Eva ran a hand over her ponytail, still looking down. "Um, I'm fine. Can we just..."
"Are you pissed at me?" I asked. Eva and I had been friendly in high school. Taken the same bus and chatted on the way to school, hung out as part of a bigger group at more school events than I could count. She'd given me hugs before. I'd hate to think that she could barely stand to be near me. "Because I'm really sorry if things got weird. That whole thing with Reagan..."
"Oh my god, can you not..." Eva glanced around shiftily, as if we weren't standing alone on the edge of the open quad, in the shade of the trees.
"Okay, okay. I guess we don't have to talk about it or anything..." I scratched my head. "But like... if you're not pissed at me... can we try to be cool? Move past it..."
Chewing her lip, Eva let out a heavy sigh, put her hands on her hips and looked up at me for the first time. "...Yeah. Okay, deal."
"Deal." I flipped open the binder.
Somehow Eva and I were able to get through the session without much overt awkwardness, even though demonstrating improv games with her was a bit stilted at first. By the end of the hour though, her comfort seemed to improve and I caught her laughing a couple times at some of the scenes I was in with the kids, though she always quieted down in a hurry when I turned towards her.
In particular, the kids seemed to get a real kick out of the bloodstain on my shirt, and every scene I was in inevitably ended up with me playing a murderer, a vampire, or someone who'd been hit by a car.
As I was heading in for dinner at the end of the day, Dylan jogged up behind me. "Good first day, Carrie?"
I didn't even notice it at first, maybe because I was struck by how cute she looked. Her cheeks and nose were already pinkish flushed with the beginnings of a sunburn. The sleeves on her Silverbirch t-shirt were rolled up to and her shorts were short, as I imagined any would be given the length of her legs. She'd accessorized with knee-high athletic socks and a ballcap. "Yeah, I did. Little crazy. Did you hear about Gavin's nosebleed?"
"Well, yeah." She gave me a funny look, a smile still tugging at the corner of her lips. "I'm starving, I'll see you in there." I watched her quicken her pace, long strides carrying her towards the Mess Hall.
"Wait, did you just call me Carrie?" I called after her. She shot a grin over her shoulder. I glanced down at the bloodstain on my shirt and groaned.
Dylan's nicknaming ability was nothing if not influential. By the time the first campfire with the kids was over, "Carrie" seemed to have thoroughly stuck.
"It wasn't even that much blood," I muttered to Dante, my co-counselor in Cabin C, as we headed back to turn in.
He clapped a big hand on my shoulder, his short dreads pulled back into a ponytail. "Bad luck, man."
"What's your camp name?"
I threw up my hands. "Are you kidding me? See, that's a cool nickname."
"Yeah..." He raised his eyebrows. "...It's because this asshole counselor nearly tricked me into eating moose shit my first summer."
I blinked, and decided to stop complaining. At least the blood would come out in the wash.
Thanks to a packed schedule, that first week went by quickly. Drama Games with Eva turned out to be a lot of fun, and we even started chatting after our sessions as we walked back, usually having a laugh about whatever baffling and ridiculous things had burst out of our campers.
On Wednesday, Dylan and I got paired up to lead archery for the morning. We switched off between demonstrating proper technique and supervising, which meant making sure the kids didn't shoot each other with arrows. The only trouble was, I had a hard time not getting distracted when Dylan was shooting.
Her hazel eyes narrowed with focus, her tall, lithe body tensing with contained energy, just like the bow she was pulling back. My gaze drifted lower. Her running shorts weren't super tight, but when you had a taut, round bubble of a butt like hers, they didn't really need to be.
She let fly, blowing her blonde bangs out of her eyes with a satisfied grin as her arrow thumped home in the foam target. With longer hair and in leather armor and a green cloak instead of shorts and a t-shirt, she could easily pass for an Elven archer straight out of Mirkwood.
"HEY, hey! He's poking me with his arrow!"
I hurriedly snapped out of it and tended to the squabbling kids. "Jeremy, c'mon... would you... hey, quit it!" I finally grabbed the arrow out of his hand. "Give me that! You're done shooting for the day."
"Doing okay over there, Carrie?" Dylan called, shading her eyes from the sun. I gave her an awkward thumbs up and she laughed, casually stretching her arms upwards as she turned, her t-shirt rising to reveal a flash of her lower back.
"Can I go?" The girl at the front of the line asked impatiently, holding her bow.
"Yup—" I said hurriedly, tearing my eyes away from Dylan.
I didn't get much of an opportunity to relieve my frustration, thanks to the sleeping arrangements. It felt like my summer of sexual firsts had actually increased my sex drive and by the time Friday rolled around, my eyes were wandering over almost any female counselor in sight.
Since it was hot and the last day of camp for the kids, Friday was a beach day. All the kids and most of the counselors were splashing around in the lake, playing and lounging on the sand, where Dylan had a game of beach volleyball going. She was wearing the same navy blue one-piece swimsuit she had in Mexico, with a t-shirt over top to cover up the waist-bearing cut-outs I remembered.
The swimsuit reminded me of the sight of her bent over in that hot tub at the resort, the high little gasp she had made as my hand had smacked into her beautiful butt, the red imprint it had left on her pale cheek...
I quickly looked away before my swim trunks became a problem.
"Carrie! We need a goalie!" Dante bellowed from the other side of the beach. I glanced over to see that Amanda was getting her own game of soccer together, of course, guys versus girls, counselors, and campers alike.
"You heard him! They need a goalie, AJ..." Amanda raised an eyebrow, casually balancing the soccer ball on her outstretched foot, looking more than a little smug in anticipation.
"Oh god..." I groaned under my breath, preparing myself for an all-too-familiar ass-kicking. "You're assuming I don't know all your weaknesses!" I shouted, jogging over to stand between the two pylons serving as goal posts.
"You're assuming I have any!" Amanda's confidence seemed to be spreading to the rest of the girls on her team. They looked practically predatory.
"Dante, try to stand in front of her," I muttered and he gave me a dubious look.
Twenty minutes later, we were five goals behind. I was gasping for breath from diving for so many shots on goal, both knees were scraped up, and there was sand in several places there should never be sand. At the other end of the makeshift pitch, Amanda blocked a shot on goal and recovered the ball, laughing as she dribbled around a couple of campers, holding them off with an arm.
Normally Amanda's skill was my biggest concern, but today I was having trouble keeping my eyes off her. She was bursting with energy and spirit as she did what she did best—sprinting up and down the beach, shouting instructions to her teammates, gritting her teeth and digging in her heels as she fought for the ball. When she scored (and she'd done that a lot), she would flash me a triumphant grin before pulling a World Cup-worthy celebration dance.
She was cute. There was no doubt about that, with her round, wholesome face a ruddy tan, her bright brown eyes and curly brown hair that bounced just above her shoulders as she moved. And I'd be lying if I said I wasn't looking at her body, too.
She was wearing a conservative one-piece swimsuit with men's swim trunks on over it, which was just about as little clothing as I'd ever seen her in. She was tall, just an inch or two shorter than me, with an athletic figure, but in a very different way than the tight-bodied dance girls or Dylan's lean, lithe definition from track and volleyball.
Instead, there was a hearty substance to her, with solid arms and shoulders, thick, strong thighs and a firm, ample rear that made itself known even in loose soccer shorts or sweatpants. And as often as she hid it with bulky sweatshirts, boxy t-shirts and, I suspected, a restraining sports bra, I could tell she was pretty busty too.
I wiped my forehead and refocused on the ball. Amanda was a friend, a great friend, and just because I had fooled around with two of my close friends didn't mean I should be lusting after all of them. She was also currently charging towards me with the ball with a look of fierce determination in her eyes.
I grabbed for it, but the shot sailed past me. Dante who'd been charging back to defend, hurled his large frame in the way and in desperation, stuck out his hand to block the shot.
"Oh, hand BALL!" Amanda yelled indignantly. "That was the most blatant freaking hand ball I've ever seen!"
"It was an accident, okay? Chill." Dante protested, getting to his feet.
"It was about to go in. That's for sure a penalty shot. For sure." Amanda put her hands on her hips, staring the two of us down.
"Okay, okay." I thought quickly. "Maybe one of the girls should take it, huh, Panda?"
I gestured to the campers on her team, most of whom were still pretty good for preteens, but I'd have a better shot against them than Amanda's fearsome right foot.
Amanda narrowed her eyes at me, working her jaw, but her duty as a camp counselor won out over her competitiveness. "Great idea. Melissa, you take it." She tossed her the ball.
I gulped. Melissa was no slouch. She'd deked out one of the boys on our team so nimbly, he'd been sent sprawling and ended up with a mouthful of sand.
"How much do you wanna bet you'll miss this?" Amanda murmured from next to me as Melissa got herself set up.
"Are you even allowed to gamble?" I teased. Then impulsively I said, quietly, "Tell you what. If this doesn't go in... you have your first beer tonight."
Amanda blinked, looking taken aback. Then she lifted her chin, squared her shoulders and shrugged. "You're on. But there's no way she's not scoring," she threw back as she walked away from the goal to give us room.
"Ready, Melissa?" I asked, getting low into my unpracticed goalie's stance. The 13-year-old nodded, backing up from the ball in preparation. I winced in anticipation, and thinking of Eva and our drama games, I improvised. "...Don't stress out just 'cause Jayden's watching, okay?"
As she ran in towards the ball, Melissa processed what I'd just said, eyes widening in alarm. Her head flicked to the side just for a moment, presumably looking for wavy-haired Jayden, the heartthrob of the young campers, but he was currently playing hacky-sack on the other side of the beach.
It was still a hard, laser of a shot, but it hit the post, flipping the orange pylon end over end. "Aw. Good try, Melissa!" I called, scooping up the ball.
Amanda was shaking her head in disbelief, mouth open. "You little sneak! You lied to a child!"
"It wasn't lying! It was... strategy." I shrugged. Then so the campers wouldn't hear: "Hope you're ready to party tonight."
She groaned, rolling her eyes as she turned way, though not fast enough for me to miss the hint of a smile playing at her lips.
Soon, the campers were long gone, the sun had set, and Sheila had left us alone for the night. The coolers of beer and booze were cracked open and the counselors were enjoying the warmth of the campfire and a very good playlist on someone's Bluetooth speaker.
"It smells like a fart..." Amanda wrinkled her nose as she stared into the open beer can. Dylan, Eva, Charlotte, and a few other counselors were gathered around her, watching with bated breath.
I shrugged. "Yeah, I don't drink it for the taste to be honest. What should we cheers to?"
"Here's to the summer, I guess?" Amanda said. "Is that corny?"
"Yeah, but I like it." Dylan lifted her cup. "The summer!"
"The summer..." We echoed haphazardly, laughing.
"Cheers." I tapped my beer against Amanda's and she mirrored me as I took a big sip.
She immediately screwed up her face. "Yuck..." Then, hesitantly, she took another drink, and I laughed. "Shut it!" She said, then frowned. "I don't feel any different."
"It's one beer. I don't want you to actually get drunk," I snorted.
"I'll get drunk if I want to," Amanda muttered, lifting her chin and sipping some more.
The other counselors oohed, some laughing in disbelief.
"I knew you'd cut loose eventually..." Eva said, rubbing her hands together in excitement.
"I'll believe it when I see it," I grinned.
"You know what we should really do..." Eva piped up, playing with the end of her ponytail. "...Play Never Have I Ever."
An excited ripple ran through the nearby counselors at that.
"I've never played, but I'm down," I shrugged.
"Me too," Amanda said resolutely, cradling her beer. I gave her a look and she stared back defiantly. "What? I can play, it's not like a Satanic ritual!"
"I never said you couldn't, I just—" I started, but Eva cut in.
"Yeah, fuck off, AJ, you're not her Dad!" She slung an arm around Amanda's shoulders protectively.
"I didn't say anything!" I took a drink and shut my mouth.
All of us around the campfire ended up playing, each of us holding up five fingers.
At first, most of the statements were silly (Never Have I Ever thrown up on someone, Never Have I Ever peed in public), and I still had all five fingers up by the time it was Charlotte's turn.
"Okay, um... Never Have I Ever...sexted," she declared, as if it that was some big surprise coming from her.
Subtly I put a finger down, along with a decent handful of other people, but I did feel several nearby eyes turn to me, though Amanda quickly looked away.
"Never Have I Ever had sex outside," Jenny said promptly after, and I gulped quietly as I put another finger down. This time I was one of only a few others, and I heard Eva gasp and giggle next to Dylan.
"Damn, Carrie..." Dante let out a low whistle. "I guess you did have a good Grad Trip."
"Psh..." I looked down, coughing nervously, hoping no one would clock how true the offhand joke was.
"Never Have I Ever..." Dylan paused, resting her chin on her hand. "...hooked up at school."
I almost breathed out a sigh of relief before I remembered Reagan. Oh, come on. I put another finger down. Eva didn't, which I thought was unfair. Watching counted, didn't it?
"AJ!" Amanda burst out, mouth falling open.
"What! I... don't call me out!" I stammered.
"Okay, you have to be lying," Charlotte butted in. "Is there anything you haven't done? Jesus."
"I just..." I trailed off, feeling my cheeks growing hot. "Who's turn is it?"
It was Eva's, who had stayed notably silent after that last question. "Never Have I Everrrr... fantasized about someone in this circle."
There was a hubbub of embarrassed laughter, and a lot of fingers went down, guys and girls alike, including those of myself, Dylan, Charlotte, and to my surprise, Amanda, her cheeks already going pink, hiding her face as she took a quick sip of her beer.
"AJ has one finger left, you guys..." Eva pointed. "Amanda, you have to get him out!"
"Wait-what happens if I lose?" I grimaced.
There was some debate over this.
"You have to chug a beer!" Dylan said, but Jenny shook her head.
"No, he has to do a penalty! Like a dare or something..."
"Okay, I'm not even out yet!" I protested. All eyes turned to Amanda.
"Um..." She started.
"I mean, it should be easy for you..." Eva blurted tipsily before Dylan shushed her.
She wasn't wrong. As far as I knew, there was plenty Amanda hadn't done. But even though everyone in the circle probably knew it, I imagined she was hesitant to admit her inexperience. Who wouldn't be? After all, Reagan had said that Eva was a virgin back in June, but she'd danced around it on her turn.
"Uh..." Amanda swallowed. "Never Have I Ever been on a date?"
There were groans around the circle as almost everyone put down a finger. Eva, Dylan, even Charlotte put one down. But I perked up and kept my pinky finger proudly aloft.
"No way!" Eva pouted.
Dylan raised her eyebrows, cocking her head. "Seriously? I would have thought you were the dating type."
I shrugged innocently. "Clearly most girls don't agree."
"Clearly, you're just like lowkey some kind of secret manwhore player. That is if you're not a fucking liar." Eva raised a finger accusatorily and tossed her head, gestures exaggerated by the booze.
"Okay, it's my turn, right?" With all the commotion I hadn't had a chance to think of something. Still, there were a lot of things I had never done, right? "Never Have I Ever... uhh... used a sex toy..."
There were grumbles from most of the girls, laughter from the guys. I subtly glanced over to see Dylan's second last finger casually go down, and Eva's too, with a bit more self-consciousness. Amanda's stayed up, but she was blushing anyway.
"Never Have I Ever seen other people fooling around..." Dante said abruptly from next to me.
Fuck. I put my last finger down. I should have known I'd pay for spying on Bridget and Zara one day.
"Oh, god..." Dylan put a hand to her forehead, her other formed into a fist.
"Beans is out!" Charlotte declared.
"So's AJ!" Eva said in an equally shrill voice.
"Ooh, sudden death?" Jenny grinned and the group cheered. "Both of you stand up."
I stood, wincing pre-emptively. "What's sudden death?" Everyone seemed to have their own rules to this game.
Jenny maneuvered us so we were facing off next to the fire. I was slouching, but as Dylan put her hands on her hips and drew herself up to her full height, I straightened too, coming up just an inch shy of her.
I stared ahead into her bright hazel eyes as she raised her eyebrows and began to stretch, arms over her head, like she was about to run track. Despite the drunken pull downwards, I kept my eyes on her face, resisting the urge to glance at her long, lean body.
"Okay..." Jenny was laughing at the theatrics. She pressed a Solo cup into each of our hands. "Beans is gonna go first... seniority. Beans, you're gonna say a Never Have I Ever. If Carrie's done it, he drinks, unless anybody else in the circle has done it, too, then Beans, you have to drink. And if you say something cheap like 'Never Have I Ever been named AJ' then you drink. We'll keep going until one of you taps out. Got it?"
"Oh, yeah." Dylan narrowed her eyes. I nodded, breathing out slowly.
Jenny grabbed us both by the pinkies. "Do each of you swear on the sacred ground of Camp Silverbirch to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth?"
"I swear," I said as solemnly as I could, considering.
"Yeah, I swear..." Dylan laughed, fidgeting, obviously impatient to get going.
"Let's go, Carrie, you got this..." Dante bellowed.
"Take him out, Beans!" Eva called. The chants and catcalls of anticipation quieted into a tense silence as we began.
Dylan ran her tongue across her teeth. "Never Have I Ever had sex with Sadie Schuster."
There was a tense silence, but with no one else piping up, I gulped and took a drink, to a chorus of cheers and laughter. Even if most of these people didn't know who Sadie was, it was an impressive play to actually name drop someone's hook-up. I recognized Amanda's gasp, heard Eva say "What the fuck?" But I didn't look.
"Never Have I Ever been spanked by a bunch of my friends," I countered.
Dylan's mouth dropped open, and she glanced around, but there were no other takers. "Damn it..." she drank, to wolf-whistles and shocked giggles.