Chapter Two-The Arrival
Camp Mount Oakham, the only summer camp in the Pocono Mountains that caters to your rich, spoiled, and dysfunctional children. That should be their new marketing campaign, Darcy mused as the Land Rover pulled into the gravel parking lot of the eighty year old campground operated by his aunt Catherine deBourgh.
On the side walkway his cousin Anne stood checking in campers and directing them to their assigned cabins. She spotted his car and waved.
Yellow buses lined the perimeter as children of all ages and sizes exited, clutching their backpacks, teddy bears, and iPhones. Many were zoned out with ear buds in as fingers rapidly texted their parents to signal their safe arrival while other children slammed the car doors of their parent’s Mercedes Benz, BMW, and Audi. Parents were seen waving good-bye with secret smiles upon their faces, and if one looked closely enough one could actually see the corners of their mouths rise up ever so slightly as they feigned tears of sadness. “Be good, Johnny. Mommy will miss you baby.” Then three minutes later, one could observe the same parents high-five one another from behind the front windshield. Cars sped out of the parking lot nearly hitting children in their wake, as they tore rubber and kicked up dirt and gravel leaving a rising trail of smoke. Happy to be free at last for four of the shortest most blissful weeks of their lives, they couldn’t wait to live like newlyweds.
Darcy had been one of those kids subjected to summer camp, but his parents came with him and stayed every summer until their tragic death when he was fifteen. They stayed, unlike other parents, because they had owned the camp. He had been coming to Camp Mount Oakham since he was six years old, and now at the age of twenty-six (too old as even a counselor), he knew the score. He knew every prank these kids were going to play because he had once played them. He knew every lie and every gimmick. He knew every hiding spot, every tree, every hill, every cave, and every cliff. This was his mountain, his camp, and his domain. He knew the other counselors like he knew himself. The same ones came back every year, and he knew how to avoid the ones he wanted to.
Because his aunt made him do this every year since high school graduation, he arranged to do it on his terms very early on. He brought in his cousin, Rick, who had just returned to Pennsylvania after a short stint in the army. He brought in Charlie, his best friend and business partner, and he brought in John Lucas, his college roommate who had faithfully rearranged his work schedule for the last four years. Darcy stacked the deck in his favor, and together these four men ruled and won over these snot-nosed, spoiled brats. He had the boys’ campus running like a well-oiled machine every summer.
However, this year he had a feeling was going to mess him up. Why? Because this year was bringing in a new crop of women volunteers to the camp, women who, he prophesied would push his every button and drive him toward the brink of personal insanity. Women who would challenge his every edict and thought and would probably not take no for an answer.
“Willy dahling, you can’t be serious. This can’t be the resort you told me about.” Caroline crinkled her nose in obvious horror, calling him the two names he despised as they rolled off her acid-laced tongue … Willy and dahling.
He turned in his seat. “Caroline, if you call me Willy again I’ll confiscate your cosmetics, and if you call me dahling again, I’ll confiscate your nose hair trimmer. Yes, this is the camp.” He got out of the Land Rover, slammed the door, and stretched his back, thankful that the two-hour ride up from Bucks County outside of Philadelphia had ended without bloodshed. Not his blood, of course, but Caroline’s and perhaps Charlie’s for convincing him to allow Heat Miser to volunteer for the summer. He cringed recalling his buddy’s convincing words repeat in his brain, ‘Everyone loves a cheerful volunteer’, and he couldn’t help voicing under his breath, “Cheerful my ass… she a maniacal stalker.”
“Yo, Darce are we in our same cabins this year?” Charlie asked.
“Yeah, you have Netherfield, and I’m in Pemberley. Rick’s back in Matlock and John’s in Meryton.” He heaved his heavy duffle bag over one shoulder, his arm wrapped upward to keep in in place, and he thought he heard Caroline breath heavily.
She stood ramrod, mouth agape, staring at how his biceps flexed and bulged at their workout.
“Caroline?” Darcy asked. “Caroline?… Hello, Caroline?” he repeated holding out the smaller of her two suitcases to her.
Startled from her daydream of his gorgeous, hard body dripping with sweat in the hot sun, she stammered. “Oh, um … sorry” then pointed to the luggage he held it out to her. “Isn’t there a porter around to take these to my cottage?”
He mumbled under his breath. “God help me. Deliver me from this nightmare.”
“Every man for himself Caro,” Charlie said. “I’ll take your big bag to your. Here take this and go see Anne over there. She’ll tell you what you need to do to settle in.” He pointed along the gravel pathway, sending her off holding the smaller bag (which actually housed all her cosmetics, hair gels, lotions, tweezers of various sizes, special wax for her mustache, and various shades of red Manic Panic hair dye.)
Both men chuckled watching her totter along with one arm held out and her fingers spread to balance herself as heels sunk in the dusty gravel. She finally made her way through the throngs of youngsters to Anne deBourgh.
Chuckles had turned to laughter as both Darcy and Charlie anticipated the weeks of amusement Caroline was going to afford them.
“Will, I’m going to find my way over to Longbourn. That’s where I bunked last year. Catch up with you later,” Georgiana called out, backing way her backpack. “Hey… and I’m not here if Aunt Cat asks.” She pulled out her Android from her pocket and began texting her boyfriend back home.
“I’ll catch up with you later Georgie, and pleeease go easy on your new counselor. She’s new to the camp and we don’t want her to bolt on the first night.” Darcy pleaded, remembering that Hell Week began right after the Welcome Party.
From the sidelines a familiar voice called out. “William Darcy, get that handsome face over here and give me a kiss!”
He grinned, truly happy to see a lovely, slender, older woman standing beside her husband, both taking in full-measure of the arriving campers and counselors. “Maddy! Edward!” he greeted, walking toward his most favorite people in the world.
The year in between summers seemed to go by so quickly since he dreaded coming so much, but the only reward was the incredible friendship of Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, the year-round caretakers of Camp Mount Oakham.
Maddy kissed his cheek. “I’m shocked you’re back this year. I would have thought you’d put your foot down by now.”
“She has me by the cajones; you know that.” Darcy shook her husband’s hand. “Good to see you Edward.”
“Son, good to see you back this year. Come by the ranch house and we’ll catch up. You might need to be filling your aunt’s shoes sooner than you think. She has a little dementia going on. The filters are all gone.”
“Anne mentioned something to that effect. That’s why I didn’t end my commitment last year. I … it just wouldn’t feel right selling this place. Aunt Cat has been gracious enough to act as owner all these years, but you know all about the arrangement she and I made.” He ran his hand through his wavy, dark hair.
The Gardiner’s knew everything about this young man and his family, and Maddy felt like his and Georgiana’s summer mother. Apart from her brother-in-law’s children, they were the dearest young people to her heart. Married to Edward for thirty years, they never had children of their own. When their dear friends, Anne and George Darcy asked them to become year-round caretakers to their campground, they jumped at the chance to be surrounded by children every summer. That was a long time ago, and now she was standing before the orphaned child grown to man who was Camp Mount Oakham’s real owner.
She patted his cheek. “Any girls? Someone special?”
Darcy smirked mischievously. “Lots of women. No one special.”
“You’re still a boy to me, William.” She fixed a fallen tendril at his forehead. “My nieces are coming this summer.”
“Tom the Hippie’s kids?”
“They’re not kids anymore, Will. The two eldest are our new female counselors, and the youngest is going to be in Georgiana’s cabin.”
“Wow… I remember those girls when I was nine or so and we’d play in the creek and put frogs in your bed. Where has the time gone?” He shook his head in wonderment.
The noise all around them was deafening as the children excitedly met old friends and made new ones, but above the din and the calls of the circling vultures overhead in the sky, as if an ominous warning of things to come, one voice could be heard above it all.
“IS THAT MY NEPHEW?!”
Darcy’s shoulders slumped. “Is she behind me?”
“About 80 feet and closing fast. She has her orange Keds on today, so she’s movin’ quickly,” Ed said peering over Darcy’s tall frame. “Be prepared for what may come out of that mouth of hers. No time to get away, better smile and get it over with.”
“William Alexander Darcy!” Catherine deBourgh shouted well beyond the decibel range needed for five feet of distance causing Darcy to jump out of his skin.
Darcy embraced her in a strong hug, and she wrapped her arms around his waist. “Aunt Catherine.”
“Let me look at you,” she demanded pulling herself back from his embrace to take in the whole picture of perfect Darcy masculinity. “Spitting image of your father. Hmm … now that was a fine man.”
Darcy chuckled because it was no real secret that Cat pined over her sister’s husband, but it had never been verbalized before.
“Turn around, let me see that cute bum of yours.” She rotated him to the snort of Edward and the mortification of Darcy who actually blushed as his aunt checked out his ass. “Nice, nice. Just like your fathers.”
She patted it.
Cat was quite a woman, and at seventy years of age, she was full of piss and vinegar and lived life on her own terms. She was an ex-flower child, feminist who had once believed in drugs, Hendrix and tons of sex anywhere at any time, but later had gone rogue by becoming a staunch conservative. Unfortunately, for those around her, she still held on to her eccentric ways and colorful behavior. They didn’t mind the politics. It was the crazy they could do without.
She had never actually officially married Louis deBourgh but lived with him for thirty years as Mrs. Catherine deBourgh until she was officially replaced by Louis’s 20 year old, red-haired, bombshell secretary whom he actually married, thereby ending Cat’s long running stint as the good wife. Anne, her daughter was a complete contrast to her mother, well in some ways.
“Where’s Georgiana?” she asked looking through the varying heights of youngsters.
“I … uh … she went to settle into her cabin Aunt Cat.” Damn you Georgie. You should be here! “She said she’d catch up with you later and have a nice looonng lunch and extended chat to tell you all about her schoolwork and boyfriend.” That’ll teach you!
“Boyfriend?! She’s too young. She better be using condoms, don’t want any bastard Darcys running around this campground. We run a respectable establishment. It’s not the sixties, you know. No more free love and all that.”
Clearly, she entirely forgot that her own daughter Anne was by all definition “a bastard” as she so eloquently phrased it.
“Of course, Aunt Cat.”
This attitude of Darcy’s toward his aunt was a long-standing joke among his mates. They called it “the pussification of Darcy.” He’d never buck her, talk back to her, stand up to her, or contradict her. She was the one and only feline that could make him a “pussy.”
He stood there chatting with his aunt and the Gardiners when his attention diverted across the parking lot. It was him—his mortal enemy, George Wickham, glaring at him from across the gravel. The fool wore a three-inch high, folded, white bandana that wrapped around his forehead and slicked back hair. Darcy’s insides clenched in steely resolve when their eyes met over the sea of children and held with unspoken loathing.
Both men were determined to intimidate the other as neither broke their stare. Hatred oozed from their pores. Darcy smiled as if to say, “Bring it on,” and Wickham flipped him the bird, his finger an inch from his cheek.
It had begun—war had just been declared.
“Aunt Cat, why is Wickham back this year? I thought you fired him after that whole Georgiana debacle last year. I can’t believe you’re gonna make me write a check out to him at the end of the summer. The guy’s an asshole.”
“Language, William. Unfortunately, we need that scumbag. Georgie has gotten over her ordeal, and he promised never to cross the line again, so all is well.”
Darcy rolled his eyes and swore that this would be the year that George Wickham received his just desserts. He was going to go down in flames.
“I, for one, will be keeping an eye on him,” said Edward. “Don’t like that boy, never did, not since he pulled Elizabeth’s hair over on the swing set when she was seven. Why, I think that scarred her for life. She’s studying to become a child psychologist, you know. Working on her dissertation now.”
“Elizabeth your niece? Is she the one volunteering this summer? Then she must be what, twenty-one or twenty-two by now?”
Cat removed herself from the conversation when she saw ten year-old Brendan Andrews punch Amelia Pennyworth in the arm.
“She’s the very one, twenty-three and just finishing up her Masters. My Elizabeth has grown to be quite a beauty along with her fair-haired sister, Jane.” Edward gave Darcy a funny, knowing look. “Hold on to your heart, Will because I’d bet my last dollar you’re going to lose it this summer.”
Darcy backed away, waving his hands back and forth in opposition in front of his chest. “No … thank … you!” Because, quite frankly Ed wasn’t a very good looking man, and Darcy could only imagine what his nieces looked like especially given that they were Hippie Tom’s girls—girls who probably didn’t shave their legs or armpits and were Drexel Graduates and most likely feminists. No, absolutely not! There was no way he was going to go there. It was against any man code he ever heard of.
As Darcy departed toward Pemberley, Maddy nodded. “Hmm ... Hmm ... You’re right Eddie, that boy’s prime meat for the likes of our Lizzy. Hope she doesn’t eat him alive first, after all …” she said pinching her husband’s backside from behind, “Filet minion should be savored not devoured and certainly given a chance to age to delectable perfection before one puts a fork in it.”
On the opposite side of the parking lot a vintage, 1967 Chevy Chevelle SS with 400hp under the hood sped in under flying dust that resembled smoke surrounding the flaming red car.
Charlie snorted a laugh. “Captain America has arrived,” he said referring to Rick, driver of the muscle car. His friend had just completed three years of military service with two tours in Afghanistan. The only thing that stood between Rick and the enemy was a severe case of sleep apnea. It was enough for the army to send him packing home. He alone could alert the Taliban by the sound of his snores. At the age of twenty-seven with no job and no plans, Rick came back to the camp for one last summer romp with his cousin and buddies before driving cross-country in the fall.
The car stopped and Rick, along with John Lucas’ sister Charlotte, exited to the oohs and aahs, stares and finger points of the older kids. The teens couldn’t decide if it was the hot rod they were lusting over or the chick who exited it. Muscle cars and double Ds were a boy’s wet dream.
Charlie observed as one of the 16 year-olds approached Rick and asked about the car. Of course, the boy
wasn’t looking at the car.
Rick placed his hand on the kid’s shoulder and bent down locking eyes with him. “Focus ... Here … My eyes are here.” He directed the boy’s vision, making a V with his fingers toward his eyes. “400 hp, big v-8, 4 barrel, fuel injected, dual exhaust, 0 to 60 quicker than you can say X-Box 360.”
Although not the most beautiful of women in Charlie’s opinion, Charlotte was pretty but had a body that could stop traffic. Like John, she was an avid athlete and combined with the fact that she was also a pediatrician, she took great care of her health and prided herself in keeping fit and toned. With summer here and families traveling, she had taken time off from her father’s medical practice. John’s advice to join camp Mount Oakham as their resident physician and girls’ cabin counselor for the eight and nine year olds was perfect timing.
This was going to be an interesting summer to be sure, Charlie mused. The cast of characters was growing colorful and with the motley crew of children he observed heading in the direction of the cabins, he was sure that not only the competitions but also the chemistry was going to be explosive. He’d been doing this far too long not to see the dynamic, but he was thankful that this was the last year he and Darcy would be coming here. He loved Darcy like a brother, but nine years … nine summers … were nine missed opportunities for a real summer romance, and it was more than what even the most amiable of people could tolerate. Fact was, at twenty-six he was too damn old for this shit. Hell, they all were, but the camp needed them. Darcy needed them.
Dragging his feet slowly behind, he walked toward Anne, preparing himself and his backside by squeezing his butt cheeks tight, readying for her forward onslaught of pinches.
“Why if it isn’t Charlie-boo himself,” she purred
He smiled that fake, plastered, wide grin that people put on. You know the type of smile, it’s the one that has the words, “Get me the hell out of here” silenced behind stretched lips and clenched teeth. Anne to him was the equivalent of Caroline to Darcy.
He decided to take Darcy’s example of a one-word reply. “Anne.”
The woman wasn’t by any stretch of the imagination attractive. To Charlie, she sort of resembled a mash up of a hobbit and a dwarf. It was okay that she was short, but she had big feet. She was hairy, too, sporting a severe mustache, which caused him to shudder in remembrance of her hairy knuckled hand reaching out from the sleeping bag with a Trojan sitting in the center of her palm. Of course, this was how he saw her. Admitedly, she wasn’t actually that bad.
Anne waggled her bushy eyebrows and rested her hand against his left peck, obviously hoping to feel a raised nipple below. “You’re looking good enough to eat. A year’s too long to go without seeing you. Perhaps we can catch up later?”
No dice. He grabbed his camper list, bio sheets, and assorted paper work from her clipboard and made tracks as quickly as possible toward Netherfield—his home for the next four weeks.
Lizzy’s green Toyota Prius Hybrid pulled into the gravel parking lot after the three-hour drive from South Jersey—three hours of sheer hell with Lydia’s gum cracking and loud rapping to Notorious B.I.G playing in her ear buds. At one point during the drive, Lizzy pulled over to the side of the Garden State Parkway and actually took out Lydia’s luggage threatening her with a bus ticket if Lydia didn’t shut up. It was Jane’s smooth interference, which got everyone back in the car.
Truth was that child psychologist Lizzy was too close to the situation in dealing with her wild, impetuous, and badly behaved sister. Although Lizzy’s professional concentration was on childhood grief counseling and Lydia was, in fact, spiraling down because of their mother’s death five years earlier, both she and Jane were unprepared. Not to mention they lacked not only the experience, but also the strong discipline skills needed to control such a wild child before it was too late.
The tender process of helping a mourning child was the impetus for Lizzy’s career choice. She had been one of those grieving young adults. However, Lydia was taking a different route than both her sisters had. She rebelled and abused their distracted, withdrawn and passive father by walking all over him and taking advantage of his laidback response at every opportunity. It seemed that after Frances’s death all that mattered to Thomas was his Grateful Dead music, Kurt Vonnegut and Robert Ludlum books and the restoration of a ’67 Volkswagen Beetle.
In addition, Jane, well her focus was on elder care and helping them through the diagnosis and preparations of Alzheimer’s. She was entirely ill equipped for the likes of her precocious sister and had been keenly focused on securing a position in London these last six months. Lydia just fell through the cracks in an already fractured family.
Lifting the trunk, Jane removed all the luggage and scanned over the large parking area. She allowed her long legs to stretch as she rose up and down on her tiptoes to work out her calves. Her five foot eight inch lean frame had been excessively cramped in Lizzy’s car, and she wondered why she chose such a car, after all Lizzy was five foot seven. For both these statuesque women, riding in a Prius was the equivalent to their father riding in a Smart Car—he was six foot three.
“Yo! Sistas, I gotta, pee,” Lydia declared.
“Jane, why don’t you go check in and find out your cabin assignment while Lydia and I find the bathroom? She and I will head on over to our cabin together.”
Jane smiled that perfect, radiant smile of hers and gave her sister a thumbs up signal, relieved to be entering into a “Lydia Free Zone” as they often referred to it.
Lizzy waited in front of the women’s room for Lydia. Flies that met their demise in spider webs where dead daddy long legs hung surrounded the rustic, wood building, but she ignored them. She looked out at the general splendor and excited energy of the campground where her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner spotted her from across the wide lawn.
“Lizzy! Lizzy!” Maddy shouted from across the campground, delighted to see her favorite niece after so long a hiatus.
“Aunt Maddy!” Lizzy ran to her where they embraced and kissed as Edward slowly made his way to them. “Uncle Eddie!”
“Lizzy–bear, you get prettier every time I see you. Where are your sisters?” he said.
“Jane went to check in, and L-Scream is in the bathroom.” She rolled her eyes and hitched her thumb toward the building behind her.
“L-Scream?” Maddy asked smiling.
“Please … don’t get me started. No chapter in any textbook I’ve ever read was labeled Jersey Shore Syndrome.” Lizzy snorted. “I should be doing my thesis on that instead of bereavement camps for children and teens. We’re in for quite a ride this month.”
Ed had mischief written all over his face. “You know who is here? Remember that boy you attached yourself to those early years when your parents brought you girls here? I think you called him ‘Billy’. He’s over in Pemberley. He’s one of their counselors.”
“I do remember. He always held my hand when we played in the creek. I remember him watching over me all the time. In my little girl mind, he was my very first crush. I’ll look forward to seeing him again.”
“Hey! How goes it Aunt Maddy, Uncle Eddie G-Bop?” Lydia greeted.
Lizzy shook her head, pulling her sister away, not believing that her uncle was just referred to by a guido Jersey Shore name.
“See you later girls!” Maddy called out waving, turning to her husband with a playful smile. “Oh Eddie, you’re evil. Why did you tell Lizzy it was Billy Collins and not Will all those years ago?”
“Why? Because this is summer camp and playing pranks is what we do!”
“Excuse me, can you direct us to Longbourn cabin?” Lizzy asked the guy standing in the pathway leading to the girls’ section of the camp.
Lydia pulled out the buds from her ears, gaping at him while she pushed out her chest.
George Wickham gave the two women the once over through his white-rimmed, lightly tinted sunglasses, and he liked what he saw. He moved closer into their personal space. “Sure sweet things. Which one of you dolls is the new counselor?”
“That would be me!” Lizzy said excitedly. “My sister is a camper at Longbourn with me. Do you know where we need to turn on the pathway?”
“Of course, let me show you. It’s cool, I’ll walk you down.” He lowered his glasses to the bridge of his nose and with eyes peering over the rim, checked out Lizzy.
She was no fool, this guy had jackass written all over his chiseled features, orange tan, and white guido T-shirt. She glanced down to his feet … flip-flops and the god-awfullest feet she had ever seen. Fungus. Who the hell wore flip-flops when all ten toes had toenail fungus? They looked like yellow fingers hanging over the edge of his sandal, and they made her stammer in reply.
“Than … Thanks. That’s really kind of you.”
Lydia flirted, batting her eyes. This guy was her perfect match. “I bet you’re always this helpful. We’re lucky we found you. Aren’t we Lizzy?”
He held out his fist for a fist pump. “My name’s George, but you can call me G-Train.”
Lizzy, never one for this crazy form of greeting, tentatively put up her fist and smiled. He smiled back and tried to catch a glimpse down her v-neck T-shirt, but her little, silver cross necklace glared back at him, causing him to recoil like a blood-sucking vampire.
He quickly focused on Lydia and her half-exposed chest, which had no adornment except for a deep cleavage line that she leaned forward toward him.
“G-Train?” Lizzy asked, elbowing Lydia in the ribs to behave. “What sort of name is that?”
He smacked his gum and stared at Lydia’s chest. “Yeah, my Jersey Shore name. Fits don’t it?
Lydia enthused, “I love Jersey Shore! You know what my Jersey Shore name is? L-Scream!” She looked slyly at George, seductively adding, “My name fits too.”
Yeah, he caught her meaning and figured that was an invitation to make her scream.
Lizzy thought, Ahh … Jersey Shore … I see. That explained the gold chain, the slicked back hair, and the cigarette behind his ear.
They followed beside him on the path leading to the cabin. She really couldn’t imagine that this guy was for real no matter what his age, and then a guilty thought crossed her mind—perhaps he might be mentally challenged. “How old are you G-Train?”
“Do you work here at the camp? Do they… do they have a position for you here?”
He looked at Lizzy warily. “Yesss … I’m the counselor for Lambton - the twelve and thirteen year-olds. Been doin’ this for years. Actually, I’ve been coming here since I was nine. My pop was the bushwhacker until he got sent up the river to Sing-Sing Prison. Soon as I turned eighteen, Mrs. D gave me a job, and I haven’t left since.”
“You live here year-round?”
“When I’m not down at the Shore with my boys. Got myself a few cookies down there. So I’m pretty happenin’.” He made guns with his index and thumbs circling them in front of him, pointing in Lydia’s direction.
George made a flourish of his arm when they arrived in front of Longbourn. “Well, here you are my ladies. I didn’t catch your name.”
“I’m Lizzy Bennet.” She pointed to her sister and rolled her eyes. “And you already know hers, but for us non-reality TV people, she’s otherwise known as Lydia.”
He held his fist out to both of them and they bumped it in reply. “Nice to meet you G-Train,” Lydia called out over her shoulder.
Lizzy grabbed her hand pulling her up the stairs thinking, Mental note to self: unpack Tequila first.
“Yeah, right back at ya. L-Scream.”
What do you think of our camp counselors and Aunt Cat? This is going to be one wild summer.