The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland(5)

By: Rebekah Crane



“Hey you!” A voice bellows from the top of the staircase. I whip around, startled. A male counselor with blond hair down to his shoulders stands like the warden at a jail with his hands on his hips. “Campers are not allowed to access the water on the first day.”

“Sorry,” I say as I pull my socks onto wet feet.

“Please make your way over to the Circle of Hope.” He motions toward the fire pit before walking away.

Cassie is standing next to Madison when I arrive. She’s pulling a large piece of pink bubble gum out of her mouth and twisting it around her finger. When she catches me staring, she wraps the gum around her middle finger and smiles. It’s not a real smile. It’s more like a warning covered in cotton-candy bubble gum.

“Over here, Zander,” Madison bellows at me. “Zander, this is Katie, Hannah, and Dori. Cassie tells me you two have already met.”

Cassie points her long skinny finger at a girl with mousy blonde hair and hazel eyes. “Katie, here, is the bingeing and purging type.”

“Cassie,” Madison barks.

“What?” Cassie snaps a hard look at Madison and grabs Katie’s hand. “Do you see her throw-up fingers? The skin is practically bare from her stuffing them so far down her throat. I know an eating problem when I see one.”

Katie shrugs and says, “She’s right.”

“See? I should be a counselor here.” Cassie looks back at me. “Hannah is a cutter. See how she wears long sleeves in the fucking dead of summer? I bet she’s got scars all up and down those chubby stems.”

Hannah crosses her arms, which are covered in a navy-blue long-sleeved shirt. “I’m not chubby,” she says but doesn’t deny the cutting part.

“And Dori is depressed, which is totally boring. Every teenager is depressed. It’s what we do best.”

“I think that’s enough.” Madison puts her hand on Cassie’s shoulder, but she shrugs it off.

Cassie turns her eye on me and says to the group, “And Zander is here because her ‘parents signed her up.’” She cocks her head to the side and all four girls start laughing. “But I caught her talking to herself, so I’m not ruling out multiple personalities.”

“I don’t have multiple personalities,” I say.

“Schizophrenia?” Hannah asks. Her dark brown eyes focus on me like I’m a lab rat.

“No.” I glare at Cassie.

“That’s enough, girls.” Madison comes to stand behind me, placing both of her hands on my shoulders. I notice her pristine nail polish again. I don’t need her coming to my aid. I don’t need anybody. As far as I’m concerned, I just wish everyone and everything would disappear and leave me alone.

I shrug away Madison’s hands and move to stand in a different part of the circle. I don’t belong in that group. I don’t like blood, let alone self-inflicted pain, and making yourself vomit? I hate when I puke and little bits of food get stuck in my nostrils. Why would someone do that on purpose?

I move between the sea of campers all huddled together, trying to find a spot where I can be alone and away from everyone. It may not be what my parents want for me this summer, for me to be isolated, but they have never asked me what I wanted. If they did, all of this could have been avoided. I wouldn’t need to be here, swarmed by almost fifty kids with a load of counselors and staff circling the group. And no way out. I’m trapped.

When an older guy who’s dressed in the same Camp Padua shirt as Madison stands up on a bench and claps three times, the circle goes still and silent. I freeze in place.

“The only way to be found,” he yells.

“Is to admit we’re lost,” the rest of the counselors ring back in chorus.

“Welcome to Camp Padua,” he continues through the silence. Brown hair hangs shaggy over his forehead, and he tucks it behind his ears before continuing. He looks older than Madison but younger than my parents, midthirties maybe, and handsome in a president-of-a-fraternity kind of way. “I’m Kerry, the owner of Camp Padua. I want to welcome everyone today.” And when Kerry smiles, his looks improve even more. “I founded this camp over ten years ago in hopes of helping teens just like you find their way through the tough times. It’s nice to see both familiar and new faces out there. If you need anything, don’t hesitate to come and talk to me. This summer is about opening up, letting go, and finding your way back to who you truly are. Every counselor here has been through a rigorous training program to help you during your stay at camp. But above all, we want you to have a fun summer. And to have fun, you need to follow the rules for optimum safety.”

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