Hello! This is draft 2. I would like more big picture comments than sentence-level/grammar comments please. Thanks for reading :)
One time at band camp a girl wasn’t too scared to talk to the boy she likes. And tonight, the final night of band camp, I’m hoping that girl is me.
My friend Bryn helps me get ready in our cabin’s bathroom because she’s the only one outside of my family that knows about my wig.
It’s a simple thing really. I lost all of my hair when I was thirteen. It started slow, a first strands here, a few chunks there. Then it came quickly. After that, I was the girl with no hair.
She hands me the blue bandanna our section leader Taylor has instructed us all to wear tonight, and I carefully fold it and tie it into a headband.
“Is it okay?” She knows I’m asking about more than the headband. I trust her to tell me if something about it looks unnatural or off.
She turns around me, checking from all sides, and gives me a nod.
Most of the drumline is gathered in a group outside of the bathrooms. The celebration of the final night of camp is already well under way on the basketball court, but Taylor wants our section to arrive together as a unit.
Kaila, a fellow snare player, cranes her neck around the bathroom building and says, “Will they hurry up? I want to go dance,” only loud enough for Bryn and I to hear her.
She’s mostly our friend out of convenience. When you’re in the same section and have seen each other daily for years, it’s hard to avoid becoming casual friends. But being in the same year and both playing snare, we’re each other’s biggest competition.
Once the final few stragglers arrive, Taylor waves his hand in the air, signaling that we can finally join the celebration. Kaila rolls her eyes out his line of sight, and we all walk towards the basketball courts together. Taylor wants us to be a team, and he’s always had a little flair for the dramatic.
I catch a few freshmen ogling towards us as we walk by. I remember being a freshman and dreaming of playing snare on the drumline. Now if everything goes according to plan, next year I’ll be able to take over Taylor’s position as section leader.
The bass from the music pumping on the basketball court courses through my feet as we get closer. I’m usually not a big dancer, but tonight I’m energized. I can do anything when I’m with this group.
The courts are already packed with the majority of the band by the time we arrive, and Taylor allows us to disperse to our individual friend groups.
For a second I wonder if Bryn and I will invite Kaila to join us on our search for the other two people in our friend group, Katya and Camilla, but she’s already disappeared into the crowd.
“How funny is it going to be when all of the other section leaders show up at our next rehearsal with different colors of headbands for their sections?” Bryn speculates as we walk the perimeter of the basketball court.
“It wouldn’t surprise me.” I laugh.
We find Katya and Camilla in line to get frozen Popsicles paid for by band moms and being passed out by our drum majors. No one objects when Bryn and I join them in line.
“Finally!” Camilla yells. “What took you so long?”
“Taylor.” That’s all Bryn needs to say.
Katya throws back her head and sighs. “Don’t be that annoying when you’re section leader, okay Summer?”
I smile. My friends know I want to beat out Kaila for the spot. “I’ll do my best.”
Camilla stands on her tiptoes to determine how many more people stand between us and Popsicles.
“Taylor is so weird. You know what Bentley had the tubas do tonight?” Katya says. “Nothing. Because it doesn’t matter. He cares about us playing our parts right and knowing our dots on the field. That’s it.”
“He’s just…” Bryn takes a second and tries to hide a smile. “Dedicated.”
“And crazy.” Katya adds.
We reach the front of the line. Our three drum majors, Stella, Micah, and Walter, sit on top of a picnic table, each with a box of Popsicles in their hands.
“What will it be, ladies?” Stella asks. She has her dark hair pulled into two neat French braids, and she’s sporting one of our newly released band t-shirts featuring our theme of the year: Disney villains. She’s a senior and the leader of the band. She stands front and center on a platform on the 50 yard line, keeping time and directing our show.
Camilla takes strawberry, Katya takes lemon, Bryn takes Cherry, and I take orange.
Micah hands it to me and I feel my face start to grow hot. Of course it had to be Micah. He’s a junior like me, and I’ve had a crush on him since last spring. Not that I’ve told anyone. I’m not good at crushes.
I pray that it’s dark enough for him not to notice my blush.
“Thank you!” Camilla exclaims for all of us, and I’m thankful she leads us back towards the dance so I don’t have to keep looking stupid in front of Micah.
We slurp our Popsicles in silence near a batch of trees a few yards away from the basketball court.
“I need to go find Fernando,” Camilla says once she’s finished.
Katya asks what we were all wondering. “Fernando?”
“The trumpet section leader.”
“I know who he is, why do you need to go find him?”
Camilla lifts one eyebrow. “Just cause.”
I know what that means. Fernando is the latest subject of Camilla’s infatuation. Katya rolls her eyes because she’s realized the same thing. Bryn smiles because she’s nice.
Camilla disappears into the crowd of dancers.
“Should we place bets on how long this one is going to last?” Katya deadpans. “Ten bucks it won’t last until Homecoming.”
“That’s not nice,” Bryn says. “I think they could work out.”
Katya stares at her, unconvinced.
“He’s a nice guy!”
They continue on, commenting on Fernando’s merits and his ability to put up with someone as high-maintenance as Camilla. I love Camilla, but she can be a lot. I don’t find many good opportunities to jump in, so I stay silent, nodding my head and mmhming when I see fit. This is fine.
I throw my hair into a loose ponytail to get it off my already sticky neck and offer to throw away our Popsicle sticks while they finish their conversation. The trash cans are off to the side of the line for Popsicles so I’m able to sneak another glance at Micah. He’s still doing his job and meeting the needs of the never-ending line of sweaty band kids that has no sign of stopping. Surely they’ll run out of Popsicles eventually. Surely he’s not expected to sit on that table all night and he’ll be able to join in on the fun.
I picture him joining the dance. I picture cool, calm, confident, ready-to-bust-out-a-drum-beat Summer tapping him on the shoulder and asking him to dance. I picture us starting with a fast song and then the tempo changing and the two of us effortlessly moving into a slow dance.
My fantasy is interrupted by Stella yelling, “Last call for Popsicles!”
The remaining people in line mob the table as Stella, Micah, and Walter throw their remaining Popsicles into the eager hands.
“That’s it!” She yells. “We’re all out! Sorry!”
I don’t want to be caught standing here by the trash can staring at Micah like a freak, so as soon as they stand up and start collecting the empty Popsicle boxes, I go find my friends. They’re still in the same spot next to the batch of trees.
“What took you so long?” Katya asks. “We were worried you ditched us like Camilla.”
Like I’d ever have the courage to actually approach Micah and ditch them.
“I just got stuck in the mob of people there for the last call.”
“Understandable,” She nods.
“There she is,” Bryn points towards the pack of people dancing.
It’s Camilla and Fernando. They’re locked together, despite the fast tempo of the song. His hands are wrapped around her waist, her arms around his neck, and they move in perfect time to the music.
Katya rolls her eyes. “Same old, same old.”
I’m struck by Camilla’s confidence and her ability to simply walk up to a guy she’s interested in, talk to him, and then dance two inches apart with him in front of absolutely everyone. How does she do that?
I go back to that picture in my mind of me somehow talking to Micah and dancing with Micah just like her. How would I ever manage to get around the stares and the assumptions and opinions of everyone around me?
“What are we doing guys? Are we going to stand here and wait for them to make out or are we going to go have fun?” Katya asks us.
“Do you want to go dance with them?” Bryn suggests.
“Not really. If she wanted to hang out with us, she would. And call me crazy, but I don’t feel the need to get invested in this since we all know it’ll be over in a month anyway.”
“Just stating facts.” She leads us around the perimeter of the basketball court, away from Camilla and Fernando. I don’t know how to say I don’t want to get too far away from where Micah may be, not that it will matter because it’s not like I’ll actually develop the courage to try to talk to him. But I’m hoping for the opportunity for him to see me, for the universe to align, and for him to ask me to dance or something.
“Katya!” Bentley yells from the pack of people in the middle of the basketball court. “Come dance with us!” Most of the junior and senior brass players are with him along with Taylor and a few other members of the drumline.
Katya exchanges looks with us, Bryn and I aren’t big dancers, shrugs, and joins Bentley and everyone else. I wouldn’t be opposed to staying here on the sidelines with Bryn, but that’s also not how I’ll get noticed by Micah. So when Bryn smiles and follows Katya onto the court, I tag along with her.
The music is pulsing, and it takes some effort to press our way through to Katya and the others. Taylor lets out a howl of glee and fists pumps his hand in time with the music. I throw my head back and laugh and begin to shake my hips in time with the music. I may not know how to dance, but I certainly know how to keep a beat.
Two songs later, it’s really not so bad. Some of my reservations start to dampen and I add in a few awkward arm movements with my hip swaying and occasional jumping around. I hope Micah sees me out here having fun, but I hope I don’t look too awkward or weird if he does see me. Even though he’s seen me every day for the last two weeks of band camp, I know he doesn’t see me in that kind of way, and I want him to see me in the best light.
Bryn nudges me in-between songs and whispers in my ear, “New couple alert?”
I look around, trying to figure out who she’s talking about. She nods her head behind me towards Micah and… Kaila.
He’s twirling her and dipping her and they’re dancing close together the same way Camilla and Fernando were, both with huge grins on their faces.
My stomach drops out of my body.
When did this happen?
I think back through band camp, the first week when we learned all of our new music in the band room at school, and then this last week when we stayed at camp to learn the drill. I try to remember if I noticed them talking or hanging out or if there was any indication that something was brewing between them. I come up short. For all of the time I spend noticing Micah, I know I would have noticed if he had suddenly started spending more time with Kaila.
It could be a one-time thing sparked by the end of band camp euphoria. It could be nothing. But they’re dancing a little too close and they look a little too thrilled for it to be nothing.
Bryn smiles like this is some kind of incredible, cute development, but now I wish I were absolutely anywhere but here. Kaila and I compete over everything. Chair placements, honor band spots, section leader. Now this? Him?
I can beat her at anything drum related, but this? This is uncharted territory where I have no idea what to do, and she does.
“When did this happen?” I ask Bryn because I know she won’t read into anything. I need to know how I missed this and how far along this is.
She shrugs and starts jumping along with the music again. “Couldn’t tell you. But I think I like it! What do you think?”
I hate it. I can’t say that though, so I shrug. “I thought she was dating that saxophone player.”
“They broke up because he’s about to go to college.”
Oh great, so she’s looking for a rebound. And out of every single guy in this band, she had to choose him.
“Anyone catching your eye this year?” She asks.
I duck my head in case I blush. This is such a common question.
Camilla wears her heart on her sleeve and proudly announces any and all crushes, big or small. Katya asks for our opinions on someone before she goes on a date with someone new. Bryn is happy with her boyfriend of over a year. And then there’s me. The one who has never been on a date or had a boyfriend because it’s too hard to pluck up the courage to talk to someone I’m interested in. I always say no whenever they ask because what if they judge my choice or what if it somehow got out. It’s easier to stay quiet.
So I shrug, even though the answer is a very solid YES. If Camilla were asking, she would keep on prying, but Bryn lets it go.
I get back into my groove even though my heart isn’t in it anymore. I chance another glance at Micah, daring to hope that maybe it was a fluke, a one song thing. Maybe we saw it wrong. Maybe I still have a chance.
But they’re still smiling, still dancing, still having the best time together. My stomach twists and I wish more than anything that I had the courage to walk over there and ask for a dance without caring about who is staring and what people are thinking or saying about me.
If I stay here and do nothing, they’re going to get closer, and I’m going to lose whatever window of opportunity I had. But even still, I stand here, and I do nothing.