The Retreat

It was the retreat of the year. Every high school senior with a 3.95 GPA or higher went on it. One full week of relaxing and talking with other's just like me. I should have been excited, but I wasn't. None of my friends had a 3.95 GPA. I was the only one and I knew I was going to be alienated from the rest of them.

I really didn't want to go for many reasons. First of all, it cost almost two hundred dollars and the only money I had was put back for college. Then there was the fact that I would be without my boyfriend for a full week. I was also discouraged because I was going to be a freak. Everyone else that was going was going to dress all nice and have all that they wanted because they had rich parents. I was going to be the only one there that wore ripped jeans and loose band Ts.

I had almost decided to not go, but my boyfriend, Leo, wanted me to go. He kept telling me that there were going to be many opportunities for me. I knew there weren't going to be any more opportunities because I would never get my two cents in.

I looked up at the clock. It read two a.m. It was the final day to make my decision. I had the money, the permission slip, and my plans in mind. I still didn't want to go, but I knew that Leo would never forgive me for it. He thought that he had no chance of a future and wanted me to get one.

I sat up and covered my face with my hands. I couldn't leave. A full week was a long time to leave my stuff alone and leave my father and step-mother alone. I was the only person that kept that house going. My father paid the bills, but when it came to cleaning and everything else I was the one to go to.

I shook my head. This was exactly what I wanted. A reprieve from my life. A place where I could go to be myself and not have to worry about everyone in my life watching my every move. I wanted it more than anything, but it also terrified me more than anything. What if I really liked what I got out of that week? Would I ever want to come back?

I sighed as I looked over to my laptop. It was the only thing that truly offered me peace in my life. It was the only thing that I could go to and not get evaluated. It was my only escape when Leo and I got in one of our secret fights.

I sighed. Why was I still with Leo? He was a great guy. He loved me, but everything he did he expected something in return. He was paranoid and thought that everyone was out to get him. It was rather annoying at times, but he was the only one that didn't judge me because I was different. He truly did love me.

I shook my head. I couldn't allow myself to have doubts right then. If I did then I would think that Leo would be cheating on me and it would break my heart. I had to keep my trust in him. I just needed to.

I stood up and walked over to my desk to grab my laptop. I sat back down on my bed and debated on whether I should open it. I didn't know if I really wanted to get into my fantasy world. I had to stay grounded and figure out what I was going to do. I had to decide.

I closed my laptop without even turning it on. I was going to think through everything that I could. I could either go on the retreat and feel left out for a full week or I could not go and have to deal with the responsibilities that belong to my step-mother.

I looked over to my desk to look at the envelope. All the money was there and the permission slip was signed. I was going to go. I wasn't going to allow myself to back out of this one. This trip was a once in a lifetime thing. I wasn't going to miss it.


I looked up at Leo as he sat down at the lunch table. He smiled as he sat next to me and grabbed my hand, "Hey, Charlie," I smiled, "What was your final decision?"

I squeezed his hand, "I'm going. I'm not going to let this pass by."

"That's good," he pulled his hand away as he looked down at his tray, "How was work last night?"

I rolled my eyes, "I didn't work last night."

Leo looked up at me, "I thought you said that you did. Did you work the night before?"

I shook my head, "No, and I don't work tonight."

Leo nodded, "Oh, wanna hang tonight?"

I nodded as I smiled, "Yeah, where at? My house or your house?"

He looked up at me and his dark eyes were condescending, "You know that I really don't like being around your dad. My house."

I nodded and looked over to Jessi as Leo looked back at his food. She was my closest friend and she didn't even know that I was having a hard time getting along with Leo. I felt so bad for having doubts about us that I couldn't admit it to anyone. I couldn't let anyone know.

I looked back at Leo. He really didn't seem too happy that I had decided to go to the retreat. He had kept telling me that I deserved a vacation from life. He had kept saying that I needed to go and enjoy some time away from all the troubles of life. His reaction to my decision made me think that he was just saying those things to make himself look better.

I stood up, "I'll be back," I took my tray up and walked towards the bathroom. Once I stepped into the room I stepped to the side of the door and sighed. I leaned back against the wall and shook my head. What had happened to me? A year ago before Leo and I had become a couple I could take care of myself. I could make my own decisions. Being in a relationship with what I thought was such a great guy made me not me.

"Charlie," I looked up at the sound of Gina, the valedictorian's, voice, "I heard that you're going on the retreat. Aren't you so excited? A full week talking to professors about anything that interests us."

I nodded, "I can't wait," Gina smiled and walked out of the bathroom. I looked over to the mirror to see my reflection. I wasn't the most attractive girl in the school by a long shot, but I was even farther from being the worst looking girl in school. I had long auburn hair that I normally kept out of my sharp face. I wasn't very tall, but I was slender, so slender that my hip bones stuck out. I didn't have the largest breasts, but they were prominent on my slender frame.

I looked away from the mirror. I had always hated my reflection. I looked so much like my mother that it hurt. My mom was my best friend before she died. I would still cry myself to sleep at night with my mother's picture in my hands.


I gave Leo a quick kiss before he left. The next morning I was going to meet the other five people to head out to the retreat. I was excited and couldn't wait to be able to get away from everything that was my life. It was going to be so amazing. I just never realized how amazing it was going to be.

It was the next day. I had spent three hours on a bus with my laptop on my lap and no one to talk to. It wasn't that I didn't like anyone there, but I was the outcast. I had always been an outcast. I was never accepted anywhere. Even with my friends I tended to sit in silence while they talked.

When we finally arrived at the retreat we were assigned our rooms. The four girls were between two rooms and the two guys were in a third room. Gina and I were sharing a room. I followed Gina to our room and looked around the small room. It was nice. There were two small beds that had an over abundance of pillows.

Gina dropped her suitcase and turned to me, "This is going to be great. I can get to know you. It's going to be good to finally get to know the salutatorian."

"What? I'm the salutatorian? Really?"

Gina laughed at me, "That's why I'm bunking with you. How did you not know?"

I shrugged, "I don't really pay attention to it. My friends don't like it when I bring up my grades. They get jealous."

Gina's eyes grew wide, "Why would they be jealous? They should be happy for you."

I shrugged and stepped over to the bed that was closest to the window, "I don't know. It's just the way my life is."


I looked up from my laptop as I saw a young man, probably around my age, sit on the arm of the couch. He was rather attractive with shaggy mahogany hair and clear blue eyes which were almost unnerving since his skin was a dark bronze. His face was narrow and his lips were thin. And he was at least six inches taller than me with a slender build.

"You're from Columba High, right?"

I nodded, "Yes. Where are you from?"

He smiled and his pale eyes lit up, "I'm from here. This is my dad's lodge. I work here after school."

I narrowed my gaze on him, "How many girls do you talk to?"

He shook his head, "I talk to anyone that talks to me, but you are the first girl that interests me."

I rolled my eyes, "Right."

He sighed, "I'm Jase. Will you at least give me a conversation?"

I sighed and shrugged, "I guess," I closed my laptop, "I'm Charlie."

He smiled again and I was beginning to like how pale his eyes were, "What's your rank?"

I looked over to Gina to see her talking to the other two girls, "I'm the salutatorian."

"Why aren't you over there with them?"

I sighed and ran my hands over my laptop, "They're not my clique. I'm not an over-achiever and I prefer to be intellectual rather than obsess over the cute professors."

He chuckled, "You're different."

"I know," I looked down at my laptop, "I'm known that for a long time."

He slid off the arm of the couch to sit next to me, "It's not a bad thing. I don't like most girls because they are annoying."

I looked up at him as alarms were going off in my head. I had only been gone for a day and I was becoming interested in another guy. I couldn't do that to Leo, but I turned the alarms out and smiled, "I'm very different."

He chuckled, "Cool," he paused, "Tell me about yourself."

"What do you want to know?"

He shrugged, "What's your favorite color? What type of music do you listen to? Do you have any siblings?"

I shrugged, "Green. Rock. Yes."

Jase nodded, "What shade of green? What's your favorite band? How many?"

I glanced over to Gina, hoping that she would come over and shoo him away, but I knew my luck too well, "Hunter green. The 69 Eyes. Two."

Jase nodded, "You know, Charlie, if you don't want to talk to me I will leave you alone."

My eyes grew wide, "What?"

"You don't seem like you want to talk to me. You don't have to. I don't want to make you feel uncomfortable."

I sighed and shook my head, "I'm sorry. I'm not too good with new people. Just give me a few minutes."

He nodded, "Do you have any questions for me?"

I nodded, "What type of music do you listen to?"

"Rock, my favorite band is The Exies."

I nodded, "The Exies are amazing. Do you know who The 69 Eyes are?"

He shook his head and I opened my laptop, "Never even heard of them," he looked at the screen as the laptop loaded. My eyes grew wide as I noticed that my desktop picture was of Leo and me, "Who's that?"

I opened the media player, "He's my ex-boyfriend."

"Why do you have a picture of you and your ex?"

I looked up into his clear blue eyes, "We just ended and I have yet to completely sever my ties," I looked back at my laptop and looked for Brandon Lee by The 69 Eyes."

He nodded as the music began to play, "How recently did he break up with you?"

I shook my head, "I broke up with him the last time I saw him."

He looked down at me with confusion marking his expression, "Why did you break up with him?"

I sighed, "He was trying to dominate me and I am a very free spirited person. I just can't deal with that."

He nodded, "That isn't that bad."

I smiled as someone stepped up to us, "Jason, your father told me that your break is up. He needs you in the office."

Jase sighed, "Okay," he stood up and smiled down at me, "I don't have to work tomorrow. Do you want to go to the lake?"

I nodded, "Sounds like fun."

"Cool," he paused for a moment, "How does 4:00 sound?"

"Here?" He nodded, "Okay, see you tomorrow."

Jase disappeared around a corner. Gina ran over to me and sat next to me, "Charlie, who was that?"

I closed my laptop, "His name's Jase. He's just another random guy that's here."

"He's cute."

I shrugged, "He's not bad."

Gina rolled her eyes, "His eyes are amazing. Are you and Leo no longer a thing?"

I shook my head, "Nope, and I'm not looking to get involved again for a while."

Gina smiled, "If you don't make a move on Jase, I will."

I shrugged, "Go ahead. He's the one that interested in me."

Gina's eyes grew wide, "Really?" I nodded, "Why?"

I shrugged. I was probably the only person at the lodge that would be offended by that question. I knew that I wasn't much to look at and my personality left much to be desired, "I don't know."

Gina's eyes grew wide as she realized what she said, "I didn't mean it that way. You're a great person."

I smiled at her, "Gina, relax. I know what you meant."

She let out a sigh of relief, "Why did you and Leo end?"

I sighed, "I'd rather not talk about it."

Gina nodded, "Okay," she got up and returned to her friends. It was nice of her to try to be my friend, but it wasn't going to work. I had nothing in common with her. She was clean and hard working. I was the type of person that didn't care about school. I never worked at it and that made it hard to relate to people.


I looked down at my belt as it neared 4:00. I was sitting on the couch with my swim suit and a pair of jeans on. I was almost nervous to see Jase again. I didn't really like him, but there was always the possibility.

"You actually showed up," I looked up at the sound of Jase's voice. I paused at the sight of him. He was wearing a pair of knee length black swim trunks, a pair of black sandals, and a loose black CKY T-shirt.

I nodded and stood up, "I never break a date."

"Date?"

I shook my head, "Appointment."

He smiled, "Ready?"

I nodded and followed him out of the lodge. He led me past the public beach and around a bend to a small pier. He smiled, "One of the perks of being the owner's son."

I nodded and removed my pants to let him have full view of me in my swim suit, "Is there a ladder on the pier?"

He nodded, "Yes, you won't have to worry about being touched by any unwanted thing," he looked me up and down, "Is that your swim suit?"

I looked down at myself. I was wearing a dark blue swim top that looked like a tank top and a pair of black swim shorts that had an inseam of about an inch. It wasn't the most revealing swim suit and that's why I liked it, "Is there anything wrong with it?"

Jase shook his head, "No, I'm just used to seeing girls wearing string bikinis. It's kind of refreshing to see that there is still some decency left in this world."

I smiled at him as he pulled his shirt off. He tossed his shirt to the side and kicked his sandals in the same direction. He smiled at me then ran to the end of he pier and dove into the water. I was amazed at the perfect form of his dive.

His head came above the water, "Come on, Charlie."

I smiled as I made my way out to the end of the pier. I looked down into the clear water, "Jase, I'm not the strongest swimmer."

He pushed his wet hair out of his face, "There's an inner tube and a couple other flotation devices. Just jump in and I'll make sure that you don't drown."

I nodded and took a deep breath before I jumped in. I resurfaced and my eyes snapped open. The water was colder than I expected it to be, "Holy crap!"

He smiled at me, "You don't go swimming very often, do you?"

I shook my head, "My friends don't like to go out and do things."

"Is that why you're so pale?"

I nodded, "Yeah, what do you do on a daily basis?"

He swam under the pier, "I go to school and I work here."

I watched as he came out with an inflatable mattress that was connected to the pier, "What do you do when you work?"

He swam around the mattress, "Depends. Some days I'm just like all the other employees and then my dad likes to keep me in the office. He wanted me to be able to run everything."

I nodded and climbed up onto the mattress, "What's life like for you? Do you get everything you want?"

He smiled at me, "I enjoy like, and no. I have to work for almost everything I get. My father's a hard ass and I'm glad he was."

"How did you work for things as a kid?"

"Chores," he blinked a couple times, "What life like for you? Is your family wealthy, poor, or nothing special?"

I sighed, "My family is messed up."

He swam up to the mattress, "How so?" he rested his head on the mattress and looked up at me.

I sighed, "My mom died when I was thirteen. My dad remarried less than six months later. My step-mother does absolutely nothing at the house. All she does is watch TV because she is too lazy to get up and put a movie in. My brother is in jail and my sister is living with her third husband."

Jase's eyes were wide, "And you just broke up with your boyfriend. It sounds like you really needed a break," he smiled at me, "You were right. I just gave you time and you're actually being sociable."

I smiled at him as I realized that I was beginning to like him. He was way different than Leo. He actually was more interested in listening to me. He was honestly interested in what I had to say. It made me feel important, "How old are you?"

"I'm twenty. I'll be twenty-one in less than two months."

"So you're in college?"

He nodded, "Yeah. My dad wants me to get a degree so I can run this place."

"Do you want to run this place?"

He shrugged, "Not really, but I'm an only child. It's my responsibility."

I nodded, "What do you want to do?"

He looked up to the sky, "I just want to spend my life enjoying nature. I hate electronics."

My eyes grew wide. Jase didn't like videogames. He would actually pay attention to me, "So you don't play videogames?"

He shook his head, "Nope, I only watch a movie about once a month. What do you want to do?"

I shrugged, "I want to have my own photography business."

"Do you have a good SLR camera?"

I shook my head, "No, I can't afford it. I'm working with a simple hundred dollar camera."

He nodded then focused his pale gaze on me, "Do you have a job?"

I nodded, "Yes, but I only get paid minimum wage and work part time. It's only enough money to pay for gas and get necessities."

He sighed, "Charlie, you're never going to want to leave this place."

I shrugged, "Maybe not, but I have responsibilities at home."

Jase sighed, "What if I don't want you to go back?"

I stared into his clear blue eyes, "I can't stay here."

He nodded, "I know, but I'm beginning to like you."

"How many girls do you say that to?"

He shook his head and sighed, "You're the first one," he swam over to the pier, "I understand why you're skeptical. I don't blame you," he turned to me and smiled, "I'm just glad that you're talking to me."


Gina met me at the entrance to the lodge. Her brown eyes were wide when she saw Jase walking with me with his shirt draped over his shoulder. I wasn't sure whether she was surprised that he was hanging out with me or liked what she saw.

"Charlie, where were you? You missed dinner."

My eyes grew wide, "It's after six?"

She sighed, "It's after seven, what were you doing all evening?"

I looked up to Jase. We had spent a while swimming then he took me down the trail in the woods. He pointed out many different animals and told me about all the plants that we passed. He had listened to me complain about my life and made simple comments about how I didn't deserve to live like that. I had never been happier in my life.

Jase smiled, "just enjoyed the evening," he ran his hand through his still damp hair, "Charlie, I can get you something to eat."

"Charlie," I looked over to Gina, "We aren't supposed to leave here."

"Then we won't leave," Jase pulled his shirt off his shoulder and put it on, "I'll go talk to the cooks," he patted my shoulder, "I'll meet you in the dining area in about fifteen minutes."

I nodded and he ran around the building. I looked over to Gina to see that her arms were crossed over her chest, "You haven't broken up with Leo, yet."

I sighed, "No, but that's only because I can't call him."

Gina sighed as I stepped up to the door, "You're leaving your boyfriend for some guy you just met."

I turned to her with wide eyes, "Gina, you don't understand. All Leo has tried to do is dominate. I need my freedom, but he moderates everything I talk to my friends about. He kept telling me to take this trip, but once I told him I was going to he became irritated. I don't want a relationship right now. Jase is just a friend."

Gina nodded and followed me up to our room, "Do you think Jase is cute?"

I rolled my eyes as I changed out of my swim suit, "Yes, but I'm not shallow."

Gina laughed, "That's for sure. Leo is nothing compared to Jase."

I glared at her, "Leo wasn't that bad."

Gina sighed, "I didn't mean to offend you. I'm just saying that Jase is the cream of the crop. Leo isn't."

I sighed. She was right about Leo. He wasn't much taller than me with dark brown eyes and short blonde hair. He had a slightly acne problem and a pale mottled skin tone. He wasn't fat, but he couldn't do too much physical activity without being worn out. There was nothing special about him.

I fastened my belt buckle, "I thought that he was kind of cute."

Gina sat on her bed, "Charlie, just don't think about him. You have a date."

I rolled my eyes, "It's not a date."

Gina nodded, "Right, that's why you're dressing up."

I looked down at what I had slipped on unconsciously. I was wearing my only plain black T-shirt that actually fit me right and my favorite pair of dark blue jeans. It was my nicest outfit, "I didn't mean to."

Gina smiled, "You like him."

I sighed, "I know. I don't know why. I'm not one that's quick to open up to people. I just feel so relaxed around him."

"Maybe you feel relaxed because you finally get a chance to relax. It must be pretty hard at your house."

My eyes grew wide, "How do you know what my home life is like?"

Gina's eyes grew wide as she realized that she let it slip, "You told me."

I shook my head, "No, I didn't."

She sighed, "Leo told everyone."

I narrowed my gaze on her, "You wonder why I left him," I turned away from her and walked out of the room. I hurried down to the dining area to find Jase sitting at a table in a pair of faded blue jeans and a 5 Finger Death Punch shirt.

I smiled at the sight of him before he saw me. He stood up and his clean blue eyes lit up, "Charlie."

I ran up to him, "You were right. I don't want to leave."

He gave me a confused look, "Charlie, what's wrong?"

I looked around and sighed, "There are too many people here."

He nodded, "Do you want to go talk about it or do you want to eat?"

I looked at the table. I wasn't hungry, but he could have been, "Do you mind if we go talk about it?"

He shook his head, "Just let me go talk to Jake. He don't want him to be wondering around the dining area looking for us," he smiled, "Be right back."

I sighed as he disappeared into the kitchen. I had only known him for a little more than twenty-four hours and I liked him more than my boyfriend. I really needed to break up with Leo.

Jase came back out of the kitchen with a couple bags of chips. He stepped up to me, "I didn't know what type of chips you like, but remember you saying something about ranch," he handed me a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos, "Did I make the right choice?"

I smiled and nodded, "Thank you."

He nodded and led me out of the lodge and to the trail we walked earlier that day. It had only been about thirty minutes since we had been down the trail, but it looked so much different with the little light.

"What happened?"

I looked up at Jase and my eyes began to water. How could he do that to me? "I just found out that my ex had been telling everyone all my secrets. The whole school knows everything about me."

Jase's pale eyes were wide, "Why would anyone do that?"

I shrugged and stuck my hands in my pockets, "I don't know," I stopped walking and looked down at the ground, "I never did anything to him."

"Maybe that was the problem."

I looked up at him confused, "What?"

He sighed, "Are you a virgin?" I nodded, "By your choice or his."

"Definitely not his."

Jase nodded and opened his bag of chips, "Did he try to pressure you into having sex?" I shook my head, "That doesn't make sense."

I shrugged, "He asked me about once every other week about it."

Jase sighed, "He was trying to get back at you for not putting out."

"Did I do anything wrong?"

He shook his head, "No," he reached into his bag, "People should hold out until they've met the person they truly love."

I nodded, "Are you a virgin?"

He nodded, "Yes, I went to a prep school where all the girls cared about money and were light-headed bimbos."

I smiled, "You're strange?"

He nodded, "I hear that quite often," he ate a chip, "Is it a good strange?"

I nodded, "I'm enjoying it so far."

His eyes lit up, "Really?"

I smiled and looked up at the canopy of leaves and branches, "How often do you walk the trail?"


It was 9:30 before we walked back into the lodge. Jase and I had sat at the end of the pier for about an hour. We just sat there and talked about random things and staring at the moon's reflection in the lake.

Jase stepped over t the dining area, "Crap," he looked back at me, "They closed the kitchen."

I sighed, "Oh, I'll live until tomorrow."

He shook his head, "Do you have a curfew?"

I nodded, "Eleven."

He sighed, "I bet Jake's still in the kitchen," he smiled, "Let me go check."

I watched as he disappeared into the kitchen. I didn't understand how he could be so charming. He had been completely honest, even if it wasn't something I wouldn't like. He didn't try to woo me. He just tried to be honest.

I sat down at one of the tables as I thought about Leo. How was I going to end it with him? Awe had been together for over a year and he claimed to love m. Was I going to break his heart? I couldn't imagine hurting someone, despite a few minor disagreements, was really good to me.

I rested my head on my arms. He seemed to be really good to me, but Gina, a girl that is no way connected to our clique, knows stuff that I had only told Leo. He wasn't good to me at all. He always made me feel so little and incompetent. I sat up straight. I didn't need to hold onto Leo. I could make it on my own.

Jase stepped out of the kitchen with a man behind him. The man wasn't quite as tall as Jase, but he had the same hair style and clear blue eyes. The man stepped up to the table with Jase.

Jase smiled, "Charlie, this is my cousin Jake."

I looked over to Jake, "Hello."

He smiled, "So, you are a girl. I just thought that Charlie was a boy's name. I'm so glad my little cousin isn't gay."

I stared at Jake confused, "My name's Charlotte."

Jake nodded, "I know, I just like to pick on Jase."

Jase rolled his eyes, "I told you she wouldn't find it funny."

Jake sighed, "Right," he looked over to Jase, "What will you give me to make something?"

Jase smiled, "Come on, cuz, don't you love me?"

Jake rolled his eyes, "Yes, but I don't get a couple grand a week for working here, you little prick."

My eyes grew wide. How could Jake think that Jase was a prick? He had been nothing but nice to me, "I'll get dad to give you a three dollar raise."

Jake sighed, "What do you want?"

Jase smiled at me, "What sounds good, Charlie?"

I shrugged, "I'm not picky," I looked to Jake, "Make whatever you want to."

Jake nodded and walked back into the kitchen. I looked over to Jase as he sat down and smiled.


I make it to my room at 10:55. Gina was laying on her bed and my laptop's light was blue, telling me that it was completely charged. I sat down on my bed as Gina sat up.

She looked over at me, "How did dinner take over two hours outside?"

I shrugged as I opened my laptop, "Why does it matter. I made it back in time for curfew."

Gina sighed, "Charlie, you don't know Jase. You can't allow yourself to get attached to him. You're a smart girl."

I nodded, "I know. I just like hanging out with Jase. He's smart and actually honest."

"How do you know he's honest? You just met him."

I sighed, "I don't know, but he has no reason to lie to me."

Gina shook her head, "He could just want to get into your pants."

I sighed. I knew that she was right, but I didn't want to believe it. I liked him too much to think that he could do such a thing.

I laid back in my bed and shook my head, "I'm just enjoying the fact that someone is actually enjoying my company."

Gina sighed, "Charlie, I think you're a cool girl. I just think that you've been dealt a bad hand," she leaned forward, "If you just give me a chance I can prove to you that I'm not completely interested in guys. I'm not like most girls."

I rolled my eyes, "Okay, what type of music do you listen to?"

She sat back, "My favorite group is Third Day."

"What's Third Day?"

She laid back, "It's a Christian group. They're really good. You should listen to them."

I shook my head, "No way, I'm atheist. I hate all religions."

Gina sighed, "Okay," she moved around, "Good night, Charlie. Remember to use your brain."


It was two days later before I saw Jase again. I had to do some stupid scholarly thing with the school the day before so I couldn't see him. It actually made me ache. I needed to see him. I wanted to see him. I was becoming attached to him despite what I knew. I couldn't do it, but I was doing it.

I was sitting on the same couch that I was sitting on when Jase first talked to me. I was also sitting with my laptop on my lap. I just had to keep track of everything that was happening. I still needed to get a picture of him. I never wanted to forget this retreat even if I never did talk to Jase again.

I sighed as I saw Gina out of the corner of my eye. It didn't bother me until I noticed that she was talking to Jase. I tuned out my laptop and listened to what she was saying.

"Charlie's too good of a girl to hurt. If you do I will hurt you."

My eyes grew wide and then I smiled at Jase's response, "I know. I really like Charlie. She's a nice girl and seems timid when she's really bold. I find her interesting."

Gina scoffed, "Really? How could you like her so much since you just met her?"

"I really don't know," he paused, "I'm sorry if I offend you or something, but I just like Charlie. If she doesn't like me then she doesn't like me. I just like being with her."

I made it look like I was doing something on my laptop as Gina continued, "I don't trust you. Charlie is too vulnerable to be picked right now."

"I really don't plan on hurting her. I can tell that she's vulnerable. She's too guarded to be anything other than vulnerable."

Gina sighed, "I will come back and hurt you if she's not the same."

I looked up from my laptop to see Jase and Gina looking at me. I smiled at Jase and tried to keep from scowling at Gina. I knew what I was doing. I didn't need anyone to protect me. I was quite capable to do it myself.

Jase smiled at me, "Charlie," he stepped past Gina and sat on the couch next to me, "What do you say about going out on a walk at about five?"

I nodded, "Where do you want to meet?"

He shrugged, "Meet me on the pier."

I smiled, "Okay, what are you up to today?"

He sighed, "I have to take my first lesson in paperwork. I still haven't found a way out of it."

I rolled my eyes, "It won't be that bad," I sat up straight as I noticed that Gina was watching us.

Jase must have noticed the same thing because he turned to her with narrow eyes, "Eaves dropping is impolite."

Gina glared at him, "So is praying on young girls. You can't do this to Charlie."

My eyes grew wide and Jase stood up. He looked down at Gina, "Why do you think that I'm trying to hurt her or take advantage of her?"

Gina rolled her eyes, "Why are you hanging out with her so much?"

Jase smiled, "Maybe because she really is a cool girl. You might know that if you paid attention. Don't think I don't hear what you and your friends giggle about," he crossed his arms over his chest, "And you worry about me hurting her."

I looked at Jase with confusion plain on my face. What was he talking about?

I looked back at Gina to see her eyes wide, "What are you talking about?"

Jase rolled his eyes and shook his head, "Really, you think I'm going to say it? I'm not going to hurt her. I really like her and if nothing comes of this I'll be okay with it. I just enjoy her company. Unlike you who only does it to be a good citizen," he ran his hand through his shaggy hair, "If you really worry about her being hurt then watch what you say from now on."

Gina crossed her arms over her chest, "I don't know what you're talking about. I like Charlie. She's a nice girl."

Jase sighed then looked down at me, "Charlie, I still have about ten minutes before I have to meet my dad. Do you want to go take a walk around the building? I really don't think you want to see me go off on her."

I nodded and closed my laptop. I stood up and Jase took my laptop from me. He glared at Gina then led me outside, "What was that all about?"

He sighed, "Is she your friend?"

I shook my head, "No, she's my roommate for the week. Why?"

Jase nodded, "Good, because she doesn't really have the best view of you for some reason?"

I sighed and looked down at the ground, "I know why. I kind of didn't tell the whole truth to you about my ex-boyfriend."

Jase paused and looked down at me, "What?"

I sighed, "I haven't officially broken up with him. I have made the decision, but I haven't had a chance to talk to him. I'm still technically taken," I looked up at him, "I like you and enjoy spending time with you. You are the only person that has ever made me feel human. I just want to get past the technicalities."

Jase nodded, "Oh," he looked away for a few moments then shrugged, "We haven't done anything so you haven't done anything wrong."

My eyes grew wide, "You don't think that's horrible?"

He sighed, "I don't quite think it's right, but you were honest with me," he smiled, "Charlie, you are an awesome person. I like you. You know that," he leaned against the wall, "I just want to make sure that you aren't leaving him for me."

I sighed, "No. I've told you what he's done. I haven't lied about that. I'm tired of dealing with him," I looked away, "We were together for over a year."

Jase put his hand on my shoulder, "Charlie, you are a beautiful girl and need to be free do to as you please. You need to know that you can be yourself when you're with the one you love. If he doesn't make you happy then you shouldn't be with him."

I looked up at Jase and smiled, "Really?"

He nodded, "Charlie, everyone deserves that."

I nodded, "Oh," I looked down at the ground. I wasn't anything really special to him.

Jase sighed, "Charlie," he shook his head, "that sounded bad didn't it?"

I shook my head, "No, it's true."

He stopped and made me look up into his clear blue eyes, "Charlie, you are special to me and I want you to be happy more than anything else."

I stared into his clear blue eyes and was almost afraid of the intense look in his eyes. I was almost expecting him to lean down and kiss me, but he sighed and looked away. I was actually disappointed that he didn't.

He looked back at me and smiled, "I need to get to work. I'll see you at five."

I nodded, "Can't wait."


I was standing at the end of the pier as I waited for Jase. I stood there looking into the water and wondered what Jase saw in me. I was too skinny to be attractive and I wasn't the brightest. I sighed and straightened my skirt. I smiled at the way it flowed lightly with the slight movement.

"Sorry I'm late," I jumped at the sound of Jase's voice.

He laughed as I turned around, "It's okay. You said that it would be around five."

He smiled and stepped up to me, "What were you looking at?"

I sighed, "I was just trying to figure out what you like about me."

He made me look down at the lake again, "Charlie, you obviously don't see what I do," he looked down at our reflection, "You are slender and frail, but the way you hold yourself makes you look strong. You have the most beautiful large dark brown eyes and the fullest lips I've ever seen. You are slender, but you have slight curves and a flawless complexion," he wrapped his arms around my waist and rested his chin on my shoulder as he stared down at our reflection, "Charlie, you are beautiful and have a great personality."

I looked down at our reflection and sighed. I couldn't remember a time when Leo had held me like that. He had only held my hand or held me close as we made out. He was never very affectionate. Jase and I weren't even a couple and he seemed to be more interested in me than my boyfriend.

Jase smiled, "Ready for our walk?"

I nodded and he pulled away. He grabbed my hand without thinking and led me off the pier. I looked down at our hands and wondered if he realized what he had done. I really didn't care because it felt right.

Jase looked over at me, "Charlie, you've been here for four days and I don't want you to leave."

I smiled, "I don't want to leave either, but I have a job, school, and a family to take care of."

Jase stepped in front of me as he grabbed my other hand, "Charlie, I can get you a job here after you finish school," his clear blue eyes were pleading with me, "You shouldn't have to take care of your parents. That's their job."

I stared at him in wonder, "What?"

Jase sighed, "Charlie, I really don't want you to leave. I could find a place for you to live. I could get you a good job."

I swallowed hard and tried to think. I just didn't know if I could do that. He promised me everything that I would need, but would I be able to make it without having to take care of another person?

I looked down, "I don't know, Jase," I sighed, "How do I know things will work out?"

"Charlie," I looked back up into his clear blue eyes, "I promise you that you will have everything you need," I nodded, "I never break promises."

I took a deep breath, "I don't graduate for a few more months. What will I do until then?"

Jase shrugged, "You don't have to make a decision right now. You can spend the rest of the school year thinking about it."

I smiled and nodded, "Okay, will I get to see you?"

He nodded, "Only if you want to."

I nodded, "Yes, as often as possible."

He laughed, "How does every weekend sound?"


It was the next day. I hadn't slept the night before. I was too worried about what Jase had proposed to me. He wasn't asking for a lasting relationship. He just wanted to get me away from my family and give me some semblance of a normal life.

I looked up at the clock, wondering if I was going to see Jase. I wanted to see him. He was the only thing that could help me relax. I thought that he would be the only one that could help me get to sleep.

Gina sat down next to me, "How was your walk last night?"

I glared at her, "What have you said about me?"

Gina shook her head, "Nothing."

I rolled my eyes, "Gina, don't pretend to be my friend. You aren't considered a good person by pretending to befriend a person that you feel sorry for. If you don't like me then stay away from me."

Gina sighed, "Charlie," she looked down at her feet, "I do like you. I'm just worried about you. I think he might just be playing with you."

I rolled my eyes, "Are you just jealous that I'm getting his attention and not you?"

Gina's eyes grew wide and I knew I was right. She thought that Jase was good looking and she was the one that wanted a piece of him. I just liked being around him because he didn't judge me for being timid. He actually thought that I was special.

"Just leave me alone," I stood up and walked over to the dining area to see Jake talking to one of the waiters in street clothes.

I smiled and made my way over to him, "Jake?"

Jake turned towards me and smiled, "Charlie," he leaned back against a table, "what are you up to today?"

I shrugged, "Just trying to avoid my classmates. Can I talk to you about Jase?"

He nodded, "Yeah," he smiled, "Do you want to know if he's just using you?"

I looked away, "Yeah."

Jake chuckled, "Don't feel bad. Anyone should be a little skeptical in your situation, but Jase never lies, even if it will get him into trouble," he rolled his eyes, "You probably haven't experienced one of those moments yet, but believe me they aren't pleasant."

I nodded, "Oh, how do I know I can trust you."

"You don't know."

My eyes grew wide, "Does honesty run in the family?"

He laughed, "Yes, but I'm not nearly as bad as Jase. He always speaks the truth. If I know it will get me in trouble I don't say it."

I nodded, "Oh," I looked over to see Jase walking around with a clipboard. He seemed to actually be working hard, which was hard to think about. The only time I ever saw Jase was when he was laid back and having fun. His thoughts of work weren't always the nicest.

Jase saw me and smiled. I smiled back and he sighed as someone walked up to him. He was busy and I couldn't bother him, but it was good to see him. I looked back at Jake, "You don't work every week day?"

"Normally I do, but it's my girlfriend's birthday and I asked for it off."

I smiled, "Oh, you have fun."


I only had one more day at the lodge and Jase only had about an hour to spend with me. I was going to meet with him on the pier at 6:00, but when he didn't show I was crushed. I decided to go on a walk by myself. I really needed time to myself.

I started over to the trail when I saw Gina with Jase. My eyes grew wide. What were they doing? Was he done with me?

I shrugged. It didn't matter. He was just some random guy that I met on a vacation. I began down the trail when I heard Jase call my name.

I looked back to see that he was running towards me. I smiled as I saw the relieved expression on his face. When he finally caught up with me he sighed, "I'm so sorry, but Gina and her friends kept trying to keep me from the pier. If you would have been any later I would have snapped."

I smiled at him, "I think it would have been funny if you did."

Jase rolled his eyes, "I really don't think you would appreciate one of my outbursts. I'm a rich kid and can have a temper like them," he grabbed my hand and led me down the trail, "You leave tomorrow."

I nodded, "I know," I sighed, "I don't want to go back."

Jase pulled me close to him, "I promise to visit you every chance I get," he pulled back slightly, but kept his arms around me so he could look down at me, "I think Columbia High has been my favorite high school yet."

I rolled my eyes, "How many girls have you wooed from Columbia High?"

He leaned down slightly and placed his lips to mine. He pulled away a few minutes later and sighed, "Only one, and I plan on keeping it that way."

I smiled as I realized what had just happened. He had actually kissed me. I didn't think he would actually do it before I left, but he did, "Why is that?"

He chuckled and rested his forehead against mine, "I think I'm falling in love with you, Miss Charlotte Bailey."


Jase had to get back to work about an hour and a half later. I didn't want to go back into the lodge so I just walked around the trails, wondering if I could believe him. Jake said that he would never lie, but how could I believe Jake. I didn't know Jake either. I was still a little giddy from the thirty second long good-bye kiss. I just couldn't believe that a guy like that would actually be interested in me.

I finally decided to go back to my room at about 10:30 that night. My eyes grew wide when I walked in and saw a black back pack laying on my bed. I ran over and looked at the little card that was sitting on top of it.

Charlie,

I don't want you to forget about me so I thought that this would be a good reminder. Enjoy.

Jase

It was that simple. The note made me even more curious as to what was inside the bag. I sat the note down on my bed and opened the first zipped pocket. I froze when I saw a 200mm to 300mm telephoto lens. I replaced that in the bag and opened another zipper. I found an 18mm lens. I took a deep breath as I opened the biggest pocket on the top. My eyes grew wide as I saw the Cannon EOS Rebel DSLR camera. It was so beautiful!

"What's that?"

I looked up at Gina walked out of the bathroom, "It's my camera."

"You didn't bring that with you, did you?"

I shook my head, "Nope," I put the camera back and began looking through the other pockets. I found a six foot retractable tripod, a flash mount, a camera sync, three sets of batteries, and two eight gigabyte memory cards. He had thought of everything. I had almost everything I needed to start my own studio.

"Did Jase buy that for you?"

I nodded and pulled the camera back out. I attached the strap and put it around my neck. I looked down at the camera and wondered what my first picture would be.

My eyes grew wide as I knew exactly what I was going to take the first picture of. I looked out towards the pier. I was going to take a picture of Jase standing on the pier. It was going to be the perfect picture.


I sat on the pier as I waited for Jase. I had been waiting for almost two hours, but that was fine with me. I was taking that time to read the instruction manual on my camera. The camera could do so many things. I like photography and knew a lot about cameras, but I was still being blown out of the water. I even had to get my laptop out to look them up in the dictionary.

I looked up as I heard footsteps on the pier. Jase was standing there with his clear blue eyes focused on me. I stood up and ran to him. I wrapped my arms around his neck and gave him a kiss.

When I finally pulled back he laughed, "I take it that you like the gift."

I nodded, "It's amazing. How did you know exactly what to get?"

He shrugged, "I did a little research and asked the guy at the store to help me. I just hope I got everything."

I nodded, "Yes, it's perfect," I laid my head against his chest, "Thank you."

Jase nodded, "Now, don't forget about me when you get back home."

I looked up at him, "How could I ever forget you. You are the only person that has ever made me feel human."

He tightened his hold on me, "You deserve it."

I smiled and pulled away from him, "Go stand at the end of the pier. I want to get a picture of you."

"Have you taken any other pictures?"

I shook my head, "Nope, I wanted my first picture to be of you standing her on the pier where we had our first civil conversation."

He laughed and nodded, "Okay," he stepped to the end of the pier and I grabbed my camera bag up. I pulled the tripod out and set it up. I pulled my camera out and attached it to the tripod. I looked up at Jase and smiled at him. He looked so good standing there with the golden sunlight highlighting his dark skin and making his eyes seem even paler.

I looked through the view finder and took a deep breath as I took the first picture. I smiled when I saw the preview. It turned out just the way I wanted it. The background was slightly blurry, but it was easy to see that it was water and a tree line. He was in perfect focus and his eyes seemed to shine.

Jase smiled, "Now, come here and get you picture taken with me."

I nodded and attacked the camera sync to the camera and grabbed the remote. I stepped over to Jase and he wrapped his arms around me. I laid my head against his chest and looked into the camera. I made sure that the remote was hidden in my hand before I hit the button. I heard the camera and ran over to see the picture.

I sighed as the preview went away. I was disappointed. I was still figuring things out and that was one of them.

Jase chuckled, "When do you leave?"

I looked down at my watch, "I have about two hours left. Do you have to work right now?"

He shook his head and stepped up to me, "No, that's why I was looking for you. I didn't know if I would be able to make it if I didn't get to say good-bye to you."

I smiled up at him and detached my camera from the tripod. Jase retracted the tripod as I removed the camera sync from the camera. I restuffed my bag, leaving my camera out around my neck so I could take pictures of him throughout the rest of the evening. I wanted as many pictures of him as possible.


I sat on the bus ride home looking through all the pictures that I took. I took over two hundred, not all of them of Jase. Most of them were of different plants and landscapes on the trail. They were all pretty good. I never knew how good I could make a picture with the right camera.

"I heard that you and Leo are no longer," I looked up at the sound of the smartest male in my class.

"What about it?"

He shrugged, "I don't know. I was just wondering if you wouldn't mind going out some time."

I glared at him, "No, I'm good."

He sighed, "Suit yourself. I could show you some really fun and cool things. Things that will make your head spin."

I looked at him a little confused for a few moments until he verified it for me, "I'm talking about sex, Charlie."

My eyes grew wide, "Ew, get away from me!"

He looked up to Gina, "Hey, G, I thought you said she was a whore!"

My eyes began to water. I got a smidgen of happiness and then it was torn away from me. Because I couldn't stand what Leo had done I was being considered a whore. I didn't know if I would be able to make it through to the end of the year.


It was the next Monday. I was getting ready to talk to Leo, but when I saw him I had this really bad feeling that someone had already talked to him. His eyes were narrow and he was making very jerky movements.

"What the hell, Charlie!"

I shrunk back from his anger, "What?"

He scoffed, "You cheated on me, you bitch!"

My eyes began to water, "Leo, I never did any such thing. I enjoyed my vacation and realized that you aren't the one for me."

"But this rich prick that you met there is?"

I swallowed hard and thought of Jase. I couldn't allow Leo to beat me down like this when I had done absolutely nothing wrong, "I never said he was. I never did anything with Jase. I spent time with him and realized that a complete stranger treated me better than my own boyfriend! You told everyone at school about my family!"

Leo rolled his eyes, "I thought that the word would get to the counselor and they would help you."

I glared at him, "Leo, I don't need a counselor. I needed someone that would listen to me and keep things quiet. I needed someone to treat me with respect instead of some lacky. I'm tired of everything in my life. The first thing I am doing after graduation is leaving this place. We're over and there is no way in hell that I am ever going to even think about touching you again. Get some other girl to get in your pants. I'm pretty sure Gina would do it!"

Leo's eyes grew wide, "What the hell are you talking about? Gina would never do anything like that."

I laughed at him, "Right, and the reason she told Mike that I'm a whore is because she wanted Jase's attention."

Leo rolled his eyes, "Whatever. Just have fun trying to talk to your friends again."

I took a deep breath and shrugged, "I don't need them if they are going to turn their back on me because I broke up with a guy that was treating me worse than anyone else."

Leo glared at me then turned away and walked down the hall. I took another deep breath and made my way to the bathroom. It was really hard to keep my composure that whole time. I said that I didn't care of my friends didn't talk to me, but it really did hurt. I didn't want to lose any of my friends because Leo and Gina had been spreading rumors around. It just wasn't fair.

I stepped into a stall and sat down before I finally let the silent tears fall. My life was falling apart because everyone around me was a complete douche bag and I was tired of it. It hurt way more than I thought it would.

"Charlie?"

I paused at the sound of Jessi's voice, "What?"

Jessi pushed the stall door open, "What happened?"

I sighed and shook my head as I wiped my cheeks dry, "I found out that Leo had been telling everyone my secrets. I decided it was over and I started liking this guy that was interested in me. Gina liked him because he was attractive and she was jealous. She told Mike Locke that I was a whore and he even asked me if I would do something with him some day. I just finalized the end with Leo and I'm afraid he's going to talk to everyone and get them to hate me."

Jessi kneeled down in front of me and the stall door closed, "Charlie, I'm glad you finally saw what I did."

"What?"

She smiled, "Charlie, I knew that Leo wasn't that great of a guy. I never liked him. You just latched onto him because he was the only guy that had ever looked at you twice. He only wanted you because he thought that by picking a vulnerable girl he would be able to get lucky, but I'm glad you didn't put out."

I smiled at her, "So you don't think I'm a whore because I like this other guy from the lodge?"

She shook her head, "I just want to see a picture of this guy that has my best friend so fixated."

I nodded, "I have a few pictures on my laptop. Came you come by after school?"

Jessi nodded, "Duh, chik."

I laughed at her, "You might even get to meet him."

"Cool," she stood up, "What's his name?"

"Jase Carter."

Her eyes grew wide, "Francis Carter's son?"

"Who?"

She shook her head, "The owner of the lodge. The guy that started this retreat thingy."

I nodded, "Yeah, you should see what he got me the day before I left. It's amazing."

Jessi smiled, "I think my best friend is in love."

My eyes grew wide, "No, I don't think so. I like him, yes, but I don't know if I love him."

Jessi shrugged, "Whatever you say, Charlie."

I rolled my eyes and stood up, "So my life isn't falling apart?"

She shook her head and pulled me out of the stall, "Nope, not at all," he pushed me in front of the mirror, "It's just being put back together."

I stared at my reflection for a full minute before I realized that it didn't make me cry. I saw my mother, yes, but I also saw the girl that Jase was falling for. I saw the girl that somehow had an amazing confidence. I saw a girl that knew what she was going to do for her future, "I'm going to live near the lodge. I'm getting out of here, Jessi. I'm done with this place."

Jessi smiled, "Cool, just don't forget about me."

I nodded, "I'm never going to forget you, Jess, you are the only person in this life that I can actually stand. You are my best friend and you will always be near."


I looked up at the time. Graduation was almost over. My life was about to begin. I was ready to tackle anything that came my way, and there was going to be a lot. I was going to be living in an apartment with Jase. Francis, Jase's father, was going to allow me to start my own photography business there at the lodge. For a flat fee I was going to follow people around the trail for about an hour and capture their memories. For more I was going to sell the pictures to them.

It was going to be great. I only had to give Francis 15% of the profits and the rest was mine. My life was finally mine and I was going to keep it that way.


Brandon Lee by The 69 Eyes

what would there be
as the river of sadness turns into sea
could there be
another thousand stories like you and me
wanted a heart, wanted a soul
more than anything else in this world
but we are doomed
our flesh 'n' wounds
i would never give in

just like the moon does
we rise'n'shine'n'fall
over you
that I rise'n'shine'n'crawl
victims aren't we all

what would there be
beyond the eyes of brandon lee
could there be
a revenging angel left to bleed
wanted the truth, wanted the faith
more than anything else in this world
but we are doomed body and soul marooned
i would never give in

just like the moon does
we rise'n'shine'n'fall
over you
that I rise'n'shine'n'crawl
victims aren't we all!