7 comments

Creative Nonfiction Romance Teens & Young Adult

The summer after sixth grade, my parents sent me to Jesus camp. Camp Towego, but my friends and I called it Jesus camp. We weren’t particularly religious. “I’m a bad Catholic,” my mother would always say. We’d go to church every Christmas and Easter and whenever my grandparents were in town and my mother would ask us not to lie, but to leave out the fact that we don’t go every week when speaking to my grandparents. But the camp was cheap and close to home and so they sent me there when I was eleven so I could have a camp experience.


Camp Towego was actually a totally regular camp. We canoed, we swam and hiked, we had talent shows, and we roasted marshmallows and made s'mores as we told ghost stories around a campfire. But every night after dinner we would sit in a circle, the priest in the center with a guitar, nuns scattered around with tambourines, and we’d sing songs about God and peace and Jesus rising to save us. My friends whose mothers were also bad Catholics would laugh and roll their eyes, dying to go back to our bunks or the hammocks outside and flip through the magazines we brought and talk about boys. But I liked singing and everyone was happy. And it’s where I got to see Noah every day. 


“He’s looking at you.” Hana whispered to me one day, elbowing me in the ribs during a “Hallelujah” chorus.  


“What? No.” I whispered back, but I looked over and caught Noah’s eyes on me and he smiled. I smiled a little, but looked away quickly, biting my lip to keep from smiling too much.


One day everyone was pairing up in canoes and Noah and I were the last ones. Soph was back in our bunk clutching her stomach after what we decided must have been a bad hot dog. Hana nodded her head in the direction behind me and winked as her and Lori hopped into a canoe. I turned around to see Noah standing there, abandoned by his friends who were already racing each other out to the buoy.  He shrugged at me and started dragging our canoe through the sand to the lake. “Guess we’re canoe buddies now," he said nonchalantly. My heart was doing cartwheels as I walked to the edge of the water and lifted each leg carefully as I stepped into the canoe. “Guess so,” I said in the most convincing nonchalant voice I could muster, hoping I sounded sufficiently indifferent while chewing the inside of my lip like a piece of gum trying to stop myself from smiling.


We didn’t say much on the water that day – mostly he shouted back and forth with his friends once we caught up to them and Hana gave me excited thumbs ups from her canoe. But that didn’t keep me from recounting every detail to Hana and Soph and Lori back in our bunk that night.


I replayed the canoe day every night in my mind, smiling to myself as I fell asleep on my top bunk, picturing Noah’s smile and re-imagining different endings where the day ended with a hug or a kiss or an arm around me.


Over the next couple weeks, our elbows bumped during arts and crafts, we were partnered for about 30 seconds on square-dancing day- I was too mortified that he had to touch my sweaty palms to enjoy it- and another day we bumped into each other during lunch as we were filling our trays, both with a pile of extra baked beans.


“Hey, you know what’s up with beans too.” He said. “I do.” I remember obsessing over that interaction for hours that night – maybe even days – worried that what I said was entirely uncool, somehow convincing myself that what he said was cool.


On the last night we had a dance and Noah asked me to dance. It was nearing the end of the dance, right as I had been losing hope. We danced for four slow songs, leaving room for the Holy Spirit as the counselors and nuns had instructed us all to do on the night before the dance. During the last song, he leaned in and kissed me. A peck. So quick the nuns couldn’t catch it. My cheeks burned with excitement; I could feel them turning a bright shade of red. “I’m glad I met you.” Noah said. My heart fluttered and my whole body felt like it had been lifted to another level. “Me too.” I said. “That I met you too.” I clarified and Noah laughed and smiled at me as we swayed back and forth.


Three weeks later I decided it was a good idea to write a letter to Noah. I had recently read a book about two pen pals who had fallen in love and decided we were destined for the same fate. Every night for three weeks after camp, I had layed in bed imagining the next summer, his smile, his arms around me, another kiss. And so I wrote him a letter, telling him what was new in my life and recounting some fun memories from camp, asking if he’d be back next year. Keep in touch, I signed it.


I never heard back from Noah. I spent a couple weeks, excitedly going through the mail sitting on our counter every day after school. “Is this everything?” I would ask my mom. But I never received a letter back.


I ran into Noah five years later during my junior year of high school. I was at a diner with a group of friends. Hana was there and our new friends we had made in high school. We had left Soph and Lori behind in middle school. Hana said they were uncool. We had left Josh Howard’s party that night and were now crammed into a booth eating pancakes and omelets and milkshakes at 2am, waiting for the booze to ease away before going home and slipping into our houses.


Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Noah walking by my table. He was taller, more filled out, but I recognized him immediately. "Go talk to him," Hana jabbed me in the arm with her elbow. "Go." I ran over to him excitedly, but then slowed down, pretending I was on my way to the bathroom and spinning around casually as I passed by him. “Noah?”


He looked at me confused, “Do we know each other?”


I was too drunk to feel disappointed or embarrassed.


“Camp Towego.” He still eyed me suspiciously. “Eloise!” I threw my arms out as I said my name as if that would surely jar his memory. 


“Oh… yeah. Hey.” He smiled and I smiled back. He didn’t remember me, but I accepted his answer and decided he did.


“You should come hang with me and my friends.” It was the second time I had ever drank and I was feeling bold. "If you want to," I added, trying to sound indifferent.


Noah did come to our table that night. We ate pancakes. We laughed. We shared some Camp Towego stories. We talked about football games and drinking and colleges we might want to go to. He smiled at me. He put his arm around me at one point. Hana gave me an approving look from across the table, where she sat with Tommy, her on-again off-again boyfriend, his arm draped around her.


“I do remember you,” he said at the end of the night when we were standing outside waiting for our rides. He looked into my eyes and kissed me. My cheeks flushed again.


“We should hang out sometime.” I said bravely and entered my number into his phone before climbing into Hana’s older sister’s car as she pulled up outside the diner.


“For sure”, he said and gave me a big hug.


I never heard from Noah again. For the next few weeks, my stomach lurched at the thought of my boldness that night, cringing every time I remembered that I asked him to hang out and entered my number into his phone and the fact that he never texted me. How embarrassing. But in my awkward teen years where boyfriends were scarce and my only other kisses were spin the bottle and my excitement usually consisted of living vicariously through Hana’s tales of her romances, it was my favorite memory to daydream about and fall asleep to. I would replay our moments together over and over in my head as I lay in bed at night, adding details that made it more exciting and imagining the next time we ran into each other. We never did, though and he always stayed Noah the boy from camp that I ran into once.

February 20, 2021 04:58

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

7 comments

Andrew Krey
14:58 Mar 01, 2021

Hi Ally, I liked your story, it portrayed the awkwardness of young love really well :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Alejandra Ponce
20:36 Feb 26, 2021

I simply loved it! Well told. You were very accurate in the emotions and descriptions. Good job!!!

Reply

Ally Kate
14:25 Feb 28, 2021

Thank you!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Courtney C
18:07 Feb 20, 2021

Great writing! I have to admit, this filled me with some nostalgia for camp (I was a camper and counsellor at a United Church camp), and I loved how your story ended! It was a complete veer off from the boring, cliched romances where the girl always has to end up with the boy, and I appreciated the original (yet realistic) twist. Overall, great piece, and I'll be on the lookout for your next stories :)

Reply

Ally Kate
22:02 Feb 20, 2021

Thank you! I really appreciate that and glad it evoked some feelings of nostalgia!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Sunny 🌼
00:59 Feb 27, 2021

This was a trip and I really enjoyed it. Especially the ending which felt kind of sad, kind of open for thought, and just very nice overall.

Reply

Ally Kate
14:25 Feb 28, 2021

Thank you!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.