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Summer Camp Secrets: Book 8
Wish you weren’t here
by Melissa J. Morgan
Sarah loves Camp Lakeview because she can get away from her geeky school image and be fun and sporty instead. But this summer, schoolmate Abby is at Lakeview too, and with her around, Sarah’s so self-conscious that she turns from star softball player into a complete disaster area – and Abby can’t seem to help rubbing it in.
“a frothy, fun-packed read”
School Librarian Journal
“I highly recommend these books, the characters are bright and quirky, and the storyline is easy to follow. 4.5 stars”
Lexile Measure: 660L (info)
198 x 130mm
I was so glad to get your letter yesterday. You have no idea. And thanks for sending the books – I’ve never read The Phantom Tollbooth or Elsewhere, but if they’re as great as you say, I’m sure I’ll love them! I’ve finished up all the assigned summer reading, too, so I’ve been looking for a new book. I can’t believe we’re going to be eighth-graders next year! That makes us practically high schoolers! Can you believe it?? I feel like we were just in Mrs. Underhill’s first-grade class, learning how to sound out words and yelling at the boys for calling her Mrs. Underwear!
So how are things back home? Have you been hanging out with Taylor a lot? Are you and your family still going up to Lake Winnipesaukee this year? I never thought I’d say it, but I’ve been thinking about home a lot lately. It’s not that I don’t love being back at Camp Lakeview – I do. But so much has changed this year. Like I wrote you, they split up all the girls who were in my bunk last year, 3C. It’s not so bad – we still all hang out together, and some of the new girls are pretty cool – but I still miss having everyone together.
And then, well – can you believe who showed up at camp this year? Maybe that’s why I can’t stop thinking about home – this year, “home” has come to camp. You’d think it would be nice having a girl from back home here at camp. We could tell stories about home, introduce each other to our new friends, and hang out. Instead it’s just...I dunno...awkward! I try to be nice, but I really get the feeling she doesn’t want to hang out with me, like I’m not popular enough or something. But this is camp, not school! ARRRGGH! It’s so frustrating. Everyone thinks we should be best buddies because we’re from the same town, but I think she’d rather eat bugs than be my friend. I don’t know why. I’ve always thought she was sorta cool...
At the sound of her name, Sarah felt herself jump about a metre in the air. As soon as she looked down at the person calling her, she felt her face flush bright red. She knew there was no way that Abby could have known she was writing about her, but she still felt funny. She and Abby weren’t friends, exactly, but they’d never out-and-out fought, either. Pasting a big smile on her face, Sarah
shoved the unfinished letter into the envelope and stood up from the low tree branch she was sitting on.
Abby pulled her long brown hair out of its ponytail and piled it in a messy knot at the back of her neck. “Becky wants us all back inside the cabin,” she explained, not quite looking Sarah in the eye. “She sent me out here to get you. They’re telling us what free-choice activities we got this session.”
Sarah felt her smile turn into a real one at that news, even though Abby turned around and started walking back to the cabin without even waiting for her to catch up. Activities, she thought. Meaning hopefully, by this time tomorrow, Alex, Brynn, Valerie and I will all be in sports together again. Awesome!
Even though camp had only been in session for two weeks, Sarah felt like she might lose it completely if she didn’t get to take part in some athletic activity very
soon. Each session, each of the campers was assigned two elective “activities”, and Sarah always signed up for sports – along with Alex, Brynn, Valerie and a bunch of their other friends from 3C. Last session, though, Sarah ended up getting photography and nature. And while she’d enjoyed them both, she felt like a piece of her body was missing. She needed to play sports. And this year – with Abby McDougal, Jock Extraordinaire from Sarah’s very own middle school, not only at Camp Lakeview but in the same bunk as Sarah – she felt like she had a lot to prove.
Sarah ran to catch up with Abby, still wearing her big smile. Abby looked a little surprised, like she hadn’t expected Sarah to smile at her. “So...” Abby said awkwardly, “what did you sign up for?”
“Sports,” Sarah replied. “And something else. I don’t remember. Sports is the most important.” “Really?” asked Abby. If she’d looked surprised before, now she looked shocked. “I didn’t think you were that great an athlete. I thought you would have signed up for, I don’t know – newspaper or something.”
Sarah cringed. Abby said “newspaper” like it was the lamest thing imaginable. Abby was about the best female athlete at Winthrop Middle School, and, since sports were really important in Winthrop, that made her one of the popular kids. Sarah didn’t play sports at school, and was not one of the popular kids. She felt like Abby was trying to tell her she wasn’t cool enough to play sports.
“Actually,” Sarah replied, “I really like playing sports at camp. Me, Alex, Brynn and Valerie always sign up to play. We all try to be on the same team, and we have an awesome time together. Maybe we’ll see you there.”
Sarah ran ahead and opened the cabin door, letting it bang behind her. As she entered the cabin, she saw her bunkmates all collected in their bedroom, sitting in small groups on the bottom bunks. Abby followed close behind and went to sit with Gaby, and Alex, Brynn, Valerie and Grace waved at Sarah and motioned for her to come sit down with them. Sarah shoved her letter into her cubby and scooted over to join her friends.
“Can you believe it’s time to switch activities already?” Alex was saying. “I feel like camp just started. Pretty soon it’ll be time for the social.”
“Ugh, don’t remind me,” Sarah muttered. She loved almost everything about camp but, having zero interest in boys, couldn’t care less about the social.
“Oh, come on,” Brynn teased. “You don’t know, Sarah. Maybe one of the guys out there has a mad crush on you. He’ll watch you make the winning goal in sports and then run over and tell you how much he luuuuuurves you... At the social, you guys can sit in the corner cuddling and talking about the Red Sox scores or whatever.”
Everyone laughed, but Sarah felt her face start to burn. “Well, that’s only if I get sports this session,” she said, quickly changing the subject, “which I really hope
I do. Plants are nice, but I can’t deal with much more leaf rubbing and algae collecting. No more nature!”
Grace chuckled. “Come on, that was fun. Especially when you fell in the lake.”
Sarah snorted, recalling the sample-collection-gone awry. She’d come out covered in green goo and had to run back to their bunk to change, while Grace tested their sample for pollution. “Yeah, fun for you.”
At that moment, their counsellor, Becky, walked into the room, holding a notebook and followed closely by their counsellor-in-training, or CIT, Sophie. “All right, guys!” Becky said with a smile. “Time flies when you’re having fun, but here we are two weeks into camp, and it’s time to switch activities. Everyone enjoy what you had last time?”
Most of the girls shouted “Yes!” or cheered, but Sarah was a little more subdued. “Sort of,” she muttered.
Alex glanced over at her and winked. “We’ll all have sports together this time,” she whispered. “I can feel it.”
Becky looked around at the girls and smiled right at Sarah. “Sarah, you’re first up.”
Sarah felt her heart start to pound as she got up and followed Becky into the counsellor’s small bedroom. It wasn’t a scared excited she felt, it was a good excited. The last two weeks had been kind of weird, what with last year’s group getting split up, Sarah not getting into sports, and Abby, the biggest jock at Sarah’s middle school, suddenly showing up in her bunk. Though she’d been glad to be back at Camp Lakeview, among her camp friends, Sarah had been feeling a little out of place – not the sports star she usually was at camp, not getting to hang with all of her friends, and not quite knowing how to approach Abby, who only knew her as quiet, bookish Sarah from back home. But now, everything was about to shift into place. Sarah would be in sports again with all her buddies, and she’d surely impress the pants off Abby with her athletic skills, which would make Abby see how much they had in common and that they should be friends. Just like that, the summer would go from “okay” to “awesome”. And Sarah could stop worrying about whether she fitted in and just go with the flow, like last year.
“All right, Sarah,” Becky said, sitting down and flipping open her notebook. “Good news for you, I think. I know you were bummed not to get sports last time, but just like I promised, I tried extra hard to fit you in this time. So you’ve got sports and also arts and crafts, babe. You can thank me later – I accept cash, cheques and jelly beans.” Becky looked up at Sarah and winked. “Just kidding about the cash and cheques. But seriously – jelly beans are always welcome.”
Sarah jumped up and whooped. “That’s awesome, Becky! Thank you so much!” She threw her arms around her counsellor in a quick hug. “I don’t have any jelly beans, but if I come across any, they’re yours. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
Becky squeezed Sarah and smiled. “No problem, Sarah. You were a great sport about it last session, no pun intended, and I really appreciate that. So have a great time, and send in Alex next.”
“Sure.” Sarah felt like she was walking on air back to the other room. It was amazing how fast things could start to look up! She walked back over to her friends and told Alex to head in to Becky.
“So what’d you get?” Alex demanded before leaving.
“Sports, and arts and crafts,” Sarah replied with a grin.
“All right!” Alex patted her on the back as Grace, Valerie and Brynn all squealed their excitement.
“This session is going to be the best,” Valerie announced. “Just like old times!”
The four of them chatted about the year before while Alex was gone, and when Alex emerged from the counsellor’s room and walked over, they pounced on her. “What’d you get, what’d you get?”
Alex shrugged sheepishly. “Nature and newspaper,” she replied quietly. She didn’t sound as disappointed as Sarah felt, but she didn’t sound psyched, either. “Oh well. Looks like algae collection for me. Val, she’s ready for you.”
Valerie left, and Sarah scooted over to make room for Alex on the bunk. “That stinks, Al,” she said softly. “Sports won’t be half as much fun without you to compete against.”
Alex grinned. “You mean lose against,” she said. “But think of these two weeks as a practice time. You’ll have two weeks to get up to speed, before we go head-to-head in the last session.”
Sarah looked up and saw Val walking back from Becky’s room. Her small smile gave away nothing.
“So?” Sarah asked when Val reached the bunk.
“Photography and ceramics,” Val said with a shrug. “Oh well. I guess you’ll have to kick butt for all of us, Sars. Grace, you’re up next.”
As Valerie sat back down and the discussion turned back to the social, Sarah tried to push back the rising panic in her chest. Okay, so Alex didn’t get sports. And neither did Valerie. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be fun! If all the other 3C-ers were in sports with me – even Natalie and Jenna – it would still be fun. It’ll still be fun, it’ll still be fun, it’ll still be fun...
Grace came back then. “Nature and photography,” she said with a sigh. “I don’t know what’s going on, guys. Why aren’t any of us getting sports when it was our first choice?”
“It’s weird,” Alex agreed. “Poor Sars is going to have to play kickball or whatever with herself.”
Grace rolled her eyes. “There are other campers besides us in 4C, Al.”
“That’s right,” Candace piped up. “There’re plenty of other campers. Like 4A and all the 3-levels and the—”
“All right,” Alex interrupted. “What I meant was, everyone that matters won’t be in sports.” She gave Sarah a quick wink to let her know she was kidding.
But Sarah felt herself growing quieter and quieter as the conversation went on. It’s true – nobody’s in sports, she thought when Brynn came back and excitedly
announced that she’d gotten drama and ceramics. (“Sorry, Sarah,” she’d said with a shrug.) So I get to play sports, but I’ll be all alone. Where’s the fun in that?
Gradually, all the other girls in bunk 4C went in to meet with Becky and came back out with either big smiles on their faces or the more surprised looks of not
getting what they expected. For the most part, everyone seemed pretty happy – even Sarah’s friends, though they hadn’t gotten sports, seemed pretty eager to try out the activities they had. To Sarah’s amazement, none of the other girls came back and announced they’d gotten sports. Between Priya and Tiernan, Becky came back out to the girls’ bunks and got everyone’s attention. “I’m not done yet, but I heard some grumbling out here.” Sarah and her friends exchanged guilty glances. “I know some of you are kind of surprised not to be getting your first choice, sports.” Sarah looked around the room. About half her bunkmates were nodding in agreement.
“I just wanted to explain that we had way too many girls sign up for sports this session, so we tried to move anyone who’d had it for the last two weeks into their second choice. Hopefully, next session, things will even out a little bit. So buck up, little campers.” She grinned and returned to the other room.
“Well, that explains things,” Alex said. “Sarah, you’re the only one who didn’t get sports last time. So you get it this time.”
“I guess.” Sarah shrugged. She didn’t know how to say that she’d rather not have it at all than have sports without her friends.
As the last girl met with Becky, the rest of 4C started getting ready for dinner. Sarah ran into the bathroom, washed her hands, and splashed some water on her face. As much as she was trying to keep a positive attitude, Sarah couldn’t help feeling like her great, everything-in-place summer had just been destroyed. I’m going to be all alone in sports and arts and crafts. How could this get any worse?
Sarah heard a whoop from the bunks and walked back out with Alex and Brynn. All of her bunkmates were standing in a group by the door, ready to go to dinner.
“So what’d you get, Abby?” Alex asked in a friendly way as they passed Abby and Gaby on their way out the door.
Abby turned to Alex with a big grin. “I’m so psyched! I got nature and sports!”
Sarah felt her heart drop into her stomach. She’d been looking forward to being in sports...with her friends. Abby had been cold to her since camp started, and every time they spoke it just seemed to emphasize the fact that Sarah wasn’t cool enough for Abby. Being in sports alone with her would ratchet the Awkward Meter up from five to about 5,000. I don’t believe it, but I think it just got worse.
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