Camp Ardenne

Lauren Emily
9 mins read
Published over 1 year ago
Chapter 3

Excessive PDA

“NO EXCESSIVE PDA” the sign announces as we tromp down to the beach, coolers and lighter fluid in hand.

“Yeah okay,” Foster cracks, stopping right in front of the sign to give Krysten a full openmouthed kiss. 

Not like anyone cares – aside from a group of burners (in town for a music festival) partying next to the lifeguard stand, the stretch of sand is completely deserted. The live fiddle music interspersed with Phish blasted from tinny speakers is the perfect soundtrack for six burned-out counselors on our biweekly night off. 

You slap my shoulder and I don’t even flinch. 

“Mosquito,” you murmur and I try not to take the pleasant sting of your hand on my skin as anything personal. We’ve been each other’s bug patrol for years.

“Thanks,” I whisper, tugging at the hem of the short-shorts that looked so fetching back in cabin eight but now just seem desperate.  

“I like them,” you say, leaning in, lips brushing my ear. Goosebumps prickle my skin; I shiver at how you can always read my mind.

I’ve known you forever, your shaggy hair and easy smile unchanged since we were twelve, theater geeks on the verge of puberty who’d never been away from home. The second night of that very first summer, I caught you crying outside the dining hall, snotting all over your regulation polo while hiding your face. You were so preoccupied with not getting caught having emotions, you didn’t see me until I was right in front of you, holding out a leftover napkin.

“Thanks,” you said, blowing your nose so loud that we both cracked up. Our friendship was sealed.

The next summer you came back six inches taller, with a rich baritone voice that got you all the plum Shakespeare roles from there on out. And the girls noticed. I built up a rep as your gatekeeper, promising to convey messages of love to you in return for sticks of gum, M&Ms, purple friendship bracelets. I never held up my end of the bargain, but you “went out” with Ashley Sullivan anyway. 

I still had my baby fat and braces, but it didn’t matter. I was the one you sat with at movie nights, whispered to at bonfires like the one we’re about to have now. This dance continued through high school (I lost my braces first, baby fat second) and we mainly stayed in touch online. Until this summer, where we’re on the same counselor fellowship, working under Aubrey and Zazie.

“Do you think they’ve fucked on this stage?” you asked me once, as we cleared leaves off the tiny wooden platform.

“Probably,” I snorted. Suddenly, an image of you and I entwined, you fucking the shit out of me before I sucked your cock until you exploded in my mouth, flashed in my head like last night’s lightning. I realized then that I’d never gotten over you.

Shit.

I’ve been good in the three weeks since that morning, trying only to be around you in the company of others. I know my behavior’s confused you – your poker face is nonexistent. You’ve noticed how I ducked away from under your arm, make excuses when you want to take a moonlight swim, constantly invite whoever’s around (even your eighth-grade boy charges) into our conversations.

Since the summer started, I’ve fallen for you even harder.

And I’m so scared you don’t feel the same way.


“Truth or dare!” yells Sutton, head of vocal music, once we’ve lit the fire. She’s two Lynchburg Lemonades in already. Her blonde waterfall of hair shimmers in the moonlight

You and I groan in sync. “Are we in seventh grade?” I ask, and you bump my shoulder with your own. I want to lay my head on your shoulder – you’ve been lifting since we were sixteen – but I know better.

 “Nah, I love it,” Foster says, and Todd, Sutton’s second-in-command and major crush, bobs his head in agreement. “Everybody got a drink?”

“Here,” you say, handing me a rosé cider, so pink it glows. The girliest possible adult beverage, and the kind I’ve favored since we started sneaking alcohol junior year, per Ardenne rite of passage. 

 “I didn’t even know they made these,” I say quietly.

You grin, sheepish. “I know what you like.”

Oh, baby. You have no idea.

The burners are skinny-dipping, their bodies pale in the moonlight. Foster nudges Krysten to look. Todd squints, trying to get a better glimpse of boob. And I look away, afraid that if I open my mouth I’ll suggest we join them and you’ll look at me funny and then I’ll burst into tears, raw and vulnerable.

Sutton clears her throat. “Anyway,” she says. “Truth or dare, Krysten?”

We go around the circle once, then twice. Foster had a string of threesomes her freshman year of college, “when I was still calling myself heteroflexible.” Krysten strips off her shirt and runs up and down the shoreline singing Britney Spears. The rosé cider is bubbly on my tongue as Todd admits to making out with a bunkmate when we were seniors. “Guess we’re all a little gay,” he says, grinning as everyone applauds his experimentation.

Then it’s my turn. 

So far I’ve gotten off easy, first approaching the burners to ask if they want to hear a monologue from Twelfth Night (they were a very appreciative audience), then confessing to shoplifting a pack of gum when I was fourteen. This time around is different. Maybe it’s the cider, and you next to me, emanating sea salt and sweat and something uniquely you, hair falling into your dark eyes, but I feel reckless.

“Dare,” I say, tipsy but nowhere near drunk, my alcohol happy place. “And make it a good one.” Krysten hoots in approval.

Foster bites her lip, a wicked smirk overtaking her pretty face. “Feel like a two-parter?”

 “Why the hell not.”

Foster takes a delicate sip of hard lemonade, looking like she’s at high tea instead of on a beach with a bunch of arts nerds. “Have you” – she points at me – “ever kissed him?” She points at you.

 “No.” “NO!” Our declarations bounce off of one another. Yours is so vehement I can practically see the all-caps and exclamation point in front of me. The fire is way too hot on my face.

I can’t even look at you. 

You haven’t moved, but you’re so tense, I worry you’re going to leap to your feet off this rock we’re sharing. When we were younger, I never wanted to get up and go to the bathroom or grab more snacks while we ran lines or watched Ian McKellan as Gandalf on a smuggled laptop, or had an intense conversation about Han Solo and Princess Leia. I was always afraid that in my absence you’d realize how boring I was, get up and leave. 

I’m afraid again now

 “What’s part two?” you ask Sutton, leaning forward. I sneak a glance at your profile, chiseled in the firelight and dead serious.

 “Obvs,” Krysten says, rolling her eyes. “Kiss each other.”

Oh no.

Oh yes?

Okay.

Someone whoops from the ocean as you and I turn to each other. Your eyes ask you all right with this? I give the tiniest of nods and your face relaxes. We lean in and I feel your lips, soft but strong, asking the same question your eyes did. I open my mouth slightly, affirming once again, my hand touching your face, your soft stubble. Your skin is warm and smooth underneath. As our tongues make contact, then tangle, I can taste the seltzer you’ve been swilling as tonight’s designated driver, feel your fingers pushing my hair behind my ear, and I forget everything. My body isn’t flooded with heat, but cool and calm, like sitting at the shore, feeling the waves around my feet and legs, the sand solid underneath me. I’m turned on but also fully content – 

Until Todd starts chanting “Do IT! Do IT!” and Krysten and Foster shush him, and Sutton bursts out in this awful hyena-laugh, and the spell is broken.

Humiliation burns through me. My head aches a bit from the cider. All I see are the flickers of laughing faces and I know I shouldn’t have come tonight and before I can say “junior high” I’m running away, down the shore, away from the burners and the beers and most of all, you.


“Hey.”

I don’t know how long I’ve been sitting here. The burners have packed up and moved on. The lifeguard chair is deserted, the beach silent except for the distant laughter of our coworkers.

I look up to you, holding my beach towel, terry cloth worn thin with faded sunbursts all over it that’s both completely useless and totally comforting. I can’t read your face as you sink down next to me, offering the folded towel in the same way I offered you a napkin, so long ago.

“Thanks,” I say softly, holding my hand out, but then you say, “here, let me” and your hands aren’t directly touching me but as you wrap the towel around my shoulders, I get that calm sea feeling all over again. I try to brush it away, channel the fire, but I can’t.

“Better?” you ask, leaning back on your hands.

I bite my lip, look out at where ocean meets sky. “I’m sorry,” I whisper.

“For what?” you ask. I look over and you’re genuinely confused. Are you really that dense?

“Uhhhhh,” I say, reaching out from under the towel to gesture between you and me. I’m starting to sound like I usually do, when we’re just goofing around. “We kissed back there. And then everyone laughed at us.” I look back out at the sea, blinking back tears. “At me.”

“Todd’s an ass. You know that.” But you don’t sound so sure.

“You know I like you, right?” And there it is, my statement laid bare in front of him as I stare at the horizon, wrapping the towel tighter around my shoulders as if that’ll protect my heart. God, my voice even sounds like it did when I was thirteen.

“You what?” He scrambles to his feet. Great. I’ve freaked him out. I knew this was going to happen. “I thought you were pissed at me!”

“Excuse me?” Now I stand so we’re facing off. I throw off the towel, suddenly hot and unafraid. “Why would you think I was pissed at you?”

“Uh, let’s see.” You cross your arms over the worn Ramones T-shirt you’ve had since high school, flick your hair out of your eyes. “You never want to hang out anymore. You’ll only talk to me when everyone else is around. I’ve been racking my brain all summer to figure out what it is I did, and now you run away after we kiss and I liked it!” Now your voice is almost higher than it was before it changed, and we’ve completely regressed to our younger selves.

I look at you.

You look at me.

We laugh.

“God, we’re pathetic,” you say, and there’s that easy smile that quickens my heart. “Wanna sit?” You gesture to the ground, and when I nod, you grab the towel and spread it out lengthwise. “After you,” you say, making a dumb approximation of a courtly bow, and I can’t help but giggle.

“Well, I’m a dumbass,” you announce to the cool air. “I was hella paranoid.”

I shake my head, pulling my knees to my chest. “I didn’t want to get too attached this summer.”

“Why not?” I look over and you’re studying me, searching.

“Because.” I sigh. “I’ve wanted you since we hit puberty. And I’ve dated around and gone through my slutty phase…” You snort, and I lightly sock your arm. “Shut up. We all have one. And I know we haven’t seen each other much since high school, other than online, but…” I suck in my lips, knowing this next part will be the hardest to say out loud. “No one compares to you.”

 “Did you really think,” you say, and then look down, composing yourself like I’ve seen you do a million times before auditions. “Did you really think I didn’t feel the same way?”

I expect the world to drop out from under me. 

Instead, it’s a cold shock, like plunging under when you first wade into the ocean. You have to do it, though, or you’ll never get used to the water. It won’t warm around your skin. 

And now, I’m tingling in the loveliest possible way.

A smile spreads over my face as I look at you. “What do we do now?”

You tilt your head back and study the sky, and I know it means you’re thinking, gathering wisdom from the stars. “I have an idea,” you say, and hold your hand out. I take it, and you help me to my feet. 

Down the shore, I hear the other four start a Hamilton singalong.

Right here, all I see is you.

You turn me to face the sea. The tide is rising, so we take a few steps back, but it’s still the same, waves gentle and glorious even in the dark. I see the full moon but am achingly aware of you, slipping your arms around my waist and pulling me close. “Relax,” you whisper, and before you finish the word my shoulders unclench and I exhale. You’re so solid and strong against my back. I look down and see your hands, big and capable of protecting me. 

I turn just enough to meet your eyes. “Now what?” I whisper and we both grin sheepishly, new to this and each other, but familiar all at once. 

“Now,” you whisper in my ear, “may I kiss your neck?”

“Yes.”

The second your lips touch the place between my neck and shoulder I sigh, “don’t stop.” 

You chuckle in my ear. “I’m just getting started.” 

You know just what to do, teasing with your lips and tongue and setting every nerve in my body alight. There’s that floating feeling again, one I’ve never had with anyone else. I’m up in the air and firmly rooted in the ground all at once, here and now with you.

We’re home.

Your fingers have been caressing the exposed skin between my top and shorts, but now one hand lands on the button, a question. “I know I said I liked them,” you murmur, “but…”

And before you can finish your sentence, I’m undoing my shorts and pulling them down just enough for you to touch me right where I want you most.

“Oh god,” I moan, throwing my head back so it lands on your shoulder. I know I’m not going to last long, your mouth on my neck and your hands working magic. I grind my ass against your cock – I can feel how hard you are and that makes me even wetter. 

“Excessive PDA,” you whisper, and I laugh at the memory of that stupid sign, and now your whole hand is down there  and my hips are moving and you’re so hard and I rub against your hand, feeling my wetness on your palm and the waves crash as I climax, hard and fast, crying your name to the sea with a smile on my face.

I rub your neck and tangle my fingers in your hair. You kiss my ear, gently biting the lobe. “Good?”

I turn and we embrace, holding each other so tight, my shorts still undone, my forehead touching yours. “Phenomenal,” I whisper.

“What do we do now?” you ask, shy and vulnerable, the boy I once knew and the man holding me now, all at once.

I want everything: to feel you thrust in and out as you take me on the worn beach towel. To lay there with my face between your legs, doing everything I’ve dreamed of doing to you and a few things I haven’t. To push your head down and run my fingers through your hair while you go down on me, relishing every lick as I come all over you.

But first.

I disentangle myself and begin to strip. I watch your eyes widen as you see me shirtless for the first time. I bite my lip, teasing, as I shimmy out of my bottoms. Once I’m naked I reach for you, pull off your Ramones T-shirt I love so much, run my hands over your stomach as we kiss long and deep and you moan in my mouth, unzipping your shorts with one hand.

“Come on,” I say, looking in your eyes as they reflect the stars, the moon. “Let’s go swimming.”