The last day of finals week passed quickly as I waited impatiently until the weekend when we were scheduled to go on our camping trip. It was supposed to last about two weeks and all of my friends were tagging along. I hoped that it would be fun. I really needed a break away from college courses and from dealing with my enemies. Joe Stevens had followed me around campus quite a bit, making nasty gestures and comments. I had been doing a good job ignoring him but I knew it was only a matter of time before he actually did something to me. I was afraid that, if he could find me alone, he would try to make me pay for humiliating him in the forest clearing.
Walking in my own little dream world, I found myself in front of the University Library. Seated on the steps were my friends Shane Rainey and Destiny Withey. They waved at me and I went to sit with them. We had designated the library steps for our meeting place after finals before we headed home to get our supplies and leave on the trip.
“So, how did finals go?” Destiny asked.
“Fine,” I replied, glancing around the courtyard. I wanted to make sure that Joe was not hiding in the shadows waiting to jump out at me.
Shane appeared puzzled as she watched me look around. “What are you looking for, Aleena?”
“Just making sure Joe isn’t around.”
“Oh, is he still bothering you?” Destiny grumbled, “Figures if he is. Can’t he get it through his head that you won’t ever go out with him?”
“No, that’s not the reason he’s been following me around. Lance and I had a run in with Mike and Joe last night out behind Griswold,” I explained, “I made him look like a fool in front of all his friends. I think he wants to get even by doing something wicked to me.”
“Well, we will make sure he can’t get near you,” a male voice said from behind us. We turned to find Leif McGovern and Dusty Adams grinning at us.
“And what do you plan on doing to him, Leif? You can’t take him yourself. You’re as skinny as a stripling,” Destiny laughed.
Leif glared at her. “I may not be able to take him but together Dusty and I could beat the crap out of Joe. That is, if Lance didn’t get to him first.” The guys sat down with us.
“Speaking of Lance, where is he? Shouldn’t he be here by now?” Dusty asked, running his hand through his blonde hair. It was a nervous habit that he did constantly.
“He’ll be here. If not, he can meet me at the house. We’re supposed to ride together because my mother is going to drop us off at the park,” I answered, “If he’s not here within the next ten minutes, we’ll head out to pick up our stuff and meet him there. He knows where we plan to camp.”
While we waited, we figured out all the last minute details for the trip. We were only talking a couple minutes when Lance finally showed up. He sat next to me quietly as everyone else rambled on. Every time I glanced at him, he had a far away expression on his face and a sly grin on his lips. I tried to probe his mind but there was that damn block again. His behavior bothered me for some strange reason. It felt like he was planning something but I could not put my figure on what it could be.
“Well, we should get going,” Leif said, standing up, “I have to get home and call Amanda.”
“Yeah, I need to get home and hold of Rob. He’s most likely been waiting all day for me to call him about the trip,” Destiny explained. As we headed down the stairs and began to part ways, Shane stopped us.
“Where are we going to meet after we have everything packed?” she inquired. We all thought for a second before answering.
“Why don’t we just meet at the beach parking lot at Griswold?” Lance suggested with the same sly grin.
“That’s a good idea. That way we can walk back to the camping spot together,” Shane said.
“Well, see you in a little while,” Leif said as he and Dusty left together. The rest of us headed toward the student parking lot where my mother was going to pick us up.
“I’m going whether you like it or not Jesse!” I screamed at my brother as I was trying to get all of my clothes packed in my duffel bag.
“Fine! If you’re going then so am I!” he exclaimed. He opened his closet and pulled out his tent, sleeping bag, and duffel bag.
“I don’t care. Do whatever you want.”
“Whatever,” he grumbled while taking clothes out of his closet, “I’m sure I can find something to do during this trip to entertain myself.” As he got those words out, the phone rang. When I went to answer it, my mother was already calling up the stairs.
“Aleena, it’s for you!”
“I’ve got it Mom,” I called down, picking up the phone, “Hello?”
“Aleena? What’s going on at your house? Your mother said something about camping?” Kate McGinnis asked.
“Yeah. We’re all going camping for a few weeks. It should be a lot of fun,” I answered, “Hey, would you like to go with us? We’ll be gone for about two weeks. Besides, Dusty is coming too.”
“Sure. What time should I be there?”
“How about in twenty minutes?”
“No problem. See you then.” I hung up and went back into my room to finish packing.
“So, who’s all coming anyway?” Jesse called from his room.
“Destiny, Leif, Rob, Amanda, Dusty, Lance, Dee, Jeremy, Kate, Shane, and the two of us,” I answered.
“That’s interesting,” he replied.
I went into his room. “I know that you and Lance don’t get along but could you try not to fight with him?”
“All right. I’ll try. But if he starts anything with me….” Jesse warned.
“Make sure you bring a sweatshirt,” I said, changing the subject, “It might get really cold some nights.” Just then I heard the doorbell ring. “How do I look?” I asked, glancing into the mirror above my dresser. I had taken out my braid and my ebony hair swirled freely around my shoulders.
“Aleena, there’s someone here for you,” my mother called up the stairs.
“Send whoever it is upstairs please,” I called down. I turned to look at my brother. “Jesse, would you please close your door?”
“Sure, whatever,” he growled. He knew, just like I, that is was Lance.
After I made sure his door was closed all the way, I went to my walk-in closet to get out my tent. I felt cold hands go around my waist and turned. As I did, the door closed and everything went dark. I knew who it was by his scent so I did not have to worry about kissing the wrong guy. That just would not be kosher. After we had hidden in there for a few minutes, there came a knock on the closet door.
“Yes?” I mumbled.
“Aleena? It’s your brother. Open this door! We have to leave.”
“Yes sir, Jesse sir!” I growled, opening the door to see Jesse with Kate, Dusty, Shane, and Dee.
“I’m not stupid, you know. I know who you are. It’s not like I don’t live with you twenty-four hours a day,” I explained sarcastically, “Do you have everything you’ll need?” This question was directed at my friends.
“It’s all in Mom’s van,” Jesse explained.
“I’m glad she’s driving us over to the park. I really wasn’t looking forward to carrying all that stuff across town,” Kate replied.
“Jesse, do you have all your things?” I asked, glancing at Shane. I wanted to see her reaction. She appeared surprised he was going with us. For at least two years, she’d had a major crush on him.
“Yeah, I have my stuff. It’s down in the van with everyone else’s,” he answered, glancing at her as well. He knew all about her crush on him.
“Let’s go then,” I said. I ran passed them and jumped down the stairs.
“Wait up Aleena,” Lance called after me. As we came crashing out the door, we found my mother waiting for us by the van.
“Let’s get going already. I have errands to run,” she said and climbed into the mini-van. We all piled into the van and headed for the park.
When we arrived at Griswold Park, we found the others waiting for us. We unloaded our supplies and said goodbye to my mother. She said that she would see us when we were ready to come home.
“How did you get here?” Jesse asked Destiny.
“A friend of mine drove our equipment and Leif’s brother drove us,” she answered, tugging on her dusty blonde ponytail to tighten it.
“Why don’t we get started?” Rob Hart, Destiny’s boyfriend, suggested.
“Good idea,” Dee Riley said. We picked up our things and started the long walk to the spot we had chosen for our camp. Before we got to it, we had to jump over a deep trench that had been dug to keep cars from driving around the lake. The path into the camp was so covered with foliage that we almost didn’t find it. We were happy when Amanda McClellen, Leif’s girlfriend, stumbled upon it.
“Good job, Amanda. Let’s go down,” Destiny replied. When we got down into the camp, we put our things on the ground. Lance lay next to me on the grass and I almost feel asleep on his shoulder except Jesse began to make a great deal of noise unpacking his stuff.
“Do you mind?” I snapped at him.
“All I’m doing is putting up my tent,” he exclaimed, defending himself.
“We all should get our things ready,” Shane replied. Dusty and I took out our tents then picked spots for them that were a considerable distance away from each other.
“Tonight,” Lance mumbled to himself as he unpacked some of his things.
“What?” Leif asked.
“Nothing. Nothing at all,” he smiled.
“Whatever man,” Leif sighed, shook his head, and went back to what he was doing.
“Do you need help?” Lance asked me.
“Yes, that would be nice. Thanks.” I answered.
“How about Lance and I put up your tent while you and Destiny go out to search for firewood?” Rob suggested.
“That’s a good idea. Aleena, while you two are gone, I’ll go dig the bathroom,” Shane smiled, holding up a shovel. Jesse glanced at her like she was from another planet.
“Fine. Let’s go Destiny,” I said.
“Okay. I’m coming. Just a minute.” She walked over to Rob and gave him a long, passionate kiss. I didn’t want to feel left out so I did the same to Lance. Afterward, we started walking away from the camp deeper into the forest, picking up sticks as we went along.
“What Aleena?” she asked, bending over to pick up another branch.
“What do you think of Lance?”
“He’s a nice guy. A little strange sometimes, but nice. Why?”
“Oh, I don’t know. In what way do you think he’s strange?” I inquired.
She cocked her head to the side. “Well, he’s always going into the woods around here. By himself. Most of us have been taught that it’s dangerous to go into these woods alone. Isn’t he worried that the forest spirits will get him?”
I laughed. “I don’t think he ever worries about that. He doesn’t believe in those old tales because he’s not from around here. Not many places have the forest spirits like we do. Besides, the forest spirits aren’t really dangerous unless you do something to them first.”
“You know, if I didn’t know that you were a half-breed I would tell you that you’re full of it. But I know that you speak the truth,” Destiny smiled, “That’s the only reason I agreed to come on this camping trip with you. I knew the forest spirits would leave us alone as long as you’re here.”