Military Holidays

Chapter 2. Rules of behavior in the camp

Finally Michael turned up.

‘Lunch! Come in,’ he commanded dryly.

‘I hope we don’t have to line according to height,’ I muttered.

‘Hey, Nick, break off your protest action at least for lunch-time,’ Liz whispered in my ear.

‘Are you six going to eat?’ Michael came up to us. ‘I want to warn you, this is the first and only time when I’m waiting for you. Next time you’ll be left without meal.’

‘Okay, colonel,’ Richelle gave him a sweet smile.

‘I’m not a colonel, I’m a junior lieutenant,’ Michael replied gravely. ‘In the canteen you get.’

We glanced at each other and came into the big canteen, full of kids, both big and small. Michael led us to a long table and pointed at vacant seats. Tom, Sunny, Richelle and I sat together. Liz and Elmo sat on the opposite side of the table in front of us.

At that moment Victor Wilson and four guys, apparently his friends, sat down next to Liz. Victor turned out to sit right in front of Richelle. He smiled all over his face.

‘Hi, Rich,’ he winked at her. ‘I told you that we’d meet soon.’

Richelle raised her head proudly and stood up to find another place to sit. But all chairs were occupied. She had no choice but to sit down again.

‘Miss Pride wanted to run away, didn’t she?’ Victor drawled with malignant triumph.

Richelle turned to me.

‘Leave her alone,’ I exploded.

‘Did you say something?’ Wilson reacted immediately.

‘Nick, please, not here,’ Richelle pleadingly whispered in my ear.

‘You wanted to say something to me, hah?’ there was a challenge in Wilson’s voice.

I had to reply something, but before I could say a word, Michael appeared at our table.

‘Is everything okay?’ he looked attentively at Wilson.

‘Fine,’ Victor replied dryly.

‘Okay,’ Michael said, suspiciously looking at us. Then he turned round and went away.

Richelle and I exchanged glances.

‘The soup is delicious!’ Tom exclaimed, cramming spoon full of soup into his mouth one by one.

‘Little things please little minds,’ Richelle rolled her eyes.

For a few minutes we all chewed. I can’t deny that Tom was right. The meal in this camp was really delicious.

‘I see you all like the military meal,’ Sunny grinned, looking at us.

‘This meal isn’t military,’ Tom answered with his mouth full. ‘The meal here is as tasty as grandmother’s.’

The rest of lunch was more or less quiet. Wilson didn’t say anything to Richelle or to me. His friends also were silent. When we finished eating, Michael announced that we could go around the camp to see it, but after teatime, at five o’clock, we were to gather on the football field to get acquainted with the rules of living in this camp.

We went outside and slowly wandered along the path when Gregory called us.

‘Hey,’ he caught up with us, ‘I can show you the camp,’ he said, looking at Liz with interest.

‘It would be nice of you,’ she smiled.

To be honest I didn’t feel like wandering around the camp. But there was nothing else to do. The others and Gregory had already gone ahead. I trailed after them.

The territory of the camp was huge. At first Gregory showed us a big, wide open site behind the canteen. As he said when the weather was good they had parties here. When the weather was bad, parties were going on the second floor of the canteen.

Except parties, on the second floor of the canteen there was a room they called “the movie theater”, with huge screen and movie projector, where we could watch a film.

‘Wow!’ Richelle admired.

‘Should we go to watch movies in an orderly way, too?’ I asked gloomily.

‘No,’ Greg grinned. ‘It depends on your desire. If you want – you can watch a movie. But if you don’t want – do something else.’

‘I wonder what else I can do here,’ I sighed.

But as it turned out, there were a lot of other entertainments in the Mountain Knight. Actually there were probably all kinds of entertainment you could think of: painting, studying of foreign languages, embroidering, swimming, a gym, singing, gymnastics and so on.

‘You can even dive,’ Gregory said. ‘There is a dive club here in this camp. They train in the special swimming pool.’

‘This is just for our Tom,’ I sneered.

‘Why not?’ Tom shrugged. ‘Scuba-diving is very interesting. I heard there are a lot of beautiful fishes at the bottom.’

‘Have you gone mad?’ Sunny glanced at him. ‘What fishes at the bottom of the swimming pool?’

‘Um…’ Tom blushed.

‘Don’t you understand, Sunny?’ I laughed. ‘There are two big fishes at the bottom of the swimming pool. One of them is Tom. And the second one is a drowned coach.’

Everyone except Tom burst into laughter. Tom absolutely couldn’t swim. Even in the swimming pool he always swims in the shallow end, let alone diving with scuba.

We went further. Gregory led us past two tennis court and a big, two-story building of fitness centre. Then we walked past football field, surrounded by athletic track. Behind the football field there were volleyball and basketball courts.

‘Oh!’ Gregory slapped his forehead. ‘I almost forgot! There’s even a big library near the canteen.’

‘Library?’ I repeated in surprise. ‘I wonder who reads here. It seems to me that this Mountain Knight propagandizes only sport and entertainment’

‘No,’ Gregory shook his head. ‘You’re wrong. There are a lot of intellectual clubs here.’

‘What an amazing place this Mountain Knight,’ I grumbled.

‘Let’s go back,’ Richelle yawned. ‘I want to unpack my things.’

‘Yeah,’ I agreed. ‘Me too.’

We walked along the path towards sleeping buildings. When we reached the girls’ building, they said goodbye and disappeared inside. Tom, Elmo, Gregory and I went further towards the next building. Wilson and his friends were standing beside the front door, talking. When we were going past them, Victor coldly looked me up and down. I did the same. Then I pushed the door open and came inside. Neither he nor I said a word.

###

At four p.m. we met the girls near their building and headed for the canteen.

‘By the way,’ Sunny said meaningfully, ‘This Christina Anderson is our neighbor.’

‘She lives in the next room,’ Liz sighed.

‘Victor! Christina! Why can’t we speak about something else?’ Tom muttered.

We came into the canteen and sat down at our places. Teatime was quiet. Doughnuts were really tasty, even Richelle ate them with pleasure, though she usually doesn’t eat doughnuts and other starchy food.

Christina engrossed Victor’s whole attention. She changed places with one of Victor’s mates, and now was sitting next to him, talking endlessly. At least he didn’t even look at Richelle, what suited me fine. So there were no conflicts.

###

Then there was a meeting, holding by our counselors Michael and Marina. First of all Marina said that she was glad to see us in the camp. Then she smiled and asked us not to take offence at severities and limitations, because it all was for our good.

‘She’s nicer than Michael,’ I whispered in Richelle’s ear.

‘Yeah,’ she agreed. ‘Your Michael is too grim.’

‘You don’t know, maybe he had a deprived childhood,’ Tom put in, looking sideways at Michael’s grim face.

‘Knock it off!’ Michael barked as if he’d felt that we were discussing him.

‘The years of his childhood obviously were spent in a soldier barrack,’ I grinned.

‘Do you think it doesn’t concern you?’ Michael glared at me. ‘Now. Here are our rules. Reveille at seven a.m. Breakfast from eight a.m. till nine a.m… After breakfast till…’

‘Yeah, he had a deprived childhood in a soldier barrack,’ Richelle sighed, shaking her head.

‘Why are you shaking your head?’ Michael enquired immediately. ‘Any questions?’

‘No,’ Richelle replied, blushing. ‘I don’t have questions.’

‘Be quiet, then,’ the counselor ordered. ‘After breakfast you are free to do what you want to. We have art clubs, music clubs, library, a gym, sport courts and a swimming pool here. Our teachers, counselors and instructors will help you to make your choice and will teach you something new and interesting. For example in the swimming pool...’

‘Can we swim in the swimming pool without supervision?’ Tom interrupted.

‘No, you can’t,’ Michael replied coldly. ‘You can visit the swimming pool only if your name is in the list of swimmers and only under direct supervision of our swimming instructor.’

‘Tom wants to drown individually without the instructor’s supervision,’ I snorted.

‘Individually and without the instructor’s supervision isn’t allowed,’ Michael answered seriously. ‘I repeat, you can do it only with other members of the group and with the instructor’s presence.’

At these words everyone, including Marina, burst into laughter. Only Michael didn’t even smile. He was gravely staring at us. The reason of our mad laughter obviously was unknown for him.

‘Y-you mean,’ Liz stammered, choking with laughter, ‘that we can drown here only under the instructor’s control.’

‘Knock it off!’ Michael barked. The laughter broke off.

‘Do you have a question?’ he turned to Liz.

‘She wanted to ask,’ Tom chipped in, ‘why do we have to drown only with the rest members of the group and under the instructor’s control?’

‘They think they’re very smart,’ Christina glared at him.

‘I want to warn you,’ Michael said, looking at us severely. ‘People, who’ll try to break the rules, will be punished. In some cases they even will be sent home. If we send you home because you broke the rules, you cannot get a refund.’

‘Stop arguing,’ Elmo hissed at Tom severely. ‘He’s already angry with us.’

I nodded. He was right. It was stupid to ask for troubles from the first day. Michael, meanwhile, went on explaining the rules.

‘Lunch is from one p.m. till two p.m. From two p.m. till four p.m. - a “quiet hour”.’

‘Two hours,’ Tom said cheerfully. Michael stared at him in bewilderment.

‘What two hours?’ he asked.

‘Quiet,’ Tom replied.

‘I didn’t get it,’ the counselor sincerely admitted.

‘From two p.m. till four p.m. – it’s two hours,’ Tom grinned. ‘So we’ll have not a quiet hour, but two quiet hours.’

Several kids giggled again.

‘“Quiet hour” is just a name,’ Michael said. ‘It can last different time. It depends on regulations.’

Tom wanted to object something, but I quickly trod on his foot. ‘If you don’t shut up right now,’ I hissed in his ear, ‘we’ll be sent back to Raven Hill already today.’

‘What a good idea,’ Tom snorted, but refrained from further comments.

‘At four thirty - teatime. From five p.m. till seven p.m. you can do anything you like,’ Michael went on. ‘For example you can swim in the swimming pool. Or on exercise equipment.’

‘To swim on exercise equipment?’ I snorted. I said it against my will. I just couldn’t help myself.

‘Who asked this question?’ Michael exploded.

‘It was him,’ Christina Anderson helpfully pointed at me.

‘It’s a stupid question,’ the counselor said gravely. ‘If you don’t know, people do exercises on exercise equipment, but not swim.’

‘Thank you,’ Liz said reassuringly. ‘He didn’t know.’

‘Now you ask stupid questions?’ Sunny dug me in the ribs at the same time. ‘Do you want to make an enemy for the rest of your living here?’

Then Michael informed us that we were forbidden to leave the territory of the camp. The punishment for breaking this rule was the same – calling our parents and early sending home.

After dinner, which started at 7 p.m., till 10 p.m. we could read in the library, or play computer games, or chat in the internet, or see movies in the “movie theatre”, or watch huge TV-sets in the common room in our sleeping buildings or do something else.

We also had to serve dishes in the canteen on our own in turn.

At this point Michael made a pause and solemnly announced, ‘Plan of our actions for tomorrow: After breakfast, at ten a.m. you all are going to the football field to greet the camp director. Then you follow the regulations. After dinner, at nine p.m. we invite you to the party.’

His voice was muffled by joyful yelling. Mention of a party cheered everyone up.

‘Now,’ Michael raised his voice. ‘Rules of behavior at the party…’ he broke off, because of the hooter, which called us for dinner.

‘Dinner!’ Michael barked. ‘We’ll talk about rules of behavior at the party tomorrow. Off you go now!’

‘Mike, there’s no need in it,’ Marina smiled softly. ‘They’ve already known everything.’

‘Maybe you’re right,’ Michael agreed this time. ‘The main thing,’ he said, heading for the canteen, ‘is to maintain the discipline.’

‘Don’t worry,’ Wilson said importantly, ‘everything will be okay.’

‘We’ll see,’ Tom muttered.

Wilson looked him up and down, then without saying a word, he turned round and went into the canteen. His retinue obediently followed him.

‘Tom, don’t tangle with him,’ Sunny groaned. ‘I’ve had enough of fighting with the Work Demons in Raven Hill. I don’t want to fight with someone else here.’

‘Besides,’ Elmo supported her, ‘I don’t know about your parents, but my father had to borrow a quite large sum of money to pay for this camp. I don’t want to be thrown out of here because of you.’

Tom and I looked at each other. And I was sure that this time he was on my side.

‘Hurry up!’ Michael turned up in the doorway of the canteen.

We came in and sat down on our chairs. Christina was sitting next to Wilson again, but this time it didn’t stop him from turning to Richelle.

‘I’m looking forward to seeing you at the party tomorrow, miss,’ he said, smiling coquettishly. ‘You’ll like it, I promise.’

Christina pressed her lips together and gave Richelle a so furious glance, that she shuddered.

‘Vic,’ Christina cooed, keeping her piercing eyes on Richelle, ‘last year parties here were so cool. I hope they’ll invite the same DJ.’

‘You didn’t answer, miss,’ Wilson said to Richelle, as if he hadn’t heard his girlfriend.

‘I’ll answer you, mister,’ I interfered. ‘You…’

‘I’m not speaking to you,’ Victor snapped through gritted teeth.

‘But I am speaking to you,’ I said, trying to sound as steadily as possible, what was quite difficult, though. ‘If you hadn’t noticed, we’re a team, and we don’t want strangers to interfere into our life. But if you want, you can see me at the party.’

‘Hey, he wants to dance with you Vic,’ one of Victor’s boys sniggered.

‘If I dance with your boss, it’ll be the last party in his life,’ I snapped.

‘Oh wow,’ Wilson sneered, ‘are you threatening me?’

I smiled my most superior smile. ‘No. I’m just warning you. If you touch Richelle, you’ll never pay off your dentist, because I’ll knock out all your teeth.’

Saying that, I started to eat my dinner, trying to make my heart beat more slowly and to look calm. I glanced secretly at Wilson. He was staring at me attentively, as if I was an odd insect or something. Then he smiled to himself and started eating too.

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