Title: A summer of Serendipity
Summary: Emily isn't coping after what happened with Maya and all the stuff with 'A', so Hanna decides to try and take her mind off everything with a weekend away at her old summer camp; but she neglects to tell Emily about one of her fellow campers.
Disclaimer: Don't own the show or the characters, just borrowing them.
Rating: M (Probably more T, rating just to be safe.)
A/N: I should be working on my other Paily fic, but this story got in my head and I spent my week off work writing it. Set between season 2 and 3, before Emily goes to Haiti for the summer so potential spoilers up to 3.01. Paily of course, with mentions of Emaya.
Emily stared down at the water below, her reflection rippling on the surface as she lifted the bottle she was clutching to her mouth. The neat bourbon stung her throat as she swallowed, but the pain was nothing compared to the aching hole inside of her. Maya was gone. She was dead and she was never coming back; just like Ali. She took another swig from the bottle and coughed violently as it went down wrong. She almost lost her balance and slipped off the end of the school diving board. It was early in the evening but no one was around, save for the janitor buffing the gymnasium floor. He hadn't spotted Emily slipping in to the school with the bottle she'd liberated from her father's drinks cabinet. The summer vacation had started a few days earlier, though Emily had missed most of the last month of classes. Maya's death had really eaten her up and she'd spent weeks just lying in bed, crying in to her pillow. When she had finally ventured from her room it had only been to get her hands on some alcohol to try and numb the pain she felt from losing yet another person she had loved.
She shuffled further out on the diving board, dangling her legs over the side as she stared at the dark water. With the lights off and only the moonlight shining through the windows the water looked dark and clouded, like the lake she and Maya liked to escape to. They'd spent many a night curled up on the deck of the little cabin overlooking the lake, a blanket draped over the two of them as Maya pointed out the stars in the sky, naming the constellations with ease. Emily looked up at the sky, but there were no stars, just the metal roof joists with a Sharks banner hanging down from one of them. The stars were gone; just like Maya was.
Emily returned her attention to the water, contemplating the inky darkness at the bottom of the pool. She felt her weight shifting forward and it felt as though she were watching someone else as the bottle in her hand was placed down on the diving board. Her palms were flat against the smooth diving board as she leant forward…
She jumped as she heard the sound of a door slamming shut and her fingers scrambled to grip the board to stop from sliding off. She scooted back a little, her heart racing in her chest as she realised how close she had been to leaping in to the dark oblivion below. Her fingers brushed against the bourbon bottle and she picked it up, taking a long drink to steady her nerves. She spotted a light coming from the changing room and then a figure stepped out, their face cast in shadow. Not so long ago, before 'A' had been unmasked and Maya had been taken from her, she would have been terrified by the stranger's presence. The bourbon had done its job too well for her to care though. Her senses were dulled and instead of trying to sneak out or announcing she was there, she found herself watching as the figure pulled their sweater up over their head and tossed it down on one of the bleachers.
From the other side of the pool Emily couldn't make much out of the figure, though as they slipped out of their jeans she realised they were a girl, the very feminine hips and the curves up top gave that much away. The other girl stepped up on to one of the starting blocks and in to a patch of light streaming in from a window. Emily's breath caught as the girl's auburn hair and pale skin caught the light just before she pulled on a swimming cap. If she hadn't figured out who her mystery companion was already then she would have known for sure when the girl hit the water and shot through it like a torpedo.
Paige reached the other end of the pool, where Emily was perched on the diving board and turned, kicking against the wall and setting off back down the lane. She hadn't noticed the other girl. Emily thought about calling out to her, but Paige was thrashing through the water and she'd started on her second lap before Emily had found her voice. So she kept quiet and just watched her go, swimming lap after lap like it was a title race and there were scouts watching. Paige was as passionate about the water as Emily had once been. She hadn't been swimming in weeks. When her friends had ambushed her for a girlie sleepover and she'd need a quiet place to slip away she'd gone straight to the pool; to the calm clear water with its chemical chlorine tang. She felt safe there, happy almost. Though Emily hated to admit it, Paige was part of that safety. She hadn't gone to the pool looking for her, but she hadn't been surprised to find her there. They were both creatures of habit and when things got rough they retreated to the tranquillity of the water.
The water went still again as Paige reached the centre of the pool and dived down to the bottom. Emily watched the coloured blur underneath water for a few seconds, waiting for her to resurface. When she'd been under for almost a minute a frown crossed Emily's face. Something was wrong. "Paige?" She called out to her, but the other girl was too far under to hear Emily, even as her voice echoed around the silent natatorium. "Paige!" She knelt on the end of the board, unsure whether to call for help or to jump in herself. She was only in a pair of jeans with a light T-shirt on, her leather jacket and converse discarded somewhere among the bleachers, but the water would make the jeans heavy and tight against her skin if she tried to jump in and help the other girl, coupled with how much she had drank she would probably end up joining Paige at the bottom of the pool.
She tried leaning further over the end of the diving board and calling the other girl's name again as it quickly approached a minute and a half since Paige had gone under, but her arm knocked against the bottle beside her and sent it soaring in to the water below. It splashed in to the water and a moment later Paige broke through to the surface. She looked around wildly, searching for whoever had tossed the bottle. Her expression softened a little as she looked up to the diving board and found Emily perched on the end of it like an owl, her eyes wide and glassy. "Are you trying to kill me?" She snapped a little harsher than she had intended to, but it wasn't every day that she had was almost knocked out by liquor bottles at the bottom of the pool. "I suppose it would only be fair seeing as I held you under that time." She added, attempting to lighten the mood with a joke. Emily just kept on staring at her though, looking right through her.
"Uh, are you ok? What are you doing out here? Other than drinking." Paige wrinkled her nose as the smell of the alcohol in the water and swam closer to the diving board.
"Why were you under the water for so long? I thought…" Emily trailed off. She'd irrationally thought that Paige had been trying to hurt herself, though her fears had probably been a reflection on her own black mood. "I thought you were in trouble." She finished, not wanting to make a fool of herself by telling the truth. It was just another lie in and endless sea of them.
If Paige knew what Emily had really been thinking then she didn't let on. She shrugged as she kicked under the water to keep herself up. "Seeing how long I could hold my breath. I was trying to beat my record." It was a control thing, seeing how long she could starve her lungs of oxygen before she'd need to climb back to the surface for air. Ironically that pretty much summed up her friendship with Emily. Paige could hold her head under for a while, playing nice and acting like being just friends was enough, but eventually she needed to breathe, like the time she'd tried to kiss her in the street, or the time she'd admitted how she felt about her at the dance. She'd broken down, lost control and given in; then she'd pushed her head back under the water and avoided Emily for as long as possible. A task made easier by Emily's absence from school. "I'm sorry about Maya." She wasn't really sure what she was meant to say to Emily about the other girl. People always said 'sorry' so that seemed like a safe bet.
"Yeah, me too." Emily sighed, her eyes glazed over and a heavy silence settled over them, seemingly amplified by the sheer size of the empty natatorium.
"Why don't you come down from there and I'll get out? We can talk or something, whatever you need, just come down from there? Ok?"
"Ok." Emily nodded, her eyes still glazed over as though she was a million miles away. She tried to stand and Paige watched in horror as her socks slipped on the diving board and she almost went hurtling down in to the water.
"I'm good! I'm good!" Emily insisted as she clung to the side of the board, luckily years of swimming had strengthened her arms and she was able to pull herself back up on to the board. Paige felt her heart pounding as she watched her trying for a second time. "Just shuffle back on your- Em!" She lost her balance a second time and wasn't lucky enough to catch the side. Paige watched as, almost in slow motion, Emily fell backwards from the platform and hit the water with a splash. Paige was moving through the water before Emily had even entered it.
As Emily crashed in to the water and sunk down towards the pool, too drunk and shocked to start swimming, Paige dived under the water to get her. Her arms wrapped around the other girl's slim waist, kicking violently out with her legs to propel them back to the surface. Emily was too out of it to be much help and she was actually hindering Paige by thrashing about, trying to pull away from her. It took longer than Paige had expected to get back to the surface and her lungs were aching as her head finally broke through the water. Emily had thankfully stopped fighting her though. With an arm still hooked around Emily's waist she used her other one to help move them through the water, towards the side of the pool. Emily finally got her senses back and started swimming with her, helping them reach the side a lot quicker than they would have if Paige had had to drag her along with her.
By the time they reached the side, and pulled themselves up out of the pool, both girls were exhausted and gasping for air. Paige lay on her back, the cold tiles biting against her exposed flesh as she stared up at the ceiling and tried to catch her breath. Emily was in a similar position, her tank top and jeans soaked through and clinging to her body. "Told you…to…shuffle back!" Paige huffed in between gasping for air, her overwhelming fear and anxiety coming out as something more familiar; anger. Beside her, Emily laughed. It started out as a soft chuckle before escalating in to something almost manic. By the time Paige had sat up to glare at her it died all together and gave way to choked sobs instead.
"I'm falling apart, Paige."
Paige sat there, watching her cry in to her hands, unsure of what to say or do for the best. Emily had so many people in her life who were better qualified to deal with her meltdown than her; but none of them were there watching her fall apart, so it was up to Paige to take matters in to her own hands. Shuffling forward she gingerly placed an arm around the other girl. "It's going to be ok…It doesn't feel like it now, but it will. You'll see." She had no idea what she was saying; she was just trying to think of anything to calm the other girl down. Eventually Emily's hysterical sobs subsided and she shifted so that her head was buried in Paige's shoulder, crying quietly as the other girl held on to her. They were soaked through and after a while they were both shaking, sitting on the cold tiles of the poolside.
"Come on." Paige got to her feet and pulled Emily along with her to lead her over to the bleachers where she'd left her stuff. Emily just sat there, quiet and still as Paige pulled out her towel. It was like the other girl was broken and Paige still had no clue about what to do with her. "Let's get you dry." She slipped behind her and used the towel to dry her hair and shoulders. Emily just let her, sitting there as still as stone. Paige was beginning to think she preferred the hysterical crying. Setting the towel aside she rifled through her kit bag and was grateful to find a clean pair of sweat pants at the bottom. She handed them along with her hoodie over to Emily, who thankfully seemed to shrug of her comatose state and realise she had to change in to some dry clothes.
Paige left her to it as she turned her back and towelled herself down. With her costume as dry as it was going to get she slipped her jeans and shirt back on over it. Ideally she would have liked to change out of it, but she didn't want to leave Emily on her own, so she had to make do. It was the start of summer so it wouldn't be too cold outside for her with her wet bather on. By the time she turned around Emily had shrugged out of her wet clothes and had changed in to the ones Paige had handed her. She brushed her hair back out of her face, tucking it behind her ears as Paige took a seat beside her on the bleachers. "You want to talk?" Emily shook her head. She didn't want to talk about Maya, or 'A', or any of the other bad stuff in her life. She was tired of dwelling on it, of going over everything in her mind time and time again. Could she have done something different? Something that would have saved Maya? Everyone had told her there was nothing she could have done, but no one really had any idea what had happened to her. Maybe Emily could have stopped it? If she hadn't of told Maya's parents that she'd been in touch, or if she'd fought harder to include her that night at the party.
"So I brought my freestyle time down by like two seconds." Paige started out of nowhere, pulling Emily out of her own thoughts.
"What?" She looked at her a little vacantly, but she had spoken and that was enough to keep Paige going.
"I've been working on my freestyle, brought my time right down. My butterfly's slipping a little bit, got to work on that over the summer…" She trailed off as Emily carried on staring at her like she was talking gibberish. She had thought that maybe talking about nothing would take Emily's mind off things, but it didn't seem to be working. She was about to give up and offer her a ride home, when Emily finally spoke again.
"I haven't been in the pool in weeks. My times are way off." She sat with her knees pulled up, her chin resting on them as she stared out at the once again still water.
"Well, next time you want to work on your times in the middle of the night, bring a friend other than Mr Jack Daniels." Paige teased, earning a wry smile from the other girl.
"I didn't intend on getting in the pool. I just needed somewhere quiet to get away. Hanna and the girls ambushed me for a girlie night and I just couldn't deal with it, you know?"
"Yeah, a sleepover with Hanna Marin and Spencer Hastings, that's the stuff of my nightmares." Paige laughed; glad the awkwardness between them was slowly dissolving. The last time they had spoken Paige had been confessing her feelings for the other girl and promising to be there for her as her friend. It was easy to say, but after news of Maya's death had spread and Emily had disappeared from school, it was hard to put in to practise. Paige had been secretly a little relieved that Emily had dropped off the face of the earth and she hadn't had to deal with talking to her.
Emily laughed again, and thankfully this time it wasn't followed by crying. "My friends aren't so bad. I just needed to be on my own for a bit."
"You know you can call me, right? Like, whenever you need anyone to talk to…or even just to babysit you in case you fall in the pool again."
"Thanks." Emily chuckled, her smile finally reaching her eyes. "I'm actually going away for the summer. I'm going to Haiti to work for this social housing project thing…you know, just to get out of town and take my mind off…things."
"Haiti huh?" Paige chose not to dwell on the things that Emily was trying to take her mind off. It wasn't just Maya. Everyone had heard about what Mona had been putting Emily and her friends through. "Couldn't you choose a landlocked country instead? You know, save me worrying about you falling in the sea or something?"
"How about I promise not to drink and swim?" Emily offered, already starting to feel something of a hangover after her sobering experience in the pool.
"Deal." Paige grinned back at her. She was grateful Emily was starting to sound more like her usual self. "Maybe when you get back we could work on your times? Get you ready for the new season?" Swimming had always served as a distraction in Paige's life and she knew that Emily throwing herself back in to practise would help see her through what was happening.
"I'd like that." Emily nodded, shaking slightly as the cold air bit at her cheeks. Summer had started a few days earlier and the nights were turning warmer, but sitting in the natatorium, with soaking wet hair and no shoes on, she was starting to really feel the cold.
Getting to her feet she moved over to where she'd left her shoes and jacket, her phone and keys thankfully tucked safely in to the pocket of her jacket, and slipped them on. Paige fell in step with her and they made their way out in to the parking lot. Paige had borrowed her mom's car and once they were inside the big SUV she cranked up the heat to warm them both up. Emily realised she was still wearing Paige's clothes as she pulled the hood of her sweater out from under her jacket. "Uh, I'll get these back to you tomorrow."
"Actually I'm away for the summer too. I'll just get them back off you some other time." Paige didn't offer to tell her where she was going and Emily didn't think it was her place to pry.
"Oh, ok. Well, have a great summer."
"You too…so where am I taking you? Home or?"
"Yeah, I left Hanna, Spence and Aria there when I went out for ice cream…two hours ago." Her dad had come back home from Texas for a few weeks, but he'd had to go back for the weekend and Emily had talked her mom in to going with him so she could have the house to herself for a few days. She hadn't counted on her friends ambushing her with a surprise slumber party. As she checked her phone she realised they had been calling and texting her like crazy for an hour. She sent Spencer a quick text reassuring her she was ok and on her way home.
She wasn't looking forward to facing her frantic friends. "Hey, my parents are out of town if you want to stay for a bit?" she offered as they pulled up outside her house. "Spence and the others really aren't that bad."
"Thanks, but I'm good. I've still got a load of packing to do." Paige offered her a lopsided smile as Emily lingered in the car. "I meant what I said though, you can call any time." She squeezed Emily's hand, still not sure what was really appropriate between the giving the way she felt about her, but the other girl didn't seem to mind. She was in no hurry to pull away. For a second Emily found herself leaning in to the other girl, but she seemed to realise what she was doing and pulled back with a bashful smile. She couldn't kiss Paige. She couldn't blur the lines between them any more than what they already were.
When she eventually got out of the car she waved goodbye to Paige and slowly climbed the steps of her porch. She'd barely slid her key in to the lock when the front door bolted open and all three of her best-friends appeared looking panicked. "Where the hell have you been?" Spencer roared, pulling Emily in for a crushing hug before she could even open her mouth. "We were worried sick! You didn't pick up your phone and-"
"I just needed some air." She lied. Spencer's eyes narrowed on her as she picked up the alcohol on her breath. "Have you been drinking? Damn it Em, anything could have happened to you-"
"I'm fine." Emily snapped. She knew her friends cared, but she felt like she was being smothered. She shrugged off her jacket and Hanna was the first to notice she wasn't wearing her own clothes.
"What happened to your jeans?"
"Oh, I went to the pool and I sort of fell in." Emily admitted sheepishly, knowing she was just fuelling her friends' concern. "I just lost my footing, but it was fine. Paige was there and-"
"What? Did she hold your head under the water again?" Spencer crossed her arms over her chest with a glare. She still couldn't stand Paige McCullers, nor could she understand why Emily seemed to have such a blind spot when it came to the other girl. As far as Spencer was concerned she was trouble with a capital T.
"No, she saved my life actually!" Emily glowered back; she left out the part about how she had only been leaning on the edge of the diving board out of fear for Paige's safety. "She got me out of the water."
"Oh." Spencer seemed to soften a bit at this news, but it would take more than one act of heroism for her to change her mind about the other swimmer.
"Well the main thing is that Emily's back now. We can all get changed in to our PJs, put on a crappy horror movie and scare ourselves senseless." Aria piped up, ever the peacemaker. "We got all your favourites!" She added as she held up several DVDs for Emily's inspection. She felt her heart sink as she noticed one of the titles. She and Maya had gone to see it together. She felt a twisting in her gut and part of her wished she could have just stayed in Paige's car.
"Great. I'm just going to take a quick shower and warm up." She slipped past her friends and upstairs to the bathroom. The girls had set up their sleeping bags in the living room so Emily was alone when she padded in to her room wrapped in a towel. Pulling on some shorts and vest she still felt a little chilly, so she pulled on Paige's hoodie without really thinking about it. It was a pale grey Penn State University sweater that Paige had probably gotten from a scout or maybe a visit to the campus. The material was soft and warm and Paige's scent still clung to it like a lingering spirit. Emily felt more comforted by this than she had any right to be. Letting out a heavy sigh she pulled her phone out and started typing a quick text to Paige, thanking her again for taking her home. Her phone beeped before she could even send the text and she smiled as she found Paige had beat her to it.
'Hey, hope your slumber party isn't too much of a nightmare. Let me know if you need another rescue, and no more swimming in jeans ;) x - P
"Hey Em, we're going to order pizza! What toppings do you want?" She heard Hanna calling up to her and had to send a quick reply before pocketing her phone and heading back downstairs. Across town Paige grinned at her phone as she got Emily's reply.
'Thanks, I'm sure I'll make it through! No swimming in jeans unless my personal lifeguard is there ;) Enjoy your summer and keep working on those times! x - E
"Hey kiddo, you all set?" Paige was interrupted from replying as her dad appeared at her doorway. She had just about finished packing for the six weeks she would be away and she gave him a thumbs up.
"It's nice you're still doing this. I thought you might have said you were too old this summer…I know we've been through a lot this year Paige and I just want you to know that, no matter what, I'm proud of the young woman you're becoming." His admission had come out of nowhere and caught Paige off guard. She felt tears prickling at her eyes as she moved in for a hug. Her parents hadn't taken her coming out very well, her dad especially, but Paige had to admit it he was making an effort to reconnect with her.
"Well this is my last summer before college; I couldn't miss camp could I?"
There had been a reason she hadn't shared her summer plans with Emily. Most people would think a seventeen year old girl going to summer camp was lame, but Paige had been going for years and she didn't want to miss her last chance to go. She hadn't been as a camper in a while, but she had been going as a peer councillor since she was fifteen; already planning her college application at such a young age. "My little girl's growing up." Nick smiled absently as he pressed a kiss to her cheek. "You should call it a night; you've got an early start tomorrow."
"Will do, Dad." She promised as he was leaving. She sent Emily a quick reply before setting her phone aside and going over what she had packed, checking she hadn't missed anything.
Emily checked her phone as she felt it vibrating in her pocket. She smiled at the text from Paige and caught Spencer looking her way. It was probably the first time she had peered out from behind the cushion that she had been hiding behind since the movie had started. Beside her Hanna squeezed her hand reassuringly as she leant in and whispered in her ear. "Don't mind Spencer…Paige is nice." Emily wasn't sure that Paige and Hanna had ever had more than one conversation, but she knew she was just trying to be nice so she smiled back at her and nodded. She would miss her friends when she went to Haiti for the summer, Paige included, but she needed some time away from Rosewood and everything that had happened to her in the little town.
Paige was used to getting up at the crack of dawn, so when her alarm started screaming at her in the darkness of her room she woke up straight away to turn it off. Pulling her hair back in to a loose ponytail she changed in to some sweats and went out to get in a quick jog before her parents woke up. It was still dark outside, with the sun barely poking above the horizon. She had went to grab her favourite hoodie, the one she'd gotten from her visit to Penn State with her dad last year, and then remembered that Emily had it. She settled for another one and shoved her headphones in to her ears before slipping out the front door.
The morning air was quite crisp and she was glad she'd put on an extra layer. She ran a few blocks, not wanting to tire herself out by taking her usual route through the woods. She got back home just as her parents were rising and she managed to slip in to the shower and be dressed and ready by the time her mother was making breakfast. They were leaving at 8am sharp to get to the camp, which was located on the edge of the grounds of Maryland University, near Scranton. Most campers wouldn't be there until midday, but as a peer councillor Paige had to get there early to be assigned her cabin and to help set everything up ready for registration.
"Morning Sweetheart, did I hear you just getting back in before?" Her dad quizzed as she took a seat at the kitchen table and began tucking in to the oatmeal her mother had put down in front of her. He knew full well it had been Paige coming back from her morning run; it was just his way of making small talk at the table. She nodded as she sipped at her orange juice.
"Thought I'd get a quick run in, start the day right."
"That a girl." Nick beamed. He seemed to be in a genuinely good mood and Paige was glad she had decided to stick to going to camp for the summer. It seemed to have helped win her father back on to her side again. She was taking her responsibilities and obligations seriously and thinking about her future. Getting in to a college with a good swimming programme could open doors for her. Extracurricular activities like peer counselling would help her get a spot in a decent college. It was all planned out, just as the rest of her life always had been; except for falling for Emily Fields and realising she was gay. None of that had ever been part of her life plan and it had definitely thrown a spanner in the works.
When Maya had shown up again Paige had thought she didn't stand a chance with Emily, so she had been able to turn her full attention back to swimming and school and making her parents happy. With Maya out of the picture though there was a glimmer of hope glowing inside of her. She hated herself for it, a girl had died after all, but with Maya gone Paige once again had a chance; even if it was a small one. She would be there for Emily after the summer, as a friend if nothing else. She would try and prove herself to the other girl. Everything had changed since they had last tried to make a go of things between them. Paige was out to her parents for a start, and she felt so much more confident in herself; in what she wanted. That had to count for something.
"Maybe you'll meet someone nice." Her mother commented, not making it gender specific. She was still holding out hope that Paige's sexuality was a passing phase that she would grow out of once she met the right boy.
"At fat camp?" Nick scoffed over his morning paper.
"Fitness camp." Paige corrected. She had been volunteering at the camp for a couple of years and though most of the campers called it 'fat camp' themselves it was quite derogatory for anyone else to call it that. Paige had met some great people there over the years and she hoped that her passion for sports and fitness had rubbed off on some of them, helping them to make a change in their lives. "And I'm not really looking Mom."
"We better get a move on, don't want you being late." Nick changed the conversation with a forced smile, still not comfortable thinking about his daughter's love life; though Paige had a feeling that he would still act the same if she were in to guys. He just didn't want to see his little girl was growing up.
Paige polished off her oatmeal and bounced up stairs to grab her suitcase. She was excited to be going back to camp and getting out of town for a few weeks. She loved her parents dearly, but six weeks away from them in a cabin in the woods sounded like heaven to her after everything that had happened. She hefted her suitcase down the stairs and handed it over to her father to put in the trunk of the car. Her mother pulled her in for a crushing hug, doing her usual dramatics at the prospect of not seeing her daughter for six whole weeks. "Stay safe sweetheart, don't go wandering alone in the woods and make sure to eat right and-"
"I love you too, Mom." Paige laughed as she pulled back from her and brushed her bangs out of her face. "I'll call you tonight."
She said her goodbyes and climbed in to the front passenger seat of the car, where her dad was already waiting for her. The drive to Scranton wasn't as bad as she expected, they talked about Paige's senior classes and her plans for training for the new season. When the wooden sign post for Hope Springs Fitness Camp appeared Paige felt a smile tugging at her lips. Her dad pulled up outside the administration building and helped her get her suitcase out of the back. "Want me to stick around until you get settled in?" He offered, though Paige knew he had plans for lunch at the Country Club.
"I'm fine, Dad. I'll call you and mom when I get settled in."
"Ok Champ. I'll see you soon. Love you." He kissed her forehead before climbing back in to the car and waving goodbye.
"Paaaaiiiige!" She heard a squeal from behind her before she was being tackled around the waist by a bubbly blonde almost a head shorter than her.
"Jesus Cade, did you switch to football?" She quipped as she hugged the tiny girl back. She had met Cadence Johnson her first year at Hope Springs and the two girls had instantly hit it off. Cade was just as competitive as Paige was, though she played ice hockey rather than field hockey. Despite her tiny stature she was a pretty good player and she had nearly knocked Paige off her feet with her tackle.
"Nope, still hitting the ice. You still a water baby? Or have you moved on to a real sport?" The blonde teased as she hefted her holdall over her shoulder.
"Hey! Swimming is a sport!" She playfully hit the other girl in the shoulder before following her up to the admin building. They were met inside by Julie, one of the head councillors.
"Well if it isn't Fire and Ice." She greeted them with her trademark grin. Paige was pretty sure the woman had to be on something to keep up the smile that was constantly on her face. She was one of those annoyingly peppy people who Paige couldn't stand. Despite their close friendship the girls were known for their rivalry at the camp; with each of them trying to push their campers to win the Camp Olympics at the end of the summer. Cadence had been nicknamed Ice because of her obsession with hockey, whereas Paige's auburn hair and fiery temper had gotten her the mantle of Fire.
"Hey Julie." Paige greeted the older woman as she put her case down and hopped on to the reception desk. "Have the cabins been assigned yet?"
"They have, you're in six. The one closest to the lake."
"Great!" Paige grinned; she would be able to go for a swim in the mornings before her campers were awake. As their peer councillor it was Paige's job to set an example for the kids in her cabin, helping them through the daily activities and being a friend for them when they needed one. It was a big responsibility and a challenge she enjoyed; motivating and helping kids who wouldn't usually be interested in sports.
"Careful McCullers, you might just sprout gills this summer." Cade laughed as she checked Julie's list for the cabin number she had been assigned to. "Five, looks like we're neighbours."
Paige wasn't listening to her though as her phone went off and she found a message from Emily, informing her she had survived the sleepover. A grin spread across Paige's cheeks and it didn't go unnoticed by her friend. "New boyfriend?" She quizzed as they gathered their stuff and started heading over to their respective cabins, Paige was still glued to her phone.
"What? Oh, no. Just a friend."
"Some friend." Cade teased as she noticed the blush forming on the taller girl's cheeks. "So what's his name?" Paige rolled her eyes as the hyperactive blonde started with the twenty questions.
"Emily. Her name is Emily…like I said, just a friend." Cade stared at her like she was trying to figure something out, but she let it drop with a shrug of her shoulders.
Paige had managed to come out to her parents and even her best friend Pru, but the thought of telling Cadence about everything that had happened since their last summer together seemed a little overwhelming; especially on their first day of camp. She was sure it could wait until they had settled in to their cabins and met their bunkmates. Putting her phone back in to her pocket she said goodbye to Cadence as they reached her cabin first and then covered the short distance to her own. It would be her home for the next six weeks and she wanted to get settled in before the campers arrived. She tried to put Emily and Rosewood out of her mind, choosing instead on focusing on a game plan to whip her kids in to shape for the end of Camp games. She could go six weeks without thinking about Emily, or trying to contract her. By the time she would be back in town Emily would be out of the country and Paige would have the rest of the summer to try and sort her head out.
"I'm not sure about this Han." Emily sighed, nervously biting her lip. "I'm leaving for Haiti on Tuesday-"
"Exactly!" Hannah interjected, not giving the other girl a chance to talk. "I'm not going to see you for like a month! That's why you should come with me this weekend! It'll be great, you love sports stuff."
"Yeah I do, but…fat camp?" The other girl wasn't convinced as she stared at the brochure Hanna had given her for the fitness camp she had attended for the last few summers.
"First of all, anyone who's never been above a size four in their life can't call it fat camp, it's a fitness camp. Second, it's only for the weekend, you'll be back Sunday afternoon with plenty of time to finish packing for your flight on Tuesday." Emily decided not to point out that she had finished packing for her trip days ago, seeing as Hanna was still throwing stuff in to her suitcase for her weekend away. "They invited me back to talk to the kids. You know, give them a pep talk about how I tackled my weight and they can too…I don't want to go on my own though." Her big baby blue eyes turned on Emily and the other girl knew she was fighting a losing battle.
"Am I even allowed to come? I mean, I didn't go to the camp."
"I talked to Julie about it, she's the head councillor, and she was totally fine with you coming. You can talk to them about swimming and stuff!" Hanna beamed, her plan falling perfectly in to place as Emily finally relented with a sigh.
"Fine, I'll go home and pack a bag. We can go in my car in the morning…where is this camp anyway?"
"Up near Scranton, it's called Hope Springs. Check out their website, you're going to love it Ems!"