I flicked through the fashion magazine that had been thrust at me on the way to my gate.
I had absentmindedly taken it and shoved it in my bag and only just taken it out, because there was nothing else to do on the plane, seeing as my iPod had died shortly after lift-off.
It was a fashion magazine like any other, filled with advertisements for make-up and brands of clothing (nobody had every heard of because they were to expensive for the "general public".)The woman next to me was reading the same magazine but she was barely interested, only flicking through it, not taking in the beauty and art of the models, the way they held themselves and what their posture showed. To me it was a mystery how one could not stare in awe at them. They were all so beautiful. Delicate faces, slender wrists and elegant collarbones, page after page. One picture in particular caught my eye; the girl was modeling for a perfume that had been produced by a French company. Her face was spread in a beautiful smile; her entire body seemed to emanate happiness. She had a figure to die for: long slender legs, a slim waist and her face delicate and oval with big blue eyes and long blond hair.
I only looked up when I heard a loud grunt of seeming displease from the woman next to me. She eyed me and then continued reading her newspaper. I tried ignoring the fact that I had heard her, but I couldn't get myself to stop thinking about it. Thoughts of what she must have been thinking kept flying through my head. The captain declaring that we would be landing in the next half an hour interrupted my thoughts. I was shocked when I looked at my watch and saw that we were even arriving late. Only then did I realise how long I must have been staring at that picture. I felt my cheeks going red and tried to hide it by busying myself with packing my bag. "Everything alright, love?" asked my accompanying stewardess. "We'll be in London in a few minutes, you just sit there and wait for me, alright?" she told me in her honeyed voice and disappeared down the aisle.
"Hello there, darling. How are you?" my aunt Claire greeted me. I thanked the Stewardess and followed Claire to the car. "So, tell me. How was the flight? Did everything go okay? Your mum said this was your first time traveling alone?" my aunt asked me. "Yes, it was. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Thanks for taking me Claire, it's really nice of you!" I answered with a smile. She returned my smile and told me not to worry about it and that she was glad to have me.
I didn't really know Claire that well. I had met her several times before, but seeing as she lived in London and I lived in Vienna, we didn't see each other that much. The best way I could describe her is to say that she was English. Everything about her, her accent, the way she addressed people and her openness, and that is something that made me like her straight away.
After we had had something to eat at her apartment we went out to the city. I didn't quite know what to expect, going into the city with my aunt. She was lawyer so I wasn't absolutely sure of what I had got myself into. In the course of the afternoon it turned out that she loved shopping and had excellent taste. So we went to cruise the shops on Oxford Street. She insisted on us going into an expensive looking boutique and found me several things to try on. As I was in the changing rooms, I heard her voice trailing miles ahead of her, telling me eagerly about a pair of jeans she was determined that I try on. She burst into the little room, enthusiastically waving the jeans at me until she concentrated enough on me. I had on my jeans but I had just taken off a shirt she had insisted I get, so there I was standing in my bra. She almost stared at me but composed herself quickly and told me about things that would match the jeans. I told her whatever I had to, to get her out of the changing room, just so I could be on my own. I knew what she had been thinking when she had been staring at me. I felt shame and guilt boil up inside me. As I looked in the mirror I had a hard time keeping myself from sobbing. What I saw in the mirror filled me with a feeling I could barely describe. Shame, guilt, anger, sadness, these words could barely describe what I was feeling. The girl in the mirror was small with long brown hair, which hid her pale, slim face. I prodded at my stomach, feeling sick just seeing how much of it there was. I distantly heard my aunt's voice so I hurriedly put the jeans on.
Claire and I spent the next three days wondering through London: Madame Tussaud's, the Imperial War Museum, Winchester Abbey and more. Even though we got along very well, I could tell that what she had seen in the changing room the first day we had gone shopping, disturbed her. I felt her eyeing me when she thought I wasn't looking. Every time I felt heat rise up inside me, a heat of shame and anger.
"Okay Lovely, here's your ticket. If anybody bothers you, call me and take a picture. They'll be in trouble before you know it" my aunt jokingly told me as she hugged me good-bye. She stayed on the platform until the train pulled out of the station. Finally I had time to myself. Not that I hadn't tremendously enjoyed my time with Claire but I needed time to myself. I found that the train to Carnforth was actually quite empty, so I had a compartment to myself. I lay on the bench and thought about the upcoming week at Stone Well. Last year I had gone to Stone Well because my mother wanted me to, she thought it would be good for me and my sister if we went, so we had no choice but to go. Even though the first couple of days had been awful, I had left fighting back tears. I was determined to make the best of the entire week this year. I didn't know anybody, but I was confident that it would be better than last year.
At the trains stopover in Manchester two boys my own age that, judging by their accents were from the North of Scotland joined me. I couldn't help but giggle with pleasure when I heard them argue over who got to sit by the window in their strong accent.
"So, what brings you on this train to Carnforth?" one of the boys said in a mock English accent, obviously assuming I was a native. I laughed out loud "I'm on the way to Camp Stone Well. It's an hours drive from Carnforth, have you heard of it?" I asked the boy. "Aye, Stone Well. We're going there ourselves. I'm Shawn and this is David. What's your name then?" he asked me.
"Camp Stone Well, over here!" I heard a voice call across the platform. As the boys and I made our way across to the man he called out "Emma! Wow, you've changed! Good to have you with us again!" He looked me up and down the same way Shawn, David and Claire had and I felt colour rush to my cheeks once again. I fell asleep on the way to Stone Well and was woken by David softy poking me in the arm.
After I had taken my suitcase up to my dorm and met the other girls, I walked around the grounds and sat down under a tree, glad to be alone for a few minutes. The girls I shared the dorm with were all very nice, one of them had come from Ballycastle in Northern Ireland! I thought about how the week would be, seeing as I already knew several people after all. I thought about the looks I received from everybody. If it were only a few people, it wouldn't have bothered me but it was everyone at the camp. I pulled my knees up to my chest and sat there, shivering whenever a gust of wind blew threw my hair.
"Emma? Is that you?" said a voice behind me.