I’m the guy who climbed a roof and put himself in a coma.
I have a slight fear of heights now.
But that is entirely and completely irrelevant.
My name’s Zac Rife. Which is apparently a cool name because of the word strife.
I don’t really care.
“Morning!” Dawn exclaimed, suddenly assaulting me with a kiss and a tight hug.
That’s Dawn. She and I are a thing. For now.
Don’t get me wrong, she’s great like they all are. Fun to kiss, energetic, ready for anything, but that eventually starts to get annoying and clingy. If I told her that now though, it would probably ruin the last few days of camp.
“Geesus Kenya I know.” Nikolas’ annoyed voice came from the other side of the camp.
“You need to win this challenge or there’s no winning the competition.” Kenya urged.
“I know that-”
“Don’t be stupid or rush it. Take your time.” Kenya said. She sighed. “I sure hope you have a high pain tolerance.”
“I’ve never been stung before.” Nikolas said.
“There’s a first time for everything.” I said, hands in my pocket. I sure wouldn’t mind seeing this nosy kid getting stung three or four times.
He rolled his eyes. “Well it’s not going to happen today. I can avoid getting stung.”
“With your head stuck in a beehive? God we’re not going to win this.” Kenya groaned.
“Sure we will.” Dawn chirped in. “Nik here’s got the sense of mind not to start squealing like a girl when he gets stung.” I snorted.
“You’re a horrible team.” Nikolas hmphed crossing his arms. “The challenge is already won.”
“Yeah for the other team.” Kenya groaned again.
“Come on Team!” Dawn fist bumped into the air and marched off.
The girls are starting to regret I’m sure (and me as well), but because of how things turned out, Nikolas is our champion for the last two challenges: The beehive and the board breaker. Our success rests entirely on his shoulders.
“Rules of the challenge are simple.” Flo said. “First to fill a bottle of honey wins. The challenge itself resides in sticking your hands in a pile of bees.”
I didn’t want to do this challenge. I could win, but I didn’t want to have to deal with the bee sting I was definitely going to get.
“We’ve smoked the bees,” Jo continued. “but doesn’t mean one won’t sting you, so be careful. You have 2 minutes to complete the challenge. Grab your hats and get ready.”
They slipped on their hats and opened up the beehives as the rest of us took a step back. The buzzing was a little intimidating.
To Kenya’s despair, Nikolas didn’t waste any time and dug his hand right in as if there weren’t any bees at all.
Baby wings on the other hand had to take a few moments.
First minute were spent with us, the audience, just waiting for an ow, whilst the two contestants fumbled to get the plate with the honey in it.
We heard a lot of curses from Kaan as he kept resisting the urge to swat at all the bees. And yet still, Nikolas was as calm as if he was searching in a box of toys.
And then it came.
“Aw shit! OW!” Kaan shouted, instinctively slapping his arm where a bee had stung him. Or maybe it had just touched his skin, either way there was no doubt that now he had a bee sting.
Kaan immediately jumped away, shaking his arms and groaning as the bees continued to buzz.
Nikolas paid no mind to it. He’d managed to get the plate and he was pouring his honey into the bottle. As it dripped, Kaan regained his composure and dug back in, but by then it was too late.
Nikolas had filled his bottle and he was holding it up proudly. The kid actually won.
“Fantastic! Congratulations to Team Nikolas! And with this we have a tie! Each team has won three challenges. The last challenge will be the tie breaker.” Flo announced, and our team cheered (as in Dawn cheered). “And now for today, if you remember we said we had a surprise for you. The stables accepted to lend us their horses again for this afternoon.”
“Are you serious? Yes!” Dawn exclaimed practically jumping up and down. And then she stopped to glare at Nikolas. “You better not ruin this for me this time.”
“Yes, we’re doing this because we expect you all to behave.” Flo added, and everyone’s eyes fell on Nikolas.
“I said I was sorry!” Nikolas exclaimed under the pressure.
“Horseback riding is right after lunch, so until then you’re free to redo any activities we’ve done so far. Jo will be starting a Gnubb match, and I’ll be there for supervision if any of you want to try out rock climbing or archery again. Or if you want to practice some more for tomorrow’s competition.” Flo said, dismissing everyone.
I got out of the bathroom, still smelling my weirdly scented clean hands, when I noticed Kaan, the guy who doesn’t know how to start conversations, waiting for me outside.
“We need to find out what’s on that paper of his.” He declared, gesturing at Nikolas who was sitting on the deck, staring at said paper and sometimes looking over near the main cabin.
“Better time than any.”
“Sure let’s just go over and dump his head in the lake till he gives it over.” I said.
Kaan hesitated a little looking at me weirdly. “Uh…guess he is pretty stubborn. Okay let’s try that.”
I stared at him, the kid a year younger than me, in exasperation. “That was sarcasm dude.”
“Either way, aren’t you curious?”
Yes I am. It’s my one fatal flaw. “Yeah, but this isn’t the right time.”
“How do you know if it is or not?”
“Because I don’t want to right now.”
Kaan groaned and marched off. If he wants it that bad he can just go get it himself.
The door to the girls side of the bathroom opened and the pretty blue head came out. I leaned on the edge of the building and cast her one of my charming smiles.
“Hey gorgeous, how you liking summer camp so far?”
She jumped, surprised by how close I was. But then her face contorted into annoyance.
“Why do you keep doing that?”
“Flirting with me! Aren’t you with Dawn?”
I shrugged. “You’re hot.” I said leaning in close. “And I wouldn’t mind making out with you.”
Her face flushed a cute shade of red, before her eyes flashed that annoyance again. She pushed me away.
My amused smirk vanished as I noticed a sad expression suddenly inhabit her face. Then she bit her lip and looked away, like she was trying to work herself up to ask something.
“What is it?” I asked, annoyed of waiting for her to talk.
“Niko-he-I…I actually l-”
“Yeah I know you like Niko. It’s pretty obvious.” I said. There was momentary relief, and then a flash of and-you’re-still-trying-to-flirt-with-me?.
“But he doesn’t seem to see it? And I didn’t use to mind, but now he’s been talking about that girl at the bank with a lot of admiration and-”
“Wait. You’re asking me for flirting advice?”
Salandra blushed with embarrassment. “Yes.” She grumbled. “You look like you’ve got experience.”
“Babe, if you want him to notice, all you have to do is invade his personal space.” I said, cornering her on the wall of the building.
“And get real close.” I said, leaning towards her. There was barely any distance between us when she shoved me and slipped away. She stood a few feet away from me, still very red.
“Okay I’ll try that. And for your sake it better work.” She threatened. I raised my eyebrows as she sauntered off.
I saw her take a breath, shake her hands a little, and head towards the deck, where Nikolas was doing whatever he was doing with that piece of paper.
Oh, this could be entertaining to watch.
No one’s POV
Salandra joined Nikolas, sliding down to sit beside him.
Her heart was thumping painfully against her chest and her cheeks still felt red.
Nikolas barely showed any sign of having noticed. He dropped the piece of paper on his lap and stared pointedly at the hill to the right.
Her palms were sweaty, and it was just making the whole event more nervous for her. She’d decided on something, but she still didn’t know if she had the courage, or if she’d chosen the right time, or even if-
She glanced up, only to catch Zac looking at her. He gave her a thumbs up; and though she couldn’t decipher whether it was sarcastic or not, she decided to see it as a friendly encouragement of sorts for once.
And then out of the blue, as Salandra was wringing her hands trying to come up with a way to start the conversation, Nikolas said something unexpected.
“He’s a jerk. Zac, I mean.”
Salandra’s heart skipped a beat at the idea of what that comment could mean.
Had he seen what Zac had just done? Had he-
“He easily gets half the blame for what happened to my sister. If not more.” Nikolas added.
Ah of course, it’s about his sister. And there for a moment Salandra had thought this might be a little easier.
“I think I know where it is now.”
“The treasure?” Salandra asked, swallowing her nervousness.
“Yeah. I’m pretty certain actually. I just need to find a way to get it now.”
The conversation was drifting off now and Salandra could feel her own resolution ebb away. But she’d given herself a challenge and she was determined to follow through with it. And Nikolas could be dense, so she had to be really obvious about it. Just like Zac had said.
“Niko? You remember when we met right? When we were kids?”
“Er…” He slinked away, surprised by how close Salandra had suddenly leaned in.
“I still feel bad for slapping you, but…do you remember what you said to me then?”
“Uh yeah, Elvis dared me to.” Nikolas said, his eyes wavering uncertainly as he tried to understand what Salandra was getting at. “Speaking of I’m going to have to make sure the bastard took down-”
Nikolas had looked away, relaxing a little as if he hadn’t felt like Salandra was suddenly attacking him with something he didn’t want.
But Salandra wasn’t ready to give up yet. She reached out to turn his head back to her.
“And you remember what I replied then right?” She continued. He couldn’t ignore her now, so he kept silent, waiting to see where she was going to go with this. Unless he was just waiting for this to be over. Or, maybe he was just waiting for her to do it? She couldn’t tell and it was making her anxious, but she would follow through to the end.
She was ready.
“But Nikolas,” She said, slowly, gazing into those eyes that haunted her dreams. Oh what if… “You like girls right?”
She wished she could, oh she’d given anything at that moment to know what was going through his head at that moment. I’m a girl, so if you say yes…please say yes
His mouth closed firmly shut. His eyes narrowed. He pulled away. He stood up.
“I’m going to go see if the material I need is hidden around the main cabin or something.” He said, as if absolutely nothing had happened, as if it had been just another of their “fruitful” conversations.
Salandra was left to ponder what she’d done wrong.
Rejection was one thing. Rejection she could deal with and move on.
But to have her intentions not even acknowledged?
What could she do with that?
“LIAR! It didn’t work at all!!” Sal yelled after stomping all the way back here.
“Woah you’re putting this on me!?” I exclaimed.
“You said it would work, but he just-”
“I’m not the one who went out there and failed, don’t try putting the blame on me.”
God I hate it when they cry. At the very least it’s not entirely my fault this time.
“Don’t cry. It’s not worth crying over.”
“I’m not crying.” She practically growled with a quaky voice.
“Whatever you say.”
She took her hands away from her face, showing she really didn’t have bloodshot eyes. Didn’t mean she looked any happier.
“Look, I don’t know what you were expecting from this. It’s Nikolas, and you’ve known him longer than I have. For all we know the guy’s asexual.” I said with a shrug.
Salandra frowned at me.
“I mean, if he rejects you he oughta be asexual.” I added.
She look unsatisfied with my answer.
“Bye Zac.” She eventually said, turning around. “Thanks for nothing.” She added under her breath.
I rolled my eyes. When you tried to do something good – I raised my hands helplessly in the air.
Rest of the day went pretty smoothly. Baby wings and I cornered Nikolas while he was probably doing his best to behave during the horse riding activity.
He didn’t have much of a choice, but to sit still and listen to us. The counselors’ warnings had been pretty clear.
Though, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d actually considering going against the rules again, just to keep secret whatever was on that paper.
After a lot of insisting, almost getting caught by the counselor and some promising from baby wings to tell everything he knew about curses (something about a deal they made before?), Nikolas gave in and showed us the piece of paper.
Reach for the sky
1 2 3 4
But not too high
Keep the bark in line
Lest he trample it
It was a riddle! A riddle to an old treasure hidden at camp. Ha ha, figures it’d be something like this.
I didn’t care much for it anymore. I mean how old is it? The treasure is either not there anymore, or it’s expired. Kaan however, got really into it, asking Nikolas what he’d found and putting his own opinions in.
“ 1 2 3 4, bark, it’s got to be the statue right?? Have you looked?? I mean it can’t be anything else right?”
Niko seemed to get dragged in by Kaan’s curiosity and he ended up agreeing. Apparently he was 100% it had something to do with the statue, he just wasn’t too sure where the treasure was around the statue. His first instinct was to dig for it, but the ground was hard and he didn’t have the right tools.
Guess I got carried by the idea of a treasure too. “The main cabin’s got a shovel.”
“Yeah but the counselors’ll probably notice”
“Not tomorrow. We always have a mini party once the competition ends. We can go and dig up the treasure then.”
Nikolas didn’t seem very enthusiastic with the idea of a we, but he still agreed.
It’s a good way to end summer camp I guess. Though I really doubt there’s going to be any treasure left to find.
No one’s POV
Salandra, hesitantly, reached the small hill where Nikolas was making the rounds around the luck statue, trying to see if he could figure the exact place the treasure was buried – if this really was the place.
Sal didn’t want to be awkward just because of something she’d done. She’d thought about it and regretted her actions. Obviously she’d chosen the wrong time – maybe there would never be a good time – now she just wanted everything to be normal.
“Hi Niko.” She said, just as she would’ve normally. Nikolas looked up, mildly surprised. For a few seconds he just looked at her, trying to see if the weird way Salandra had been acting was over. When Salandra gave him one of her trademark innocent smiles, he got up with a sigh, gesturing helplessly at the ground.
“I’m not sure about this Sal, I mean the first three lines are obvious: the statue has something to do with this. But it’s the last two that annoy me: Lest he trample it. I guess it fits if it’s in the ground, but…” Nikolas looked up. “Feels like something’s missing.”
“So the bark was the dog after all?”
“Unless, it’s talking about the trees surrounding the statue. Like you need to make sure the trees don’t outgrow over the treasure or something. I don’t know, sounds like a stretch. It probably is something as simple as the dog on the statue. His paw is lifted up like he’s going to step on something after all. But does that mean it is the donkey? I don’t want to start destroying the statue!” Nikolas exclaimed in exasperation.
“Niko?” Since Zac had said it, a word was going around in Sal’s brain. She hadn’t heard it used to define someone before and Niko was the only one whom she thought could answer her. (He was a nerd who prided himself in knowing things after all)
“What?” He said, not taking his eyes off the statue.
“What’s an asexual person?”
“Someone who doesn’t feel any sexual attraction.” Nikolas responded, and a few seconds later realized what she’d asked. He frowned. “Why do you want to know?”
Confusion flashed across her face. “No reason.”
One chapter left to Arc 2 🙂