Title: The Accidental Counselor
Summary: Every summer, Bella Swan returns to her job as a camp counselor in the North Georgia Mountains. When a shortage of female counselors means that she is placed in Adventure Camp with a complete lack of outdoor skills, she is paired with expert counselor, and old high school crush, Edward Masen. AH
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of ME. I am in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. Absolutely no copyright infringement is intended.
The Accidental Counselor
How I Ended Up Backpacking through the Appalachians
with Edward Masen and Fourteen Kids
One Day Until Camper Arrival
"No way. Absolutely not. I'm not even remotely qualified for this!" I was horrified by this new turn of events.
"Come on, Bella… please? You know I'm only asking out of desperation," Jane Volera, the director of summer sessions at Camp Rockmont was pleading with me in her office. I had a sinking feeling that she was most likely going to win this argument, but I was determined to put up a fight first. "We're short female counselors this year for the Adventure Camp and I really need your help."
"Are you kidding me? There has to be someone better qualified. Look at me! I've never even worked out a day in my life! I can't climb walls. I can't carry a pack… there's no way I'll survive. I'll be found dead in the woods in three weeks and they'll have to send out a full forensics team to identify my remains because bears will have gnawed on my bones! They'll probably end up making the I.D. from my dental records or something."
Jane's face broke into a huge smile as she laughed loudly at my extreme scenario, "Yeah… that's not an exaggeration or anything. Seriously, it's not that bad. You're only going to be in the woods for three days, and the rest of the time is spent here at camp. Listen, I know you aren't fully trained, but we're going to pair you up with one of our most experienced boy's counselor and you're only going to have six girls, not eight like everyone else. You've already had the proper first aid training, and your co-counselor can help you with any questions in the field."
That piqued my interest a bit, "Who would I be paired with? In the event that I agree to do this at all, I mean." At Camp Rockmont, each girl's cabin was paired with a 'Brother Cabin' of boys for all of their activities. For the past four summers, I had been a counselor in the regular camp program. If I decided to take the position with the Adventure Camp, it would give me a chance to be paired with someone new.
"You'll be with Masen. He's the best… he was an adventure camper for a long time and he's been a counselor in the program for four years, just as long as you've been a counselor. He really knows his stuff."
Masen. Edward Masen. I knew Edward Masen, we had gone to high school together. He had been one of the lucky few to bridge the gap between the smart kids and the popular crowd. Not only had Edward been in all the advanced curriculum classes with me, but he'd also been a starting pitcher on the school's state championship baseball team. He was a really good player, and had been one of the main reasons we won State so many times in a row. His prowess on the field had helped him get into the popular circle. Well, that and the fact that he was insanely hot. Now that I thought about it, his hotness probably had a lot to do with his popularity.
Though I had tuned her out while reminiscing about high school, Jane was still talking about the job, "Honestly, if you didn't have the lifeguard first aid training that you have, I wouldn't be able to use you. But you do have it, and it's the exact same training we give the Adventure Camp counselors before we allow them in the field."
"In the field? More like in the woods," I grumbled lowly.
"It's only two days and two nights in the woods. Well, okay, more like two and a half days and two nights. It would also include…"
I mulled over Jane's proposal while she described each of the 'adventures' in detail. If I took this position change, I would be an Adventure Camp counselor for the entire summer. Every two weeks I would get new campers. Every two weeks we would mix rappelling, rock climbing and whitewater rafting in with the normal camp activities like arts & crafts or swimming. And every two weeks I would take those kids into the woods on the Appalachian Trail for two and a half days of backpacking for the culmination of their time at camp. No way was I going to say yes to this.
I looked up into Jane's desperate face to give her my final decision, "Sure. I guess I can do it." I felt my head drop in resignation. Dammit… I'm such a pushover.
14 Hours Until Camper Arrival
I spent the rest of Sunday getting my things situated and preparing for the campers' arrival the next morning. This summer, I would be living in Cabin 15. Each cabin at Camp Rockmont had a main room with four sets of bunk beds, a large communal bathroom and small single bedroom for the counselor. After folding my clothes into the small wooden dresser in my room, I pulled out some markers and construction paper so I could make personalized "Welcome to Camp" signs for each of my girls. It was something the counselors had always done when I was a camper, and for some reason it seemed to make that first night away from home more bearable.
While writing out my signs, I began to feel slightly nervous about the annual Counselor Cookout that was going to take place that evening. The cookout was basically a mixer thrown by the staff for all of the counselors on the night before our first campers arrived. They wanted to give us a chance to mingle a bit and meet everyone else who would be working at the camp for the summer. At the cookout, I would be seeing Edward and finally speaking to him for the first time since we graduated. Of course, I was sure he'd been at all the other counselor activities for the past two years, but I hadn't ever had reason to seek him out before now.
To be honest, I didn't even know if he was going to remember me. I mean, of course I had known who he was… everyone had known who Edward Masen was. And all of the girls – myself included – had a major crush on him. I, on the other hand, had been an incredibly shy, somewhat awkward bookworm. I would be completely shocked if he remembered me at all.
At six thirty, I made my way down to the lake where the cookout was already in full swing. I spotted Edward immediately on the other side of the party talking with some of the other male counselors. He looked so much the same… but different somehow. Older. More mature. It made me wonder if I would look different to him.
Even as a young teenager, Edward had been classically handsome with a prominent brow, straight nose and strong jaw. But now? Hot damn… college had been good to him. His dark hair was longer now – wildly shaggy and falling in his eyes. I watched as he ran his hand through it to keep it out of his face, and caught myself wishing I could be the one doing that. His strong jaw was darkened by the shadow of stubble; I wondered briefly how that would feel on my soft skin. Stop it, Bella. Don't go there. I really needed to get these thoughts out of my head. This summer was going to be hard enough without me lusting after my co-counselor the entire time. Just as I was trying to calm myself down, I watched as his bright green eyes sparkled with laughter at something one of the other guys said. Oh, man. Whoever said that things get better with age was right about Edward Masen. He was most definitely getting better with age.
Taking a breath to steady my nerves, I made my way over and tapped him on the shoulder. I can do this. He turned around quickly and I started speaking immediately; I had to go for it before I lost my nerve, "Edward? Hi… I don't know if you remember me… we went to high school together? I'm Bella Swan?"
"Bella! Yeah! Of course I remember you… we had like every class together," he replied with a huge smile. The way he said it, you'd think it should have been so obvious to me that he would remember who I was.
I felt my eyes grow wide with surprise as I mentally turned back into a squealing high school girl. Oh my GOD! Edward Masen knows who I am! "Oh… cool," was all I managed to say out loud before my mind went blank. I had apparently reached the limit of my outstanding conversation skills.
I didn't have much time to be worried about it though, as Edward kept right on going, "So, how are you? What have you been up to since we graduated?"
"Uh… I'm great. I'm a Lit major at the University of Georgia, and I'm starting my junior year in the fall. Just, you know, normal college stuff."
Edward's eyebrows rose in shock, "You go to Georgia? I had no idea! I go to Georgia… I'm biology/pre-med. How have we never run into each other in two whole years? That's so weird."
"Not really… I mean, there's almost 35,000 students and we're in completely different schools. Plus I'm terrible at science and avoid those classes like the plague. I try to not even go near those buildings."
Edward chuckled softly and smiled, "Well, yeah… I guess it's completely possible. But I mean, I've never even seen you out or at a party or anything."
I cringed inwardly, as I was about to reveal my antisocial tendencies. "Yeah… that's not really my scene. The whole nameless, faceless bar thing… parties… it's just so…" I paused for a moment searching for the right word.
"Overdone? Boring? Somewhat juvenile?" Edward suggested for me with a raised eyebrow.
I had to laugh at that, "Actually, yeah. All of the above and then some." This was fun. Talking to Edward was a lot easier than I thought it would be. I suppose it helped that I wasn't the same shy girl I had been in high school, lusting after the hot baseball player. Sure, I didn't frequent the downtown bar scene or the keg parties on fraternity row, but I had definitely come into my own. In the two years I'd been in college, I'd sort of found myself… and really started to like that person. No longer shy and awkward, I preferred thinking of myself as quiet and independent.
Edward was smiling at my reaction to his list, "Yeah, I actually don't go downtown a lot either. The guys throw parties at the house, of course... which I why I chose to live off campus instead. It's hard enough trying to fit all of the coursework into my practice schedule, let alone trying to do it with a raging all-night thrown-down going on downstairs."
"What are you talking about? I can't imagine that would be difficult at all," I answered sarcastically. I was feeling comfortable enough to keep the conversation going, "Hey, I almost forgot you still played baseball… good season last year."
He rolled his eyes and grinned, "Thanks."
"Come on," I said as I jokingly elbowed him in the side, "what was that eye roll for? I was being serious… you guys had a great season. I even made it to a few of the home games."
That brought a huge grin to his face, "Really? Which ones?"
I stared at him blankly, "Uh… I don't… I don't really know. I went with some friends. Sports and I? We don't really go well together."
He laughed, "Eh, that's okay. You were physically there, that's what really matters."
Talking about sports reminded me of why I had come over in the first place, "Hey, so that reminds me. I know Jane usually waits until after the cookout to post the counselor assignments, but there was this weird 'special circumstance' thing this year so I already know who I'm paired with. I guess they didn't have enough girls apply to be counselors for the Adventure Camp… weird, huh?" I was rambling. Hardcore. "So yeah… Jane needed me in Adventure Camp, so I'll be working with you this summer... except I don't really know what I'm doing. Actually that's why I'll be working with you. You know what you're doing and I don't."
"That I don't know what I'm doing?"
"No," he laughed, "That we'll be working together. This summer's going to be epic!"
"Epic isn't exactly what I had in mind…"
His face morphed into an expression of hurt confusion, "What do you mean?"
"Oh! No! Not the working with you part…" I backpedaled, "the Adventure Camp part. I'm pretty sure I'm going to get lost in the woods and die before the end of the summer. Well, that or I'm going to get crushed by my pack or plunge to my death off the climbing wall. I've had all day to come up with multiple death scenarios."
Edward was full on cracking up by this point and attracting everyone's attention; he could hardly get the words out, "Bella… you're… oh, shit… that's hysterical…"
"It's not funny!" I cried. Except… it was really funny and I was struggling not to laugh myself. "Fine, you're not going to let me die or whatever. But I just know I'll end up at least severely injured. Broken ankle? I'm your girl."
When we finally sobered a bit, Edward threw his arm around my shoulders and looked down at me with a serious expression on his face. "What on earth makes you think you can't do this? I mean… it's not easy, but it's not meant to be impossible."
I thought for a moment before replying, "I guess… I don't know, it's just… stuff like this? Like rappelling and climbing and hiking? It's not really me. I'm not that coordinated. Like, at all. And for that matter, I'm not that strong. What if I can't even lift my pack? What if I can't get myself up the wall? I have no muscles… I mean… look at me." I held out my scrawny arms to illustrate my point.
Edward narrowed his eyes a bit. After a brief pause, he seemed to make a decision about something. "Bella… I've been looking at you all night. And, believe me, you look just fine." I could feel the blush rising in my cheeks. Maybe he didn't mean it like that. Maybe he did. Just like that, there was an awkward tension in the air between us… but the kind of awkwardness that feels good. And the kind of tension that makes everything around you electric.
His arm was still around my shoulders, making it hard for me to breathe or form a coherent thought. Still, I knew I should say something back.
I managed a breathless, "Thanks…" before Jane jumped up on a chair trying to get everyone's attention for her 'Welcome ' speech. As we all quieted down to listen, Edward took the opportunity to lean down and whisper in my ear, "You're welcome. And don't worry… I won't let anything happen to you this summer. I promise."
The feeling of his warm breath on my neck caused a shiver to run down my spine. Holy shit… this summer just got a bit more interesting.
Day 3: Wednesday
"I can't do this."
"Yes. You can."
"I seriously don't think I can do this. That's really, really far down… I feel like I'm going to fall." I was standing at the top of a 150 foot sheer rock face and Edward was trying to convince me that rappelling down it was a good idea. I had the harness on already, the rope and carabineers were attached… and I was completely frozen at the top.
Rappelling was the first big 'adventure' in Adventure Camp. For the first two days of camp, the kids had done normal camp activities; they made lanyard key chains in arts and crafts, went swimming in the lake and went on short nature hikes. While everyone else had spent the past two days looking forward to day three and the start of the main activities, I'd found myself pretending it wasn't really going to happen.
"Come on, Bella!" I could hear my girls and Edward's boys cheering me on from the bottom – they had all made it down just fine. At the beginning of the week, I'd let all of my girls know that I was just as new to this as they were… and just as scared as they might be. At first, I thought they might think I was totally lame for being terrified of the camp adventures that they had actually signed up for, but they thought it was cool that we were going to be able to try new things together.
"You can do it!" they were shouting. I should be able to do this; our middle school-aged campers had practically jumped off the edge. "It's easy!"
Edward's eyes were bright with laughter, "Yeah… come on, Bella… it's easy." He raised both eyebrows jokingly.
"Ugh. Easy… right," I mumbled to myself. I knew in my heart that I would regret it if I chickened out, so I took a deep breath to steady my nerves and decided to take the plunge. Literally. "Okay. I'm going."
Edward smiled, "Excellent! Do you remember what to say?"
"Yeah, I think so. On belay!" I yelled down to the staff member holding the other end of my belay line at the bottom of the 150 foot cliff of death.
"Belay on!" he yelled back, signifying that he was ready for me to descend. Of course he just had to follow it up with, "Watch out for that first step! It's a doozy!"
"I'll show you a doozy… just as soon as I get my ass down there," I muttered, making Edward laugh quietly.
"Hey," he said as he caught my arm, "You're going to be fine." His bright green eyes were suddenly blazing as they met mine. The look he gave me was so intense… it was like he was trying to give me some of his strength. I had to force myself to look away.
"Yeah… okay. Here's goes nothing," I said, and leaned back into the air.
The guy at the bottom was right – that first step was a doozy. There was a moment – right after my weight left the top of the rock and right before it was caught by the belay line – that I actually felt myself falling down through the air. My heart sped up and my breath caught in my throat and I really felt like I had made a huge mistake. But then the line caught me, and the harness dug in and I was fine. I was hanging in midair with a harness up my butt, but I was alive and breathing and trying to calm my racing heart before it leapt out of my chest.
"Remember – you have control of the speed! If you ever want to get down here, you have to move the break line!" the staff guy called up. Oh yeah. If I moved the arm holding the line away from my body I would go faster. Keeping it close to my face and chest would stop me. Very slowly, I moved my arm out.
Eons later, after what was potentially the slowest descent ever in the history of rappelling, my feet landed solidly on the ground. The muscles in my arms and legs were trembling from the rush of adrenaline and from being tensed for so long. My hands were actually shaking so much that I was having trouble unscrewing the carabineer clip on my harness and had to have the staff guy do it for me.
As soon as I stepped out of my harness, I was surrounded by my girls. They were shouting things like, "Whoo, Bella!" or, "You did it!" Each one of them was absolutely ecstatic… and genuinely proud of me. It was times like these that made me really love my job.
Less than five minutes later, Edward was down the cliff and standing right in front of me. "That was great, Bella! Are you glad you did it?"
I thought for a moment. Just this morning, I'd been terrified of today. Secretly hoping over breakfast that it might pour down rain all day long and we wouldn't have to rappel at all. Now, even though my limbs were shaking with every step, I realized that what Edward said on our first night was true. The adventures were meant to be difficult, but not impossible. I began to look at the summer as a personal challenge – I could do this. It was going to be really hard, but I could do it.
"Yeah… I really am," I said, grinning up at him.
Day 5: Friday
The Climbing Wall
Unfortunately, my new positive outlook only lasted for about a day. By Friday morning, I was standing in front of the climbing wall, wondering how in the hell I was supposed to get myself to the top. Apparently, the way you make rappelling more fun is to add climbing up a one hundred foot wall first and then rappelling back down that same wall. Personally, I had different thoughts on the subject, but no one seemed to be asking for my opinion.
"There's no way I'm getting up that wall."
"You said that about rappelling, and you were fine," Edward replied, "You didn't even get a scratch."
"I know… but rappelling was more about conquering a fear. This involves upper body strength, which I don't have."
He smiled, "Alright, point taken. Just remember that you'll need use your legs, then. You have four points of contact with the wall. If your arms feel weak, just use them to anchor yourself while you push up with your legs."
I nodded and watched a few more kids go up before letting the guy know I was ready. Each one of the kids seemed to be doing what Edward suggested – pulling up with their arms and pushing up with their legs to distribute the muscle usage.
The staff guy looped the rope through my harness and studied my face for a minute, "This your first time climbing?"
"Yeah… is it that obvious?" I tried to sound sarcastic, but it came out with nervous laughter.
He smiled, "Nah… you just look a little anxious. Go up the left side of the wall. It's easier for beginners. There's more handholds over there."
"Okay… thanks," was all I could say back to him. With one last glance upward, I made my way over and stood at the base of the wall.
The first fifty feet really weren't that difficult. The guy at the bottom was right – there were a ton of handholds on this side of the wall. Every time I was ready to pull myself up some more, there was a place to put my hand and another for my foot. I also discovered that even though I wasn't very strong, I also wasn't very heavy. At five-foot-five, I was a bit on the short side; I had been so worried about being small and weak for this climbing adventure, that I hadn't ever considered it as an advantage. Plus, Edward was right. I wasn't pulling myself up so much as I was pushing up with my legs.
The second half of the wall was much, much more difficult. My arms and legs were getting tired and I was slowing down. I got to a point where I just wanted to stop and let my weight fall backwards into the harness, feeling like I had climbed way more than a hundred feet… shouldn't I be at the top by now? I refused to look down to see how far I'd come and I didn't want to look up to see how far I had to go, keeping my focus on the wall in front of me and getting to the next stone.
Everyone was shouting from below me, "You can do it!" "You're almost there!" "Yeah, Bella!" Hearing their support helped me stay focused on my goal. Just knowing that they were all behind me was like a mental push up the wall; it was like I was turning into a living testament for the power of positive thinking right in front of their eyes.
I kept climbing even though my thighs had started to burn with exertion. My arms felt weak and my hands were cramping up around the little stone handholds. Just when I didn't think I could go any further… just when I was about to give in and let go… just then, I reached my hand up and felt air. No more wall. I was at the top! Knowing that I'd made it this far gave me a burst of energy and I quickly hauled myself over the top and onto the platform.
I couldn't stand yet – my legs were too tired – so I just laid flat on my back for a minute while catching my breath. I knew I had to rappel back down, but I needed a minute first. The staff guy at the top looked down at me with laughter in his expression, "You gonna live, Bella?"
I smiled up at him. My breaths were still coming heavily and I had to fight to get the words out, "Yeah… I think… I'm going to be… just fine."
And I meant it.
Day 7: Sunday
The morning of our whitewater rafting day, my girls and I went to the early seating for breakfast before heading back to the cabin to change into our suits. I reminded them to put on sunscreen and grab towels to leave on the bus for when we were wet and cold after our day of rafting. I left them to it and went into my room to change into my own bathing suit – an old red two-piece from when I used to lifeguard – but I couldn't find the top.
Oh, no. Nonononono… this is not happening to me!
When packing for camp this summer, I had put in two bathing suits. One was for when the kids were at camp and one was for the two weeks – one at the end of June and one at the beginning of August – when we had no kids and the counselors had the run of the camp. Our two weeks off. My 'kid-safe' suit had a top like a sports bra and bottoms with thick sides.
I had almost put in my black one-piece racing suit from back when I was on the neighborhood swim team… but since I wasn't going to be doing anything other than hanging out by the lake with the kids, I had decided that my guarding suit would be fine. But now… now I wished I had my one-piece, or at the very least both pieces of the red suit. Because now I was going whitewater rafting.
And I was going to have to go in a very small black bikini. With ties. Which was going to be awesome.
And completely inappropriate.
Two hours later, after a bus ride to the Ocoee River, we were standing in front of a modern day hippie who was going to lead us down the rapids. Our guide for the day, James, was wearing torn Hawaiian shorts and a hemp necklace with his hair was styled in long dreadlocks. I was beginning to question the sanity of whoever put him in charge of anything, but when he started talking about river safety his voice took on an authoritative air. Apparently, he really knew his stuff.
While James was explaining what we were going to do and how we were going to stay safe on the river, I realized with great relief that we would all get life jackets. The life jacket would cover most of my exposed skin. This relief lasted until I actually received my life jacket, which smelled like old rotten mildew. How many people had worn these things? Ewwww… I had to stop that train of thought before I totally grossed myself out.
Before I knew it, James had finished his speech and everyone was pulling off their clothes to put the lifejackets on over their bathing suits. I knew I should be making sure that everyone's stuff ended up on the bus for the ride back to camp, but all I could do was stand awkwardly to the side of the bus while clinging to the lifejacket.
Edward eventually noticed my plight and made his way over to me with a joking smile, "So, are you going to change, or are you just going to stand there for a bit?"
"Uh…" I looked up at him blankly.
"You sort of have to go rafting… which means you're going to have to put on the lifejacket…"
"No, I know that… I just…" I was desperately trying to figure out a way for no one to see me change. "I couldn't find the top of my bathing suit this morning so I'm trying to find a way for no one to see me change out of my t-shirt."
Edward's eyes almost bulged out of his head, "Uh… um… you're not… you don't have a… top… on? That's… uh… what?"
I suddenly realized what I had said and started laughing, "No… no. I just had to wear another bathing suit, and it's not… well, it's not exactly 'camper appropriate.' I guess it's not a huge deal or anything. I'm just a little self-conscious…"
"Oh! Okay… well, that makes sense…" Edward had closed his eyes and was shaking something out of his head.
Suddenly, an idea popped into my mind. "Here…" I said as I handed him my towel, "hold this up for me." He did as I asked, and I whipped off my shirt and shorts, quickly swapping them for the moldy grossness that was the lifejacket. My skimpy bottoms didn't cover quite as much as I would have liked, but I couldn't really do anything about it. At least no one would be staring at my chest all afternoon. As soon as the last buckle was clipped into place, I let Edward know that it was okay for him to drop the towel, "It's okay now, I'm decent."
As he lowered his hands, I could feel his eyes rake over my body and settle on the expanse of skin in between the lifejacket and my suit bottoms. He looked like he was about to say something to me but one of the kids called out his name, effectively distracting him from whatever it was.
As soon as we were all appropriately outfitted for the water, we got in the river to practice how to float downstream with our feet out in front of us; if our raft happened to capsize or we were to fall overboard, we apparently needed to know how to float like this in order to avoid hitting the sharp rocks. The further we got into this whole rafting scenario, the less comfortable I was with it.
James began dividing us up into our rafting teams, and I found myself disappointed when Edward and I were placed in different rafts. Obviously, they did this on purpose to spread out the counselors… I mean, there was really no way we could be in the same boat and help the staff keep an eye on all of the kids, but I couldn't help feeling a bit let down.
I felt someone come up behind me and whisper, "You were wrong before. You are utterly indecent…" Edward. His voice rolled over me like velvet and I felt my eyes slip closed.
"You think?" I managed to get out.
One of his hands moved to sit on the bare skin of my left hip and he squeezed it lightly, "Yeah… I do…"
"Alright kids! Let's load up!" Dammit, James! Edward and I both jumped a bit at the interruption and made our way over to the bus.
Four hours later, after conquering both the river rapids and the ancient blue rafting bus, we made it back safely to our camp bus. We returned our paddles and lifejackets and wrapped up in nice warm towels. As I sat next to Edward on the bus back to camp, our shoulders touching every time the bus hit a pothole, I wondered what had had meant by his statement earlier.
Did he find me attractive… like… in that way? The thought left my mind reeling. And if he did find me attractive, what was it that seemed to be holding him back?
Day 10: Wednesday
So far, I had managed to make it through everything unscathed. Rappelling, Climbing and Whitewater Rafting were behind me and all that remained were three days in the woods. Three days. Woods. Right.
For the two days leading up to our first backpacking excursion of the summer, the kids went to classes and discussions about outdoor safety and protocol. Because I was new to this whole thing as well, Jane had me sit in with them. I learned how to identify various plants like poison oak or ivy, how to navigate in the woods if I got lost, how to pack my backpack to distribute the weight evenly and how to 'dig a hole' if I had to… you know… go to the bathroom. I tried not to think about that last one.
But before I knew it… before anything I was supposed to learn had the chance to sink in at all, really… we were unceremoniously dumped at a trailhead with all of our stuff.
The first day was supposed to be an easy day. Just a quick two mile hike up the trail to the campsite to get us used to being in the woods. A quick two miles turned into a really steep two miles that left most of us gasping for our breath by the time we stopped for the day.
After setting up our tents, the rest of the afternoon was spent wading in the river and sitting out in the sun by the nearby waterfall. As dusk fell upon the mountains, Edward showed the kids how to make a safe campfire and we cooked a simple meal. All of us exhausted by the events of the day, the kids were tucked into their sleeping bags by eight o'clock; Edward and I soon followed suit.
In the counselor tent. Our shared, two-person counselor tent. Someone up there either hates me or seriously loves me…
Later that night…
I opened my eyes only to be greeted by the pitch black night. Where the hell am I? After a few moments of sleepy confusion, I got my bearings and realized that I was in a sleeping bag on the ground in the middle of the woods… and I really needed to go to the bathroom. Badly. Perhaps I shouldn't have had that much water after stopping for the night. Hmmm. Well, there sure wasn't much I could do about that now. And since there was absolutely no freaking way I was going to get up and walk into the woods on my own at night to pee, I was going to have to wake up Edward.
Oh. My. God.
How embarrassing. Tap tap… excuse me, Edward? I really have to pee and I'm afraid to go alone. Would you mind leaving your nice warm sleeping bag to walk with me to a tree so I can go to the bathroom while you stand just close enough that you'll probably be able to hear me? Oh, yeah. This was going to go really well.
After procrastinating for at least ten minutes and working up the courage to actually rouse him from sleep, my bladder was starting to hurt. It was now or never. And really? Given that the alternative was that I would most likely wet my sleeping bag… waking him up was starting to look like the less embarrassing option.
I moved my hand out toward Edward's sleeping form… brought it back… moved it out again… back… out… Oh my GOD, Bella. Just do it! Shaking his shoulder lightly, I whispered, "Edward?"
"Edward?" I spoke a bit louder and shook his frame more forcefully.
That time, he woke up. His voice was deep and scratchy with sleep, "Bella? Are you okay?"
"I'm fine… everything's fine. I just… I really have to pee and I don't want to go out there by myself."
He sat up, clicked on the flashlight and rubbed his eyes, "Alright, let's go." His voice was so matter-of-fact, you'd think he didn't care at all that I just woke him up in the middle of the night. I let him unzip the tent and lead the way out into the dark night.
The wind had picked up due to the drop in temperature, and it made the forest echo with all sorts of weird noises. I heard rustling in the bushes… owls calling out… leaves blowing… I most definitely did not want to be out here any longer than I had to be. We walked a good distance in silence and Edward motioned with the flashlight for me to go ahead and find a tree. I finished quickly, ready to get back to the campsite as soon as possible.
Back in the tent, I finally broke our sleepy silence as we slid back into our separate sleeping bags and Edward flipped his flashlight off, "Thanks again. I'm really sorry I woke you up."
"Hey, don't worry about it. I'm actually kind of glad you did."
I raised an eyebrow at him, realized that he couldn't see it in the dark and decided to lace my tone with sarcasm instead, "Really? You're glad I woke you up at two in the morning – or whatever the hell time it is – so that you could walk me to the bathroom? Somehow, I highly doubt that."
On the other side of the tent, Edward snorted out a laugh, "Okay, okay. I guess 'glad' isn't exactly the word I was looking for, but there's something I want to ask you. I actually wanted to bring it up earlier, but I couldn't and I guess I'm just groggy enough to do it now."
I turned to face him and propped myself up on my elbow, "What is it?"
I heard him shift in his sleeping bag and it sounded like he had done the same. When the flashlight suddenly flicked on, I could see that I was right… he was propped up and facing me as well. Taking a deep breath he said, "If you came to some of my games, you knew I went to school with you."
I felt my face flush and I tried to deflect the question he implied, "That's not really a quest…"
He interrupted me before I could finish my thought, "Okay, fine. Why didn't you ever say hi? I know it's a big school and all, but you knew I was there." So that's what had been holding him back. He had spent two weeks making comments and whispering in my ear and he was holding back because he thought I was avoiding him.
I had to think about that one for a minute, "Well I mean… we didn't really talk in high school. I didn't really talk to many people at all, actually. I don't know…"
"So because we didn't talk much… that meant we couldn't be friends in college?"
"Well.. no," was all I managed to come up with. Any reason I might have had for ignoring him or not going up and saying 'hi' to him seemed stupid now. Juvenile. The cliques and contests for popularity in high school really had no place in the real world.
"I need to know if there's a reason. Because I like you Bella… you're funny and smart and so pretty it makes my head spin. But if there's a reason you avoided me, I need to know before I do something stupid."
"Something like what?" I asked.
He leaned in suddenly and pressed his lips to mine for a brief moment and my world turned upside down. Pulling his head back, he seemed to be searching my expression for a response to his impulsive kiss. I let my eyes roam his face before letting them settle on his lips. His lips.
I wanted more.
Wasn't this whole summer about taking chances and putting myself out there? I'd already spent two whole weeks outside my comfort zone while doing these adventures… what was one more? With my thoughts full of determination, I brought my hand up to the nape of his neck and did something I had never done before. I took control. Pulling him forward forcefully, I kissed him.
Our lips met with more urgency this time and my entire body felt alive. I parted my lips slightly and sighed into his mouth. He must have felt it or heard me, because his arm shot out and cupped the back of my head as he lay me back down onto the floor of the tent.
"Edward," I whispered against his mouth in between kisses, "what are we doing?"
I could feel him smile in the darkness, "I have no idea… but I kind of like it."
"I think I like it too," I managed before he captured my lips again.
After awhile, he moved his head and started nibbling on my ear, "So there really was no reason?"
"Uh… what?" I had no idea what he was talking about. Coherent thoughts were a lost cause for me at that particular moment.
He chuckled lightly and pulled back to stare at my face, "For you to ignore me… there were no reasons?"
I sighed, "No good ones. I'm just shy and I was so awkward… I couldn't ever think of anything to say and then a whole year had gone by and I couldn't think of a way to break the ice without it being really weird… and yeah. No good reasons."
He smiled down at me, "I really love it when you ramble. It's cute."
Laughing, I replied, "Well that's good. Cause I do it all the time… so what are we doing?"
He placed a chaste kiss on my lips before laying down beside me and pulling me into his chest, "Why don't we just see what happens… let the chips fall where they may. I really like you, Bella, and I want to see where this goes."
I let my body relax into his, "I think I like that idea. And I really like you too." So we fell asleep in a tent in the woods, surrounded by our campers and wild animals and who the hell knows what else. And it was perfect.