Chapter 10 – Sight Unseen

Kyle kept her hand wrapped around Zack’s as they walked down the dirt path towards the beach. They veered off onto the path that led towards the rock face where Kyle had been sitting hours earlier. Settling at the bottom of the rocks, they remained as silent as they had been for the entire walk. Zack pulled out a smoke, and offered one to Kyle. She placed the filter between her lips and waited for him to bring the flame towards her. This had been the good part of their relationship, their ability to fall so easily into sync with one another. Zack knew when to offer a smoke and when not too. Kyle knew when to start talking and when it was best to just to wait. But, the good parts of their relationship were never the problem.

They sat in silence for what seemed like an eternity. Neither made a move to speak, but this wasn’t the comfortable silence they used to have. This silence was chock full of anger and sadness, hope and longing, and a good dusting of drunken lust just to make things more complicated. Finally, Zack took a deep breath.

“I’m sorry.”

“For what?” Kyle looked him directly in the eye. It wasn’t that she didn’t know why he was apologizing, she just wanted to make sure that he knew. A generic apology wasn’t going to cut it. She wanted him to have to say it out loud. To feel as badly as she had.

“For acting like a jackass after we broke up. For not knowing what I wanted when we were together. For wanting to hurt you so you felt as badly as I did. So much so that I slept with Robyn. That I continued to sleep with Robyn, even though I’ve never had any feelings for her. For continuing to sleep with Robyn even after you came back, even after I wanted you back so badly that I could feel it in my teeth. For wanting you to hurt as much as I did when you left me. For being such an ass that I thought that there was no way to fix things, so I thought hurting you would make me feel better. It didn’t, just so you know.” He took a drag off his cigarette and stopped talking. “But I’m not the only one in the wrong here. Don’t put this all on me. Sure I made mistakes, when we were together and afterwards, but so did you.”

“Oh right, like my ‘mistakes’” Kyle made air quotes around a snotty tone, “are anything like the ones you made. I wasn’t fucking someone in order to make you jealous.” Kyle took a drag from the cigarette she only smoked when she was drinking. “We were both trying to make each other feel as bad as we felt. Our goal was to make the other person hurt. It’s all we’re good at. I knew this was a bad idea.” She started to stand up.

“It’s not the only thing.” Zack pulled her back into a sitting position. “Think abut how much we wanted to be together. And how crazy we made one another. And how hot we made each other feel. And how much I love you every time I see you. You may be able to get over me, but I don’t know if I’ll ever get over you.”

“Well you certainly seemed to with Robyn.”

“God! What is this Robyn thing? Is she the only thing keeping us from getting back together?”

“You knew how I felt about her. You knew that I hated her. That she was like the one person I wouldn’t want you to be with.”

“Yeah, but don’t forget, you broke up with me! I didn’t break it off with you in order to sleep with her. I didn’t sleep with her while we were together. I don’t underst..”

“I saw you.” Kyle’s voice was full of defeat. She took a deep breath and tried to regain her cool.

“What?” Zack dropped his hands to the ground, unsure of what she meant.

“I saw you together,” Kyle’s voice calmed to a flat, monotonous drone. “In the gym.” She stared straight ahead, arms wrapped around her legs, chin resting on the ledge of her knees. She looked at the trees, but she saw the images burned into her brain.

“I thought maybe I had been hasty when I broke things off with you. I thought maybe there was a way to make things better. I tried to find you, and I know that you work out to burn off steam. I came into the gym through the back doors. I couldn’t see if anyone was in there from where I was, so I walked closer. That’s when I saw her straddling you on the weight bench. And you were touching her, kissing her, wrapping your fingers in her hair. And I wanted to yell at you, or at her, or to run away, or do something, anything! But I couldn’t. I just stood there, while you kissed her shoulder, the way you used to do to me. I stupidly thought that was just for me, not just one of your moves. It was like I was frozen there and all I could do was watch her tease you and ride you and make you make that noise you make when you’re really happy. And I couldn’t do anything. And then you were done, and you were happy. There was a happiness on your face I hadn’t seen in a long time. And you left together, and just stood there, for over an hour, just stood there. That’s when I decided to go away for the summer. To get away from you and try to forget, but I can’t. Whenever I see her, I see her on you, touching you. You touching her body, and liking it. How can I ever get that image out of my head?” She fell silent. The exhaustion of finally admitting her pain was overwhelming.

Zack pictured that afternoon with Robyn. The pain he had been feeling. The fact that he’d been imagining Kyle the whole time. That when he bit the other girl’s shoulder, he had actually been doing it to Kyle. It was all about Kyle that first time. Getting out the feelings he had for her, taking them out on this other girl, who at the time was simply a body. She could have been anyone physically, because in his head it was Kyle. But he knew that telling her that wasn’t going to make it better. That for her it was Robyn, in all her glory, straddling him on a weight bench that he and Kyle had made-out on so many times before. Zack thought about how he would have felt encountering Kyle in another guy’s arms and he immediately felt a surge of powerful rage. He suddenly understood why she was so mad at him.

Kyle sat beside her estranged boyfriend, feeling his body tense as he digested the information that she had just told him. She had never told anyone about what she had seen, and she had never, ever, planned to tell Zack. That had been the worst day of her life. She had almost slept with a guy she met while she was staying with her aunt, just to drive the pain away, but when things had started to move in that direction, she thought about Zack and hadn’t been able to go through with it. And that made her feel even angrier at Zack for being able to do it, with someone who didn’t matter to him.

The anger she had felt originally had eventually faded into a sadness that she just couldn’t shake. She wanted to get over Zack, to move on with her life, but her desire to be with him was even stronger. Their break-up had been her decision, but she hadn’t expected him to move on that quickly. She had wanted to see what a break would feel like, to see how being on her own would be, and she hadn’t liked it much. As much as she wanted to be independent, she loved being in a relationship. She was trying to figure out how to do both.

“Listen,” Zack sighed from beside her, “If the situation had been reversed, I would have lost my mind. I seriously would have murdered that guy. I don’t know how you’re so calm about the whole thing, except that that’s who you are. That strength is one of the things I’ve always loved about you. But you can get mad at me. Yell at me, tell me I’m scum, anything to kill this feeling in my gut. I need you to yell at me.”

“So it’s about making you feel better? Again? Isn’t that what got you into this mess in the first place?”

“Don’t you think it would make you feel better, too?” Zack swiped at a mosquito buzzing around his ear. “But you’re right; I don’t want to feel guilty. Especially about something I did after we had broken up. Something that was stupid and childish and all about instant gratification. All about letting me forget you a little bit, making myself feel a little better. Why should I feel guilty about it?”

“Because I didn’t do it. I didn’t run out and bang the first thing I could get my hands on after we broke up.” Kyle pushed herself into a standing position. Her voice rising as it began to fill with anger. “And I could have Zack. I could have and I didn’t.”

“And once again,” Zack jumped up beside her, “You broke up with me! Of course you didn’t feel the same way I did. You blindsided me and expected me not to be hurt, not to want some type of condolence?”

“Oh my god! Can you stop using that as an excuse? So I broke up with you. Boo-fucking-hoo. You could have been grown-up about it.” She stepped towards him, poking her finger into his chest in order to punctuate her feelings.

“But I’m not a grown-up. Not yet. Of course I reacted badly. You hurt my pride.” He grabbed her hand in his own, holding it still. “I didn’t feel guilty until I knew you’d seen it. And oh god how I wish I could change that. Or that you could understand what I was thinking when I did it. But I only feel guilty about the first time. And that’s not something you can change. We weren’t together. I didn’t cheat on you. I made choices you didn’t like, but I did not betray you.”

She ripped her hand away. “God, what is wrong with me. Why do I want you back?”

“I don’t know, but I want you too!” Suddenly he grabbed her, pulled her close and kissed her. Kyle found her arms weaving themselves around his neck, her fingers intertwining with his hair. Their lips danced frantically. Tongue meeting tongue. Zack’s hands pushed open Kyle’s hoodie and worked their way under her top. His fingertips met nerves screaming for attention. Kyle stepped backwards, pulling Zack with her, until her back pressed against rock. She wrapped one leg around Zack’s body. He quickly reached down, lifted her so she could wrap both legs around his waist and returned his hands to their former position. Kyle moved her lips away from his and started kissing his jaw, his neck, his ear. Zack’s breath caught in her ear as she teased his earlobe with her tongue. He buried his head into the crook of her neck and began kissing the hollow around her collarbone. Kyle’s hands found the button on Zack’s shorts and quickly worked the zipper down. As she began to slip her hand inside his pants, Zack stopped her.

“Wait.” He breathed deeply in her ear. She froze mid-movement, her hand jammed between their two bodies, fingertips hidden behind the waistband of his boxers. “I think we should stop.”

“What? Why?” Kyle pulled her hand out, suddenly feeling dirty. She pushed him away from her, and tried to regain her posture as her legs suddenly had to find the ground.

“Kyle. Stop.” Zack put his hands on her upper arms. Kyle tried to push him away but he maintained his ground.

“What? You can’t do it with me? Would it be unfair to Robyn?”

“Jesus Christ. Will you stop and listen to me for a minute.” His voice was low and calm. Kyle looked into his face, but remained rigid.

“What?” Kyle huffed.

“Of course I want to do this with you.” He leaned his forehead against hers. “I’ve been thinking about this since we broke up. Well, since long before we broke up, but, I just don’t think this is the way we want to do it. Full of rage and hatred? Doing it to spite a girl you hate. As a way for me to make amends for sleeping with someone else.” Kyle’s body relaxed as Zack’s words sunk in. She knew that he was right, that if they did it this way, there would be no hope for them getting back together. She rested her forehead against his shoulder.

“You’re right. I’ve just missed human contact. Missed you.” She let out a deep warm breath.

“I miss you, too.” He pulled the ends og her hair through his fingers. A familiar, comfortable habit. “I broke things off with Robyn on Wednesday. She’s out of the picture. For good. I want you. Do you think we can get passed this other stuff?”

“I don’t know. I hope so.” Kyle absentminded ran her thumb along the curve of Zack’s spine. The sensation made his face light up in a smile. This was what she used to do when they were at their most comfortable together. “What are you smiling at?” She looked up into his face.

“You.” He leaned forward, kissed her gently and pulled away. “So we’re going to give this a shot?”

“I guess so.” Kyle unravelled her hands, pushed herself away from the wall and slipped her hand into Zack’s.

Chapter 9 – I Never… Except That One Time

After a huge meal, Caleb and Danni stood at the picnic table doing the dishes. He passed her a dish that she wiped automatically with a drying cloth while staring across the campsite to where Anson was sitting with Greg and Bianca. This was exactly what they did at home. It was almost like autopilot. Soon, Danni had a stack of dry dishes waiting to be put away and a map to an entire evening of romantic bliss with Anson planned out in her head. She sighed and threw the towel over her shoulder while Caleb scrubbed a particularly dirty pot.

“He’s pretty fantastic isn’t he? This is going to be the best year ever.” She tapped her brother on the arm.

“Danniella, come on. Aren’t you forgetting one very important part of this whole love scenario?”

“Hmmm?” Her forehead crinkled in confusion “What other side?”

“Anson’s feelings.”

“Right, well I’m not too worried. He’s obviously interested. Look at all the attention he’s given me.” She took the pot and started wiping it off.

“But what if he was interested in someone else? One of your other friends?”

“What do you mean? One of my other friends? They all know how I feel about him. None of them would ever betray me like that. I have dibs.” She started passing him the clean dishes to put back in the box. “Wait! Do you know something I don’t? Are you saying that someone is going to try to steal him from me?”

“Jesus, Danni, give it a rest. For them to steal him, he would have to be yours. Which, as a human person, he’s not.” Caleb shook his head and walked away from his sister.

This was so much worse than he had expected. It was going to end badly and there was nothing he could do to stop it. Knowing they had to wait until after dark to break into the beer, he grabbed a pop from the cooler and settled into a chair next to Zack and Blaine.

“God, what’s his problem?” Danni mumbled and snapped the lid of the cargo container closed.

“He’s a boy.” Kyle stepped up behind her. “They’re so damn complicated. Seriously, they say they can’t understand us, but they’re just as confusing!”

“No kidding. I don’t know why Caleb is being so fucking pissy. Of course Anson is interested in me. Jesus. And none of you guys would hurt me by going after something you know I want this badly.” Danni looked up expecting Kyle to sympathize with her, but instead found her staring sullenly at the ground. “What’s up, buddy?”

“I want to talk to Zack but he keeps avoiding me. Whenever I go near him, he finds someone else to talk to, somewhere else to be. Or he starts acting completely stupid and goofing around. I really thought that he might be interested in getting back together, but obviously I was misinformed.” She scratched underneath her eye, trying to look nonchalant as she wiped away a tear. “Fuck it. If he wants something, it’s his damn move.”

Kyle stood up and strode purposefully away from the table. She walked right out of the campsite, headed in the direction of the cantina. Danni thought about sending Zack after her, but figured that might make things worse. When Kyle was in one of her moods, she needed to be alone. If Zack went after her now, she would say something mean to him in order to protect her own feelings and then the rest of the evening would be spend dealing with their drama. Danni had other things she wanted to deal with this evening.

*****  *****  *****

“Hey Kyle, hang on.” Cordelia’s flip flops slapped against the pavement of the path. The tall girl hurried ahead of her. Cordelia sped up and placed a hand on her shoulder. “Kyle. Stop.” She breathed heavily. “You know how I hate to run.”

“Leave me…” Kyle spun around. “Oh, Cord, sorry, I was kind of in a daze.”

“I noticed.” She smiled as they slowed to a normal walking speed.

“I’m just so annoyed with Zack.” Kyle kicked a pebble down the path. “From talking to Blaine, I thought things were going to be different.”

“It’s still early. Do you want to have the getting back together talk in front of everyone?”

“Point taken.” They stepped up to the cantina and each bought an ice cream cone.

“So later, after it gets dark, accost him on the way to the cooler or something and drag him off and have the talk.” Cordelia settled herself at one of the picnic tables “And I wouldn’t discount Blaine’s intel. He usually knows what he’s talking about.”

“Oh yeah! I haven’t even asked about what happened with Anson.”

“He kissed me.” Her face flushed a deep red as she lowered her gaze to the table. “And then I kissed him.”

“Cord, that is so awesome! I told you! Didn’t I tell you?”

Cordelia just smiled, her gaze distance.

“You deserve to be happy, Cord.” Kyle reached out and squeezed her friend’s hand. “And I don’t just mean you deserve to be happy because of a boy.”

“This is so much bigger than a simple boy.” Cordi licked her ice cream “Danni is not simple. She’s my best friend. How can I do this to her? It’s a betrayal.”

“She has a crush, Cord. They’re not dating. They’ve never dated. You cannot call dibs on a person. They’ve barely even gotten a chance to get to know each other.”

“Cause Anson and I have had years to develop a long and lasting bond?” Cordelia smirked.

“Stop being so logical. Love isn’t logical.”

“How about we start with like isn’t logical? This isn’t love. Right now it’s more like oh-my-god-did-you-see-those-abs. Is that a category?”

“Yes, yes I did see them. And yes it totally a category.” Kyle grinned a big toothy smile.

“And thank you.”

“For what?”

“For dragging Danni back to the campsite so Anson could talk to me.”

“Oh that. No big thing. Just you know, credit me when you guys finally get married.” Kyle brushed her shoulder and smirked. “If your idea to talk to Zack tonight works, we’ll be even.” She threw her arm around Cordelia’s shoulders as they headed back towards their campsite.

*****  *****  *****

As dusk began to settle, everyone moved in closer to the fire. Because there were so many of them, they had to squeeze their chairs against one another in order to get any heat from the flames. Danni manoeuvred her chair in between Anson and Kyle, and twisted the top off her beer bottle with the sleeve of her hoodie. Cordelia sat across the fire talking with Rayne and Caleb. Danni couldn’t hear what they were talking about, but they seemed really into their discussion. Hands were flying everywhere, and every few seconds one of them threw their head back in laughter. Danni hadn’t seen Cordi this animated in a long time. Part of her felt glad for whatever force was pulling her friend out of her shell, even if it was just for an evening. Another part of her felt a twinge of annoyance.

For their entire friendship, Danni had been the alpha friend. Cordi had always followed; she was never the leader. She would sit beside Danni at parties, and would leave most of the decisions up to her. The only person she was closer to was her sister. This was their pattern, and Danni liked it. But today something was different. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but it was there. Cordelia had separated herself from Danni for most of the day. She hadn’t once asked Danni to make a decision for her. She and Kyle kept disappearing together and talking privately.

Danni didn’t know how to deal with the change. She knew she should to be happy that Cordelia was finally expressing herself, but she just couldn’t seem to push aside a growing jealousy. Danni looked up to see Cordelia watching her from across the fire, a big grin across her face. She was glowing in a way Danni had never seen before.

“You look lost in thought.” A voice to her left made her jump.

“Jesus! You startled me.” She turned towards Anson’s chair. “I suppose I was thinking a little harder than needed. Tonight’s about fun isn’t it?” Danni took a long swig of beer.

“Rock on, man!” Anson devil horned his fingers and stuck out his tongue. This was immediately followed by a little sarcastic grin. She smiled back and him and inched her hand over the side of her lawn chair. The heat from his skin radiated onto her fingers across the couple inches between their hands. “What can we do to get everyone into fun mode?”  Anson leaned back in his chair, lacing his fingered behind his head, effectively quashing her plans.

“Have you ever played ‘I Never’?” She twisted her legs underneath her body so she was leaning towards him. He looked at her and took a long drink from his bottle. “So that’s a yes?”

“That game has gotten me into some trouble.” Anson smiled a wide toothy grin.

“It’s a great way to learn the dirt on people.” Danni agreed.

“The perfect game to play if you want to learn stuff.”

“Exactly.”

“As the new guy, I may learn more than I want to know about some of you ‘eh?” Anson chuckled as he reached behind him into the cooler for another beer.

“It’s possible that some of us have secrets we’d rather not share right away. It’s all about controlling the questions.” Danni grinned and drained the rest of her bottle. “Hey, mofos.” She called out. “Anson would like to learn about his new friends, and I can’t think of a better way than playing I Never.” She announced as she made her way to the picnic table where the girls’ cooler of drinks was sitting.

“Dude, seriously?” Zack’s forehead crinkled. “That’s a dangerous way to get to know your new friends.”

“Let’s play, and then I’ll decide if I still want to be friends with you and all your dirty laundry.” Anson grinned.

“Um, and we get to learn if you’re bad ass enough to hang with us.” Danni laughed and headed back to her seat, two bottles in hand.

“You are questioning my bad assedness? Now we must play.” Anson twisted the lid off his beer.

“Can we take a bathroom break first?” Zack suggested, leaning forward in his chair. Anson waved a hand and all the girls got up and headed towards the washrooms.

Zack made no move until the girls were out of sight.

“I thought you wanted to take a piss.” Caleb looked towards him.

“Nope. I actually wanted to do a seat shuffle without being quite so obvious about it.” He grinned and stood up. “Greg, switch spots with me.”

“Ah, I understand.” Greg glanced towards the chair beside him that Kyle had vacated only minutes earlier.

“Sly Zack, very sly.” Caleb grinned, put Cordelia’s drink in the chair beside Anson, and took the seat next to that one.

“And since they’re chicks. I actually do still have time to piss.” Zack set his drink down and moved behind a tree on the edge of the campsite.

Anson glanced at the newly empty chair between him and Caleb. He raised an eyebrow. “You don’t think this is inviting trouble?”

“If she’s sitting right beside you, Danni is less likely to notice that you two keep making the googly eyes…”

“I do not have googly eyes!” Anson gasped indignantly

“Oh dude, you totally have googly eyes.” Greg laughed from his chair.

“Shit.” He took a long drink from his bottle. The sound of the girls giggling proceeded them around the corner. Everyone but Danni paused for a moment at the subtle alteration in seating. Rayne headed towards the chair beside Caleb, but was sidetracked by Bianca who redirected her to the beer cooler. Cordelia looked at Anson, who tilted his bottle towards the chair. She pulled a bottle from the cooler behind his seat and slid into the chair. Propping her feet onto a log in front of her, she draped her left hand just slightly over the edge of the arm. Anson’s bottle hand dangled over the edge of his chair, their fingers touching but out of Danni’s view.

“Who will begin?” Zack asked in an overly dramatic tone, tapping his fingers together in an evil fashion. “Cordelia, what about you?”

Danni sat back, waiting for Cordelia to pass her turn along. Cordi didn’t like I Never very much because she never got to drink. She had very little experience sexually, and somehow that’s where this game always seemed to end up.

“Alright.” She grinned. Danni looked over in surprise. “But remember, we start simple for a couple of rounds, so no mocking my starter question.” She paused for a moment, trying to think of something adequately boring. “I’ve never… worn pajamas.” A small chuckle and some head nods as everyone took a drink. The questions to move Caleb.

“I’ve never blown…” He paused

“And the game shifts into high gear…” Rayne laughed, but Caleb held up his hand.

“…off studying until the night before an exam.” Laughter erupted and everyone once again drank from their respective beverages. After a few rounds of mundane questions, Rayne shifted the tone of the game.

“I’ve never smoked pot.” Her lips twisted into a snide little grin and she looked around to see who joined her in the drinking. Most of the group raised their glasses, including Anson. Only Bianca and Blaine didn’t.

“Blaine? Seriously? You’ve never toked?” Anson raised an eyebrow.

“Oh dear god. Please no!” Zack shook his head, “Don’t get him started on the whole smoking thing. Hours of listening to how bad it is for you, and how smoking is smoking, no matter what, blah, blah, blah.” Zack grinned at Blaine as he took a puff from the cigarette dangling between his fingers. Blaine responded with a simple finger thrust into the air.

When the questions reached Cordelia, she chuckled from her seat. “Okay. Um…. Oh, I know. I’ve never eaten an entire box of double-stuff oreos after smoking up?” She looked around Anson, smiling widely at Danni.

“Bitch.” Danni laughed and took a drink.

“An entire box?” Anson looked towards her. “Did you vomit?”

“Almost.”

“Nice.”

“I need a drink.” Caleb pushed himself out of his chair, “Why don’t you go Anson, we’ll switch directions for a while.”

“Alright. Hmmm, I’ve never drank so much that I passed out under the bleachers on the football field only to be woken up completely naked the next morning by both the football coach and the principle.”  He aimed the statement directly at Zack.

“Hey, not just me buddy. Someone else has to drink too.” He looked pointedly at Caleb.

“Now this is a story I don’t know.” Danni leaned forward in my chair. “Spill, brother, spill.”

Caleb and Zack broke out in a tale of debauchery involving a 40 of whiskey, a strip club, a couple of fake ids, and a warm June night. For a while, the game was forgotten while everyone listened and laughed as the two acted out moments of the night. When Zack did his impersonation of the stripper they knew as Candise, Danni laughed so hard she choked on her beer.

“Zack that is a view of you I never want to see again!” She glanced at Kyle to see how she was taking the story and noticed that she was no longer sitting in her chair. A quick once over of the campsite and found her routing through the cooler, looking for her bottle of gin. She was the one person who refused to drink beer. She always had a bottle and mix with her when they went drinking. The smile on her face was wide and even from this distance her eyes were dancing.

“Okay,” Zack took his seat again. “That about sums up the parts of the night we can share in mixed company.” He grinned. He had noticed Kyle leave her chair the instant she stood up. Without breaking the stride of his story, Zack had followed her movements. He was curious to see how she would respond to the next question. “So, since I had to share that story, I think I get to ask the next question.” He cleared his throat. “Pardon the wording. I’ve never, been seriously attracted to someone sitting around this campfire, within the last month.”

Everyone, except Blaine, took a long swig from their drink. Eyes flickered to the people they were interested in. As the only one not preoccupied with their personal interests, Blaine was able to take in the entire scene. He had to wonder if the look exchanged between Rayne and Caleb was real interest, or a drunken moment of infatuation. Of course, his biggest concern involved the Cordelia-Anson-Danni triangle that had developed at the speed of light. He saw the disappointment on Danni’s face when she didn’t see Anson glancing back at her. For his part, Anson was very good at keeping his gaze on the fire in front of him as he drank from his bottle. Blaine caught Bianca’s eye from across the circle. She nodded.

“I guess it’s my turn.” She decided that it would be best to shift the topic a little bit. As she thought up a new question, Zack shook his bottle, realized it was empty and got up to get a new one. “Okay, I’ve never… been sexually attracted to one of my friend’s parents.”

Greg tipped his bottle to his mouth.

“Gross, dude!”

“That is fuckin nasty man.”

“Hello, have you seen Danni’s mom?” Greg laughed, as Bianca punched him in the arm.

Kyle took advantage of the distraction and slipped out of her chair. At the table, she slip her hand into Zack’s and pulled him away from the campsite.

Chapter 8 – Powerfully Polite

As Cordelia increased the distance between herself and her friends, she thought about the situation with Anson and Danni. She hated this so much. Danni was her best friend. Except for Bianca, she had never cared for anyone the way she cared for Danni. Danni always just let her be herself. She always took the spotlight away and let Cordelia hide from attention. Well, if she was honest with herself, Danni wouldn’t let her in the spotlight. The few times she had actually wanted it. But in the end, Danni had always been right. She’d always protected Cordelia.

She told Danni everything: every little fear, every hope, everything. She had never kept anything from her before. And this, this was important in a way she’d never felt before. Sure, she’d been interested in guys, but nothing serious, just a little passing infatuation here and there, but nothing had ever felt like this before. The thought of Anson sent little shivers up her spine. She imagined his face, his lips, his eyes. His hands were beautiful, big and smooth.

Floating on her back, running her fingers through the water, Cordelia thought about all the times Danni had been there for her. And then all the times she had been there for Danni. All the moments when Danni was freaked out about this boy or that boy, or her sewing, or whatever. They’d been friends for so long, but she was starting to feel something different. Like maybe she was outgrowing their friendship. She needed it to change, but she didn’t know how to make that happen.

Cordelia could lie to everyone else, but she knew, really knew, that she liked Anson. But, Danni was making things complicated. Cordelia would never say it out loud, but she thought Danni was making a bit of a fool of herself. Laughing at everything Anson said, touching him, hanging on his every word. She’d never wanted to be that kind of girl. Or to be friends with that kind of girl. But here she was.

“What are you thinking about?” An unfamiliar voice sounded in her ear. Cordelia jumped, sunk, swallowed some water and started choking. “Hey, hey, relax.” A pair of hands grabbed her waist, held her until she finished coughing and relaxed. “You alright now?”

Cordelia nodded and looked down at the hands on her hips. Those hands she’d committed to memory. She followed up the arms and shoulders to Anson’s face and his eyes, more green than hazel now that she was close enough to get a really good look. Let her hands fall to rest on his forearms. She’d never been this close to a boy before, and she wasn’t sure what she was feeling, but she was thankful to have something to balance on.

“How are we not sinking?” Cordelia realized that she was not treading water, but her feet weren’t touching anything. Anson’s legs didn’t appear to be moving either. A quick glance at the shore made her realize how far out she’d floated. She could no longer tell who was who sitting among the towels.

“There’s some kind of dune or something. I’m standing on it.”  He smiled down at her.

“I guess you can put me down then.” Cordelia smiled up at him.

“What if I don’t want to?” He whispered, leaning close to her ear. Cordelia’s eyes widened and she stiffened. At her reaction, Anson loosened his arms and let her slide down until her feet touched the packed sand beneath them. He pulled his hands back in a gesture of surrender. “I’m sorry; that was presumptuous.”

“It was, but it’s not that.” She gently touched her fingers to his wrist, letting him relax. She turned towards the shore, looking to see if anyone was watching them. “Where’s Danni?”

Anson nodded, pursing his lips, “Kyle dragged her back to campsite to start making supper. She suggested I stay behind, even though Danni really wanted me to come back with them.” His piercing winked in the sun as he looked towards the shore. Cordelia couldn’t suppress her grin. “What?”

“Nothing.” Knowing Danni wasn’t going to suddenly swim up to them allowed Cordelia to relax a little. She moved to place her hand on top of Anson’s when he pulled it away. She stiffened and stepped away from Anson, her heels hanging over the edge of the sand dune. “Oh”

“Don’t. That’s not what I meant.” Anson reached out and took her hand in his own, keeping them under the water came to his waist, and halfway up Cordelia’s torso. He waited as she allowed her body to relax. Her fingers to find comfort in his hand. When she took a step towards him, he smiled broadly “I had a long talk with Caleb and Zack this morning. We had some unexpected time.” They both chuckled.

“So you get that this,” She waved her free hand between the two of them “whatever this is. If it’s anything at all. This is all really new to me. I’m babbling. Whatever. This is going to cause some problems.”

“Yeah. I was filled in on the workings of Danni. Caleb explained that she can be a little… single minded.” Anson twisted his mouth.

“That’s a very polite way to put it.” She smiled, taking another step towards him. Her insecurities unexpectedly slipped away.

“He doesn’t even know the worst of it. He’s her brother, not her friend. She tells me more than she tells him. I hear about all her obsessions. She has been talking about you non-stop since Wednesday.” Cordelia smiled at the thought of her friend, and then feeling Anson’s fingers intertwined with her own, the smile fell from her lips. “Non-stop. God, I don’t know what to do.” She released Anson’s hand and massaged her forehead with her thumbs.

“I’m new to this group, so I don’t really know the details, but I think there are some basics we can deal with. Like the fact that I liked you – immediately. I thought you were cute in the hallway. Then I found out you were smart and interesting and adventurous over pizza.” Cordelia shot him a look from the corner of her eye. “Over everyone else, it was you.”

“Adventurous?”

“You were willing to go cheeseless.” Anson grinned, placing his free hand on her hip. “Alright?”

Cordelia nodded.

“Danni is a fun girl, but she’s not the girl for me. I don’t believe in love at first sight, or anything ridiculous like that. This isn’t that. But when something interests me, I find out all I can about it.” He lowered his face close enough that she could smell the mint on his breath. Their foreheads were mere centimetres apart. “Right now, I want to find out if you’re interested in me.”

Cordelia breathed deeply, her chest expanding, pressing against Anson’s skin. The feeling of his hand running up her back distracted her, made her feel girly and weak, but at the same time gave her a feeling she’d never experienced before, a weird kind of bravado. She moved her arms to slowly wrap around Anson’s waist. She laced her fingers together behind his back, pulling herself against him. This felt like the first big decision she’d made for herself in a long time. A decision to put her happiness first. The curtain of the water made her feel braver than normal. She looked towards the beach and noticed a large group of people getting up and leaving. A few feet away, she noticed her sister’s body cutting through the water. When Bianca surfaced next to her, Cordelia started to pull away from Anson.

“Don’t you dare!” Bianca placed her hand on her sister’s arm. “We’re heading back to the campsite. We’re telling Danni you’re both swimming but head back soon so she doesn’t come looking. Figure out how you’re going to do this.” She turned to Anson “If you hurt my sister, I’ll personally make sure that you end up with a shovel in your face.” She flipped her body and started swimming back to the beach.

“I guess that was my official warning, and that makes us some kind of … a thing.” Anson brushed his free hand along her jaw line, pushing her sun drying hair back behind her ear.

“I suppose it answers your earlier question.” She said quietly.

“I’d still like to hear it though.” His voice was low. “From you. Until it comes from you, it doesn’t count. You have to say it.”

She took a deep breath. What she said now would choose her path. “I’m interested. In a big way.” Anson leaned forward to rest his forehead against hers. His hand slid to cup her neck.

“I’m glad.” His breath mingled with hers. Their lips were dangerously close. The movement of the words caused his to brush against hers.

“I’m going to fight for my friendship though.” Cordelia stared at him intently. “Danni is important to me. I won’t throw that away for a boy with pretty hands. Got it.”

“That. That conviction right there. I wouldn’t want you to do anything else.” He sighed “God, I can tell you that I didn’t expect my first few days in a new town to end up like this.”

“You’re going to have to play this at my speed for a little while.” Cordelia smiled “I want to get to know you and shit before we barrel ahead.”

Anson only nodded, knowing that he was going to kiss her. That every nerve ending on his body was on high alert. That he either needed to take action, or step away from her. He pulled her face towards his, his lips settled against hers. She responded at first, but as the kiss deepened she stiffened and backed away.

“I’m sorry. Not yet. I need to figure out how this is going to work.” She placed some physical distance between them, but once again intertwined their fingers. “If that doesn’t work for you, at least you know now.”

“That works for me.” He chuckled and squeezed her fingers.

“Let’s head back to the beach, we’ll figure stuff out on our way back to the campsite.”

Anson nodded, kissed her quickly on the forehead and dove under the water. Cordelia dove in after him taking her time getting back to the short. When they reached the beach, they kept a safe distance in case they ran into Danni on the way back.

“So here’s what I’m going to do.” Anson broke the easy silence that had settled between them “I’m going to ask her to go for a walk and then I’ll explain to her that I’m not interested in her like that. She’s a nice girl but…”

“That’s totally the loser let down. You have to be direct with her. Firm but gentle. She’s surprisingly fragile.” Cordelia rubbed her eyes “Don’t tell her about us though. That needs to come from me. She is going to be furious.”

“If she’s really a good friend, she’ll be happy for you.” He looked perplexed “Friends want their friends to be happy. Especially their best friends.”

“Yeah, but she wants herself to be happy more. That’s natural isn’t it? When I thought you were interested in her I was jealous.”

“Shit. I thought I was just moving to a new town. That I’d have some time to get settled.” He smiled and brushed her arm with his fingers before jamming his hands back into the pockets of his shorts. They rounded the last corner before the campsite and paused for a moment. “So for now we just pretend nothing happened. I had a good swim. You floated a little bit. Blah, blah, blah.”

“Okay, I’m probably going to hang with Blaine or my sister for a bit. I don’t know if I can sit near you and not…”

“I know what you mean.” He blew out a resigned breath.

She looked around quickly before reaching out and grabbing his arm. She pulled him behind a dense patch of trees and pulled him close. Before he could do anything, Cordelia had her arms snaked up around his neck. Her lips pressed against his. His thumb brushed along her cheek, sending shivers down her spine. Taking a deep breath, they pulled away from one another, his hand still against her face.

“We have to figure this out, because I want to do that again. Frequently.” Cordelia’s eyes widened as the words slipped through her lips. Anson’s grin lit up his face.

“Me, too.” They composed themselves and walked around the corner to the campsite.

“Hey, guys.” Danni noticed them as soon as they rounded the corner, each with their hands jammed into their pockets. She bounced over, positioning herself between them, threading an arm through each of theirs. “How was your swim?” She directed her question to Anson. “Did you get to know my bestest friend?” She smiled at Cordelia. “Isn’t she awesome? Or did she play shy with you?”

“I wouldn’t call her shy.” He smiled at Danni, but his eyes glinted towards Cordelia. They didn’t notice that everyone else was watching the trio. “So yeah, I’d say we got to know each other.” He moved himself between the two girls and threw a friendly arm around Danni’s shoulders and an arm around Cordelia’s waist. “Let’s go get ourselves some food. It smells amazing.”

Chapter 7 – On the Edge

“So, how are things between you and Zack?” Blaine asked Kyle as the three of them stepped onto the pebbled walking path around the lake.

“You would know better than me. You’ve actually talked to him in the last couple months.” Kyle rolled her eyes.

“He misses you.”

“He has a funny way of showing it.”

“It’s Zack, Kyle. What do you expect?” He pushed a hand through his thick blond hair “You hurt his feelings. He had to prove his manliness. How better to do that then to sleep with the easiest chick in school? We’re guys. It’s what we do.”

“She knows Blaine.” Cordelia mumbled.

“What?” Blaine choked on a drink of water.

“About you. That’s you’re… you know.”

“How?” He didn’t even try to hide the pain in his face.

“It came up in the car yesterday. Danni was defending you.”

“Shit, why did I tell her? She has such a big fucking mouth.”

“Really, she was defending you.” Kyle interjected, “Dalliah was running her mouth off about hooking up with you over the summer. Rayne thought she was telling the truth. Danni set her straight.”

He chuckled a little to himself “Dalliah did ask me out. I turned her down. I did it nicely though.”

“Sometimes we’re not that different from guys, buddy.” Kyle patted his shoulder

“So, you’re okay with me being… you know, not into the girl thing?”

“Why on earth would I care? It’s not like I’m trying to date you.” She smiled “My only concern is how you’re possibly going to find a boyfriend in this town.”

“Yeah, well, let me deal with that.” They started climbing their way up the side of the rock face.

“Caleb’s the only one who knows right?” Cordi reached forward to take the hand Blaine offered her.

“He was. But now Anson knows.”

“Really? That seems… odd.” Kyle raised an eyebrow. “You told him but not us?”

“It wasn’t like that, Kyle. I drove him home from the restaurant on Wednesday and we got talking. He’d figured it out on his own.” He grunted as he pulled himself around the last overhang onto the large flat surface of the rock. “He’s a pretty decent guy.”

They settled onto the edge of the rock and looked down at the glittering expanse of water below them. They all drifted into their own thoughts for a few minutes.

“Back to you and Zack.” Blaine broke the silence. “Are you interested in getting back together with him?”

“I don’t know.” Kyle rang her fingers through her hair, pulling it back into a high ponytail. “I mean part of me is really ready to get back together. To actually settle down into something serious. And that’s the big part of me. But then there’s that tiny little sliver that just can’t forgive him for what he did with Robyn. And it’s not cause he slept with someone else. It’s totally because it’s her. I hate her so much.”

“Kyle you can’t beat yourself up over it.” Cordi handed over a water bottle, “You know he was angry. You dumped him. It hurt his pride. I’m not saying you should just brush it off, but…”

“But I kind of should? Bulllshit.” Kyle raised an eyebrow.

“Okay. Yeah, I see your point.”

“And it’s not just that…” She played with her hair as she stared out at the water “I don’t know. Christ. I’m tired of thinking about this.”

They sat in silence for a little while munching on trail mix and taking in the view of lake. Speedboats and wake boards filled the open area with clusters of tiny people along the shore. Their campsite was almost directly across from them, but it was impossible to make out clearly through the trees.

“So Cordelia, are you interesting in anyone?” Blaine asked the question of the weekend.

“Jesus! Am I wearing a sign or something? Why do people keep asking me that?” Cordi exclaimed.

“Wow, sorry!” Blaine put his hands up defensively, “What’s up?”

“I asked her that yesterday.” Kyle chuckled.

“Yes, and so did my sister.” Cordelia turned her neck and cracked it. “I didn’t mean to explode, but seriously, no one ever asks me about my romantic interests and now it’s three times in two days.”

“Well, I may or may not know someone who is interested in you.”

“Mean jokes are not funny” Cordelia swallowed a mouthful of water.

“Would I joke about that? How mean do you think I am?” Blaine tugged her pigtail.

Cordelia smirked at him, wiping away water from her chin. “So, am I interested in anyone? That depends on who you ask. Kyle, would say yes. If you ask Danni, the answer is no. If you ask me… well, I’m not really sure. I thought maybe, but I don’t know. I have this weird fluttery feeling in my stomach when I think about him. But then I get a sick heavy feeling in the same place when I think about the problems it could cause.”

“Who?” Blaine turned to Kyle.

“If Cord doesn’t want to talk about it, I won’t break her trust. At least not right in front of her face.” Kyle grinned.

“That’s very thoughtful of you.” Cordi stuck her tongue out at her.

“Can you just turn around? I can say it to your back.” Kyle laughed, leaning against her friend.

“That’s alright.” Blaine handed back the bag of trail mix, “I can’t really say who it is, but I wanted to see if you would volunteer something.”

“I’m volunteering nothing.” Cordelia crossed her arms over her chest.

“So, you said you were chatting with Anson the other night?” Kyle changed the subject. “What’s he like? Danni’s got quite a thing for him.”

“She does, does she? Interesting.” Blaine’s mouth twisted in thought.

“Interesting? How interesting? Does he like her too?” Cordelia couldn’t help asking.

“He said she seems like a fun girl.” Cordi’s shoulders slumped a little, a vacant expression spreading across her face. “Mostly, we talked about what it’s like to move from a city to a place this small.”

“I’ll be back in a minute.” Cordelia moved into a standing position.

“You alright?” Kyle looked up at her.

“Yup. I just like the view.” She pulled a notebook from her bag. “I’ve got a song forming. I want to write it down before I forget.”

“Okey dokey. We’ll be here when you’re ready.” Kyle and Blaine watched her walk away. When she was out of earshot, Kyle began talking while looking casually out at the lake.

“Dude, spill.” Kyle watched Cordi out of the corner of her eye. “Anson’s into her, isn’t he?”

“He thinks she’s really sweet.” Blaine replied equally casually. “He said he wanted to get to know her better and was checking to make sure she wasn’t already spoken for.”

“I knew it,” Kyle held in her excitement by taking a deep breath, “She’s totally into him too, but…”

“Danni’s a problem.”

“Absolutely. Cordelia can’t, or I should say won’t, do that to Danni. They’ve been friends for too long. And Danni’s always been the powerhouse in that relationship. And she is way into him. I’ve never seen her this way about a guy.”

“Worse than with Jon?”

“Oh my God! So much worse. He left a message about being late. She listened to it at least a dozen times. It was ridiculous.”

“Shit, what do we do?” Blaine rubbed his forehead.

“I don’t know. Cordelia is going to talk herself out of liking him so that she doesn’t hurt Danni.”

“Is there any way we could talk to Danni and get her to back down” Blaine asked. Kyle just looked at him. “Okay, okay I know that won’t work. She’s unreasonably stubborn.”

“You’re telling me. She’s one of my closest friends. I love her to death, but she can be obsessive. She hasn’t even interested that Cordi is interested. That tells you how deep she is.”

Blaine nodded and hugged his knees to his chest. “I’ll have to talk to Anson when he gets here. He needs to know what he’s walking into. I hope I didn’t make it worse. Now she thinks that Anson likes Danni.” He paused and looked over to where Cordelia was staring at her notebook and playing with one of her braids. “How did you get her into that outfit?”

“Pretty amazing, hey?” Kyle smiled. “I know it’s shorts and a t-shirt. It’s not…Well, it’s really normal, but for her, it’s a step out of her shell.”

“I’ve never seen her in anything without sleeves before.”

“I know. If she was really happy just wearing that stuff all the time, I wouldn’t care, but she’s not. She hides. Today, something clicked.” Kyle shrugged. “Honestly, it has something to do with Anson, but it’s more than that. I think part of her is tired of playing second fiddle to Danni all the time, but she’s not quite ready to come out of her shell yet.”

“But she’s awesome.” Blaine exhaled “I don’t get why she hides it from everyone.”

“I know that and you know that, but girls like Robyn and Dalliah have instilled in her that she’s worthless. You should hear the things they say to her. They’re pretty cruel.”

“God I hate being a teenager sometimes.” He wiped a bead of sweat from his forehead, “How are you so well adjusted?”

“You cannot contain this level of amazing.” She laughed “Seriously, it’s my parents. They’ve taught me to be pretty strong, but don’t be fooled. I’ve got things I don’t want others to see; I’m just good at hiding it.”

They fell silently into thought. Insecurities floated uncomfortably close to the surface. About fifteen minutes later, Cordelia’s cell phone began jingling in her pocket.

“Hello?”

“Cordi?”

“What’s up, Danni?”

“Are you guys going to be there long enough for us to join you?”

“Did the other guys get here yet?”

“Yeah, about fifteen minutes ago,”

“There is like no shade and I am getting over-sunned. We’re heading back pretty soon.” Cordelia wanted nothing less than to be stuck on this rock with Danni and Anson.

“Cool Meet us at the beach?”

“Sounds like a plan.” Cordelia slipped the phone back in her bag. “Everyone’s here.” Pushing herself up, she hopped over the little space between the rocks and headed back to her friends, much more cheerful than she had been earlier.

“What’s the plan?”

“Apparently the beach then supper then booze.”

“We brought lots of beer.”

“Of course you brought beer.” Kyle rolled her eyes. “As long as we don’t get kicked out.”

“We all know what Danni’s like when she drinks” Cordelia piped up, “Maybe we can have Anson keep her occupied. Although he’s a wild card, we have no idea what he’s like when he’s drunk.”

“I’m sure we’ll find a way to keep him occupied.” Blaine shot a glance in Kyle’s direction as they began the trek towards the beach and found the rest of their friends settled along a row of towels.

“Yo yo, mofos.” Rayne waved as she saw them approach. On the other end of the blankets, Anson laughed as Danni placed her hand on his arm.

“I’m going for a quick dip.” Cordelia folded her top and shorts neatly on her towel and started towards the water’s edge. Once the water was halfway up her thighs, she dove beneath the surface and swam away from the shore.

Chapter 6 -Feel the Rainbow

In the shower stall, Danni scrubbed off a layer of sweat and dirt. No matter what Kyle said, she wanted to look her best today. Wrapping her towel around her, she headed out to the main room. Sitting on a bench putting lotion on her legs, she watched Kyle standing outside Cordelia’s stall.

“Come on, Cordelia. It can’t look that bad.”

“But it does.” Cordelia’s muttered. “I look silly.”

“If you don’t get out here, I will pull you out.” Kyle threatened.

“What are you doing?” Danni raised an eyebrow.

“I am trying to get Cordelia to try something different. It’s too warm for sweaters. But she’s too chicken to even show me what it looks like.”

“No, she’s trying to make me look like a streetwalker.” Cordelia countered, still hidden inside the stall.

“Come on, Cordi. Try something new for once.” Danni laughed. “No one’s in here but us.”

“Okay, but you guys have to tell me the truth.” Her intake of breathe was audible. She walked out in a pair of dark shorts and a rainbow striped top.

“Have you ever seen a prostitute?” Danni cocked her head at her friend “This is completely normal, Cord!”

“You would literally be the most covered up hooker ever.” Kyle laughed.

“I don’t know.” Cordelia huffed, rubbing her bare arms “I feel really… naked.”

“Whatever, you look fantastic.” Danni clapped her hands in delight and stepped into the stall Cordelia had just vacated.

“Come with me.” Kyle’s voice was low as she grabbed Cordelia’s hand and pulled her out of the bathroom. Cordelia crossed her arms over the chest, leaning against the wall. “You don’t have to wear anything you don’t want to.”

“You stole my clothes.” Cordelia raised an eyebrow.

“I’ll give them back if you really want.”

Cordelia ran her hands along the bare skin of her lower thighs “Does it really look okay? I’ve never worn shorts this short.”

Kyle pulled her phone from her pocket and quickly opened an app full of pictures. “Look at this.” She stepped up beside Cordelia and held up the screen. “These are all beautiful women who don’t fit stereotypical beauty standards. And they’re all attractive.”

Cordelia slid her finger across picture after picture. Of girls bigger and smaller than she was. All looking totally comfortable. “I don’t know. I don’t look like these girls.”

“The only thing that makes them different is that they like themselves.” Kyle shrugged. “I know you’ve lived in this town of crap and have been convinced that you’re disgusting, but at some point, you’re going to have to get over that.”

“A couple pictures and a rainbow shirt aren’t going to catapult me into a whole new Cordelia.” She shot a glance at Kyle.

“I don’t want a new Cordelia. I want a happy Cordelia. Think about it.” She took her hand and lea her back into the bathroom where Kyle began braiding Cordelia’s hair into two long braids. “There you go. Now tell me what you really think.”

Hesitantly, Cordelia stepped in front of the full length mirror. “Well, I don’t look hideous. I guess.” She turned to the side, a little uncomfortable, but pleased. “Who knew?”

“So you’ll wear it?”

“I guess. I mean, what can it hurt?”

“Cordi! You look fantastic.” Bianca bounced over to her sister from the shower stall.

“You do!” Danni insisted, stepping in front of the mirror.

“It’s all Kyle’s fault.”

“Thanks Kor. I’ve been trying to get her to wear something less sweatery for years. What did you say to her?”

“Nothing I can repeat without risking death.” Kyle laughed and shot Bianca a knowing look. “You look nice, too, Danni.”

“Hey, sometimes you just gotta put it out there.” Laughing, Danni stepped up to the sink and pulled at the front of her tank. “You don’t look exactly under dressed yourself, trying to impress Zack?”

“I try to impress no one.” Kyle smirked, changing the balls on the barbell fed through her bellybutton. “But reminding him that I’m awesome isn’t the worst thing in the world.”

“Hey, when did you get your belly done?” Rayne hurried over to touch it.

“Over the summer. I forgot you hadn’t seen it yet. Like it?” They began to inspect the jewelry.

“Cordi, you’re sure you don’t want some mascara?” Danni waved the tube at her in the mirror.

“Nope. The clothes as a big enough step for today.”

“Someday Cordi, someday…”

“I don’t always have to do what you want, Danni.” Cordelia looked down at her lap. “Just let me go at my own speed. Please.”

“Cordelia?” Danni turned from the mirror. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Don’t worry about it. It’s nothing.” Cordelia jammed her hands into her pockets. “I’d like to do more this morning than prep for boys. Is anyone ready to head back?”

“I am.” Kyle twisted a yellow ball onto her tongue ring and grabbed her stuff. She handed Cordelia the pile of clothes she had taken from her.

“Me, too.” Danni nodded.

Leaving Rayne and Bianca behind, the three girls crunched along on the path in silence until they reached the campsite. Danni threw her bag into the tent and noticed the message light on her phone was flashing.

“Water?” Cordi asked, crouching in front of the cooler. They both nodded and Danni punched the buttons to access her messages. The voice that came through the earpiece took a second to click.

“Hey Danni… uh, this is Anson. Caleb asked me to call. Traffic has been crazy. We’re still over an hour away. Just wanted to let you guys know so you don’t worry. So yeah… I guess we’ll see you in a little while. Oh and Greg and Blaine took a separate car, so they might get there ahead of us. Not sure. We lost them a while ago. Okay, yeah, so… bye.” The automated voice of the answering system came on and asked if she wanted to save or delete the message. Danni just held the phone for a moment and then hit the button to replay the message.

“What’s up, Danni?” Cordi peered over her sunglasses.

“Anson left me a message. Even his voice is sexy.”

“I’m sure it is.” Kyle rolled her eyes “Is there a problem?”

“Nah, just bad traffic.” She replayed the message again and held out the phone to Cordelia. “Want to hear it?”

“That’s alright… this is your thing.” She smiled without looking up from her book. Kyle watched Cordelia sink lower in the chair, maintaining her ever present composure. Kyle pushed up from the bench and settled herself into the chair beside her quietest friend.

“You don’t always have to give in on everything.” She said quietly, making sure Danni was still distracted.

“Kyle, enough. Just enough. Please” Taking a long drink from her water bottle, she refused to look at Kyle. Bianca and Rayne arrived at that moment, providing a much needed distraction for Cordelia.

“B, you look hot.” Cordi whistled at her sister.

“I know.” Bianca smiled over her shoulder jokingly. “Think Greg’ll like it?”

“I don’t’ know how he couldn’t.” Kyle smiled as she took in Bianca’s typical skimpy outfit. Her shorts barely covered more than her bikini bottoms and she hadn’t bothered to put a shirt over the top. “You and Danni match though, perhaps pink is the colour to wear to impress boys.”

“We do match. I didn’t even notice. Oh well, we’re after different guys, right.”

“What’s that?” Danni looked up from her phone. “Hey, look we match.”

Rayne laughed throwing her bag into the tent. Her outfit didn’t cover much more than Bianca’s.

“What? Why are you all laughing?” Danni looked confused.

“We were just commenting on how you two match. Trying to impress your boys.”

“Oh, okay. “ Danni shrugged and turned back to her phone.

“Danni got a message from Anson. She’s been listening to it non-stop since we got back from the showers.” Kyle raised an eyebrow.

“Wow. Obsessive much?” Rayne’s face mirrored Kyle’s.

“Hey, it’s still the new throws of a crush. You know what that’s like.” Danni shrugged.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Rayne flopped into a shaded chair to lather on sunscreen.

“You’re telling me if this message had been from Caleb you wouldn’t have asked me to listen to it?” Danni raised an eyebrow at Rayne

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Rayne repeated defensively “I don’t like Caleb.”

“He’s my brother, dude. I can tell when girls are paying special attention to him.”

“I don’t!! For real! I have no feelings for him.” Rayne help up her hands.

“Right.” Danni looked at her over the top of the water bottle “Anyway… traffic is bad so the guys are going to be about an hour later than they thought. Greg and Blaine took a separate vehicle, so they may be earlier, I haven’t heard from them.”

Bianca crawled into the tent, “I have a message.” Silence fell for a minute. “They’ll be here in about fifteen.” Sitting down at the table, she called her boyfriend, and talked with him until Blaine’s Civic pulled onto the gravel.

“Hey ladies,” Blaine called as he popped the trunk.

Danni asked, glancing into the tightly packed trunk. “How long do you guys think you’re staying? There’s enough stuff in here for a week.”

“You can never be too prepared.” Blaine shrugged.

“Man, if I didn’t know better, I’d say you and Cordelia would be perfect for each other.” Danni laughed.

“Watch it!” Blaine glanced towards the other.  He pulled the tent bag out and jammed it into her arms a little harder than necessary.

“Sorry! Sometimes I forget. I’ll just put this over here.” Danni headed over the gravel parking space to an empty patch of grass.

“Cord, can you find the other handle for the cooler?” Blaine wrapped his hand around one of the handles.

“No problem,” Cordelia leaned into the trunk, moving sleeping bags and pillows until she found the other one.

“Nice outfit.”

“Thanks,” She replied sheepishly

“Can we talk later?”

“Sure. Something wrong?”

“Nope. I just want to run something by you privately.” Blaine replied quietly.

“Kyle and I are hiking over to the rock face later this afternoon. That might be a good time.”

“Sounds like a plan. Now heave.” They lifted the heavy cooler out of the trunk and side stepped to the shade.

Half an hour later, Caleb called to say they were even further behind because of an accident. With forty-five minutes to kill, Greg and Bianca wandered off some alone time, and Kyle, Cordelia and Blaine headed down to the Rock face while Rayne and Danni waited impatiently for boys they couldn’t wait to see.

 

Chapter 5 – The Distance of Friendship

“You guys cool with just relaxing tonight? Tomorrow’s sure to be jam packed with shenanigans.” Danni laughed.

“Absolutely! Those boys have too much energy. And they’re bringing an equal amount of booze.” Bianca sank further into her chair.

“Hot chocolate?” Kyle pushed out of her chair.

“Yes!” Everyone responded in unison. Sun tired giggles travelled around the circle.

“Let me help.” Cordelia joined Kyle at the table.

Kyle leaned her chin on Cordelia’s shoulder. “What would we do without you?”

“You’d get by.” Cordi smiled, tapping Kyle’s nose with her finger.

“Hey Rayne, did you bring cards?” Bianca finally caved to the twilight and pushed her sunglasses onto the top of her head.

Rayne pulled a couple packs of cards from the bag at her side. “Asshole?”

“Bitch!” Bianca chuckled.

“That joke is never funny, B.” Rayne rolled her eyes and moved to the picnic table. While Cordi poured water into mugs, Rayne started shuffling and Kyle played with the music.

“I love this song.” She danced around the table, wrapping her long hair into a messy pile.

“Your sister used to play this all the time.” Bianca slipped into the seat beside her sister.

“Yup, Ronda loves herself some Fleetwood Mac.”

“How is your sister?” Danni asked, sipping at the layer of whip cream on top of her drink. “She hasn’t been home in a while.”

“She’s moved out to Toronto with Craig.” Kyle grinned, sliding into a seat at the table. “He’s going to propose soon. He emailed me about the ring.”

“Huh. I never would have put those two together. He’s so shy and Ronda’s so….um” Bianca searched for a word.

“Exuberant?” Rayne suggested.

Bianca nodded energetically “Yes. Exuberant.”

“You never can tell who belongs together.” Kyle shrugged, shooting Cordelia a glance out of the corner of her eye.

“It wasn’t all smooth sailing.” Cordelia pushed back. “We were pretty young when she and Craig got together but I remember drama. “

“It was short lived drama. She had a falling out with a friend because of him, but they got over it.”

“Enough with the lifetime movie plots. Let’s play.” Danni rubbed her hands together before picking up the large stack of cards in front of her.

*****  *****  *****

Around 2:00 in the morning, Bianca stood up and stretched. “Guys, I have got to get some beauty rest.”

Kyle threw down her cards. “And I’m damn tired of losing. Also, I really really need to pee.”

“Come on, guys! You can’t be tired already!” Rayne pleaded.

“You only want to keep playing cause you’re winning.” Cordelia added her cards to the pile.

“I’m just not tired yet.” Rayne tapped her cards, “Really, that’s the only reason.”

“Uh, huh…” Cordelia shoved pile the across the table. “Well, I’m plain old tired. I guess you’ll just have to play with yourself.”

“Out here. Not in the tent! No playing with yourself in the tent!” Kyle slapped Rayne on the shoulder.

“Ha ha, Kyle.” Rayne jammed the cards back in the case.

“Seriously, Sugar, I need some sleep.” Bianca patted her friend on the head before heading to the tent.

“Stop patting me, guys!” Rayne laughed. Danni reached over and patted Rayne’s knee.

“My contacts feel like they’re glued to my eyes.” Bianca insisted. “Can we just get ready for bed?”

“I’ve been up since 6:00.” Kyle stretched, her back cracking as she extended. “You all can do whatever you want, but I am doing the bed thing.”

“Oh alright,” Rayne finally gave up. They all grabbed their pajamas and headed to the washroom. The bright fluorescent lighting was blinding after hours of lantern light.

“Hey, Danni,” Bianca called from behind the closed stall door “Guess who I ran into at the store last night?”

“Hmmm?” Danni mumbled around a mouth full of toothpaste foam.

“Jonathon. He asked about you.”

Danni spit into the sink. “Really?”

“No. I’m making it up.” Her voice lilted with sarcasm. “It’s an extremely lame joke.”

“What did he want, B?” Danni thumped the stall door.

“Settle down.” Bianca walked out of the stall in cute blue satin shorts and a tank top. “He just wanted to know if you’re happy, seeing anyone, stuff like that. He really misses you, Dan.”

“Well he’s going to have to keep missing me, cause I am over him.” Danni entered the now vacant stall. “I mean really, what does he expect, that we can just work it out? I was bored. We were constantly fighting. He wanted long term stuff that might lead marriage. No way was I ready for that.” The last words muffled as she pulled her shirt over her head.

“He wanted you to marry him!!!” Rayne gasped. “Seriously?” You’re fifteen!”

“Not get married now, but in the future. He’s graduating this year and thought we should firm things up.” Danni exited the stall, still buttoning her pajama top. “He tried to give me a promise ring. Those things are lame. And I am way, way too young for it anyway. My fault really. I’m addicted to those damn teen parenting shows. And it’s a good thing we broke up, now I’m free to hook up with Anson tomorrow.” Chuckling Danni hopped onto the counter, waiting for the others to finish.

“Ready” Kyle walked out of her stall in full length flannel pants, a long undershirt, flannel top and thick woolly socks jammed into her sandals.

Bianca choked on her mouthwash “Beautiful, Kyle. Really. That is just, well, that is sexy.”

“Talk to me in the morning. You ever been camping in September before, Princess?” She flicked Bianca’s bare legs.

“That sleeping bag Greg lent me is supposed to be really, really warm!” She whined. “Besides, if I’m really cold tonight I’ll have an excuse to cuddle with him tomorrow.” Bianca cocked an eyebrow behind her glasses and headed to the door. “Now, let’s go and get some sleep. I don’t want to hear a peep from anyone before 10:00.”

“Yes, your highness. We’ll let the rest of the campground know so they can plan accordingly.” Kyle chuckled, slipping out the door and back to the campsite.

*****  *****  *****

Rolling over, Danni wrapped her sleeping bag up around her head. Cordi’s sleeping bag was already empty. A quick glance at her phone showed it was a little after 8:00. Crawling out of the tent, Danni attempted to rearrange her pajamas and shield her eyes from the blinding sun at the same time. Cordelia stood at the camp stove pouring a cup of coffee. She smiled and held the pot up towards Danni.

“Some?”

“Please.” Danni made a quick stop at the cooler for milk and cereal, “Cheerios?”

“Yup.”

Tucking two bowls under her arm, Danni turned towards the table. They ate in silence for a few minutes.  “Anyone else up?” Danni asked.

“Rayne’s out for a run and Kyle’s showering. B’s still asleep, as expected.” A small smile flitted across Cordelia’s face as she blew on her steaming mug.

Danni picked up her mug and sipped at it. The aroma distracted her from the uncomfortable sweat starting to pool at the nape of her neck. It was warm for September. They sat in a silence broken only by the crunch of cereal. The smell of bacon and eggs wafted through the air from another campsite.

“Hey, Chiquita,” Kyle mussed Danni’s hair as she took a seat at the table, “Sleep well?”

“Mmmm” She mumbled.

Kyle pulled open the top of a box of Corn Pops and began tossing them into her mouth. After a few bites, she headed to the car and in seconds had the stereo set up on the table again. Music flowed quietly from the speakers.

Rayne jogged into campground about fifteen minutes later, sweat pouring from her muscular limbs, her legs shaking with exertion. She paced the campsite, stretching, and downed the rest of her water bottle. Cordelia silently handed her a mug of coffee.

“Thanks, Sweetie” She leaned over and kissed Cordi’s cheek. “Your sister still asleep?”

“Nothing’s getting her out of that tent before 10:00.” Cordelia laughed. “Except maybe boys. Boys would get her out of bed.”

From the tent, the thumping rhythm erupted from Danni’s phone. Jumping up from the table, she banged her knee into the hard wooden top, throwing herself off balance and into the side of the tent as she tried to make it to the phone before it went to voice mail. The other girls burst out laughing. “Shut your damn mouths!” She caught the call on the last ring.

“Excuse me?” Caleb’s voice echoed through light static.

“Not you.” She replied distractedly, touching at the raw patch of skin on her knee. “Were your ears burning? We were just talking about you guys.”

“What else would you be talking about? We’re pretty much packed, or we would be if Zack would leave shit alone!” He raised his voice.

“Shut up, Cale.” Zack’s voice floated across the phone line.

“We should be leaving in like ten minutes.”

“Cool, we’ll see you in a couple hours. Call when you get close.”

“Sure thing. Anson, dude! Watch the beer!” The call ended abruptly.

Danni climbed out of the sweltering tent, a fresh sheen of sweat already forming against her smooth skin. “That was Caleb.”

“And?” Kyle looked over the top of her glasses.

“They’re on their way. With the beer. And the Anson.” Shaking her shoulders in a giddy little dance, Danni bounced toward the table.

“I have no idea how they get up that early for football practise.” Kyle stretched leisurely in her chair, ignoring Danni’s excitement. “Weekends are for sleeping in. Always.”

“I am all about the sleep.” Cordelia agreed, filling her coffee mug again and offering the pot around.

Kyle stuck her mug under the spout “Camping is the only time I get up this early.”

“Ladies, what exactly are we doing today?” Rayne’s breathing had returned to normal.

“My only plan is getting to know Anson as much as possible.” Danni smiled distractedly. “So, whatever that takes.”

“I’d like to walk down to that rock face around the lake at some point.” Cordi leaned against the picnic table.

“It is pretty down there. We’ll definitely hike down later.” Kyle agreed.

“Sure.” Cordelia avoided eye contact. She knew Kyle would use the hike to talk to her again.

Rayne drained her coffee cup and pushed herself up from her chair “If we don’t get your sister out of bed soon, we’ll still be sitting here stinky and sweaty when the boys show up. And then we’ll have to deal with angry Bianca.” She disappeared behind into the flap of the tent. After a couple seconds, the sides of the tent started to shake as she jumped on Bianca to get her to wake up. Shrieking followed almost immediately. “What do you mean they’ll be here in an hour! I don’t have enough time to get ready.”

“Seriously, how can she be so obsessed with what she looks like? He’s going to see her in the morning tomorrow.”

“Yeah, but this is different. If she wakes up with him, it’s special or something. If he shows up and she’s not primped, it’s disgusting.” Cordelia twirled a finger around her temple. “Her logic is severely twisted.”

“Whatever,” Kyle shook her head, “I want a guy who likes me done up, or shlumpy. Let’s get dressed.”

Chapter 4 – Delusions and Secrets

“What’s on your mind, Cord?” Kyle asked pointedly after the car pulled away.

“Where to put the tent, here by the trees or closer to the picnic tables?” Cordelia sidestepped the conversation she suspected was coming. Kyle was by far the most perceptive of her friends.

“Don’t do that.” Kyle flattened out the tent halfway between the trees and the picnic table, “I know Danni is your best friend, but she’s not the only one you can talk to.”

“Nothing to talk about.” She pushed a tent pole through the sleeve on her side of the tent.

“You like Anson, ‘eh?” Kyle didn’t look at Cordelia as she guided the end of the tent pole through to her side.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Cordelia tried to deflect the idea, but the catch in her throat gave her away.

“You don’t have to be ashamed.” The girls pushed the tent into its upright position and Cordelia grabbed the bag of pegs. Handing the hammer to Kyle, she held the one in place.

“I’m not ashamed. But it’s better not to have expectations that might hurt you, or your friends.” Cordi replied quietly. “I’m just being realistic.”

“For someone who’s so smart, sometimes you need a good slap.” They moved to the next peg. Cordelia glanced up with a quizzical look. “You sabotage your feelings for Danni way too often. You’re just as deserving as she is. Even if you don’t think so.”

“It’s not that.” Next peg, “I just don’t want to hurt Danni. She likes him so much, Kyle. And Rayne was right, if he’s interested in any of us, it’s certainly not me.” Kyle opened her mouth to speak, but Cordelia stopped her, “And it’s not because I’m not good enough. It’s because they spent so much time talking. She’s the only one he knows anything about.”

“We know basically nothing about Anson, so how can we know what he likes in a girl?” Kyle insisted. They pounded in the last peg and moved to the tent in the site beside them. “And if I’m not mistaken, you two exchanged a few syllables over pizza. Danni’s not the only person he spoke to.”

“If he’s interested in someone like Robyn, how could he possibly be interested in someone like me? We’re polar opposites.”

“Of course he’s interested in Robyn; he’s a teenage boy. Hell, I’m interested in Robyn.” Cordelia cocked a skeptical eyebrow at Kyle. “Okay, not really. I hate her, but I understand that people might think she’s sexy.”

“She’s a bit trashy for my tastes.” Cordelia chuckled “I like my hotties STD free, thank you very much.”

Kyle choked on her water. “I know you can’t talk to Danni about how you feel, so I’m here whenever you need.”

“Please don’t say anything to Bianca.”

“What you tell your sister is up to you. But if she hasn’t figured it out already, I’d be surprised.” Kyle hooked the hammer on her belt and skipped over to Cordelia. She pulled her into a hug before the other girl could resist. “Just let us love you, okay?” Kyle turned and began moving bags into the tents. “Do you remember that camping trip when Bianca was sure she was going to get eaten by a bear?”

“She wishes I would forget.” Cordelia laughed. She was telling Kyle a story about a family camping trip where her sister refused to come out of the car for an entire day when the other girls returned.

“You guys are master tenters.” Danni admired their work as she stepped out of the car, “We’d still be trying to get these things out of the bags.”

“Why do you think I sent you?” Kyle grinned. “Like I would have left you three in charge of assembling tents. I have no desire to sleep under the stars tonight. Besides, Bianca could never put up a tent with those nails.” She chuckled as her friend swatted her with a perfectly manicured hand.

“It is not my fault I like to look good!”

“There’s a fine line between good and narcissistic!” Cordelia smirked.

“Ooooo, I’ll get you for that!” Laughing, Bianca jumped onto her sister’s back as the other girls began pulling firewood out of the lined trunk, watching the twins grapple playfully with each other.

“Anyone want to go swimming before supper?”

“Sure. I gotta pee. I’ll change in there.” Cordelia pulled her suit and a towel from her bag.

“Yes. Peeing is a thing that needs to happen.” Draining the bottom of her bottle of water, Rayne followed. Soon they were all trooping towards the bathroom together.

“Thank god this place has plumbing. I could not survive for three days without a shower.” Bianca sighed as they stepped through the timber door to the bathroom.

“And there is nothing worse that the smell of an outhouse.” Rayne feigned gagging.

“Sometimes I wonder why I camp with you princesses.” Kyle called from behind her stall door.

“Cause you’re nature women, right?” Bianca called back, “You’d die without a monthly dose of hair dye.” Their chuckles were soon lost in the grunts of squirming into swim suits in the tiny bathroom stalls.

Once at the beach, Kyle and Rayne ran straight to the water, splashing in without hesitation, ignoring the late season chill. Bianca lathered herself in suntan oil, threw on some dark sunglasses and stretched her lean body out on her towel to tan. Cordelia handed a bottle of sunscreen to Danni. After rubbing lotion into the skin above Cordelia’s one piece, she slathered herself. Her pale skin was not a fan of the sun. Adjusting the bottom of her bikini, she headed for the water and left Cordelia on her towel with some thriller novel. Danni joined Kyle and Rayne by the floating dock, treading water as they sat on the edge of the wooden surface.

“Girl, I am always amazed at how long you can do that.” Rayne shook her head “I’m an athlete and I can’t do it.”

“Many, many years of swimming lessons.”

“I don’t see why you don’t try out for the swim team. You would definitely make it.”

“I’d never have time. Between work, school, the design competition in sewing class, and you guys, I have exactly no spare time. Anson’s the only thing I’m willing to work into my schedule.”  Danni laughed.

“Any idea what you’re going to make me strut around in?” Kyle prodded. “I’m your model. I need to know what I need to tone.”

“No ideas yet. I have until the end of term, so I’m still planning. This may be the coolest school assignment ever.”

“You’ll do great. You’ve never let me down.” Rayne smiled, adjusting the bikini Danni had made for her the year before. The bright pink highlighted her athletic body.

Smiling, Danni jack-knifed her body and slipped beneath that surface, ending the conversation without having to admit her complete creative block. Coming back up for air, she saw Rayne swimming towards shore where Cordelia was waving a cell phone.

“What’s up?”

“Rayne’s mom.”

“Ah” Rayne’s mom was not good at loosening the reigns on her daughter. This would be just the first of what was sure to be several calls this weekend. Danni turned back to the dock. “Are you really okay with Zack coming tomorrow?”

Kyle shrugged “I’ve been avoiding him for months, but part of me knows I want us to get back together. Then there’s that other part, the part of me that wants to throttle him.”

“Robyn?”

“Yeah, that’s the biggest thing. I know that you keep telling me it’s nothing, but for me it is. It’s something.” Her tone was flat. Kyle always covered her pain with nonchalance.

“Kyle, it’s okay that you have, you know, emotions.” Danni punched her in the shoulder. “Is he worth giving up because of a girl you don’t even like?”

 

“I just don’t know what he’s thinking.” Kyle tapped her fingers against the dock. “He went from wanting to be super serious with me to having the sexcapades with Robyn. What the hell is that about?”

“Zack’s the only person that knows that answer.” Danni hoisted herself out of the water and onto the dock. “This is shaping up to be a weekend of conversations and relationships. By Monday, we’ll both have boyfriends again.”

Kyle took a deep, composing breath, before slipping into the water. “I think I need something from the ice cream family. You?”

“Nope, some of us have to work for our figures.” Danni chuckled.

“Your loss” With a grin Kyle swam off, her yellow suit shimmering beneath the surface. Stretching out on the wooden surface, Danni closed her eyes, revelling in the heat of an Indian summer.

*****  *****  *****

Bianca rolled over on her towel and watched her twin. “Good book?”

“It’s intense.” Cordelia flipped a page without glancing at her sister.

“You have that I can’t stop reading expression.” Bianca smiled.

“And you have your I need to talk tone.” Cordelia tucked the book under the edge of her towel. “It feels like we no together time anymore.”

“I know. Between Greg, my dance, and your cello, we’re never home at the same time.” She shimmied closer to her sister, resting her head on Cordelia’s knee. “Anything new you want to tell me?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Cordelia reached for her book.

Bianca gently took her hand. “Cordi, you can’t bullshit me. You know that. I know you’re interested in Anson.”

“Damn it. Is there a billboard posted somewhere that I’m unaware of?” Cordelia threw up her hands in frustration.

“What?”

“That’s two of you that have figured it out. I’m usually so good at hiding stuff.”

“Who else?” Bianca ran her fingers against Cordelia’s hand in a familiar gesture of comfort. “Not Danni?”

“God no. Danni’s who I’m keeping it from. Kyle figured it out.” Cordelia leaned into the touch.

“I wondered about that when she sent us away. What are you going to do?”

“Nothing. There’s nothing I want to do about it. Danni is crazy about him, and he likes her back, so what can I do. I’d never try to weasel my way between Danni and a boyfriend. She means too much to me.” She leaned forward until her forehead briefly touched her sister’s, feeling surprisingly upset. “I’ll put it aside and get over it. Just like I do with everything else. I’d never hurt Danni over something as stupid as a guy.”

“Sissy, you’ll never get anywhere if you keep putting Danni first.” Bianca looked over the rim of her sunglasses directly at her sister. “You let her walk over you. She doesn’t always know best.”

“I’ve had this conversation once today. I’m not having it again, B.” Cordelia stared at her sister. “Please don’t make me do this again.”

“Fine. We can drop it, but don’t just give up on this, okay? You’re gorgeous and funny and awesome and at some point, you’re going to have to let yourself be happy. But, I might be biased.”

“You might be.” Cordelia hugged her sister tight as Kyle and Rayne plopped down on the sand with a stack of ice cream sandwiches.

*****  *****  *****

Weaving her arms around Anson’s neck, Danni felt him pull her close. Her chest pressed against his. His bare skin hot against her bikini-clad torso. Standing on the beach in the moonlight was the most romantic thing she’d ever done. Her breath caught in her throat. She couldn’t believe this was actually happening. His head came down to meet hers, his lips soft, pliable, tasting like marshmallows. She was exploring the taste when a wave of cold water slapped her across the face. Bolting into a sitting position, sputtering, she wiped her face.

“What the f….”

“Hey, hey, watch your language.” Kyle laughed from the side of the dock. “There are children present.”

“Why did you do that?”

“I’ve been trying to get your attention. You were too busy day dreaming. What were you thinking about?”

“Anson.” Sighing, Danni leaned back against the warm wood of the floating platform.

“You really like him don’t you?” Kyle asked. Her apprehension lost on Danni.

“I do.”

“Are you sure this isn’t just rebound feelings?”

“What do you mean?” Danni shaded her eyes against the sun glinting off the water.

“You know what I mean.” Kyle cocked an eyebrow in a look Danni knew all too well.

“What? You mean Jon?” Danni asked. “We broke up like a month ago. That’s plenty of time.”

“Yes, but you dated for a year. It takes longer to get over than that.”

“It should, but Anson has totally eclipsed any feelings I ever had for Jon. Besides, Jon never fit with you guys. Anson would instantly mesh.”

“So, what will you do if he’s interested in someone else? If Zack was wrong about ‘reading his cousin’?”

“Since no one else is interested in him, I’ll just have to make him like me.” Laughing, she slipped into the water beside Kyle. “Let’s go make some supper. I’m famished.”

 

Opening the cooler, Cordelia pulled out an assortment of vegetables and handed them to Bianca as Danni pulled out the cutting boards and knives. Rayne placed the grill in the flames and began browning the meat for spaghetti sauce while Kyle set up speakers. The music settled around them as they fell into a synchronized rhythm. They worked in comfortable silence until the food was simmering.

“I am so glad we did this” Rayne sighed, leaning back in a lawn chair, “It’s so relaxing.”

“Cordi, are you just going to hide behind your book all night?” Danni tossed a Smartie at her friend.

“I have like twenty pages left.” Cordelia replied from behind the cover, stirring the pot of sauce, “Give me a second”

“Do what makes you happy, friend.” Kyle answered slyly.

Cordelia’s gaze darted over the top of the cover, shooting an eye roll in her direction. Letting out a breath, she returned to the pages in front of her. Staring at words she’d already read, hiding from the situation with Danni. They’d never been interested in the same guy before. In fact, she had never really been that interested in anyone.

But Anson was different. This was completely uncharted territory. Her stomach did a weird fluttering thing when she saw him. Just thinking about him made her cheeks warm. She pictured herself with Anson, and then Danni with Anson. The choice was so obvious. She didn’t know why she was even thinking about it. Anson was an athlete. Danni was athletic. Her dark hair and light complexion would look amazing with his dark curls and coffee skin. Cordelia knew she didn’t stand a chance. Tears prickled behind her eyes. She blinked quickly, and picked up the pot of noodles.

“These are done. I’m just going to drain them over at the water tap.”

“Hang on, I’ll help you.” Danni hopped up from her chair, catching up with her friend halfway to the washroom “Geeze, what’s the rush dude?”

“You know how I hate overdone noodles.” Cordelia smiled, averting her gaze. “You’re really excited about Anson, aren’t you?”

“Oh Cordi! I am!” She held the strainer over the drain, waiting for Cordelia to dump the noodles. “I hope he’s interested in me.”

“I can’t see why he wouldn’t be, you guys seem pretty similar. He’d be stupid not to like you. And you’d look great together.”

“We totally would wouldn’t we? God, ah! This is so awesome. I thought this would be a crappy year after my break-up with Jon, but things are really starting to look up. And we’re not even a month into the school year. If this is the start, can you imagine the rest?” Danni squealed, dancing around with the spaghetti noodles. “I wish they were coming tonight. I haven’t been this excited about a guy in so long.”

“Well, you’re just going to have to put up with just us girls for the night and see the boy tomorrow.” Cordelia giggled. Pretending to sound put out, she shelved her feelings like a good friend.

“Stop it!” Danni poured the noodles back in the pot. “Of course I want to hang out with you. Like I would ever let some guy come between us.” Laughing, they hurried back to the campground and everyone started piling their plates with food.