Summer Camp Secrets
Kelly Hedges is convinced she’ll be totally friendless all summer. But on the first day of camp, she meets Melissa who turns out to be nice. She’s also terminally boring.
Kelly’s much more interested in Reb and Jennifer, the so-called Evil Twins. How did they get that nickname anyway? And why don’t they like Melissa? And how far will Kelly go to be friends with these ultimate cool girls?
Sunday, June 15
This was definitely going to be the worst summer of my life.
I got out of the car and looked at all the people swarming around. It was mostly parents, but there were some other girls too, and even some brothers who looked as thrilled as I was to be here. Everyone was carrying something, and everyone seemed to know what to do and where to go. Except for us.
I just stood there holding my pillow. Then this woman who seemed to be in charge walked up. She had on a green polo shirt with a little pine tree on it. “I’m Eda Thompson, the camp director. Welcome to Pine Haven!”
My mom smiled with relief, and the two of them started talking. Dad tried to wink at me, but I acted like I had to scratch my knee.
“This is our daughter, Kelly,” my mom said.
“Hi, Kelly.” The director smiled at me, then checked her clipboard. Kelly Hedges, right? And you’re twelve?”
I said yes but it came out all croaky. I cleared my throat. “That’s right.”
She probably thought I didn’t look twelve because I’m so vertically challenged. The director walked over to a group of people wearing green polos just like hers and motioned one of them to follow her back to us.
“This is Rachel Hoffstedder, and she’s your counselor.” Rachel shook hands with Mom and Dad, and then she shook my hand. She looked okay. She had really short dark brown hair and she seemed friendly. And she was pretty vertically challenged herself. “Rachel will take you to your cabin.” Then the director left to say hello to some other unhappy campers.
“Our cabin’s that way.” Rachel pointed up a steep hill. I could kind of see some cabins at the top of the hill, hidden in a bunch of trees. My dad was trying to wrestle my new metallic blue trunk out of the back of the car. The website had said we needed trunks to keep all our stuff in because there wasn’t any place to store luggage.
“Why don’t I get this end?” Rachel grabbed one of the trunk handles before my dad made a complete idiot of himself. Mom had my sleeping bag and tennis racket. I didn’t have anything to carry but my pillow, which was better than nothing. At least it gave me something to hold on to.
We passed a bunch of other campers and parents going up the hill. I could tell some of them were really nervous. But then a lot of them acted like old friends. Girls kept shrieking at each other and hugging. It was beyond stupid to watch. I tried to relax my face and look casual, but my heart was pounding so hard I could feel the pulse in my throat.
What was I thinking when I agreed to this? Did they hypnotize me? Was it one of those weird parental mind control things? How had my parents ever talked me into spending a month at summer camp?
They started talking about camp back in March. They showed me the brochures and the website, and at that time it looked pretty cool. Camp Pine Haven for Girls, located in the scenic mountains of North Carolina. A camping tradition since 1921. Anyway, my best friend Amanda was going to be in Hawaii for two weeks, lying on a beach surrounded by a hundred gorgeous surfers. I figured she could miss me for two weeks after she got back from her dream vacation. In March camp seemed like a good idea. But that was March.
We walked up a dirt path and came to this big stone building with a porch. “That’s Middler Lodge,” said Rachel, and then we turned up another path and climbed a bunch of stone steps that went up yet another hill. There sure were a lot of hills. My dad tried desperately not to pant, because Rachel wasn’t breathing hard at all. She’d told us she was on the hiking staff, so she probably walked about thirty miles a day or something.
By now we were finally at the top of the hill where all the cabins were. There was a really wide dirt path, and all down one side was a long row of cabins. “This is Middler Line, and we’re in Cabin 1A. You guys are in the middle between the Juniors—the little kids—and the Seniors—the oldest girls.”
Rachel pushed open the screen door of the first cabin we came to, and she and my dad stumbled in and plopped my trunk on the floor. They each took a big breath.
“How many girls in each cabin again?” asked Mom.
“Eight, with two counselors. We’re in 1A, Kelly, and that’s 1B.” She waved to the left side of the cabin.
“You’re number one! You’re number one!” Dad chanted. I wanted to hit him with my pillow, but I just looked around at everything.
Rachel laughed at his stupid joke, then spread out her arms. “Well, here it is. Your home away from home.”
I’d seen the cabins in pictures on the website, but that didn’t really give me an accurate view. I wouldn’t be surprised if this cabin was built in 1921. It was all gray wood. The top half of the front and back walls were really just screens. The ceiling had wood beams across it with a couple of bare light bulbs hanging down from them. But the weirdest thing was that there was graffiti all over the walls. Everywhere you looked, you could see where someone had written her name. There wasn’t a blank space of wall anywhere. The website had called the cabins “rustic.” “Primitive” was more like it.
“You’re the first one here, so you get your choice of beds. This is mine, of course.” Rachel pointed to a made-up cot against the wall. I had my choice of one set of bunk beds or two single cots next to them. They all looked uncomfortable. “The bottom bunk has extra shelf space. That’s always a plus.”
“Okay.” I dropped my pillow on the bed.
“Let’s get your bed made,” said Mom. Rachel and my dad stood around looking useless, and I wandered toward the other side of the cabin, which was also full of empty bunks. And then I noticed something.
“Ah, excuse me, but . . . where’s the bathroom?”
“They’re not in the cabins. They’re in another building down the line.”
“You’re kidding.” I crossed my arms and glared at my dad. At home we don’t have to hike to the bathroom.
“Oh, it’s not that bad.” Dad tried not to smile. “It’s like a college dorm. Let’s see the rest of camp before your mom and I take off.”
Just then another counselor and camper came in. Rachel helped them with all the stuff they were carrying. Then she introduced the counselor in 1B, Andrea Tisdale, who she said was a CA—a Counselor Assistant. I’m sure Mom and Dad were glad I didn’t get her, because she was, like, in training or something. She said her activity was tennis. She was a lot taller than Rachel, and her long blond hair was in a ponytail.
As we were leaving, Andrea leaned over to Rachel and kind of whispered, “No sign of the Evil Twins yet, huh?”
Rachel laughed and shook her head. Evil Twins? What was that supposed to mean? My heart skipped three beats.
Rachel showed us the bathrooms. They were in a building that looked kind of like the other cabins, except it was larger and had no screens. One side had a bunch of sinks, and the other side had a bunch of stalls. “This is ‘Solitary.’ And the showers are over there.” She pointed to another building across from the bathrooms.
“Solitary?” I asked. I watched a granddaddy longlegs crawl down the wall of one stall.
Rachel smiled. “Yeah, that’s what we call the bathrooms at Pine Haven.”
“Why?” I mean, seriously. Why not just call it a bathroom?
“I’m not sure. Maybe because you’re supposed to be by yourself but it’s a communal toilet, so you’re not really or . . .” She just looked at me and shrugged.
Whatever. I know you’re supposed to “rough it” at camp and all, but actually giving up private bathrooms, hairdryers, and air-conditioned houses with no crawly things—hey, this wasn’t going to be easy. How long was I stuck here for? Four weeks—twenty-eight days. All right. Twenty-eight and counting.
After that Mom and Dad hung out for a while, looking at the camp. New campers were arriving all the time. I kept wondering about the Evil Twins. What was that all about? And were they in my cabin? The counselors had laughed about it, but that name didn’t sound funny to me. I looked at all the strange faces around me. Who were the evil ones?
Then we heard a loud bell ringing—a real bell that a counselor was ringing by pulling a rope to make it clang.
“Lunchtime, Kelly, I’ll see you in the dining hall,” said Rachel.
Okay, so now my parents had to leave. My heart was beating about two hundred beats a minute. Dad gave me a bear hug and reminded me to write lots of long letters.
“We’ll miss you so much!” said Mom. I could tell she was trying not to cry, which made me want to walk off without even saying good-bye.
“I’ll be okay.” My voice sounded like somebody else’s. I hugged Mom really fast and then walked torward the dining hall without ever looking back. I could barely see it through the blur, but I blinked enough so that none of the tears rolled out.
Okay. So far, so good. I’d managed to say good-bye without crying. Much.
Of all the books in this series, this one is the most autobiographical. It’s also the first one I wrote, well before the others.
The first summer I was going to camp, my friend Kathy wanted to go with me, but there weren’t any openings. (She did join me the following year.) So I had to go alone, and I didn’t know one single person. I was terrified I wouldn’t make any friends, and for about two days, I was homesick and miserable. But then I started having fun. And I quickly made new friends.
But there was one girl in our cabin everyone picked on. Her personality was nothing like Melissa’s, and it was never clear why we had turned on her. Unlike in the book, there was no one single leader. And we didn’t play any of the same pranks on her that Melissa experiences. But we were mean, the way girls can be. What I remember most is that I did nothing to stop the way we treated her. I was just so relieved it wasn’t happening to me.
I’ve often said that I wrote this book to make up for the way I acted that summer. I wanted Kelly to behave better than I did, to get to a point where she said, no more.