Disclaimers: Copyright: The characters belong to me, though they do resemble our
two favorite characters of Xena and Gabrielle. The location does
really exist, but I changed the name of the camp to protect the
innocent squirrels that reside there.
Sex: yes, but nothing graphic f/f and their will be a m/f
relationship that is very mild.
Feedback: All feedback is most welcomed. Please send to firstname.lastname@example.org . Thank you to everyone who takes the time to drop me a line and help make this story better.
Jojo decided to forgo the campfire and start prepping for the next morning's breakfast. As she mixed the dough for the cinnamon rolls, she glanced up in time to see Scooter walk by the back window as she headed to her tent. They had been friends long enough for Jo to realize that something was wrong, and she wondered if it had anything to do with Scooter's history from three years ago.
Jo remembered how hard that summer had been, not just for Scooter, but for everyone who cared about the vivacious blond lifeguard. Her memories carried her back to the beginning of that summerż..
Jo had heard the rumors, of course. Most of the staff had heard the rumors, too. And when Scooter had shown up for staff training, it was obvious that she had changed.
Gone was the easy smile and friendly, welcoming spirit. Her sunny demeanor had been replaced by a more wary, guarded attitude and her eyes held the reflections of a battered soul.
She had done her job well that summer, but had found little joy in the friendships that were commonly made between staff members. She continued to associate with the staff members whom she already knew, but didn't reach out to the new staff members as she had done in summers past.
Jojo was often privy to information that was considered confidential. She knew that the value of a good cook went beyond her ability to prepare food. The camp directors' office may have been the hub of the camp, but the kitchen was its heart and soul.
Staff members would drop by on their time off to bend Jojo's ear and to find solace in her chocolate chip cookies. Since the camp directors' office was highly visible to all campers and staff in the main camp, the directors would often go into the pantry or the walk-in refrigerator to talk about serious matters. The cook knew that the best way to get the accurate stories was to keep her ears open and her mouth shut.
So, when Silver and Pepper went into the pantry at the beginning of that summer three years ago, Jojo followed her instinct to listen and then pretend that she knew nothing. The director knew that she could be trusted, and Jo was careful to not abuse that trust.
The pieces of the story were sketchy, but knowing Scooter fairly well on a personal level enabled Jo to fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle. She had already known that Scooter was the daughter of a minister in a small town in Montana. The spring before, her sister, Amy, had married a man who had become the assistant pastor at her father's church. Amy was pregnant, and the letters that Scooter had sent to Jojo that spring expressed her excitement at becoming an aunt.
But then the letters had stopped, and the mail that Jojo had sent to Scooter's house was returned to her unopened. She hadn't heard from Scooter for about six weeks, and was already concerned when the camp director and assistant director huddled in the panty to talk.
The directors spoke freely to each other, knowing that only they and Jo would hear the conversation. Moonbeam, a former camp staff member and close childhood friend of Scooter's, had called and filled them in on the incident that had changed everything in Scooter's life. It was unsure if Scooter would even come to camp that summer, though it would be the best thing for her to do. Camp was a safe place. Many people there cared for and loved Scooter.
Moonbeam told them how Scooter's brother-in-law, Bradley, had originally been interested in a relationship with Scooter. But she rejected his overtures and he started dating her sister, Amy. Their father was thrilled that such a seemingly upstanding young man was courting his daughter and he encouraged the relationship to blossom. Once Amy and Bradley had become engaged, her father offered an associate minister position to his future son-in-law.
Scooter was living at home and attending the local community college. Though she was not interested in Bradley in a romantic way, she was friendly to him and was excited for her sister to marry. Soon after the marriage, Amy became pregnant, so to save money, she and Bradley moved into her parents house. Her father and Bradley continued to become close friends and associates as they labored together to serve their congregation. Bradley seemed like the perfect husband, son-in-law and a wonderful apprentice to the minister.
But, one night, after consuming too much alcohol and having an argument with his wife, Bradley cornered Scooter in the laundry room. Scooter had fought off his advances, but he was stronger and he was angry, and so she was unable to stop him. His last move was to break an empty beer bottle and cut into her stomach with a threat to do more harm to her and to her sister if she ever told anyone what happened.
And so an internal war was waged. She wanted to protect herself and her sister, yet she knew that if she remained silent, Bradley would probably still hurt someone she loved. Worse, he might hurt the baby, and the thought that she could prevent that from happening was the determining factor in her decision to confide in her mother.
Her mother had listened to her story, and when she was done, she encouraged Scooter to share with the incident her father. The look of rage in her father's eyes seemed to reaffirm that she had made the right decision.
That is, until the rage was turned on her. Her father called her a liar, a whore, a temptress who was trying to break up God's holy union between her sister and Bradley. He defended his son-in-law and accused her of seducing Bradley.
When Bradley was confronted, Bradley supported her father's story and claimed that the only way he could fight her off was to cut her with a bottle. Her father had told her to leave and never come back; that in his eyes she was not his daughter. Her mother had simply stood by and watched. Scooter left that night, taking what few possessions she could fit into her jeep, and she never went back.
She did work at camp that summer, and the two summers since. And as time passed by, Jojo could see a bits and pieces of the "old" Scooter emerge. But more often then not, there would be a hint of sadness in her eyes or in her smile. She continued to be friendly to everyone on staff, but she built a protective wall around herself that was hard to for anyone to penetrate.
She never spoke of her family. And she never mentioned the nephew, who was now over two years old. When Scooter had heard from Moonbeam that her sister had given birth to a boy, Scooter had sent a gift. But the box was returned to her with "Return to sender" written in her father's handwriting. She never again attempted to contact them.
Scooter had moved to Oregon to live with a couple of friends. She enrolled in school and put her life back together the best she could. Summer camp was the one constant thing in her life. She lived the rest of the year in anticipation of returning to camp for three months each summer.
She loved working with the kids. With the campers she was a warm and caring role model who kept the kids both physically and emotionally safe. She also felt physically safe at camp, but she never truly let down her guard with other adults, especially with people that she barely knew. She was friendly and polite, and the other staff liked working with her, but she never let others get close enough to know the real person.
The crunching of gravel outside of the back kitchen door brought Jojo out of her reverie and into the present. The porch light near the door cast enough light for Jo to recognize the barn manager.
Shadow. It's a fitting name.
She watched as the lone figure walked past then turned and walked up the hill towards her destination.
The next couple of days went by quickly as the hay, the horses and finally the staff all arrived at camp. Old friends enthusiastically greeted each other, and new staff were warmly welcomed into the group.
Shadow sat on the main camp lawn and looked over her copy of the staff-training schedule and reviewed the upcoming events.
Well this doesn't look too bad. Uh oh, what the hell is a tippy canoe test? Oh man, I have got to figure a way to get out of the overnight canoe trip across the bay. She looked up and stared hard across the lake to the primitive campground across the bay. Maybe I can volunteer to stay in camp with the horses. What elseż? Group building activities, oh those should be fun. Not. Maybe I can talk to Pax and have her help me get out of a few things. Surely there are some little wrangler things that need to be done, like building a new barn or taking the string for a nice three-day trip out of camp. Ha, like that would happen.
She sighed with resignation knowing that she would probably be required to participate in all of the scheduled activities. Whether or not it'll kill me. Oh well, when in Romeż.
The large bell in main camp rang, signaling that it was time to gather for the beginning of staff training. She gracefully stood and gathered her things; consisting of a clipboard with various papers, her day by day schedule of training, two pens, a navy blue backpack and her Oregon State University sweatshirt. After stuffing her things into her backpack, she took a deep breath to clear her mind and headed into the Lodge, petting Indy as she passed by the dog on her way up the stairs.
There was a great deal of talking and laughing coming from the living room, so Shadow headed in the direction of the noise. The room was full of people, the vast majority of whom were women. They all sat on the wooden floor and the benches that were placed around the room. In the front of the room, on the heavy weight wooden picnic table sat the administrative staff. Silver, Pepper and Spike would be facilitating the majority of the training, though other staff had been assigned to train in their respective specialties. So, Scooter and Pax would lead waterfront activities and Pony and Shadow would teach the horse-related things.
Shadow found a space on the floor in the back of the room. Sitting between two new staff members, whom she did not know, she leaned back against the wall and removed her clipboard and pens from her backpack.
Silver raised her right hand, and the experienced staff immediately raised their hands and quit talking. "Hello everybody. For those of you who are not familiar with this signal, it is a quiet sign. Anytime someone uses it, we need you to raise your hand and stop talking. That way we wont spend a lot of time trying to get everyone's attention and we can spend time doing important things, like having fun. This is a great tool for you to teach to your campers on their first day- it will make your life a lot easier if you can quickly get your group quiet."
Silver lowered her hand and, having the group's attention, she continued. "My name is Silver, I am your camp director. No, my parents did not have weird taste in names, Silver is my camp name." Many of the staff chuckled, as they knew that even outside of camp she would answer to Silver quicker than she would answer to her real name. But truth be told, most of them would answer quicker to their camp names, too.
"This is Pepper." She gestured at her Assistant Camp Director who was sitting to her right. "And this is Spike." Her left hand motioned towards the blond on her left. "We are your administrative staff, usually called Ad Staff. We're going to have lots of opportunities to get to know each other really well over the next ten days. So let's jump right in and get started."
A roll of toilet paper appeared from behind her back and a couple of returning staff smirked. "Okay, I'm going to pass this around and I want each of you to take as many sheets as you normally use." A hand shot up from a new staff member, and in heavily accented English, she asked. "Excuse me. Use? What do you mean?"
"You know, when you use the bathroomż take as much paper as you usually use." She tossed the roll of paper to Lemme, one of the returning camp counselors, who tore off five squares of toilet paper and passed it to the staff member to her right.
Soon, the roll had made its way around the room and all of the staff were holding various amounts of paper squares. Scooter placed her five squares on the floor in front of her. Shadow attached her six squares, folded and neatly creased, to her clipboard. Some staff crumpled the paper up and hid it in their hand or pocket; others tugged at the corners and ripped small pieces off. One staff, attempting to be humorous, had torn off twenty pieces and she sat proudly displaying her larger pile of paper. She had chosen poorly.
"Okay, this is a get to know you activities. We're going to go around the room and for each square of paper you have, you tell us one thing about you." Groans could be heard from many of the staff that had taken larger amounts of the toilet paper. Silver pointed to Lemme, a returning tripping counselor, who was seated to her right. "You're up Lemme."
"Hi, my name is Lemme." Her enthusiastic voice carried above the group. " Okay, I have five squares, soż one, I am majoring in stage management. Two, I attend University of Wisconsin Whitewater. Three- I love canoeing, backpacking and horses. Four- I like to roll down hills of soft grass. And five- I like frogs."
Scooter looked around at all of the faces in the room. Most were familiar as many staff were returning for their second, third or more year as camp staff. But, as always, there were many new faces. It was a giveaway that the ones paying rapt attention to the camp director and who innocently took too many pieces of toilet paper were first-timers.
Eventually the rapt attention and hero worship of the support and administrative staff would fade. And the camp counselors would discover that everyone makes honest mistakes and nobody, not even the camp director, was perfect.
It was at that point of personal epiphany that each staff member had to decide whether to accept others even with their faults, or become jaded and critical. Most would be loyal and friendship would emerge based on commonalities and respect. The ones who chose to criticize the others for being human found that their summer camp experience would inevitably be disappointing. Scooter had always wondered whether, years from now, the staff would recognize that the acceptance or condemnation of each other was just a mirror on their personal feelings of self worth.
Her attention had waned and she snapped out of her reverie just in time to hear Pax share her three squares worth of information. "Hi, I'm Pax, the assistant waterfront director. Three things about me, hmmm, well I live in Oregon, I have a wonderful boyfriend who used to be on staff here, and I like to fish."
Shadow held back on the inclination to say "Hi so and so" after each staff made their introductions. All eyes, including hers, turned to watch Scooter as she played with the five squares of toilet paper in her hand.
"Hi, I'm Scooter."
Shadow refrained again from responding, but the effort made her laugh at herself and a very soft laugh emitted from her.
Scooter, in her nervousness, wasn't focusing on anything or anyone in particular; she just glanced around the room and wracked her brain for five things to share. "Ok, I live in Oregon, too. I know how to change the oil on my jeep. And, let me thinkż I like ice cream. I am a psychology major, and will get my Bachelor of Science degree next year from the University of Oregon. "
Shadows eyebrow quirked at the mention of her school's rival college. Well, that's an interesting development. Guess the good news is we live in the same state. Even if she is a Duck.
Pony did not miss the look that Shadow shot to Scooter. She leaned over and nudged the brunette. "You know, that Beaver pride is going to get you in trouble." She teased Shadow.
"I'll show you Beaver pride." Shadow shot back at the Riding Director.
"Oh look, it's your turn to share." A smirk accompanied the lighthearted retort.
Shadow quickly looked around and realized that it was, in fact, her turn. She also realized that the majority of the room had overheard her Beaver pride comment. Her face flushed deeply and she covered her face in embarrassment.
"Well." She cleared her throat. "I guess most of you know I attend Oregon State." She glanced over at Scooter, who was trying not to laugh, but was failing miserably.
Figuring that her humiliation was nearly complete, Shadow decided to be good-natured about the teasing she was getting. She stalled for time by getting the Oregon State University sweatshirt, complete with the cartooned beaver mascot, out of her backpack. She proudly pulled it over her head and straightened it out so all in the room could see her school mascot.
Scooter admired the tactful way that Shadow handled the situation. Don't know if I could've been so easy going about the whole staff teasing me. Not bad, even for a Beaver. But, the good news is we live in the same state, even if she does go to the wrong school.
Shadow smiled, her straight white teeth a contrast to her tanned face. Well, maybe they don't all think I am a complete dork. "Okay, well, I like country music. I like to dance, especially two-stepping. I play the mandolin and fiddle and I am a chocoholic."
The staff's attention turned to the person next to her and Shadow breathed a sigh of relief. Glad that's over with. She glanced down at her sweatshirt, then up at Scooter. The blond was looking at her, so Shadow did what came naturally. She stuck her tongue out at her rival.
Soon, the activity was over, and it was time for dinner. The staff members gladly got up from the hardwood floor and moved into the dining room where scents of barbeque and apple pie filled the air.
The staff stood behind the benches at the square tables. Spike stood on a bench at the front of the room and raised her hand. The room soon went quiet as the staff waited for the announcements.
"Hello. At each of your tables, there is a piece of paper with a topic written on it. Sometime before dinner is over, you need to read the paper and share your answers at your table.
Scooter looked at the other seven staff standing at her table. Five, including Shadow, were new staff members. Pony and Lemme were returning and she knew them fairly well. I hope it isn't a very personal question. She smiled a slightly forced smile at Pony, who winked back at her. Okay, Pony will help me out here. Her smile brightened once she felt safe.
After the announcements, the staff sat down on the benches and passed the food around. Soon plates were piled high with barbecued chicken, corn, biscuits and mashed potatoes.
"Hey, easy on the potatoes over there." Pony teased. "Save some for us, Scoot."
"Oh, sure, give me a bad reputation on the first day of staff training. Great, now no one will want to eat with me." She easily joked back.
Lemme watched the familiar banter with amusement. "I hate to break this little chat up, but we better get reading the question." She reached for the paper in the center of the table and read aloud. " If you could be any color crayon what color would you be and why?"
"That's really the question?" Pony laughed. "Ok, me first. I would be a white crayon because it reminds me of snow, which reminds me of snowboarding."
"Can I be two crayons?" Asked the new staff member who was sitting to Pony's left.
"Ok, I would be pink and chartreuse. Because they are both a little bit different. And pink gets such a bad rap."
Well aren't you special and unique. Lemme's internal monologue quipped. Only Shadow caught the quick roll of Lemme's eyes.
Scooter was the next to speak. "I would be blue. One, because I like the color blue, and two, because it reminds me of the lake, which I love."
Shadow took her turn. "I would be green. It's natural and comforting."
The other staff shared their various opinions, and Scooter eavesdropped on the other nearby tables. Blue, red and green seemed to be the most popular choices. Lemme was the only one to pick the color orange, but then again, Lemme always picked orange.
As the assigned topic of conversation was winding down, Jojo appeared from the kitchen. "Apple pie for anyone who wants it. Each table send one person up to the kitchen service window to get the pie."
The pies were quickly consumed and the staff were finishing cleaning off their plates when Silver stood and made the final dinner-time announcement.
"Ok, you have about a half and hour till you need to be back in the living room for tonight's training. We'll keep the training short tonight. Tomorrow morning is the swim check and training on non-water entry rescues, so you will need to be rested and ready to go.
Oh no. Shit, I can't take a swim test. Then everyone will know I can't swim. Shadow felt suddenly nauseous. Maybe I can get out of it.
But one look at her friend Pony, who knew her secret, and Shadow realized there would be no getting out of the swim check in the morning.
To be continued...