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I Will Help You Swim

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If Beth was being honest with herself (which she honestly never was) her parents were right. This would be good for her. She’s fairly certain that she doesn’t scream “camp counselor,” but she’s fairly certain she doesn’t scream “suicidal freak” either, so maybe she’ll end up fitting the camp counselor requirements, too. By no means does she expect this summer to be fun or relaxing, but at least she doesn’t know anyone who will be there. Maybe she can fake not hating herself again. Either way, it’ll beat sitting at home with her parents hovering over her.

“Elizabeth?” At the sound of her mother’s voice, Beth jerks her head back from its resting position against the side of her dresser. She scrambles to uncross her legs, barely managing to push herself off the floor before her mother knocks on the door, proceeding to enter immediately.

“Elizabeth!” Her mom obviously isn’t all too happy with the haphazard state of disarray that is her room. 

“Beth,” her mother’s voice softens, and Beth can tell that she’s trying to make her amused tone sound more annoyed. It comes out more worried than anything, and Beth thinks that’s pretty fitting. “We were supposed to leave ten minutes ago.” 

“Give me three more? I’m almost done packing. I swear.” But as she glances around at the piles of clothes on her bed and on her floor and in her dresser drawers and notably not in her suitcase, even she doesn’t believe herself. Her mother sighs and slowly leaves her room. Beth knows that she wishes she had never seen the mess in the first place, because if there’s one thing her mother likes, it’s clean: clean house, clean clothes, clean cut, clean slate, clean wrists. And if there’s one thing Beth’s bad at maintaining, it’s clean. 

(She knows she’s being more than a bit dramatic about it all, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true.)

“Three minutes! I swear!” Beth can almost hear her mother roll her eyes from downstairs. 

She really is almost done, though. She’s finished sorting her clothes into three piles: going, staying, and dirty. The dirty clothes pile is, admittedly, the largest. She sighs, ignoring the pile of laundry she should have done days ago and starts shoving the unfolded clothes into her bags.

After managing to close both her suitcases, she double checks her room, throws the charger and sunglasses she’d forgotten into her open backpack, and heads downstairs, her suitcases thumping against the stairs as she drags them behind her. She gets to the bottom just in time to see her mother wince at the sound. 

“See? Three minutes.” Her mother only sighs, ignoring Beth’s smug look, and they both follow Beth’s father out the door. Beth throws her things into the trunk the way she’s learned from years of watching her father pack for business trips and the way her mother hates, then positions herself in the backseat of their car. Her mother gets behind the wheel and Beth notices her staring through the rearview mirror before she starts the car. 

Okay, so it’s stupid for her to be jealous of her mother, but Beth really wants to drive. She’s not allowed to drive right now, but they said that if everything goes well at summer camp, she can maybe get her car back before college starts, and if that isn’t the biggest motivation she has to actually try, then she doesn’t know what is. Driving is her fourth best way to calm down—and admittedly the least destructive—and having a car in the middle of nowhere next year will definitely be a plus. 

So it’s stupid for her to be jealous of her mother, but she is. Beth’s anxious about embarrassing herself this summer, and she knows that’s exactly what her mother is worried will happen. She would like to have a little more control over something instead of her mother’s eyes on her half-dozing in the backseat.

They stop at a coffee shop before they leave town and Beth orders an iced chai latte like always. She also gets a muffin, before either of her parents even has to ask if she's hungry. She's not, but she can pretend. She's gotten pretty good at that. When they get back in the car, her mother turns on the radio. Beth pushes her earbuds into her ears, but doesn't play any music. She listens as her father turns down the radio and her parents talk about her in voices far from hushed and she can't help but think that they still trust her far too much. She turns on her music after a few more minutes. 

She knows that they love her, but she knows it would be easier for them if they could ignore her. It will be easier for them with her out of the house. She’s okay with that. She loves her parents, it just seems like sometimes she’s all they can see. And she knows they want to see more. But when it all comes down, she would do anything for them, like leave them for a summer without them even having to beg. She’s put them through enough.


It takes just over three hours to get to the camp, and the second they pull up, Beth knows they’re even earlier than they were supposed to be. There is no one in sight. Her mother gets out of the car first, smoothing down the nonexistent wrinkles in her pencil skirt, and clears her throat as if there’s anyone there whose attention she could catch. 

Her father opens his door a second later, steps out of the car, and opens Beth’s door. Beth steps out, blinking against the change in lighting from their tinted car to the clear sky. Her father claps a hand on her shoulder and she wants to congratulate herself for not wincing. By the time pulled her earbuds out of her ears and smoothed out her (actually wrinkled) clothing, her mother is half way up the hill trying to find someone to snap at. 

Just before her mother reaches the crest of the hill, a lady looking to be in her mid fifties comes running up the other side. When she sees Beth and her parents, she checks what Beth assumes is a watch on her wrist, and, after realizing that they are, in fact, shockingly early, adjusts her face into a warm smile and continues toward Beth’s mother in a half-jog. Beth can see them shake hands, and sighs as she knows her mother is explaining her need for something far past the realms of punctuality. 

It’s about three minutes (the amount of time it takes Beth to pack a suitcase) before the women start walking towards Beth and her dad. She almost laughs when she notices how the other woman is nearly trotting to keep up with her mother. As the two women get closer, Beth can see the woman giving her a once over, and she subconsciously pulls on the hem of gray shirt. 

The woman seems satisfied enough, though. As soon as she’s close enough she pulls Beth into a hug. Beth’s body stutters, and she only manages to wrap her arms around the woman just before she pulls away. 

“I’m Siobhan.” Some of her dark hair has fallen from its ponytail, and Beth almost smiles as she pushes it out of her face. Beth holds out her arm for a handshake. 

“Beth.” The woman accepts her outstretched hand, looking a little amused at the formalities, but Beth’s parents raised her well and she’ll be damned if she doesn’t introduce herself what she has been taught is properly. 

“Well you’re a little bit early, but that’s okay. It just means you’ll have extra time to settle in before the campers show up!” She winks at Beth, and honestly Beth can’t decide if she’s going to love or hate this woman. 

“If you want to go ahead and say goodbye to your parents, I can show you to your cabin. Or you all can come and see where your daughter will be staying.” Beth glances at her mother, and more importantly her mother’s shoes, and knows that it’s been unanimously decided that they’ll say goodbye here. She turns into her father and he wraps his arms around her.

“I love you, Dad.” He squeezes her more tightly. 

“I love you, too, Liz.” She barely has time to cringe at the nickname before he continues on about how they both love her and want her to have fun. She nods a few times and he releases her so she can go hug her mother. 

Her mother hugs her more softly, and she can’t remember if it’s always felt this way or if her mother is just worried she might break her. 

“I love you, Elizabeth. You know your father and I just want you to be okay.” She rubs her back gently, and Beth smiles a bit.

“I know. I love you, too. Have a good summer.” She pulls back from her mother and grabs the bags that her father took out of the back for her. Siobhan gives her a look as if she’s asking if she’s ready, and Beth looks back at her parents once more before following Siobhan over the hill and to what is apparently supposed to be her new home. Beth tries not to laugh. She really does.

The cabin lives up to her expectations. They walk into the main room, and it’s bigger than Beth thought it would be, but smaller than she remembers from the three summers she’d spent at camps like this one. They walk past the row of four bunks and the dressers opposite them, past what Siobhan tells her is the main bathroom, and through the door at the opposite end of the room. It’s a small room, just more than enough room for the twin bed, desk, and dresser. Siobhan tells her that the door opposite her bed is her own bathroom, that she even has a bathtub, and that she needs to be back at the parking lot at 2:30. Just before the cabin door closes behind her she hears Siobhan shout that it’s an hour and a half, in case she didn’t know. 

Her bed is pushed into the corner, and there’s a window about two feet over the bed and two feet from the head. It’s sort of built into the wall, so while there’s technically a windowsill, nothing sticks out. She likes that. It keeps the wall flat.

She searches the walls for outlets and finds one blocked by her bed on the wall with the window and another between her bed and the desk right beside it. She lifts both of her suitcases onto the bed, then flips back the tops and starts taking out the things that she brought to make her hate the room less.

She’s got a case of thumbtacks and a roll of masking tape, and she moves the furniture around so she can secure the fairy lights around the perimeter of the ceiling. She reaches between the bed and the wall to plug them in and almost smiles when they light up. She plugs her laptop charger into the outlet beside the desk and places her laptop on the corner so she can reach it as she puts her bedding on. 

After the laptop starts up, she opens Spotify and scrolls through one of her playlists—”emo but make it summer”—to find a song. She pulls her sheets out of her bag, then moves her suitcases under her bed and starts fitting her new gray sheets onto the bed, singing along under her breath to “Twin Size Mattress” by The Front Bottoms that she’ll admit she chose for the title. She makes her bed, tossing the pillows on top of the plain blue duvet. 

She leaves the music playing (Lorde, now), and moves into the bathroom to stare at herself in the mirror above the counter. She sort of wishes she hadn’t gotten here so early; she doesn’t know if what she’s wearing looks okay. She’s got on a long sleeved v-neck and her favorite shorts—black denim and high-waisted with buttons—that she thinks make her ass look nice with her worn black Chucks and her hair is up in a messy bun. She’s wearing a little makeup, but about as much as usual, and it worries her that she doesn’t think she looks bad. 

She stares at herself for a good ten minutes before peeing and moving to sit on the newly made bed. It’s weird here. It’s not like home. She guesses that now home’s weird too, though.