Thursday, November 10, 2011

Chapter 6

New to Snapshots? Start here
Alex bit her tongue as she fell into step beside Jason. If she couldn’t speak, she reasoned, then she couldn’t lie, and not lying meant not making her life any more complicated than it already was at this exact moment.
“Hey, Lexie,” Jason began. Alex cringed at the sound of her alternate name—not because she didn’t like it (because she actually did, very much) but because she took it as a cue that the conversation was about to take a swift turn into the Danger Zone.
“Mmm?” Alex answered, without actually opening her mouth.
“I was thinking. Tomorrow’s a big work day here, but we’re supposed to be done in the late afternoon. I was actually going to go home for the evening, and come back Sunday. I wanted to know if you’d like to come with me. You seemed to hit it off with my mom, and she’s an excellent cook. You could stay in my sister’s room.” Jason’s voice trailed as he waited for a response.
That was it? No inquisition? It’s too good to be true, Alex thought, pausing to take it all in.
“I mean, think it over—” Jason quickly added.
“Oh, of course I’d like to come,” Alex said, feeling sorry she’d made him feel awkward. “Yes. Definitely. Thank you.”
Jason’s smile was something Alex heard more than saw in the darkness of the trail. “Great! I’d like that a lot, and I think Mom would, too. She’s happiest when the house is full.”
“Really?” Alex said. “It’s completely the opposite at my house. My mom is a nurse, and when she comes home after a 12-hour shift, she’s all about crashing on the couch in her slippers and a pair of sweats. I honestly don’t remember the last time we had company. Or a meal that didn’t come from the freezer.”
“Well, a 12-hour shift sounds exhausting to me. And your mom’s single, right?”
“Yeah,” Alex said, suddenly on guard.
“Well, we’ll cut her some slack on the company and cooking scene then,” Jason said.
Seriously? Alex’s thought. If someone would have told her this morning that guys like Jason were real, she would have suspected that the news was coming from someone who also believed in Santa, the Easter Bunny, and probably Linus’s Great Pumpkin from the Charlie Brown Halloween special, for good measure. She wondered, briefly, if he was just a skilled poser looking for the fast track toward a good time, but she somehow knew that wasn’t the case. Jason was different than the guys from her school—the ones who seemed charming until they thought they could get you alone behind the bleachers on the football field or in the backseat of a car. Jason seemed to genuinely care.
It only took a few moments for Alex to gather her things from the bare mattress in the cabin. Jason shined the beam of his flashlight toward the cabin’s wooden steps as she descended, taking the plastic shopping bags from her hands as soon as her Converse sneakers hit the ground.
On the way back to the lodge, Jason filled her in on the people she was likely to meet at his house tomorrow. His older sister, Katy, would be home, likely with her boyfriend, Doug. His dad would be there, as would his little brother, Mark, and Nanook, their Siberian Husky puppy. On the possible list of house regulars was their mildly senile neighbor, Mrs. Pritchard, and any of a half dozen or so of Joanna’s students who were staying at the university for the summer to whom she had extended the standing offer of home cooked meals and a place to do free laundry.
Alex was fascinated as she imagined the scene. “How big is your house?” she asked.
Jason laughed. “I dunno…sort of normal sized.”
“No, no, you don’t get it,” Alex said. “I live in a three bedroom apartment with a wrought iron balcony overlooking the parking lot. Even if we were into company, we couldn’t have more than three extra people before we’d have folks sitting on people’s beds.” Alex laughed. “Even at my dad’s, I kind of feel like a guest they’re squeezing in for the summer. They say I have my own room, but it’s Angela’s office 10 months out of the year, and I think she kind of misses it. She has to set up shop in a corner of the dining room whenever I’m around.”
“It’s ok, Lexie. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past few months, it’s that the best laid plans can crumble in an instant anyway. You just have to learn to roll with what you’ve got. Plan B, that’s what life’s all about.”
“I can’t believe you said that,” Alex answered. “That’s pretty much the guiding principle by which I live. Lemons to lemonade.”
“We just might be doing a lot of that around here one the campers arrive,” Jason laughed. “But for now,” he said glancing at his watch, “it’s definitely time for some sleep.”
Jason helped Alex find her room on the girls’ side of the hall, and said goodnight. Alex expected to find her roommate already asleep, but Kristin was wide awake and ready to talk as soon as she hit the door.
“Not bad, not bad,” she said from her perch on the edge of one of the room’s two wood-framed twin beds.
“What do you mean?” Alex answered.
“You’re here less than 12 hours and you’ve caught the attention of Camp Edson’s most eligible bachelor,” she said.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Alex answered. “We don’t really know each other yet,” she responded, thinking that what she really meant was that he didn’t know who she really was at all. And she was pretty sure he wouldn’t be at all interested in her if he did.
Alex set her bags down on the quilted comforter of the empty bed, and began organizing her few supplies for the second time that day, wondering, suddenly, where her bag was and if she’d ever see it again. The airport seemed like a lifetime ago.
“You’ll find that we get pretty close pretty fast here at camp,” Kristin laughed, grabbing a brush from the nightstand and pulling it through her straight golden hair. “”And you guys have been talking all day long. At this rate, you’ll know him like the back of your hand before next week.”
It was true. Alex had known Jason for about 12 hours and they’d already tagged-teamed a covert mission, been on a shopping trip with his mom, and shared a midnight heart-to-heat. It was pretty much the meaningful portion of every previous relationship she’d ever had, condensed into a single day. The problem? Just the fact that she was here to meet him in the first place meant any relationship to follow would be based on a lie.
“I think the biggest thing I learned about Jason today is that he’s probably too perfect for me,” Alex said.
“Nonsense! Sure, he’s got great manners and a good heart, but nobody’s perfect,” Kristin laughed. “I mean, he wouldn’t be homeschooled right now if he were perfect, right?”
The look on Alex’s face made Kristin’s cheeks flush. “I mean, it’s no secret…he told everyone all about it when we introduced ourselves the first night,” she spoke quickly, as if defending her slip. “I just assumed he told you already. He will. Don’t worry. It’s no big deal.”
“Relax, it’s ok.” Alex said, pulling back the warm bed quilt and sliding beneath the thin sheet.
“Well, I just don’t want you to worry. Jason’s a great guy,” Kristin said.
Worry? Alex smiled to herself. On the contrary, the thought of Jason having a possible secret was the best news she’d heard all day. She not only hoped it was true, she kind of hoped it was big. For the first time that long day, Alex actually believed that she might have a chance with Jason after all.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Chapter 5

New to Snapshots? Start here
“So, er, I see that you found my hat.”
Alex looked up from her gooey piece of pepperoni pizza and recognized Brandon, the tall blonde guy from the group that had walked into the Red Cross training just before she bolted into the bushes. Alex gave him a quizzical look and then remembered that she was still wearing the green ball cap she’d stepped on hours earlier. She also remembered Jason saying something about her regretting the find later. For a moment, she was afraid that this Brandon kid might be some sort of a loose cannon who was about to freak out on her, but once she noted the hands jammed into his pockets, the sharp blue eyes darting toward his green checked Vans, and the flushed cheeks, she realized he posed no threat and was probably just a guy who wanted his hat back.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said, pulling the cap from her head and shaking free her strawberry blonde layers.
“Oh, no, no, don’t give that back to him,” Jason called from his spot on the leather sectional on the opposite side of the lounge.
Bill, a bulky blonde introduced in an informational briefing as Camp Edson’s Sr. Counselor, stopped plucking at his guitar long enough to shake his head in agreement. “No, you don’t want to do that.”
“Yes,” Brandon turned to Alex, nodding vigorously. “Yes, you do want to return my hat.”
“Brandon, you probably don’t even want it back at this point,” chimed in a guy with dark curly hair that they called Steve.
“Oh, man, what did you guys do to it?” Brandon demanded. “Where has it been?”
“Pretty much everywhere,” Jason laughed.
“I stuffed it in the freezer after breakfast. It stayed there until Anna pulled out the popsicles after lunch.” Offered Pete, a shaggy-haired guy with black rectangle glasses.
“I tossed it in the recycling bin,” Bill said, continuing to strum a catchy riff.
“It did some hard time in one of the sketchier areas of the boys’ cabin bathroom,” Steve called from an overstuffed armchair.
“Really?” Brandon said. “So not mature.”
A big-boned girl with a boisterous laugh, short layered hair, and bright brown eyes sneaked behind Brandon and tousled his wavy blonde hair between both hands. “Come on, Bran-Bran, you don’t need that silly hat covering up all this great hair.”
“My point, exactly, Bran-Bran,” Steve mocked. “Jenna's speaking for the ladies here. We’re just doing you a favor.”
“Here’s the thing. I like my hat. It’s green. I like green. It keeps the sun off my face, and I don’t get burned. I like not getting burned. Ergo, I wear the hat,” he said, taking it from Alex and placing it back on his head.
“After the ten layers of sunscreen you’ve sprayed on yourself today, there’s no chance of burning, my friend. It’s like you’re living in a plastic shell,” added Pete
“He makes GI Joe look real,” quipped Jason.
“Awww…stop picking on poor Brandon,” said Suzy, in a voice almost as delicate as her porcelain skin. In fact, Alex was pretty sure she was the only one who heard the words over the laughter rippling through the room. Even Brandon couldn’t withhold his amusement, but Alex did catch the gratitude in his eyes as he caught the wink and sympathetic smile Suzy gave him as she tied her dark curly mane into a ponytail and grabbed the last slice of pizza, just before Glitch, the lovable black and white lounge dog approached the box with her big, wet tongue.
The lodge was a large L-shaped cabin that served as the hub of activity at Camp Edson, and the lounge, where they were currently enjoying a pizza dinner, was the cavernous space in the heart of the cabin where the staff hung out during down time. Separated from the kitchen by a large countertop that Anna, the cook, kept constantly laden with leftovers and snacks, the lounge was a cozy place with overstuffed chairs, a vinyl sectional, and a fireplace. A long hall trailed off the end of the lounge, providing access to the ten dorm style rooms that were available for off season retreats. Branching off from the kitchen in the other direction was the dining hall, which was also separated from the kitchen by a long counter from which camp meals were served.
The interactions among the teens on the Camp Edson were easy and fun. Sure, they joked around with each other, but it was good natured banter—nothing like the competitive, mean-spirited teasing Alex saw all too often at school. Although most of the counselors had been at camp for several seasons now, they didn’t seem cliquish or snobby. Several of the girls had introduced themselves to Alex and tried to make her feel at home. Alex appreciated their efforts, but still found herself hanging back, learning about her surroundings before she settled in and became comfortable. She’d learned a lot already just by observation. Brandon had been a CIT his first year, two summers before. He’d missed last summer while on a cross country road trip with his family, but was back this year as a full counselor. Kristin, the deeply tanned blonde with the southern drawl met Pete the previous summer and they had been dating for a year. Dee, the other female CIT had actually been a camper last year, but something had happened involving a former counselor who was also Meg’s niece—Alex didn’t catch any of the details—but whatever happened ended with Dee being adopted by Meg and her husband, Michael. Two other male CITs, Jack and Josh, were new to camp, but seemed seemed to know each other from school.

But the person Alex wanted most to learn more about was the one with whom she dreaded speaking. She knew at some point—sooner rather than later—she’d have to explain her earlier behavior to Jason. She also knew that her response would probably make or break whatever possibilities may lie ahead in the “whole summer” she’d been so excited about just a few hours earlier. And the worst of it was she had absolutely no idea what she was going to say.
Pizza eventually morphed into video and board games that eventually dissolved into silly camp songs and late-night craziness. Jason mixed and mingled, but never strayed too far away from Alex, and made a point to pull her into a spirited wii tournament they dubbed the “trivium,” featuring the unlikely combination of wakeboarding, bowling, and darts. Finally, the crowd began to dwindle as people began to slowly disappear down the hall toward the dorm rooms. “Hey, Alex, you’re rooming with me, right?” Kristin asked in her rich southern drawl.
“Um, I thought so,” Alex answered, “but when I put my things in the cabin, it was empty.”
“Oh, dear,” Kristin laughed. “We aren’t moving into the cabins until the campers arrive. We’re living in style here in the lodge for now.”
Jason turned from the water skiing game he’d been dominating on the wii. “Oh, Alex, you took all your bags down to the cabin? I wouldn’t have given you all those bags to carry down there by yourself if that’s where you were supposed to go, silly girl.”
Of course he wouldn’t, Alex realized. She was interested in the Good Manners Poster Boy. Which was why she was totally prepared for the next words out of his mouth.
“Come on, Alex, let me walk you to the cabin so you can collect your stuff.”
Alex nodded, simply because she didn’t trust herself to speak. Ever again.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Chapter 4

New to Snapshots? Start here

Chapter 4

Alex pressed her back against the side of the log cabin and slowly slid into a crouching position. She could actually hear her heart thumping in her chest. It was good, in a way, she reasoned. Realizing that her stepmother was here to teach a First Aid course meant that in an hour, she would be gone, back home to the twins and tofu sandwhiches. Even more importantly, it meant that her presence had nothing to do with Alex. As important as those pieces of information were, the fact that she was on the other side of the wall about to teach a first aid certification course raised an equal number of questions. What was behind her stepmother’s apparent career change, and, more urgently, how could she possibly complete her required safety course? Waltzing right in there and participating in a class her stepmother was teaching stretched the hiding in plain view concept past its limits. It would never work.

Alex sidled up to a nearby window to get a visual on what was happening inside the lodge. About 20 teenagers were sitting in folding chairs facing a small stage with a podium, a limp human form Alex took for a crash test dummy, and a large screen.

Whap! Alex jumped at the noise from the window, and became even more startled when she realized her view of the room had been replaced by vast stretch of emptiness. Then it hit her—Angela had pulled down the blinds. She must be showing slides or video clips. To Alex, that meant just one thing—darkness. And with darkness came a whole new realm of possibilities.

Alex went around the back of the lodge in search of an alternate entrance. She paused as she approached a screen door which appeared to lead straight into the back of the open area where everyone was gathered for class. She tip-toed forward, hoping to slide, undetected, into the back of the room, preferably behind a floor-to-ceiling support beam, or a freakishly a tall kid. Alex’s foot hit something soft and meshy as she took her final step toward the door, and, looking down, she couldn’t believe her good fortune. She had just stepped on a green ball cap lying abandoned on the stoop as though someone had tossed it out the back door as a much-needed lifeline. She stuffed her hair in the back of the cap and pulled the bill down low on her forehead.

Alex made eye contact with no one as she slid into an empty chair in the middle of the unoccupied back row of folding chairs. She slouched low enough to see only the bottom half of the translucent images of bruises, bites, and bumps projected on the screen. Angela was waving a long wooden stick over an angry-looking lesion in the center of the screen.

“The most important thing is to remove the stinger as quickly as possible,” she said, swirling the stick around a black protrusion at the nucleus of the raised, red bump. “Once the stinger is out, twenty minutes with an ice pack is all the treatment a typical bee sting will require.”

From stings and scratches, Angela guided the program into an overview of various skin irritants, including Poison Ivy and Oak, which Alex knew from any number of movies to be the number one threat of summer camp. She touched on snakes, and then slid quickly into allergies and asthma, relying heavily on stock images and the occasional demonstrational video. Alex was pretty sure Angela hadn’t looked out into the audience once. Clearly, she was new and had allowed nerves to get the best of her. Alex couldn’t believe her good fortune. Angela would be gone in no time and then she would be breathing easier herself.

“OK, so that concludes the lecture portion of our class. In order to get your completion certificates, you must successfully complete the hands on portion of the training.”Angela announced as she flipped the light switch.

Alex felt the color leave her cheeks. Hands on training and certificates were bad news. One would require Angela’s personal scrutiny and the other Alex’s full name. She mentally took back her wish for credentials. In fact, she knew when she was beat. It was time for a speedy exit.

“Green hat, back row, could you start us off?” Angela asked.

Start them off! Alex’s thoughts began to race and she felt the room start to spin. Oh, no, no, no, I can’t pass out at a first aid training class! What am I supposed to start?

“I’m sorry,” Angela laughed. “I guess I wasn’t clear. We’re counting off by 2s. So we can work in pairs. So go ahead.”

“One,” Alex croaked in a feeble voice she didn’t recognize as her own.

“Two!” She was sure it was Jason, but less certain that his response made sense based on where he was seated in the row in front of her, but everyone just seemed to go with it.

Seconds later Jason was sitting in the seat beside her. “You OK?” he whispered.

“No, I’ve got to get out of here,” Alex stammered, trying to stand so she could use the last few seconds of the “pairing up” confusion to make her exit, but her weak knees failed her.

“Woah,” Jason said gently, “Just have a seat. If you’re going to pass out, you picked a great place to do it. You’ve got all the help in the world here.”

Jason misread the panic in Alex’s eyes. “OK, let’s get you down on the ground and get your feet up, and I’ll get the instructor.”

Alex grabbed Jason’s hand. “No!”

“Alex, what’s going on here?”

Angela had begun demonstrating some compression techniques using the dummy on stage. “You and your partner will take turns attempting these movements,” she said. “I will come around and verify that you have done them properly. I’ll be starting in the back this time.”

“Please help me,” Alex mouthed.

“You know this woman, don’t you?” Jason asked.

“I tell you about it later. Another time. I promise. Just trust me.”

“Get down on the ground, dummy.” It took a second for Alex to process Jason’s words, but when she realized that Jason wanted her to play the role of the victim, just like the dummy lying prone on the stage, she didn’t hesitate.

“Throw your arm across your face,” Jason hissed.

Alex flung her arm across her face with enough dramatic flair to assure observers that she was relishing the role.

“Wonderful!” Angela’s voice rang down from above. “Good compressions, team one! And you are?”


“OK, Jaaason,” Anglea stretched out his name as she wrote it down on her clip board. “And?”

“Lexie.” Jason supplied quickly.

“Great. OK, I want you to switch. Lexie, you’ll be giving Jason compressions when I return.”

Alex peeked over her arm and into Jason’s eyes as Angela walked away.

“You’re doing great.” Jason laughed. “Who is this and what did she do to you? Mild mannered life saver by day, blood sucking vampire by night?”

“Please. Not now. I have to figure out how to give you compressions.”

“No worries,” Jason said. “Just follow my lead. And where did you get that hat?” he laughed.

“It was a gift from the heavens,” Alex said, kneeling over Jason as he stretched across the floor.

“You probably won’t be saying that later.”

Alex began mimicking the compression movement that Jason had modeled on her moments earlier. “What?”

“Never mind. Just look straight into my eyes.”

“Good work, Lexie!” Angela said.

Jason held her gaze and tipped his chin almost imperceptibly, cueing Alex to nod in response to Angela, as though she was absorbed in concentration.

And so the next half hour went, through the Heimlich maneuver, a splint simulation, and, ironically, proper procedures for assisting someone who had passed out. Jason found clever ways to conceal Alex’s features or divert Angela’s attention at every check point. Alex was almost tempted to relax, but she knew there was still too much that could go wrong.

Until, finally, there wasn’t. “OK, good job, everyone!” Angela was saying. “Give yourselves a hand! You’ve all earned your Red Cross Safely Certification. I will leave the certificates with your director to fill out and give to you later. You are dismissed.”

Jason ushered Alex outside, through the back door. “I’ve got to go do some IT wizardry in the office for Meg. But—you owe me big time, my friend. At the very least, I want a nice, long story over some campfire s’mores,” he said with a wink as he turned down the same trail Angela’s taillights had blazed moments before.

With Angela gone and unlikely to return, Alex knew her camp adventure began here and now. She imagined this moment would fill her with happiness, but, in reality, she never felt worse in her life.