They had been playing I Never for almost an hour and Danni was starting to get pissed off at Anson. He wasn’t responding to any of her advances. He didn’t seem any more interested in her than in anyone else. The one time she had let her fingers slide into his, he had casually switched drinking hands. He was always giving Cordi suggestion when she couldn’t come up with anything interesting to ask. When it was her turn again, Danni’s question was out of her mouth before she seriously thought of the ramifications.
“I’ve never kissed someone of the opposite sex.” She knew Cordelia had never kissed a boy before. She would be the only person who didn’t drink. Even Blaine had kissed a girl before. When Anson saw how naïve Cordelia really was, he was sure to turn his attention back where it belonged – to Danni. When Cordi lifted the bottle to her lips and drank, Danni got angry. “Cordi you can’t lie just because you’re embarrassed.” Kyle paused halfway into her seat as she and Zack returned to the circle.
“I’m not lying.” Cordelia replied very quietly.
“Oh come on. I know you’re lying.” Danni scoffed “Who’s this supposed boy you’ve been doing all this kissing with?”
Cordelia’s face turned red and she began to chew on the side of her lip. “I’d rather not say.”
“Why, because he doesn’t exist? Because you made him up so you didn’t have to be embarrassed in front of all the guys?”
“Danni, you’re going to want to let this go.” Kyle interjected from her seat, her fingers intertwined with Zack’s between the two chairs.
“Stay out of this Kyle. You’re not allowed to lie during I Never.”
Before Kyle could respond, Cordelia took control of the conversation. “Danniella. I’m not lying. And seriously, it’s not okay for you to act like this.”
“Excuse me?” Danni turned back towards her friend. “It’s not okay for you to lie.”
“She’s not lying.” Anson spoke up from his chair. “She’s just trying not to hurt your damn feelings.” Anson pulled his arm from the side of his chair to show his fingers intertwined with Cordi’s.
Danni’s mouth fell open, dumbfounded. Thoughts raced through her mind as she reviewed the events of the past few days. Everyone, including Cordi, had reassured her that Anson was interested in her. That they would make a perfect couple. Cordelia was her best friend. She would never do this. She would never betray her like this. It must be some kind of joke. “Ha ha. Good one guys.” She chuckled, but as she looked at the faces around the firelight, she saw that this was no joke. Everyone was looking at their hands, or the ground, or the sky, anywhere but at her. And no one looked surprised. “What is going on here? Did everyone know but me?”
“Not exactly. But we kind of had an idea.” Blaine replied.
“Rayne? When we were sitting here, waiting for them to show up, did you not tell me that Anson was obviously interested in me.”
“I did. And that’s really what I thought, but then Caleb told me about Anson’s feelings for Cordi. And, well… I just didn’t get a chance to say anything.”
“Caleb! You knew. You’re my fucking brother and you don’t say anything?”
“I tried to Danni, but you didn’t want to listen.”
“Danni, do we have to talk about this here? In front of everyone? Can’t we go talk privately?” Cordi asked quietly from her seat. “This is about us.”
“Why do we need to talk privately? Everyone already knew. Everyone except me anyway. Obviously, you didn’t care enough to tell me yourself. You must have wanted to humiliate me. You’re going to let some guy we hardly know come between us?”
“You’re the one who’s letting this come between us.” Cordelia leaned forward, her hands wrapped around her drink. “Before we’ve even had a chance to talk about it. It doesn’t have to be this way.”
“Of course it does. You knew how I felt. You validated my feelings. You could have told me how you felt. But you never do. Nice time to decide to step up to the plate, Cordelia.”
“That’s enough, Danni.” Bianca pushed against Greg’s restraining hand. “You have no right to speak to my sister that way. She was trying to protect your feelings. And she didn’t know how Anson felt about her. Besides, you were so caught up in the look-at-me-look-at-me game that you play that you missed the fact that everyone else knew. Everyone. We all tried to get you to back off without hurting your feelings.”
“Oh shut it, Bianca. Like you could recognize that other people have feelings. You’re such a narcissist. She doesn’t need you to protect her. This is about me and Cordelia.” Danni couldn’t remember ever being this angry before.
“You’re making it into so much more than that, Danni.” Cordelia sighed “Why can’t you just be happy for me?”
“Happy for you? I don’t understand how you got the guy. You. Over me?”
“Well, you’re kind of making that pretty obvious.” Anson’s voice was filled with disgust. “I thought you were a pretty cool girl, even after all the warnings I got about your obsessive behaviour, but you’re obviously not that person.”
“Who the fuck are you to judge me?” She spat back at him, “You’re here for less than a week and you destroy everything. Everything!” She threw her beer bottle and stormed off, not waiting to see where it landed. No one tried to stop her. She now understood the looks that Kyle and Cordelia had been exchanging all weekend.
She didn’t know where she was going. She just knew she needed to not be around those people anymore. Not to have to deal with those betrayers. Those bitches who called themselves her friends. No real friend would steal a guy right out from under your nose.
She walked for what felt like hours, and eventually had to slow down in order to catch her breath. She looked at my watch and saw that it was only 2:00, only 15 minutes had passed since she stormed out of the campsite. Looking around, she found herself near the beach where they’d been swimming earlier in the day. She plopped down on the sand and put her face in her hands. Unexpectedly, tears started streaming down her face, and before she knew it, she was crying so hard she could hardly catch her breath. When she finally looked up, she saw her brother sitting beside her.
“Go away, Caleb.” She refused to look at him.
“I thought you might want someone to talk to.”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Danni, why are you being like this? How drunk are you?”
“This has nothing to do with being drunk. You knew and you didn’t tell me. Why should I confide in you now?”
“Because I tried to tell you without hurting your feelings. Without making things worse. But as usual you were so caught up in your little world you couldn’t see what was so clear to the rest of us.”
“So everyone decided it would be better for me to find out this way?”
“Danniella.” His tone changed from compassionate to firm, “You only found out this way because you tried to embarrass your best friend to impress a guy.”
“Sure, sure, make this all my fault. I’m sure everyone else is too.” Danni sniffed and wiped her nose with the back of her hand. “Poor little Cordelia. Can’t ever take care of herself.”
Caleb held himself still for a moment before responding. “If you’d just came back and talked to Cordi and apologized to everyone, everything would go back to normal.”
“No it won’t. I’m not apologizing. I didn’t do anything wrong.” She brushed away her remaining tears and crossed her arms across her chest.
“Danni! Come on. You’re making a fool of yourself.”
“I didn’t do anything wrong.” She held firm.
“Well, if that’s how you really feel.” Caleb stood and brushed the sand from his legs, “Then I guess you’ll drive back with me tomorrow. Everyone else will divide up into the other cars. I hope you change your mind, Danni, cause this right now. This decision you are making is going to change everything for you.” He turned his back and started to walk away from her. He stopped a few steps away. “You may be my sister, but that doesn’t mean I have to take your side.” She pursed her lips and glared at his back. She was the wronged party here. Why couldn’t anyone else see that? She stood up and headed to the lifeguard tower at the far end of the beach. Climbing up the ladder, she slipped through the door and curled up on the floor to sleep.
***** ***** *****
Caleb made his way back along the path towards the campsite, thanking the camping gods that somehow, they had not gotten any complaints about the noise level. No one was sober enough to drive, so they were stuck in this unbelievably awkward situation until morning. The last thing they needed was to have to deal with the rangers as well. He thought about his sister and her reaction to Anson and Cordelia. For the first time in many, many years, he was glad they had no blood relation. He was embarrassed at her behaviour. Embarrassed for her and by her. This hysterical person was not the sister he loved. He hoped that it really was the alcohol talking and that once morning rolled around, she would realize she was being foolish.
He stepped back into the campsite. The wall of tension that had been mounting since Danni stormed off was palpable. Everyone looked at him, behind him, waiting for Danni to come out of the woods. Cordelia looked the most expectant. She wanted her friend back, but she also didn’t want to have to give up the first decision she’d ever made for herself. She was so torn. Danni was the person she talked to when she needed to make big decisions.
“She’s not coming back.” Caleb stated matter of factly.
“Should I go talk to her?” Cordelia leaned forward, elbows on her knees.
“No.” Caleb sank back into his seat. “That would definitely be the wrong thing to do. Unless you’re willing to say that you were wrong and she’s totally in the right. She’s not willing to hear anything else at the moment.”
“Excuse me?” Anson’s eyebrows rose to impressive levels. “I know she’s your sister, but does is she fucking serious? She’s awful entitled for someone who just made a complete ass of herself.”
“You don’t have to tell me that. She seriously thinks that she was totally in the right. That the rest of us are wrong and should apologize to her.” He raised his hand to avoid the onslaught of anger. “I have no idea what’s going on in her head.”
Cordelia leaned back in her chair and contemplated the events of the last few hours. She couldn’t help but wonder if she was being a bad friend. Was she wrong? Was it wrong to put herself first? Never having been in this situation before, she wasn’t entirely sure how she was supposed to be acting. She felt a seed of guilt slide down her throat and lodge itself firmly in her stomach. She pulled away from Anson by only a fraction of an inch, and immediately his hand reached over to cover hers.
“Please, don’t.” She said quietly. “I just… I just need a minute to think. It’s not you. This doesn’t change anything.” She squeezed his hand and pulled hers into her lap.
“I think we’re forgetting something more important than Danni’s temper tantrum.” Kyle’s voice was calm in a sea of tension.
“What’s that?” Rayne looked towards her.
“Cordelia.” She turned “Are you alright?”
“I…” she paused for a moment, not sure if she should voice her concerns. “Am I being a bad friend?” Voices erupted from around the dying campfire, all throwing her support.
“I don’t want platitudes, guys.” She held up a hand to quiet them.
“I think it’s about time we all went to bed.” Anson suggested. “More has happened today than any of us could have expected. We all just need some time.” He stood, held out a hand to Cordelia and headed away from the campfire. No one tried to stop them.
Anson held on until they were hidden from the group by a small stand of trees. Once alone, he slipped his arms around her shoulders and pulled her close, unsure how she was going to respond now that they were alone. He’d felt her distancing herself and wanted to talk to her privately before those feelings spawned into something bigger. He waited for her to speak first.
Cordelia leaned into the crook of Anson’s shoulder, relishing his warmth against her face. She fully expected herself to cry at any moment; that was just how she reacted to things, but the tears didn’t come. While part of her was still feeding off the guilt of having hurt Danni, another part was inappropriately happy. As she thought about the moment with Anson on the sand dune, a wide smile spread across her face. She tried to bury herself further into Anson’s shoulder, but only succeeded in making herself giggle.
Anson felt Cordelia’s body twitch and was sure that she was about to break into tears. He moved her face so that he could tell her everything was going to be alright and found her on the verge of laughter. Her smile was so wide that he couldn’t help but return it. “So we’re all right then?”
“God, no. Not even a little bit.” She shook her head, not diminishing her grin at all, “but if I don’t look at the happy side this, I’m going to decide Danni’s right. And I’m going to go talk to her and let her talk me out of what I actually want. Like I always do.” She didn’t give him a chance to provide affirmations of her feelings. She rose up on her toes and pulled his face into hers. “And I won’t let you talk me into anything either. This has to be my decision.” She kissed him the way she’d wanted to earlier that afternoon. Hands exploring each other’s bodies. When Anson’s tongue brushed against her bottom lip, Cordelia felt a shiver of excitement run up her spine. She wanted to be with him in a way she hadn’t known she could want. She was feeling things that her friends had been talking about for years. She pulled him towards her, ran her fingers under the hem of his shirt and pressed them against his stomach. As her thumb began to circle the skin around his bellybutton, Anson pulled Cordelia into a hug, his lips against her ear.
“We’re have to stop.” He breathed.
“Why?” She felt a rush of disappointment
“You know how you asked me to respect your decisions on how this goes? And that we’ll do things as they feel comfortable for both of us? I need you to do the same thing for me. And besides, I don’t want you to make any of your decisions based on my physical prowess.” he chuckled a little. He could feel the grin spread across her face.
She laughed and they pulled apart. “I guess we should go to bed.” She slipped her hand into his and headed back through the trees. They stopped in front of her tent.
“Do you want me as a heating blanket tonight?” He wrapped his arms around her.
“As delightful as that sounds, it’s probably best if we do separate tents.” She felt his shoulders slump. “First, because you know, it’s been a couple hours of whatever this is.” She raised an eyebrow and smirked. He grinned back at her. “Second, when Danni comes back to go to sleep, I don’t think walking in on us sleeping together will help the situation at all.”
“Hmmm, I knew you were smart. I like that in a girl.” He kissed her cheek before pulling away and heading to his own tent.