Chapter 1 - Izabel
“Izabel. Knock it off.”
“I can’t go, they don’t allow students who have a deadly disease into the camp.” I urged as I fought against my two best friends who were pushing me towards the bus.
“Well good thing you don’t have any diseases then.” Juliet rolled her eyes at me as she made a display of her athletic strength.
Juliet and Lila each had a firm grip on one of my arms which aided them in dragging me through the dirt despite my feet working against them trying to push my way back. It truly must’ve been an unusual sight to anyone observing. However, all my classmates didn’t even pay attention to me. This was an occurrence that took place every year. Without fail. My reluctance to get on that bus that would take us to camp was not something I grew out of as we all matured over the years.
“Seriously guys, I’m going to throw up.” I continued to fight my case, making gagging noises.
Lila took this chance to chime in. Her bright red hair was sticking up all over the place as she and Juliet tried to wrestle me onto the coach bus. “Izabel you literally say that every year. We’re seniors. You can’t just push through one more summer?”
I shook my head. “I don’t think so. I think I am truly coming down with something deadly this time.”
By this time my friends had managed to push me all the way from our school’s front doors towards the bus that was waiting for us. My shoes were now covered in dust and my arms were weak from fighting against them. Giving a sigh of defeat I stood up straight and looked back and forth between my two best friends.
“I loathe you guys.”
“You mean you love us? Aw, we love you too babes.” Juliet shot back and winked at me.
My eyes turned and stared at the bus. Almost all my classmates had arrived by now and were loading their luggage into the undercarriage of the school coach bus. It had the logo of our boarding school printed on the side in dark blue letters, Hawthorne Academy.
Everyone was jumping around and screeching to their respective friend groups about which activities they wanted to do first and, more importantly, who was going to hook up with which boy from Bennett this summer. One name, in particular, was thrown around more than the others. The one name I tried my hardest not to think about.
It was depressing really. The two most prestigious private schools in our county were Hawthorne Academy for Girls and Bennett College Preparatory for Young Men. They were passionate about the belief that teenage boys and girls would receive a better education if they were separated by their genders. However, they didn’t want to deprive their students completely from interactions with the opposite sex. Which is why I was now staring at the coach bus counting down the minutes until I was forced onto it.
Camp Wildwood was the two schools’ way of ensuring that their students were enjoying their summer break away from the “immoral influence” of the public schools in the city. Students were bussed from the comfort of their dorms to the desolate summer camp in rotations beginning the first day after finals. Each class would spend three weeks at Camp Wildwood before returning back to the schools where their parents would be waiting to enjoy the rest of the summer with them. While at camp, students would spend their summer days doing cliché camp activities while still keeping their minds sharp with extracurricular classes. The camp rotations went up until three weeks before classes resumed for the next school year.
What was worse, was that even seniors who had taken the very last final of their high school career were still required to go. True, seniors’ rotation at the camp was two weeks earlier than all the underclassmen, but we could not and would not walk at graduation or receive our diplomas until we returned from camp.
As I said, it was depressing.
My heart started beating erratically as I thought about the upcoming days and nights that I would have to spend at my least favorite place on earth, and suddenly my feet were moving beneath me. I bolted back towards the doors of Hawthorne trying my damn hardest to get there before I was caught.
Unfortunately for me though, my best friend Juliet was quicker than I was. She leaped on me before I could even make it two feet and tackled me to the ground. I groaned and moaned as I felt her land on my stomach.
“I think I’m having a heart attack. My chest hurts. I have angina!” I hollered.
“Cut the dramatics Izzie. You’re behaving like a child.” A nasal voice snarked at me from above. “You do this every year, can’t you just give it a rest?”
Juliet? No. This person was worse. Way worse. Nahla Fenwick was the class Barbie doll. She was the one who would show up from a long weekend off with a brand new hairdo and her skin two shades darker. For her, Wildwood was the chance to really show off her skills. And I’m not talking about classroom skills. The boys of Bennett all knew Nahla’s name and they were quick to run to her side if they needed her for any reason.
“I will give it a rest when I never have to see your face again.” I shot back at her, rolling my eyes.
Her lips curved up into a snide smile. “Look, I’m not going to stop you from not going. In fact, I encourage it.” I raised my eyebrows at her, waiting to see where she went with this. This was the most words she’d ever said to me in one sitting before. “I have a very detailed list of things I want to accomplish this year. And guess who is at the top of my list?”
Juliet rolled off me and glared at the Barbie doll, knowing that by things, Nahla meant boys. “Please enlighten us.”
Nahla’s perfectly plucked eyebrow raised just a fraction of an inch as she stared at Juliet, who now had most of her attention instead of me. “Well, Ryan Miller of course.”
Of course, Ryan Miller. The one name that was tossed around like candy at a parade. The bane of my existence. The king of Bennett. The sole reason why I was now laying on the ground, despite that I knew I was getting my white capris all dusty.
Juliet gave an amused laugh. “Ryan doesn’t have time for your games, Nahla.” I mean Jules would know, she’d been going steady with Ryan’s right-hand man for the past two years.
Nahla narrowed her eyes. “I know. Because he’s always too busy playing games with this one over here.” She pointed one perfectly manicured finger at me.
She wasn’t wrong. While Nahla obviously had her own agenda regarding the summer at Wildwood, so did Ryan Miller. He found immense joy in ruining my summers. All because of one little slip up on my part.
A word to the wise, be careful when walking through an overly crowded cafeteria with a full plate of spaghetti. Someone might accidentally bump into you causing you to dump your tray all over their pristine new white golf shirt. And that someone, might be the King of Bennett College Prep.
Apparently one plate of spaghetti is equivalent to six years of summer mind-games.
Ryan Miller devoted his summers to getting back at me for dropping my plate of spaghetti all over him. Honestly, it was exhausting. I hated him. It was consolation though that after this summer, we would all split ways and I would never, ever have to see or deal with Ryan Miller again.
Pushing myself up out of the dirt I looked right into Nahla’s distrustful eyes. “Trust me, Nahla, I honestly don’t give a rat’s ass about what you do with that egomaniac.”
She smirked. “Well good. Because I got a whole year’s worth of stuff planned and I don’t need you getting in my way.”
I shook my head. “Trust me, there won’t be a problem.”
“Good.” I heard her mutter as she spun on her heel and walked back towards the bus.
Giving a sigh I looked back towards Juliet who now stood staring at me with her hands on her hips. Lila stood just a few feet behind her looking at the two of us warily. “Any more antics, Izzie?”
“No Jules. You won. Let’s go and get this summer over with.” I stomped away from my two friends and climbed up the stairs into the bus.
I went straight towards the back and slumped in my seat. Rummaging around through my small duffel bag I found my headphones and popped them in. My favorite music flowed through my ears as I forlornly looked out the window and waited for the bus to load up and head out.
Eventually, Lila came and sat next to me. I looked up at her and she gave me a sad smile before patting my knee. She and Juliet both knew how much Ryan affected me, but there wasn’t much they could do about it. Ryan never did anything that could get him in serious trouble, he always played it off as an accident or as a joke gone wrong.
Besides, he was the King of Bennett. He could do no wrong.
Every year it was the same thing. I had given up hope long ago that anything would be different. It was pointless to hope that over the course of the year Ryan would have matured enough to move past his games. Who knows, maybe we could’ve been friends if we hadn’t gotten off on the wrong foot from the very beginning. Everyone liked him, so there must have been something to him that wasn’t 100% cringeworthy.
As the bus started to move I looked back out the window and watched my school disappear. The trip took two and a half hours. Two and a half hours to mentally prepare myself and put my walls up so that I could survive the next few weeks.
I must have drifted off into a nap because the next thing I knew I was gently being shaken away by Lila. I ripped out my headphones and she smiled at me, her eyes lighting up. “We’re here.”
Of course, she was excited. Everyone was excited. Except me. But I was used to that by now. I was just about the only person who didn’t like coming to this camp. No one else had a reason to dread it like I did.
Groaning I wrapped my headphones around my phone and stuck them into my bag. I looked out the window again but tried to advert my gaze to anywhere but the hunter green coach bus with the Bennett emblem that was unloading boys from the brother school.
I stood up and followed my classmates as they filed out of the bus one by one. When finally it was my turn to get off I took a deep breath and readied myself. I hopped down from the last step and looked around. The same trees, the same cabins, the same tennis courts. It was the exact same as we had left it last year.
As I looked around I could feel someone’s eyes on me. Already knowing exactly who it was, I’m not sure what possessed me to turn around.
My eyes met the smoldering green of the King of Bennett. He tore his gaze away from mine and looked me over. Slowly an evil smirk appeared on his flawless face. I sighed.
He was the exact same as I had left him last year.