Crimson Summer - Chapter Thirteen
Liz didn't really believe in bad luck but she was about to get a harsh lesson in it. It started with one of the snaps on her favorite bra breaking off, putting her in a particularly bad mood. It continued when Liz was told they were out of vegetarian options at breakfast. I shouldn't have told any of those bitches about doing that. So she settled for a chocolate milk and strawberry pop tart. Breakfast of Champions. Then she was forced to help serve brunch because Marge needed help. Al treated like an opportunity which Liz tried to decline but he was insistent.
On top of it all Chase seemed to be acting weird. She couldn’t quite put her finger on it but it was clear something was up with him. It was understandable given how quickly their – whatever it was they were in in – had progressed. If she was scared, he must have been terrified. While she wasn’t calling him her boyfriend, it certainly felt like it was there. They were spending any moment they could together and things had progressed but it certainly wasn’t a talk she wanted to have with him at that very moment.
After the day she was having, it was a relief when Marion asked her at dinner if she wanted to smoke afterwards. Liz hadn't smoked in several weeks so she was happy to indulge. Plus, she had yet to catch up with Marion all summer given her hectic schedule in recent days. So she met up with Marion just after lights out, out near the woods next to the lake.
"You know, I wasn't even sure if this was where we were meeting or not," Liz said.
"Oh come on, gotta stick with the classics. This spot is great." Marion was right, this was definitely Liz's favorite smoke spot. They walked a little ways into the tree line until they reached a massive tree, right near the water’s edge.
"So how much has Al been freaking out about Keith running off?" asked Liz.
"You know, I'll answer this one question but as soon as this torch is lit, the work talk stops," said Marion as she raised the pipe to her mouth, lighter right next to it, just itching to ignite, "He's pissed. But hey, I get it. When you got a chance at the pros, you've gotta take it. At least that's what I heard he's doing."
"Well then, I wish him all the best in all his future endeavors," Liz said, raising an invisible glass as a salute.
"And on that note. . ." Marion sparked the lighter and lit the pipe. It was time.
They smoked, doing little smoke tricks back and forth like the French inhale – a trick Liz had perfected with a boy sophomore year – giggling to themselves as they kept one upping each other. Her mind wandered, drifting back to Chase. He was certainly the closest friend she had made at the camp – outside of Marion of course. They formed a bond rather quickly and it was weird to Liz just how comfortable she felt with him already. Like they had been friends for years. But she couldn’t deny that she was developing feelings for him.
She wasn't sure if the feelings were returned but it seemed like they were. She still enjoyed his company regardless. Not that she didn't get a little jealous when Sally asked her if she was dating Chase and if it'd be okay if she talked to him. They weren't but Liz wasn't okay with another girl making advances towards him. Not like it mattered though, they only had a few weeks together. Then they'd go their separate ways. Dammit why are things so complicated?
Liz noticed Marion looking over at her but before she could say a word, Marion was already talking, as if reading her mind.
"So what's the deal with you and Chase?"
"Honestly? I have no idea. I mean, he's totally someone I would date but . . . he also live hundreds of miles away. Not like this is really going to be anything more than a summer fling. I’m not some delusional girl," Liz said disappointed.
"Since when is a summer fling so bad? I can't count the number of times that one has helped me out during a shitty time. Sometimes we just need a boy."
"Your feminist colleagues would be appalled."
"Oh shut up, you know what I mean. I can be completely happy by myself but that doesn't mean I don't like male company. Doesn't make me any less feminist. Just means I like to cater to my base instincts."
"Yeah but how can you tell your brain that a relationship’s just going to be casual? It doesn't work like that. And I really don't think the heartache is worth it."
"So you're avoiding it because you don't want to get too attached? Sounds pretty weak to me, missy." Marion leaned up against a tree, throwing rocks out into the lake. Her eyes followed them as they pitter-pattered across.
"Look I just don't really feel like falling for some guy when I know he's just going to be gone in a couple weeks. It's stupid."
"It happens. You're into him and you keep spending time with him, what're you expecting out of this?"
"Do I really have to even think about that right now? Can't I just enjoy this bowl?" Liz asked, taking a hit of the pipe.
"Do what you will, girl. I'm just telling you that just because it won't last forever doesn't mean you shouldn't enjoy it while it does. I mean, think of how many times you would have missed out on friendships if you had known they weren't going to last forever," Marion said, eyes half open.
"What about you?" Liz asked.
"What do you mean 'what about me?' You think that this is just going to turn around on me now?” Marion retorted, the intensity in voice rising.
“Yeah, that’s how these conversations work,” Liz said nonchalantly, “so any cute prospects around the camp? Back home?"
Marion looked at her a moment, like she was debating answering her question at all. With a raise of her brow Liz made it clear any excuse would not come welcome. Eventually Marion succumbed with a sigh.
"Oh god. Well you've seen the counselors and, outside of newbie Keith who was super cute but now obviously gone, it's the same crew as every year. No way would I let Louie touch me. He's a bit too much of a pervert for my liking," Marion pondered as if checking off a list in her head.
"Oh come on, Louie is the best," Liz said and Marion was immediately staring down her nose at her.
"Oh please. I'm sure you can get away with God knows what as a camper around him but for me it's a living hell. He'll be so inappropriate that I sometimes have to take a moment just to reassure myself that he did in fact just say that. He completely loses track of his group sometimes all because he doesn’t want to take them anywhere normal in the woods, it always has to be some random spot, two miles in."
"Sounds about why I like him." It was true, Liz didn't see any problem with Louie. He was laid back and didn't seem to care what his campers were doing as long as it didn't get him in trouble. It made him pretty easy to deal with from Liz's side.
"Yeah well try being his boss, then tell me all those things are great qualities.”
“Yet another reason why I’m glad I’m not a boss.
“Oh I’m sorry, can I help you with your breakfast duties, Madame?” Marion said daintily.
“Oh I’m sorry, can I help you with your breakfast duties, Madame?” Marion said daintily.
“Oh fuck you,” said Liz as she playfully punched Marion on the arm, “You need to get me out of that.”
“Yeah, I’ll do that the moment you tell me that Louie is indeed as bad as I say he is.”
“That’s the way of the world, darlin’” Marion said, this time with a southern drawl, “I don’t know why you care so much anyway. I will shatter your illusion of him no problem.”
“Oh yeah, how you managin’ that?”
“Imagine dealing with a guy who you can tell is trying to picture you naked like any time you talk to him."
Wait. This was her earth-shattering claim? Are you kidding me? Liz snorted, rolling her eyes a little.
"What are you talking about? I'm in high school. All anyone thinks about is sex in high school. I'm around that constantly."
"God, I sometimes forget what little perverts we can be during puberty." Marion took a hit and blew a giant smoke bubble into the air. Liz leaned in, sucking in the bubble and coughing. They had perfected that technique last summer. It was their unofficial way of changing the subject. Marion couldn’t remember how it started but she made sure not to do it with anyone else.
"That still leaves Barry."
"Barry? No thanks. Former jock just finally being hit with the realization that high school was the best time of his life? Yeah, not for me." Marion seemed offended even at the suggestion.
"Okay calm down. I was just making small talk. He was the only guy left. I guess I could have said Diane," Liz joked.
"I'd pick Diane over any one of ‘em. I'd be in a lesbian partnership if it meant those guys were my only male choices," Marion chided, "I'm not sure it'd take that much to switch Diane though. She always gets a little too handsy when we drink."
"Diane is so sweet. She's destined to get knocked up by some idiot."
"Oh, absolutely. She has the worst taste in men. She fucked Barry two summers ago. Something she immediately regretted but still, it happened. And to be fair, Barry had a six pack then."
"Wait, Diane fucked Barry and you never told me?" Liz said, completely flummoxed. She thought that Marion had told her all about the juicy sex gossip in the camp. It was usually a funny source of entertainment while they smoked.
Marion stopped what she was doing and looked to be thinking deeply. She definitely didn't realize she never told me, Liz thought, a little annoyed.
"Oh hey, dick move on my part. Look so Diane told me not to say anything but then I had high brain and just kind of assumed I had told you since that's pretty much the only thing I've purposely kept from you."
"Well that and Jake Tramer."
"Wait . . . How do you know about Jake?" Marion asked, a little mad Liz would even know the name.
"D to the I to the A - N - E. Duh."
"That little bitch –" Marion started but was swiftly interrupted.
"Hey, what're you doing over there?"
The voice came out of the dark in an instant. It took a moment to register just who it was but it clicked with Liz the moment his voice echoed over in her brain. Only one person could sound so clueless and from a different time period: Al.
Marion was quick, rising to her feet and taking control of the situation. She dusted herself off and put the pipe in a notch in the tree next to Liz. She swiftly motioned for Liz to be cool, quickly letting her know she'd handle this. Liz wasn’t sure though. She didn't want Marion to lose her job or anything. The flashlight was almost on them, all their movement would be tracked from that point on. No time to hide.
"No worries, Al. I've got this all under control," said Marion.
"Shut up, Marion. You're not my mom," Liz spat out. Marion looked at her, confused and alarmed.
"What's going on here? Is that marijuana I smell?" Al asked, reaching them and quickly shooting them a stern look of disapproval.
"This bitch won't let me just do what I need to, to fucking survive this place," Liz said, hoping her attitude would do its part.
"Marion, what exactly happened?" Al asked but Liz was quick to retort, not wanting Marion to have to come up with the lie herself.
"She caught me smoking and was in the middle of a bullshit speech when you showed up." Liz hoped that at the very least if the lie didn’t take, at least she’d earn some major friendship points with Marion for at least attempting to take the bullet.
Al looked between both Liz and Marion, not sure what to believe but just waiting to hear Marion's side.
"Like Liz said, caught her smoking," said Marion and put her head down in shame.
“I just . . . I never. Just when you were really starting to show some real promise you go and do something like this. I would say I’m disappointed Ms. Thompson but you already know that.”
Al was acting like the ultimate parent in a way that Liz hadn’t felt in a long time. He dismissed Marion pretty early, saying that he didn’t want her to hear the things he had to say to Liz. He wouldn’t stop telling her how disappointed he was and how much she was throwing her future down the drain. She could have sworn she saw a tear in his eye at some point but Liz hoped she’d just imagined it. He said the repercussions for her actions would come quick and he wasn’t lying.
This wasn’t going to be the easiest summer. Not anymore.
As if it weren't bad enough that Liz was taking the fall for the situation, something she still did gladly given its impact on Marion's career, she wasn't allowed to go out at night anymore. At all. Al said she was to stay in the dining hall until bed, at which time she'd be escorted to her bunk by Carol. Otherwise she would be spending her day with, what she considered the worst of the punishment, Carol's group.
Liz had been in Marion's group every summer and that was part of the appeal of the camp. She didn't know what it was like to experience Watanka without Marion leading the activities she took part in. Marion was always her counselor and that was the way that she always envisioned it. Maybe had a different thought entered her head she would have been more resistant to returning to the camp.
The next morning the Belar twins made it clear they knew exactly what was going on with both mimicking the act of smoking a joint. Liz just rolled her eyes. Of course they know. They always know everything.
Liz went to the showers, taking part in a surprisingly lukewarm rinse, and returned to find the girls complaining about some kind of awards show they were apparently missing out on. By the time she got all dressed and returned to the front of the cabin, the Belar twins were busy complaining about some girl from another cabin.
"What the hell is she even doing?" Alice asked, staring out at the girl spinning poi balls around her body to imaginary music.
"I've seen that at Lolla before and it's fucking stupid," said Nancy, who seemed to be barely paying attention, just wanting to talk down about the subject.
"I know the general thing that she's doing, I just don't understand why," Alice said, totally perplexed.
"Come on, can't be the first hippie spiritual person for you to encounter. At least I hope not. You've been missing out on a lot of good stuff if you haven't," Liz said.
"Yeah well not all of us are giant potheads so it doesn't always appeal," Nancy spat out. The word was getting around camp fairly quickly, even before she had made the official move to the other group. By then everyone would know.
"Oh shut up, I smoke a handful of times and suddenly I'm a drug addicted. Whatever," said Liz.
"Woah, putting words in my mouth miss guilty conscience," said Nancy with a little too much innocence.
"Don't act like you haven't taken part in smoke green with me."
"I just don't understand what goes on in someone's head that makes them go 'I want to spin balls around my body while looking like a complete idiot," said Alice, getting the subject back on topic.
"I'm sure she doesn't thinks she looks stupid at all," Liz interjected.
"Yeah well maybe that's the problem. Not like everyone else cares about others opinions as much as you do," said Nancy, taking another shot at Liz.
"Oh so now I care too much about other opinions, is that it, Miss Freud? If the measuring stick is the dancing diva over there, then yeah maybe I care too much."
Liz spotted Marion walking across the grass to the main office. She didn’t notice Liz at first but when she did, gave her a half-smile and a nod of her head, mouthing “thank you.” Liz just smiled back, glad that she was able to help her out. It certainly didn’t come without its price though.
“Liz, we gotta go,” said Nancy. All the girls were getting around, getting ready to depart in their groups.
“You sure the pothead can join us?” Nancy spat out.
“Yeah, I thought you weren’t allowed to have any fun anymore?” said Alice immediately.
“Umm . . . yeah, of course,” said Liz, acting like she knew.
She wasn’t entirely sure if she was still allowed to do rock climbing given that Marion was the instructor, but Al hadn’t strictly prohibited so she assumed it was fine. Plus, the last thing she wanted was to give them the satisfaction.
Ah the rock wall. While there were many things around the camp that felt unsafe, the rock wall was not one of them. According to Marion, Al had spent most of his last bank loan to get it, hoping for a surge of campers because of it. There was a slight surge but that died down quickly. Liz still enjoyed it a great deal though. In fact, she held the time record for female campers. Marion had the fastest overall, but given the time she got with the wall to practice, Liz didn't see it as exactly fair. Still, when Marion called for everyone to gather up at the rock wall, she couldn't help but feel a little excited. She wasn't good at many physical activities so she was going to take this one as serious as possible. Plus it didn't hurt to try and impress Chase.
It was easy enough getting everyone into one area but settling them down was another story. Marion hadn't arrived yet and Carol was feeling under the weather, so Louie and Diane were left to deal with the campers, who were restless.
Marion carefully put all the equipment on, strapping everything in and tightening it all up. She looked a little ridiculous but given that the wall reached 50 feet at his highest, it was a necessary precaution.
"Now I don't want anyone trying to get fancy and act like Spider-man when you're up there. I get it, it's fun to climb walls. But it's also not fun to break bones. So let's try and avoid that as much as possible so that then I can continue harassing you little terrors," Marion's voice provided some laughs.
"So is it cool if I did it?" Louie said, cracking wise.
"No, Louie, you're allowed. In fact, do some crazy stuff . . . by yourself. I'll turn a blind eye."
Marion continued to climb, step by step, rung by rung, she made her way up the way. Ten feet. Twenty feet. She was up it so fast, Liz couldn't believe it. Someone's been practicing.
"And if you can get up here, I'll give you --" Marion started but cut herself off with a horrific scream.
In one sudden motion, the rope line holding her up snapped like a twig, her hands reached out, trying to grab onto a rung, the rope next to her, anything. Only she wasn’t able to grab onto anything. She just fell.
Marion came crashing down thirty feet onto the dirt below and all Liz could do was scream.
END CHAPTER THIRTEEN