She peeks at me from behind her fingers. “I want my friend back.”

“I do too—”

“Kate,” she says before laughing bitterly. “You are so far gone I don’t think I can get you back.”

These are my beliefs, my feelings, what I know to be true, and she thinks I’m too far gone to be helped? “If you were my friend, you’d understand what I’m trying to say,” I cry.

“Well, maybe we can’t be friends then,” she says. “I don’t want your money. I don’t want your pity.” She points at the door and I quickly let myself out. It slams behind me. I dash down the squeaky staircase and slip into my car.

I turn the ignition and, before reversing, I look over my shoulder, out into the world.

I arrive at camp earlier than expected.

Will I get in trouble with Megan for being here early?

I park my car at the tree line right next to Brad’s. It’s in the exact same place I left it on Friday. Did he stay here? That’s against the rules. Maybe he just parked in the same spot?

I have time before my super special campfire lesson with Eric, and I need to de-stress, so I pull on my knee brace, sports bra, running shorts, sneakers, and a T-shirt, and take off down the trails. I haven’t tried running anywhere except for the big field yet and I should feel scared that I might trip on a tree root or a rock or something, but I don’t. I hurl myself as fast as I can go. The speed keeps the pain away.

I jog for an hour—for four miles, and by the time I slow down and rest my hands on my thighs, my knee is throbbing and I’m panting, but somehow I feel better.


I pass by Matt’s Bonzo Ball court and bend over to the spigot to slurp some water. When I look up, I find Andrea stalking toward me.

“I heard,” she says with a shaking voice.

I wipe my mouth with my T-shirt. “What?”

“I heard you were at Chili’s last night with Matt.” She bites her lips together.

“Yeah,” I say quietly. I ran for an hour to de-stress and now my heart is speeding right back up.

“You knew I liked him. I don’t understand why you’d go out with him, knowing that.”

“You didn’t even talk to me last week except to yell at me or tell on me to Megan,” I mumble. “It’s not like we’re friends.”

“It’s not like he’ll stay with you. He’ll never get over her.”

Andrea storms off toward Great Oak and I bend down to the spigot again, slapping water all over my face, trying to make myself look sweaty so no one will suspect I’m crying, that I’ve been crying all afternoon.

I’m not sure which cabin I’m staying in this week, so I grab a change of clothes from my car and head to the bathhouse over in Birdland. There, I stand under the hot water and try to clear my head. I pray to God, thanking him for my date last night. Deep down, I can’t help but think what happened today is what I deserve.

But is Emily right?

If I’m doing what the church and Bible and God tell me to do, then why am I so far gone in her eyes?

It’s time for me to meet Eric and Parker for extra training in starting fires (too bad they don’t have flame throwers at camp). I get out of the shower and look in the mirror as I dry my red, puffy face.

What am I supposed to believe?

After the never-ending campfire training with Eric aka the Best Camper Ever, I stand waiting by the tree line. When Matt’s Jeep pulls up, I see he’s taken the doors off again.

He climbs out and I say, “That thing is a death trap.”

He grins. “Nice to see you too.” He glances around, I guess to make sure we’re alone, and presses a kiss on top of my head. “I had fun last night.”

“Me too.” I want to ask if we’re dating now or what, but I’m way nervous. We walk together to Great Oak not holding hands, but his hip bumps against mine. He glances over at me, a small smile on his face. Last night we couldn’t keep our hands off each other and now I have no idea what’s next.

While waiting on the staff meeting to start, we sit together on the porch swing—prime real estate. We’re still not holding hands or anything. Our thighs aren’t touching. It’s hard to keep my breathing steady. I sneak a glance at Andrea—her eyes and cheeks are red. She’s been crying. I’m pretty sure Matt notices because he keeps tapping his bare foot and biting his lip.

After the meeting, I approach Brad and ask him to walk with me. He runs a hand through his short brown hair, glancing over his shoulder. “Yeah, okay.”

Matt is watching me; I hold up my pointer finger, telling him I’ll be a minute.

“What’s up?” Brad asks when we’re away from the group.

“Did you stay here over the weekend?” I whisper.

He swallows and places a hand on my forearm. “Please don’t say anything. Please.”

“Can you tell me what’s wrong? Did you do something?”

“Me? No! Of course not.” He rubs a hand over his head again. Looks around. “I can’t go home, okay? My father and I—”

He pauses.

“Your father…?”

“I just can’t go home.”

I furrow my eyebrows.

“Kate?” Matt calls.

“Trust me,” Brad says, sliding his hands into the pockets of his khaki shorts. His eyes are begging me.

“I won’t tell,” I say. “But be more careful with your car. Park it in a different spot or something.”

“Thanks,” he says quietly.

“I’m worried.”

“Don’t,” he says, smiling meekly, and turns toward Treeland.

I head over to Matt. He wraps an arm around me and whispers in my ear. “You okay?”

“Fine,” I lie.

“I don’t buy that,” he replies, leaning his forehead against mine. “What were you talking to Brad about?”

“Just making sure he’s okay. He seemed upset tonight.”

“Oh. I didn’t notice ’cause I was too busy thinking about last night.”

I smile, stretching my arms around his waist.

He says, “Want to roast some marshmallows? I’ll nick a bag from the cafeteria.”

I glance up to find Parker and Will grinning at us while the rest of the counselors are staring. In disbelief? Does wrapping his arm around me in front of people mean we’re official?

“I can’t believe this,” Andrea mutters, loud enough for everybody to hear.

Ian gives her a nasty look before shooting me a look of sympathy. Then mischief breaks out on his face. “Let’s hear it for Matt and Kate! Woooo!”

“Oh my Lord,” Matt says, shaking his head at Ian, who starts dancing a very inappropriate dance, grinding his hips in our direction.

“Gross,” Carlie says, sticking out her tongue. “I’ve told you so many times that guys should never, ever grind.”

“I totally agree,” Parker says, disgusted. “Guys’ bodies are just not meant to work that way.” Will starts moving his hips, which earns him a prompt slap on the chest from Parker.

Matt is cracking up, as Ian keeps right on doing strange things with his pelvis.

“Ugh,” Andrea says.

“Ugh, indeed,” Brad replies, making Andrea snort with laughter.

“How about we get those marshmallows now?” I say to Matt.

“Please!” He takes my hand, leading me away from the group. I go quiet for a bit because I can’t believe how rude Andrea acts sometimes.

“Are you okay?” he asks when we’re out of earshot. He rubs his thumb along the back of my hand.

I hold my chin up. “Um, are you friends with Andrea? Or just acquaintances, or what?”

“Friends, I guess.” He drags a hand through his messy blond hair. “Why?”

“She’s not nice to me, really.”

“What did she do?” he mumbles.

I don’t want to bring up how she said he’d never get over her. Her meaning Sarah, I guess. It would be terrible dating a guy who doesn’t completely want me. Wait. He hasn’t even asked me out officially.

“It’s fine,” I say. “Forget it.”

The sun is setting into a gorgeous pink puddle in the sky, as Matt takes me by the shoulders and turns me to face him, his warm breath breezing across my face. He lightly touches my cheek. I get up on tiptoes and wrap my arms around his neck.

“I don’t want to forget about it,” Matt says. “Did Andrea hurt you?”

“She’s mad I went to Chili’s with you. She must really be into ranch dressing,” I say with a nervous laugh.

“Ranch is serious business.”

I play with the hair at the nape of his neck.

“I’ll talk to her, okay?” He hesitates before leaning in to kiss my forehead. “It’s nothing to do with you. It’s between me and Andrea.”

I don’t like the idea of anything being between him and Andrea. Not even friendship. “Have you, um, ever been with her?”

He shuts his eyes. “She’s tried to make out with me before, yeah, but it was nothing.” He gently moves fingers up and down my arm. “She was a good friend after Sarah dumped me…I really needed someone to talk to, and she made me laugh and kept me company. We played a lot of Scrabble and did crossword puzzles together…And even though she didn’t mean to start feeling this way, she ended up wanting a lot more from me. But I’ve never felt anything special with her.”

I nod, stepping closer, wrapping his T-shirt in my fist. No wonder she was crying. Something inside me breaks a little for her.

“You know what I think?” he whispers in my ear.


“It’s marshmallow time.”

Matt snags marshmallows and Crisco from the cafeteria and gets a fire blazing up at Redwood, the cabin out in the middle of nowhere. Flames burst into the air when he throws a glob of Crisco onto the wood. We jump back, laughing.

It’s a gazillion degrees outside but we cuddle together next to the fire, spearing marshmallow after marshmallow with our skewers. He feeds me one and I feed him one, and we both gag. Turns out he likes his golden brown and raw on the inside, while I like mine gooey and burnt to bits.

“I really like you,” he whispers, bumping his knee against mine, staring at me. He leans over and gently kisses my lips.

“I like you too.”

“You’re funny and you can paint a mean watercolor painting of apples in a barrel and you’ve got a great body.”

I accidentally snort and blush, and when I peek over at him, I begin to understand that he probably won’t forget me, that he thinks there’s something inside me worth knowing.

“You’ve been looking in my art closet, eh?” I ask, thinking of my apples in a barrel painting.

“It’s like a little art gallery in there.”

He picks a piece of gummy marshmallow off my lower lip, and my stomach flips.

A few minutes later, I yawn. He extinguishes the fire, and we go get our bags from our cars. I’m staying in Pinecone cabin this week, in Treeland, so I say good night and start to head that way.

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