Authors: Janna Watts,Jolene Perry
Jolene Perry & Janna Watts
o the boys of summers past.
Fifteen minutes into moving the archery target across the amphitheater and I’m beyond annoyed. So far beyond annoyed that I’m straddling the line between pissed and postal. The ground is early morning damp
and the wheels on the target keep sticking in the wet divots of grass and soil.
“What a-hole thought this was a good idea?” I mumble, bending to give the target a shove.
“I’m the a-hole. And it
a good idea.”
I swing around. “Alex.”
He doesn’t even bother to hide the smirk. “Kay-Kay. What do you think you’re doing?”
“Moving the archery targets so the small children I’ll be giving bows and arrows to for the first time in their lives don’t shoot at the bystanders walking to the dining hall.”
He walks forward and pushes me out of the way. Not even a little elbow tap to ask me to step aside, a full-on push. This is a push full of history. Alex has known me for ten years. He picked me up the first day of camp as a nine-year old, sobbing when my mom and dad left me for four weeks of “summer fun”. He’s watched me go through the awkward fifth grade fat camper stage into the awkward acne-riddled teen stage into whatever it is that I am now.
“You know me better than that. There’s an archery net.” He points to the trees along the side of the amphitheater
and hidden among them is a long rope with an arrow-catching net gathered on one side like a curtain.
“Oh. My bad. I woke up kinda early.”
He looks me over for a second. “Yeah. I figured. No bra. Might want to remedy that before classes start.”
and don’t even bother crossing my arms
. “We’re at an all girls’ camp. I’m not really that concerned the campers will be catching an eyeful.”
He shakes his head. “You’re teaching archery and it’s cold. Those might get in the way.” He points to my slightly see-through shirt. I look down. Nipples. Oops.
“Maybe I wanted
to get an eyeful.”
He snorts. “Give me a break. I’m old enough to be your dad.”
He is. He’d be a young dad, but he could still be my dad. I know it, but it doesn’t mean that I haven’t spent the last few summers harassing him. He’s one of two guys working at an all girls’ camp. The other one is the eighty-five year old camp owner. I’m nineteen, sometimes you have to work with what you’ve got.
He lifts up the archery target and swings it over his head.
“Holy Thor. Nice back.”
He turns around and the tiniest blush creeps up his neck. Ha. Got him. He recovers with a
snort. “Do you always say exactly what you’re thinking?”
I grin. “With you I do. You’re old enough to be my dad, but you’re hot enough for me to mess with.”
He drops the archery target with a loud thump. “Kay-Kay, you’re in charge of young girls this summer. You should probably temper your tongue.”
I wink at him. “Alex. I’m so delighted you’re interested in what my tongue is doing. This summer just ratcheted way up in possibility.”
He shakes his head and moves to drag the arrow curtain across the edge of the amphitheater. He doesn’t even bother saying goodbye.
“Hey,” I call out to him as he walks back toward the lake. “When’s your free hour?”
He turns back. “Third. Right before lunch.”
My face cracks into a smile. “Outstanding. Mine too. Chess?”
“Yeah. Okay. I’ll meet you in the counselor’s lounge.”
Then he walks off. My gaze refuses to move from the way his T-shirt stretches across his windsurfer back. Oh dear. Old enough to be my dad doesn’t seem to be registering with my hormones. It’s going to be a long summer.
I’ve already gotten the chessboard set up when he walks into the counselor’s lounge with wet hair and an overly tanned face. He slides into the seat across from me without a word. Classic Alex.
The strong, silent type
. Last summer when I was a counselor-in-training, I teased him mercilessly about being unable to keep up with girl conversation. Finally, he shut me up with a look and told me he learned early on to tune out female drama completely. Then he broke into a belly laugh that set my ovaries on fire.
“You know when your hair’s wet, you can barely see the gray,” I say as I move my first pawn. He has no gray. He looks like he’s in his early thirties.
“When your mouth’s shut, you can barely notice the petulant teenager it’s attached to.”
“Ouch. I’m nineteen. You’ll have to get some new material next year.”
“I’m forty, I don’t have to do anything anymore.” He breaks out his bishop and takes my pawn.
“Did they tell you that at the nursing home?”
He belly laughs and I squeeze my thighs together. He’s hot for an older guy
but it’s the laugh that always gets me.
“Well, lucky for you, you won’t have to worry about my material because I probably won’t be here next year.”
My eyes shoot up. “What? You’re always here.”
He shrugs and studies the board.
“You’ve been here as long as I have.”
“Jesus. That’s kind of pathetic.”
I kick him under the table. “Don’t say that.”
He looks at me with too much seriousness. My stomach curls in on itself.
Nothing good is going to come of this conversation. I feel it like a coil of suck ready to spring.
“I can’t spend every summer at an all girls’ camp.”
“Why not? You’re a teacher. What else are you going to do with your summers?”
“I’m thinking of applying for this grant. It’s an environmental thing. If I get it, they’ll send me to Costa Rica next year. I can bring back my research to my classes.”
I have so many conflicting emotions, it’s hard to figure out my next move. I want this for Alex. He’s a high school science teacher and has always been one of those enviro guys. But I can’t imagine a summer without him.
“What are your chances?” I ask past the lump in my throat.
“Pretty good. I know most of the board who decides the grant recipients. A few of them are in this PAC with me. They’ve been encouraging me to apply for it for the past few years.”
I stare at the board
but the pieces have gotten a bit blurry. “Maybe I won’t come back next summer either.”
Half his mouth curls up. “Of course you will. You get paid to teach archery. You get three nights and a day off a week. You spend all your time in the sun. And you love this place. What else would you do?”
“I don’t know. Maybe I’ll go be a waitress somewhere.”
He shakes his head. “No, you won’t. That’ll kill part of your spirit. This camp is inside you. You won’t leave until you have kids of your own.”
A flood of questions engulfs my brain.
I want to ask him
all of them at once
About the grant. About his life outside of camp.
I want to know why he never married. Why he doesn’t have kids of
own. I want to know if he’s got a girlfriend waiting for him. We’ve talked about so many things over the years, but nothing that’s really personal to him.
Unfortunately, the guarded expression is back on his face, s
o I don’t say anything. Instead, I move my knight out on to the board and let him beat me.
We play another game in silence. As soon as his queen takes my king, he shakes his head and pushes the board to the side.
“Don’t do that,” he says.
“Don’t let me win. You think I can’t tell what you’re doing? I know you’re smarter than this. Don’t play the dumb girl with me. It doesn’t suit you and I know better.”
I cross my arms
and his eyes drop to my chest then quickly shift up again. A smile plays at my lips. “I didn’t want to wipe the floor with you. Thought it might threaten your masculinity and jeopardize my summer.”
He raises an eyebrow. “I’m pretty secure in my masculinity. I’d rather play with someone who tries. And why would your summer be jeopardized?”
I grin. “Because I’m gonna talk you into me. And I don’t want to ruin my chances.”
I stand up and head for the door.
“Kay-Kay, we’re already friends. You don’t have to talk me into anything.”
I waggle my eyebrows. “That’s not what I’m talking you into.” Then I flounce out toward the archery range before he can ask anything else.
“We need to go,” Jo says, slipping onto the stool beside me.
“I haven’t even finished my second beer. We don’t have to be back at camp till midnight.”
The Little Minnow Bar and Grill is packed with the usual locals, plus a bunch of underage counselors who spend all our nights off here. We’re in way northern Wisconsin, it’s not like we have an abundance of options. And the bartenders never card.
’s further along than you are and she needs rescuing.” Jo points to the corner where
is pinned between the wall and one of the counselors from the guys’ camp.
“Crap. Okay. I’ll go get her.” I slide from my stool and drop a five on the bar. So much for my night off. Jo follows me across the room to the corner.
, we’re rolling.”
She looks up at me with the glaze of a three or four beer buzz. “No way. We’re just getting to know each other.” She hooks her finger into one of the belt loops of the guy counselor’s shorts and tugs him toward her.
I look at him closely. “Matt, right?”
He nods and slings an arm around
. “Yeah. Don’t worry. I’ll give her a ride home.”
teeters into him. “He’ll give me a ride home.”
“No. No dice. This is the one who gave three of the counselors vaginal herpes last summer. Don’t you remember?”
peers at him
and Matt actually has the nerve to look kind of sheepish. She pushes him away. “Christ. I should’ve known.”
“I’m clean now,” he sputters as the three of us walk away.
I barely contain an eye roll.
Guys are never clean of herpes. That shit’ll follow him one way or another for the rest of his life.
Jo looks over her shoulder at the bar like four times on our way out. I’ve got
by the arm but shoot her a look anyway. She doesn’t respond. Something’s up, but I probably won’t get it out of her tonight.
We slide into the car and Jo cranks up the music too loud. I’m grumpy because on my first night off of the summer, I’m heading back to camp at ten o’clock.
I lean over the back seat and turn the music down. “
, you know I’ll always have your back. But we’ve got nine more weeks of summer. You may need to be a little
laughs. “It was dark in there, and he was hot. I didn’t know he was the STD guy.”
“The hot ones are almost
always the STD guys,” I say.
Jo nods her head. “Truth. You might need to lower the bar a bit here. We are in northern Wisconsin.”
Sam slumps into the front seat. “Okay. Next time I’ll try to find a guy who’s missing a few front teeth.”
We all laugh and then sing along to the music at the top of our lungs. The dark silent woods surround us and if we didn’t sing, I think we’d all be a little creeped out by it.
By the time we pull into the mile long camp road, Sam has sobered enough to suggest we catch a movie in the counselor’s lounge.