Military Holidays

Chapter 10. Unexpected turn of events

By the time the girls came up to the bench where we’d been sitting, I had told Tom and Elmo what I’d found out from Richelle. They both seemed relieved.

‘Hey! Hey! Let me look at you,’ Tom started leaping around the girls as soon as they turned up. ‘How many kilograms have you already lost?’

‘Oh, don’t be ridiculous,’ Sunny waved him off. ‘I’m not going there any more.’

‘Well, I’m going to,’ Richelle objected. ‘You know, there were so many professionals in different spheres. They examined us from head to foot and worked out a special program for each of us,’ she went on dreamily.

Sunny rolled her eyes. ‘Okay, I’m going to the gym. Tom, Nick, are you with me?’

I groaned. ‘My whole body is hardly moving because of yesterday exercises,’ I moaned. ‘Besides, my body perfectly suits me. So I’m out.’

Judging by Tom’s face, he didn’t feel like going to the gym either, but he couldn’t miss the chance to be with Sunny for a while, so he agreed. They went off together, hand in hand. Liz watched sadly their disappearing backs. Obviously trying to distract her, Elmo suggested going to the library, where some geeks were about to discuss a book. Liz agreed. I walked Richelle to the dance class and then went to my room.

I lay down on my bed, thinking about all events that had happened since the morning. How could we be so stupid to think that the girls went to the dating agency? As if they weren’t able to find other boyfriends without it. For Richelle it’s easy. And maybe for Sunny, too. She’s pretty, and besides, she’s an athlete.

I took my phone to chat with someone and distract myself from unpleasant thoughts. I was exchanging messages with a friend of mine, when I heard a knock at the door.

I got up, opened the door and saw, of all people, Christina Anderson, who was smiling slyly at me. Nervously I looked over her head around the corridor, expecting to see Wilson.

‘Relax,’ Christina giggled. ‘I’m alone. Can I come in? I just want to speak.’

I nodded and stepped aside, letting her in. She came into the room and sat down on my bed, picturesquely crossing her legs.

‘Oh, cool phone,’ she grabbed my mobile phone, I’d left on the bed.

I sat down on Tom’s bed, waiting for her to get to the point. At first Christina chattered about something for a while. Then she sat down on Tom’s bed closer to me. Her skirt raised a little, baring her legs.

‘I don’t like this situation,’ she said at last, looking at me.

‘What situation?’ I asked.

‘This situation,’ Christina smiled at me coquettishly. ‘I don’t like your girlfriend.’

‘Well, I don’t like your boyfriend,’ I said.

‘But they seem to like each other,’ Christina said meaningfully.

‘Rubbish,’ I snapped.

‘No, it’s not,’ Christina objected. ‘That’s why I suggest taking measures before it’s too late.’

I looked at her attentively. Now I understood the aim of her visit. She was convinced that Richelle and Victor were about to start dating and that we should separate them.

‘I think we should do something for them to hate each other once and for all,’ Christina went on. ‘Then Vic will be mine. And your Richelle will stay with you.’

‘Richelle will stay with me in any case,’ I snapped. ‘I have no reasons not to trust her.’

Christina raised her eyebrows and glanced at me attentively. ‘Is that so?’ she drawled. ‘Why then before breakfast you looked at her the way you did?’

I shrugged vaguely, making it clear that the conversation was over.

Christina crossed her legs, letting her skirt raise and bare her leg even more than before. I looked away, rapidly thinking that I’d better finish the conversation. It was nearly lunchtime. All I need now, I thought, looking at Christina, who was chatting playfully, is for the others to come. Of course as soon as this thought crossed my mind, the door flew open and the five of them came in. Christina turned to them.

‘Oh, hi,’ she said with a cheeky smile. Then she turned to me again. ‘We’ll speak later, Nicky,’ she said playfully and put my phone into my hands. Then she stood up, and marched past the others with her nose in the air. They parted to let her pass.

I kept sitting on the bed, twisting my phone in my hands, expecting the storm and not knowing what to say.

‘How charming,’ Richelle said flatly at last, her voice icy.

She’s jealous, a thought flashed through my mind. So it’s still not too late to save everything.

‘What did she want?’ Sunny asked.

‘Nothing,’ I shrugged. ‘Just to… chat.’

‘Since when have you been chatting with her?’ Richelle said coldly.

I wanted to tell her that Christina practically asked me to help her to make Victor stay with her, but instead, against my will, I said that she suggested walking together while her boyfriend was busy.

‘Oh, awesome,’ Richelle pressed her lips together. Then she abruptly turned round and went out of the room.

Liz gave me a furious glance and ran after her. The others exchanged glances. Sunny rolled her eyes. Tom whispered to Elmo something about how easy everything had been before. Then they all stared enquiringly at me.

‘She didn’t suggest anything like that!’ I exploded. ‘She’s just afraid that Wilson can leave her because of Richelle. So she wanted me to help her to separate them.’

‘Why then did you say it?’ Sunny demanded.

‘I don’t know,’ I murmured, then I squeezed past them and into the corridor, intending to find Richelle to explain everything to her.

I came into the girls’ building, but their room was empty. At that moment I heard the siren wail, calling for lunch. So I went out of the girls’ building and headed for the canteen.

###

Lunch was a very quiet thing. Richelle and Sunny exchanged places, so Richelle was sitting far from me. During whole lunch she didn’t say a word to me. Wilson, grinning, occasionally glanced from me to Richelle. Christina did the same.

Tom cracked jokes endlessly, trying to lighten the atmosphere. Liz desperately tried to draw us into light, unconstrained conversation.

After lunch it was the “quiet hour” time, so we all had to go to our rooms. While Tom and Elmo were playing cards, I was lying on my bed, thinking how I could mend the situation. My pride didn’t allow me just to go and apologize. But on the other hand, if I don’t do something, we’ll certainly break up.

###

After the “quiet hour” we came up to the canteen to have tea. Michael was already there and let us in. As soon as we came in, Christina came up to us, and having ordered Tom and Elmo go further, hauled me aside.

‘So? Did you think about my offer?’ she asked.

‘There’s nothing to think about,’ I hissed. ‘Stop getting me into troubles, will you? Pay more attention to your boyfriend instead.’

I noticed Liz, Sunny and Richelle coming in, and rushed after them, leaving Chris alone.

‘Hey! Hurry up!’ Elmo yelled as soon as he noticed us. ‘Otherwise Tom’ll eat everything.’

He was right in it. Tom had already eaten all his doughnuts and tried to sneak the doughnuts from other plates. Elmo bravely pulled the plates away from Tom.

‘Don’t touch it,’ he shouted at Tom. ‘It’s not yours! It’s for the girls!’

‘I’ll take just one, or maybe two doughnuts,’ Tom attempted to grab the doughnut from the plate. ‘The girls won’t eat them all the same. They’re on a diet!’

‘Let him take mine,’ Sunny grinned. ‘I don’t like doughnuts.’

Tom happily grabbed two Sunny’s doughnuts and swallowed them in no time. Richelle didn’t react to my presence at all. ‘You can eat my doughnuts too,’ she said to Tom in a low voice.

‘Thank you,’ Tom immediately grabbed her doughnut and sank his teeth into it. Jam squeezed out over his fingers and drop on his T-shirt.

Richelle took her glass of juice and sat down at another table. Liz sighed and followed her. The next moment Sunny also stood up and sat at their table.

Forcing myself to stay calm, I pushed my plate away.

‘Are you going to eat the rest of your doughnuts, Nickers?’ Tom asked immediately, looking at my plate with hungry eyes.

‘Here you are, Guts,’ I rolled my eyes, but pushed the plate over to him.

Tom just murmured something in reply, happily pushing my doughnuts into his mouth.

###

That evening was quite dull. It was raining and the night was cold and wet. Liz and Richelle went to the movie theater. Tom and Sunny were in the girls’ room. I don’t know what they were doing, but we didn’t see them that evening. And it was so strange to know that our friends, who we’d known for years, were not just friends any more.

Elmo and I played billiards for a while, then we settled down in the common room of our building, watching TV and talking with Greg and other boys.

###

The next morning we met the girls on the way to the canteen. Liz began chatting how wonderful the movie they had seen yesterday was. Sunny and Tom went together, hand in hand. Richelle didn’t tell me anything, but at least she stopped giving me glances full of offence.

She seems to calm down, I thought with relief. I should try to set things right with her today. It’s really stupid to quarrel because of such trifles.

Having come up to the canteen, we saw a big crowd on the porch. Kids clustered by the door, excitedly talking and pointing at the big sheet of paper, which was hanging on the wall near the door. Tom adroitly screwed into the crowd and several minutes later flew out of the crowd, tangled and rumpled.

‘Wow!’ he shouted excitedly. ‘Richelle was right. On the last day of holidays there will be a beauty contest, followed by a costume party.’

We glanced at each other. It was good news. Really good news.

At that moment the door of the canteen flung open and the counselors came out.

‘Breakfast,’ they shouted.

During breakfast everyone discussed the coming beauty contest and the costume party. There was no kid in the whole camp who wasn’t excited of it. Even Christina and Victor were too busy chatting about it and didn’t pay attention to us. The costume party didn’t impressed Richelle very much, but the beauty contest was another matter, of course. She chattered endlessly that she, Sunny and Liz must do their best to win the contest. She even seemed to have forgotten her resentment against me.

‘I’m sure that there will be a dance competition. Nick, you will be my partner,’ she said in a tone that didn’t admit any objections or arguments.

I shrugged vaguely. I didn’t feel like going on a stage and dancing at the beauty contest, but as I’d said, I was going to do anything for peace.

###

That day there was a meeting, devoted to the beauty contest and the costume party. All girls who wanted to take part in the contest were to fill in questionnaires of contestants.

Liz absolutely refused to take part in the contest. She was too shy for that. But Richelle managed to convince Sunny to join her. I knew Richelle very well, and I had a feeling that she needed Sunny only for a company; she didn’t perceive Sunny as a real rival, and I could understand it. Sunny has got a pretty face, but she’s too short, she wears minimal cosmetics and doesn’t actually care how she looks. Richelle, unlike Sunny, really had a lot of chances to win, or at least to become one of the two princesses.

On that meeting we learnt that the contest would be divided into four parts: erudition, knowledge of history and literature competition; evening gown competition; floral design competition; and talent competition, where every contestant had to perform their talents.

The beauty contest will be followed by the costume party. Marina said that in a few days a lot of costumes of all sizes would be brought to the camp from the city, so everyone would be able to choose a costume. Or we could make our own costumes. In the middle of the party the beauty queen and two princesses would select the best and ingenious costume and the winner also would receive a prize.

###

‘We should take this contest seriously, Sunny,’ Richelle repeated over and over again that night, when we all gathered in the girls’ room. ‘We can’t let Christina Anderson win and become the queen. Anything but it!’

Sunny heavily sighed and rolled her eyes. ‘I can’t believe I let you draw myself into it,’ she murmured.

‘It’s too late to regret,’ Richelle said. ‘Tomorrow after breakfast we’re going to the dance class where Marina and other counselors will be teaching us to walk on stage, to dance and all that stuff. Don’t forget that, please.’

‘How can I forget it if you talk about it all the time,’ Sunny muttered.

‘I wonder when they will bring costumes for the party,’ Liz broke in. ‘I don’t know who I want to be yet.’

‘Well, I’m not dressing up,’ Richelle said firmly.

‘Why?’ asked Liz. ‘Marina said that everyone was supposed to wear a costume, remember?’

‘Everyone, except for the queen and the two princesses,’ Tom sniggered. ‘Richelle probably thinks that she’ll be the beauty queen and that’s why she won’t have to wear a costume. Well, it’s pretty silly to be so sure, if you ask me.’

Richelle glared at him. Sunny nudged Tom in the ribs. ‘Don’t drive her more insane,’ she hissed.

‘No, I agree that Richelle has a nice appearance,’ Tom shrugged. ‘But the girls will be judged on not only their appearance, but also on other qualities. Besides, Sunny is also good-looking. And so are a lot of other girls. Christina Anderson for example. She’s a bitch, I know, but she’s really good-looking. And I think she has a lot of chances to win.’

‘Christina?’ Richelle choked. ‘This…reddish scank?! It’s a wonder she was allowed to take part in the contest, let alone to win!’

‘No,’ Tom insisted. ‘She’s got a beautiful face, and fair body and long thick hair. I’m telling you, she’ll win at least the title of one of the two princesses.

‘What?’ Richelle jumped to her feet. ‘So, you, idiot, are going to vote for Christina?’

‘First of all, I’m not an idiot,’ Tom snapped. ‘And second, we live in a democratic country, so I can vote for any candidate I want.’

‘See?’ Richelle turned to us, accusingly pointing at Tom. ‘We nourished a viper in our bosom! Traitor!’

‘I’m not a traitor,’ Tom went on arguing. ‘I just face the facts, which you, Richelle, refuse to accept. Yeah, I agree that Christina is a bitch, but she’s very good-looking and you can’t change it. And I’m not the only one in our gang who thinks like that.’

Richelle turned to me; her face red with anger. ‘Do you also think that Christina has many chances to be the queen?’ she demanded.

‘Hey, don’t shout at me!’ I exclaimed indignantly. ‘I didn’t say anything about Christina at all!’

‘But you do think that she’s good-looking, don’t you?’ Richelle’s eyes narrowed as she glared at me.

‘It seems to me that we got off the subject,’ Elmo put in cautiously, luckily for me. ‘We gathered here to discuss costumes for the party.

While he was saying this, I grabbed Tom’s shirt-collar and whispered in his ear, ‘shut up! Don’t you see the state she is in? Don’t drive her insane!’

Tom wriggled free. ‘I was just telling my opinion,’ he grumbled. ‘And, anyway, I’m going to vote for Sunny.’

Sunny grinned. Richelle pouted. She demonstratively stood up, grabbed a couple of fashion magazines and settled on her bed as far as possible from us. It nearly drove me crazy. I was ready to remind her about Victor, how she’d smiled at him on the first day here, how she’d danced with him and how nicely they had talked today in the morning.

But I knew that if I told all these things, it’d only complicate our already complicated relationship. So I stifled my anger and pride, and sat down on the bed next to her.

“Rich, who cares what Tom or someone else thinks about Christina’s looks. We all know that you more than anyone else have chances to win. That’s the point.”

“But you still think that she’s beautiful, don’t you?” she glared at me. “I saw how you looked at her.”

This was too much for me.

‘What do you expect me to say?’ I exploded. ‘That Christina is ugly? Well, she’s good-looking, I can’t deny it. Do you want me to lie to you just to satisfy your pride?’

‘You know what, Nick,’ Richelle hissed. ‘If you like her so much, you can go to her. You can go and finish that little conversation, which you started yesterday. Your room is empty now and this time no one will interrupt you.’

‘Fine,’ I snapped. ‘I’ll ask her to come to my room tomorrow. And I don’t think she’ll mind it.’

Saying this, I abruptly stood up and returned to the others, who were staring at us. For a while no one said a word, we were just glaring at each other.

‘Let’s go back to the point,’ Elmo suggested finally, trying to fill the awkward pause. ‘Liz, what if you dress like, say, Snow White? I could be your dwarf then.’

‘Yeah, good idea, Elmo,’ Tom nodded vigorously. ‘It could be our team costume. Liz is Snow White. The rest of us, except for Richelle, can dress like dwarfs. The prize certainly will be ours!’

‘Yeah, Tom, you more than any of us look like a dwarf,’ I drawled. ‘Such a small, quiet dwarf.’

The others couldn’t help giggling. Tom was nearly two meters tall, very skinny and more than a head taller than our future Snow White.

‘I don’t know,’ Liz said doubtfully. ‘I want to make my own costume.

‘So do I,’ Tom immediately changed his mind. ‘That’s even better. The prize will be only mine then.’

‘Oh, yeah, dream on, Moysten,’ I drawled.

We discussed the costumes and the party and the contest until Marina ordered us to get out of the girls’ room. The whole evening Richelle was a bit quiet, probably because of argument with Tom and me. She knew that she was worthy to be the beauty queen. But no matter how much she hated to admit it, Christina also was worthy of it. And maybe Sunny. And other girls. So I guess even she realised that the struggle was going to be hard.


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