Summer Camp Secrets

Friends Fornever

Friends Fornever cover
Darcy Bridges is so excited to spend her third summer at camp with her BFF Nicole. But this summer, things aren’t the same.
Darcy’s family life is much happier now than when she and Nicole first met. Now Nic seems almost mad that things are going so well for Darcy.
It doesn’t help that their friends Sarah and Whitney are also having a major friendship crisis. While Darcy tries to give Sarah advice, she has to figure out how to keep from losing her own best friend.

Chapter 2

I felt like I was going to explode as we drove down the shady, tree-lined roads toward Pine Haven. This summer camp hidden away in the green, wooded mountains of North Carolina just so happened to be one of my favorite places on the planet. All year long, I’d been dreaming about this day. I even had a count-down clock on my blog. When I’d set it up, there were 286 days till camp started. One by one, I’d waited for all those days to tick down.

I tried my phone one last time, but it still couldn’t get service, so I gave up and handed it over to Mom. It didn’t matter anyway; I was sure that Nicole was already at camp waiting for me.

When at last we saw the wooden sign by the entrance, I actually screamed out loud. “We’re here! We’re here!”

“Try to show a little enthusiasm, won’t you?” Paul chuckled. Last year, he’d come along with Mom to drop me off, so he knew the whole routine.

I gripped the seat and stared out the window, soaking in everything I could—the lake, the tennis courts, the archery range, the path through the woods that led to the riflery range. Senior Lodge, the dining hall, Crafts Cabin, even the infirmary next to the camp office was a wonderful sight. It all looked exactly the same!

“Everything looks so beautiful!” If I had to describe Pine Haven in one word, it would be green—green woods, green grass, a lake shimmering green from all the trees surrounding it. Deep, lush green everywhere I looked.

Mom slowed the van to a crawl as we got to the main part of camp. I saw familiar faces everywhere I looked. As soon as Mom stopped the car, I threw open the door and jumped out.

Lunch had just ended and everyone was coming out of the dining hall.

“Darcy! Darcy!” I heard people screaming my name from all different directions. All at once I was surrounded by Boo Bauer, Abby Harper, Amber Cummings, Jordan Abernathy, and Molly Chapman.

“Omigosh, it’s so good to see you!”

“What cabin are you in?”

“When did you get here?”

We were all hugging and talking at the same time. Then out of the crowd I saw Nicole trying to push through everyone to get to me. “Hey, back off! She’s my best friend!” Nicole shouted, and everyone laughed and let her squeeze through.

Nicole and I hugged and bounced up and down. “I thought you’d never get here! We got our request—we’re in the same cabin again!” she screamed at me.

“We are? Thank God! Who else is with us? Who are our counselors?”

The whole group of us started up the hill. Nicole and I were in Middler Cabin 3 with Libby Sheppard and Jamie Young as our counselors, but none of the rest of the group was in our cabin. During the past two summers, we’d all been together at one point.

“Has your mom left already?” Nic asked me when we were halfway up the hill.

“Omigosh! I completely forgot about them! I kinda abandoned them the second we got here.”

Nicole and I left the group and ran back down the hill to the road where Paul was unpacking my stuff from the rooftop carrier. Mom stood beside him, shading her eyes and trying to find me in the crowd.

“Darcy!” Mom exclaimed. “Can you please stay with us? You need to carry some things too, you know. Hi, Nicole. You’ve grown a couple of inches!”

Nicole grabbed my sleeping bag. I carried my duffel and let Mom and Paul get my trunk.

“Sarah Bergman and Whitney Carrington are both in our cabin, but everyone else is new,” Nicole told me as we walked back up the hill.

We couldn’t stop talking about who was in which cabin, who hadn’t come back this year, and which of our old friends Nicole had already seen. By the time we got to Cabin 3, I felt halfway caught up on everything.

“See, I saved the singles for us,” said Nic, pointing to the two cots that were side by side next to a set of bunk beds. She’d already made her bed with the same pink and red polka dot sheets she had last year.

“Perfect!” I tossed my duffel on the empty cot next to hers. “It’ll be easier for us to talk after lights out.”

It was a madhouse inside the cabin, the way Opening Day always is, with everyone meeting each other, bringing in luggage, and unpacking their stuff. Libby was busy talking to my parents, and I gave Whitney a big hug. She was on Side B with Jamie and three new campers. Whitney was already giving them all a briefing on some Pine Haven traditions. Then I met Patty Nguyen, the new girl on Side A.

Totally unexpectedly I had a sudden rush of . . . I guess it was homesickness. Only it wasn’t for home; it was for the way things were last year with our old cabin. Sure, there were old friends around, but it was a different mix of people from last year.  And there were four new people. I just wished everything could be exactly like it was last year.

“I’m on the swimming staff, and my co-counselor Jamie is in charge of the riflery range,” Libby was telling Mom and Paul. I could tell my parents liked Libby right away. She was really mature; after all, she’s twenty-two, definitely one of the older counselors at Pine Haven. Plus, she’s got a smile that wins everyone over as soon as they meet her.

I knew Mom wanted to make my bed for me, but I could do it myself. “You guys really don’t need to stick around. I know you have a long drive back,” I told them.

“And don’t let the door hit us on the way out, huh?” Paul said with a laugh. “Do us a favor, okay? Lie to us and tell us you’ll miss us?” He put his arm around my shoulders and gave me a squeeze.

I hugged him back. “You know I will. I’m just so excited to finally be here!”

Mom gave me a big hug and kiss. “Remember—you promised us a minimum of two letters a week.”

“I know. I promise. And you guys send me lots of emails too. Especially if you have any big news.” I smiled knowingly at her.

Paul gave me one last kiss. “We love you, kiddo. Have a great time.”

“I love you guys, too. Bye!” I walked out the door with them and waved as they walked down Middler Line. I was a little sad to see them go, but I could hardly wait to have my first long conversation with Nic.

When I went back inside, she was sitting on her cot, giving me the look I knew so well—one eyebrow raised, one corner of her mouth twisted down in a frown.

“What’s up?” I plopped down on the end of her cot. With my parents out of the way, Libby now focused on helping Patty make up her bunk.

“Paul. Your new ‘dad.'” Nicole made quotation marks in the air with her fingers. “All that hugging and kissing and ‘we love you, kiddo’? Darcy, how can you stand it?” She grabbed my arm sympathetically. “Who does he think he is?”

“Oh come on, Nic. He is my stepfather now, you know.”

“Exactly. With the emphasis on step. Is he going for a Father of the Year Award, or something? Richard never acts like that with me, thank God. And he and Mom have been married for three years.”

“Paul’s just the huggy type,” I explained. “I don’t mind it. He’s not my father, but he’s still a member of the family.”

“Wow, he didn’t waste any time, did he? He and your mom have been married—what? Three months? And now you’re all one big happy family?” Nicole rolled her eyes like she couldn’t believe Paul would be so bold.

“It’s four months, and yeah, we are one big happy family. You say that like it’s a bad thing.” I couldn’t believe it! Here Nicole and I were, together for the first time in six months, and we were. . .not exactly fighting, but close.

Nic shook her head and smiled. She must’ve been thinking the same thing about where this conversation was going, because now her tone was completely different. “It’s so great to finally see you! You’re already tan.  And your hair—I love it longer.”

The tan I couldn’t do much about. Blake and I both have Mom’s Italian complexion. My hair had been short last summer, but I’ve been letting it grow. It’s dark brown and it curls like crazy, but the longer it gets, the more it straightens out. I’ve always envied Nic’s pencil-straight caramel-colored hair. She can wear it up, down, in braids, or a ponytail, which was how she had it today.

“Thanks. Cute earrings,” I said, looking at the tiny hearts in her ears. “Hey, those look familiar. Did I give those to you?”

Nicole laughed and touched her ear lobes. “Not exactly. You left them at my house when you came for New Year’s Eve, remember? I was going to mail them to you but I never got around to it. Then I planned to bring them to camp, but I was so afraid I’d forget them, that I stuck them in. Want ’em back?”

“Don’t worry about it right now.” We both laughed. Last summer, I’d come home with half of Nic’s clothes in my trunk and she had a bunch of mine. We swap back and forth so much we sometimes forget whose is what.

“Are you trying to torture me or something?” Nicole asked. “Ten minutes we’ve been together and you still haven’t told me your big secret.”

“OH! Sorry, I was totally distracted. But first, I need to go to Solitary. Come with me.”

We took off out the door to the bathrooms in the building between Cabins 3 and 4. I wanted to talk to Nicole in private without everyone else hearing us. I went to one of the faucets and washed my hands.

“Hey, this reminds me of when we shaved our legs for the first time.” Last summer, Nic and I bought plastic razors and a can of shaving cream at the camp store and then shaved in this room. Instead of sinks, Solitary has long troughs all along the walls, so we had to stand at the trough with one leg hooked over the edge so we could reach the faucets. Afterwards, we had a massive shaving cream fight. Mom was not thrilled when she found out I’d shaved. She thought eleven was too young.

“Yeah, great memory.” Nicole held up both hands like she was about to choke me. “Will you tell me already?”

I grabbed a paper towel from the dispenser, then tossed it into the trash barrel. “Okay. I’ve been absolutely dying to tell you. Mom and Paul have been talking about having a baby!”

Nicole gasped. “Oh no! That’s horrible! You’ve got to stop them.”

My mouth fell open. “What? Are you kidding me? I am so excited I could scream! It’s incredible! It’s amazing! I’m going to be a big sister!”

Nic crossed her arms and glared at me. “You’re already a big sister.”

“Blake doesn’t count. Well, I guess he counts but it’s not like I remember him as a baby. A baby, Nicky! We’re going to have a sweet, precious, adorable little baby in our family!”

“Precious? Adorable? Do you have any idea how much babies cry? Sweet? Wait’ll you get a whiff of the first dirty diaper.” Eyebrow up, corner of the mouth down.

“Oh, don’t be so negative! Every time I go to the mall, I go straight to the baby clothes section. I hope it’s a girl! What do you think of Vanessa? Or Madeline? But a boy would be fine too. Colton. Don’t you think that’s a cool name? And then there’s the nursery to decorate . . . .”

“Yeah, if it’s a girl, you’ll probably have to share your room with the squealing little darling.”

“Who cares! The only thing is”—I grabbed Nic’s arm—”Mom’s worried about whether she can get pregnant at her age, and if there’ll be any complications. I heard them talking about it.” Those worries absolutely terrified me.

“Oh, good point. Maybe it won’t even happen.”

“Nicole! How can you say that?” I was hoping she’d comfort me.

“Darcy, you do need to be realistic. Things might not be all sunshine and roses.”

“But they might,” I insisted. “Mom didn’t have any trouble with Blake or me. And she’s really healthy. Anyway, that’s my big secret.” Why did I need to convince Nicole to be happy for me?

“Well, I hope for your sake everything will turn out okay,” said Nicole.

Walking back to the cabin, she bumped me with her hip and I bumped her back. Nic and me together again at Camp Pine Haven for another incredible summer. That definitely made me smile.

As I was writing this series, I tried out a number of ideas on my editor at Aladdin. I’d suggested a book about two girls who were already best friends when camp started, but this summer, things were different. For the first time, they were arguing a lot. A friendship that had once been easy and natural now seemed like a real struggle.

My editor loved this idea and shared similar experiences she’d had growing up. So I began to write about Darcy and Nicole’s friendship. I had to imagine what it had been like in previous summers. Then I started thinking about why things might be different this summer.

For a subplot, I decided to show another pair of friends, Sarah and Whitney, who seem like a real mismatch. I’d witnessed lots of friendship drama and I’d been a part of it, too. And this book is definitely full of a lot of girl fights!

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