Avoiding the Inevitable
Of course, once I got back to the cabin for quiet time before lunch, all of my girls were sitting at the edge of their beds, quite obviously ready to assault me with questions. Sophia, of course, was the first to speak up. "You and Beck are like, officially dating now?"
I just gave a small shrug. "Yeah, I guess." I mean, it was still weird having people call him my boyfriend, but I suppose that's what he was. There was no real word to describe us.
"What happened?" Lexie squealed, and even Mara looked slightly interested – well, the most interest I'd seen out of her the whole time she'd been here.
"Nothing really," I said gruffly. "I'm not allowed to say a lot, because it's not exactly appropriate, but we were just talking and it led to more, so I guess now he's my boyfriend. And that, children, is all I'm going to say about it."
Anna gave a loud laugh. "It's okay; I've seen worse! Like one time I came home and my brother was like, eating his girlfriend's face on the couch. It was really gross."
Of course, that evoked a chorus of 'ews' from the young girls, except for Mallory and Anna, who were laughing loudly. I just smiled slightly and shook my head. "We didn't eat each other, I promise. I think that might be illegal."
"I should look that up," Mara muttered under her breath. I raised an eyebrow at her.
Then all of the girls went off on different tangents, talking about boys and eating and all kinds of odd stuff that I really didn't want to be involved in, so I crept into the room, leaving the door open to comply with regulations. After a second or two, I heard footsteps creeping up into my room. Slowly, I lifted my head to see a tiny brunette, standing there, clutching a teddy bear.
"Layla?" I asked, staring at her. "Is everything okay?"
Layla just frowned and silently sat down across from me. "You seem like you really like Beck."
"I do," I confirmed with a small nod. It was really the first time that I'd ever really confirmed it, but it didn't make it any less true.
Layla squeezed her teddy bear. "Do you guys fight?"
I frowned slightly, not knowing what to say. At last, I decided to go with the truth. "Yeah, we fight."
"But you still like each other a whole lot?" Layla asked, a small, innocent smile making its way onto her cherubic face. Honestly, she was one of the cutest kids I'd ever seen, and yet she still seemed insanely, oddly familiar.
"Yes, we do," I replied, finally starting to see a point to this. Layla's parents fought. She wanted confirmation that they still loved each other. And while I couldn't tell her that for sure, she probably saw similarities with Beck and I.
"Okay, good." Layla gave me a small, satisfied smile. She then continued with, "I wish that you and Beck were my parents."
As she sat there, her eyes gleaming in the light from my lamp, I suddenly realized why she was so familiar. Her eyes were an awful lot like mine, but her skin tone, her dark, wavy hair – all of that looked an awful lot like Beck. She could pass for our child, if I was being honest. It was... odd. Good odd, I guess. I was also honored that she wanted me as a mom. After all, I didn't think I'd really make a good mom at all.
"I think you'd be a good child," I said with a smile, leaning down to look her in the eyes. "But I'm sure your parents will make up soon." I wasn't sure of that; I wasn't sure of anything. But it seemed cruel somehow to tell a child the heartbreaking truth of life.
"Thanks, Jade," Layla replied sweetly. Then she grinned. "You know, I think you're the best unit leader." She whispered it like it was some big secret, then she skipped back into the cabin to join the antics. All I could do was watch and shake my head, a smile forming on my face as well.
I sat with Cat again the next day at breakfast, mainly because she asked me to and I didn't want her to sit alone. She was going on and on about something her brother did, and sure, we were friends, but that didn't mean I wanted to hear about her brother. Seriously, did the kid ever stop doing weird things?
"Cat," I asked hesitantly, "how old is your brother?"
"I dunno." Cat looked like she was deep in thought. "Twenty-one, I think."
"He's done all of that in just twenty-one years?" My eyes probably looked like they were going to bug out of my head. "Cat, are you sure that he did all of that?"
"Absolutely sure." Cat giggled and grinned at me. "What? Do you think my brother is weird? At school, people used to say my brother was weird, but I dunno, I think he's nice, but he just does weird stuff sometimes. Everyone does weird stuff sometimes. Does that make him weird? Oh my gosh, Jade, does that make me weird?"
"No, that doesn't make you weird," I said darkly. "It makes you Cat."
"That's deep," Cat said, sounding amazed. She sat there in silence for a few minutes, pondering this, which thankfully gave me a moment of peace. That was, until someone poked me in the back.
I turned around and was pulled into a sudden, short kiss. When Beck pulled away, he was smirking from ear to ear. "Sorry, had to keep it G-rated. We're being watched, remember?"
I slapped him on the arm. "Way to scare me half to death, jerk."
"You love it," he teased.
"Look, I need to talk to you," I whispered, the weight of the discussion I'd had with Layla still heavy on my shoulders.
"All right, free time?" he asked, an innocent smile on his face. I just nodded in response, pressing a kiss to his smooth cheek.
Cat seemed to finally realize what was going on. Innocently, she chirped, "Oh, hi Beck! When did you get here?" Beck and I just exchanged a glance and shook our heads, mirth clear in our eyes.
Cat won Cabin Cleanup that day, which wasn't as surprising as it should've been. I gave her a one-armed hug and felt proud of myself, considering my usual aversion to human contact (except, of course, when it came to Beck. Speaking of Beck, he arrived at my cabin just as break time was about to begin.
"Can we go for a walk?" I inquired.
"Course," he said, looking nervous – well, nervous for him, the boy who hardly ever showed emotion about anything. "Something you want to talk about?"
I nodded as we walked out the door. His hand found mine almost automatically and he twined our fingers together, a gesture that almost made me smile. I forced the stoic expression back onto my face. "I want to talk about us."
"About us?" Beck raised an eyebrow. "What do you mean by that?"
"What are we?" I declared impatiently.
"Well, you're my girlfriend," Beck replied easily, glancing over at me. "Aren't you?"
Relief filled me. I guess it was since we'd never really explicitly stated it, I'd just assumed that we weren't, you know, together. I kind of liked the sound of it, though – Beck Oliver's girlfriend. Nodding slightly, I told him, "I'd like that."
"Good." Beck leaned over and pressed a kiss to my temple. "There's something else, isn't there?"
I sighed, pulling my hand out of his and stepping in front of him so that I could look him in the eyes. "Look, Beck, I like you. I really do. But I don't want this to be just another summer fling. I don't want to be just another line on your list of girlfriends."
"Jade, I..." Beck ran a hand through his hair, looking legitimately concerned about this. "I... you're different. I have never felt about anyone the way I feel about you." As cheesy as it was, it was nice to hear. He finished it up with, "It won't be, Jade. It can't be."
Then he leaned forward to kiss me and everything else was forgotten.
"We're having a cookout?" Lexie exclaimed, skipping around, then coming back to grab my hand. "Hurry up, Jade! We can't be late for the cookout."
"We're not gonna be," I grumbled, wiping some of the sweat off my brow.
"We might!" Reina contributed dramatically, throwing her arms in the air. "What are we gonna do at the cookout? Are we gonna cook marshmallows? Fry hotdog wienies? Sing campfire songs? Tell ghost stories? I have really good ghost stories!"
Mara scowled at Reina. "I just want some s'mores. Ghosts aren't real anyway."
"Are too!" Reina protested. I sighed and grabbed Reina's hand with my free hand, dragging her to the site of the campfire. And of course, we were the last to arrive. The only free space was with Beck's cabin.
Beck beckoned us over with a grin on his face. Once I plopped down beside my boyfriend, he kissed me quickly on the lips and returned to practically incinerating his marshmallow. I wrinkled my nose. "Marshmallows aren't good when they look like burnt rubber."
"Are too," Beck protested, handing me a skewer with a marshmallow on it. "Can't knock it till you've tried it."
"Can too," I grumbled, but I stuck my marshmallow out anyway.
Carrie watched me with wide eyes. "Can't you get burnt?"
"No, stupid," one of Beck's campers jumped in. "That's what the metal stick is for."
This made Katie tense up. She was obviously ready to jump in and fight the dude to defend her friend's honor, but thankfully Beck jumped in. "It's not very nice to call people stupid, Jake."
"Jade calls you stupid a lot," Sidney said innocently, but a small smile crept up on the edges of her face. I sighed, burying my face in my hands.
Beck had to laugh at that. "Yeah, well, that's different. Sometimes if people are very close, they insult each other. It's a way of showing love."
I slapped him on the shoulder, my cheeks flaming again. Beck started laughing again, probably at my obvious embarrassment and discomfort, and most of my girls looked like they had stars in their eyes, which just made me even more embarrassed. It was funny how one (stupid) guy could get me so worked up.
Beside me, Carrie nudged me. "Can you help me burn my marshmallow?" she asked innocently, holding out her metal skewer. I nodded, taking the skewer from her and sticking it back in the fire. She watched with hungry eyes as the flames devoured her marshmallow, and as soon as I stuck it between graham crackers (and added some chocolate) she did the same.
"I love s'mores," Mara declared, a smile actually making its way onto her face. I grinned at her, grateful that even she was in a good mood tonight.
"Look at the sky tonight," Reina said, staring up with a sigh. "It's gorgeous out tonight."
"Definitely," Layla agreed. I glanced up, suddenly amazed by the expanse of black velvet sky and bright, shining stars that hung above me. All of the boys were groaning and complaining about how 'romantic' the girls were, but I couldn't even really understand what they were saying – all I could comprehend was how big the sky was and how small I was in comparison.
Beck's hand was suddenly on mine, squeezing it, keeping me grounded. He pressed a kiss cautiously to my cheek, which just proceeded to make the boys groan even more.
As we all began to sing camp songs, though, I suddenly realized that I'd grown extremely accustomed to this camp, to these people. It was almost as though we were a family. It seemed that I didn't actually hate camp after all.
Wouldn't my mother be pleased to hear that?
The day after the campfire, I was practically buzzing with happiness – which, for me, meant I wasn't frowning, but whatever. I suppose that was what gave Robbie the confidence to come to me for advice, since I wasn't exactly 'Ask Annie' or whatever.
"Jade," he said, chewing on his bottom lip. "You're really good friends with Cat, right?"
"I guess you could say that," I replied with a shrug. "Why?" In all honesty, though, I knew why. I'd seen the signs for ages now, and I was just waiting on them to get together already. (Also, I was involved in a bet with Beck, Trina, and Sinjin. Not that I'd ever tell Robbie.)
"Because I asked her out, and I just... want to know how to get her to say yes." He glanced down at the ground, his cheeks flaming already.
I decided that I could have a bit of fun with this. "Wear a bikni." I smirked, crossing my arms. "Cat loves bikinis."
"Jade!" Robbie gasped, looking scandalized. And let's face it, I could've said so much worse. This boy needed a Sex Ed class or something.
"Fine." I frowned. "Just... let her know that you care about her. She's kinda weird. She likes random animals, especially those that are colored wrong – like green koalas and purple giraffes and pink elephants, I don't know. She also likes sugar, but only give her sugary things if you're prepared to deal with her sugar high. I dunno, maybe get her a ring or something. She'd probably wear it."
"Oh." Robbie pulled out a notepad and quickly scribbled it all down, then grinned up at me. "Thanks, Jade. You're a pretty good friend."
"Yeah, no problem," I told him, my face twisted into a sadistic smirk. "Though I do suggest wearing a bikini. Either that or a bra."
"Not gonna happen," Robbie called as he turned to walk off.
"If you do, take pictures!" I yelled after him. "Either that or video! Either one will do!"
One of the guys walking by, who I recognized as being named Andre, just raised an eyebrow at me, looking more amused than concerned. I grinned at his expression, and he smiled back. "You got some nerve, girl. I think I like it."
I just laughed as he walked off.
That night, I found Cat Valentine sitting alone by the lake, on top of a shiny rock. I stopped and plopped down beside her. "What's up, Cat?"
"Look," Cat giggled, thrusting her hand into my face. Just as I had suspected, on her fourth finger, she was wearing a silver ring with a pink gemstone, something that I would've hated but was perfect for Cat. "Isn't it pretty?"
"It's gorgeous, Cat," I replied, then decided to play innocent. "Who gave it to you?"
"Robbie," Cat said, playing absently with her ring, but I could tell by the smile in her dark eyes that something major had gone down between the two of them.
"Are you guys dating now?" I simply inquired, figuring it would at least get me some answers.
"Yeah." She grinned at me. "Only we're not supposed to be, so shhh, don't tell anybody." She glanced at the ground, kicking her feet back and forth. "I didn't think I was ever gonna date another counselor. But I guess I made an exception for Robbie." She shot me a bright smile. "Do you think that going out with Robbie was the right thing to do? Because I like him, really I do, but..." She glanced down. "I feel really bad to be breaking the rules. Is that weird?"
"No, Cat, I think you did the right thing," I said, glancing up at her. "If you like Robbie, then you should go with your heart, as cheesy and stupid as that sounds. Speaking of, never tell anyone that I said that. Anyway, if you really like Robbie, it's probably the right thing to do, so long as you're happy. And besides, that dude likes you a lot – so much that he actually came to me for advice on what to do about you, can you believe it? He's like, terrified of me."
"Oh. Okay." Cat seemed to consider this, then she smiled again. "That's good. But you can't tell anyone, okay Jade? I don't want to get fired."
"They can't fire you. You're allowed to date other staff members, just not get caught doing anything. But I won't tell anyone." I sighed. "If I did, they'd probably drill me about Beck and I, and that would be incredibly awkward. They've been like, drilling us about if we're doing anything 'raunchy'."
Cat giggled, then grinned over at me. "Thanks, Jade," she said, picking up my hand and giving it a small squeeze. "You're a good friend."
I nodded, then gave her hand a small squeeze in return. "You too."
The end of the week came far too soon. None of the campers seemed glad to leave, not even the ever-negative Mara, who admitted that camp was better than home. All of the campers pretty much clung to me, and I gave them hugs and said that I would miss them. I'd never actually been good at emotional kind of things, and this was extremely emotional, to say the least. Reina, the most dramatic of all the campers, actually cried.
"You're staying here, right?" Sophia grinned at me. "And Beck is too?"
"Definitely," I said with a nod, kneeling down to wrap an arm around her shoulder. "Why?"
"Just wondering." Sophia raised an eyebrow. "Don't do anything bad!"
I shook my head, holding back my laughter. "I'll try not to. You be good too, Sophia. Remember what I told you. Keep that mouth under control."
"Sure thing, Captain Jade," Sophia called as she walked away. Mallory and Lexie attacked me next, and even Reina wiped away her tears to give me a hug.
"You're the best cabin leader," Mara admitted with a stoic face. "All the other ones were too peppy. Especially that Tori girl."
"I heard that!" Tori called from a couple of feet away. I just made a face at her. We weren't on horrible terms, but we weren't BFFs, and due to our conflicting personalities, probably would never be. And it seemed we were both fine with that. (I was even starting to be fine with her friendship with Beck.)
"Thanks, Mara." I gave her a small smile. "Don't do anything I wouldn't do."
"Usually I don't let people tell me what to do," Mara admitted, "but the list of things you wouldn't do is so short that it's hardly a limitation, so okay."
I pretended to be offended at that.
The last girl to come through to me was Layla. Instead of looking sad, though, she looked panicked. "Wait a second, Jade, don't go anywhere! I have to go get something. I mean, I have something for you!"
"You don't have to do that," I said, but I softened a bit. She had actually gotten me something? This was something that I most assuredly hadn't been expecting, kids so sweet that they would give me gifts, despite the fact that I was basically a horrible person.
"I want to," Layla retorted stubbornly. "Stay right here, okay? I'll be back in a second."
"I'm staying here because I want to," I said to myself with a small laugh.
After a minute or two, Layla returned, a jewelry box in her hand. This in itself concerned me – what nine-year-old brought jewelry to camp, where it could get lost, much less gave it to their cabin leader? But when she took off the lid, my eyes widened.
There were two necklaces in there, the kind you get when you're young and naïve and think that your friendships are actually going to last forever. It was a heart split in half, and on one side it said 'for'. On the other side, it said 'ever'. I just glanced up and raised an eyebrow at Layla. "What exactly is this?
"I want you to have it." Layla grinned and thrust the box at me. "Give half of it to Beck so that you guys will be together forever."
"I can't take this, Layla." With a frown, I pushed it back. It felt like stealing somehow, even though it couldn't have been that expensive.
"I said already that I want you to have it," Layla protested, her eyebrows furrowing. "Please? I don't want it, and I want you guys to stay together forever and ever. Please, Jade? Please?"
I've gotta admit that I have always had a weak spot for puppy dog eyes. It's really quite embarrassing. So when she gave me the best puppy dog eyes I'd ever seen, I could do nothing but melt and accept her gift. "Thanks, Layla," I said. "Thanks a lot. I'm honored."
"No problem," Layla replied with a huge grin. She then proceeded to attack me in a hug, which really was more like crushing me, but whatever. "I'll miss you, Jade. You're the best cabin leader ever."
"I'll miss you too, kid," I said gruffly, ruffling her hair, because let's face it, sappy really isn't my thing. "You're going to be just fine."
"I know." Layla smiled shyly. "You and Beck stay together, okay? Remember what I said?"
"We will," I promised, and she skipped off, looking completely adorable. Of course, Beck picked that exact time to walk up, widen his eyes, and mouth 'What?'. I had to laugh at his stunned expression, but in response I just shook my head. What was there to say, really? "I'll tell you later."
"You better," was his response, but he grinned at me. I just shook my head and kissed him on the cheek.
The camp was empty that night. It would've been quite eerie had I been alone, but as it was I had Beck by my side, his hand tight around mine. The stars were out again, decorating the sky and lighting it up. Just one of the many benefits of nature, I'd discovered.
I groaned all of a sudden, and he turned to look at me, raising his eyebrows. Shrugging, I said, "Jeremiah's coming next week."
"Jeremiah?" he inquired, looking confused.
"My brother," I replied, rolling my eyes. "He's an absolute brat a lot of the time, but I suppose he can be a good kid. At times. Rarely."
Beck just looked concerned, then he laughed. "Well, maybe he'll be in my cabin."
"Let's hope not." I shuddered at the thought. "Now that would be slow, burning torture, both for me and for you."
He laughed again. "I guess we'll see, huh?" Then his face softened. He slowly removed his hand from mine and wrapped his arm around my shoulder, pulling me close. "What were you talking to that girl about before?"
"Her name's Layla," I informed him, frowning a little bit. "And..." I hesitated, glancing down and not really wanting to tell him what she'd said. Somehow it just seemed too early, too much, too early, really. I was scared that if I told him, he'd just up and leave right then. Or maybe he would get freaked out and cheat on me, much like Matt had. That was the bad thing about relationships, the bad ones left you scarred and ruined your good ones.
"Is something wrong?" Beck inquired, placing his hand under my chin to tilt it back up so that I was looking him in the eyes.
"Sorta." I sighed. "It's just that... I don't say this. I shouldn't say this. But I'm scared. Scared that you'll cheat on me or ditch me or that you'll decide that I'm not enough anymore. That one day you'll wake up and realize that I'm not what you thought I was and leave."
He bit his lip, his eyes suddenly intense. Then he grabbed my wrists and stared at me. "I can't promise you that we'll never fight. I can't even promise you that I'll never leave. But I can promise you that I will never do anything to purposefully hurt you. I.. I just couldn't do it."
That right there was more than anything Matt had promised. I couldn't help it; I leaned forward and kissed him gently. Then slowly, I reached into my pocket and pulled out the necklaces.
"Layla gave these to me," I said, pulling them out and handing them to him for him to examine. "She said that we should wear them so that we would be together forever."
That made him laugh. "What is this, some kind of weird superstition?"
"She's nine, Beck," I retorted with a glare. "I doubt she believes in superstitions. Probably magic or something like that."
"I know." Beck picked up a necklace and smiled. "I think it's cute, though."
"You gonna be for or ever?" I inquired, rolling my eyes.
"I think I'll be ever," he said, picking up ever and handing the for necklace to me. "Just because it's at the end, and I dunno, I like it better." Quickly, he slid his around his neck and fastened it, then leaned over to help me with mine. The feel of his fingers against my neck was strangely satisfying. I glanced down at my necklace and smiled slightly.
He leaned over to my ear once he was finished and quietly whispered, "You're a good counselor, did you know?" before pressing his lips to mine again lightly. "And you wanna know something else?" he asked as he pulled away, staying just a few inches from my lips.
I pretended to ponder this for a second, my eyes dark. "I don't know, do I?"
"I think you do." He grinned that stupid crooked grin at me, and let's be honest, I wanted to melt. "I." He kissed my lips lightly. "Love." Another kiss. "You."
I just grinned and shook my head. "I love you too. Stupid." And then we were kissing again, and hey, maybe this wasn't so bad. Maybe Camp Vision wasn't so bad after all.
A/N: ok it's been fifty years since the last chap because i actually hate this chapter i'm sorry it's just so very bad
but i decided to man up and post it so here you go
thanks for all the reviews! :) i'm glad you guys have liked it.