“Z-Zach!” His mother almost fainted on the spot. His father kept his calm and wrapped a reassuring hand around his mother, who clutched at him for support, but his father’s silence was overwhelming.
It wasn’t Zach's fault that he had gotten caught. No, it was not his fault in the slightest. He had told his brother, Peyton, to stand guard and promised him twenty dollars. Peyton had been too busy texting his friends to keep a proper watch. In hindsight, Zach should have offered him more money.
“Mom sounds like she’s having a heart attack down there...” Peyton threw open his door. He felt his bed squeak angrily as Peyton sat down next to him, and he responded by giving him a solemn middle finger.
“No thanks to you, buddy” Zach groaned half-heartedly, and Peyton gave him a mischievous smile.
“Twenty dollars was a poor bribe, fruitloop” Peyton grinned and flipped his hair in attempt at a comeback. Zach snorted at his childish antics and flicked Peyton on the nose.
"Be honest, do they really think I'm some sort of drug and sex addict?"
"You were just about to snort crack off that blonde girl's breasts. What are they supposed to think? Unless that was just sugar on her-" He tackled Peyton before he could finish and tickled him till he plead uncle. It was hard staying mad at his brother.
He finally let go, and they sat there panting. The echo of their mother’s screaming and the absence of their father’s voice was ominous.
Seventeen years of neglect had made the air stale. They took a seat on the stiff, unused furniture in silence. His mother had reached out, as if to hug him, but settled on stroking his knee until he pushed her hand away. Beside her, his father sat with his arms protectively crossed across his chest. God, this was fucking embarrassing, he cringed.
“It’s all going to be okay, Zach sweetie. We’ll figure this out...You didn’t know what you were doing, that’s all. You're just confused” Zach flushed at the unwanted display of affection and wanted to sink under the floorboards in mortification. He wanted desperately to run away and drink something strong and bitter.
“I’m sorry, Mom” It was what they wanted to hear. He watched as his parents drank in his every word, and the attention was uncomfortable. They hadn’t cared about him for the last seventeen years, and they didn’t need to start now
“You should be sorry. What you did wa- was- was-”
“Blasphemy?” He tried to joke, but there was no humour in his mother’s eyes.
Zach stared at his sneakers.
“It’s obvious that we have been too lenient in your upbringing, and you have been lead astray by some of your classmates. I...your father and I...will discuss this."
It was only a matter of time until all of his poorly hidden secrets were unraveled.
His mother had searched his room for the first time in seventeen years and had been aghast to find a used condom, lube, dildo (No, I've never tried to use it, Mom! It, uh, it was a girlfriends!) and dirty panties on his dresser. She screamed bloody murder when she had discovered the bottles of sealed vodka in his bottom drawer, which he had been saving for Drew’s party, and the plastic bag half full of pot on his dresser. Zach could do nothing but shrug and offer to clean the room himself.
His father had searched his internet history and was too embarrassed to chastise him to his face. There was pages and pages of porn that Zach had searched. Half of the searches were of glistening female bodies and the other chiseled abs. Most pages included spanking or bondage, and the sight had made his father go pale and quickly close the computer. The obscenity was enough to keep his father from talking to him for the rest of the week.
So what did you do with your messed up son? Apparently, you shipped him off to a summer camp for 'troubled boys.' Zach snorted as his father described 'Big Brother Camp.' No cell phones? No internet connection? No alcohol or weed? This place sounded like a prison.
They pulled up to the entrance of the camp. There was a steel sign at the top of the black fence that declared this 'Big Brother Camp.' They sat in silence in the car as they stared up at the solemn entrance. Around them there was nothing else besides woods for miles and miles.
His father cleared his throat and twisted around in his seat to address Zach: “I know you’re mad that we’re sending you away and you may think we’re just doing this so we don’t have to deal with you-”
“But that’s why you’re sending him away. Isn’t it?” Peyton, as usual, had balls of steel, and Zach bit his lip so that he wouldn’t smile at his baby brother's back talk.
“No! Me and your mother, um, care deeply about you, and we...we...” His father trailed off and Zach almost felt bad for him. His father had never been very good at parenting, and their mother was always working.
“I love you, Dad” He cut his ramblings off and gave his father an awkward pat on the shoulder before he stepped out of the car into the Florida heat. His mother gave him a teary eyed hug. He almost felt guilty that he had kept so much from them. Almost. His brother gave him the longest hug and cried into his shoulder.
He waved his father, mother, and brother goodbye as he clutched the single suitcase full of clothes that he had been allowed to bring. This would be the last he saw of his family until the end of the summer. Zach, as much as he had resented them, felt his heart sting as he watched the car become a small dot on the horizon.
He was an hour ahead of schedule and so he had no choice but to loiter around the entrance of the camp. He tried to think of everything that he would be losing in these three months. Not much. Zach’s friends had sent their condolences, but he doubted it was genuine. He was sure they were all glad to get rid of him. He was just some annoying kid that liked to play golf, drink, and get high.
Zach sat on his suitcase, staring up at the words 'Big Brother Camp,' until the gate finally opened at exactly 7 am. Out came an asian woman with a kind smile, immaculate hair, and casual clothing.
"Hello, Zach and welcome to Big Brother Camp. I am the owner and supervisor, Julie Chen. We feel so privileged to have you here with us."
"Whatever," he muttered as he followed her through the black gates. He listened as Mrs. Chen spoke of the purpose of this institution and how she wanted to 'rehabilitate' troubled teens. Even though it all sounded like bullshit, he listened as Mrs. Chen explained how the combination of nature, art, and friendship would help him.
The winding dirt road brought them to the edge of a silver lake. There were five cabins on the left side of the lake (the boy's terrain) and five cabins on the right side of the lake (the girl's side). At the center of the lake, on a small island, there was the main 'dining hall.' Surrounding the cabins and lake was nothing but miles and miles of forest as far as the eye could see. With a sinking feeling in his stomach, Zach realized there would be no escape.
"Any questions, Zach? If you stay out of trouble, then you won't see much of me," Mrs. Chen smiled as she stopped in front of one of the cabins.
"Oh, I'm sure I'll see you again," Zach deadpanned, and, to his surprise, Mrs.Chen laughed. She gave him a hug and told him to go meet the rest of his campers and counselor. Then, she left him standing in front of the wooden door.
His cabin was numbered ‘666,’ and while Zach wasn’t superstitious, he wasn’t sure how he felt about having such a demonic numbered room.
"What's up?" Zach announced as he pushed the door open. He was surprised to find most of the boys in the cabin were still sleeping. All of the campers either glared or gave him the middle finger.
A man with sharp cheekbones and pink hair, who appeared older than the rest, greeted him with a smile and hug. Zach flinched at the affection.
"Hey, newbie," the handsome man greeted him, "My name's Frankie Grande. I'll be your camp counselor for the rest of the summer. You can just call me Frankie."
"Okay," Zach grunted as he threw his suitcase onto an empty bunk. He was pretty sure that this flamboyant man was going to get on his nerves really quickly.
Frankie sat down on his bed and reclined on the covers. He smiled up at Zach," Let me introduce the rest of your campers. That boy over there with the tattoos is Caleb- aka Beastmode. I advise you not to bring up the topic of love as he's suffering a broken heart and restraining order. On the top bunk, trying to detox from a years worth of alcohol, is Hayden. Sulking in the corner, you'll find one of Devin's personalities. Which one? We'll find out soon enough. Oh, pretty boy over there is Cody. He won't listen to anyone except Derrick. And Derrick won't listen to anybody."
Zach tried to take in all that information as his eyes swept over the inhabitants of the small cabin. They all looked about his age, seventeen and eighteen, and he had trouble imagining what they had all done to get themselves stuck here.
There was silence for a moment, and Zach's eyes went from the mysterious campers to Frankie. Frankie had on a tight red shirt, small shorts, and tanned legs. Zach bit his lip as he realized, in horror, that he had just checked out his counselor. In response, Frankie’s eyes traveled from Zach's scuffed sneakers all the way up to his face. Zach self consciously ruffled his hair.
This was going to be a long summer.