I fold my hands in my lap.

“Do you want to tell me why you were here yesterday morning before camp started?”

I touch my chest. “Me?”

“Yes, you.”

“I’m sorry. Eric had suggested I get some pointers on fishing,” I lie. “Because I’m not very good at it—”

“Eric suggested this?” she asks, touching her lips. She looks at the wall, thinking.

“Yes,” I lie again. Eric gives so much unsolicited advice, I’m sure he’d say he suggested the extra training if asked. Even though Brad broke the rules, I don’t want him to have to go live with his drunk father. “I asked Brad to give me some extra training. I thought it would be okay since it was just a few hours before camp started and you made me get that extra help in campfires from Eric that time—”

She holds up a hand. “Okay, okay.”

Am I about to get fired?

She fluffs her curly hair and stares me down. “You knew the rules.”

“I apologize,” I say with a strong voice. We have three weeks left. If Brad were to get fired, he would miss out on a thousand bucks. What if he had to live with his dad again? What if his dad hurt him bad?


Sometimes it’s okay to do the wrong thing if you’re helping someone, I guess. But I hate lying.

“It won’t happen again,” I say.

She twirls her whistle and takes a deep breath. “Because Eric had suggested the training, I’ll let this go with a warning on your written record. But if you make any other mistakes this summer, I’m afraid I’ll have to tell the regional conference to let you go. I won’t risk my job or my future on employees who disregard everything I say.”

My eyes burn. I’ve worked hard this summer. Hard. And it’s not like she tells me I’m doing a good job very often. What if my church finds out Megan thinks I’m a bad employee? My parents?

With one lie, I let Brad ruin all my hard work. And even though I understand why he did it, he threw me under the bus.

I tell Megan, “Understood.”

I rush out of Great Oak, storm past Brad into the bathhouse, and stare in the mirror as the tears streak my face. The paper towels feel like sandpaper against my skin.

Carlie comes in to use the bathroom and catches me wiping my cheeks at the sink. Red circles ring my eyes. She washes her hands, and in the mirror, I watch as she gives me a sympathetic look.

“I’m sorry about Matt,” she whispers, stealing a glance over her shoulder.

I blow my nose. “Thanks. Me too.”

Before she pushes the screen door open, Carlie says, “I know how much he cares about you.”

I stay in the bathhouse until it’s time for campers to arrive. When I push the screen door open, letting it slam behind me, I find Ian and Carlie talking quietly. He gives me a long hug and says, “I’m here if you want to talk.”

As we walk together to the welcome pavilion, I peek at them out of the corner of my eye. They waited for me? They are better friends with Andrea than with me, but staying behind to make sure I’m okay is one of the nicest things anyone’s ever done for me.

After the kids have checked in, Matt and I lead our group of eight-year-olds along the trails back to the Bluebird cabins.

It seems that all of the little girls packed way too much. It’s like they were planning to be away from home for months, because Matt has tons of bags draped over his arms and shoulders. I can’t help but smile at him carrying a Hello Kitty purse.

“Why did y’all bring so much stuff?” yells Charles, a little boy. I can already tell he’ll be a handful.

“Hey, hey,” Matt says to Charles. “You never say things like that to a lady. The reason they have so much stuff is so they have all the outfits they need to look beautiful every day.”

“Awww,” says Isabella, a girl with blond curls.

On the inside, I’m saying awww too. On the inside, it’s killing me that I broke things off with him. But what else am I supposed to do? I can’t control myself when he’s around.

“Are you okay?” Matt asks me as he lugs all the bags and purses up the rickety wooden steps to my cabin.

I look over at him and nod, telling myself not to cry again.

Once the kids have unpacked their stuff, we sit Indian style on Matt’s porch and play the animal introduction game.

“I’m Spider Scott,” says a wiry boy.

“I’m Lizard Leslie,” says a girl, chewing gum.

“I’m Miniature Poodle Matt.”

The kids roar with laughter. I look into his questioning eyes. I pick at my thumbnail, ripping my cuticle, wishing I didn’t have to be so close to him this week. Miniature Poodle Matt reminds me of our first kiss. It reminds me of how he said I saved him.

“I’m King Crab Kate,” I say, and he glances away.

He says, “After we go over camp rules, who wants to play my special new dodgeball game?”

The kids start screaming, “Me! Me!”

I pull my knees to my chest. On the inside, I’m screaming “Me!” too.

At lunch, Brad scoots a chair up next to me. “You okay? Did you get in trouble?”

I deliberately turn to face him. “Written warning.”

He blows air out, nodding. “Thank you. Seriously.” His eyes dart around.

“Did you get a written warning?”

His mouth falls open, then he closes it. He shakes his head.

“What if I ever want a job referral?! I can’t believe this,” I say through gritted teeth.

“You’re a good friend.”

“I’m not sure why you care,” I hiss. “Isn’t your big plan to blow out of Tennessee in a couple weeks? You didn’t want any connections, right? So why would hurting a friend like me matter?”

“I’m sorry,” he mumbles. He gulps down some lemonade, peeking at me out of the corner of his eye.

“I’m sorry too.” I stand, pick up my tray, and move to sit with another group of campers. I grab a seat next to a little redheaded girl who immediately asks if I love Barbies.

“Of course,” I reply with a smile. “I also like American Girl. You?”

“Yes!” She pops a chicken o’ ring in her mouth and chews with her mouth open.

A few tables away, Matt’s talking with Andrea. She’s up to her same old antics, touching his arms and laughing at everything he says. He smiles back at her, but it’s a blank smile. It’s not the smile I’ve seen so many times. His expression is dark and sad.

I can understand how Emily got pregnant. When I’m with Matt, I stop thinking about everything but him. It’s just him, him, him, and me. It’s only about us. It must have been the same way between Emily and Jacob.

I’ve been told my whole life that our God is a jealous God and that he comes first. I’ve done everything He’s ever told me to do up until the past few months. And while following God always felt right, so did helping Emily. It felt right to help her, just like it feels right when I’m kissing Matt or cuddling with Matt or sharing myself with Matt. It felt right to help Brad too, but look at what happened. He betrayed me.

We’re only on the Earth for a tiny amount of time. God says we’re supposed to love our neighbors. But then my preachers at church tell me we’re only supposed to fall in love with other Christians.

And it’s all so confusing.

I want to tell Emily that I understand why she did what she did with Jacob. I may never understand why she decided to get an abortion, but now I know what it’s like to get swept up in love.

But if I were to try to talk to Emily, would she call me a hypocrite and never want to see me again? Because I wouldn’t blame her.

I play with my chicken o’ rings. I poke my green beans with a fork.

I look up at Matt, watching him talk quietly with Andrea, and I want to tell him I love him. But I’m still scared of being with him because my body does what it wants—my hands touch him all over and my lips roam everywhere.

Deep inside, I feel God’s love in my heart, and I know I shouldn’t be with Matt until I can control myself. But I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to do that. Is it healthy to have a love like that anyway? A love where you throw aside all caution and dive right in?

I love him.

But I can’t be with him.

I pick up my tray and approach Matt. Andrea gives me her patented death glare, and he stares out the window.

I scrape my green beans onto his tray. He looks up at me, scratching his neck, his eyes clouded with pain and confusion. I return my tray to the dishwashing window and head outside into the sun to think.

After the Thursday Night Dance, we take the campers to the Woodsong Chapel for devotion.

“Tonight we’re doing something special,” Megan says. “We don’t do this every week, but I just felt like we should tonight. If you have something you can’t let go of or can’t forget about, write it down on the piece of paper I handed you and throw it in the fire. You can also pray for someone using this slip of paper. It’s just between you and God.”

I crinkle the paper between my fingers and thumb. I want God to take it all out of my hands and show me what to do already.

In front of me, the fire roars. A movement stirs out of the corner of my eye and I turn to see Matt strutting down the path toward the flames. He stands there a moment before wadding up his paper and chucking it into the fire. Then he kneels at the altar, shuts his eyes, and prays. His cross charm swings back and forth.

I write on my sheet of paper, Please show me the truth.

No one else has approached the fire yet except for Matt. I follow the same path he took and let my paper float into the flames. I watch it burn into nothing and listen to it crackle. I kneel at the altar and clear my head, focusing on the crickets chirping and the noises of other bugs. Listen to the sound of water running into the creek down by the lake. Smell the pine and cedar. Sometimes nature is the closest thing to God.

I raise my head and find Matt still bowing with his eyes closed. He scratches his ear. The movement reminds me of how fragile he is—that he put himself back out there after Sarah because of me. Wind whips through the fire. I pull myself to my feet. I kneel next to him and grasp his hands.

“Hey,” he says, peeking up at me.


I bite the inside of my cheek. We shut our eyes, and he gently rubs his thumbs over the backs of my hands. The leaves stop rustling. I can’t hear any kids. I don’t even hear the crackling of burning wood. It’s just me and him.

“Tell me what happened with Emily,” he whispers.

“It’s bad,” I reply. “I did a really bad, bad thing.”

He squeezes my fingers. “You can let whatever it is go.”

“I can’t. It’s so bad.” I swallow a sob.

“You can tell me what happened and I’ll never tell anybody. It’s all you and me. Right here. Okay?”

Heat flushes my cheeks and my eyes sting, but his hands are wrapped around mine. Tonight I burned the words please show me the truth. As long as I’ve known Matt, he’s worn the clothes he wants to wear, he’s sung the songs he wants to sing. He’s friends with whoever he wants to be friends with, including judgmental Kate Kelly. Me.

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