Authors: Katy Grant
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For my own BFF, Susan Moore, whose friendship, counsel, love, and an incomparable wit have always sustained me. And will alwaysâforever.
Special thanks to my editor Liesa Abrams, whose enthusiasm over this subject matter gave me inspiration through every step of the writing process. I still remember a phone conversation between us when I had only presented her with a few rough pages outlining a story about best friends. Liesa was bubbling over with excitement for this idea, and as I began writing, I kept coming back to her words of encouragement whenever I struggled with the plot or blocked over a passage. All I had to do was remind myself, “Liesa loved this idea!” and I was able to work my way around the rough spots as I wrote. For each of the Summer Camp Secrets books, she has been with me every step of the way, but for this one in particular, Liesa made me feel that this book would become a story that would really speak to my readers.
Thanks to Steve Williams, whose knowledge of rappelling and climbing helped me as I wrote the climbing tower passages. Steve patiently explained basic climbing techniques and answered all my greenhorn questions.
Finally, I want to thank my husband, Eric, and my sons, Jackson and Ethan, for continuing to live with me while I wrote this book. Whenever my frustration levels rose, I would snarl, “These books don't write themselves, you know!” They would immediately pitch in and do their share of housework, laundry, and meal preparation. You guys see me at my worst, and you still love and support me. I am eternally grateful for that.
It was the best day of the year! In one hour we'd be arriving at Camp Pine Haven, and I'd finally get to see Nicole again. I sent her another message.
How much longer 4 u?
i think bout 30 min
how bout u?
Mom sez 1 hr
u r gonna get
2 PH 1st
cant wait 2 get off this stinkin bus!
i have a huge secret 2 tell u
“Don't your fingers get tired?” asked Mom from the driver's seat.
“Not really,” I said. “You're dropping me off first, right?”
Mom looked at me in the rearview mirror. “No, sweetie. We're dropping Blake off first. We'll get to Camp Crockett before we get to Pine Haven.”
“No way! That'll take too long,” I groaned as my phone chimed. I read Nicole's textâshe was begging me to tell my secret, but I texted back that she'd have to wait.
I tried to reason with Mom. “Look, if you go to Pine Haven first, you'll only have to stop for fifteen minutes. Just unload my stuff, say good-bye, and go. Then you guys can spend extra time with Blake if you want.”
Blake was totally focused on his PSP game. I could tell he was nervous about going to sleepaway camp for the first time, even though he was trying to act all cool about it.
“You mean we have to come to a complete stop when we drop you off at Pine Haven?” Paul asked from the captain's chair next to Mom. “Our plan was to drive past really slow and let you jump out. We'll heave your bags to you through the window.”
“Sounds great to me,” I said, typing a reply to Nicole. She was telling me about the obnoxious girl sitting behind her on the bus who was trying to get everyone to sing “One Hundred Bottles of Beer on the Wall.”
“Darcy, it makes more sense to stop at Camp Crockett first, because we come to it before Pine Haven. If we take you first, we'll have to double back.”
I sighed. “Well, how long is that going to take? I need to tell Nic exactly when we're getting to Pine Haven.”
Mom glanced at her watch. “I'll have you there by one thirty.”
“One thirty! But that's two hours away! You said we'd be there in an hour. It's not going to take a whole hour to drop off Blake.”
Mom gripped the steering wheel tighter and didn't answer me. Blake didn't make a sound from the backseat. Paul kept quiet too and looked out the window.
now mom sez well get 2 PH n 2 hrs!
Y so late?
I tried to text Nicole back to explain about taking Blake to Camp Crockett first, but when I hit send, I got a
“Oh, great! Now I don't even have service!” I snapped my phone shut and tossed it on the seat beside me.
“Oh no, a crisis,” Blake said, still not looking up from his game. “You and Nicole can't talk to each other for two whole hours. You'll never make it.”
“Relax, kiddo.” Paul turned around to smile at me over the back of his seat. “Enjoy the beautiful scenery. Listen to these mellow tunes. Talk to your mom and me. Remember, we won't get to see you two for a whole month.”
He gave me a wink and I smiled back. Paul draped his arm around Mom's neck, and she loosened her grip on the steering wheel a little. They were still newlyweds, and they acted like it. Always holding hands and smiling. Saying “I love you” about fifty times a day. It was a little too much PDA for me, but I was glad they were both so happy.
I stared out the window at all the green trees. The road twisted back and forth into hairpin turns as the van climbed higher and higher up the mountain road. I could feel my heart starting to pound. Almost there! Two more hours and I would be back at camp. Back with all my friends. Back with Nicole.
I'd really thought this day would never come.
From the back bench, Blake looked up and swallowed. He had sweat on his upper lip, and his face was pale. “How much longer?”
“Mom, I think he's going to puke.” Mom looked in the rearview mirror.
“I'm not gonna puke. I'm just tired of being in this stupid van.”
“Get yourself a cold drink, dude,” Paul advised. “It'll settle your stomach.”
Blake scrambled over his seat and pulled a can of Sprite out of the cooler in the back.
“Can you get me one too?” I asked.
Just then my phone chimed and flashed a message from Nicole. “Hey! I have service again!”
lost srvice 4 awhile
I texted Nicole again about how we had to go to Camp Crockett first to drop off Blake, but then right after I sent it, I lost service
I hoped she got my message. Otherwise, she'd get to Pine Haven and be out of her mind waiting for me to arrive.
At least it hadn't been a whole year since Nic and I had seen each other. Over the winter break I'd gone to visit her at her mom's for New Year's Eve. I had hoped Nic could come to Mom and Paul's wedding in February, but her mom said we'd just seen each other the month before. Then we tried to plan a visit over our spring breaks, but they fell on different weeks, so that hadn't worked out either.
I don't think even one day went by when we didn't text or IM each other, but I was still dying to see her. And tell her my secret. I was so excited about it, I had almost given in and texted her about it, but I decided to wait. It would be so much more fun to tell her in person.
While I sipped my Sprite, I kept checking every few minutes to see if I'd gotten service back. I held my phone above my head to try to get a signal. But no matter how much I waved my phone around, it couldn't find a cell tower. About twenty minutes later we were driving under the big, arching Camp Crockett sign. Blake sat forward with his arms propped on the back of my bench, looking at everything out the window.
“You are going to have such a great time. Trust me. Every single second you'll be doing something fun.” I grabbed his arm and squeezed it.
“Ow! Stop it, Darcy,” Blake said in a really whiny voice that made him sound like he was six, not ten.
“Sorry. Hey, look at the lake. Pretty cool, huh?”
It was actually kind of fun to see Camp Crockett in the daylight. I'd been here a few times in past summers when Pine Haven had dances with the Crockett boys, but it was usually almost dark when we came over.
We found a parking spot along the side of the road and climbed out of the van. All around us were Camp Crockett counselors in red T-shirts, and boys, boys, boys everywhere we looked.
Why had I complained about having to come here first? This wasn't going to be bad at all.
Mom and Paul left to find someone in charge, while Blake and I watched all the activity. I got more than a few looks from guys who probably felt like I was invading their all-male space. We watched old campers give each other hand slaps, high fives, and fist pounds. That sure was different from Pine Haven, where we all hugged each other.
“Don't worry. You'll make friends really fast,” I told Blake.
He frowned at me. “I'm not worried.”
Mom and Paul called us over to a group of counselors and introduced us to two of them, Brandon and Rob.
“How's it going, Blake?” asked Brandon, the cute, dark-haired one. He gave Blake a firm handshake. Blake threw his shoulders back a little; he loved the whole male-bonding, handshake thing. Brandon and Rob helped us get Blake's stuff out of the rooftop carrier, and then we headed to Newt Cabin 4.
Camp Crockett had animal names for their age groupsâMites, Newts, Bobcats, and Bears. At Pine Haven we had only three age groups, and the names were kind of boringâJuniors, Middlers, and Seniors. And Camp Crockett called their dining hall the mess and their bathrooms the latrine. I'd always thought it was weird that at Pine Haven the name for our communal bathrooms was Solitary.
Brandon talked a lot, telling Mom and Paul all about where he was from and where he went to college. I couldn't wait to see the inside of the cabins.
I felt like a spy, sneaking around on foreign territory.
Camp Crockett cabinsâwhere few girls have gone before.
In a lot of ways their cabins were just like oursâwooden buildings with screens all around the top half, two big open rooms called Side A and Side B, and bunk beds and metal cots. Also, there was graffiti all over the wooden walls inside, just like at Pine Haven. Only the outside of their cabins looked different from ours. Theirs were painted a pale green; ours were just plain wood.
“Okay, I did it right this year and packed the sheets and blankets on top,” said Mom, opening Blake's trunk so she could make up his bunk.
Now that the excitement of being inside a boys' cabin had passed, I was dying to leave. I was sure that Nicole was already at camp by now, waiting for me. “After this, can we go?” I asked, as softly and politely as I could.