Chapter 10: July 4th

Natalie got out of the car and smiled seeing Cameron. She went right off and went up to him and kissed him. He moved his hand to her lower back and I just sat in my car. I took my keys out of the ignition and hooked them onto my shorts. I opened my door and got out. There was nobody for me to see but it was a big party thing. It wasn't just everyone from the camp- it was the one Natalie invited me to with her.

She came over and picked out an outfit for me. I was in jeans Grace had leant me once. I didn't say they were Grace's but she said they were nice. Then she picked out a green tank top too and I wore my hair down. She made me wear it a special way because she wanted me to meet a nice boy. I hadn't told her about what happened with Kenny. I didn't think it was that big of a deal, but Natalie would have freaked out about what happened and made it something huge. I didn't want that blown up. I just wanted it to be nothing.

I looked around. I had on a grey sweater that I had bought once. Natalie loved it but Grace used to always say it was boring. I didn't have to impress anyone. I pulled the sleeves over my hands and walked around. They were going to have a bonfire and it would end the way parties like this always did. But I wasn't going to be a downer. I just put on a smile when Natalie called me over.

It's all I could do.

"Amanda," She said. "This is Patrick he's a lifeguard at camp."

I looked at Patrick. He smiled at me. "Hey," He said. "It's nice to meet you." I remembered something Kenny had said about him. He was sweat-stain Patty. It doesn't seem funny if I said it but when Kenny referred to him as that I always laughed. I smiled more or less remembering sweat stained Patty jokes and said hello back to him.

"Want something to drink?" Cameron asked Natalie.

"Sure," She said. She looked over at me.

"Me too," I said. I was used to being the tag-along. I knew what I was supposed to do. Chime in when it was neccessary.

"I'll come help," Patrick said. He walked away and Natalie looked at me.

Grace had done this a few times to me. This was when I was supposed to say yes or no. "He's kind of cute," Natalie said. "Plus, Cam said he likes you so what do you think?"

I shrugged. "I barely know him..."

"I know," She said. "But just talk to him a little... he's cool."


I sipped my second beer and leaned against the picnic table. Patrick was next to me and we found out we didn't have that much in common very quickly. We went through a few conversations and I realized how awful this was. Grace usually hung around me and brought out things I would have in common with the person she stuck me with but here Patrick was a lost cause. "You're friends with Ken, right?" He asked looking over at me. My spine stiffened.

"Yeah," I said softly. "Kind of."

"Do you know when he's coming tonight?" He asked.

I froze. "No..." My shoulders sagged a little. He was coming? That ruined my night completely. I was going to have to see him. Yesterday had been terrible, and now I had to avoid him all night tonight. I didn't think he'd hang out with people here or show up. I sipped the cup in my hand and hoped I'd feel it hitting me soon.

"Where's Cameron and Natalie?" Patrick asked for the third time. I shrugged. "What?" Patrick said looking at me.

"I don't know," I said. He nodded looking around. Everyone hates him. He's so annoying. He always starts up awkward conversation. I hate him which says a lot. I sipped my beer again finishing it off. Patrick noticed.

"Do you want me to get you another?" He asked.

"Sure," I said. I hand him my cup. We've gone through the motions before. I lean back against the picnic table and watch him walk away. I run my fingers through my hair and look around for someone- anyone I could talk to to get away from sweat-stained Patty. Patrick was beginning to smell like B-O.

I look over at the cars and for a second we make eye contact. He stares at me for a second. I feel awkward so I lift a hand in a wave. Then he starts over to me. Why did I have to wave? I didn't want to talk to him. My cheeks burned and I looked down and looked around the pine-needle covered ground. I was stupid. Why would I wave?

"Hey," He said.

"Hi," I looked up at him quickly.

"Can you please stop avoiding me?" He asked weakly. "I'm sorry..."

"It's fine," I said. "Whatever..." I waved my hand and placed it back where it was on the picnic table. I kept my eyes down. It was so embarrassing. He shoved his hands into his pockets.

"Look," He said. "Do you want me to be honest with you?"

I looked up at him. I shook my head. "Kenny..." I said. "I don't need to hear anything. What happened happened, and Grace is still my best friend..." I had said that to myself a thousand times. It came out perfect and fluid. I didn't hesitate. It came out like I had been saying it my whole life.

He stared at me. He pulled his hands out of his pockets. "Can we just talk?" He asked. "You didn't even let me-"

"It's fine, Kenny," I said looking down. "Let's just pretend it never-"

He clenched his teeth and looked down. I never saw him angry or upset or anything. He was always the opposite. He loved everyone and here he was showing me a different side of him. "I'm not just going to do that, Mand," He said softly looking at me. "This isn't about Grace. I'm not using you or whatever you think I am..."

I paused. I nodded looking down. "I know," I said. I looked over and saw Patrick hanging back with two beers in his hand. He was watching casually and talking to some other kids. "Look, you're making a big deal out of this. It's fine."

He looked at me and then just nodded turning and walking away. He walked over eyeing Patrick who started to come over again. He looked back as they passed one another. His eyes met mine for a second. I felt a single tug and I just kept eye contact with him. He turned and went over to a group of guy who welcomed him normally. "What was that about?" Patrick asked.

"Nothing," I said. I took the cup from him. "Thank you..."

I sank to the ground against this random canoe. I closed my eyes and let my head drop back and hit the solid surface behind me. Everything flashed through my mind like a movie. I fucked up. Why did this have to be like this? "Grace is still my best friend..." That killed me. I felt my chest sink. I took out another joint and lit up.

Cheers, everyone. Have a good fucking day.

"Is something wrong with Kenny?" Natalie asked suddenly walking up. "Cam said he was upset about something... aren't you guys friends?" I didn't know what upset ever meant. Did upset mean he was pissed off? Or was he crying? Or maybe he was just shoving everyone off? I didn't know. I looked down into my beer.

"I don't know," I said.

"Did something happen between you guys?" She asked.

"No..." She was goingot squeeze it out of me. "Do you know where he is?"

"Someone said he was by the lake..." She said. "What happened, Mand?"

"Nothing," I said softly. "I'm just going to go talk to him, I guess..." I put my cup down. It was untouched and I pushed off of the picnic table and started for the lake. I wasn't really going to go talk to him... but if I stumbled across him I guess he was unavoidable.

I inhaled and exhaled. I closed my eyes and the arm movements were normal and fluid for me. It was mechanical. It didn't require thinking. I just lifted the joint to my lips and time went by like you wouldn't believe. It was barely even dark out. Why was she so upset over this? I didn't do anything wrong. I didn't even kiss her.

My eyes stayed closed. Cheers. I took another hit.

"Kenny?" Her voice. I wasn't high enough to hear things. I looked over at him and saw her. She had her hand on the canoe and looked at me. She had her hair down too. I nodded. "Yep," I said. She just looked at me. I was pathetic. I had to look pathetic. I smiled a little and looked at the lake. I was really pathetic.

"What?" She said softly. "What's funny?"

"Nothing," I said.

"Tell me," She said.

"It's nothing,"

"Come on,"


"Tell me, Kenny,"

I look over at her. "You do like me, right?" I said. "I mean you have to. I'm feeling like I'm half in love with you. You can't just not like me right? This is all just because of Grace, right?" I stared at her.

"Kenny..." She said under hear breath looking away. For her eyes I'd mix white and light blue. They would look like a swirl with who shiney black dots. When the sun hit her hair just right it shined a little. The curls would be easy, but it would be hard to keep it all from mixing together into a mass of color on her head. Her skin would be pale with pink mixed in some places. Her sunburn would be just a slight pink peaking out from her shoulders. "You and Grace dated for like..."

"Grace is in Seattle," I said. "We're here. Just tell me. I'm not going to tell her, Amanda. I'll keep it a secret."

She looked at me. Her eyes were shining. She didn't want to say it. Her fingernails would have the chipped pink they always had on them. Her eyelashes were long. She was wearing make-up tonight. Barely any at all but she didn't need it. I don't think she ever needs it. "I can't," She said. "What about Grace?"

"Shh," I said. "Stop bringing up Grace."

"I can't," She said. She was upset now. She shook her head. "I don't like you Kenny."

I looked down. "Okay," I said. "I'm not going to tell anyone then. I don't like you either then Amanda." I took another hit. Cheers, fucking cheers. She sank down to the ground a few feet away from me.

I held the joint out to her. She looked over at me. She closed her lips together tightly. She just looked at me. She crossed her arms. I inched closer to her. She looked at the joint. She reached out and took it. She took a hit. "Cheers," I said taking it back.

"Cheers," She said softly.

I felt my heart pounding weakly in my chest. I looked over at him and he kept taking hits. I leaned my head back against the canoe he was leaned against. I heard his voice over and over again in my head. After telling myself a million times I couldn't like him, was it so wrong if I did? We could never date, but I didn't even want to date him. He had said it. He had said he liked me just a few minutes ago. He looked over at me. He handed me the joint again.

My fingers brushed his as I took it from him. He looked at me shortly. The sun was setting. "You just gave me chills," He whispered.

I looked at him and then just held the joint back out to him. I felt like crying. Everything was jumbled inside of me. "I'm sorry," I said. "I just can't do that to-"

He stared at me. "What do you want?" He asked. "Forget Grace... she's out getting beaten by nuns. You're sitting right here with me. What do you want right now?" He looked down at the ground putting the joint out.

I looked down. "I'd be awful to kiss," I said. "I've never kissed anyone before. I'd be sloppy."

He shook his head. "I'm not that picky," He said. "Why would you worry about something like that? I'm not going to tell anyone if you're lousy at kissing..." I looked down. I felt so stupid now. "Unless you're really really bad... now that's a different story-"

"Shut up," I said smiling and laughing a little.

He inched closer. "Do you trust me?" He asked me softly. His voice was low and comforting.

I nodded. "Sure," I said.

"No," He said smiling. "I want you to really mean it..."

I smiled closing my eyes. "Yes," I said. "I trust you." I opened them looking at him. He moved so her was right next to me.

He just sat there. "Do you want this?" He asked softly. He was so close all of a sudden. He was sitting less than half a foot away from me. I swallowed feeling my heart racing. I nodded.

"Yes," I said softly.

He just looked at me. "I really like you," He said softly. "I don't know how, but I just know I do."

I nodded. "Me too," I said. "I like you, too."

We were both whispering. He was so close. I looked at him and he reached up touching my face. His fingertips were warm. I felt something sweep through me and everything just burst alive. My heart was racing and my stomach was full of butterflies. I smiled weakly. "You just gave me chills," I whispered.

He was leaning in closer and he smiled weakly. He leaned his forehead against mine. I shifted so our lips were closer. In a split second he cocked his head to the side and his lips met mine. I felt warm inside. It was short. My mind was on fire. In a second we both pulled away and he looked at me.

I closed my eyes and he kissed me again. His lips moved slightly and I felt nervous. He reached down taking my hands and moved them to his neck. I kept them there. I felt his hair. Then one of my fingers landed on his pulse. It was racing. I didn't know how I was even to control my hands. They felt disconnected. I was kissing him. It wasn't hard. It was easy. I knew what I was doing almost.

He pulled away touching my face. He just looked at me. I leaned in again and kissed him. This is what people called sparks I assumed. I felt like all of the happiness in the world was inside of me. I felt like I was about to explode.

I pulled her to her feet and we moved to the edge of the wall. Looking up you could hear fireworks going off. I squeezed her hand and she answered it back with a squeeze. I wove our fingers together. Her hands were soft and perfect. I looked at her and she was staring up at the fireworks. I smiled to myself and looked back up.

It was the fourth of July. I was on top of the world. I kissed her temple and she looked up at me and I kissed her again. I couldn't stop myself. She turned facing me. I could kiss her forever. She was perfect. I wanted to explode. I was so happy all of a sudden. I felt like I was on the most serious drugs ever discovered.

Her mouth tasted so sweet. I didn't know it was possible, but I fell harder for her than any other girl I've ever met.