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Authors: Janna Watts,Jolene Perry

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BOOK: 10 Weeks
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So I sit on the edge of his bed and tell him stories of my first year of college and the stupid shit we did in the dorms. And I pretend that this giant pink elephant belongs in the room with us.

 

 

The next morning feels like I’m hung over. Like I’ve had too much emotional whiskey and I can’t get my head on straight. I have no idea when the game changed
with Alex,
but I’m certain it has.

I’m sitting in the amphitheater
,
changing strings on some of the bows when Alex walks up. He eyes my shirt and shakes his head.

“Go change.”

I blink. “Excuse me?”

“Go change your shirt.”

I look down. I’m wearing my scarlet A pro-choice T-shirt. I picked it up at the March for Women’s Lives rally
in Washington D.C. earlier this
spring.

“Fuck off, I’m not changing my shirt.”

Alex squats down on the ground next to me. His muscular thighs strain against his shorts and for a second I’m too distracted to be pissed. But then I shake off my overactive imagination and glare at him.

“Kay-Kay, does everything have to be a fight with you?”

I raise my chin. “Why should I have to squelch my beliefs because it makes people uncomfortable?”

He lets out a sigh. “Because we have a lot of Catholic campers here. You
know
that. Sometimes slamming your beliefs in the face of others isn’t the best way to get your point across. Especially with young girls.”

Heat creeps into my cheeks. I hate that he can make me feel shame. I hate that three sentences from him makes all my convictions seems ridiculous and immature.

My head drops and I don’t say anything. Alex lets the silence sit between us for a minute before
he finally tilts
my chin up with his fingers.

“I love that you feel so strongly about things. You’re young. You should. But everything doesn’t always have to be a big statement. You’ll make more of an impact in these girls’ lives by just modeling what it means to be a good person. Without all the political stuff. And Kay-Kay, you
are
a good person.”

His fingers trace along the side of my jaw for a second and I close my eyes. I love the roughness of his hands. I’ve always loved them from the very first time he took my small
nine-year old
hand and walked with me to the dining hall on the second day of camp.

The deep blush of shame hasn’t gone away. I rise and walk back to my cabin without saying anything else to Alex. I take off
my shirt and tug on a basic
blue one with a picture of Little Miss Sunshine on the front.

By the time I get back to the amphitheater, he’s already in the water with his first lesson. The girls are standing at the shoot line, waiting for me. Not one of them says anything about my shirt.

Chapter Seven

It’s been ten days since I’ve seen Alex. I mean
seen him
seen him. Yes, we see each other at classes or in the dining hall. But we don’t play chess anymore. We don’t spend any time together.

I’m being stubborn. I know it. He’s the one with the single cabin. I could stop by any time on one of my nights off. But I want him to ask me. This is ridiculous, of course. I’m cutting off my nose to spite my face. I don’t want him any less by being away from him. If anything, the hole in the bottom of my stomach seems to have gotten larger.

Jo and
Sam
watch me mope but have gotten used to my evasions. Mostly, they let me stew in a booth at the Little Minnow and go find other people to talk to.

I’m on my way back up to my cabin after dinner one night when Alex pulls up in a camp golf cart.

“I need you to help with the arrow net,” he says.

I look at my co-counselor and shrug. “I’ll be back in a little bit.”

She nods. “Okay. I’ll get the girls ready for evening activity.”

I hop into the golf cart
,
and Alex takes off so fast that I slide against him before I can get my bearings.

“In a hurry?” I ask and push off him toward the opposite edge of the golf cart.

“How come you haven’t stopped by?”

He doesn’t even bother to look at me, just takes us up a hill that is nowhere near the archery range. A hill that leads to a small clearing overlooking the lake. A clearing that no one can see. He stops the golf cart and stares in front of him.

I cross my arms. “How come you haven’t asked?”

He turns to me
,
and I see now that he’s seriously pissed. “Are we playing a game?”

Yes. “No.”

“Are you my friend?” he asks and searches my face.

I swallow down a lump of want and nod my head. “Of course.”

“Then stop by. You don’t need to be asked. Since when have you ever waited for an invitation from me?”

“Well, that’s the thing, isn’t it? I mean really, why is this always on me? Why do I have to push to be friends with you? When will you fucking claim me already?”

He blinks. “Is that what you think? Is that what you need from me?”

“Of course. I mean
,
seriously. I’ve been driving this train from the very start. At one point I’m gonna get tired of the pursuit and say fuck it all, he doesn’t really want me.”

I’ve said it. I’ve said it and both of us know now that I’m talking about something else. That I’ve changed the definition of friends in mid-babble
,
and we’re now at the place where everything is about subtext.

He grabs my hand and sandwiches it between his. “There’s a very big difference
between
can and want. Do not ever think there’s not want in me. Jesus, you know there is. I can’t take my eyes off of you. But I can’t have you. For so many reasons, I can’t.”

The ache is eating me alive. I want to crawl into his lap and cling to him until he finally gives in. He releases my hands and grips the steering wheel. The pulse point at his neck is pounding. I want to put my mouth on it. I want to taste his saltyness. I want to fall into him and never come out. Instead, I shift to the edge of the golf cart.

“I don’t think I can stop by and see you.”

It’s a brutal truth. My insides clench in protest
,
but my head knows it’s the right thing. He’s become the worse kind of bad habit
,
and we’re at an impasse.

“That’s it? All or nothing? God, that’s such a childish response. I expected more from you.”

Fury hits me like a tsunami. I jump out of the golf cart and kick it. “Shut up. Stop expecting so much. I’m nineteen and anyways, what is it that you want from me? You want me to sit in your little cabin and tell you stories and pretend that it’s okay that you don’t give me anything of yourself? You want me to suffer through the pain of wanting you
,
and then just walk away like it’s fine that my brain can’t think of anything but kissing you and licking you and making you moan. Well, fuck that. You might be a masochist, but I’m not. I can’t be your friend. I don’t have it in me.”

I’m stomping down the hill, waiting for him to come after me, waiting for him to start the golf cart and say he’s in. But of course, he doesn’t come. I laid myself bare and he’s got nothing to say about it.

By the time I get back to the cabin, I’m so mad I can’t even speak to the girls. Angry tears spill from the corners of my eyes, but I just brush them away. I’ve had enough. We’re five weeks into the summer
,
and I can’t stand myself at this point.

I tell my co-counselor to do the evening activity without me
,
and I go down to the archery range. I throw on my arm guard and measure myself fifty feet from the target. Then I start shooting arrows. I go through at least one hundred of them before my arm is quivering so badly I can barely hold the bow up. It’s too dark to be shooting, but I don’t know what else to do with myself. In the distance, I hear the sound of the golf cart and the anger hits me all over again.

I gather all my equipment and put it in the archery shed. Then I head back to my cabin and crawl into my bunk. My pillow is damp within minutes, but I’m hoping the girls don’t notice. I’ve become the worst kind of
a
bad
example
cliché. I’m crying over a man. And the hardest part is, half of me is still hoping he’ll change his mind.

 

 

The next morning
Sam
is with Jo at the two-mile walk
starting point
. I raise an eyebrow, but she rolls her eyes. As soon as the campers start huddling together in groups, the two of them race up to meet me.

“So this is what we call an intervention,”
Sam
starts. “I saw you at the archery range last night
,
and I think this has gone far enough.”

“He doesn’t want me,” I choke out.

“He’s forty. Of course he wants you. You’re nineteen and hot. Plus, you’re smart and totally his kind of girl.”

A bubble is forming at the back of my throat.
The doubt bubble. The one I've been suffocating on for the last twenty-four hours.
“How do you know?”

Jo huffs. “Kay-Kay, you’ve always been his kind of girl. From the time you were fifteen. Didn’t you notice? You’d be the one helping him start the campfire with two sticks. You’d be the one agreeing with him about the impact of fossil fuels on the climate. You’d be the one taking all the campers with him on a five-mile nature scavenger hunt.”

I pause. “You guys would’ve done that too.”

Sam
scoffs. “Hell no, I wouldn’t. It’s hard enough for me to teach these girls some basic dance moves. I hate nature. I just come to
camp to get away from my life
.”

“Yeah. And even though I kinda like that stuff, I don’t live it. Not the way you and Alex do. God, how could you have possibly missed how incredibly proud he’s always been of you?”

I bite my lip. “Doesn’t really matter, though. He still doesn’t want me.”

Sam
stops and takes a deep breath. “Hush up with all that. He wants you, he just knows he’s too old for you. Trust me, I’ve watched him this summer. He’s looking at
you with way more than pride
.”

“So? He’s not going to do anything about it.”

“Of course he’s not,”
Sam
says. “He already feels like a perv. He’s known you since you were nine. If he makes a move, he’ll feel even worse about himself. It’s hard enough that the poor guy has a permanent woody when you’re around.”

Jo grumbles. “
Sam
’s right. I mean I wouldn’t exactly put it that way, but if you really want him, this needs to be on you. He’s not going to do anything about how he feels.”

“But I put it all at there. I told him I wanted him. What else can I do?”

Sam
laughs. “Go to his cabin and jump on him. If he turns you down, then that’s it. End of story. But I’m telling you right now, he’s not gonna turn you down. Not with that body of yours.”

I bite my lip. “I don’t just want to sleep with him.”

Jo squeezes my hand. “We know, honey. That’s why we’re doing the intervention. You know what you want. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. Now you just need to convince him of the same thing.”

“You don’t think it’s anti-feminist?”

Sam
shakes her head. “Look, the true definition of feminism is equality. Women getting equal opportunity to live the lives they want. You know what you want. You’re not losing yourself in this guy, you’re losing yourself in your own insecurity. Go get ‘em. Own the shit out of this relationship. Fuck all the doubters.”

Jo laughs. “Um, yeah, what
Sam
said.”

Chapter Eight

It’s my night off. I haven’t seen Alex all day because it rained and we’ve been stuck inside our cabins and later in the rec hall for indoor games. I’m ready to poke my eyes out. The rain died down right after dinner and I’ve been in the bathroom for an embarrassing amoun
t of time. I’ve even put on lip-
gloss for Operation Jump on Alex.

Only when I get there and knock on his cabin door, he’s on his way out.

“Where are you going?” I say.

He’s freshly bathed and shaved. He’s wearing a button-down shirt and it’s tucked into his khaki shorts.

“Into town.”

“Oh.”

And now I’m the asshole. Because I told him I wasn’t going to come see him
,
and here I stand in a short skirt and slightly small top and strappy wedge sandals and lip gloss. It’s easily a 9.3 on the mortification scale.

“I thought you weren’t…”
he starts.

“Yeah,” I say. “I wasn’t. Sorry. My bad. I’ll see you later.”

I swivel and teeter on my ridiculous strappy wedge sandals and try super hard not to touch my face and
instead
just let the tears fall until he leaves.

BOOK: 10 Weeks
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