Waking up, I roll out of bed and plant my feet on the hardwood floor. Bare skin meets cold wood, jolting me awake as I stand up and shuffle over to the door to my room, picking up my glasses from the nightstand. I shower and eat breakfast in silence, merely grunting at my father’s probing questions about my life while Mom asks me how the church group is going.
I roll my eyes. Ever since summer let out, Mom has been signing me up for the program after program through the church, in order to dominate all of my free time I assume. It doesn’t help that I wanted to have some friends over on my birthday and got the cold sting of a “No” from my father, I merely plugged along acting as camp counselors for this Christian Kids Camp with my bratty cousin Nina.
Nina is a year older than me, but about a head shorter. With short blonde hair she keeps in pigtails, she looks like an emaciated cheerleader minus the ego trip. But really, she can be all right most of the time.
That was because she was allowed to date, I thought miserably.
Ever since I entered middle school, my parents had forbidden me from asking girls out. In church, they didn’t let me work with anyone of the opposite sex and they always made me stay late with them so they could keep an eye on me. Realy the first spot of freedom I’ve had in like ever is sadly this Christian Sponsorship Camp, where troubled teens are brought to our camp and taught the joy of loving Jesus like we do.
Walking back into my bedroom I pull on my pressed black slacks and undershirt, before pulling on my white button up shirt. The doorbell signals that Nina got here early and is waiting impatiently for me, yet again. Checking myself over in the mirror (smoothening out my spiky hair and adjusting my glasses) I yell I’ll be right there. I grab my wallet and my cell phone and head to the main room.
“There’s the birthday boy!” Nina said, running up to give me a brief hug, which I return in kind. I notice she’s nibbling on a piece of toast and just give her a smile.
“That’s right, sweet sixteen,” Mom said with a strained smile. She’s been working double shifts at the hospital to pay the bills around here while my father looks for a job. Not a lot of market for an architect out there right now.
“Well we’re off for bible camp,” I say, grabbing my boots and dropping down onto a wooden chest to begin lacing them up. Nina stays at the table for a minute, conversing with my mother about the different kids at the bible camp, while my father busies himself with reading the newspaper.
Once my boots are on, I stand up (A full three inches taller) and motion for Nina that we’re going to be late.
I walk out the front door, pocketing my keys as Nina calls out farewell. I turn and look at her, smiling. “Well?”
“Well, what?” She asks innocently.
“So not the drama,” she said, waving it off. “The guy was a class A loser, he wanted to take me to a take-out Mexican restaurant.”
“Was it good food at least?” I ask, knowing she gave her patented speech in rejecting guys to this poor soulless than twelve hours ago.
She nods, closing her eyes as we walk out from beneath the awning of my home into the hot summer sun. I winced at the contact and reminded myself to put on sunblock when I got to camp. My little backpack had everything I needed for a day to day basis: sunblock, two bottles of water and some aspirin. I also kept a roll of gauze and some general first aid stuff on me in case one of the campers ended up hurting themselves while playing soccer or something.
The walk to the church was a sweltering one, as the walks always turned out to be. I ask if we can stop beneath an old sycamore tree for me to apply my sunblock, earning a weird look from Nina.
“What, it’s bright out today!” I said, defending myself.
“Exactly, you should get a little color on that pale frame of yours.” She half-joked, smiling at me.
“Ha-ha, now just get the back of my neck and we’ll be ready to go,” I said, pulling a bottle of water and chugging it while she applied a dollop of sunblock to cover my bare scruff of my neck.
The rest of the walk down Babcock to First Lutheran of San Antonio is relatively peaceful, at least until a few more counselors that happen to be friends with Nina see us and rush over to have “girl talk,” which is essentially complimenting each other’s outfits and asking each other about every rumor possible. I personally hate it, but I’ve faded into the woodwork with these girls, who merely ignore my presence.
Which is why when one of them asks me a question, I have to pause and look at her, asking her to repeat herself.
Looking annoyed, she puts her hands on her hips. “Have you heard of Goth kids?”
I look at her like she’s crazy, but then remember everyone knows me as the shut-in boy whose parents keep him on a tight leash. I nod my head silently, pushing my glasses up my nose as I look at the girl, Brittany I think her name was.
She smirks. “So we got a Goth kid in today, her parents dropped her off top stay in the dormitories. I figured you could show her around camp, seeing as you're both into that kind of stuff.”
“What do you mean?” I ask, somewhat annoyed.
Brittany waves me off. “Just meet her in front of the Pastors office at Nine after service so you can give her a guided tour. I’m supposed to do it, but I got this thing.”
Yeah, making out with one of the seniors, I think to myself, chuckling. She shoots me an evil look and blushes as if she could read my mind. I just nod and say I’ll be happy to do it.
We arrive at church a few minutes before the sermon, and Pastor Rick calls me over. Pastor Rick is a paunchy, older man with a bald head and a big nose. He always smells vaguely of Old Spice cologne, though nobody else seems to notice.
“Happy birthday buddy!” He says, holding out a hand and patting me on the back as I shake it. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a roll of twenties, which he strips off five and hands them to me. “Buy yourself something nice.”
I smile. It’s a traditional gift from the pastor for all the kids who turn sixteen to get a hundred dollars from the congregation. I pocket the money and thank him again, before moving into the hall. I look up at the cross and say a quick prayer before pulling out my second water bottle and my bottle of aspirin. Palming three red tablets, I down them with a glug of water and put them away, just as Nina takes a seat beside me. The Pastor moves to the front of the room and instructs us to open to Genesis, where we listen to a sermon about Cain and Abel, the world's first murder and first lie to God. I just try and fight back a headache that’s coming on as I think about what Cain must’ve gone through after killing his brother, wandering the world until he could settle with others in the land of Nod, forever marked with his shame for the world to see.
The Pastor ended on a lighter note, asking for volunteers for the summer cookout to the beach (“The sign up is on my door!”) and reminding us that the rest of the day was full of events so that we could have fun. The younger kids all rush out to get to the “fun” events like playing with clay and painting while some of the older kids just hang back to speak with the counselors. I walk past them all towards the front of the pastor's office, where this new girl should be.
And I think I found her.
Sitting in a pleated skirt with calf high black steel-toed boots, she was busy playing a handheld game while listening to music from a CD player turned all the way up. Her hair was red and cut in a short bob cut and her face and a smattering of freckles and a cute button nose. Her shirt was a long-sleeved white and blue blouse with a thin black jacket pulled over it. A flint in the light told me she had a nose piercing and that she had on heavy eye shadow. I stopped a foot from her and leaned down, pulling an earphone away from her head.
“Ready to get started?” I ask with a smile.
Rather than freaking out like I expected her to do, she looked up, then down my frame and up it again before switching the game off. She shucked her black jacket onto the chair and held out her hand. “I’m Monica,” she said in an almost breathless quality.
Looking at her, I couldn’t help but be amazed by her pristine features. Her shapely, kissable lips, her lean figure, her impressive bust… I had never seen a girl like her before. I shook my head and muttered an apology before introducing myself.
“I’m Kevin,” I said, shaking her hand. “And you aren’t supposed to be wearing make-up or a nose stud. Can you take it off here or do you need the bathroom?”
“I can take it off here,” she said, and quickly did so. “I’ll need a bathroom for the make-up.”
“Just don’t come tomorrow with any of it on and you should be fine. And if you bump into Miss Gracie, just do what she says. She can be a real pain sometimes, thinks we’re all her children.”
“I’ll watch out for her. So, Kevin, you’re a counselor here, eh?” Monica asked as we walked from the administration building and out into the warm summer air.
“Have been for almost a year, yeah,” I say, leaning on a wooden railing overlooking the baseball diamond.
“So you must know all the spots to go to not to get caught, eh?” She said, grabbing my hand and tugging on it. “Show me the dark side of First Lutheran of San Antonio!”
I chuckle and lead her around the administration building past the dormitories and showers (which I point out) and towards a place that nobody ever goes, except me.
I push the rusted iron gates enough to allow her to slip under the chains before ducking under them myself. Walking among the dark foliage with her, I felt relaxed. Maybe today wouldn’t be such a bad day after all?
“Penny for your thoughts?” She asked me, reaching into her purse for something.
“Oh, just thinking maybe this won’t be such a bad birthday after all,” I said, chuckling at her astonished face,
“It’s your birthday! You serious?” She seems astonished at the idea.
“Well, yeah. Why?”
“I don’t know, it just seems so weird that you’d be here on your birthday, y’know? I know if it was mine I’d be lounging around in my bedroom in my underwear.” She said, blushing faintly at the last part. She pulls a lighter and a hand-rolled cigarette from her purse with a cry of delight. As I watch with a bemused smile, I watch her light up the cigarette and take a long pull off of it, holding the smoke in her lungs before slowly blowing it out of her nose. She passes me the cigarette, making me raise an eyebrow.
“Uh, no thanks. Don’t smoke.” I say waving it away.
“I imagined that, but this isn’t tobacco,” She says, giving me a rather pointed look.
“You mean that’s…” I say, pointing at the burning cigarette. She nods. She offers it once more, and I take it, holding it awkwardly. She rolls her eyes and takes it back before taking a long hit off of it.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t really know what to do with it and me -” I begin to ramble before she closes the distance between us.
“Hotbox!” She whispers harshly before sealing her mouth over mine, breathing out the smoke into my lungs before slipping a tongue into my mouth. Inhaling deep, I get a scent of lilacs and roses from her, along with a heady scent of what I have to assume is the weed. She clutches my hair with her hands and pulls me down deeper into the kiss, smoke billowing out of our noses as she continues to do battle with my tongue, biting at my upper lip to get me to play along.
After nearly ten minutes of playing around, she pulls back, arms looped around my neck. “How ya feeling?”
I stare at her and smile. “Light as a feather,” I reply serenely.
“Never smoked before?”
“Never. Never kissed a girl either.” I admit, instantly regretting that as I see a devilish look cross her eyes.
“Oho, so I get to corrupt the little church mouse? Hee hee, what fun!”
“How about I show you the graveyard instead?” I offered my head in the clouds from the combination of the first hit of weed ever and the amazing kiss that had followed thereafter.
“Ooh, very spooky. I like the spooky!” She said, reaching around to loop her arm around my waist. “Lead the way Churchy!”
I lead us down a worn path covered in vines and wild bushes, two of which we have to stop and pick briars from her pleated skirt. She lights up another joint and is passing it back and forth between the two of us, and by the time I reach the graveyard proper I am completely high. I’ve never felt this feeling before as if my hands were lighter than air. And thoughts, unbidden and all of a sudden, come forward and I blurt them out. It’s all a very surreal experience for me.
“So this is the graveyard? Gotta admit Kev, this is pretty cool.” She said, joint hanging from her lips as she stuffed her hands in her jacket. She hops up onto a grave marker and idly swings her feet back and forth.
“Yeah, I come here from time to time to blow off steam, and talk to the people,” I say, hoisting myself up onto a tombstone next to her.
“Talk? As into the dead people?” Monica asks, looking at me like I’m weird. I ignore it.
“Yeah, it’s not like they can talk back or anything. I just feel this place has some real primal energy, you know?” I say, smiling at her.
“As long as you’re not talking to dead people who are talking back, you make a decent enough boyfriend.” She shrugged, puffing on her joint.
“Boyfriend,” I say aloud, testing the words in my mouth. I look over at her and frown, “my parents don’t allow me to date, though.”
“Neither do mine, but that’s so not an issue. Just call and set up to stay over tonight at camp. I’ll do the same with my mother and we can meet back up here at midnight. It’ll be romantic!”
I raise an eyebrow at that but just shake it off, instead accepting the joint she passes me. She reaches into her bag and pulls out a couple books, all depicting scantily clad women on the front. “What are those? Porn?” I ask, trying to sound casual.
“As if. They’re vampire novels; they really spice up the imagination if you know what I’m saying.” She winked at me, before handing over one of the books. “Here, take this one. I read it twice so I’ll know when you’re using the pick-up lines from it.”
I take the book with a shaking hand, curious about such a thing as vampires. Monsters and ghouls were never tolerated at my house, where such things were considered “of the devil!” Come to think of it, so was marijuana! I take a deep puff and exhale slowly, my lungs having gotten used to handling the drug easily enough.
We both spend the next half-hour reading through our books, my eyes speeding through the pages of the first vampire novel she gave me. The very ideas it proposed seemed so preposterous, yet so tantalizing. I finish the book in under an hour, causing her to give me a weird look as she lends me the second installment. An hour later she tells me she’d reading the third installment and that I’ll have to wait.
“Like a good boy, good things come to those who wait,” She said in sing-song verse. “And brother, do I have some plans for you tonight!