“Gail, do you want to go visit Kevin?” Samuel’s voice pulled me back from my thoughts. I nodded in assent and the three of us headed to the headmistress’ office to ask for permission to leave the school grounds.
“He never did tell me why he didn’t come home that night,” I mused as we walked to the headmistress’s office.
The incident during my first camping trip had forced the school to stop arranging any more trips. It was a touchy subject for those who were there when the tragic events had happened. Only a few people knew about those events and so now, two years later the younger students have requested for another trip. Out of the hundreds of students and teachers in the school, only a handful still remembers the details. Among those were Samuel, Michael and Ms. Applegate. I was also included in the small group as well as some outsiders who were kicked out of the school for their harsh actions and incompetency.
Ms. Applegate had adamantly refused to arrange another trip after the incident but she caved under the pressure when the students brought their parents into the equation. No other parents were informed of the accident besides those whose children were involved in it therefore they didn’t know why the trips were cancelled.
I was brought back from my musings when Ms. Applegate came out of her office. No one needed to say anything, she only had to look at my distraught appearance and she knew what was going on. She pulled out three slips from her pocket, handed one to each of us then with a nod she went back to her office.
Samuel drove to the rehabilitation center while I was in the backseat. Michael sat with me in his arms, comforting me and subconsciously getting me ready for the upcoming encounter. Samuel parked the car and both of them assisted me inside the center.
My eyes took in the white-washed walls at the reception area. We walked over to the counter and spoke to the receptionist who had come to know us. She directed us to the room Kevin was in and I made sure to compose myself before we went in to make sure that he wouldn’t worry about me. We had to go to the fifteenth floor of the building to reach Kevin’s room and I once again found myself drifting down memory lane during the elevator ride.
The bus was in the parking lot. The name ‘Sunrise and Twilight Camp’ in bright green adorned the white and blue striped vehicle that was clear even from afar. Three of the ten students that were participating were already there and Gail recognized them as the freshmen that joined the trip.
They were chatting excitedly to each other, bouncing in their seats on the bench. She was anticipating a lot of adventure during this trip and it also helped that she would be with her closest friends and, of course, her first love. Speaking of whom, they had all just arrived in Jeremy’s car.
‘He must’ve picked them up knowing that they’ll be late.’ She thought to herself amusedly. Michael came out of the passenger side, his head whipping around as he searched for her. Samuel and Kevin came out from the backseat, their shoulders shaking in barely-hidden amusement towards their childish friend. Jeremy came out from the driver’s side and Gail’s breath hitched at the sight of him.
His golden-blond hair shone in the early morning light while his jade eyes searched for the same person Michael was looking for. Her heart skipped a beat when he caught her staring at him and his soft lips curled up into the sexy smirk that she loved so much. His expression didn’t escape Samuel and Kevin and they were quick to turn to the direction he was staring at.
The couple was oblivious to the conspiratorial smiles that their three friends shared, lost in their own world as they were. They didn’t notice when Michael, Samuel and Kevin had huddled up together, whispering as they plotted against or for the couple, that was debatable.
The impatient honking of the school bus’s horn broke up their staring contest as well as the scheming boys. They hurried to the bus with their bags in tow. A few minutes later, their young and quite new teacher, Mr. Allan Forest, arrived and the bus sped off to the docks. From there, they were supposed to get on a boat to get to their camping spot. The ride would last an hour and a half. The couple sat next to each other on the bus with their friends surrounding them as well as the younger students. Gail sighed contentedly as she laid her head on Jeremy’s shoulders. Their trip to nature had begun.
The soft ‘ding’ of the elevator doors pulled me out of my memories. I looked towards my two companions who were watching me carefully. I gave them both a small smile before taking a deep breath to steel my nerves. The doors opened with a ‘whoosh’ of air and the three of us stepped out to a large room filled with therapeutic equipment. There were some people in the room who turned to look at us while others kept on doing what they were doing, uninterested by the newcomers. We found Kevin on one of the treadmills jogging lightly. There was a man beside him who I recognized as his therapist. We walked over to the pair as they worked.
“Looking good there, Kev,” I joked. His concentration broke in his surprise and he slipped. The doctor/therapist, whose name I could never remember, quickly caught him before he did much damage to himself.
“Thanks a lot Gail,” he said, his words dripping in sarcasm while he shot me a half-hearted glare. His glare only intensified when he heard Samuel and Michael snickering behind me. He turned to his therapist with questioning eyes.
“Alright, you can take a break. I’ll give you an hour tops,” the man conceded.
“Thanks Paul!” he said gratefully. The man just nodded to him and to us. He turned to go but then turned back to Kevin with a question.
“Do you need my help?” the man, whose name was now identified as Paul, asked him. Kevin shook his head in response, which the doctor seemed to accept because he quickly left us.
“So, who’s going to help you then?” Michael asked with a devious smirk. “I’m certainly not touching you when you’re all hot and sweaty. Who knows what you did to get to your state?” he said suggestively. Kevin shot him another heated glare before turning to Samuel who was chuckling at the banter.
“Oh, hell no,” Samuel exclaimed as he backed away dramatically. When he was certain he was a good distance away, he held his nose playfully before saying, “You are not going to get me to help you when you stink like that.” He said, fanning his hands in front of his face. I rolled my eyes at their antics but couldn’t keep the smile from my face as I remembered the good times.
“Sissies,” I taunted. I threw my handbag to Michael which hit him right on the face with a satisfying ‘smack’. Samuel laughed at his predicament but quickly trailed off when a pair of shoes with one inch heels landed on his head. They both looked at me with incredulous stares only to find that I had turned to Kevin. I appraised him with mock-exasperated eyes then huffed before pulling his right arm across my shoulder while I supported him with my left arm around his waist. I staggered slightly under his weight but quickly reclaimed my composure and stood up straight. “What?” I asked Samuel and Michael as they stared at me as if I’d grown three extra heads.
“I think they just can’t believe that you can drag me around when I’m a head taller than you,” Kevin spoke up from beside me. I questioned him with my eyes so he continued, “Not to mention that I’m much heavier than you are.”
“It’s not my fault they’re so weak,” I answered with a rather conceited smirk. I started walking towards the benches on the other side of the room where we could look over the beautiful landscape of the center. I ignored Sam and Mikey’s protests until they caught up to me and walked beside me.
“Now, now,” Michael said in a lecturing tone. “Don’t be cocky.” He said.
“It’s not called being cocky when you’re saying the truth,” I retorted. Kevin laughed heartily at my response and then I noticed that we had gotten to the wooden benches.
“No, not here Gail,” he said as I moved to let him sit. He pointed in the other direction where a brand new-looking couch was laid out. It was a dark blue that matched the interior of the room. “Over there, it’s much more comfy.”
“Alright,” I steered him towards the couch and helped lower his body on it. I kneeled in front of him and started to do therapeutic massage on his right leg. He moaned in satisfaction when I kneaded a knot of muscles. His reaction made me smirk.
“Get a room!” Michael said from behind me making me jump a little.
“There’s no need for that when we have a perfectly comfortable couch right here.” Kevin said looking straight into Michael’s eyes. Michael and Samuel turned toward me waiting for my customary response which was a blush. They looked disappointed when I looked straight back at them without any indication of a blush coming up. “What do you say Gail?” Kevin’s voice broke the staring contest. “Should we break in this couch?” he asked suggestively. I could feel the heat rising from my neck to my cheeks but fought it down, surprisingly I won. I looked at Kevin to find his mirthful expression directed at the other two boys who had come with me.
“I knew it was new!” I exclaimed. “About breaking it in… maybe another time okay, Kev?” I said looking towards said person. I winked at him then I heard gagging noises from behind me. I turned to see Michael dramatically making puking sounds with his hands in front of his face. Jeremy on the other hand had gone pale. Another mischievous idea popped into my head and I let my hands travel upwards of Kevin’s legs stopping on his thighs. He raised an eyebrow but said nothing. “Then again, this time is as good as any.”
I stood up slowly so that I was leaning on his legs lightly and brought my face towards his. I winked at him once more but before I could do anything else I heard a loud ‘thump’ behind me. I turned to find that Jeremy had fainted, probably from lack of blood judging from his pale face. I turned back to Kevin just in time to see him clutching his sides as he laughed, hard. Michael had run off, most likely to the bathroom.
I turned back to Kevin to see that he still hadn’t stopped laughing. I sat on his lap and wrapped my arms around his shoulders while I buried my head on the crook of his neck; his only response was to embrace me.
“Gail, what’s wrong?” he finally asked.
“I miss him,” I sobbed into his neck. He stroked my back comfortingly as I cried, my shoulders shaking. I didn’t know how long I wept but when I finally stopped crying I could hear Mikey and Sam whispering in hushed voices. I shuddered lightly when I felt Kevin’s breath ghosting on my ear as he asked, “Feeling better?”
”Are you alright?” Mikey asked worriedly. I raised my head up to look at his worried brown eyes. I nodded slightly in affirmation but I knew that they all thought I wasn’t. I didn’t even notice that Samuel had already woken up and had sat beside me.
“It’s going to be alright, Gail.” Samuel’s quiet voice surprised me but I nodded in reply. I returned to my position with my face hidden in the crook of Kevin’s neck.
“So tell me, why are you guys actually here?” Kevin finally asked. I sighed on his neck then extricated myself from him.
“There’s another camping trip,” I replied sullenly.
“What?” Kevin asked at the top of his voice. “Why? Have they forgotten what happened in the last one?”
“They haven’t but the parents don’t know because no one else was informed of the ‘accident’ besides those who were involved.” I replied. “Ms. Applegate tried not to do it, but in the end all she could do was stall for time. Some of the richer parents threatened to take away their funding if the school didn’t.” I said before he could argue. He looked at me worriedly before the inevitable question came.
“Are you going?” he asked me.
“Yes, all three of us are going.” Michael answered for me when I refused to reply to the inquiry.
“I would try to stop you,” Kevin started with a deep sigh. “But I know that you’ll still go. So, all I will say is that you be careful.” He said. “And make sure that you don’t have any immature brats that don’t know what they’re getting into.” He reminded.
“Oh, don’t worry about that.” Samuel piped in. “Mikey had fun this morning scaring the little kids.” He said with a laugh. “Originally there were eight of us; me, Mikey, Gail, Steph – Gail’s best friend who’s a sophomore, and four freshmen. Mikey scared one blonde girl and another boy off so now, there’re only six of us and of course, we made sure that they knew to follow orders.”
“That’s good then,” Kevin conceded after a few minutes of thought. “Who’ll be the teacher?”
“We don’t know yet, but we hope it’ll be Mr. Johnson.” I answered when I finally regained my voice.
After that, our talks comprised of mostly teasing each other while we informed Kevin of the goings on in school. I acted happy, or at least, as happy as I could be although I was thinking of Kevin and Jeremy; the victims of a terrible accident that caused the loss of their normal lives, or in Jeremy’s case, his actual life. On the way back to my apartment, I was silent as I thought about my last camping trip.
Two weeks had gone by and all it did was prove to Jeremy, Kevin, Michael, Samuel and Gail that their teacher was incompetent and the four other freshmen who did get to join were nothing but brats. The five second years had been doing all the work for their five companions and so far, nothing had gone in their favor. The first years had refused to do chores and their ‘wonderful’ teacher had not come out of his tent because of the mosquitoes. In three days, they were to go back to the mainland and report to the head teacher about the absolute failure of the trip.
Gail sat by the camp fire with Samuel as Kevin looked for more fire wood and Jeremy had gone with the two younger boys to the river for a bath. Michael was off somewhere in the surrounding forest hunting for food. The two girls that were with them were in their tents, as they had been since the beginning of the trip, once they found out that they were supposed to forage for their food and other necessities they needed to survive.
Samuel stoked the fire to keep it going while Gail watched as the flames danced across the wood. They sat in comfortable silence until a frightened scream reached their ears. They looked into each other’s eyes then ran towards the direction of the river where the scream had originated. Totally unprepared for what they may encounter, they froze in their tracks when they saw the scene in front of them.
The youngest boy, Mark, was scrambling for shore. Jeremy and Joey were in the water where a school of freshwater piranha was attacking them. The once blue water was tinged with pink with the boys’ blood. Another scream rang throughout the bank and seemed to have broken Samuel and Gail out of the fear-stricken states. Samuel ran to Mark just as Kevin got into the clearing while Gail stumbled to pull Joey out of the water. Kevin dived in the midst of the pink pool and successfully dragged Jeremy back to the bank.
Trails of blood followed behind Jeremy and Kevin as the latter struggled to get the former out of the water. Samuel had calmed down Mark and was sitting by the younger boy, unable to do anything to help. He stared at Jeremy’s mangled body and struggled to keep his lunch in his stomach.
“Sam! Snap out of it!” Gail’s voice startled him. He turned to look at the only girl in their group to find that she had torn her own shirt and used it to bandage Joey’s multiple injuries. “I need your help. Go back to the camp and fetch my bag.” Gail ordered as she stumbled her way to Kevin and Jeremy. “Kev, are you alright?” Samuel heard her ask.
“I’ll be fine,” Kevin reassured as he tried to pull the carnivorous fishes from both of his legs. “Tend to Jeremy. He’s in bad shape.”
“Samuel! I need my bag now!” she screamed. Samuel scrambled to his feet and hurriedly ran back to the camp. “Jeremy, hold on love. I’m right here, okay?” she spoke to him soothingly as she surveyed his wounds. A good amount of his legs were gone, eight of his toes had been bitten off as well as three fingers. Chunks of his arms were missing while bite marks were scattered all over his body. Gail tried hard not to weep in front of her boyfriend, to restrain her feelings and keep a clear mind.
“Gail, something’s wrong!” Samuel shouted as he ran back to the clearing with Gail’s bag in his hands.
“What is it?” she asked, grabbing the tote from him.
“The girls are missing,” he began. “When I got back to the camp, it was too quiet; I got suspicious and checked their tent. They weren’t there and Mr. Forest is also gone.”
“I knew something was off,” Kevin exclaimed, his teeth gritted in pain. “He’s taken the girls.”
“Did you see Mikey anywhere?” she asked worriedly.
“No,” was the curt reply.
“Well, we can’t really worry about him right now. I hope he’s alright though.” She said then went back to commander mode. “Sam, help Kevin with those things. Burn them off of his legs. There’s a lighter in my bag.” Gail ordered.
“What are we gonna do about the boys?” Sam asked as he walked to Kevin.
“Keep them in your line of sight.” Gail said as he continued to work on Jeremy’s injuries. “I’m sorry love but I need to clean your wounds.” She apologized when her patient whimpered in pain, too weak to do anything else.