Summer Camp Secrets
Kayla Tucker hates being stuck at camp while her family is busy moving. From the first day, she’s shocked by how quickly rumors spread through camp, and soon she is one of the victims.
Kayla tries to ignore all the gossip, but she and her new friends Laurel-Ann and Shelby think they know who’s responsible.
Then Kayla realizes that discovering the real source isn’t all that easy. Untangling this web of rumors may take the whole summer.
Sunday, June 15
At least this was only temporary. I was stuck here at this summer camp for four weeks, and then we would move to the new house. I could put up with just about anything for four weeks.
It could be worse. I could have a horrible earache right now. It could be raining. I could be stuck at math camp instead of just plain old summer camp. A math camp where they only served lima beans for dinner every day. So this was better than being stuck at math camp with an earache while eating lima beans in the middle of a rainstorm. That cheered me up just a little bit.
As I looked around, I realized I was the only person standing still while all around me, everyone was moving. Climbing up and down the big hill in front of us. Waving to someone in the crowd. Asking questions or giving directions. Carrying suitcases, pillows, sleeping bags.
A car pulled up and even before it came to a stop, a girl with long brown hair threw open the back door and jumped out. Two other girls ran up and hugged her. “What cabin are you in? Which counselor did we get?” At least some people were happy to be here.
A long line of cars was slowly creeping up the gravel road, and I watched scenes like this over and over. Sometimes the girl in the car got out slowly and looked around. No one ran up to her car and screamed and hugged her, so I could tell she was a new girl, like me. Her parents would stand there for a few seconds with a lost look until one of the counselors in the green shirts would say hello and give them instructions about what to do and where to go.
It reminded me of the time our family was in New York City on vacation, and we went to Grand Central Station and watched all the people coming and going in the big lobby.
But this was North Carolina, not New York. And we weren’t in the city any more, that was for sure. I couldn’t believe all the nature I was seeing for the first time. Mama and Daddy put Samantha and me on the plane this morning, and as we were coming in for the landing, all I could see were green mountains, trees, and rivers everywhere.
Nearby the camp director and a big group of counselors were busy welcoming parents and girls. A counselor in a green shirt noticed I was by myself and walked up to me. “Hey! Can I help you find anything?”
“Oh, no thanks. I told my little sister to meet me here after she moved into her cabin.”
We were standing under some shade trees in front of the dining hall. Behind us was a wooden footbridge across a stream, and hidden behind some trees was a little cabin that looked like it came right out of pioneer times, with a couple of rocking chairs on the porch and flowered curtains hanging in the open windows.
She glanced at the wooden nametag I was wearing around my neck. “Well, Kayla, it’s nice to meet you. I’m Libby. If you have any questions, just let me or one of the other counselors know, okay?”
“Thanks. Actually . . . is there a piano somewhere that I could practice on a little sometimes?”
“Oh, yeah. There’s a piano in each of the lodges. You can go in there any time during free time and practice.”
“Thanks! Nice to meet you, Libby,” I said.
She walked off to talk to some other people. Then I noticed Samantha far away at the top of the hill, and when she saw me waving, she started running in my direction. The dozens of beaded braids in her hair were all bouncing as she ran. I’d worn my hair like that when I was younger, but I’d gotten a short haircut for the summer.
Three other girls were running with Samantha. By the time they got to me, they were all out of breath. “This place is so cool!” Samantha announced.
I couldn’t keep from smiling. “You like it?”
“I don’t like it. I love it! And these are my friends. We’re all in the same cabin. Junior Cabin Two. Gracie, Mary Claire, and Alyssa—meet my sister Kayla. She’s twelve. That makes her a Middler.” We’d just found out that there were three different ages groups here at Pine Haven.
Alyssa, the one with big teeth and long, dark hair hanging in her eyes, looked me up and down. “Huh. You look older than twelve.”
“Well, I’ll be thirteen in September,” I told her. “Did you get your sheets unpacked and your bed made?” I asked Samantha.
She nodded. “I picked out a top bunk. And I thought there weren’t any bathrooms, but there are. Only they’re not inside the cabins. There’s this other building with faucets on one side and bathroom stalls on the other.”
“We found out the name for the bathrooms is ‘Solitary.’ Isn’t that weird?” asked Gracie, the smallest girl, with bright red hair. She was holding Samantha’s hand.
“And we’re the first ones to get moved into our cabin. Every cabin has eight girls and two counselors. So four more girls aren’t even here yet. But the four of us are already friends, and we just met ten minutes ago!”
Samantha was so excited she bounced up and down on her toes. I was glad she was fitting right in, but there was something I wanted to warn her about.
“Can I talk to you for one second?” I reached for her arm and led her down the path a little ways.
“Now what?” she groaned. “My friends are waiting for me.”
I sighed. “I want you to have fun here and everything, but remember one thing, okay? We’re only at Camp Pine Haven for a short time. Then we move to the new house.”
It wasn’t the first time we’d moved, and it probably wouldn’t be the last. I just didn’t want Samantha getting all attached to these girls she might never see again.
Samantha’s mouth opened in amazement, and her forehead wrinkled up. “What do you mean, a short time? We’re here for a whole month!”
“I know. A month sounds like a long time, but it’ll go by fast,” I warned her. I wanted to remind her that practically as soon as she made these friends, she’d be saying good-bye to them and starting all over again.
“I’m glad you’re meeting some other girls, but . . . .”
“But what?” She glared at me with her dark brown eyes.
What was I supposed to tell her? Don’t bother to make friends because we’re just passing through? You think these girls are your new best friends, but next year you might not even remember what they look like?
“But don’t forget that I’m your sister, and I’m your real best friend,” I said finally. I tried to hug her, but she slipped out of my arms and danced backwards a few steps.
“Okay. Whatever!” she said, shaking her head and making her braids bounce. She didn’t like it when I got too affectionate with her.
She ran back to Gracie and grabbed her hand. “Come on. Let’s go explore the rest of the camp.” And she was off with her new friends without looking back.
I just hoped she wouldn’t be too upset when camp was over. Friends come and go, but family is forever. That was one thing I’d learned from all the times we’ve had to move. Maybe Samantha would learn that lesson soon. The sooner she figured that out, the better off she’d be.
I hadn’t met one single person yet, and I was fine with that. It wouldn’t be that hard to go without friends for a month. I could put up with just about anything for a month.
Except maybe an earache and lima beans.
All I had to do to convince my Aladdin editor about this storyline was to say, “What if rumors were spreading around camp?” and she was immediately hooked. The biggest challenge I had with this book wasn’t coming up with rumors. Oh no, that part was easy. It was coming up with rumors that would pass the censors.
I thought about the rumors that had gone around my junior high: “Janie stuffs her bra.” “Beth french kissed Brad.” (Truly scandalous since Brad was Rachel’s boyfriend!) Each rumor I suggested got vetoed. I even enlisted my nine-year-old niece for help. “Can you think of anything, any rumors you’ve heard at school recently?” She was quiet for a minute. “Well, nothing that would be appropriate.” Exactly my problem! The rumors I did finally use for the book were squeaky clean, and to my mind, kinda boring.
The other inspiration behind this book is the way Kayla tries to make a clean break from her old friends after her family’s recent move. I had a similar experience the couple of times I had to move when I was growing up. I found it easier to focus on my new friends and not try to keep in touch with old friends. I later regretted letting some close friends slip away from me and wished I’d stayed in contact with them. But thanks to social media, I’ve been able to reconnect with many old friends from my childhood.