Fourteen-year-old Casey is determined to have fun this summer going to camp with his best friend, Ella. His overprotective mother frets that attending this one instead of trans camp like he’s always done will cause problems, but Casey has his heart set on going stealth anyway.
His mom just might be right.
All Ella wants is love for her best friend, and she’s determined to set him up with someone, despite Casey’s protests that he just wants to have fun, not get involved in a summer romance. But things get complicated when camp bully Ryan focuses his energies on the two friends. At least Casey’s cute bunkmate, Gavin, appears interested in getting to know him better, making Casey rethink the whole romance thing.
Until he finds out Gavin and Ryan are good friends.
Summer camp turns into so much more when Casey has to decide if Gavin is worth pursuing, friend of a bully or not.
There’s just one more problem: Ryan knows Casey is transgender.
|Publisher:||NineStar Press, LLC|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(d)|
Read an Excerpt
"DO YOU HAVE your socks?" my mother called up the stairs.
"Yes, mother!" I shouted back down at her. Of course I had socks. But I double-checked the large footlocker anyway, scrabbling through it until I found them. They were buried under my binders, but there they were.
"Don't forget towels!" came another shout up the stairs.
She knew me well. I always forgot something. I went back to my bathroom and rummaged around in the linen closet until I found enough towels for the trip.
When I got back to my room, Mom was staring down into my trunk, her hands on her hips. "Anything else?" she asked, eyeing how much was in it.
"I hope not."
I tossed the towels in the trunk, only to be crushed into a hug from her. "I'm going to miss you Casey," she said into my hair.
I patted her awkwardly. She meant well, but ever since I announced my desire to transition two years ago when I turned twelve, she'd gotten super overprotective and clingy. "I'll miss you too, Mom." I did mean it, but it was going to be a relief to be away from her for almost two weeks. Even though I'd never been away from my parents that long before, not even at trans camp.
She squeezed me harder until I gasped and then let me go. "Are you sure you want to do this?"
"For the millionth time, yes," I said, rolling my eyes.
"Okay. I'll get your dad to get this down the stairs," she said, and then she was gone in a whirl of brown hair and scarves.
I shook my head at her back and pulled out my phone to text my best friend, Ella. Almost ready. U?
I knew she wouldn't answer right away (she actually hated her phone, the weirdo), so I nervously went through my list again to make sure I hadn't forgotten anything. I needed a distraction.
While I was rummaging, my dad, a big guy who had prematurely gone bald so he always wore an ugly hat, had lumbered up the stairs and was frowning down at my trunk. "Are you sure you need all that?" His voice was very deep.
"Yeah, Dad." My phone buzzed in my pocket, but I ignored it. "It's almost two weeks."
"Twelve days," he said.
"Yeah, I know." I scratched at my head, slightly embarrassed to talk about my transition stuff with my dad. "I, you know, need some extra stuff." I thought of the binders lying next to my socks.
He glanced at me and nodded, and then looked quickly away. He hadn't been as supportive of my transition as my mom. When I first told him, he blurted, "But you're a girl."
We stood there in awkward silence for a moment as I wondered what I should say to him, father to son. But he hadn't yet called me his son.
He cleared his throat, still not looking at me, and then crouched and heaved up the trunk onto a roller cart he'd carried up the stairs. It was going to be a pain getting it down on the cart, but at least he wouldn't kill his back picking it up this way.
I helped him maneuver it down the stairs, wishing not for the first time I could start hormones. I wanted to be as strong as my dad, but I wasn't old enough yet. Well, I was, but my parents wouldn't approve it until I was sixteen. I figured Dad was the one holding out, because Mom would give me whatever I wanted.
Two more years.
When we finally got the trunk down the stairs, I pulled my phone out. Ella had texted back.
Ella: Yeah, loading the car. Are you ready?
Me: Yes! Just gotta say bye.
Ella: We'll be there soon.
"Ella and her parents are going to be here soon," I told my parents.
Mom had argued long and hard about how I was getting to camp. She wanted to take me, but I wanted to go with Ella and her parents. My friend and her brother had been going to this camp for years, and her parents knew exactly how to get there. Mom pursed her lips and crossed her arms over her chest. "Okay. Are you sure you have it all?"
Annoyance flared up. "Yes!" I said.
"Don't take that tone with your mother," Dad warned.
I closed my mouth and let the anger subside. It wouldn't do to get into an argument with them now. They'd probably not let me go, whether or not they had already paid for my spot. And summer camp wasn't cheap; I'd seen prices on the website.
"Sorry," I mumbled, and Mom pulled me into another hug.
"Be safe, okay?" she said. "I wish you wanted to go to the trans camp instead."
"Okay, okay, I know. You want to go to regular camp like any regular boy."
"I went to trans camp last year," I said.
"I know, and you loved it. That's why I wish you'd go again."
"Stop worrying so much, Mom," I told her. "The kids won't hurt me."
She didn't look convinced when she finally let me go. It was true; trans camp had been fantastic. But everyone there knew I was trans. I wanted to go someplace where I didn't always feel trans. I knew it was impossible, but I wanted a shot at it. All the other kids at trans camp had loved it, because they'd said they could shed their trans identity there. Since everyone was trans, we got to talk about other things. It made it less special, which was, in reality, a relief.
And that was the problem for me. I just wanted to be like any other boy. And all the other boys went to summer camp like the one I was going to, not to trans camp. I wanted to be a boy with the other boys.
"Are you sure? Kids can be crummy to each other sometimes."
"Yeah, I know, Mom. Switched schools because of it, remember?" I rolled my eyes.
My dad walked out of the room then, and Mom watched him leave with pain in her eyes. He went into their bedroom — the big master suite on the main floor of the house — and closed the door. I looked away, too, not wanting to see the expression on her face.
I pulled out my phone and went to sit on the couch to wait for Ella.
Me: Please come soon. My parents are being parents again.
I sent it as a snap, which I knew Ella didn't really like. In it, I looked bored as I lounged on the sofa.
Ella: haha we're on our way.
Me: Good bc this is killing me.
Ella: What was it this time?
I told her. We'd been friends for absolutely forever, as long as I could remember. She was the first person to know I was trans, even before I did. She'd never once misgendered me after I came out, and never used my birth name, though she'd known it all her life.
By the time we finished texting back and forth about it, she wrote one final one:
Ella: pulling up!
"They're here!" I called out.
Mom had wandered off to restlessly putter, but she shouted from upstairs that she was coming. I didn't know where my dad was, but right then, I didn't care. I wouldn't have to deal with his disappointment in me for almost two whole weeks.
The doorbell rang, and I ran to answer it. When I opened the door, Ella threw herself at me and squeezed me in a big hug. She was all legs and long blonde hair, classically beautiful. Normally, she wore a lot of makeup, but her face was scrubbed clean, though her yellow hair was in perfect waves. She grinned at me, showing her braces (which she hated). The rubber bands were pink.
"Ready?" she asked.
My dad came out of the bedroom then, and Mom also reappeared.
They helped load the footlocker into Ella's parents' van and then stood around talking with them for too long. Mom was interrogating her father about the route. Ella and I piled into the back, alone. They would also be picking up her brother from camp to bring him home, but until then, it was just the two of us.
Over the whole summer, the camps up in Ankley Springs held sessions for groups of kids of different ages. Her brother, Brian, was too young to be in the same one as Ella, which was a relief because he was an annoying scab. Only thirteen- and fourteen-year-olds would be in our session. Luckily for Ella's parents, Brian's session ended right as ours was beginning.
"So," Ella said, "are you ready for romance?"
"Come on," I said, blushing. "We're not even there yet."
"There's going to be lots of cute guys," she said, raising an eyebrow. "And it's queer as hell."
"Shh." I glanced furtively at my parents. I'd been out to them as trans for years now, but they didn't know I was bisexual. One thing at a time. I think my parents avoided the subject of dating for fear of finding out too much, or having to field weird questions from other parents. Dating boys as a girl was fine, but dating boys as a trans boy might send them over the edge. Mom tried so hard to think of me as a boy, and this might short-circuit her. I didn't want to know what my dad would say or do.
"Sorry." Ella mouthed it at me, ducking her head. "I forgot."
"It's okay. They'll have to learn eventually." I just wasn't sure now was the best time. Maybe when I was eighteen.
My parents finally released Ella's from interrogation, gave me one more hug, and then watched as we pulled out of the driveway. I waved at them as we took off down the road.
We'd be heading way out into rural Virginia, almost to the border of West Virginia, up in the mountains. It was a long drive, but Ella's parents were prepared.
We watched cartoons on their DVD player and ate salty snacks all the way there, so it wasn't too bad of a trip.
After a couple of hours, Ella's mother, Mrs. Brenson, finally chirped out, "We're here!"
I looked up as we passed a rustic wooden sign that proclaimed Ankley Springs, and pulled onto a dirt track from the paved road. Trees loomed around us, spreading their leafy branches until it seemed we were driving through a green tunnel. I loved the trees, and I smiled as we passed from sparse forest into true woodlands. We also started climbing, the van jouncing and rocking over the rutted road. Ella, who sometimes got a little carsick, turned a little paler and went quiet.
Nervousness and excitement warred in my chest. Going to camp as a trans boy was going to be fraught with problems. I was going to be staying with boys, changing with boys, constantly around boys. They would notice my binder. But I had plans in place, and the adults, the counselors, all knew. Even if the kids found out I was trans, it shouldn't be a problem.
Ahead of us, the forest opened up into a tiny little town. All of the buildings were white with green roofs and trim. It was relatively flat and open right here, but we were clearly still in the mountains. The tree-covered hillsides loomed around us, dotted with houses propped up on stilts. The road was still dirt, but it was in better shape here. We passed a small pool off to one side, and I looked at it longingly.
We finally pulled up into a huge field full of cars and people and, after being flagged to a parking spot, we all got out. The field was easily larger than the size of a regular football field, with an enormous pavilion at one end. Trees surrounded the entire thing. All the other people were heading toward the pavilion, crowding around a few tables set up on the concrete where adults in bright blue shirts were checking names off of lists.
Ella and I ran to the pavilion ahead of her parents. Our trunks would be driven up to the campsite later, so we wouldn't have to worry about them yet.
Brian, tall for his age and gangly with white-blond hair, was there, milling about waiting for us. Ella went straight to him and nearly pushed him over. "Hey!" he shouted, and they got into a half-hearted wrestling match.
I wandered around the pavilion instead of watching them fight. There were two basketball hoops, but they had been cranked up out of the way. I noticed Christmas lights had also been strung up in the rafters, and my heart skipped a beat. There was a dance on the last night of the session, and it would take place here. I couldn't help but think how romantic it might be to dance under the twinkling lights ...
I shoved that thought away. I wasn't sure yet how queer I could be here, despite what Ella had said. People might get weirded out over me being trans as well as me being bisexual. Romance was not what I wanted out of this trip, but the thought was still a pleasant one ...
I wandered back to Ella and Brian who, by the sullen look on both their faces, had been yelled at by their parents for fighting. We got in line and waited briefly. Though we were there for only a few minutes, it felt like an eternity. I was impatient to go and have fun.
I got signed in first, and the perky girl who checked off my name — Casey Stearns — gave me a name badge, a T-shirt, a water bottle with the logo of the camp on it, and my cabin assignment. I was in cabin four. "You might also want to turn off your phone," she told me as I edged aside so Ella could check in.
That was the only bad thing about going camping. I pulled out my phone, and sure enough, even though I could get service just about anywhere else, I had nothing out here. I told myself it was for the best and switched the phone off. Leaving it on would run the battery down while it searched for service. I'd come to camp to relax and have fun, and having my phone meant my parents could reach me. Knowing my mom, if she could, she'd call me every hour desperate to know if anyone had been mean to me since we'd last talked.
Ella was in cabin eight, and she explained to me that all the boys' cabins were the furthest away, in cabins two through six. The girls' cabins were seven through eleven.
"What about cabin one?" I asked.
"That one isn't used in this session," she said. "There's also cabin twelve, but some of the extra counselors stay there."
"What's cabin one used for?"
She shrugged. "I think for other camping programs. I've never seen anyone in there before."
As we waited for Brian to get checked out, Ella explained, "This camp is actually used by a number of programs. This one gets it during the early summer, and another one gets it during late summer. There's even a fall one, but that's for homeschooled students and nontraditional students who have the time to come up for a couple of weeks during the school year. I think there's even a religious camp, because there are shrines all over the place."
"Interesting," I said, not all that interested as I scanned the other campers, looking for anyone who might also be in cabin four. I wanted to know who I was going to be living with for the next two weeks, and if they were going to be exciting or not.
Brian finally got checked out, and we went back to the van. We climbed in once more and drove up the mountain to the actual campsite. The road was rocky and bumpy and very steep, but we made it up with no problem.
The cabins, sitting on their stilts, were strung out along one side of the road and pushed up against the rising ground. We were almost at the top of the mountain, but not quite, and the road continued past the cabins on upward. The cabins were painted a dark brown, nearly lost among the dirt and tree trunks, except for large yellow plaques with the numbers painted on them. Two larger buildings on the opposite side of the road were also painted the same dark brown. Signs above the doors proclaimed them to be the Washington Lodge and the Lincoln Lodge.
Ella's parents helped me unload my trunk from their van and get it up the short flight of stairs to the cabin.
I didn't go in, but instead, nervously hugged Ella. "See you soon, okay?" It would be great if we got to hang out at some point. I suddenly didn't want to be alone without my best friend or my parents to protect me. For one sick moment, I thought of riding back down the mountain with Brian and Ella's parents and going home. But it passed as she squeezed me back.
"You'll be fine," she said. "Just be yourself."
We shared a smile, and she got back into the van to be driven to her own cabin. We locked eyes through the window, and she held my gaze until she was too far away, her bright hair the last thing I could see.
The door of the cabin opened up again, and a tall man with a riot of dark hair leaned out. He had light brown skin and dark eyes, and a goatee. "Hey there!" he called. "You must be Casey!"
"Yeah," I said.
He strode down the stairs and stuck his hand out. I shook it, and it was warm and dry. "I'm the counselor for the coolest cabin — cabin four! My name's Wade."
He waved me into the cabin. There were already a couple boys inside, and they looked up to stare at me as I came in. I tried to look confident and cool. I was a boy, just like them. But I self-consciously ran a hand through my short hair, reassuring myself that it was, indeed, quite short.
At school, I didn't have to worry so much about how I carried myself or whether I "passed" as a boy or not. Everyone there knew I was trans. But here, no one knew. I was trying to be stealthy about it, in hopes I could live my life like any other boy. It meant I was going to have to examine everything I did and said to make sure it didn't seem girly or weird. It was exhausting, but I needed to see if I could do it.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "On a Summer Night"
Copyright © 2018 Gabriel D. Vidrine.
Excerpted by permission of NineStar Press, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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