Chapter 11. A date with Christina
The next day we met the girls near their building on our way to the canteen. As soon as we came up to them, Richelle hauled me aside.
‘Nick, I’m sorry I yelled at you yesterday,’ she said. ‘I was nervous because of this contest. And Tom sometimes drives me crazy, you know. I didn’t mean anything I said to you.’
I felt my lips twisting in a broad smile. It was exactly what I wanted to hear. I put my hands on her waist.
‘I know. I’m sorry, too,’ I murmured in her ear.
Richelle gently kissed me. ‘So, are we okay again?’ she whispered.
‘Yeah,’ I smiled.
Christina together with her friends went past us. Chris meaningfully glanced at me and playfully smiled. Trying not to let her get into my mind, I took Richelle’s hand and we returned to the others, who were waiting for us. Gaily chatting we all headed for the canteen. There we saw Gregory standing at the door and studying the advertisement about the beauty contest for the hundredth time.
‘Hi,’ he smiled at us. ‘Great, huh?’ he jerked his head towards the advertisement. ‘Listen, Liz, I heard you refused to take part in the beauty contest. Why?’
‘Um…that’s not for me,’ Liz shrugged. ‘I feel uncomfortable on the stage.’
‘Oh. Do you have a pair to go to the party then? How about going with me?’ Greg suggested.
‘Um… sure, why not,’ Liz smiled shyly, glancing at Tom sideways.
I noticed that Elmo stiffened and looked daggers at Greg under his eyebrows.
‘By the way,’ Greg went on chattering, not noticing Elmo’s glance. ‘I heard that prizes for the contest and party are going to be cool. Computer, laptop, mobile phones, stereo music system and a lot of little prizes.
‘I’d like to win a mobile phone,’ Tom drawled dreamily.
‘I’d prefer the stereo system,’ Gregory said. ‘Mine is quite old.’
‘I’d like to receive a new laptop,’ I put in.
‘You, boys, seem to want to win the beauty contest yourselves,’ Sunny giggled.
‘It’s sexist, you know,’ Tom agreed. ‘They might do something for boys too.’
During the conversation we came into the canteen and sat down on our chairs. Victor Wilson, Christina and the others were already there.
Richelle said something about Christina. She said it loud enough for Christina to hear. Of course, Chris heard her words. She glared at Richelle, but didn’t say anything, realising that she wouldn’t win the argument. Victor’s lips twisted into a sinister grin. But he didn’t say a word either. They just looked away and started eating breakfast.
The next several days were quite calm. Wilson and his mates avoided us; they didn’t even look at us while passing by. But I could see the hatred in Victor’s eyes. It was obvious that he and his friends were up to something.
Of course we couldn’t possibly avoid each other completely. We met in the canteen or in our sleeping building or in the sport courts, and couldn’t help saying something nasty to each other, but it didn’t go further. Sometimes I noticed Victor staring at Richelle sideways, but every time when he met my eyes, he immediately turned away and started saying something to his friend. I felt uneasy at these moments. What if he was going to do something to Richelle?
Sunny also was worried. She repeated over and over again that she didn’t like their behaviour. Their indifference to us was too suspicious.
Unlike Sunny and me, Tom was careless as ever. As he put it, if Wilson tried to do something to us, he’d got troubles again.
Liz and Elmo weren’t so air-headed, but they both considered that if we didn’t provoke Victor, everything would be okay. As for Richelle, she thought about nothing but the beauty contest.
As Marina had promised, two days after the meeting, the management of the camp brought a lot of different costumes for the party. For about an hour we all paraded around the room and between hangers with the costumes, and posed in front of the mirrors. At last I chose a costume of a pirate.
I guess I would have had enormous success with women in eighteenth century, I thought, looking at my reflection in the mirror. I have to say I was pleased. I did look good in this grey pants and dark purple jacket and white shirt. And I liked myself even more when I put on the pirate hat and bandana with beaded braids.
Elmo at first wanted to dress like a ghost – that is to put on a white bed sheet with holes for eyes so as no one would recognize him. But Liz convinced him to take a costume of a dwarf, saying that under this mask no one would recognize him all the same.
Sunny took a costume of a black cat, which suited her perfectly, I have to admit. Little, slender, athletic, with smooth, black hair, she was a graceful catwoman.
Tom and Liz didn’t choose anything, explaining that they were preparing their own costumes. Richelle chose a costume of a princess, though she did it only because she had to take something. She seemed to be already dreaming how Mr Wang is putting a silver tiara on her head and what she would say to the audience as the first beauty queen of this camp.
To my happiness, Richelle’d changed her mind about dance with me. She decided to dance with a professional dancer, and, like most of other contestants, she had been spending all her spare time in the dance room, rehearsing.
Since that day when we’d learnt about the beauty contest, I hardly saw her more than two hours a day. She’d been visiting dance classes, “Perfection”, spa and other places; classes, where the girls practised walking and turning on the stage, changing and smiling and answering the questions of the jury and so on.
Sunny occasionally attended these classes too. She didn’t take the contest seriously. You could see her more often in the gym or on the football field, or in the swimming pool than in the dance class. This girl is mad.
Liz and Tom had been making their costumes. Elmo hung around in the library.
I felt really bored. From time to time I went to the computer class, or to the library with Elmo, or to the swimming pool with Sunny, or to roller-skate with Greg. But it didn’t make me feel better.
More and more I missed Richelle. And I think it means something.
Two days before the contest something weird happened. After dinner Richelle went to the dance class; Tom, Liz, Elmo, Sunny and I were in the girls’ room. Sunny and Elmo were helping Liz to sew the dress for the party; Tom was busy with papers, bandages and plenty of pieces of fabric, making his costume. I sat on the bed, aimlessly watching them. Suddenly my mobile phone buzzed. I pulled it out of my pocket and glanced at the display. Unknown number.
I raised the phone to my ear and answered.
‘Hi!’ I heard a cheerful female voice, which seemed very familiar. For a while I tried to understand who it could be, and when I finally realised who it was, I felt my face getting hot.
‘Hey? Are you there? Don’t you recognize me?’ the girl went on in the same playful tone.
‘Um… Of course I do…’ I stammered noticing the others staring at me in bewilderment.
‘What’s up?’ I heard Liz whisper. ‘Who is it?’
‘I’m not sure, but I can guess,’ Sunny replied, steadily looking at me. ‘It seems to me that it’s one of our “good friends” is calling. Or rather a “girlfriend”.’
‘Christina?’ Tom choked loudly.
Hastily I put my hand over the phone. ‘Please, be quiet!’ I pleaded.
‘Am I right?’ Tom went on, ignoring me. “Is it Christina? What does she want?’
‘Drop dead, idiot!’ I hissed. ‘No, I’m fine,’ I said politely into the phone. ‘I just… I’ll call you back in a minute, okay?’
‘What did she want?’ Liz gave me a meaningful glance when I hung up.
‘I don’t know,’ I grumbled, standing up and grabbing my sweatshirt. Before they could ask another question I went out of the room and settled down into an armchair in the common room. There was no one except for me there, so I could talk to Christina without listeners. I pulled out the phone and dialed the last number. Christina immediately answered.
‘I was starting to think that you wouldn’t call,’ she said in a capricious voice.
‘I promised, remember?’ I said.
‘Oh, it doesn’t mean a lot,’ she said playfully. ‘You, boys, always promise something, and make us, poor girls, wait and hope.’
‘You call yourself a “poor girl”?’ I snorted.
‘Of course I’m a poor girl,’ Christina sighed dramatically. ‘Poor, abandoned girl.’
‘Abandoned?’ I grinned. ‘I would never say this. It seems to me that a lot of boys flock around you. I’d say too many boys too often flock around you.’
‘Many boys?’ Christina repeated. ‘Who do you mean?’
‘Never mind,’ I tried to evade explanations.
‘Is someone, I’m talking to, one of these boys?’ Christina obviously wasn’t going to let me get away with it so easily.
‘How do you think?’ I asked.
‘What do I think?’ Christina re-asked.
‘What do you think about what you’ve asked,’ I explained.
‘I asked you about it,’ Christina said in a more playful tone than before, ‘so it’s you who should reply, not me.’
All of a sudden I felt cold sweat on my forehead. Suddenly I realised that if Richelle had heard this conversation, she would have never believed that I was speaking with Christina just like a camp-mate. And what’s more, I realised with horror that I really liked this conversation, because no matter what Richelle was saying about Christina, Tom was right, she was a very attractive girl and her attention flattered me.
‘So what will you say?’ Christina asked again. ‘Do you remember about me?’
‘I’ve phoned you,’ I said, ‘so I suppose it means that I remember.’
‘It’s getting funny,’ Christina gave a melodic snigger. ‘What about your Chelley?’
‘What about your Victor,’ I found myself talking in the same playful voice against my will.
‘What about Victor?’ Christina giggled.
Maybe they quarreled, I thought. But why then she phoned me, of all people? Or maybe she wants something from me? I should try to find out. ‘Victor seems a bit weird lately,’ I said out loud. ‘So I thought that he might be busy with something.’
‘It seems to me that you’re interested in Victor more than in me,’ Christina pretended to pout. ‘Speak to him then.’
‘I’m interested in Victor only in an indirect sort of way,’ I said, not believing what I was saying.
‘What do you mean?’ Christina asked in astonishment.
‘I mean… my chances…with someone.’
‘Chances with someone?’ Christina giggled coquettishly. ‘With Victor?’
‘No,’ I replied. ‘But if Victor is busy, someone might be free.’
‘Oh, is that so?’ Christina apparently was pleased. ‘I don’t know, Nicky. Vic isn’t very busy.’
‘What if I’ll make him busy?’ I insisted.
‘Are you sure you want it,’ Christina asked.
‘It depends on how much you want it,’ I said. Oh my god! What am I saying! I thought in horror, but I already couldn’t stop myself.
‘I’ll think,’ Christina replied coquettishly. ‘Anyway, today I’m free and lonely. And you can save me from loneliness.
‘Sure. But not over the phone. Let’s meet somewhere,’ I suggested, horrified with myself. ‘I could save you from loneliness, say, in the little park behind the football field.’
‘Okay,’ Christina sang. ‘I’ll be there in ten minutes.’
I hung up and rubbed my forehead with my hand. Why the hell did I do this? I thought, shaking my head. If Richelle learns about it, she’ll… Oh god!
I buried my face in my hands, thinking if I should call Christina back and say that I wouldn’t come. But then another thought crossed my mind. Christina fell under my charm too quickly. What if she wanted me to make a date with her because she and Wilson had a plan?
I glanced at my watch, pulled on my sweatshirt and walked towards the football field. Christina turned up there a few minutes later. She was wearing makeup. The short dark-green skirt and camouflage cardigan perfectly suited her slender figure.
‘Hi,’ she smiled sweetly and sat down on a bench very close to me. I felt scent of her pleasant, sweet flower perfume. Richelle likes the same perfume, a thought flashed in my mind. I felt my face getting hot. I was glad that it was getting dark and Christina couldn’t see that my face was blushing. I felt awful. I felt as if I was cheating on Richelle.
I shook my head. I’m not cheating on Richelle, I said to myself. I just want to find out what they plan so that we will be able to prevent another trick.
I turned the conversation to Victor, trying to draw some information from Christina, but failed. Chris either turned everything into a joke or started to flirt.
Or maybe I’m wrong and she just likes me, I thought, desperately trying to understand. Maybe there’s no catch at all, maybe she just wanted to meet me face to face. I shook my head, not knowing what to think.
All the same, I said to myself, I should be careful. Christina is sly. Maybe she wants to confuse me by her sweet words and in the end to learn something.
So when Christina “accidently” turned the conversation to the beauty contest, I tensed. She seems to want something from me, after all, I went on thinking. Suddenly she put her hand on my arm. I quivered.
‘Do you agree?’ she asked.
‘Ah? What? I… I don’t know,’ her question took me by surprise.
‘What do you mean you don’t know?’ she raised her eyebrows. ‘All girls who are taking part in the contest have peculiar number, according to which they will go on the stage.’
‘So?’ I looked at her.
‘So tell me Richelle’s and Sunny’s numbers,’ she replied, innocently looking at me. ‘Don’t worry. I just want to know when I will have to perform, before or after them.’
By this time I had been completely convinced that Christina had been sent to me by Victor. Apparently he was going to play another practical joke on our girls.
No way am I going to tell you about Sunny and Richelle, I thought. ‘I don’t remember,’ I said out loud. ‘Honestly. And anyway, I think it’s not important. You have many chances to win.’
Christina tried to giggle, but I could see she was disappointed.
‘No, seriously,’ I put in quickly. ‘I really think that you’ll win.’
Christina just snorted in reply.
Yeah, I thought. It was naive of the management of the camp to think that we would distract on the contest and stop fighting. Quite the opposite. Because of this contest, this war could escalate tremendously, and no one could say how it would end.
After that we talked only about neutral things, which weren’t connected with the contest, or Victor, or Richelle. Chris turned out to be an interesting girl. Again I started to think that maybe she’d agreed to meet with me because she just wanted it.
We sat there talking until the siren wailed, informing us that it was time to go to bed. We stood up to go. I don’t know why, but I told Christina that I would give her a ring the next day. She didn’t mind. And even more, she seemed to be pleased when I said this.
‘You can try,’ she cooed playfully. ‘Maybe the poor girl will be lonely again. By the way,’ she added. ‘Will you walk me to my building? But if you’re afraid, just tell me. I’ll understand.’
To tell the truth I didn’t quite understand whom in her opinion I might be afraid of. Richelle or Victor? But whoever it was I had no choice but to walk with her to the girls’ building.
There Chris kissed me slightly on the cheek, and coquettishly smiling, disappeared behind the door of the building. I walked towards the next building, praying that no one had seen us. That night I was lying wide awake in my bed, playing over and over again in my mind the events of this evening with Christina. I was trying to convince myself that she came to me because Victor’d asked her to find out some information, and that I just took rules of the game. At least I wanted to think like that, not letting other thoughts come into my mind.