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Welcome to Camp Alan-Bridge, for the emotionally vulnerable and unassertive teenagers of North-West California. Building characters since 1975 *** Mercy Reid is being forced to attend a camp after her mother realises how socially awkward her college-aged daughter has become. She has no friends and has no desire to have friends. At Camp Alan-Bridge, she's forced into social situations on a daily basis, meeting people she'd never have looked twice at before. Sometimes it takes more than breaking out of your shell.

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8. 7 - RELOCATION

AUTHORS NOTE: given up on nano so updates for this should go ahead more often. Sorry if this chapter doesn't flow too well - I haven't read it and I wrote this over about 6 hours xD The internet is the bane of my existence

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X0PqkT_dnxs&list=PLgq2xl3u1pG1c37XF6COt2AmkIg91MHME&index=1

my writing inspiration today :)

***

It was Friday morning and we went through our usual routine in camp Alan-Bridge. John and Kendra decided to announce that morning and evening rollcall would become a thing, so I was rudely awoken by Kendra battering an aluminium pan with a wooden spoon in true camper fashion. I was surprised there was no trumpet. It was 6 AM – one hour earlier than whenever I usually woke up. I’d barely gotten 4 hours sleep – I felt like a walking zombie.

                I’d spent the entire night after arriving back past midnight thinking about Thomas. It was stupid to think this guy I barely knew had my thoughts entangled, but I tried to justify it – he was a curious character. He was different somehow to all the other boys – not that he was anything near a boy. He wasn’t rowdy, rude, part of a crowd…

                “I hear it’s indoor activities today,” Kiana commented.

                Oh, yeah. It was currently pouring it down with rain – the remnant of a tropical cyclone battering off the coast and washing away the dirt. It struck maybe just after I got into my cabin, and hadn’t let up since.

                “Must have been a last minute thing. Last thing I heard, we were going fishing today,” I mumbled in her direction as I gathered my things. The cold wasn’t letting up in our cabin – the hole in the cabin wall gradually becoming bigger as the damp seeped into the exposed untreated beams and caused it to rot. Maybe I was imagining things, but it really did smell bad.

                I made a quick mental note that no matter how useful it may be in whatever case, I wasn’t sleeping here tonight and would surely bring it up to Kendra or John. Anna until Monday wouldn’t be back in camp as she was transferring over to West-Bridge for their sessions.

                Making our way to breakfast like we usually done, I noted that Kiana had silently stolen my trainers seeing as all her shoes weren’t nearly suitable for this environment never mind during a storm. I didn’t comment but as we exchanged looks, she understood that she was welcome to anytime.

                Today was looking brighter, despite the literal weather casting a gloom about the forest.

                We grabbed out plates amidst the morning chaos, finding for a change we were the first of few to already arrive. We had fresh picks of the food items and I suddenly realised it didn’t look so gross when the scrambled eggs weren’t far and few and floating in their juice 4 inches down in their heated tray. I had two helpings of that.

                About to make our way across to sit beside Thomas, Dean, and David, the initial two looked up to meet our eyes while David peered off in the other direction. As I made eye contact with Thomas, I narrowed my eyes and unwillingly, a small smile crept up on my cheeks.

                To my left, Kiana ‘Oooh’ed in mischief. “I saw that look,” She commented.

                I glanced at her and set my eyes back on the path around the small mess hall. “What look? I was just teasing him,” I commented, but immediately regretted it. Teasing him? Why would I tease him?

                Oh yeah, because of his refusal to answer a seemingly simple but suspicious question last night – that I purposely hadn’t told Kiana about. Damn it.

                We quickly arrived within earshot, so Kiana quickly dropped it, but instead of me teasing Thomas I knew it would soon be Kiana teasing me. I knew now what I had to look forward to.

                We took our seats and I was itching to ask Thomas about last night now I had the chance and couldn’t run away – but even now I couldn’t because of the ears listening around us. I’m sure he didn’t want to dish his dirt for inspection.

                I decided quickly that was a subject for another day. Gradually beside me, Thomas began to visibly relax. Had I made him uncomfortable? I think I had.

                My thoughts began to converge, hunger taking me as well as my eyes as they trailed uncontrollably to Thomas on my right as I shovelled more food into my mouth. It seemed most of us were walking zombies and didn’t feel like conversing this morning. I didn’t try and change that – because for the most part I felt exactly the same.

***

                Later that day, both camps huddled into the small entertainment room located in the Alan-Bridge office building positioned directly in front of a TV set. Luckily for our wellbeing, half the other camp was away at a group session with Anna in West-Bridge – which included the only faces from that group we knew.

                This gave for the perfect opportunity to ask John and Kendra about our cabin without interrupting anyone. Only John was supervising, so with a quick word to him he let us leave his side to find Kendra in her office. Both of us waited patiently after knocking.

                She called us inside without opening the door, prompting us to go inside.

                “Oh, Kiana and… Mercy?” She asked, struggling to recall my name.

                I nodded politely.

                “Take a seat,” she said, signalling with her hands to the chairs very similar to those in the small boxy therapy room. Distracted, she turned to her computer and clicked a few windows shut and tilted away the screen. “What can I help you girls with?”

                I explained the situation first. “When we arrived, we noticed a gaping hole behind one of the cots. It hasn’t been fixed and it lets in a lot of cold air at night. We try and block it with sheets but that doesn’t seem to do much. Also, the chain latch on the door isn’t functional.” Functional? It was missing the chain.

                Kendra puckered her lips in thoughts. “And you guys didn’t think to tell us right away? We are responsible for your accommodation and can’t have any health and safety risks here, especially not at a summer camp.”

                Kiana began to feverishly apologies. “We didn’t think – we thought it would be-.”

                I interrupted her with a cough. “We didn’t think it’d cause any bother, but now we’ve noticed how cold it gets at nights and that hole really doesn’t help it.”

                Kendra nodded her head in understand. “Well at least I know now. How big is the hole and the damage?”

                I pursed my lips and envisioned it in my head. I imagine I could have gotten my fist or two through it. “Maybe… this size?” I motioned with my hands. “The wood appears to be rotting too.”

                Kendra sighed. “Well, we’ll just have to move you. Camp Alan-Bridge is closed after this summer for renovations and won’t open for a few years until the entire area catches up with the times. Unfortunately, we only have very limited funds as we operate non-profit,” she explained.

                Kiana looked confused. “So… We have to stay there for now?”

                “Oh, heavens no. There’s no accommodation available here so I’ll have to check with Julien and see if there’s any over there. You’ll still be a part of Camp Alan-Bridge, but unfortunately, you’ll not be able to stay here for the foreseeable future – or at all this summer.”

                Kiana laughed a little at the thought. “Can’t we just be sent home?”

                The thought of being sent home was both a blessing and a curse. I still hadn’t got over my anger towards my family, and facing this early wouldn’t do anyone good… But who had time to camp?

                Kendra shook her head. “Not quite so soon, girls. If it comes to it, we can move the cots to one of the offices and let you stay there for the remainder of the summer. You’re both here for a reason, don’t forget that.”

                We never got a chance to forget it for even a second – we really didn’t need reminding.

                I nodded in understanding in sync with Kiana. So this meant we’d move all our things to Camp West-Bridge by the end of the day? Or the cabin offices? Great. That sounded great on top of a day like this.

                At least we weren’t being made to run track.

                “I’ll inform you girls by four o’clock the arrangements, so I’d prepare your bags and get everything together before then, alright?”

                The more I thought about it, the more I realised we didn’t need any notice – we’d barely unpacked a thing out of hope we’d be back home within a week and fear of placing out only items on the damp floor or under our infested beds.

                I smiled grimly at got up to leave, pulling my friend up with me. “Thank you,” was all I was expected to say, before we left again till further notice.

***

                The day dragged by until about two pm when I found myself alone in my cabin looking around the room with both our bags positioned neatly by the door. Kendra had yet to get back to us on where we’d be staying, but she seemed sure we wouldn’t be staying here tonight. I could only imagine the condition of everyone else’s cabin.

                By the open door, I heard the words, “knock, knock.”

                Mid-turn, I began to shout the words over the camper cheer in the distance, “I think we’re done here, Kiana – bags ready to go.” I stopped before I could finish when I saw it wasn’t her. “Oh,” I muttered instead.

                Thomas stood there with his usual expression – not telling me very much – with a black hood shrouding his features. “Expecting someone else?” He asked, looking up from under the material.

                “No… Not really,” I replied, a little surprised to see him standing there. I hadn’t expected to see him until dinner due to the activities in his own camp – namely Anna and her therapy launched upon them in group sessions earlier that morning. I had assumed it would take the whole day.

                He cracked a small smile, but it vanished before he spoke seconds later. “Anyway, I hear you’re being moved to our camp?”

                I shrugged, like I wasn’t all that bothered. “Maybe – Kendra said she’d sort something out for us.”

                Thomas nodded as the conversation seemed to awkwardly dither – just like it always done. “These cabins do look really 80’s compared to ours. I mean… really.”

                I laughed lightly in response. “You should try sleeping in one. One puff and the whole thing will blow away with us inside.”

                Thomas turned absentmindedly to the door and began to mess around with the latch. “We have passcode locks and carpets on the floor,” he mentioned.

                “And heating?” I questioned, slightly hopeful that camp from here out would be a little bit more comfortable.

                “Well… Electric heaters.”

                Without realising what I was doing, I had already done a fist pump prompting a real laugh from Thomas – a first. “You don’t know how cold it is in here.”

                Thomas reached out and hugged his arms, “I can imagine.”

                A comfortable silence began as I dotted about organising things for a few minutes until I was satisfied everything was in order. I was ready to leave the cabin right now if I was told I was allowed to leave.

                When I finished, I looked at the wall, already knowing Thomas was looking at me and I didn’t think eye contact was my forte at that moment. “You know-,” he began, just as I began to say, “Hey-.”

                “You go first,” He pushed seconds later.

                “No, you,” I replied, looking up from the wall and noticing him still standing in the door. His long rounded face was peering down into the floor.

                As if there’d been a miscommunication in the prolonged bumbling process, we both spat out what we wanted to say at once.

                “You still haven’t answered my question from yesterday night,” I said.

                Thomas talked over me with, “About the other night…”

                It seemed we were both on the same wavelength. Both of us looked mortified.

                “I’m sorry,” Thomas finally said. “I didn’t mean to lie… well, I wasn’t exactly lying.”

                I nodded in understanding, “Well, you were. You told me you didn’t know the way back.”

                Thomas shrugged and pushed himself up off the wall post. “Same thing.”

                It really wasn’t but I wasn’t in a position to argue much. “So you really slept outside all night, even though you had a room to go back to?”

                He nodded with a strange expression on his face; curled upper lip and darting eyes. “I guess.”

                I laughed disbelievingly. “Well, you’re crazy.”

                Thomas let out an airy laugh, cracking the tiniest of smiles. “Isn’t that what you said when we met up at the fire grounds?”

                I pouted at the memory. He’d turned it back on me and said I was the crazy one. “Might have been. Just shows nothing has changed between then and now.”

                Thomas walked further into the cabin for the first time and the door he’d been leaning on before slammed shut behind him in the process startling us both. The cabin let out a tired groan from deep between the wooden beams and for a second I was scared it’d collapse on us both, then when it stopped, my thoughts shot to the door that had slammed into its frame squint and was letting a lopsided stream of light in through the gap in the frame.

                “Oops,” Thomas muttered.

                I shook my head and could only think how pleased I was about leaving this place. “Break the door why don’t you? And you changed the subject – again!” referring to his crazy comment, diverting the subject once again.

                He didn’t look bothered by being caught out and instead peered around the cabin with slow purposeful steps. “Sorry, wasn’t intentional.”

                I’m sure it wasn’t. “I won’t ask too much right now, because you seem like quite a private guy but if you make it my business, be sure I’ll figure it all out whether you want me to or not,” I replied with a frown plastered on my face. I wasn’t intent on finding out his personal demons – everyone had them. As I said though… If he made it into something I was involved in, I’d make it my place to find out.

                “I have no doubt you would,” he replied in a mumble, not bothered by the subtle threat buried in my words. “Did I ever tell you how weird I think you are?”

                I crossed my arms and narrowed my eyes. “Fairly sure you’ve mentioned it.” I really didn’t appreciate it though, but in a wider view, he was in the end just one of many so I shouldn’t let it bother me.

                A lop sided smirk appeared on his face at my reply, before he stopped in the middle of the cabin and slowly lowered himself onto his knees. I was about to ask what he was doing, but I realised as soon as he lifted the sheets that poured off my bed and looked at the family of spiders by the hole in the wall.

                “You know, when I first came to camp Alan-Bridge three years ago, I would have loved to get a cabin like this. Easy escape, easy smuggling. You know, typical teenage delinquent things.”

                I approached his kneeling figure as his head came back up from under the bed. “You went to camp Alan-Bridge?” I pried.

                He gave me that, are-you-stupid look before he explained, “Three years ago there was no camp West-Bridge or connection scheme between camps and camp Alan-Bridge was purely a camp for teenagers, nothing more or nothing less.”

                “Oh,” I replied, figuring this wasn’t something he wanted to talk about – if his tone had anything to do with it. “So you were… How old at the time?” Hoping to find something, anything out about him.

                He sat back on his legs and peered up at the ceiling in thought. “Hmm, maybe fourteen? I turned 15 during the stay though.”

                I tilted my head curiously. “So that makes you….”

                “19,” he finished for me. “Finished high school. Done senior year last year, been doing odd jobs ever since.” This would be the last time he’d ever return to camp West-Bridge or Alan-Bridge or Whatever-Bridge, then, being too old now to come back… “What about you?” He finally asked, appearing less hostile than usual.

                “17. I just finished my senior year. I’m supposed to be going to college – or so my mom hopes.” I explained, not feeling like I shouldn’t explain. This was basic stuff anyways – even Kiana knew this much.

                He nodded in understanding, and slowly got back on his feet. “Parent, huh? Is that who shipped you here?”

                I passed him a deadpanned expression and muttered, “Isn’t that who shipped us all here?”

                Thomas grew red at the cheeks, “I guess so.” Not very bright, was he? Who would bring themselves here voluntarily?

                Just as I was about to tease him for his blonde moment, someone began to bang at the door. “Mercy, why’d you lock the door?” That was Kiana. She battered it violently with her fist until the top half of the door began to bend into the room.

                “Calm down!” I yelled. “The door slammed shut so it’s obviously jammed.”

                She immediately seized up and stopped her knocking. Seconds later, I heard the creek of the doorknob, then the sound of her body slamming into the door. The door slowly creaked over as it came unjammed, Kiana attached to the knob.

                Cautiously, she gazed around the room and landed on both Thomas and I. “Oh, you’re here,” she said, nodding in greet to Thomas, who nodded in return. Thomas coughed awkwardly and looked the other way.

                She turned to me out of his sight and a grin began to evolve on her lips. “He’s here?” She questioned louder than she should of.

                I waved frantically with my hands to signal her to shut the hell up. She didn’t seem to get the hint, but laughed in response, following that by waltzing deviously into the room. “What were you talking about?” She asked curiously, drawing out each vowel teasing me mercilessly.

                I narrowed my eyes and raised my arm to slap her across the shoulder. She cowered away with a playful smirk. “Now, now.”

                I sighed and shook my head. “Moving on,” I pointedly said, “have you heard anything yet?”

                Kiana nodded and bent over to pick up her suitcase. “Kendra mentioned before I came over here that we were to meet her at the office at three with our bags. She wants this settled before dinner at five.”

                I groaned in frustration and began to feel on edge with all this moving around. “What time are we at now?”

                She laughed at my reaction. “Time to make our way there.”

***

                We stood outside the main offices holding out bags. The other campers were returning to their cabins from the daily activities and most of them stopped to ask questions, usually the first thing out their mouths was asking if we were leaving. Nope, unfortunately we were here to stay – although it did give a few campers the idea of trashing their cabin and see where their luck got them.

                Kendra arrived on scene minutes later holding her usual clipboard wearing the typical khaki get-up. She looked up and seemed surprised to see us. “That time already?” She asked herself.

                “I don’t see any point going into the office as Julien found you a cabin on the West-Bridge site to stay in. It wasn’t used this year as it’s unsuited for the West-Bridge campers, but it’s just right for you girls. No security issues, nothing wrong with the construction… In fact, it’s one of the newer cabins on the site. I’ll escort you in that direction and show you around.”

                We set off silently in direction of the mess hall so we could continue further than that towards the fenced camp West-Bridge. Kendra unlocked the gate with her keys right beside the area of fence I’d escaped under with Thomas the other night.

                “Will the gate be locked all the time?” Kiana asked.

                Kendra nodded. “It will be, but you girls should understand why. We need high security here.” And we didn’t in camp Alan-Bridge?

                We entered quickly into the central area of the camp, meeting Julien in the middle. Behind him were the uniform rows of cabins looking as dull as the weather. He stood there looking sharp, watching us approach with his beady pointed eyes. “These girls?” He asked, probably noticing us from the other night. He was probably thinking about how great his luck was.

                Kendra nodded at him and put her hands on each of our shoulders. “Julien will show you your cabin, won’t you?” She asked.

                I peered behind him at the rows of cabins and saw some of them looking out their window. Back in Alan-Bridge, most of them would have come outside… however I knew here they wouldn’t have been allowed. I wondered where Thomas and his cabin mate stayed…

                Julien led us towards out cabin after a long goodbye with Kendra, further solidifying any thought they had something going on. Kiana and I just had to laugh.

                It turned out the cabin was behind the first row of cabins, although not terribly far away. There were two other cabins on this row – whether anyone stayed in them, I didn’t know. There was plenty room to build more, if the scheme ever decided to expand.

                Julien had to climb a porch type feature at the front of the expensive looking cabin – much like the ones on the front, and unlocked the door with a single turn of a key. “We can’t use these cabins until we update the locks. There was some confusion last year and the construction team installed locks rather than those automatic passcode doors. These aren’t safe enough for the others here but this is more than enough for you girls.” Thanks.

                Julien held open the door and let us enter. “Seeing as you’re not part of our camp you’ll only ever be here when you have to be – otherwise you’ll just get in the way. Understood?”

                “Understood.” Not that we’d listen.

                He left quickly after leaving us to our own devices holding the key staring into our cabin. Inside I saw surely enough carpet – no more having to parade around in shoes 24-7. The walls were plastered, and it actually looked waterproof. This was an upgrade and a half.

                Just as Thomas had said, there was an electric heater positioned neatly in the corner by an outlet. “Yes,” I said, walking quickly over to the eater eager to figure out how it worked.

                “Look, Mercy-,” Kiana began. “There are actually windows – and you can see out them!

                “I think this is a blessing,” I said, appearing by her side looking out the window that stared directly onto the vacant cabin opposite and the window on its side. “This is great.”

                Kiana nodded. “I think this a lesson well learned – complain more often.”

                “And there we were thinking the cabin was totally fine when the guys are living over here in these pads,” I replied, running my hand over the dust free sill.

                “Totally,” Kiana replied, followed by a bellowing laugh.

                It sure beats the offices, anyway.

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