“I can’t figure out how to balance how much I love him with what we do, um, in terms of making out or whatever. And I don’t want to upset him by not doing stuff, um—”

“He’s not worth it if that’s all he’s after—”

“No, no—it’s that I want to do stuff with him because I love him. But I’m not ready.”

Parker pauses. “I slept with Will last week.”

I bite my thumb. “You were careful, uh, I hope? Um—”

“Yeah, we were.”

“What was it like?”

“It was uncomfortable. But I felt so close to him.” She folds her arms across her stomach. “I liked it more the second time.”

“Did he like it?” I can’t help but ask. “Was it his first time?”

She raises her eyebrows, then nods. “He can’t wait for this weekend so we can try it again. Boys.” She shakes her head, smiling, and bites her bottom lip.

“Boys,” I agree.


“I’m glad you and I are friends,” Parker says quietly. “Sometimes I wonder if I got the sign this summer. I really needed a friend.” She tucks her chin against her chest.

I splash the water with my feet. Maybe this is where heaven meets the earth. Or maybe because we think we might get a sign, we’re more flexible to change and new experiences.

Maybe it’s all about a willingness to be open.

“Want to swim?” I ask, and she launches herself into the lake, where we spend the rest of our break splashing, telling stories, and laughing.

That night, I’m walking back from the bathhouse when I hear a guitar crooning in the night. I make my way down the trail past Pinecone to the cookout area, where I find Matt sitting on a picnic table, plucking the strings. He has a lazy smile on his face as he’s playing “Rhythm of Love” by the Plain White T’s. I sit next to him and play with his hair until he finishes the song and sets his guitar aside.

“Want to take a walk?” he asks, slipping his hand into mine. In silence, we go up to the big field and stand under the stars. It’s like we’re the only people left on earth.

I wrap my arms around his neck, and the kissing starts slowly. Then he’s gently pushing me down to the grass. His mouth is on mine and I fit my body against his.

“I love you so much,” he whispers, breathing deeply. I tell him I love him back, and he bends to my stomach. He kisses a trail from my belly button down and even though our clothes are still on, I whisper, “Matt, I can’t.”

He nods and moves up to lie next to me. I clear my throat. An awkward silence hangs on the air. I love him and want to show him and I can’t stop thinking of touching his soft boxer shorts.

My fingers move without permission. I unbutton his shorts and unzip them. He cups my face and runs a hand through my hair.

Then I hear laughter behind me. Matt quickly zips his shorts. We sit up and smooth our clothes.

“Well that’s appropriate,” Andrea says sarcastically, walking by with Carlie. They must’ve been out at the lake, smoking.

“Now I’m pissed at her,” Matt says to me with a laugh.

“Just now?”

He gives me a look and pulls me to his chest. “Ian told me that Brad and Andrea hooked up behind the cafeteria last night.”

I shove his shoulder, laughing. “Lies.”

“It’s true! They were in Ian’s spot and he got pissed.”

Still laughing, we lie back down in the grass. “You never slept with Sarah, right?”

He curls up beside me and drapes an arm across my stomach, slipping a hand under the hem of my shirt. “No. Why?”

I clear my throat.

He must think I’m asking to have sex because he says, “You don’t want to do it out here in the grass…we should wait until we have a bed. And no parental units around asking me to mow the lawn.”

Honestly, I can’t think of a better place than the big field under endless stars, but it’s not the time. “I, um, Matt?”


“I might need a long time. To get ready, I mean.”

He’s silent for a while. He twines his fingers with mine and lifts my hand to his mouth, running his lips along my skin. “How long?” he asks finally.

It could be years. It should be when I get married. What if Matt isn’t the one?

“I don’t know.”

“We can talk about it,” he replies, and I’m glad he wants to discuss it, because it seems like the mature relationship-y thing to do, but I’m terrified.

Adult relationships are confusing and scary.

“Bedtime,” he says. He disentangles himself from my arms and helps me to my feet. He keeps an eye on my knee, making sure I don’t bend it some weird way. It would suck if Matt isn’t the one, because I can’t imagine anything better than him.

But will he wait for me?

something new

friday, july 27 ~ week 7 of 7

On the last day of camp, we’re waving good-bye to the final group of campers. Cars drive down the dirt road leading out of camp, kicking up dust. The sight makes my eyes water.

Then everyone starts cheering and hugging.

Megan blows her whistle. I wince. I want to make it my business to snatch that whistle and throw it in the lake.

“Today’s clean-up day,” she announces. “Everyone should spend the day cleaning out your closets and packing up your supplies for storage back at regional conference headquarters.”

Ian whispers in my ear. “It takes like ten minutes and then we get to spend the rest of the day hanging out at the pool and grilling steaks.”

“Medium rare, please,” I whisper back.

“You got it.” He pats my shoulder, grinning.

We all go home tomorrow. I look around at these people who have become my friends (and enemies!) and feel a pang of sadness that I won’t wake up to see Matt and Parker every day.

Sure enough, Ian was right. After we’re done packing, we spend the afternoon lounging by the pool. Even Megan and Eric relax, reading. She thumbs through a magazine about motivational leadership or something and his book is called Build Your Own Swamp. Will goes to the supermarket and brings back soda and chips and cookies and Ian’s steaks.

I lie on a towel next to Matt and hold his hand. We smile at each other, sharing my iPod—each of us using a headphone. At one point I gaze over Matt’s shoulder to find Andrea and Brad chatting and laughing together. He tucks her hair behind her ear. What…?

After tanning our brains out—well, Matt tans, and I just get more and more freckles—we stand up and shake the dirt off our towels. Brad waves at me, looking sad.

“Want me to beat him up?” Matt whispers, pressing his forehead to mine. When I told Matt what happened, I nearly yanked his arm out of its socket, trying to keep him from confronting Brad.

“It’s okay.” I kiss Matt’s nose, then walk over to Brad and touch his forearm. Life’s too short not to forgive.

“Want to make steak with us?” I ask.

A smile sweeps across his face. “Yeah. Listen, I’m so sorry—”

I interrupt, “You have to keep in touch when you leave. Let me know how you are.”

He gives me a hug, propping his chin on top of my head. “I will. I will.”

That evening while Ian grills steaks and bakes potatoes over a fire, we have a Bonzo Ball tournament. I get knocked out in the first round. Will and Matt make it to the finals, and we’re all screaming and cheering for them. Matt accidentally sneezes and loses concentration, allowing Will to win the tournament as the sun sets.

Before dinner, Ian asks, “Who wants to have one last Critter Crawl?” and Parker shoves him. Right as we sit down to eat, Eric emerges from the trees, carrying three trout he wants to grill.

“I love me some surf n’ turf!” Ian says, and Eric beams.

“I made some spices using plants I found in the woods,” Eric replies.

“I hope it’s weed,” I hear Carlie muttering to Ian, and he laughs and kisses her cheek.

When Megan and Eric leave to make sure the camp’s gate is locked (Ian asks, “Is that what they’re calling it these days?”), the guys decide to play basketball. Andrea and Parker want to watch them, leaving me and Carlie alone.

She looks over and asks, “Can you weave some of your friendship bracelet string into my hair? Like into little braids or something?”

We walk over to the art pavilion, where I dig string out of a packed box and perch on top of a picnic table, motioning for Carlie to sit on the bench between my legs.

“How about pink, black, and blue?” I ask, sorting through the string.

“That’s fine.”

I braid the colors through her blond hair until the silence is about to kill me. She and I have nothing in common, but she and Ian have been good to me, and I’ll never forget how understanding she was during my temporary split with Matt, even though she’s better friends with Andrea.

“Listen,” I say. “Do you and Ian want to hang out with me and Matt sometime?”

“Like a double date?”


She lets out a little sigh. “I guess that’s what you do when you’re in a relationship, huh? You go on double dates. You don’t get plastered and end up in some random guy’s dorm room.”

“Nope,” I say, laughing. “You go to Chili’s. And maybe the Fun Tunnel.”

I finish her hair, then we go corral our boyfriends before they end up playing ball all night.

On my first night here, the sky faded to a brilliant purple and orange. Tonight, it’s the same colors. Then, I sat in my car and prayed for the sign. God gave me Matt and Parker this summer, but my life still isn’t perfect. Emily’s not here.

I close my eyes and breathe in the sweet summer air laced with honeysuckle. When the stars are shining vividly, I catch Brad and Andrea sneaking off together, and Matt takes my hand and leads me out to the big field, where six mattresses are set up on top of the giant parachute. My body goes tense.

“Is this for us?”

“Parker, Will, Ian, and Carlie are coming too.”

“You didn’t ask me about this.”

His nose crinkles. “It’ll be fun. We’re all friends, just hanging out.”

I whisper, “Can you and I have separate mattresses?”

He furrows his eyebrows, but then he bobs his head up and down. We push our mattresses close together and lie on top of our sleeping bags, staring at each other.

When Will and Parker arrive, they barely throw us a glance because they are too busy making out. Already.

Then Ian and Carlie appear off the trail. She’s riding on his back.

“Hands where I can see ’em!” Ian calls to Matt, cracking up. He and Carlie collapse onto a mattress on the other side of the parachute and start roughhousing, beating the crap out of each other.

“This is totally romantic,” I say, deadpan. Matt turns his face toward mine, laughing.

“Don’t worry. We can share a bed alone anytime we want now. I have my own room at school this semester. Because I’m a junior.”

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