“Totally fearless,” Ian growls, and I get the sense that if no one else was here, they’d totally sweep the bucket of pennies to the floor and start going at it on the picnic table.

Matt whispers in my ear again. “They hook up every summer. She gets away with anything ’cause her mom is vice president of the regional conference.”

Ian says, “Never have I ever worn ladies’ underwear.”

All the girls throw a penny in the bucket, and Will pretends like he’s about to, then he changes his mind. Parker smacks his arm playfully.

Will goes next. “Never have I ever scored a B in a class.”

Everyone throws a penny in except for me and Parker.

“You’re a braniac, eh?” Matt says quietly to me. I like the way his breath feels warm on my ear. Our shoulders touch.

“I’m going to bed, y’all,” Megan says, leaving the pavilion. “Don’t stay up too late.”

Eric then announces he’s going to ensure the camp’s main gate is locked so that intruders can’t get in.

“Now we can play for real,” Andrea whispers, twirling her blond hair.

“That guy is such a douche,” I hear Ian muttering to Brad, who nods.


“Never have I ever gone skinny dipping,” Andrea says.

“No one believes that,” Brad says, as Ian and Carlie throw pennies into the bucket. Yay, Matt doesn’t toss a penny! Will drops a penny in the bucket, then shrugs sheepishly at a gaping Parker. She rolls her eyes and throws a penny in too.

“Never have I ever been in love,” Brad says.

Andrea and Ian throw pennies into the bucket. Parker’s face grows pink and Will lowers his chin. They aren’t in love yet? Matt raps his penny on the table for a second, then tosses his in.

I clutch my penny, wishing I could say I’ve been in love. I glance sideways at Matt, to find he’s looking out of the pavilion into the woods. Who has he been in love with?

“Your turn, Parker,” Carlie says.

Parker gets this really coy look on her face. “Never have I ever kissed a girl.”

All of the guys toss a penny into the bucket. And then Carlie and Andrea do too.

My mouth falls open.

Matt leans over to my ear again. “I bet they kissed each other. For practice.”

I can’t help but laugh. Andrea shoots me a look.

“Who’s next?” Brad asks. “You go, Kate.”

I chew on my thumb. “Never have I ever eaten coconut ice cream.”

Everyone glances around at each other. Andrea snorts. Matt, Carlie, Brad, and Parker throw pennies in.

Matt grins at me sideways. “I’m a vanilla guy, myself.”

“I like strawberry,” I reply.

“Coconut tastes like ass,” Ian announces, tossing a penny in.

“Your turn, Matt!” Andrea says loudly.

He leans his head back, thinking. “Never have I ever driven heavy construction equipment.”

Nobody throws a penny in.

“Boring,” Carlie says. Her mouth lifts into a smirk, and she glances between me and Matt. “Never have I ever gone streaking across the MTSU campus.”

Matt sneaks a glimpse of me, then raps a penny on the table before tossing it in the bucket.

“I still can’t believe I missed seeing that!” Andrea exclaims.

“That takes balls,” Will says, shaking his head.

“I heard what they made you do with that banana in the dining hall,” Ian says to Matt, laughing.

I sit up straight.

“My frat made me do it,” Matt whispers to me, avoiding my eyes. “To get in.”

He’s been in love. He might still be in love. His body has transformed from that of Bill Nye Science Guy to that of Adonis. Girls talk about him in the bathroom, and it’s not to make fun of him. He streaks across campus to impress other guys.

And my pile of pennies is mostly untouched.

I roll my suitcase over the bumpy, dusty trail toward Birdland. Megan said we should go ahead and get our cabins set up for this week. Brad and I have been assigned to the Cardinal cabins.

Andrea and Carlie pass by me, carrying sleeping bags and pillows, chatting about some shirt they like at Abercrombie.

Ian sprints by me, slaps my arm, and yells, “You’re it!”

Brad and Matt chase behind him, whooping.

Their noise echoes in the wind. The wind rustles the fragrant pine trees. I try to find the moon over the tops of the trees, but they’re too tall. These woods must be several hundred years old—they’re large and in charge.

That’s when Parker and Will come walking up. He’s carrying two sleeping bags over his shoulders and she’s hugging his waist and laughing. They pause to kiss.

I clear my throat to let them know I’m here.

They break apart and she wipes her mouth with two fingers. “Hey, Kate,” she says.

“Where’s everybody going?” I ask.

She looks at him. He looks at her. Will says, “We’re all sleeping over in Dogwood. You can grab a bed in there if you want.”

“Girls are sleeping in the same cabin as boys?” I ask. I thought it was just Carlie and Ian.

“It’s not a big deal,” Parker says with a shrug.

“It’s a big deal to me.” Emily and Jacob always snuck off together and look what happened. And now a bunch of counselors are basically going to share a bedroom?

I bite down on my lips, trying not to remember how Emily’s face looked after the abortion. Splotchy red marks dotted her cheeks and pain filled her glossy eyes. She kept asking me what the doctor was going to do with the baby and I didn’t have the heart to tell her. I just kept squeezing her hand.

“Guys and girls shouldn’t share a cabin,” I say. “It’s probably a sin. What if someone gets pregnant? I’m not helping you if that happens.”

“What did you say?” Parker’s eyes pop open. She grabs Will’s elbow. “I told you I’d try to be nice, but if she acts nasty, it’s really hard for me to care.”

“It’s okay, it’s okay,” Will says in a soothing voice to Parker. “You’re right.”

“Nasty?” I whisper.

“Maybe ‘nasty’ was the wrong word,” Will says carefully, shifting the sleeping bags in his arms.

“What’s the right word?” I ask, almost scared to know.

“Judgmental,” Parker says, staring me down. Will squeezes his eyes closed.

Emily said the same thing about me. That’s why we got into the fight. That’s why I haven’t talked to her in three weeks. In the past, people at school would call us Jesus Freaks, and Emily always told me not to worry, that they were raised differently than us. And I believed her—until she called me judgmental and said that church isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Why do Emily and Parker, who were both raised in the church right alongside me, think so differently now? What changed?

Was I supposed to have changed?

Is that why I’ve never had a real boyfriend?

“Judgmental?” I say softly. “Really?” I add, even more softly.

“Really,” Parker exclaims. “Like last year.”

“What do you mean?”

“When my mom left my dad for another woman last year, you weren’t supportive at all.”

I take a step back.

She goes on, “You acted like I didn’t exist when I needed friends more than anything.”

I open my mouth to argue, then close it. She’s right. Brother John always said if you associate with people who sin, there’s a good chance you’ll sin too. So I steered clear of Parker, because after her mom left, she started hooking up with lots of guys at school and supposedly she seduced a teacher. Who does that?

That line of thinking didn’t do me much good, though—I ended up helping Emily do something so, so wrong. I did it because I love her.

“I forgive you,” Parker continues. “But that doesn’t mean I have to spend time with you.” She turns on her heels and marches toward Dogwood.

Will gives me a shrug. “Night, I guess.”

Then he follows her and I’m left standing in the middle of the trail, surrounded by drooping branches and darkness.

That night, I sleep alone in Cardinal, with only the whir of a box fan to keep me company. The fan blows warm air across my shaking body. Tears coat my cheeks and no matter how much I try to empty my mind, all I can think about is what I did to Emily’s baby. Emily’s baby, and what Emily and Parker said about me being judgmental.

I’m not happy, and I’m making everyone around me miserable. If I don’t figure my life out, the loneliness will continue into college. Into forever? What if I never have a best friend again?

What’s going on in Dogwood right now? If I were in there, would Matt be sleeping in the bed next to mine? What does he wear to bed? Pajamas? A T-shirt and shorts? Only boxers?

I shake those thoughts out of my mind and clutch my pillow.

I’ve tried to live a good Christian life. I follow the Bible to a T. I listen to everything Brother John says. I’m trying harder than ever and it just isn’t working. This is not the sign I was looking for.

I’m a good, good girl.

A good, good girl who’s got no friends.

A good, good girl who helped her ex-friend get an abortion.

I don’t deserve any friends.

I focus on the humming box fan, watching one blade spinning over and over in the same circle.

The next morning when I wake up, I grab my shower caddy and head to the bathhouse. I cut across the dewy grass. Nobody’s awake yet. That’s a good thing since my face feels puffy and I need a long cool shower to rinse off the sweat and shame from last night. I shriek when I find two massive granddaddy longlegs in the shower stall, then laugh at myself. They can’t hurt me.

When I’m done, the clean underwear, T-shirt, and shorts I put on make me feel like I just left a spa. But the guilt is still fresh. I run my things back to Cardinal, where I dry my long black hair and put on sunscreen, as if it could stop the freckles. When I step back out onto the porch, I jump.


“Morning to you too,” he says, yawning.

“You scared me!”

“I thought my morning breath had upset you.”

He’s lounging on the porch swing. Sunglasses sit on top of his head. I take in his biceps and lazy smile and the blond stubble covering his cheeks and dimpled chin.

“You doing okay?” he asks.

“I’m fine,” I lie. “Did you sleep well?”

“Will’s snoring sounds like a freight train.”

We smile at each other. A long, still moment. He makes me feel calm, like wrapping up in my robe after a hot shower. I can’t explain it. But then I remember he’s a streaker. How far did he have to run when he went streaking?

Instead of dressing as Miss Piggy, what if he ran a marathon naked?

And then I’m wondering what he looks like naked.

And then I’m shaking my head and rubbing my eyes.

“I thought I’d see if you’ll help with breakfast?” He scratches the back of his neck, peering up at me.

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