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By Katy Grant
AladdinCopyright © 2010 Katy Grant
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Five minutes. We?d barely been at Camp Pine Haven for five minutes, and I was already tempted to push my best friend Devon into the lake.
We were standing on the edge of Lakeview Rock, this gigantic rock formation that loomed up over one end of the lake, giving us a great view of just about everything from up here.
Not only could we see the lake below us with the wooden dock sticking out over the water and the rows of canoes lined up on the banks, but we could catch a glimpse of the tennis courts nearby, slightly hidden by the trees.
Devon and I had just gotten off the bus, and since she?d hated every minute of the ride here, I decided I?d give her a quick tour while our stuff was being unloaded.
Devon took a step closer to the edge and looked down, her arms crossed in front of her. We were about thirty feet high, I figured.
?I don?t think this actually qualifies as a lake. Swamp, maybe. Why is it so green?? She crinkled her nose in disgust, as if the lake had a bad smell. It didn?t.
Everything smelled wonderful up here?like pine trees and fresh air. I took a deep breath and got a whiff of wild honeysuckle from an overgrown vine growing around the trees below us.
?It?s green because . . . lakes are always green.? I thought the lake was a beautiful shade of green, not slimy or mossy. It was the same color as all the trees around it. There?s absolutely nothing swampy about Pine Haven?s lake.
A group of girls and parents were walking around the opposite side of the lake, and I strained my eyes to see if I recognized any of them. I couldn?t wait to see my old friends, especially Maggie. I hadn?t seen her since last summer.
Devon let out a bored sigh. ?Okay, nice swamp. Let?s go check out the pool now.?
I gritted my teeth. ?Devon, there is no pool. We swim in the lake. I thought you knew that.?
She turned her head slowly and looked at me, her mouth slightly open. The expression on her face looked like I?d told her a gigantic, girl-eating kraken lived in those waters. ?No pool? There?s . . . no . . . pool.? She emphasized each word carefully.
?How did you get the impression that Pine Haven has a pool?? I asked. ?Didn?t you look at the brochures I gave you? Or the website??
Devon shrugged. ?I might have glanced at the brochures once or twice, but when I went to the website and saw that there was a clock counting down the days till I?d be shipped off here . . .? She didn?t even bother to finish the sentence.
Devon was wearing her two favorite wardrobe colors. She had on a black tank top and white shorts. I couldn?t figure out why she dressed in black and white so much. Maybe because her hair was black and her skin was milky white. Next to Devon, my complexion was a warm caramel.
Personally, I made a point of never wearing black or white. Too blah for me. Today, for instance, I was wearing one red and one yellow Converse high-top. The best part about owning high-tops in assorted colors was that you could mix them up. As far as I was concerned, the more color, the better.
?Ready to see the rest of camp?? I asked.
?Chris, please wake me up from this nightmare. You can?t be serious about there being no pool.?
?Devon, are you trying to make me mad? Because you?re succeeding,? I warned her.
?Ooh, don?t awaken the Hulk.? Devon knew not to push me to the limit.
All my family and friends were well aware of my temper. My mom was constantly telling me I needed to learn to control it, but I figured everyone else should try not to make me mad in the first place.
?Continue with the tour,? Devon said. ?Any chance the Sistine Chapel is around the corner??
We?d started walking through the trees, away from Lakeview Rock, when I stopped dead in my tracks and turned on her. ?Are you going to spend the next four weeks complaining about your parents not taking you to Italy?? I snapped at her.
?Yes, that?s exactly what I?m going to do. I still can?t believe my parents are forcing me to spend an entire month at some backwoods girls? camp in North Carolina when I could be visiting the Forum or the Colosseum with them!?
That explained why Devon hadn?t bothered to look at the stuff I?d given her about Pine Haven; she?d been too busy looking at all her parents? travel brochures.
?Devon, you?re here at camp, so do us both a favor and try not to drive me insane.?
Devon frowned. ?Sorry. I?m not trying to drive you insane. The one good thing about this whole camp experience is that you?re here with me, Chris. At least the two of us get to stick together the whole time, right??
I smiled at her. ?Right. Give Pine Haven a chance, okay? There might be some things you actually like.?
We walked up the road to where the bus was parked.
I?d gotten this nervous feeling when Devon?s mom called my mom a couple of months ago and asked about Devon coming to camp with me this summer. Yes, we?re best friends, but Devon is not the outdoorsy type. I think she might be allergic to nature. But her parents had planned this big European vacation that didn?t include her or her older sister Ariana, so Ariana decided on a music camp, and Devon got shipped off to Pine Haven with me. I really did like the idea of Devon coming to camp with me, but I knew it would take her a while to get used to things around here.
?Okay, back behind those trees at the top of that hill is the climbing tower. It?s really cool. Kind of a combination climbing wall and wooden maze with netting and ropes and stuff. And this road leads through camp and down to the stables.?
?Stables? You mean, like a barn? With cows??
?No, not with cows! Horses. You know, for riding. Some people ride horses.?
It seemed like there were even more people wandering around now than when we first got off the bus, and I kept looking for Maggie everywhere in the crowd of parents, counselors, and arriving campers. I yelled and waved at Erin Harmon, but we were too far away to actually talk, and anyway, she was helping Melissa Bledsoe carry her stuff up the hill toward the cabins. I was about to tell Devon that we should grab our stuff too, when I heard someone calling me.
?Chris! Christina Ramirez!?
Rachel Hoffstedder, my counselor from last year, was trying to get through the crowd of people still standing around the bus.
?Rachel!? I ran up and gave her a hug. Devon hung back a few steps and waited.
?Hey! You?re the first old camper I?ve seen so far! Guess who you got for a counselor this year? Wayward!?
?Wayward? Awesome!? Caroline Heyward, aka Wayward, was a really cool counselor who?d been coming to Pine Haven since forever. ?Who?s my other counselor? What cabin am I in?? Devon made a little coughing sound at my elbow.
?Oh, sorry. Rachel, this is my friend Devon. This is her first year.?
We?d barely gotten through that introduction when Laurel-Ann Hyphen came running up. She looked exactly the same as last year, with her hair in two long braids, but I noticed she had braces now.
?Hey, Chris! I?m in Cabin Four with you!? said Laurel-Ann. ?But you?re on Side A with Maggie Windsor and a couple of new girls. I?m on Side B. You?ve got Wayward, but I?ve got some new counselor who?s never even been here before! A total newbie! Oh, and guess who else is on Side B with me? Boo Bauer. I don?t think she likes me, but you know, whatever. I?ll be nice to her. Have you seen Maggie yet? She?s here. I just saw her.?
It took me a couple of seconds to recover from Laurel-Ann?s long hello. You never knew whether you should wait till she finally stopped talking or just jump right in anytime. ?Ah, no. I haven?t seen Maggie. Laurel-Ann, this is my friend Devon. I think she?s probably one of the new girls on Side A with me.?
I was completely blanking on Laurel-Ann?s last name. All I could remember was that a lot of people called her Hyphen last year because she always made a point of telling everyone she spelled her name with one.
?Here, let?s look at the cabin assignments,? said Rachel. She checked the list on her clipboard and told us that Devon, Maggie, and I were all on Side A together, just like I?d requested.
?Well, I guess we should get our stuff and go to the cabin.? I looked around for Devon, but she was already walking away from us.
Devon sat down on her new black trunk. On all sides of her, pillows, sleeping bags, and duffels were piled up in a semi-organized arrangement.
?Who was that obnoxious loudmouth with the braids?? she asked. ?Tell me you?re not friends with her.?
?Don?t worry. We won?t be spending much time with Laurel-Ann?if we can help it. But I?m glad Maggie?s here already. Wait till you meet her. She?s got an insane sense of humor.?
I scanned the pile of bags for my blue duffel. I wanted to see Maggie, but I had this nervous feeling about how she and Devon would react to each other. Both of them had pretty unique personalities.
Devon opened her purse and pulled out a compact. Looking at the tiny mirror, she curled her mascaraed eyelashes with her finger, then dug around for her lip gloss, which she carefully applied, rubbing her lips together to smooth it all out.
I felt like telling her that nobody wore makeup at camp, not even the counselors, but I decided not to bother. She?d figure it out on her own.
She frowned and looked down at the trunk underneath her. ?There is no way I?m carrying this thing by myself. It?ll totally mess up my manicure.? She inspected her nails for about the twenty-seventh time. She?d just gotten a French mani and pedi yesterday, and when I saw her nails this morning, I couldn?t believe it. Who got a manicure the day before leaving for camp?
?Don?t worry about it. Hey, guys, give us a hand?? I yelled to a couple of counselors from the boys? camp, Camp Crockett, who were standing around. One guy grabbed Devon?s trunk and another took my duffel. We all started up the hill together.
?He?s gorgeous!? Devon whispered, pointing to the dark-haired counselor.
?I noticed!? I whispered back. ?Why don?t you pretend to fall and fake a sprained ankle? He?ll volunteer to carry you to the infirmary.?
Devon smiled at me. ?Great idea. Dare me to??
We both laughed, and the guys glanced at us over their shoulders, breathing heavily from the load they were carrying up the steep hill.
I cleared my throat and acted serious so they wouldn?t know we?d been drooling over them. ?Okay, every cabin has eight campers and two counselors. The cabins are split in half, Side A and Side B. Up there at the top of the hill is Middler Line. That?s what we are?Middlers. Ages ten to twelve.?
?Middlers? We?re called Middlers?? asked Devon. ?How degrading. What are the people under us called? Lowlifes??
?It goes Junior, Middler, Senior. We?ll be Seniors next year when we?re thirteen.? I tried not to sound like a tour guide, but I figured she?d want to know all these different camp terms. I?d been pretty confused last year by all of them.
?The oldest campers are the CATs?they?re sixteen. After that, you can be a CA?a Counselor Assistant.?
?Cats?? asked Devon.
?Yeah. It stands for Counselor Assistant in Training. Oh, down there?s the dining hall, and on the porch are the mailboxes. Mail comes every day after lunch.?
Now we were up on Middler Line, a wide dirt path with a long row of cabins in front of us. The Crockett counselors pushed through the screen door of Cabin 4.
?Oh, please.? That was all Devon could say as she stood there looking around at the two big rooms full of empty bunk beds and bare wooden shelves.
I happened to like Pine Haven?s cabins. Big screen windows let in plenty of fresh mountain air and sunlight. Above the screen windows were rolled-up canvas flaps that we could lower when it rained. The walls were bare, unpainted wood, and above us were rafters with a couple of lightbulbs to light the cabin after dark. Yeah, the cabins were basic, but they were comfortable.
?And they consider these accommodations fit for human habitation??
The Crockett counselors left to go help other people with their trunks, but they were both snickering over Devon?s comment.
I dragged my duffel over to Side A. ?Devon, it?s camp. I warned you it wasn?t going to be the Hilton.?
?Chris, I can live without the Hilton. But these are hovels.?
She looked around at all the graffiti covering the walls. ?Was there a gang war we just missed? And where?s the bathroom? Tell me there?s not an outhouse out back we have to use.?
I had to laugh at that. The thing I loved most about Devon was her sense of humor. She was constantly getting me in trouble at school because her sarcastic remarks always made me laugh out loud during class.
?You would?ve known about the outhouses if you?d looked at the website.? Devon covered her face with her hands and groaned. ?Do we get to use toilet paper? Or pine needles??
?I?m just teasing you. We have real flush toilets with toilet paper and everything.? I laughed as she recovered slightly from the shock I?d given her. ?But they?re not in the cabins. They?re in another building down the line.?
I figured Devon would freak when she saw Solitary. That was what everyone at Pine Haven called the bathrooms, for some random reason. It was basically one room with faucets all along the walls where you could brush your teeth and wash your face and stuff, and then there was an adjoining room full of toilet stalls.
Across the line from Solitary was a row of outdoor showers. They had stalls with doors on them and everything, but I knew Devon would be disgusted by them. We?d visit those later.
A girl I didn?t recognize came in and stood in the doorway, looking a little lost.
?I?m supposed to be in Cabin Four, Side B,? she said, dropping her sleeping bag at her feet.
?Okay, this is Side A, so you?re on that side of the cabin,? I told her, pointing to the opposite side. ?I?m Chris, by the way. This is Devon.?
?Hi, I?m Kayla.? She glanced around at the beds on Side B.
?You can pick any empty bed you want,? I called over to her.
?She looks about as thrilled as I am to be here,? Devon whispered to me.
On our side of the cabin there were two sets of bunk beds, and I could see that someone had already taken one of the top bunks because the bed was made up with . . . Scooby-Doo sheets!
?Scooby-Doo sheets!? I yelled. Devon had no idea what I was talking about.
The next thing I knew, someone came crashing through the screen door, grabbed me, and spun me around in circles. I caught a glimpse of thick, rust-colored curls.
?Christina Kachina!? yelled Maggie.
?Windsoroni!? I screamed. We had each other in a death-grip hug. When she finally turned me loose, I shot Devon a quick glance. She was glaring at both of us.
?Hey, Maggie, this is my friend from home?Devon Fairchild. Devon, this is Maggie?the maniac I?ve been telling you about.?
Devon looked at us both and fluttered her eyelashes. ?Oh, yes. Maggie. The maniac. Absolutely charmed to meet you.?
? 2010 Katy Grant
Excerpted from Tug-of-War by Katy Grant Copyright © 2010 by Katy Grant. Excerpted by permission.
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