Chapter 1. Welcome to Mountain Knight
The story I want to tell began when my parents decided to visit their relatives in Greece. They decided that the autumn holidays were the perfect time to leave for Greece because I could go with them without skipping classes at school. But the last thing I wanted was to spend my holidays in a tiny village in Greece. I tried to convince them that there was no need to take me with them. I told them that without me they would spend two romantic weeks with their families in their native places.
In the end Dad agreed, but to my unhappiness, he absolutely refused to leave me alone in Raven Hill for two weeks. I tried to convince him that I would be okay, but he disagreed. At that time one of his friends told him that his son had just come back from a famous holiday camp, called “Mountain Knight”. Dad made inquiries about this place and found out that this camp was exactly what he needed. As he said to me that night when he and mum informed me about their decision, the conditions there were terrific. This holiday camp for kids from rich families was seriously guarded. Beautiful places, delicious meal, all kinds of entertainment, such as paintball, tennis, football, computer games and other things... In other words he was sure that in this camp I would have a good time.
As for me, I wanted to go there no more than I wanted to go to Greece.
‘It’s a wonderful place,’ Dad was coaxing me. ‘You can do anything you want there: to play paintball, to swim, to go to parties. They always hire only famous DJs. This is a quite expensive place and I’m sure that there will be a lot of beautiful, nice girls from respectable and successful families...’
‘I don’t want girls from respectable and successful families,’ I muttered.
‘Clean, comfortable rooms with good furniture and equipment,’ mum put in. ‘Kind counselors.’
‘I don’t need counselors,’ I snapped. ‘I’m not a little kid.’
‘I’m not saying that you’re a little kid,’ mum objected. ‘Counselors will just help you to have a good time and to get acquainted with other people.’
I rolled my eyes. You want to say that these counselors will just supervise and control me all the time, I thought crossly. I guess she considered the fact that I’d be under strict control was the best advantage of this place.
‘I won’t go there without Richelle,’ I said firmly. I couldn’t even imagine what I would do there alone with all these unknown kids.
Dad rolled his eyes, sighed and reached for the phone. It crossed my mind that he was ready to do anything to send me to this stupid camp and not to leave me alone at home. I wonder why? I wasn’t going to have parties while my parents were away. Well not every night.
Dad punched in the number and had a long conversation with Mr Brinkley. As we soon discovered, Richelle’s parents didn’t mind sending their daughter with me to a boarding camp for kids from rich families.
Richelle, as well as me, didn’t share their enthusiasm. The next day we discussed it and offered the others to join us. Unlike us, they were really glad to go. Elmo’s father and Sunny’s mother doubted that they could pay for their living in this camp, where prices could be compared with prices in a luxury five-star hotel. But they must have solved their problems, because a few days later our parents drove us to the bus station, where a lot of other kids with parents were standing around with their bags. They were talking and laughing. Small kids were running around. Teenagers were sitting on the benches or standing in circles, excitedly talking to each other.
I couldn’t help noticing that all counselors, who were going to escort us to the camp, were in the camouflage uniforms with embroidery patches on the chest. In the centre of the patch there was an image of a knight with a sword in his hand and a happy expression on his face at the background of peak of a mountain.
‘I don’t get it,’ I drawled ironically, looking at the counselors. ‘Are you sending us to a camp or to a prison?’
Mum also was looking anxiously at this military stuff.
‘Um… As far as I know most of good children’s institutions have their own uniform for staff and visitors,’ she suggested faintly.
‘I’d say these people don’t look like counselors from a children’s institution at all,’ Richelle doubtfully shook her head.
‘It doesn’t matter,’ Mr Brinkley put in. ‘The main thing is good conditions for you.’
‘According to the sum of money we’ve paid, the conditions there must be good,’ Zim agreed with a heavy sigh.
Liz, Elmo and Tom also were looking at the counselors’ uniform with suspicion. Unlike them, Sunny beamed. ‘Maybe they pay a lot of attention to sport there?’ she suggested cheerfully.
Richelle gloomily glanced at her and grumbled something, examining her fingernails. She wasn’t keen on sport, to put it mildly. Actually she hated sport. As for me, I was starting to suspect that the next two weeks were going to be difficult.
Finally the counselors asked us to board the buses. Crowd of kids of all ages rushed to board the buses, while their parents helped the bus drivers to load their bags into the buses. We settled down in front of the second bus, as we always did because of Richelle’s car-sick. Our parents waved to us and went towards their cars. The driver slammed the bus into gear and we set off.
Here we go, I thought gloomily, looking out the window over Richelle’s head.
We’d been driving for about three hours. When I started to think that this journey would never end, we turned into a country road, which led into the scrubby bush.
Ten minutes later the bus stopped in front of huge massive gates, which immediately slid open. Behind the gates there was the territory of the camp. The buses growled into the parking area and stopped. We all stumbled off the bus and started looking around. Two men in the same camouflage uniforms came out of a long, two-story building to welcome us. The older man announced solemnly, ‘Welcome to the Mountain Knight, young friends!’
‘Why do they call this place Mountain Knight?’ Richelle whispered in my ear. ‘I don’t see any mountain or even a hill here.’
I shrugged. ‘Maybe they think it sounds more romantic,’ I suggested.
All kids were divided into groups according to their age and gender. Every group had their own counselor. We were in the oldest group. Our counselors turned out to be two young people - a girl Marina for girls, and a guy Michael for boys. They both were only five or so years older than we were.
Then they showed us our rooms. There were five or six equal sleeping buildings for kids in the camp. The girls were settled in the first long building. Tom, Elmo and I had a room in the second building on the ground floor together with other boys of our year or one year younger. Boys who were two or more years younger were sent to other buildings.
Furnishings in the buildings, where we were going to live, oddly combined soldier barrack style with luxury. Every sleeping room was for three persons. There were three single beds, three bedside tables, three small clothes cabinets and one table in every room. But in the common room in every building there were great furniture, leather divans and armchairs, which were so soft that you could sink into them; huge flat screen TVs hung on the walls.
Luckily they gave one room for Tom, Elmo and me. I can’t say that I was looking forward to living with Tom and Elmo, but it was much better than living in one room with unknown guys. Tom and Elmo seemed to be glad to share one room too. Hardly had we brought our bags into our rooms and looked around, when we were ordered to gather outside, where they gave packets with uniform to us. We looked at each other. None of us wanted to wear a uniform. In fact, Richelle went further and positively refused to put it on. She said that she wanted to wear her own clothes. But our counselor Michael said that he didn’t care what she wanted and that she would wear the uniform, because it was one of the rules of this camp and our parents had known about it and agreed.
‘Maybe they knew about it, but we didn’t,’ Richelle went on arguing.
‘No arguments!’ the counselor barked.
Richelle pouted and took the packet from his hands. The rest of us also received our packets.
The set of uniform for boys consisted of two camouflage T-shirts – one with short sleeves and the other one with long sleeves; dark-green shorts; dark-green jeans and a camouflage sweatshirt. The T-shirts and sweatshirt had embroidery patches on the chest.
The set of uniform for girls consisted of two camouflage T-shirts; a camouflage cardigan; a dark-green skirt; dark-green half hoses and dark-green tights for cold weather.
As for footwear, we could wear our own joggers or other sports shoes. Girls were allowed to wear joggers or their own shoes without heels.
‘You can wear your own clothes to parties,’ Michael explained. ‘But the rest of time you must wear only the uniform.’
‘But what if my uniform gets dirty?’ I asked hopefully.
‘You’ll have to wash it,’ the counselor replied dryly. ‘In every sleeping building we have laundry rooms where you’ll find automatic washing machines, washing powder, basins and irons, and everything else what you need for washing.
‘But I can’t wash and iron,’ I objected.
‘You have to learn then,’ the counselor shrugged.
‘Stop arguing with him,’ Sunny whispered in my ear. ‘We won’t go home until we serve our time here, whether you want it or not.’
I sighed. She was right. Whether we wanted it or not, we’d have to live for two weeks here in this prison. I was starting to regret that I’d refused to go to Greece.
After that we all were sent to our rooms to change. I put on my uniform and doubtfully stared into the mirror. My reflection in the camouflage T-shirt and dark-green jeans stared back at me. It was terrible! I had a feeling that our parents had made a mistake and accidently sent us to a prison.
Tom and Elmo obviously decided that they would look better in shorts. But in my opinion, in dark-green shorts and camouflage T-shirts they looked even worse than I did in these awful jeans.
I kept examining myself in the mirror when Tom came up to me from behind.
‘It could be worse,’ he sighed.
‘Nothing could be worse,’ I muttered. I still didn’t like myself in this military outfit.
Elmo diplomatically shrugged and didn’t say anything. Zimmer usually doesn’t care how he looks.
‘Hi!’ a spotty guy poked his head around the door. ‘I was asked to tell you that lunch would begin in fifteen minutes. Exactly at one p.m. Don’t be late. If you’re late to lunch, you won’t receive meal till teatime,’ saying this, the guy closed the door and ran away.
‘Great! Our parents couldn’t find a better place to send us to,’ my mood completely ruined.
‘We’ll get over it,’ Elmo patted me on the shoulder, ‘right Tom?’
Tom didn’t answer, just sighed heavily. You could see that he didn’t like the military atmosphere in this Mountain Knight either.
‘Hey, guys!’ we heard voices from the hall. Liz, Sunny and Richelle came running into our room, all dressed in the uniform.
‘So, what do you think about our outfit?’ Sunny asked cheerfully.
‘Sunny Chan! How can you laugh?!’ Richelle burst out, almost in tears. ‘Stop torturing me! This awful uniform doesn’t suit me at all! I hate it!’
Though, to be honest, in my opinion in a dark-green short skirt, half hoses and camouflage T-shirt, she looked quite sexy.
All of a sudden we heard a piercing, howling sound, coming from the outside. We all jumped and looked at each other in fright.
‘Maybe this sound means an invitation to lunch?’ Elmo suggested.
‘It sounds more like air warning horn from movies about war,’ Tom shivered.
‘I don’t like all these military things,’ Liz grumbled.
‘Didn’t you hear the signal?’ Michael stormed into the room. ‘It’s time for lunch.’
‘Aye, aye, sir!’ Tom saluted.
‘I didn’t get it,’ Michael severely looked him up and down.
‘Try to work it out then,’ Sunny grinned.
‘Stow it!’ Michael barked. ‘Go to the canteen! Quick!’
‘We don’t know where to go,’ Liz said reassuringly.
‘Go outside, then to the end of the building, then turn to the left and go straight ahead,’ Michael explained. ‘Off you go now!’
Tom wanted to salute again, but I quickly kicked him. Otherwise this Michael could get angry with us and our life here would be completely impossible.
So we went out of the building and walked towards the canteen. We quickly found it. A lot of kids crowded on the porch in front of the door. We came up to them.
‘Hi,’ a thin guy of our age smiled at us. ‘My name is Gregory. I haven’t met you here before. It’s your first time in this camp, isn’t it?’
We nodded and said our names. Gregory started to tell us about this place. As it turned out he lived in the same building where we lived. His parents often sent him here for holidays.
I heard footsteps from behind and looked back to see. A guy of our age was coming towards us. He was tall, slender, had fair hair and perfect teeth. And he was quite good-looking and well-dressed. He came up to us and haughtily looked us up and down.
‘Hi Greg! How are you?’ he boldly slapped Gregory on his shoulder.
I noticed that Gregory shyly bent down his head. Then the guy turned to us and cheekily winked at Richelle.
‘Hey, I see beautiful girls have arrived here,’ he grinned at her. ‘The holidays are going to be interesting! I’m Victor. What’s your name?’
Richelle smiled proudly. She loves to be in the spotlight. And she loves even more to play with male human beings.
‘I’m Richelle,’ she said playfully, flattering her eyelashes and looking at Victor with one of those looks, which I knew so well, as if she was saying “I’m so beautiful, and so smart and just the best girl you’ll ever meet, but I’m not yours.”
‘Oh, we’re so proud,’ Victor sniggered.
Richelle’s face changed. She stopped flattering her eyelashes and smiling, and crossly shook back her long fair hair.
That’s it, I snickered to myself. Your charm affects not anyone.
Victor obviously saw his friends in the crowd and made a sign to them. Then he winked at Richelle again, and saying “see you later, miss”, he sauntered towards his friends.
‘Go to hell,’ I muttered through clenched teeth.
‘I want to warn you, Richelle,’ Gregory said. ‘See that girl over there?’ he jerked his head towards a red-haired, good-looking girl, who’d already clasped her arms around Victor’s neck. ‘This is Christina Anderson. They’ve been dating since last summer. And she won’t give in.’
‘I don’t care,’ Richelle said arrogantly. ‘I don’t like this Victor at all.’
‘Do you know him?’ Sunny asked Gregory.
‘Yeah, unfortunately,’ he nodded, looking disgusted. ‘It’s Victor Wilson. He often spends his holidays in this camp. Kids here try not to tangle with him. But those who tried to object usually didn’t end up well.’
‘What do you mean?’ Liz asked nervously.
‘Wilson never plays fair,’ Gregory said. ‘He prefers dirty tricks. That’s why most of kids here are afraid of him. So I want to give you a piece of advice – don’t stand in his way. It can be dangerous.’
‘It can be dangerous for him to stand in our way,’ I muttered.
Tom glanced at me and laughed. ‘Ye-ah,’ he drawled. ‘I see the military atmosphere of this camp is already affecting us.’
‘I’m telling you, don’t touch him,’ Greg repeated.
I gave him a grim glance, but didn’t say anything. I was starting to think that living in this camp was going to be more difficult than I’d thought before.
‘Hey, I’m dying of hunger! Are we going to eat today?’ Tom begged.
‘Yeah,’ Elmo supported him
‘We have to wait for Michael,’ Gregory replied. ‘We can’t eat without our counselor.’
‘Is there something what we can do here without a counselor?’ I muttered. More and more I didn’t like this Mountain Knight.