One morning Amber wakes up, and it's still weirdly dark. She's confused, and then she hears the rain.
Her denim jacket is soaked by the time she makes it to the mess hall for breakfast. Most of the other campers are bundled into serious rain gear, jackets and ponchos and even full suits with pants making zwush zwush noises as they walk.
Ian finds her in line; the water beaded up on his Gore-tex looks like tiny droplets of glass.
"You're soaked!" he observes. He's maybe trying not to stare too hard at anything in particular. "Don't you have a raincoat?"
Amber flinches, but shrugs, "Oh, I like the rain," and lets her jacket fall a little bit further open. Ian, stammering, changes the subject.
"We're not going to let a little weather stop us," Shay yells, and drags them out for a jog, but even she has to give up partway. They're ankle-deep in mud, sticking and sliding, falling all over the place. Someone loses a shoe.
They squelch back to the cabins. Amber's hoping they'll get showers.
"Ugh, my sneakers are ruined," Chloe complains. "This mud is never coming out. I totally have to get my mom to send me another pair for the rest of camp, don't you think?"
"Sure," Amber mumbles, and wonders if she can put hers in the laundry, or maybe take them in the shower.
"Because of the rain," Dr. Rand announces, "We're going to cancel afternoon sports, and I'll be giving a talk on Healthy Eating At Home, about continuing to make good choices after camp."
There are groans.
The lecture is long, boring, and pointless; lean meat this, fresh fruit that, baby carrots, popcorn from an air popper, lots of fish but not certain fish, girls. Right, Amber thinks, At $7.99 a pound? Even the shrimp ramen is twice as much as the beef. Her mom is as likely to come home with flowers and magazines as she is with groceries; when Amber shops she stocks up for the month. Peanut butter, crackers, frozen pizzas. Camp is her big chance to do better, it has to work...
"Good food doesn't have to be expensive," Dr. Rand declares. "Dried beans can be very economical. Or bananas."
Was Dr. Rand looking at her when she said that? Amber slouches down into her seat. Did anyone else notice? Is everyone looking at her and thinking, Oh, poor Amber?
The rain goes on and on and on. The fields are flooded so they do yoga under cover in the mornings and aerobics under cover in the afternoons.
"I never thought I would miss soccer," Ian confides.
"I always wanted to try yoga," Amber says. "Is that weird?"
"My parents would have been thrilled if I wanted to do something, like, physical," Ian says, "I guess you couldn't, uh -"
"Couldn't find a class," Amber says quickly, sorry she brought it up.
Chloe's new sneakers are so white they practically glow.
Amber's had to stop trying to wash hers; the glue on the sole was starting to dissolve. Stupid shoes. She wonders if the craft cabin has superglue.
Dr. Rand talks to them about home exercise ("you can even use soup cans") and home not-watching-too-much-TV ("take a family bike ride - or a walk, a walk is good"). Amber tries not to cringe visibly when she suggests these alternatives.
"I'm going to have, like, a hundred hours on the Tivo when I get home, are you kidding?" Chloe says afterwards.
"I'm going to be on Facebook for days," Ian agrees. "Maybe," he says to Amber, "Maybe I could, uh, friend you?"
They're on the porch, contemplating the wet slog back to the cabins.
"Um," Amber says, "I -" Think! she thinks, but no excuse comes to mind.
She's saved by an unexpected sound - the quiet patter of the rain suddenly isn't there.
"Whoa," Ian says, into the dripping lull, "Did it just stop?"
Amber steps out from under the lee of the roof and tilts her head back to the sky. "Oh," she says, "I hate the rain, come on sun!"
"About Facebook," Ian says, and Amber thinks you're still on that?, but he frowns, like he has something he wants to make sure to say right, "It's cool if you don't, like, have a computer at home and stuff. Maybe you could just say hi sometime from the library or whatever."
"And like," Chloe chimes in abruptly, "I totally talk too much about, like, having stuff, so just tell me to shut up. Seriously."
"Wait," Amber says. "I don't - I'm not - does everyone, like, talk about me? Are they saying I'm - "
"No, no!" Ian says quickly. "I mean, people don't -. Just, like, you know."
"Like if people are smart or whatever," Chloe says, "Or who's losing more. People just - it's not like a secret."
Amber stares at the sky intently. If you look up, it's easier not to cry. She read that somewhere. The clouds are blotchy grey and greyer. Here all this time she thought she was fitting in okay, that no one knew, and really -
"Nobody cares," Ian says. "I mean, we're all here for the same reason. Nobody's... better."
"I cleaned out my savings to come here," Amber says. It sort of tumbles out of her. "I mean, every penny. Two years of working every night after school. I borrowed the last two hundred from my aunt. And that was - she couldn't really -"
"Wow," Chloe says, "See, I think that's - that's hardcore."
"Yeah," Ian says. "I think - I think that's what people think."
Hardcore, Amber thinks. The clouds look a little bit brighter; she can almost believe there'll be sun.