by Kat Daemon
Betty placed her swim goggles securely in the side pocket of her suitcase, closed it, and zipped it shut. Clicking the lock, her belongings were now secure. It was a lock that needed a code. Betty learned her lesson last year. A regular lock can be picked. A bobby pin is all you need, and where she was going there was an abundance of bobby pins. She wasn’t in the mood for fishing her training bras out of the lake or climbing a tree to get her sneakers.
The lock held the illusion of protection. But Betty knew the truth— it didn’t matter. Sooner or later the other girls would find a way to torture her. Replace her shampoo with honey, or perhaps swap out the sugar with salt to ruin her tea. Betty did love a cup of tea. It caused snickers as all the other girls sipped hot cocoa around the fire. Tea wasn’t even offered. Betty had to beg one of the counselors, but eventually they caved. Pity can have it’s privileges.
Dragging her suitcase out of her room, Betty brought it to the top of the stairs. With a heavy sigh she began her descent, one step at a time, the suitcase making a loud thunk sound behind her.
“Elizabeth Maelstrom! You pick that luggage up!” Her mother called from the kitchen. Betty sighed again but did not pick up her suitcase. Instead she opted for the band-aid route. One rip. She ran down the rest of the stairs the suitcase boldly announcing her resistance.
Thunk! Thunk! Thunk!
Her mother emerged, round and short. Her cheeks rosy and her chin-length ginger hair frizzy. She had been baking. She did that when she was nervous. “I told you to pick it up. You’re defiance is uncalled for.”
“It was heavy,” Betty said with a breath of exasperation. She had her mother’s build. Right down to the frizzy hair. Mrs. Maelstrom looked at her daughter with sympathy, took the suitcase out of her hand and placed it carefully by the vestibule.
“Come to the kitchen and have a blueberry muffin while they’re still warm,” she said as she walked briskly back into the part of the house that was her personal palace. Betty followed obediently, knowing comfort food was her mother’s way of trying to quell her fears. She placed the muffin sliced in half before her. The berries were bleeding purple juices into the yellow cake. The butter melting quickly from the warmth. Betty breathed in the lovely scent of the fresh muffins and wished she could just stay in the kitchen for the rest of the summer.
“There she is! All ready for camp I see,” Mr. Maelstrom said as he walked in with the paper. Betty eyed the paper with caution. Her father refused to read anything online, insisting it was fake news. Mrs. Maelstrom placed another muffin in front of him, but he barely noticed it. Where Betty and her mother were short and round, her father was tall and lean. He liked to joke that together him and his wife were a perfect 10. Betty never found that joke to be funny.
“Do I have to go?” Betty asked for the hundredth time that week.
“I’ve already paid the deposit, and I can’t get it back,” Mr. Maelstrom said as he licked his thumb and turned the page of his paper. “
I could give up my allowance to pay you back,” Betty pleaded.
“Oh, Betty… I have a good feeling about this year. You’ll see. This summer will be splendid. I bet you’ll finally make that special friend.”
Betty rested her chin in her palms, her mouth turned into a frown. “I never make a friend.”
“That’s because you give up.” Her father scanned the paper, his voice monotone. “You need to really try this year.”
“I always try.”
“No,” her father corrected, this time lowering his paper long enough to catch her eye. “You give up. We’ll have none of the nonsense this year. Besides, we’re running out of camps!” He forced a laugh, but Mrs. Maelstrom simply bit her bottom lip and got them each a second muffin. Betty hadn’t even touched her first.
Camp Daisy Days was everything the brochure said it would be, which is why Betty felt the knots form in her stomach when her parents dropped her off. “Be sure to write, have fun, and please try to make new friends,” her mother said as she hugged her so tight Betty thought she might trigger an asthma attack.
“And this time, no coming home early.” Her father warned as he kissed her cheek.
The anxiety began to brew inside Betty. The worries of how the girls had made her feel in the past all crashing down like waves over her head. “But what if—”
“I said, no.” With a stern look he took her mother by the elbow and led her back to their pea green station wagon. She watched them drive away until all that was left was the dust the wheels had produced.
“Do you need any help?” Betty turned to find a counselor in green shorts and a yellow shirt holding a clipboard standing beside her. The woman was in her early twenties and the smile she had plastered to her face almost seemed genuine. “Elizabeth Maelstrom… Betty,” she said and watched as the counselor checked the little box next to her name, therefore sealing her fate.
The first day was just as bad as Betty predicted. Her room mate, Mackenzie, looked like a doll with pin straight blonde hair that Betty suspected was immune to frizz. She already had three girls who she became instant best friends with. They called her “Kenzie”, and when they showed up at the room to help Kenzie unpack, not one girl acknowledged Betty, aside from asking if they could sit on her bed. The four girls left to get lunch together and explore the camp, leaving Betty alone on her first day.
The second day was just as dreadful. Arts and crafts was a required activity, and the campers each were given popsicle sticks to create something with. Betty used four, creating a frame for her mother. When she was done she looked at the table next to her to discover Kenzie and her clones had pooled their popsicle sticks together to make a big doll house. “We can have 4 it travel between us, and we can each add something to make it special,” Mallory squealed as Kenzie nodded in agreement. Clearly she thought it was a fine idea. Betty felt nauseous.
The third day ended with a sing-a-long around the campfire. Betty actually liked to sing, but when it was her turn to lead the group, the counselor looked at her watch and said it was too late and time for bed. Not about to argue, Betty got up and headed for the cocoa line where each girl was given their drink before bed. Having made a stink the first night, the counselors already knew Betty needed her tea. She took her cup and poured in the sugar then headed off alone to her cabin, stopping along the way to take a hearty sip. A salty ocean flavor saturated her tongue. Betty spit it out and wiped her mouth. She could hear the giggles behind her, but refused to let them see her cry.
On the fourth day the boys from the camp across the lake, Camp Sandy Snakes, came to join the girls for a day of games. Betty knew the drill, it was to get better acquainted, for the end of Summer Camp always meant a dance.Betty never made it to the dance.
The girls were giggly at breakfast all talking about the possibility of finding summer romance that afternoon. They braided each others hair, and shared lip gloss. No one offered any to Betty. She ate her cereal wondering how much more of this she could take.
The boys arrived at noon, wearing red shorts and white shirts. The day began with a game of softball which the boys won. Archery was next and the girls managed to tie, not having to face two defeats in a row. Kenzie was swooning over a boy named Brandon who had brown curly hair and green eyes. At fifteen he was three years older than her. Betty couldn’t dream of talking to a boy in high school while she was still in middle school, but Kenzie flipped her perfect hair over 5 her shoulder and somehow laughed at all the right moments. Brandon was instantly under her spell, and Betty knew there was no use trying to find a cure.
The last game of the day was tug-o-war. The rope was stretched taught between the two camps, a mud pit between them. Tired from the heat, Betty decided to sit that one out, hoping she’d have a good view when the boys pulled Kenzie and her crew into the brown puddle. There was an equal amount of boys and girls, but make no mistake of it, the boys were stronger. Surprisingly, the Daisies managed to hold their ground, and only at the end did they start to lose their grip. That’s when Kenzie turned to where Betty was sitting beneath a tree.
“Betty! Please! Help us!”
At first Betty was so confused over the fact that Kenzie knew her name, she was unable to respond. Instead she stared, wondering if she had imagined it. She hadn’t.
“Betty! We’re slipping!” Betty’s gaze moved from the look of desperation on Kenzie’s face to Kenzie’s feet which were losing their grip as they began to slide against the dirt. “Betty!” Kenzie cried one last time, and this time— Betty got up.
She ran to the back, behind Mallory, dug her heels into the dirt and wrapped her arms around Mallory’s waist. With all her might, Betty pulled. An enormous grunt of frustration bellowed out of her throat as she leaned back as far as she could. And then, it happened. The girls all fell to the ground as the boys fell forward and into the mud. Covered in the filth, Snakes in the mud, they wiped their eyes and mouths, then flashed white teeth at the Daisy campers to show they were not upset. A cheer of victory was released from the girls with a chorus of, “Betty! Betty!”
Betty beamed as she realized she had saved the day. She looked over at the eyes of adoration, the girls who all knew her name and looked at her—really looked— for the first time. It was the happiest moment of her life. A whistle cut through the air tearing her joy away.
“All campers in the lake!” The counselor from Sandy Snakes said as he gestured to the water. The boys were already peeling off their shirts. The girls, wearing their bathing suits underneath their camp clothes stripped and joined them. Cannon balls commenced, followed by happy giggles as water splashed washing away the mud and linking the campers by the lake that was meant to separate them.
Eager to be with her new friends, Betty swam closer to Kenzie who was bobbing up and down in a tight circle with her girls.
“I told you she would be able to pull the boys down,” Mallory said with triumph.
“Yup. Gotta love the girls who eat the carbs. Her fat ass saved us,” Kenzie said with a sneer. Betty stopped treading water, allowing what was left of her happiness to drown.
She had tried to make friends, but she knew from past experience that was impossible. She looked at Kenzie and her crew, and knew those girls would always exist. She looked at Brandon and his boys, and knew all they would want was someone like Kenzie. She looked at the counselors and knew she would always be invisible to them. She looked at it all and knew she was experiencing deja vu.
The pea green station wagon pulled up to Camp Daisy Days the following afternoon. Betty was waiting, suitcase in hand, ready to return. Her parents got out of the car, the sadness present in their eyes. She knew her father would have read about it in the paper. That’s the only way he would have believed it was real. Such a tragedy. She tried to tell them. She never wanted to go. They made her. And now, all those deaths were on their hands… just like the others.
After all, how often do whirlpools occur in lakes? Strange if you think about it.
It was powerful though.
One might even call it a Maelstrom.
About the Author
Kat Daemon grew up in New York where her imagination always seemed to get the best of her. When she’s not hanging with demons, she’s usually armed with a strong cup of coffee and dreaming up her next tormented character.
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