FridayAs humans, we are instinctively obsessed with love. We read about it in magazines and novels, we cheer for the united lovers onscreen, and we dream about our possible futures if only we were Romeo or Juliet, Rose or Jack.
Personally, I never felt the need to search far and wide for love. It was always right in front of me. I had been handed a gift and I didn’t need to look twice.
But what I had was a pressured love. My best friend loved me, and in return I loved him; I was never sure if his love for me created my love for him or if it was just a side effect.
However the case, I was wrong about love. No, it wasn’t all roses and cake and sparkling toasts on a winter’s night. Yes, there were hardships and struggles and pain and suffering. But none of this I experienced at home with my boyfriend.
No, all of this newfound theology of love came from one short week.
In one week I met and fell in love with my eternal soul mate. Dramatic words I know, but truth. In one week I spent my days in mystic and wonder and awe, just short of magic. In one week, my ideals for life were changed and my opinions on life, love, God, were changed sub sequentially.
And in one minute, it all was ruined.
Other than my boyfriend, Alex, I had always attracted boys naturally. Some say it’s a blessing. I used to also.
Now it’s only a curse.
For if I wasn’t “blessed” with charm and beauty, Cody wouldn’t be dead. Instead, he would be someone I never got to know, someone not important to me at all. But I loved him so much that trading our coincidental meeting and affair for his life would be fair. I would save him, even if it meant we would never to meet.
So maybe I am partially to blame for my beautiful Cody’s death. Or maybe I am completely to blame.
Wapo is a bible camp set in the woods of Wisconsin. This is my fourth year, my second as a TIM Teamer. That basically means that we aren’t campers anymore but we’re not yet counselors. We stay at a campus, Ox, which is about five miles from the main Wapo campus. We are assigned a kid’s cabin and help them, whether they are the younger alpha or the older beta. In the evenings we gather as TIM team and do activities together, bond and have fun.
This year there are only six of us girls going. Last year we had eight. But Alexa and Erika are gone in Australia, leaving the six of us behind to forge our own journey at Wapo.
There are several guys going too. I should probably introduce them so no one gets confused.
There’s Kevin. He’s ridicously loud and obnoxious but we all put up with him for reasons unknown. Wapo is his life; he’s the only one who goes to the TIM Team meetings throughout the year. Right now he’s dating a girl named Alex, who is far too beautiful, smart and funny to be dating Kevin if you ask me.
Parker goes to a different school, so the only time that I really see him is during Wapo. He’s exceedingly gorgeous, with dark tanned skin and short brown hair, an easy going smile and a pile of designer label clothing. But our secret name for him is Pool: a mix of Parker and tool because he is a tool. But a hot one.
Ryan used to date Ama but they broke up about a year ago. I know that they’re still good friends and that it’s not awkward between them. He has shaggy brown hair and a ripped, tanned body. Even though he’s amazingly good looking, he’s beyond annoying.
Then there is Charles. This is his first year as a TIM Teamer, he’s an incoming sophomore and the rest of us are incoming juniors. He’s hilarious, a total creep and seriously needs to shower some days. But we all love him, simply because he’s so creepy. I’ve known for a while that Charles has a thing for me, but I don’t think I’ll ever return the feeling.
Cody is a counselor here at Wapo. He’s gorgeous, loves God, hilarious and has a smile that stretches across his entire face. Too bad he’s dating a girl named Tracey, who looks like she could be his sister. Same dark hair cut short, same sparkling white teeth and tall, athletic bodies. Me? I’m more of a short, dark brown hair to the middle of my back and enjoy wearing anything-lavender kind of girl. But I’ve got my heart set on capturing Cody, no matter what. Hopefully, I won’t have to try hard.
Yeah, there are other guys at Wapo too. But these are our main guys, the important ones who, along with my girlfriends, make the stories and memories at Wapo. In the four years that I’ve gone to camp, I’ve found something that I didn’t know existed. It’s a sort of high, mixed of euphoria of God’s love, my best friends and amazing memories.
But this year everything is going to change.
I can tell when I get off the bus at Ox and we’re the last group of TIM Teamers to get there. And when I lay my eyes on Cody, the most beautiful male specimen I’ve ever seen.
“WAPO!” Kevin screams and physically jumps over bus seats to be the first off the bus. I grab my bag, wipe the thin film of sweat from the back of my legs and stand up, pushing along with all the others trying to get off the bus. Ox is essentially a campsite. A real, roughing it camp site. There are thin dirt roads, outhouses and cabins, which consist of wood pillars with canvas wrapped around them. Our tent last year had a warning sign that said, “IN CASE OF EMERGENCY, TEAR HOLE IN WALL. CLIMB OUT.” I almost died laughing.
The first thing I saw when I got off the bus was Cody. He was wearing a heather gray long sleeve T, the sleeves rolled up to show off slightly toned arms. He was laughing, and his smile was the best thing I had seen in a long time.
“God, he’s hot,” Mel whispered in my ear. I nodded and straightened my loose white blouse and navy shorts, hoping this angle made me look thinner than usual.
“I’m so excited,” I breathed, taking in all of the people already greeting each other happily and taking pictures. Ama grabbed my hand and pulled me over into the line where we found our cabin assignments and deposited canteen money.
“What?” Taylor asked hotly, her mint breath spilling over my nose. “Is that a joke?”
“Is what a joke?”
“Mel and I are in a different cabin than everyone else,” she fumed. I reached over and patted her hand gently.
“Don’t worry,” Ama said. “Just talk to Kristin and she’ll figure it out for us.”
Kristin is our youth director from our church. All the guys call her Mom because she defends us, no matter what. I love Kristin; she’s funny and makes our Covenant time fun.
“Kristin!” Taylor was already running in her direction, her long blond hair fanning out and I saw at least three guys check her out, one of which was Parker.
I sidled up next to him. “Park.”
He gave me a small hug. “Hey! I haven’t seen you since last year.”
“I know, it’s been a long time.” There was a moment of awkward silence as we stared across the grassy plane. Taylor was on the other side, venting to Kristin who had her “mom” face on. “Parker, she has a boyfriend. His name is Morgan.”
Parker turned towards me. “I know.”
“Remember that,” I said and walked away.
“Eva,” he murmured, grabbing my arm as I tried to slip past him. “Don’t tell her.”
I looked him straight in the eye. “I won’t.”
In the end, we got them to rearrange everything so that the six of us were in a cabin together. We watched a documentary about water that lasted way too long into the night and then Lauren spoke to us about the camp. As it was our first night, we were far too rowdy to sit through a boring documentary and a speech. When they said it was time to do campfire, we jumped up and raced to first village.
First village is the best of the three. There is the campfire, running water and lights in the bathrooms. Last year the girls had village one, but this year this is a boy with a brittle bone disease who physically cannot make it to third village where we are staying this year.
There are a limited number of benches around the fire and we scramble to get a good spot, close to the fire. Squished between Maria and Krista, I have a perfect view of Cody over the fire. I ogled him the entire week last summer and finally got up enough guts to take a picture with him at banquet. I remember exactly how his warm hand felt on my waist, how he leaned in to me after the photo was taken. I wonder if he remembers me.
“I love campfire!” Ama whispers. She is sitting between my legs, dangerously close to the fire. I always get more nervous than the rest of the girls; about anything: fire, cold, heights. I’m more of a protector, I would say, than I am a risk taker.
We sing loud and clear through “Song of Hope” and “Mighty to Save” before we sit again for the speaker. I feel strong, warm hands on my neck and I turn slightly to see whom it is.
“Charles?” I whisper because I can’t see him in the darkness. I hear a laugh and I know it’s him. “Charles, knock it off. You’re creeping me out.” But then he slides his hands farther down my back and starts to massage out the knots. It feels good, I’ll admit that. But it’s creepy of Charles to just start massaging me.
“Legit. Stop.” I turn all the way around and see Cody tapping Charles on the shoulder.
“Charles, knock it off,” Cody says and pulls Charles to his feet, taking his spot at the campfire directly behind me. I can feel the chilly wind through my thin tee shirt now that Charles’s hands are gone from my back. I shiver for several minutes through the speech before I feel a hand on my shoulder. I turned, prepared to yell at Charles again before I see Cody’s smiling and tender face.
“Here,” he says, holding out a black sweatshirt to me. “Are you cold?” I nod and he places the sweatshirt in my hands. I pull it on and smell him, a mix of lemonade, cedar and vanilla.
“Thanks,” I say, giving him my best smile even though I’m exhausted. Cody just smiles back and we both turn to listen to the speaker wrap up her story.
After three more songs, one holler from Kevin and a goodnight to the boys, we are one our way back to Village Three by the time I realize I’m still wearing Cody’s sweatshirt.
“You’re so lucky,” Taylor says, pressing her hands to my arm. “Cody’s freaking hot.”
“It’s just a sweatshirt, you guys.”
“No. It’s Cody’s sweatshirt,” Ama says, enunciating Cody strongly. “And he borrowed it to you without any prompting. I’d say that’s a start.”
“How much longer?” Krista whines, her voice echoing loud through the trees.
“We’re not even to second village,” Maria says.
“Anyone seen the cartoon “The Little Toaster?” Taylor asks, her hair bouncing heavily with each step. The road is muddy and cavernous, the sides dip down low and there are giant rocks in it. Last year, the boys got driven in the huge vans all the way back to third village. But this year, because it’s been so rainy, we have to do the two-mile trek twice a day without the help of vans.
Our cabin is the furthest one on the left. There’s a big tree in the middle of the four cabins and a large shed like dining hall.
“Okay,” says the counselor with the headlamp strapped around her head. “All your food should go in the dining hall, unless you want rats sleeping next to you.”
“But I’m hungry,” Taylor says.
“Let’s grab our luggage, unpack then put our food in the dining hall,” I say, already walking towards the big pile of bags. “Then we’ll be comfortable before we eat.”
The other girls nod and I find my flashlight in my bag, shining it over their things so they can find their bags too. I whip it around the campus once, looking past the big tree to the mud pile in the trail we just walked. It dips five or six feet on each side and there is a pile of mud closer to us. If we hadn’t been warned, one of us would have fallen in.
“Devos in ten minutes girls!”
We scramble to lug our suitcases into our cabins and demand bunks. We have two open ones, both of which go to top. I claim a bottom and start to spread out my sheets and blankets, making sure there aren’t any spiders trapped beneath the sheets.
“Hi girls,” a woman walks through the doors of the cabin. “I’m Hope. I’m your counselor.”
“HI,” we say in unison. Hope is tall, with short blond hair that barely comes to her ears. Her face is a party of acne and her tie-dye shirt has an ominous spaghetti stain on the hem.
“Can we do names quick? Let’s start with you,” she points to Ama.
“Okay,” Hope says, sitting on the corner of Maria’s bed. She shirks to the opposite corner. For some reason, Maria doesn’t like to be touched, even in a gentle handshake or a welcoming hug. Hope seems extra cautious of this and stands up again, instead choosing to sit on Mel’s bed. Mel shoots me a look that says “Oh, God.”
“I’m going to read you girls a short bible passage then let you go to bed, because you must be tired after your trip up.” Hope had a soothing voice; it rippled like cool Caribbean water as she read through a chapter of the book of John.
“Goodnight, Hope.” We immediately started to unpack, throwing clothes in all directions, moving heavy suitcases across the raw wooden floor. I collapsed on my bunk, exhausted and in need of a facial already.
“She seems nice,” Krista says while unwrapping a stick of gum.
Tay gives her a look. “Are you chewing gum instead of brushing your teeth?”
Krista cowers. “No.” But the word doesn’t sound convincing. I admit, sometimes we ridicule Krista a lot more than is necessary.
“I gotta pee,” I motion towards the door. “Anyone else?”
“Me!” Mel yells, jumping up and revealing a sliver of toned, tanned belly. I pull on my rain boots, which gets a laugh from Taylor.
“Shut up,” I spit, clunking out the door before she can make any more remarks. The bathrooms are way up a hill and around a corner.
“Mel,” I whisper because the counselor tent is only two feet away. “Let’s go this way.” I point in the opposite direction of the bathrooms.
“Shh, I know what I’m doing.” We run quietly up a much smaller hill, just out of view of the four cabins.
I start to take off my pants, throwing down the flashlight.
Mel bursts out laughing. “What are you doing?”
“Are you serious?” She hears the warm trickle and without hesitation takes off her pants and squats next to me.
“Not so close!” I hiss.
“I can’t really move,” she whisper-laughs as I hear her peeing too. Suddenly there is a beam of light and footsteps. “Oh my God!” she cries as I yank up my shorts.
I hear a burst of laughter.
“Ama?” I ask the darkness.
“No,” comes back the giggle.
“Tay,” I sigh, grabbing my flashlight and going back to the cabin for hand sanitizer. “Not funny.”
She laughs. “Oh, it was.”
“Like you haven’t streaked before,” I said, throwing these words back at her before I swung open the door of the cabin.
“You said you wouldn’t tell!” her shouts come from up the hill where Mel is still crouched. Even though I love Taylor, she can be a lot to handle. Sometimes she’s fantastic; other times she’s a downright b****.
“That was fast,” Maria said, pushing her long fingers nervously over her comforter.
“I popped a squat,” I sighed and plopped a blob of hand sani on my hands, rubbing them together vigorously.
I lie down on my bunk, feeling exhausted and strangely wide-awake. Camp is a rush, something I can always count on being amazing but always learn something too. I’m excited for the week ahead: all of the bonding, the laughs, and the memories.
One by one, we return to the cabin and lie down on our individual bunks. There are screeching loud birds outside and I can hear them clearly.
“Fighting turkey dogs,” Ama says.
I laugh. “Turduckins.”
“A chicken stuffed with a duck stuffed into a turkey. Watch Rachel Ray.”
The other girls giggle and we exchange soft goodnights before closing our eyes and drifting off to sleep.
Right before I go unconscious, I see a crystal clear image in my head.
I see Cody.
And he’s dead.