Evyn was sixteen years old and she had never had a boyfriend. This, she thought, was pathetic. Maybe even tragic. The sum total of Evyn’s “experience” with boys was one disastrous make-out session the night of eighth grade graduation. The next day, Travis Piesch told everyone that Evyn was a bad kisser. She was “flat.” And, insult to injury, she had “boy hair.”
Evyn would admit that being skinny and having a short haircut for most of her life had worked against her. She was every guy’s friend and nobody’s girlfriend.
But this summer would be different. For one thing, over the past year a miracle had happened: she grew. Now, when Evyn wore a bikini she actually looked like a girl. She’d also grown out her hair. It wasn’t as long as Isabelle’s or as blond as Sam’s, but it was an improvement. A nice, shiny brown, shoulder length. Already she’d gotten compliments. When she stepped on the bus at South Station, Sam and Isabelle had both screamed and told her she looked awesome. Coop had used the phrase “hotter than Tennessee asphalt,” making Evyn smile.
If anyone knew what guys wanted it was Coop. Because look at her: she had the hair of a rock star and the body of a supermodel. Last summer, Coop had all the best-looking counselors—Dan Carraro (head of waterskiing), Jake Pope (soccer staff), and Reid Toomey (archery)—lusting over her. Last summer, Coop taught Evyn, Sam, and Isabelle many useful things about boys. She answered their questions about the male anatomy. She even used a banana from the dining hall to demonstrate a proper hand job. Meredith Cooper was the best counselor Evyn had ever had.
Was there anything Coop couldn’t do? She played the banjo. She rode horses. She read palms. She could put both feet behind her head, apply lipstick with her cleavage, tie a knot in a cherry stem using just her tongue. She had that Tennessee accent all the Manhattan kids tried to imitate but none could master. Some nights, instead of going out drinking with the other counselors, Coop stayed in the cabin with Evyn, Sam, and Isabelle, playing Truth or Dare and I Never. Later, Coop would take them out. Night tripping, she called it. As in, “Y’all, we’re goin’ night trippin’.”
The first time, Evyn was nervous—afraid Uncle Don would catch them wandering around camp at 2:00 AM and kick them out, like he’d kicked Margo Mallet out for sneaking into Boys’ Side during rest hour. Uncle Don trusted Evyn. She didn’t want to let him down.
Evyn was six years old the summer Uncle Don invited her to camp. When he told Evyn’s dad, Birdie, that tuition would be covered for both Evyn and her brother, Evyn thought she’d won the lottery (it was really more like the barter system, since Birdie had been doing carpentry work for Matokwa for as long as Evyn could remember, but still—camp was expensive.) Maybe Uncle Don felt sorry for her and Mackey, growing up without a mom, and that’s why he did it. But even after Birdie married Eleni and they finally had money, Uncle Don still refused to let Birdie pay for camp. That’s the kind of man he was, generous and decent. Which is why the first time Coop snuck them out, Evyn had thought, Shit. Uncle Don would hit the roof if he knew. And yet, Evyn told herself, they weren’t really doing anything bad. It wasn’t as though they were smoking crack and chugging tequila. They were just walking around in the dark. This would be Evyn’s defense if they got caught, but they never did. Coop was that good.
This summer, Evyn had her own ideas for nighttime entertainment, and those ideas included The Boys. Star gazing on the upper field, swimming in the lake, eating raw s’mores at the outpost behind the adventure shed. In the dark, Evyn would be confident, embodying Coop’s motto: Party right under my shoes. Like Coop, Evyn would bring the party with her wherever she went. She would not be “one of the guys.” She would not challenge Dorf to burping contests, or arm wrestle Benji, or trade dirty jokes with Jono. She would not answer to “Dude.” This summer she would act like a girl. This summer, there would be kissing. Warm, wet, soft, hard, pulse-pounding, heart-thumping, knee-buckling, earth-shattering kissing.
Evyn had thought about nothing but kissing since the New York bus arrived. Since she first saw Aidan Glass walking down the hill in his checkerboard Vans, so beat up that both his big toes stuck out. When they hugged hello, Evyn wondered if Aidan felt anything close to what she was feeling. She wondered, for the thousandth time, if he had a girlfriend. They had IM’d each other over the winter, and shared Facebook posts, but there was no hard evidence. Last summer, Aidan had slow danced with Kelsey Schottenstein at the final social, but he had not, according to Evyn’s sources, hooked up with her. Aidan wasn’t a player. Unlike Jono and Benji and Dorf, Aidan didn’t talk non-stop about tits and woodies and “getting some.”
Evyn wondered if Aidan could be gay, and if he was, would he still let her kiss him? It was a pathetic thought, but since Evyn had loved Aidan Glass for the better part of a decade, pathos was nothing new.
Evyn’s favorite memory of Aidan was from their first summer, when she was six and he was seven. They had been out on the pontoon boat, learning to fish. Aidan, she remembered, was wearing a yellow slicker and red, fire engine rain boots, even though there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Evyn found this adorable. Everything about Aidan was adorable. His sand colored hair; his big, hazel eyes; the way his tongue stuck out between his teeth as he baited his hook. While the other junior boys were chucking worms at each other or dropping them down the junior girls’ shirts, Aidan just fished. Steady and silent, he held the pole above the water. Waiting. Waiting. He reminded Evyn of Ferdinand the bull, sitting under the cork tree while all the other bulls ran around, butting their heads together. Evyn couldn’t take her eyes off him.
It had been a sunfish he’d caught—a tiny one—not more than four inches. But the look on his face when he reeled it in . . . that gap-toothed smile . . . God, Evyn could picture it even now. Aidan didn’t smile often, but when he did, he rearranged the air molecules around him. Everyone noticed.
Which was, of course, the problem. Girls noticed Aidan Glass. If he could kiss anyone this summer, and he could—did Evyn stand a chance? Sam had the blond hair, incredible boobs, and boyfriend credentials. Isabelle was smart. Really smart. She read Steinbeck and Maya Angelou for fun. And Ashley? Well, Evyn wasn’t sure what to make of Ashley. She was the dark horse of the summer. Earlier, when Isabelle was introducing her to everyone, Evyn overheard Dorf ask Benji what he thought of the new girl.
“Smokin’,” Benji said. “Angelina Joli in Salt.”
Jealousy flared in Evyn’s heart. Although Aidan hadn’t spoken the words, he did have eyes. Whatever Benji saw in Ashley, Aidan could see it too. And while Evyn might be an improved version of herself this summer, she was no Angelina Joli.
But Evyn was getting sidetracked. She needed to lose the defeatist attitude and focus on facts: it was only the first day. Camp was long, and Evyn was patient. She’d already waited ten summers for Aidan Glass. If it took her one more to get him to fall in love with her, so be it.