Part Two: The Summerball
The high-pitched chattering of girls giggling and laughing mixed with the smell of burning hair made me feel nauseous. The lights in the bathroom over me dimmed slightly, probably over-circuited from the entire cabin plugging their hair straighteners into every outlet the cabin had.
"No way!" A girl giggled loudly, her voice drafting from the bigger room into the small bathroom. "You did that?!"
"Totally. Tyler didn't seem to mind." The second girl added. I rolled my eyes in annoyance - until I heard his name. I don't mind him going out or anything with my friends, but with Amanda? That was ridiculously low, even for him, who had high standards. I sniffed a stronger burning smell next to me and glanced at the two straighteners.
"Guys, whoever has these two straighteners plugged into the bathroom better come now before I dump 'em into the shower!" I shouted over to the other room, scrunching my nose up in displeasure as I continued staring at them lying on the countertop, smoke emitting from their over-heated ceramic plates.
"God Casey, what is your proble- OW! That's hot!- with us? We're just getting ready for the Summerball, that's all." Amanda scoffed, unplugging one of them and pushing it aside while taking the second one to her hair.
"The only thing I have a problem with is having a place to sleep tonight, thanks." I added, scoffing for effect.
"Huh?" Amanda asked, confused.
"Leaving hot hair appliances plugged in will set the cabin on fire..." I rephrased. "Cabin on fire equals no place to sleep tonight. Get it now?"
"You're just pissed that I'm going to the ball with Tyler," Amanda blurted. "I'm right, aren't I?"
"What?" I asked, my hands dropping to the sides in disappointment.
"You don't want me to go with Tyler to the dance," Amanda elaborated. "Right?"
"I don't know what you're talking about," I shrugged. "I don't have a problem with you going to the dance with Tyler."
"Oh?" Amanda paused in surprise. "I would assume since you were good friends with him that you would somewhat like him in a more-than-just-friends way."
"No," I scoffed again. "I don't like Tyler other than just as a friend."
"Alright," Amanda shrugged. "Sorry. Just had to hear it straight from your mouth, that's all. Now, back to making myself beautiful!" Amanda sighed, straightening her hair as she hummed to a song in her head.
"Wait, I've just remembered... aren't you going out with Logan? What's he going to think of this?" I asked Amanda loudly, making sure my voice was higher than her annoying humming.
"Oh, him?" Amanda questioned. "I broke up with him yesterday. He was way too boring."
"Oh... so you just... dumped him," I clarified. "Just like that, without warning?"
"Yeah." Amanda replied, verifying this new information.
"Interesting." I mumbled under my breath. Amanda went back to her hair straightening as I glanced at her outfit - short white miniskirt, tight pink halter top with too much beading around her cleavage and those... weird strappy shoes with a brown chunk at the back for a heel. Wedges, I think, they were called.
"Nice outfit by the way." Amanda replied in a monotone voice. I glanced down at my white flip flops to my denim Bermuda shorts to the white 'baby-doll' dress with black flowers all over it that I just put on minutes ago. While everyone spent three hours last night and an hour this afternoon picking out their outfit for the ball and another three hours of prep time, I read a book until there was only an hour remaining and got dressed.
"Oh, thanks." I muttered. Mine was just plain and simple compared to Amanda. So far she had finished straightening her hair, put on pink dangling earrings and worked on her flawless complexion. All straight from her gigantic trailer box she towed around the cabin that contained all her total accumulation of jewellery and makeup. Turning my attention back to the mirror reflection of me, I placed on medium-sized silver hoops that I had gotten as a birthday gift from my parents three years ago. Next, I shook my hair with my hands and eased some more frizz serum into it, looking at the view of myself - long blonde hair, athletic body and small freckles on my face from being under the sun too much.
Good enough for me.
Applying some basic lip-gloss I picked up at the drugstore a month ago without even bothering to critique its ingredients and tint color, I sat back down on my bed, picking up from where I left off in the book I was reading. During this, a gust of warm summer air blew into the cabin before I looked up and saw that the boys had arrived to pick up their dates.
"Hey." Tyler greeted, standing at the edge of my bunk. My heart turned stone cold at the sound of his voice but I played it off coolly.
"Hi." I murmured, still reading my book, a little bit disinterested in holding a conversation at this point.
"Where's Amanda?" Tyler asked nervously. My eyes darted away from the book to be met by his blue ones.
"Funny thing is, you told me you were going stag last ni-... yesterday, but then Amanda tells me she's going with you," I noted. "Normally, I don't have a problem with this, but why Amanda? She's... low, even for you." I added, whispering the last part.
"Opportunity came knocking." Tyler shrugged, leaning back against the wall, propping his feet up over mine as he sat down on my bunk. "I answered the door." He added, staring at my eyes. I glanced away nervously and cleared my throat, lowering my voice.
"Ty, as much as that sounded lame, I have to say, as a third-party outsider with absolutely no interest in this matter," I paused momentarily. "You've got to be cautious. She's not exactly... careful with other people's hearts."
"I'll be fine." Tyler mumbled, crossing his arms. It was then at that point I noticed he looked a little bit different. A distant smell of cologne, clean jeans, polo tee and clean sneakers indicated he had put in much more effort in his appearance out of the many years I've seen him try.
"Did you... get a haircut or something?" I asked hesitantly, eyeing his now-short hair which looked a bit tousled and had slightly small spikes at the front.
"Yeah, your date, Kyle, helped. Looks good doesn't it?" Tyler answered with his trademark grin on his face.
"Whatever." I muttered, returning to reading my book. "Where's Kyle anyways? I just wanted to tell him something before we went to the Mess Hall."
"Still in the cabin getting ready," Tyler answered slowly. "For you, I guess."
"Alright." I shrugged, flipping a page over.
"Can we talk about... what happened," Tyler asked hesitantly. "Last night?"
"Did I tell you not to bring that up," I groaned loudly. "Ever again?"
"Yes, but I wanted to talk to you about that," he mumbled. "You see, I've really thought about it and what I decided was that, well-"
"Tyler!" Amanda squealed, hovering over us. "You look so hot."
"Thanks... you look..." Tyler paused before finding the right word. "Nice. You look nice."
"Oh." Amanda slumped. "Be right back really quick, okay?"
"Sure." Tyler nodded in agreement with a sceptical look and Amanda ran off towards the bathroom. Clattering and a few grunts echoed from the bathroom before Amanda returned seconds later as promised, regaining her composure and brushing a strand hair out of her face.
"Let's go." Amanda smiled brightly, leaning in suggestively in a way that gave Tyler a good frontal view of her chest.
"Ok." Tyler nodded again and began getting up, banging his head on the low bunk ceiling in reply. "Ow." He added, rubbing his head. "How do you live with that?"
"Ditto." I shrugged again, reeling my legs back in from being under Tyler's to allow him to get out easier. He shimmied his legs over the side of the bunk, lowered his head and put one hand on a support beam and the other on my foot.
"See you later." Tyler added, flashing his signature grin and patting my foot. He pushed down back on my bed and got off, walking with Amanda out the cabin door. I returned to my book and continued reading until I heard someone's footsteps come up the stairs to the entrance of the cabin.
"Casey?" Kyle's voice wavered into the cabin, alerting me. I got up, smoothed out my shirt and chucked the book back onto the bed. "Let's go." He added, looking at me.
"Sure." I nodded, walking out of the cabin with him towards the Mess Hall. After a short and quiet walk, we arrived in front of the Mess Hall and stepped inside to the waiting area where there were some snacks to nibble on - tortilla chips and salsa, vegetables and veggie dip and a punch bowl with cups on the side.
"Want some punch?" Kyle asked. I eyed the punch before realizing it was probably just the same type of drink they served everyday - water with sugar flavouring.
"No thanks." I declined. "I'll probably have some chips and salsa." I planned, heading over to the table where they served the salty tortilla chips and the spicy salsa, digging in deep and getting all the vegetable chunks on my chip.
"Shut up! That is so funny!" Amanda laughed and I spun around to see her and Tyler sitting on a bench across from me. Tyler kept talking animatedly and Amanda kept laughing until someone obstructed my view.
"I was wondering, if you knew where Nicole was?" Jude asked. I glanced at his outfit - he didn't wear the usual sweatpants and stained t-shirt and instead was dressed in a pair of clean khakis and a blue polo top.
"I think I saw her by the water fountain outside." I answered. "Nice outfit. Are you going out with her?"
"No," Jude answered sadly. "I wish I was, but she's still with that jerk of a boyfriend of hers."
"Right, she's with Rick." I replied, remembering an earlier conversation I had with her. "Well, best of luck to you. Anything can happen tonight."
"Anything can happen tonight... thanks." Jude nodded before walking off.
Now, where is Kyle? I asked myself, scanning the large room for him. I found him conversing with another cabin-mate of his by the fruit punch bowl and made my way there.
"Hey Case!" Kyle greeted, chumming it up with his buddy. "What's up?"
"It's Casey," I seethed through my teeth politely. "Please."
"Sorry, my bad. I meant Casey. We should go - they're letting people in the banquet room." Kyle observed.
"Okay." I nodded, following behind Kyle to a table that he set his eyes on. We sat clumsily next to each other on the bench, eyeing the centerpiece and decorations.
"Is the theme Joker or something like that?" Kyle muttered.
"It's-" I piped up before Tyler's voice interrupted me.
"I think it's Casino Night or Card Night. Something like that." He added, sitting down across from me with Amanda on his other side.
"Sweet!" Kyle nodded and began eating the candy that was sprawled all over the table. "Want one?"
"No thanks." I smiled politely. A song began playing over the speakers as our age group leader cleared his throat over the microphone.
"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Card Night, where anything can happen!" Jonah announced loudly. "Lady Luck may be on your side or the joker can go wild. Whatever happens, it's all in the cards! Remember, the dance is at the Grove basketball court, eight pm, sharp!"
Interesting theme choice... I wonder who came up with that.
"Eat up!" A counsellor chimed in, depositing a table's worth of food in front of us.
"Oh wow, steak and mashed potatoes! My favourite," Kyle exclaimed, grabbing the platter of steaks and dumping a generous amount on his plate. "You like this too Casey?"
I opened my mouth before Amanda's bratty voice cut me off.
"Steak and potatoes?" Amanda scoffed. "Ew, I think I'm going to be sick. Pass the salad, Tyler."
"Why don't you like steak and potatoes?" Tyler asked curiously, passing the salad as asked towards Amanda.
"I'm a-" Amanda started before I cut her off in return.
"Vegetarian." I dully noted.
"Oh." Tyler paused. "What about the potatoes though? They're vegetables."
"Can't stand potatoes too." Amanda nodded, declining the platter of potatoes that Tyler offered as well.
"Pass them when you're done," I asked Tyler, avoiding his gaze. "Please."
"Sure thing, Case." Tyler muttered, chucking them at me.
"Casey, not Case." Kyle interrupted, remembering what I told him earlier. "She hates that."
"Eh." I shrugged.
"What?" Kyle asked, astonished. His eyes nearly bulged out at my nonchalant response. "You're telling me that you hate it when I call you that, but you don't care if Tyler does?"
"I've called her that since we were kids." Tyler added.
"Kids? You've know each other that long?" Kyle asked.
"Oh god." I rolled my eyes, mumbling under my breath. "Who cares?"
"I do!" Kyle shouted a little too loud, attracting attention towards us. "I mean, you're kind of sounding like a hypocrite though."
"I said, who cares?" I repeated firmly. "Now, can we please eat?"
My wish was granted. Everyone at our table ate silently, except for the chattering from Amanda's mouth and from the other tables around us. Our dinner finished by the time Amanda was finished talking about how "imported salad from Europe is much less in calories than salads here in North America," and when the dessert came, started talking about how "cows are people too, they don't deserve to be raised to be slaughtered for food," when I cut her off impatiently.
"Amanda," I groaned, stopping her elongated speech to a screeching halt. "Please, no more talking about cows or world peace. Can't we just eat without you yakking at us about being gloriously thin and overly beautiful?"
"Wow, that was harsh." Kyle muttered under his breath before someone kicked my leg under the table.
"Ow!" I winced, looking up to see Tyler disappointed. He mouthed 'no' before consoling Amanda and coaxing her to finish her dessert early and left the Mess Hall along with some other people who were already leaving.
"Jeez, what is up with you tonight?" Kyle asked, shoving a mouthful of triple-fudge deluxe brownies in his mouth. "Oofeedieetnoobutta, iayouereissed."
"What?" I stuttered, perplexed at his last statement. "I can't understand you with that food in your mouth."
Kyle took a large gulp and chased it down with more coke before belching and coughing. "I said, if I didn't know better, I'd say you were pissed. At him. And you're taking it out on her."
Wow, he's got good psychology skills. I noted to myself.
"What's going on Casey?" Kyle asked sombrely. "Tell me, and maybe I can help you out."
"Just forget it." I muttered, finishing my ice cream and getting up before Kyle's arm gripped on my arm and forced me back down on the bench.
"Tell me." Kyle pleaded. "Please? You're not yourself Casey, anyone can see that."
"Fine..." I mumbled, grabbing a fork and drawing random lines on the Styrofoam plate carelessly. "I'm pissed at Amanda because she's always bragging about this and that, it's just really annoying and it's been getting on my nerves lately."
"Okay, and what about Tyler? Did something not go over well between the both of you?" Kyle asked.
"Oh god, I don't even want to remember the stupid thing I did last night," I added quickly, drawing more aggressively on the paper plate. "He's just really stupid."
"You know Casey," Kyle started before he drank a large gulp of coke. "You need to admit your feelings to him, not hold it all in. Besides, I think you're just confused. You only want Tyler because of the shared history you two have together and Amanda's threatening that, therefore you think that you love him because you think it's jealousy. I think Tyler means well when he says that he's fine, because he knows Amanda. He's not going to underestimate her, nor does he want to push you away."
I sat there speechless and in awe of this brilliant outburst of intelligence Kyle just released. He paid no attention and continued on.
"It's just hormones and teenager shit. You need to tell him that you're not feeling romantic towards him whatsoever like you think you are, and that you only want to protect your friendship." Kyle summarized. "Before it's too late. Before Ty thinks that he may like you back too, and we all know that would end up in flames."
"You think that I like Tyler because I want to keep the friendship alive to prevent girls like Amanda from taking him?" I clarified slowly.
"Basically," Kyle paused, drinking more coke. "Yes."
"Huh." I scoffed, taking all of this in. I was pooling and collecting my thoughts before Kyle interrupted me.
"Go talk to him at the dance. Give him some time to cool down, before you spring this on him." Kyle advised. "You know, you're a pretty cool girl Casey, and I'm glad I got to know you more this summer."
"Thanks. Same here." I added, standing up and grabbing my disposable camera that was sitting on the table. "See you tonight?"
"Sure." Kyle nodded before I walked out the Mess Hall. I took off my white flip flops and walked on the beach, feeling the sand tingling my toes as the late summer breeze blew through my hair. I glanced over towards the left, where the sun was just barely above the horizon, the water calmly rippling through the boulders and miscellaneous rocks below. My mind was ready to write a sonnet or a poem reflecting this until someone interrupted my thoughts.
"Casey?" Tyler's voice wavered, drifted by the wind.
"I'd really like to be alone." I muttered coldly.
"Can we talk?" Tyler continued, ignoring my protests. "Please?"
"No." I declined, picking up my pace.
"What you said to Amanda was really harsh. She's upset." Tyler resumed, catching up to me. "However, the good news is, she's willing to forgive you."
"Don't care." I muttered, still focusing my gaze on the beach.
"Please, look at me." Tyler pleaded, grabbing my arm and spinning me around to face him.
"No!" I cried out in frustration. My arm struggled to get free but he placed both of his hands on both of my arms, disbarring me.
"Case, just let me say something and then you can go!" Tyler begged, softening his grip on my arms now. "Please,"
"Fine, but you have one minute." I noted.
"When you kissed me," Tyler started, resting his hands on top of my shoulders now. "I though-"
"Ty, please don't." I interrupted.
"Fine." Tyler sighed, racking his brain for something else to substitute. "Well, when that happened last night, I just realized that you know what? We're really good friends."
"Friends?" I asked, confused.
"And I thought, we've already got a good foundation laid down, maybe we can take the next step and start dating," Tyler contemplated. "And maybe, who knows? It could be much greater than we thought."
"What happens if it doesn't work out?" I asked. "What if I don't want it that way?"
"Casey, come on, you know it too. I know that you like me and it's just a matter of time until you admit it." Tyler replied. He leaned in for a kiss, and unwillingly, I felt myself drawn towards him.
You need to tell him. Before it's too late. Kyle's advice resonated throughout my head.
"No Tyler, this... isn't what I want." I responded. My hands were resting on his chest and pushing him away from me. I turned over to the lake and avoided his deflated gaze. "Just, stop it. Leave me alone." I added, walking away from him and then gradually increased my speed until I was running hard, faster than I ever ran before, to my cabin.
An hour and thirty minutes later, I was dreading going out of my cabin for the Summerball dance. I tried to keep myself busy throughout the waiting period by reading books, doing push-ups and sit-ups on the cabin floor repeatedly and listening to music but something at the back of my mind kept nagging me.
You were too late. Now the friendship's ruined. My cynic subconscious repeated.
"Casey?" Amanda's voice asked sweetly.
"Yeah?" I looked up and glanced at Amanda's outfit. She had changed, into a pair of ripped jeans and flip flops with a baby doll dress in a different cut than mine. However, her pink earrings remained the only thing that didn't succumb to her recent change.
"I'm sorry." She stuttered nervously, fiddling with her fingers. "I didn't... realize I was... annoying you lately."
"It's okay." I smiled, accepting her apology. "I'm sorry too. I didn't mean to say those things... I was just, I guess, in a way, frustrated."
"Don't worry about it." Amanda nodded. "You know, Tyler told me."
"Told you what?" I asked.
"About everything." Amanda answered apprehensively. "And Kyle talked to him too."
"Oh." I muttered. "And this concerns me... how?"
"Talk to him at the dance. Just, please, hear him out one more time." Amanda replied, sitting down on my bunk and facing towards me. "He's an extraordinary boy, and you shouldn't have to let something like this force you to give him up."
"I don't like him in that way." I reminded her.
"I know. By extraordinary, I meant friendship-wise." Amanda chuckled softly. "Just, take it one thing at a time, and this time, tell him."
"I'll try." I shrugged.
"Casey." Amanda added firmly. "Please?"
"Ok." I sighed. "Alright."
"Thank you." Amanda smiled, and got up from my bunk. "Want to come with me? I'm heading to the basketball court now."
"I guess so." I agreed and got up and followed her out of the cabin. I glanced upwards at the sky, astonished that it got dark so fast - the stars were out, glimmering and flickering down at us. Amanda and I walked down the hill towards the basketball court, where a huge crowd of people were spread over the entire court, dancing submissively to the DJs at the front on top of a platform, under a serenade of disco lights and laser beams.
"Hey Amanda!" A bunch of girls shouted over the pulsing music. All the girls from our cabin, with the exception of a few with their boyfriends, were huddled together in a group and dancing to the music together. "Come join us!! You too, Casey!!"
"Alright." Amanda nodded and then turned to face me. "You coming?"
"Sure." I smiled and followed her into the thick group, feeling better, dancing to the music and surrounded by the friends I had formed over the summer.
"Alright kiddies, let's crank up the volume! We're here all night, Magen Boys Entertainment, bringing you only the best music!" A DJ screamed loudly, into his microphone, with his female dancers behind him.
For most of the night, it was non-stop party music as the DJs played songs and the dancers put out moves that made the boys ogle at them longer than normal. All was going well until the current pop-thumping song ended cleanly and the DJ put on "You're Beautiful" by James Blunt.
"Ech, hate this song. I'm going to take a break. Who's with me?" A girl from my cabin announced, glancing around our tight circle.
"I'll come." A girl said, followed with "Me!" from another girl until I shrugged and counted myself in. Amanda went off to find a guy to dance with while the rest of the girls remaining went off to slow-dance with their boyfriends. The girls that stepped out to take a breather sat at the lower steps of the bleachers while I climbed up higher to the top seat, watching everyone below. My eyes darted to a familiar blond shade of hair that was mingling with Amanda, and I immediately recognized him as Tyler. Amanda was leaning in closely, whispering in his ear as they both glanced at different intervals towards me.
I sighed, looking over to the right and stared at the starry night sky above the lake for the longest time until a familiar voice broke my train of empty thoughts.
"Case." Tyler's voice said quietly and I looked up automatically, locking his eye contact. "I'm really sorry... I didn't mean for-"
The song ended and the crowds of campers cheered wildly as a rock song came on and the DJ's loud voice boomed in our ears.
"Huh?" I asked, straining my voice over the music.
"Let's talk somewhere else!" Tyler shouted over the music before I nodded in agreement, getting up from my spot on the bleachers.
It's time to tell him, I reminded myself as he led us towards a clearing behind the bleachers.
"Ok," He sighed, rubbing a hand through his short hair. "I just wanted to say that I was sorry..."
"It's okay." I added.
"But also, I understand that you wanted to tell me something so I'm just going to listen and hear you out." Tyler noted. "Alright?"
I nodded and took a deep breath. "Ty, I just want us to be friends. I only mistook my feelings for you because I was feeling threatened that other girls were taking you away from our time together, which I really enjoy. I was never in love with you or liked you more than a friend for that matter, just really pissed that I was losing you, as a friend, to all those girls." I paused, waiting for his reaction so I could gauge it and determine how much farther I had to go. So far, he kept his face stoic and still so I continued apprehensively. "So I guess, what I'm saying is, I don't mind you going out or whatever, just that you don't leave me behind. Because this friendship is really important to me and you've always been there for me and it would suck to lose that."
"Okay." Tyler smiled and nodded in agreement. "I would never throw our friendship away - it's too valuable. And you've always been there for me too so I get it. Still friends?" He asked, putting out his hand for me to shake.
"Thank you." I murmured, pushing his hand away and giving him a big hug. His arms wrapped around my back and held me protectively, just like old times. I jumped up, grabbed his head in a headlock and rubbed my fist against his short hair. "Now I can finally finish my daily quota of bugging you!"
"Hey, no fair, I spent a lot of time on my hair!" Tyler whined, pushing my arms free from his neck and fixing it up tenderly.
"Oh you big baby, come here, I'll fix it for you." I chuckled, rubbing my hands through his hair and redoing his spikes. "All done. Now go back to your date."
"Not if you let me dance with you first." He added, grabbing my arm and dragging me onto the basketball court to another rock song, dancing wildly with me. I laughed and joined in, feeling much better than all summer, now that our friendship was content and secure, just the way it's always been. After all, anything can happen. And this summer, it did, for the better.