Chapter One (so far) of Summer Camp Wedding (Abby’s Camp Days: Volume 7)
Ben, Kate, and I sat on Kate’s dorm room floor, surrounded by Chinese takeout containers. Kate and I stared at Ben, our mouths open, but he just kept scarfing down his noodles like normal, despite having let us in on a huge, surprising secret that had made me drop a fried wonton onto my plate.
Steve was proposing to Hayley that day.
“I don’t like this, Ben,” Kate said, pushing her fork around in her beef and broccoli container.
He gave her a funny look. “Why not?”
“None of us really knows this person,” Kate reasoned. “She could be a psycho killer for all we know.”
I giggled behind my sweet and sour chicken box at the thought of the nice lady who had given a mission speech at our church camp last summer being a psycho killer.
“She’s not a psycho killer,” Ben said. “She’s a religious studies major who’s involved in mission work.”
“So she says,” Kate said, suspicion clouding her tone. “But has any of us actually ever seen her in the mission field?”
“Well,” Ben said, “there were all those pictures of her in Africa that she showed at mission night last summer.”
“They could have been faked. Photo editing software is very advanced nowadays. Remember when Uncle Karl put Luke’s head onto a goat’s body, and it looked totally realistic?”
Ben gave her another weird look. “What’s realistic about a goat with my brother’s head?”
“No, I meant realistic for a picture of a goat boy. Obviously, it was a joke, but it looked real. Maybe Hayley’s mission pictures were faked. She might be a psycho killer who keeps dead bodies in her freezer.”
“Katy, she’s a nice girl.”
“There are plenty of psycho killers with dead bodies in their freezers whose neighbors say they seemed perfectly nice, too.”
“You know Steve. He wouldn’t jump into something he wasn’t sure about.”
“Yes, I know Steve. He’s the one who dated Julie. Twice. He doesn’t exactly have the best track record in the dating department.”
“That’s why I picked Hayley out for him,” Ben said. Then he nodded toward me. “And Abby helped.”
“He doesn’t even know her!” Kate argued.
“Sure he does,” Ben reasoned. He popped a crab rangoon into his mouth and talked around crunches. “They email and text and video chat all the time. And he sent her flowers for her birthday. Two dozen roses.”
“Aw,” I said. “That’s so sweet.”
“Plus he visited her at Thanksgiving, and she visited him on her winter break. You know this.”
Kate didn’t seem to be convinced. “They’ve been out on, what, two and a half in-person dates? And he hasn’t seen her since January?” She stood up and pointed out the window at the snow-covered ground. “And now it’s March? That’s too fast. He hasn’t even known her a year.”
“Not everyone takes eight years to get together the way we did.” Ben was now on to the hibachi sticks, and I dug into the crab rangoons he’d left in the bag. “Hayley wasn’t kissing other guys in the boathouse while Steve was trying to get her attention. Things tend to progress much quicker that way.”
Kate glared at him and threw a stuffed cat from her desk in his direction. I had to grab a carton it knocked over before sauce dribbled all over the carpet. She sat on the desk, sighed, and gave Ben the concerned, big-eyed look that I know melts him every time.
“I’m just worried about him. I want him to be happy, like we are.”
“He is,” Ben assured her. “And in love with Hayley. And it’ll work out.”
“You always think everything will work out.”
“When have I’ve been wrong?”
“When you told me everything at camp would get worked out.”
Ben frowned for the first time since we’d shown up at Kate’s dorm room. “Well, you got me there.”
Ever since we got a new set of staff members at camp two summers ago, things have been weird there. The first year, we had this Scary Lifeguard Lady who looked like an Amazon and who screamed at us all the time at the beach. Then last year we had Brent, who was very nice but also totally obsessed with water safety to the point of being ridiculous. We also had this Crazy Craft Lady who ran the craft cabin like a dictatorship and Aaron, the assistant manager who bossed everyone around. Things had been frustrating around camp lately, but Maura, the manager, had shown a little bit of understanding the last day of junior high camp last year, so I was holding out hope that things could get back to normal this summer.
“Speaking of camp,” Ben said, turning to me, “have you heard the other interesting piece of Spirit news?”
“No, what?” I asked.
“Maura took a job as program director at a different camp.”
“Yep.” Kate nodded. “In Wisconsin. The camp she used to go to when she was a kid.”
“Maybe she’ll torture new campers with all her rules,” I said.
“Aw, she wasn’t that bad in the end,” Ben said, and I remembered the heart to heart chat I’d overheard between the two of them last summer.
“Just not really the best fit for Camp Spirit,” Kate said. “She was trying to run Spirit like it was a big, fancy downstate camp. That was never going to work. I wonder who we’ll get now.”
Ben shrugged. “I’m kind of nervous about that. It’s March. Camp starts in three months.”
“Whoever they hire has a lot to get done by then,” Kate said.
“Yeah, and besides that, anybody good in the camping world has a job right now. Who are we going to end up with?”
He had a point.
“Well, it can’t be worse than what we’ve had lately, right?” I asked.
“True,” Kate said, nodding, but Ben grimaced.
“You never know, Abbers.”
We went back to the food. When we had stuffed ourselves enough to give Steve and Dane serious competition in an eating contest, Kate boxed up the leftovers and began the complicated dorm room puzzle of fitting them all into her tiny fridge, which was already packed. Ben broke out the sugar donuts and fortune cookies.
I cracked mine open and went right for the fortune. “You will shortly make many new friends at a familiar place,” I read. “Hey, it’s about camp! I guess the new manager and staff will be my friends.”
“Worry about nothing, for time will tell,” Ben read off his card. He looked at Kate pointedly.
I crunched away on my fortune cookie. It tasted like sugary cardboard. Why is it that the fortunes are usually better than the cookies?
“Okay, here’s mine,” Kate said, holding up her tiny piece of paper. “Your cousin-to-be will soon be stuffed into a strange woman’s freezer. Call police now.”
“It does not say that,” Ben said, as his phone started buzzing and then playing music. He took it out of his pocket, checked the caller ID, and held it up. “See. That’s him now. Not stuffed into a freezer.” He put the phone up to his ear. “Hey, what’s up?” There was a pause, then Ben’s face lit up in a huge grin. “Awesome. Congratulations.”
Hayley must have said yes.
Is it possible to be happy for someone but also sort of wish they were a psycho killer that Kate would call the police on at the same time?
“I’ll put you on speaker. I have Katy and Abby here with me.”
Ben held the phone out so we could hear Steve’s announcement.
“Well, Hayley and I are officially engaged.”
“Congratulations,” I said. My tone sounded overly excited and chipper, but nobody seemed to notice.
“Yeah, congratulations,” Kate echoed. Her tone did not sound too chipper. It sounded almost pained.
“We’re going out to celebrate. There’s this burger chain out here that’s awesome, and all you have to do is say, ‘Make it an animal,’ or something like that, and they slop every kind of condiment ever on.”
“Steven James Koski,” Kate said sternly. “You just asked that woman to marry you. Take her somewhere better than a burger joint. Somewhere that involves cloth napkins and automatically included gratuity and complimentary dishes of ice cream.”
Steve laughed. So did Ben and I.
“She picked it,” he said. “Because she’s perfect.”
I would have chosen something fancy for our we-just-got-engaged celebration. Maybe it was good Hayley wasn’t a psycho killer. As much as it hurt to admit, I wouldn’t have been perfect for Steve even if I were twenty-five instead of fifteen.
“Actually . . .” Kate’s eyes narrowed a little. “Why don’t you go back to her place and see if she has any ice cream? And while you’re looking in the freezer for ice cream, maybe poke around in there and see what else she has hiding in the back.”
“Okay, that’s good,” Ben said, hitting a button to take it off speaker. “You’d better get to your celebratory dinner. Congrats again. I’m happy for you, cuz. Yeah . . . okay. Bye.”
He ended the call and gave Kate a look.
“What?” she asked, sounding very innocent. “Just sayin.’ Someone should check that out. Anyway . . .” She slid open her top desk drawer and pulled out a handful of fancy white envelopes. “I believe we have some invitations to work on.”
I held my hand out. “Ooh, let me see them!”
She dug further down in the drawer and pulled one of the invitations out.
Mr. and Mrs. David Chandler
request the honor of your presence
at the marriage of their daughter
Benjamin James McAllery
On Saturday, August 2nd
At 2:00 PM EST
Camp Spirit Chapel
“They’re so pretty,” I said, my eyes following the fancy lettering.
“And we have part of the program done, too,” she said, digging in the drawer again and handing me another piece of paper.
~ Wedding Party ~
Maid of Honor: Elissa LaBoyer, friend of the couple
Bridesmaids: Allie Thomas, friend of the bride
Adrienne Lance, friend of the bride
Rebecca McAllery, sister of the groom
Best Man: Steven Koski, cousin of the groom
Groomsmen: Christian Newman, friend of the couple
Mark Chandler, brother of the bride
Jason Hunter, friend of the groom
Ushers: Luke McAllery, brother of the groom
Cordell Newman, friend of the couple
Abby Riley & Carin Morgan, campers of the bride
Officiants: Rev. Robert Riley, dean of the couple
Rev. Richard Cooper, dean of the couple