool night air. I was dying there, waiting for her to answer, to give any kind of indication.
“Me, too,” she finally said.
I let out my held breath and she laughed softly at the sound.
“Were you really holding your breath all that time?” she asked.
“Yeah, I was,” I confessed.
She looked around carefully, trying to stare in through the screen door.
“Would it be alright for us to share a goodnight kiss?” Patrice asked.
I felt a funny tightness in my stomach. My fears had been unfounded. She felt the same way about me!
I was still holding her hand. I led her away from the bunkhouse, towards the trees. Standing in the shadows against the edge of the woods, where I knew we were all but invisible to anyone else, I pulled her by her waist to me.
“I think we’re alone now,” I whispered in the darkness.
She gave no resistance, flowing against my body. We were both wearing shorts so I felt her legs against mine, one smooth leg moving between mine. I tightened one arm around her waist and felt her breasts crush against my chest. She made one of those sweet sounds only a young woman can make, and I felt my insides melting as she made it.
With the other hand, I touched her face until my palm was against her cheek. In the very dim light, she looked up to my face expectantly. I pressed my lips to hers and closed my eyes. Her arms slowly slid around my neck and held us together even more tightly.
I heard the crickets, smelled her shampoo, but really was only aware of the beating of our hearts. Knowing she couldn’t be gone long, we parted, holding each other in our arms and looking into each other’s eyes by the dim light. She was smiling.
“That was nice. Let’s do it again soon,” she told me.
I nodded in agreement.
“I have to get back,” she said, sounding pained.
I held her to me, one quick hug, before letting her go. I watched her, seeing her look back at me twice before I lost sight of her in the darkness. With thoughts of Patrice in my head, I lumbered back to the bunkhouse and crawled into bed. If Jim was still awake, he never said a word. As I drifted off to sleep, I thought of her kiss, as gentle as the touch of a butterfly.
“Thinking of butterflies?” my wife was asking, giving me a sly smile.
“Butterflies?” I asked as a way to stall for time so I could get my thoughts together.
“Yeah, butterflies. You know, the kind that fly around in summer. The kind that fly inside here, too,” she said, playfully touching my stomach.
Did she know what I had been thinking?
After letting me sweat for a few seconds, she continued, “You looked like you were reliving a really pleasant memory.”
“Just remembering some old friends,” I hedged.
“Uh-huh,” she said, not sounding like she believed I was thinking about just friends.
She turned to follow our daughter. I tagged along, walking towards the archery range at the far end of camp. The crunch of gravel under my feet was such a familiar sound.
“Tim,” Patrice called.
I stopped and turned at the sound of that lovely voice. I watched her shapely body approach, listening to her tennis shoes crunch the gravel.
She caught up to me but then had to catch her breath. I waited and smiled. I was smiling a lot lately whenever I was around Patrice. I had only known her for three weeks, but she was becoming an important piece of my life. The most important piece.
“I have a few minutes before the next group shows up. How about you?”
“About the same,” I said, glancing at my watch. “What’s new?”
She gave me a shy smile, and then looked down.
“What?” I asked her.
“Abby got a letter from Trip yesterday. He’s coming for a visit on Saturday. She’s been gushing about him.”
“And that makes you embarrassed?”
Patrice continued without appearing to notice my remarks. “He’s working a lot with his friend, on the houses. It sounds like the summer is going well for him, for his business.”
She paused, pushing some gravel around with the tip of her shoe. I waited patiently. She had something to say, something she felt was very important. She took a really deep breath and slowly looked up to meet my gaze.
“Last night, after Abby told me what Trip was doing, we talked. About her and Trip—and about me and you.”
She was taking her time about telling me something. I was trying my hardest to be patient. She broke eye contact and looked down as she said the next sentence.
“We had a long talk about, you know, … about sex.”
The last two words were spoken just above a whisper. She looked up to see my reaction. Now she began to speak faster, like she wanted to get this over with quickly.
“It was hard to get her to talk about it at first. She’s kind of shy, even around me. I really wanted to know so I kept after her until she finally talked about it. I asked her what her first time was like. What to expect. Would it hurt? Would I like it? Would I know what to do?”
Realizing where this was leading, I looked around to be sure no one else was near enough to overhear, but we were alone. I felt my cock harden in my pants as the implications of the conversation became clear.
“She told me it didn’t always hurt. She told me about some things I could do to make sure it hurt less.”
Finally she looked up, smiling guiltily. It wasn’t hard to imagine what those “exercises” involved. That thought got me even harder.
“So, I was thinking, maybe this weekend would be the right time. You know, for us to…”
My heart was absolutely pounding as she said that. She didn’t need to continue. I knew what she was saying, what she was offering to me. I looked directly into her eyes.
“Are you sure, Patrice? Really sure this time? You don’t have to, you know.”
She didn’t have to, but I wanted her to. Really, really bad.
Nodding, her hair shining in the sun and bobbing as she did so, she said, “Yes. I think I’m ready. How about Friday night?”
My mouth felt dry as I realized she was offering me the most precious gift a woman could offer a man. The gift she could only give once. I tried to answer but my mouth had gone dry. I swallowed hard.
“Friday,” I said. “I can’t wait!”
I put my arms around her, intending to kiss her deeply, intending to revel in the moment. The sound of approaching children made her push me away. She gave me a light peck on the cheek before stepping back, though.
“We have to get back to work. Friday,” she said, grinning now at the implied promise in the last word.
I stood there, watching her. The group of campers walked around me, surrounding me like a school of fish, and I just stood there watching her walk away as they followed her. Too late, I realized that I also had a group to meet. I came to my senses and ran to the shady spot where ten campers were starting to wonder where their instructor was.
I tried to cover, making up a story about showing them how it felt to be lost in the woods without a guide. Their counselor made a face that showed me he wasn’t buying it. The kids, though, believed me. Joseph would have seen right through it. I wondered for a moment how he was doing. He had been back home for almost two weeks. I smiled as I remembered how confident he looked when his mother showed up to pick him up at the end of the week. She looked like she had missed him. He, however, looked like he was not ready to be going home. He did fine.
On Friday, I couldn’t get rid of the campers fast enough. I knew we’d still have to wait until the night, but I was anxious to be around Patrice, anticipating the night. I had to keep reminding myself to slow down and pay attention to each little one who hugged me or wished me well as he left. Even many of the girls came to tell me farewell, thanking me for what I had taught them about navigating the woods.
At last, the campers were all gone and we were on our own until Sunday afternoon. We still had some straightening up to do but that would only take a few hours. Bill asked me to run an errand in town and I gladly did it, using the opportunity to drop by the local drugstore.
It had taken a little convincing to get Jim to go on the canoe trip with the other counselors. I finally had to tell him what I wanted the room for. Once he knew, he just smiled and said, “No problem.”
The afternoon crawled by. Abby had dinner with us in the dining hall. I could tell Patrice was a little anxious. I was nervous. Well, I was nervous and horny. Abby was there being supportive for Patrice. She was really being sweet. My mind drifted to those “exercises” she had been teaching Patrice. I would have loved to watch that scene.
Patrice and I ate light. When we were done, the three of us got up and picked up our trays. Abby opened the screen door and stepped out into the evening. We followed her, holding hands. Patrice’s hand was just a little sweaty. I was trying not to tremble, with anticipation and fear.
“Thanks, Abby,” I offered, anxious to get rid of her and get Patrice alone.
Abby looked at me with surprise, and then looked at Patrice.
“Don’t you want to—” she started to say.
“Yes,” Patrice started as she turned to look at me. Looking around to see no one else was nearby, she continued. “I’m going to take a shower first. I’ll meet you later at your place.”
“I was thinking we could take a shower together,” I said.
Patrice blushed and Abby looked away as if pretending she hadn’t heard me. When Patrice didn’t respond, Abby spoke up. She was trying to sound like the confident big sister but I could sense Abby’s discomfort.
“That sounds nice. You two can get familiar with each other that way.”
“Ab-by!” Patrice said in a drawn out sort of way.
“Patrice, I know what’s going on. It’s alright. Remember what we talked about?”
Patrice nodded but still looked uncomfortable.
“Why don’t you two follow me back and you can pick up your bag,” Abby suggested.
Patrice nodded. We set off to Bunkhouse 3G with Abby walking next to Patrice. Flanked by her best friend and me, Patrice seemed to relax a little. When Patrice went into their room to get her things, Abby grabbed me by the arm. I could tell she wanted to tell me something but it was difficult for her. Finally, she spoke in a whisper, avoiding my gaze as she spoke.
“You know how nervous she is, right?” she asked. I nodded. “Take it slow. She wants this a lot but she’s also scared. You’re her first.”
“I know that, Abby. I also know I love Patrice. I want it to be special for her. I don’t want to hurt her.”
“If something happens, if she decides to wait a little longer, be supportive, okay?”
I thought about what she had asked me. If it came to that, it wouldn’t be easy but I knew I’d do the right thing. I nodded. Abby smiled.
“Good. Now, you have some protection, right?” Abby asked me as Patrice came to the door.
“Abby! I can’t believe you asked him that.”
“Patrice, hon, you’re a big girl now. You have to make sure this is taken care of,” Abby told her.
Patrice looked to me. I nodded and smiled.
“Then go, you two. Have a good time and don’t come back until tomorrow.” Abby shooed us out the door with a grin.
I took Patrice by the hand. I was pleased to find that her hand was no longer sweaty. I took her bag with the other hand and we set off for my room. It was just starting to get dark.
To be continued in Chapter 2
This story is Copyright © 2006 by Strickland83. All rights reserved.
Abby and Trip appear courtesy of Nick Scipio. The Summer Camp characters and universe are
Copyright © 2002-2006 Nick Scipio.
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