Coldwater splashed over me, drawing me from an incredible dream. I spluttered, feeling the coldness begin to seep through my pyjama top. Looking around wildly, I found three boys sniggering at me. The middle one, grinning evilly, held the bucket.
"Wet yourself again, I see, faggot," Laurence taunted. Either side of him was his goon squad. His six-foot frame blocked the light from the door, and his bright blue eyes watched me with unadulterated glee.
"What the hell?" I coughed, wiping the water away from my face. Looking down, I noticed all my bedsheets were wet.
"You looked a little warm, so we thought we'd cool you down," Laurence answered. Larry Knight was a bully, as simple as that. We were in a cabin as part of a program for the Junior Ambassador Program; someone had thought it would be wise to put Larry and his goons with me.
"We've warned you before about messing with other campers," a deep voice barked from the doorway, and the three boys turned to look at Jamie Taylor, our Counsellor. The nineteen-year-old glared at the three, "You three are to come with me immediately,"
"See you later, fag," Larry flipped me off and followed the Counsellor out the door like he owned the place. He glared at my friend Kobe Fletcher on the way out but did not antagonise him.
"Are you OK, Alex?" he asked, concerned. I nodded, pulling all my bedclothes off the bed. Luckily, the water hadn't seeped through to the mattress.
"Why didn't you wake me?" I glared at him. I know I should be thanking Kobe for getting the Counsellor, but I was a bit grumpy.
"I knew you were up late on the laptop last night, so thought I'd let you sleep in on the last day of camp," he shrugged, then grinned at me, "Do you want to get them back?"
"How?" I asked as I began stripping off my clothes. He went over to his bunk and rummaged around, looking for something. He cried out happily and turned around to show me a red packet. I took it from his hand. It read 'Itching Powder - For the enemy, you wish to get revenge on.'
"Itching powder? This is your great plan?" I stared at my friend, who broke out in a wide grin.
"Yeah, dude, come on and let's get the bastards back," His grin was infectious, so I agreed. He grabbed another packet, and we set out to spread it around Larry's stuff. I picked up his swimming shorts, grinned at Kobe, and then layered the powder where his genitals would be. "Oh, you are evil!"
"I think so, my hands are starting to itch a bit, so I'm gonna take a shower," I told him.
"Dress warm, it's a bit cold out there,"
"' kay, I'm going down to the beach after," I looked at my clock, seeing breakfast was effectively over. He nodded, and I went off to the shower.
Ten minutes later, I emerged from the cabin. Who brings kids to a camp in the middle of November? I thought.
"Did you see that fit bird I was with, on Halloween Bonfire?" Kobe asked.
"I saw you with some girl, bet she's a slapper," I responded.
"Actually, she's from Oxford and highly sophisticated," he shot back, trying to sound intelligent.
"That's like several hours from home, how are you going to see her?" I questioned.
"Skype, maybe," he shrugged and followed me down the stairs of the cabin. We followed the path to the main square. The Canteen was a hive of activity with people going in and out, but I ignored that and turned down one of the side routes towards the beach. Wintery sunlight filtered through the trees and we made our way down the now sandy path.
"I wish I had my camera with me," Kobe broke the silence.
"Why didn't you bring it?" I asked then added, "It's really scenic down here,"
"I had too much other stuff to pack,"
"Like all the joke stuff?" I laughed at him.
"Yeah, I can't help it," we laughed for a few minutes.
"When we get back, maybe we should visit that spooky Cabal Manor," I suggested to him.
"Did you know it's occupied again?" Kobe asked.
"No, someone bought the old house?"
"Thought it was a fixer-upper," he responded.
"How do you know this?"
"Well, you know, Mum's friend is a realtor, she was trying to get the owners to sell the place, and eventually they caved in. They moved in about three months ago,"
"They?" I asked, surprised.
"Mum said there are a man and his wife plus two kids, a boy and girl,"
"That's pretty specific, how did the realtor know that?" I asked, curious. Cabal Manor was quite interesting to me; I had snuck out a few times and… well, broke in to take a look around.
"Mum and dad went as a welcoming committee to meet the folks and met the kids as well," Kobe explained.
"Wow, your parents really are the welcoming committee," I looked at him, "Sometimes I don't even think my dad knows Matty and I exist,"
"I'm not sure, but last time I was there your dad called me Larry and went off muttering something about Project Horizon,"
"Something to do with work, I reckon," I answered, "He's a still a civilian contractor for the MOD but works from home a lot,"
"I do wish my dad was like yours," Kobe sighed wistfully.
"Ha! No, you don't. Sometimes he forgets major events like birthdays and stuff, "I told him surprised, "At least your dad takes you and your sister out regularly,"
"Well, you had to spoil the day by mentioning the brat," Kobe wrinkled his nose in disgust.
"Is she still acting up?" I asked.
"She acts more like a teenager than a nine-year-old" he answered frustrated. We followed the winding dirt path. The only visible signs were cycling tracks and the occasional dog poo.
"I'm just glad I don't have a little sister," I answered with a grin, "Have your parents done anything about her?"
"They've tried; I think it's one of her friends influencing her. Her friend, Jenna, has an older sister, so they see and hear everything she does and tries to copy her. Apparently, Sarah has a boyfriend," he shook his head in disbelief.
"Really? Sweet innocent Sarah,"
"Not so innocent and definitely not sweet," Kobe snapped back. We emerged into the light, sand dunes growing up around us. I looked up to see a lone gun emplacement from World War II, now sadly graffitied and ruined by local yobs. The pair of us came out onto the beach to see several of the kids from the program, either resting or mucking about. Dotted around were a few adults and counsellors watching over everyone.
"Hey, I'm talking to you," a voice intruded my thoughts, so I turned to look at the blonde staring up at me from the beach, wearing a bikini despite the cold weather.
"Mackenzie, what the hell are you wearing?"
"You're lucky you are my best friend. Otherwise, you'd be on the floor with a broken knee," she grunted.
"I'll catch up with you guys later," Kobe looked into the distance seeing someone he was familiar with and hurried off. I dropped down onto the sand and looked over my friend. Mackenzie, Mac, was pretty. I mean, that's if you're into girls. She had long blonde hair, blue eyes and a figure to die for, which she was currently showing off in a two-piece bikini.
"What are you doing here?" I asked randomly.
"Stupid Junior Ambassador Program that Mum and Dad signed us up for, duh," she replied sarcastically.
"I mean, why are you on the beach in a bikini in the middle of friggin' November?" I asked the beautiful girl. I'm not sure where it had all gone wrong, but she was popular at school, and I'm not!
"It's not too cold," she answered, but I could see the goosebumps on her skin.
"Well, I'm cold looking at you, so put some clothes on," I told her, and she complied, almost reluctantly, but I could see the grateful look on her face. I guessed that she had been trying to prove a point. If she had a point to prove, Mac went to extreme lengths to prove it, "So, I haven't really seen you around much,"
"I've been busy," she looked away from me, avoiding my eyes.
"Yeah, hanging around with queen bitch Michelle and the fantastic plastics," I answered.
"Doesn't mean I'm becoming one of them," She told me hotly with a glare, "It's a bit hypocritical lumping me in with that lot,"
"I know, but you are one of the most popular girls in school,"
"That makes me bad?" she shot back.
"No, but people assume,"
"Well, you know what they say about assuming," she replied, "It makes an Ass out of u and me,"
"I'm sorry," I told her quietly, "I wouldn't want people to assume things about me, so it's not right for me to do the same with you,"
"It's OK, I can understand the reasoning behind it," Mac assured me then she softened, "I'm sorry we haven't been hanging around much,"
"Look, it's OK, I'm fed up of being labelled a nerd too," I correctly guessed why this year she had tried to get in with the popular group of kids.
"Changing the subject, did you hear about that meteorite that hit parts of the US and Russia?" asked.
"I know, weren't there parts of Europe hit too?" I asked.
"I bet your conspiracy nuts have something to say about that," she returned, and I grinned. I was just about to answer when this wet shaggy thing landed right on top of me. I'm not proud to admit that I screamed, then I realised it was someone in a wet suit. I dug my fingers into their sides and got a squeal of laughter from my unknown assailant. They struggled to push me away and eventually flopped onto his back, struggling for breath. I found myself looking into amber eyes full of intelligence and mischief. Tobi, Mac's younger brother, was my other best friend despite the three year age gap. His long blond hair was matted with seawater, but his freckles were clear on his pale skin.
"That's the second time I've been soaked while clothed, little bear," I grumbled, trying to brush the wet sand from the jumper.
"Why were you wet when clothed?" Mac asked at the same time Tobi growled like the little bear he is. I found it somewhat cute.
"Where's Matty, Lexi?" Tobi is the only person I allow to call me Lexi; I hate that name.
"Kitt and his goons decided to give me a bath to wake me up," I told Mac, then turned to Tobi, "I haven't seen Matty this morning,"
"Larry is getting on my nerves, no one treats my bestie that way," Zena Warrior Princess stood up. I stared at her and knew this would be trouble; I couldn't let a girl fight my battles. I'd never live high school down. I was just about to say something when a shout echoed across the beach.
"Oi, Walker, you little faggot," Larry had emerged from the path between the dunes, his hair wet as though he had just had a shower. Tom Johnson, his ever-present sidekick, emerged behind him.
"You better run because, when we get you, you're dead meat,"
"Alex, run," Kobe shouted, and I took off up the beach. I jumped over a towel and dodged another kid, throwing a ball and then found the other entrance to the beach. I turned my head to see Larry and Tom in quick pursuit, but my smaller lighter body was perfect for running. It's why I am on the cross country running team. I reached a junction and looked left and right.
"You can run, but you can't hide," Laurence taunted. I turned left and found myself once again in the shelter of the trees. I could hear them panting behind me as they run to catch up. As I turned back to the path, I nearly tripped on a large vine but narrowly avoided face planting the floor. I emerged once again into a square and caught the sign for 'Craft Corner'. There were three buildings in a half-moon shape. So I chose the closest one to me and yanked the door open, entering the room to find several kids and one adult staring at me.
I must have looked a right mess, sand sticking to my jumper, and my hair was soaked through with sweat. My chest was heaving with exhaustion as I looked around at the boys and girls staring at me.
"Mr Walker, what can we do for you?" a stern-looking woman eyed me up.
"I, erm… I…" stuttering I realised this was one of the Food Technology rooms and Mrs Abrahams, the Food Tech teacher from school, must be giving a cooking class. I noticed her eyes flicked over my shoulders, and then her face softened.
"Well, I see you made it, a little late I might add," She said brusquely then turned to the rest of the class, "Alex Walker is a Counsellor in Training, perhaps you would be so kind as to help Mr Winters,"
"Miss," I replied, not sure what else to say as she gave an excuse to the class and directed me to a table with a younger boy on it. I followed her lead and took my place next to the Asian boy. I looked over the bowls he had prepared.
"I'm Simon," he introduced himself quietly, staring up at me. Though I'm short, I still had several inches on him.
"Alex," I returned.
"I know who you are, you're on the debate club and in the science club," he replied excitedly. I groaned, I'd rather be known for being popular and cool but, unfortunately, I'm a first-class geek.
"What are we making?" I asked, trying to distract him. Mrs Abrahams was talking to the class, showing them all a recipe on the board.
"Actually, we're making a Victoria sponge cake," Simon replied as he laid out his ingredients on the table.
"How long has this class run?" I asked, not remembering seeing a list for cooking in the main tent. He looked at me as he began measuring some flour into a beaker.
"The sessions have been every other day, while on the program. Mrs Abrahams runs a class in school too. I love cooking," he enthused, "I always watch re-runs of the Great British Bake-off. The early ones with Mary Berry,"
"Oh yeah, they were the best," I murmured, not having a clue what he was talking about.
"So are any you good at cooking?" he asked.
"I'm not too bad," I returned modestly, "But I do miss Mrs Abraham's classes. She was one of my favourite teachers,"
"Did you take something else for GCSE's then?" He questioned, keeping himself busy measuring ingredients.
"I took History," I answered, watching over his shoulder.
"Mr Walker, would you be so kind as to walk around the room and check other people's cooking," Mrs Abrahams voice spoke up, so I looked up to see her checking me over carefully.
"Of course, Miss," I gave her a grin and patted the younger boy on the shoulder before moving on and checking them to see how they were doing. I looked around the group and noticed they were all lower years. There was another boy that looked a little like Simon. One girl with blonde pigtails was happily catting to her next-door neighbour as she cooked. I noticed that she had a perfectly written list next to her, and her eyes kept straying to it.
"What's your name?"
"Izzy Carver," she answered shyly.
"I think your oven might be a little too hot, best to keep an eye on it," I told her and smiled at her. She immediately checked her oven and cakes, adjusting the temperature. I continued walking around, giving helpful hints for the next hour and a half.
"Right, you have ten minutes before lunch bell, so please tidy up and put your cakes on the cooling rack," Mrs Abrahams called out. I helped to tidy up, and soon all the kids had left, laughing and joking with each other. I was wiping down the top of one of the workstations when Mrs Abrahams cleared her throat.
"Are you alright?" she asked softly. I looked up to find her checking me from top to bottom.
"I'm fine," I answered, a little too defensively.
"Are you being bullied?" she asked.
"No, I'm not," my first answer was abject denial, but I looked over her frowning expression and sighed, "It was just Larry and his goons chasing after me. I did play a prank on them,"
"I've noticed you around the school, and you always seem to be on your own," she stated.
"I'm fine, I prefer to be alone," I insisted, "Besides, I do have friends,"
"Has he hurt you before?" Mrs Abrahams asked, using a different tactic.
"No, he just likes to call me insulting names," I explained.
"Well, there's not much I can do here, but as soon as we return home I'm speaking to Mr Knight's, the Head of Year," Mrs Abrahams concluded, and I knew the bullying would get worse. I was now a snitch!
"Please, Miss, can't you leave it? He's never hurt me and you know, sticks and stones, and all that," I pleaded using the old rhyme.
"No, it's best that I speak to Mr Thompson. Even if the boy is not hurting you, he's getting far too big for his britches. I've caught him with other small kids, threatening them," I breathed out a little bit. Hopefully, I wouldn't be used far too much when Mrs Abrahams had that conversation with the Year Nine Head of Year.
"Goodbye, Miss," I told her dejectedly and left the building, my mind completely elsewhere.
"Got you," a voice said as a pair of hands grabbed hold of me. I nearly cried out again, then realised the hands were smaller and the voice not as deep as Larry's. I wrapped my arm around Tobi and gave him an instant noogie as his sister laughed, coming up on my other side.
"Grr, when I get out of here I'm going to get you," he yelled at me as tried to swing at me. I let him go, and he fell on his rump. I laughed at him taking note of the dungaree's he was wearing and his trademark Timberland boots. His mum hated this get up, but he usually wore it when he could get away with it. On my other side, Mac was now wearing a miniskirt and an American Lettermen Jacket.
"We thought we would come and save you," she laughed as I offered my hand to Tobi. He took my hand and let me pull him up; brushing off the sand I put my arm around him and squeezed his shoulders to let him know there were no hard feelings.
"How did you know I was here?"
"We overheard Frankenweenie and Igor moaning about you. What did you do to them?"
"It wasn't my fault," I whined, "Kobe bought some itching powder with him, and we spread it on their clothes,"
"You are hilarious, Lexi," Tobi laughed. Mac tried to give me a stern look, but couldn't help giggling as we entered the main square of the camp. We followed the crowd of kids into the main building, a large wooden 'cabin' that held the kitchen and main dining area. I could already see Matty sitting with some of his friends as we joined the queue to grab some food from the hatch. Larry and Tom were glaring at me, but they wouldn't try anything when there were several senior counsellors and the adults sitting down, eating.
We grabbed our food and sat at one of the blue plastic tables and dug in. I was starving after having no breakfast.
"So, what's everyone got going on after lunch?" Tobi asked, taking a mouthful of food.
"I've got a First Aid Course, and then I'm going into town," I told them.
"Great, I'm teaching that course," Mac squealed.
"You never told me," I accused her.
"Well technically I'm only the CIT, but after going to America last summer I want to help with the first aid training," she explained, "I've already helped out on several sessions,"
"That's great," I touched her shoulder, congratulating her. Her face lit up, and I could see how excited she was to be teaching, "What about you, brat?"
"You're such a tool," Tobi responded then fluttered his eyebrows like a girl, "I've got crafts then I'm going on the cinema trip,"
"You're such a baby! Why do you watch scary movies when you know you will have nightmares?" Mac kidded with her brother.
"I'm not a baby!" he growled, but I could see his face going red and knew he was upset.
"Tobi, I need your help. My phone has been playing up, and you are the only person I can go to," I told him, trying to encourage him. He smiled, and his face lost the redness as he looked at me.
"Sure, I can do that," he replied.
"Well, I've got to go help set stuff up," Mac stated and disappeared with her plate. I noticed dinner was almost over so indicated for Tobi to follow me. We put our plates away and walked up towards the cabin, talking about things in general. When we entered my cabin, it was quiet. I immediately went to bed. Each of the cabins had eight beds in their little cubby holes with a cabinet and draws underneath the wooden frame of the bed. I grabbed the phone and handed it over to the boy.
"I can see what the phone is doing; do you want a permanent fix or a temporary one?" He asked.
"Well I'd like a permanent one, does that mean you'll have to jailbreak it?" I asked, to which I received a dead stare as though I was stupid.
"There's been no need to jailbreak a phone in over a decade; jeez what year are you living in? The early naughties?" he taunted, his amber eyes glinting with mischief.
"I'll give you the naughties!" I returned and ran at him. He squealed and laughed, dodging out the way he threw my phone on the bed. I managed to corner him, then gave him a wicked grin. His eyes widened as I launched myself and began to tickle him without mercy. I knew how ticklish he was so eventually I had him on the floor, tears leaking from his eyes as he laughed harder.
"I'm gonna p-p-pee myself," he wheezed, I was straddling him and stopping his legs from kicking up at me as I held his hands with one of mine. I lifted a bit, and that's when I noticed a subtle shift. As Tobi's breath began to slow, he was looking at me, with a look, I had never seen before, and I couldn't decipher what it meant. I got up moving back towards my bed. I noticed him give me a questioning look, but then the door opened, and Larry walked in.
"What are you doing in here, pipsqueak?" Larry asked, nastily.
"He's sorting out my phone," I snarled stepping in front of the smaller boy.
"Might have guessed the fag would be here," Larry taunted stepping up to me, only two inches taller than me, he was almost wide as I was tall.
"Shall I go get a counsellor again?" I heard Kobe drawl, once again saving me.
"No need, I'm leaving," I told my friend and guided Tobi out the door and back towards the craft area.
"Knock, knock," I heard a voice and looked up from my bed, where I was sat on my bed reading my laptop. Jamie, our Counsellor, was leaning on the frame of the door to the cabin. The First Aid Course had been really interesting, and Mac had been helpful.
"Hey Jamie, how are you?" I asked, curious to see him in the cabin. As well as being our Counsellor, he was also an instructor, so I expected him to be instructing.
"I'm really good but… I need to ask a favour," straight to business, I liked that about the older boy.
"Sure, if I can help I will,"
"You might regret that," he grinned, "I know you're down on the list to go to town this afternoon, but I wondered if you'd chaperone some of the younger kids instead,"
"Erm… Yeah, sure. What do you need help with?" I asked, my curiosity piqued.
"Well, we're going to the movies to see the new Marvel film, and we have an unusually high amount signed up," he explained, "Mr Roberts is going with some of the other counsellors, but we thought we'd rope in a few CIT's,"
"Sure, let me go to the toilet ad grab my jacket," I returned. It could be fun, and the younger ones were always a bit of a laugh. I dashed to the toilet, then pulled out a jacket from the wardrobe and stuffed my wallet into my jeans pocket meeting, Jamie, outside; I closed the door behind me. We walked towards the car park, chatting about films and about what he gets up to in his spare time. When we arrived, there was two buses and about thirty children, aged from 6 to 15, milling around. Standing in front of the bus was Mr. Roberts, who looked a bit harried and six other helpers including four counsellors and two CIT's roughly the same age as me.
"Yes, Mr Walker, Jamie tells me you are an excellent CIT," Robert's complimented me, and I blushed.
"It's no issue; I'm glad to be here," I told him and got onto one of the buses, where several of the kids called out to me.
"Mr Popular as well, I can see," the man laughed and took a seat at the front of the bus.
"When you've got a Rugrat for a brother, you get used to kids," I responded laughing with him.
"Hey, I heard that!" came a voice from one of the seats and I noticed my brother with some of his friends. Despite being on my own in school, the younger kids usually love me for some reason. It's one reason I accepted the Counsellor-in-Training position for this camp thingy. I looked around and saw a boy in his early teens, so I took a seat next to him.
"Hi, I recognise you from somewhere," I stated.
"Our dad's worked together in the military," he replied.
"Oh yeah, you were at that reunion a few months ago," I remembered, "I'm Alex,"
"I'm Nathan, erm, Nate," he smiled.
"Nice to meet you! So… is your Dad still in the military?" I asked, knowing my dad was only a civilian analyst.
"Yeah, he's the security chief for my local base. I didn't think I'd see you again, but your Dad comes to see mine once a month so I thought that maybe he would bring you,"
"He usually works from home," I frowned, knowing he went out of town on business trips. Something wasn't adding up, but an argument drew my attention, and I had to sort them out. By now, the sky was darkening, and we entered the nearest city. We passed through an ancient medieval gate and a few minutes later had parked up near a swimming pool.
"Right, everyone off my bus!" Robert's yelled, and the children stampeded off the bus, assembling at the rear as the other bus spat out its load of kids too. Nate followed me off the bus at a more sedate pace. I stepped into the cool night and noticed Tobi standing under one of the lights; he was laughing and joking with some of his other friends.
"Hello? Are you with me, Alex?" Jamie asked, breaking me from my reverie.
"Sure, just letting my thoughts drift," I returned.
"That's a bad idea," he told me clapping me on the shoulder, taller than me by a few inches he was very fit, and I must admit I had a bit of a crush on him.
"So they roped you in?" Mac asked we began ushering the kids towards the cinema.
"Yeah, Jamie asked me to come instead of just going into town," I replied, "I didn't realise you would be here too,"
"I forgot to say when we were talking," she shrugged her shoulders, "Can I ask you something? Have you noticed anything different with my brother?"
"No, what do you mean?" I asked, suddenly nervous. Did she know about our little play fight earlier? Then I remembered, I was supposed to be one of his best friends.
"Well… he seems awful quiet lately; I think he might be getting bullied,"
"That could be the reason," I told her as two of the girls began to call each other names. Mac gave me a weary look and went off to break up the fight.
"Alex," A voice from my elbow startled me, and I realised Tobi was right beside me. I smiled at him.
"Oh! Hey, I forgot you were going to the cinema," I replied then looked at him with a cheeky grin, "You know if it's scary, I'm not letting you sit on my lap again,"
"I was about six, you dork," he pushed me slightly, but laughed, "What are you doing here?"
"Jamie, my Counsellor asked me,"
"Wicked! It'll be like a date," Tobi said, not thinking about what he was saying. As realisation dawned, his eyes widened, and I was a little surprised. I leaned into him a little.
"It'll be our first date," I told him playfully and smirked at him then fluttered my eyelids, "But you'll have to buy the sweets,"
"Sure thing," He winked at me and went off. We got to the cinema, and Robert's rounded us up into a group.
"Right, so tickets have all been bought. Make sure you get one from one of the Counsellor's or CIT's. We are in Screen Three," He told us, "If you want sweets, groups of five may go with one of the supervisors,"
"I want popcorn," Matty piped up from my elbow and was surrounded by a group of his age group. Robert's handed out the tickets and then I took my little group of five up to the counter to order sweets. We moved through the line quickly, and I ordered their sweets for them and ushered them up to the stairs into Screen Three. Robert was at the door, making sure all the kids got in. As we entered, I was abandoned by Matty and his friends, so I looked around to see Mac and a full row, then noticed Tobi had an empty seat next to him. I settled in, and he gave me a grin.
"Shook off your followers then?"
"When they want something, they can't get enough of me, but when I'm not neede, I'm like yesterday's trash," I quipped. The theatre began to darken, and Tobi watched the adverts so seriously, I almost laughed. After the commercials, there came the trailers for new films then the movie began, and I rested my arm on the rest. The film started well, but my thoughts were occupied elsewhere; I wondered what was going on with Tobi and why Mac seemed so concerned.
Two hours later we emerged to a fully darkened night. I was following behind a group of kids.
"That was brilliant!" Matty crowed and went into detail with his friend. Tobi walked along one side of me, while Mac soon caught up and we walked silently towards the buses. I was about to ask Mac what she thought of the film when I noticed a commotion up ahead. "I wonder what's going on over there." Mac voiced my thoughts as the two of us watched the disturbance, but didn't see what was going on. A lot of the kids were stood watching as well, while the Counsellors tried to get them back on task.