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Chapter Eleven - The Hunt

With Georgiana still at the ranch house, Lizzy down by the lake for the last hour and Jane back in Cheapside with her girls, Lydia was left to her own devices on this rainy, miserable night of what she considered unnecessary bullshit. 

 

This was her life! No one talked to L-Scream like that! G-Train would never treat her like that! Only Miss Jersey Shore had never ever met the likes of Miss Rittenhouse Square or Miss Tarrytown, or Miss New Hope, or Miss Upper East Side Manhattan. All of whom were from places where the rich out did the rich and the spoiled ruled their parents – and they were her roommates for the next two weeks in Longbourn. Further, they’d had enough of L-Scream and her low-class, gum smacking, uncouth shit-talking. They were ready to take action.

 

Sitting on her bed with her ear buds in listening to 50-Cent and his rap, Lydia fumed while brushing her hair. They all came to stand around her.

 

Courtney tugged the plugs from her ears, her chin held high as she spoke. “We just thought we would tell you that we don’t approve of what you’re doing to Georgie.”

 

“Yeah, she’s a nice girl, and now you’re making her a tramp.”

 

“I’ve known Georgiana since we have been coming here, and she would never do drugs. It’s all because of you.”

 

“Fuck you and you and you and you.” L-Scream replied pointing at each with her middle finger.

 

“Oh, you think you’re cool don’t you? Having sex with that orange freak from Lambton and smoking pot, and wearing all this make-up doesn’t make you cool. Cool means being a better friend, and cool means showing restraint, and cool means having self-respect. You, L-Scream, are so un-cool that you’re a friggin’ loser.”

 

“And you’re fat too!”

 

Lydia was astonished, not a single person had ever spoken to her like that before, and she was at a loss for a proper comeback, “Oh Yeah? Well, if you were such good friends with Georgie then why did she start hanging around me? Why didn’t she hang out with you instead, if you’re so great?”

 

One of them rolled their eyes and another snorted, “We said she was nice. We didn’t say she was part of our group, but we’re not talking about Georgie, we’re talking about you.”

 

“Courtney, I think we should evict L-Scream from the cabin. I don’t want to be near anyone from the Jersey Shore; I might catch a disease. They’re all low-class Guidette rejects from South Philly. No wonder she thinks she’s like J-Woww and Snooki.”

 

“They’re not all from New Jersey. Some are from New York City!” Lydia screamed. “And my family is from Cape May not Wildwood!”

 

Ignoring her, they continued on with their teenage bullying, “You might be right Blake, way I hear it is that George Wickham is passing around HPV, maybe even herpes.”

 

“He is not! He loves me! He’s my G-Train!”

 

“Grow up Lydia, you know for a sixteen year-old you’re pretty immature, but I guess that comes with being white trash. It’s hard to believe you’re Miss Lizzy’s sister, because she’s kewl. You’re skank.”

 

The damage was done as each girl gave Lydia a scathing look that only a spoiled rotten, wealthy, snob could give, thereby leaving Lydia entirely uncomfortable within the confines of the cabin. She had been ostracized and considered a misfit by her peers, and that could only result in further problems.
           

~~oo~~


It was two o’clock in the morning when Lydia slithered into Lambton and tiptoed to stand beside Wickham’s sleeping form. Tapping him awake, she motioned for him to meet her outside the cabin in the back woods.

 

Through whispers in the night air, she told him what had transpired: the pot, the discovery, and her sisters’ imposed wrath and subsequent punishment.  She also told him of the little unknown, unbroadcast tidbit overheard when her two prison matrons spoke outside of Longbourn. He was to be arrested in the morning.

 

Fifteen minutes later with stuffed backpacks they headed for Wickham’s car to get out of dodge and head for Wildwood, New Jersey where their good time wouldn’t be curtailed.

 

Up in the gravel parking lot with key turning in the ignition all they heard was a series of click, click, click. The distributor cap had been removed. “Fuckin’ Darcy, piece of shit, removed the distributor cap so we can’t leave,” he complained.

 

“Fix it.”

 

“No, L-Scream I can’t fix it.”

 

“Hot wire another car. That car, over there, the red one.” She pointed to Rick’s Chevelle.

 

“What?! I don’t know how to do that! Besides, I’m not messing with that guy; he’d crush my head like a beer can in the palm of his hand.”

 

“The Situation would know how to hot wire a car.”

 

“I’m not the fucking Situation.  I’m G-Train, the man with a locomotive in my pants. The Situation doesn’t know his balls from his dick. Now shut up and let me think.”

 

With arms folded across her chest, L-Scream pouted.

 

“Grab your stuff, we’ll head up the mountain. I know a place where we can shack up. N, no one knows about it.”

 

“Oooo, like we’re going hiking up to your little love shack?”

 

He rolled his eyes.

 

Only two hours into their hike up Mount Oakham and G-Train was already starting to regret the idea. First of all, he left his white sunglasses on his bedside table, not that he needed them in the dark but they looked cool on his head. Second of all his rubber flip flops were having difficulty getting traction on the rocky terrain, resulting in having to use his feet like talons. And lastly he was getting a tired of L-Scream’s limited but incessant conversation about Snoop Dogg, tanning bronzer, frosted lipstick, and her dislike of her two sisters.

 

He couldn’t help but wonder about the redhead with the crazy hair back at the camp. He should have stuck with her as his plaything this summer. At least she was creative instead of just lying there like L-Scream. He chuckled to himself in remembrance of that day when she sat on him and rode him like she was bronco busting. Of course he is a bull but that’s beside the point he thought. Her red crazy hair flew all over the place as her arms waved in the air while she shouted "Yee Haw."  It was, however, a bit unsettling when she came loudly calling out Darcy’s name, but never mind that. 

 

Lydia whined, stopping with her hand clutching her hip. “G-Train, are we going to stop now? I want to go for smush ride. I’m horny.”

 

“Not now. Keep moving.”

 

~~oo~~


It was a rough night for Darcy. After calming Georgiana down and sitting with her until she fell asleep between Aunt Cat and that annoying sleep apnea machine, which wheezed and pumped. Finally, he went down to the parking lot and dismantled Wickham’s low-rider Ford Pinto. He couldn’t help it, he laughed the whole time with his head under the hood, pulling out the distributor cap, thinking only a jackass would drive a thirty-five year old, yellow car faultily produced to blow up on impact. It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

 

It was almost six in the morning and reveille would be going off in an hour. He stretched his arms above his head, tucking under his pillow and felt something underneath and inside the pillowcase. Reaching in, he removed what felt like paper then held up the most incredible sight he had ever seen: Lizzy naked in a shower, her face soaking up the water stream, her perfect pear-shaped backside staring back at him. He wanted to groan … among other things.

 

Holding the photo aloft for his admiration, he turned it sideways, upside down, tilted it and moved it every which way while imagining all sorts of things about her postier in all sorts of positions and contortions. He mused thinking that all it took was one amicable conversation and a kiss that she would actually remember, and already she was leaving him invitations with suggestive connotation. There was no misinterpreting this gesture; she left him a naked picture of herself. It was clear she was having a sugar craving. “She wants you … I did that!” said devil Darcy on his shoulder.

 

This was going to be a great f-in day! he declared to himself. With Wickham in jail and Lizzy in his arms, he was ready to shout thanks to Mercury for delivering him such a great gift. He threw back the covers and bounded out of bed straight for a cold shower.
           

~~oo~~


“Jane, wake up.” Lizzy shook Jane again followed by a tug to her sister’s eye mask. “Jane, wake up.”

 

“Huh?”

 

“Lydia’s gone. Get dressed and help me find her. I’ll let Anne and Charlotte know so they can keep an eye on our girls.”

 

“Ok, I’ll meet you out on the grass in ten minutes.”
           

~~oo~~


The boys campus was starting to come alive as the little ones under John’s leadership came marching out of their cabin with stomping feet in unison to his whistle blows like a scene from The Sound of Music.

 

Charlie, walking by Lambton noticed one of their pimpled thirteen year-olds sitting Indian-style on the steps of their cabin playing with his Gameboy in his pajama pants while another sat looking at a Penthouse magazine, turning the centerfold sideways.

 

“What are you doing?” Charlie asked.

 

“Playing War of the Worlds, what does it look like, bro?”

 

“Don’t get fresh with me. Where’s your counselor?” The kid shrugged in response and went back to his game. “And you! Put that away!”

 

After making his way over to Pemberley, he asked Darcy if he had seen Wickham because it appeared that the boys had been left alone since wake-up call. It was a light bulb moment that sent Darcy into a tailspin as he barked, “Watch my cabin!” and bolted up toward the parking lot. That hideous, yellow Ford Pinto still sat there, but the hood had been left open. Wickham was gone and so was the f-in great day he had planned.

 

It was fortuitous that Jane and Lizzy had been up for the last hour and searching for Lydia when they came upon Darcy slamming the hood of the car.

 

“Lydia’s gone!” Lizzy exclaimed, running toward Darcy, tears streaming down her face as she ran into his arms. His heart broke in that instant as his guilt came rushing to the forefront once again. She looked up, her expression matching his, her emotions reflecting his own. She placed a hand on his cheek. “Don’t go there, it’s not your fault.”

 

Jane stood by watching this scene unfold clearly perplexed by the two people before her who had spent the last two weeks vehemently hating each other to the point of cruel words and poor sportsmanship. She shook her head as if to do a double-take. What the hell happened to Lizzy’s Rambo? She shook her head again, thinking it perhaps a mirage. No, it wasn’t a mirage, Lizzy clearly had love in her eyes.


“I’ll find them, Lizzy. I promise you I’ll find them,” he stated, wiping the tears from her cheeks with his thumbs.

“Them? What do you mean them?”

 

“Wickham’s missing too; it’s likely they went together. They’re on foot. That’s his car.”

 

“Where could they have gone? She knows no one, has no connections, no money. Where would he have taken her without a car?”

 

“It’s too dangerous downhill at night and the nearest town isn’t for miles. Knowing Wickham, he went up the mountain. If I leave this morning I could probably catch up to them by late afternoon. I know this mountain, and his hangouts. Don’t forget, I’ve hung out with him every summer since I was ten. There’s not a place where he would go that I wouldn’t have gone myself.”

 

“I don’t understand, why wouldn’t he have just called someone to pick him up or called a taxi? He has a phone.”

 

“Lizzy, this is G-Train, he’s not the sharpest tool in the box. No, idiot that he is, he went up the mountain instead of down.”

 

Jane, still in shock at this exchange between the two asked, “Should we go with you? Lydia won’t come back with you unless one of us is with you when you find her. For all our ineffectiveness with her, we can still get her to bend to our will when we attempt it.”

 

Lizzy looked hopefully at him, and he smiled broadly. “Do you want to come with me Lizzy?”

She just nodded, amazed that he would even consider relinquishing total control over the situation by allowing her to join him in the search, not that she would have listened in the first place, but it was refreshing that he would ask her for assistance.

He bent down to her ear, his heart beating against his chest wall. “Do you think you can tolerate being with me alone in the woods without slapping me?”

“Not if you give me reason,” she retorted playfully.


“Go get your backpack and extra water. And bring a bed roll, just in case. I’ll meet you back here in thirty minutes. I have to arrange for your aunt and uncle to take over our cabins.”

Turning, he jogged down the gravel pathway up toward the ranch house. He thought of how the day before them could possibly unfold, the possible trails and destinations that Wickham would travel in his flip-flops and each possible scenario, but one thing remained at the forefront of his mind and that was that he’d be spending the entire day alone with Lizzy. And as inappropriate as those thoughts were, given their current worry and situation, his heart soared.

“Lizzy do you know what you’re doing?  You swore to hate him for all eternity, and just yesterday morning you were considering putting cod liver oil in his lemonade and last night…I thought for sure the two of you were going to rip each other’s jugulars out.”

 

“Jane…it’s not like that anymore.”

 

“I see that! What happened?”

 

Lizzy shrugged and looked away from her sister. “We apologized, we talked… we kissed. I found my pink underwear floating in the lake.”

 

Jane’s eyes shot up, “Is the battle over? Because if it is, I want my Charlie-Boo back, and I am prepared to overlook his faux pas on the playing field yesterday. I need to get laid, Lizzy!”

 

Laughing Lizzy said, “Yes, I think the battle is over as you say, but I’ll let you know if I won the war after this hike alone with him to find Lydia. Either he or I will be thrown over the side of a cliff by the other or quite the opposite will happen.”
           

~~oo~~


The cafeteria was abuzz with rumors such as G-Train was now part of a prison chain gang, was fired for tanning in the cabin bathroom, and sadly but true enough, was caught doing drugs. His thirteen year-old boys were none too happy that Rick had now taken over Lambton, and he was ruling them with an iron fist. Within the first ten minutes, every electronic device had been confiscated and the tanning lamp had been thrown in the trash. Wouldn’t they all be in for a surprise at bedtime by the strength of his snores that could suck the roof of the cabin down.  Of course, the eight year-olds were delighted now that they could get the first decent night’s sleep in two weeks. And how could we forget the status of Wickham’s much coveted white sunglasses? They had been given to Cat who wore along with red wicker Mexican sombrero hat as she sat eating her granola and yogurt over breakfast. 

 

Caroline walked into the cafeteria followed by her squeaky clean Scarborough sixes. Following their triple-washed hair, they looked like mini Caroline clones all with hair dyed a lovely shade of chestnut brown (heaven forbid a bit of orange or red was insight!) Happy for their new look, they all sat around the breakfast table with newly polished fingernails and bright pink lipstick.

 

In spite of the crazy events of the morning, Charlie approached his sister with a pleasant smile on his face. He hadn’t seen Caroline look this good, well, ever for that matter. “Caro, why the transformation? You look fabulous!”

 

“Yes, well … change is good, although everyone has brown hair. The last thing I want to do is look like that Lizzy Bennet and upset my Willy,” she replied admiring her newly manicured nails. 

 

“Well, no worry about that. That’s for sure!” he chuckled at the thought because Lizzy was truly a beautiful woman, and there would be no way in hell that Darcy would confuse the two…. Ever!

 

“Where is my Willy? I haven’t seen his fine  A.  S.  S. this morning.” Spelling it out with her hand to the side of her mouth as if her six year olds were still in early childhood classes.

 

“Hey, Lou Lou! Why’d you spell ass? I can spell and I can read and I even know how to fix my daddy’s broken computer,” Angela rolled her eyes, no longer the shy little girl who clung to her dolly. “Sheesh, I’ve already learned how to speak Cantonese at the Dalton School, sou hai!” (dumbass)

 

Ignoring her, Caroline continued her mission of gathering Darcy intel, “Where did you say he was Charlie?”

 

“I didn’t. Caro, aren’t you like with John now? He’s a good guy, trust me you don’t want Darcy. He’s not interested; trust me on this.”

 

“Oh pishaw. How could he not be interested in me? I mean look at me, I’m gorgeous.”

 

“He’s … a … um … not into women. Ya’ know… G. A. Y.” he spelled it out in case she couldn’t figure it out.
           
It came fast, so fast that Charlie didn’t have a moment to react when, for the second time in two weeks, Caroline fainted dead away landing forward with her head on the table.
           

~~oo~~

Mount Oakham was a small mountain in comparison to many of the other Pocono Mountains of Northern Pennsylvania, but it was long and wide and had many caves that had been long hidden, covered up by overgrowth and branches. That meant that Wickham could be anywhere, but Darcy had one thing in his favor, well two actually, Wickham was wearing rubber flip-flops and Darcy knew this mountain like the back of his hand.

 

The summer following the Mandy Jones sex incident, came the Lisa Andrews escapade and the summer after that was the Andrea Martin romp.  In fact, every summer up until four years ago, he ventured up the mountain and into the woods with a willing and frisky camp nymph. So, yeah … he knew just where Wickham was headed with Lydia.

 

If you’re thinking that Darcy had been of easy virtue, well you’d be right. But the key words here are, had been. Those days ended the minute he began to want what his parents had. Keeping his libido in check and under good regulation, he’d been celibate for some time now, and it took the likes of Drexel University's Lizzy Bennet to call him back into his “summer of sex” mentality. Only this time was different ... he found himself wondering what lay beyond the “summer of sex.” 

They hiked in companionable silence for some time, each uncertain of the other. For example, Darcy recalled their last hike together and his offering of a hand over the wide brook so she wouldn’t slip on the rocks. She had told him to go screw himself in no uncertain terms. He had wanted to challenge the kids to go another mile to see if they could do it and be proud of their accomplishment, and she had insisted on stopping every ten minutes for a rest break. 

As for Lizzy, during this quiet time her mind hung onto the fact that her last experience with Darcy hiking was anything less than enjoyable, but now she didn’t want to offend him if he offered his hand or wanted to keep hiking, so she remained silent and hopeful that he would turn around and extend his arm.

“It’s just up at that hanging rock on the ridge there,” Darcy said pointing to the side of the mountain. “I used to hang out in that cave a lot when I was a teenager. Maybe they stopped there.”

 

“And if they’re not there? Then what, we’d already gone to three locations?”

 

“Then most likely he hiked up to Cutter’s Cabin over on the south face. It’s an abandoned shack that Wickham would run away to every time his father drank.”

 

They were silent again, reaching a stream, when he took a chance that the Cracken had descended to the depths of the sea once again. He extended his hand as she balanced on the rocks to cross. Their hands met tentatively, and sparks ignited. They both looked up into the other’s eyes and Lizzy smiled nervously. His heart thundered, thankful that she didn't say anything. It was just perfect as it was.

 

As he led the way up the trail, she continued to keep her gaze firmly planted on his very fine ass before her when finally she asked, “Wickham mentioned that his dad is in prison. Is that true?”

 

“Yeah, his father was the landscaper at the camp for many years, but he was a drunk. My parents thought they were doing a good thing by hiring him being a single parent and all. They thought he was on the wagon, but I knew he wasn’t. I used to see him beat Wickham, but I never said anything. I was afraid he would come after me. Anyway, he robbed a liquor store down around the Delaware Water Gap and beat the owner senseless and got caught.”

 

“How terrible for everyone.”

 

“It was, and my parents didn’t know what to do about Wickham after that. Some aunt of his took him in and then about six or seven years ago he came back to the camp and my aunt hired him, renting a room over the old barn.”

 

They arrived at the cave to find it empty. “Look … a condom wrapper. I’m sure they were here,” she stated.

 

“Maybe. Maybe not.” She glanced up at Darcy, and he smiled sheepishly. “Does it look new?”

 

Bending down to examine it more closely she said, “Magnum Trojan. No doesn’t look new.” Yeah, she knew. “What now? It’s already four o’clock, and I am not sleeping in some sex cave where you probably screwed your brains out.”

 

His head snapped up, “How’d you know that?”

 

Lizzy smiled. “Just a good guess, Mr. Magnum Trojan.” Besides the long row he had held before her in the woods, she remembered something about his needing Magnums, like a memory of what he was packing was trying to break through her subconscious.

“We could continue on if you want. I’ve hiked at night up here before,” he offered. 

“Maybe we should stop for the night. We’ve been hiking for a solid five hours, and I’m a bit beat.” 

Now that was a monumental announcement to Darcy’s ears.  She, Miss Never to Admit Weakness, was admitting defeat for the evening! 

“What happens when we catch up with them?” she asked, resting her backpack against a boulder.

“Well, it’s my intent to convince Wickham to come back to the camp otherwise the Sheriff might put an All Points Bulletin out on him and his eventual capture won’t go as well. If he turns himself in, they’ll go much easier on him. Of course, I hope they fry his ass, but he doesn’t need to know that.”

With the introduction of a condom wrapper on the scene. It started to become uncomfortable between them. Both vividly recalled those words he had spoken on the footpath the day before … “shag you like a minx all night long” hung in the air like the waving row of Trojans he had held. Darcy knew that same row was neatly tucked inside his knapsack. They were both afraid, nervous to make a move, both keenly remembering that hard slap across his face. Yet, she had left him a Polaroid to make up, so obviously sending the message to him that she wanted him. Still, proceed with caution became his internal mantra.

They settled in for the evening at the entrance to the cave since Lizzy had no intention of sleeping on the hard rock, choosing instead to lay her bedroll on the soft ground. Darcy made a small fire pit to heat water from his canteen for their MREs. It was in the fading skylight, sitting on opposite sides of the fire that a new, tentative beginning began between these two embattled would-be lovers as they embarked on conversations that should have taken place two weeks ago.

Eating a piece of beef from his re-hydrated meal with his spork, Darcy asked, “So, tell me about your thesis. I’m curious about what a grief counseling camp is.”

“Really? You want to know about that?”

“Sure” he shrugged a shoulder. “It’s important to you, isn’t it?”

 

“Ok, well, a couple of years ago I traveled to North Carolina to do an externship with a small county hospice, and one of the things that they offered to families was an opportunity to have their children attend a weekend camp with specially planned activities to help them cope with their loss. It was incredible to see these children bunking with other children who discussed their memories of loved ones and commiserated. Good friends were made between kids who had parents or grandparents and even siblings pass away. Such tragedy and sadness, yet the kids found it to be a very healing experience.”

 

Darcy thoughtfully reflected on his own experience and how difficult it had been. He felt at ease sharing this part of himself with her now that had moved on from their petty differences.

 

Illuminating the darkness surrounding them, the firelight cast a glow upon Lizzy's beautiful face. Her eyes were filled with so much expression, her smile touched with bittersweet recollection as she shared small success stories from that weekend.

They both sat eating and listening to the other. Lizzy was dazzled not only by his handsome, softened expressions but also his attentiveness, something she had not associated with men before. Long having dealt with her preoccupied father and self-centered boyfriends of the past. She was well acquainted with that glazed-over look that men employed when they pretended to listen, and it took her quite by surprise that Darcy held her gaze. He was actually listening and remained captive by her sharing. There wasn’t a “hmmm” spoken.

 

“I think I would have liked something like that,” he said, “And I venture to guess that your sister probably would have benefited at the time of your mother’s death, too.”

 

“I agree, I think it would have done Lydia a world of good. She never talks about Mom; it’s almost as if she didn’t exist. Being at the camp could have given her the opportunities to express her feelings without even having to speak them. The craft activities and candlelight memorial ceremony would have helped her significantly, but my father was pretty adamant when I suggested that I find something similar locally. He thought she was healing just fine.”

 

“It sounds like your father could have used the most counseling. I venture to guess that had either of my parents died before the other, their loss would have been immensely traumatic to the other. But things happened differently.”

 

“I’d like to hear about your parents, if you’d like to tell me,” she said encouragingly, offering him an expression that wouldn’t lead him to belive that she’d  turn into the sugar-fiend witch from Hansel and Gretel.

“The camp, it’s theirs; did you know that?” she shook her head and smiled lightly.

“Actually, they met here when they were children and then became summer friends and then later sweethearts. So really, they had been together since my parents were about eight or so. At the time, it was a summer bungalow community for wealthy Manhattan and Philly families. Later when the owner was selling the land and cabins, my dad bought it for my mom, kind of as a lark―a funny, romantic gesture. It was on their seven-year wedding anniversary.”

 

Lizzy listened as attentively as Darcy had listened to her. She was struck by his sensitivity when conveying what was obviously a bittersweet memory, and it was with startling clarity that she realized, they had more in common than she would have thought possible by the shared loss of a dear parent. The irony also wasn’t lost on her that was the hope at grief counseling campgrounds.

 

He continued, eyes fixed on the dancing flames in the pit. “Funny how things happen; Mom, I guess, wanted to do something fun and worthwhile, so she convinced dad to turn the grounds into camp Mount Oakham. Your aunt and uncle, who knew Mom from Columbia University, came to live here shortly after as caretakers.” Darcy hesitated, poking a long stick into the flames to stoke the fire, kicking it alive. It was clear that he was reaching the sad part of his parent’s story.

 

“So you really grew up here then?”

 

“Every summer for the last twenty-years, camp Mount Oakham has been my home away from home. I’ve been the silent owner for the last eleven and counselor for nine. It’s how I came to learn that with this demographic of kids, they need firm structure and guidelines, because they don’t get any at home. In fact, most of these kids have been raised by live-in au pairs. Their parents are too busy in the boardroom and country club, and the kids have been left to their own spoiled devices.

 

“They’re so self-absorbed and selfish that very few have ever developed skills in common courtesy and gentlemanly behavior and respect. That’s why we have to phrase things with them the way we do. Like for example, they would never have asked the girls to dance, so Charlie phrased it in such a way as to get them to do so.”

 

Her heart squeezed. What an idiot she had been. It was all making a lot more sense and again, she realized her complete misinterpretation. “So that’s why you have such strong Rules of Existence … that’s why you have set such firm restrictions.” 

 

“Yeah. I’d like to think that Georgie has benefited from a strong set of parameters. Apart from this current episode, she’s a good girl.”

 

She felt embarrassed now, for oh so many things, and it was reflected upon her face when she said with extreme shame, “I’m sorry I misjudged you. She is a good girl, and I’m sorry Lydia has influenced her to be otherwise.”

 

“We won’t get into the blame thing again, but Georgie should have known better.”

 

They were quiet for a while as they cleaned up, both stealing obvious glances toward each other. The feelings were there… deeply imbedded, and both were tentative about what to do with them. Darcy was afraid to say the wrong thing, and she was afraid she would misinterpret him. 

 

“Will? If you don’t mind me asking, how did your parents die?”

 

Rolling out his camping bedroll on the opposite side of the fire from Lizzy, Darcy said, “car accident.”

 

His two words were left without explanation or embellishment, and quite frankly, none were really needed. The tone of his voice said it all, and she chose not to prod for more, figuring that one day in the future he’d tell her what had happened. The future?

 

Lizzy hadn’t thought of anything beyond finding Lydia, and certainly never would have imagined continuing an acquaintance with Darcy beyond the summer, but when that word “future” popped into her head, she suddenly became very unsure of what exactly she did want. She had immediate plans, and they didn’t include a relationship, not that he was offering one, but still. 

 

Darcy was battling a summer tug of war within himself. As much as he wanted what his parents had, and felt a strong urge to consider something beyond a sexual fling with Lizzy, his immediate future was going to be extremely time consuming and complex. Yes, there was something growing between them and given the folklore of the camp and the romantic beginnings of its couples it should be explored after the summer ended. But the timing was wrong, wrong… all wrong. The new office lease in Manhattan had already been signed for Battlefront Software’s imminent relocation from Philadelphia, and their stock offering price had already been determined, set to go public in October. He just purchased a condo on Central Park West and still had to enroll Georgie in school. After that he had to start making plans to sell the camp. Pursuing something now of a long-term nature just wasn’t in his game plan. 

 

Finally, both lay in the fading firelight on opposite sides of the pit facing and staring at the other for some time, neither speaking. Their eyes stayed locked until, without thought, only feeling, Darcy lifted his thin blanket up inviting her to join him.  She curled into his embrace, her body pressed against him as he spooned her from behind. It was then that she realized what she did want: Him. Somewhere along the way, she had fallen in love with him. 

 

“Goodnight, Lizzy,” he whispered. She tilted her head and he kissed her lips sweetly, reverently. She felt overcome within his embrace at how perfect she felt in his arms, as though the most natural thing in the world.

“Sleep tight, Will.”

The condoms were long forgotten, and the intensity of their sexual attraction was momentarily abated by a different kind of need. They cuddled as the crickets sang and the annoying owl screeched, but they only heard the comforting sound of the other’s breath, lulling them to sleep.

I'm happy. They're happy. Are you happy?