This is the second time this has been posted, because this website is a bugger. Sigh.
"Hannah." Someone prodded her in the back. "Hannah, wake up. We're here."
"What, already?" she mumbled, in a half-asleep daze. "We've only been going for an hour...I think..."
"Wake UP," the Someone commanded, and Hannah felt a pair of hands drag her to her feet. The first thing she registered was that it was no longer daylight. It had been when they'd started out, she was fairly sure of that.
"Uuuurgh. What time is it?"
"Dunno." Then Hannah saw who'd pulled her up...it was Maryann, her best friend. Her best friend most of the time, anyway. She didn't look tired in the slightest. In fact, she looked like she'd happily go on an eighteen-mile trek around the desert if someone asked her to.
They moved to the front of the bus, and climbed off, along with the other seven girls. The first thing Hannah noticed was that it was hot. Much too hot. They'd had air-conditioning in the bus.
Miss Lawson and Mrs Smith had got off the bus first. They stood in front of everyone, giving instructions.
"Welcome to Green Lake, girls," Mrs Smith began. Hannah heard someone yawn. "I know you're tired after your long journey, but please, bear with me for a moment."
"It's to be three to a tent," she continued. At the murmur of suprise that followed, she added, quickly. "I know it looks like there's enough tents for everyone. But most of them aren't fit for humans to live in..." Since some of them still looked slightly annoyed at having to share, she went on, "We found a snake in one of them once. I'm sure you don't want to sleep with snakes. Anyway...here's the list of who's with who. If you're placed with someone you really can't stand, please tell us...but not until tomorrow, please."
"I hope I'm not with Emily," Hannah heard Maryann mutter. "Or Abigail, for that matter. She snores. I should know. I was with her when we went to Disneyland..."
"Quiet, please," Mrs Smith called. "Tent one. Jacqueline Johnson, Melanie Allen, Lucy Pensbury. Tent two. Maryann Parker, Hannah Tennyson..."
"Yes!" Maryann whispered.
"...and Dori Hawthorn. Tent three. Emily Redgard, Abigail Brown, and Jessica Marsden. There is to be no sneaking into anyone else's tent. Not that any of you look up to it at the moment. No staying up gossiping or reading...activities start tomorrow, you need to have some rest."
There was a silence, puntuated only by someone else yawning.
"Well, come on," Miss Lawson spoke up. "Off to bed with you all!"
They went to the tents. Hannah turned on her flashlight and peered inside Tent Two, Maryann and Dori looking over her shoulder. She wrinked her nose in vague disgust.
She had been wrong...
After all that, she'd been wrong.
Hadn't she wished herself dead at some point? Was Green Lake her own private hell? Because that was where she was now, back here after all these years. But not by choice...
The three girls rolled out their sleeping bags. Hannah had a bright red one that she'd borrowed from her sister. Maryann had a blue and purple one that had 'Sleepover Chick' written in pink across it. Dori had an ordinary brown one. She sat on it, looking nervous and clutching her backpack to her chest.
"Do we have to brush our teeth?" she finally asked.
"Dunno," Maryann said. "I didn't even bring a toothbrush."
"You're a bit bloody unhygienic, then," Hannah scolded her friend. "I hope you weren't planning on borrowing mine."
"It's only for a week," Maryann said. "My teeth can survive that long."
Dori had more questions. "Do I have to get changed? In here? Isn't there another tent I can go to?"
"Does it look like it?" Maryann said. "Anyway, who cares? We're not going to look at you. I'm not a lesbian."
Hannah giggled. Dori gave a very frightened half-smile. Eventually, she pulled her sleeping bag over herself and got changed under that. When she emerged, she was wearing a pink Barbie nightie. It looked like it ought to belong to a seven-year-old, but even so it was slightly too big for her.
Maryann raised an eyebrow. "That's...nice."
Dori blushed. "My mum made me take it...I don't wear it very often..."
"Sleep in the nude, do you?" Maryann said. She was getting changed herself now, into a trendy pair of green pyjamas. Hannah was in her nightclothes and lying on her sleeping bag already. She placed her stuffed giraffe on the pillow, and took her earrings out. When Maryann sat down she leaned across and whispered, "Stop embarrassing her. It's cruel."
"It's not cruel," Maryann said. She wasn't good at whispering, and Dori looked up, her face burning. It was starting to match her hair, which was red. Hannah reflected that red hair didn't always mean confidence and temper...certainly not in Dori's case.
"Anyway," Maryann said. "G'night."
"Good night," Dori said in a small voice.
That was why Maryann was only Hannah's friend most of the time.
There wasn't anything left at Green Lake. It wasn't the beautiful place where she'd grown up, but neither was it the godforsaken place where she'd died. Maybe it was, unbelievably, going to heal.
But was she?
She'd been wandering about here, lost and lonely, for far too long. Was it days? Hours? Years? She couldn't tell.
She presumed it was her punishment, though.
The girls ate their breakfast in a building that had recently been painted green. The food was toast, beans and bacon. It wasn't that bad. Dori gave all her bacon to Emily. She was a vegetarian, she explained.
"Well, why didn't you tell someone before we went?" Maryann wanted to know. "Then they wouldn't have given you any to start with."
"There wasn't really a right moment. I did try," she said, going slightly red again. Hannah couldn't help but wish they'd just ignore each other. Maryann wasn't known for being polite, quiet and tactful, and Dori...well, was.
Miss Lawson climbed onto a table at the front of the room. "Scouts!" she called. "Quiet, please."
They turned their attention to her.
"Activites for today," she announced. "Tent one, climbing and abseiling. You'll go in the bus with Mrs Smith and Mr Johnson, and they'll drive you out to the mountains. Finish your breakfast, and then you have five minutes before you need to go. Don't be late."
"Wish we were doing climbing today," Maryann muttered.
"Tent two, table tennis. That's in the room next door. You also have five minutes after breakfast. Tent three, same for you...except you'll be doing Art in there. Now, hurry up and finish your breakfast, girls."
They were out of the room shortly.
"How on earth are we going to play table tennis?" Maryann asked. "It needs two people, and we have three. What's Dori going to do?"
"Maybe Miss Lawson or someone is going to join in," Hannah said.
She was right, as it turned out. Dori turned out to be surprisingly good at table tennis. Maryann was not, so Miss Lawson wound up playing with her and letting Dori play with Hannah. Maryann did not look pleased.
If only she could just see him. She didn't really expect him to forgive her, not after all the people she'd killed, but she just wanted to see him, just...because. You didn't need a reason for everything.
Except she'd been thinking those words 'maybe tonight' for such an incredibly long time now...
After table tennis, they played football with the Tent Three girls. Hannah was useless at it. So was Dori. Maryann scored the only goal. Even she didn't seem to be enjoying herself much, though.
"You know," she said crossly as they walked back to the cabins for tea, "you'd have thought that what with this place being called Camp Green Lake and all, they'd actually have a lake."
"The lake dried up," Dori explained. "Don't you know?"
"No," both Maryann and Hannah said.
"I did...research. Sort of," Dori said. "This is quite an interesting place."
"I know it used to be a boy's detention center," Hannah said.
"You don't know the half of it," Dori said.
Night was beginning to fall now. She could see the stars. Had she been able to see the stars, last night?
Was Sam here, now? Was he looking for her?
Tea had been sausages and mash. Now, they were back in Tent Two, talking. It wasn't bedtime yet, they could talk as much as they wanted to.
"Before it was a boy's detention center, there was a town here," Dori said. "Green Lake. It was supposed to be very pretty. Have you ever heard of Kissin' Kate Barlow?"
Maryann shook her head quickly, but Hannah nodded.
"She came from here."
"Who was she?" Maryann asked.
"She was this female outlaw," Hannah explained. "She killed a lot of people and robbed them. And a few years ago, two boys at the detention center found her treasure."
"Seriously?" Maryann said.
"Yeah. It was in the papers. That's how I know," Hannah said. "And how Dori knows too, I guess." Dori nodded.
"I looked around on the internet and stuff too, though."
"Don't you have anything better to do with your life?" Maryann asked.
"Maryann!" Hannah snapped, at the same time Dori said, calmly. "No. You?"
A silence followed that.
"The main reason I looked around for information about this place," Dori said, "is because my cousin...she says she knows someone who knows someone who came here, when it was a detention center, and tried to kill himself."
"That's very morbid," Maryann said, but Hannah ignored her. "Tried to kill himself? So he didn't actually?" she said.
"No. He jumped on a rattlesnake, or something. They said he came here because he shot someone."
"Shot them dead?"
But Dori didn't know.
"Other people died here too. In weird ways, I mean. In one of the papers...it was sort of an old one...it mentioned that the people in the town killed a man once. In the lake. And then the lake dried up. Because of that, people used to say."
"Things like that happen, sometimes," Maryann said vaguely.
"So..." Dori said. "That's it."
She thought she could see him. Almost.
She thought she had to be dreaming.
Now it was bedtime. They hadn't gone to sleep, though. They'd talked about other things...films, music, boys. Then the conversation had gone around in a circle, back to Camp Green Lake.
"I wonder about those boys who found the treasure," Hannah said. "Bet they feel lucky."
"The woman who ran the camp, she was looking for it," Dori said. "She was furious. That was what she'd been after all along. The camp was just a front."
"Yeah. That was definately in the newspaper," Hannah said. "They talked a lot about it. How awful it was...how they could've allowed the children to be treated like that...it inspired one heck of a lot of debate."
"Do you think we could let this subject drop now?" Maryann asked.
Hannah shrugged. Dori looked thoughtful.
"Y'know...I think I can hear voices."
"It's probably the next tent," Maryann said.
"It's coming from outside."
"Then it's probably someone sneaking around."
"Two people," said Hannah, who was also listening.
"Look outside, Dori," Maryann said. "See who it is. If it's Emily or someone, I'll kill her."
Hannah wanted very much to tell Dori not to always do what Maryann said, but Dori stuck her head out of the tent anyway. She gave a small gasp, and then came back in.
"What is it?" Maryann questioned.
"Ur...it's...a man and a woman," she said. "They were talking. I have no idea who they are."
"Let me see," Maryann said. She too peered out of the tent. "There's no-one there now." She glanced at Dori, as if accusing her of lying.
Hannah put her stuffed giraffe down, pulled the sleeping bag off, and glanced outside.
Someone was there. Two people. Far off in the distance. She shouldn't have been able to see them, not in the dark. But she could. They were dancing. They were glowing.
"Come and look," she said to the others urgently. Dori and Maryann came over. Maryann crept outside, crouching on the ground outside the tent.
"This is very spooky," Dori whispered.
They watched. People in the tents to either side of them were still talking. The man and the woman were getting further and further away...they seemed to be one single star in the distance...and then they were gone.
The girls retreated.
In the days that followed, they agreed to not talk about it to anyone. They didn't know why. Maybe it was just that it was cool to have a secret, or maybe because they thought no-one else would believe them. But it stayed in their heads long after camp was over and they'd all gone home.
What had once been Green Lake was now deserted. It was raining. There would, one day, be a lake here again. Then the Girl Scouts would get to go swimming and water-skiing.
Kate walked around with Sam, pointing out small details. The few holes that still remained. The trees. The building now painted green. The rock shaped like a thumb.
He had forgiven her right away. She hadn't even had to ask.
When she was a little girl, Hannah went to her grandmother's house a lot. Her grandmother was called Gladys, and she fancied herself as a storyteller. Only trouble was, she wasn't all that good at it. She would forgot the names and personalities of characters halfway through the story, and none of her stories ever seemed to have a proper ending, in case she wanted to come back to it sometime. But her face always glowed when she was telling stories, and so Hannah enjoyed them, for the most part.
She had died when Hannah was seven.
Hannah couldn't remember any of the stories. But she did remember her grandmother telling her something: There is a big story all around us, you see. We're all characters in it. We're all connected to each other.