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photos taken after Zach and I returned from our Skittles trip to Brugh's Mill. We were playing around in the field, waiting for the first campers of the summer to arrive
• • • • •
I walked into the living room of the Graybill staff house on Friday evening, nearly two weeks after my emergency Skittles trip to Brugh's Mill. Everyone had survived another week of camp without any horrific incidents, and we were all excited for a fun, relaxing weekend. Since my cabin was the last to be inspected, I was the last to arrive for staff meeting and found myself standing awkwardly in the doorway without a place to sit. Everyone was talking and swapping stories from the past week, and nobody seemed to notice me scanning the space for an open spot on the floor. That is, until I locked eyes with Zach, who was sitting in a chair on the opposite side of the enormous room. It was almost as if he'd realized that I was missing and had been waiting for me to arrive. He slid over and motioned for me to sit next to him.
As I attempted to make my way over to the other side of the room while simultaneously avoiding stepping on the dozens of hands and bookbags that filled the floor, I started thinking about Zach. Even though we hadn't been co-counselors that week, we had both worked with the elementary camp, meaning that we had been around each other a lot at worships and Hillside (morning singing/announcements) and "big game." We were definitely becoming good friends. But that was all.
You see, I had my life completely figured out by this point (I've always been an over-achiever). I had recently graduated high school and was just a couple of months away from beginning my freshman year at Duke University. I would move to Durham at the end of the summer, spend at least a year transitioning into college life, and then---maybe---I would start dating somebody. Whatever happened, I for sure wasn't going to begin my college career with an attachment to some high school summer fling. I would never do that.
(Side note: My mom says that God laughs & says, "oh, really?" when you claim that you will "never" do something. My sister now vows that she will never marry a wealthy doctor...)
I reminded myself of my life plans as I made my way over to the chair, but the butterflies in my stomach did not get the memo. They were floating around and having a full-fledged dance party (probably to Miley Cyrus). This is ridiculous, I thought. You don't like him. You're just friends. That's all.
But the truth was, there wasn't anyone else in that room that I wanted to sit next to more than Zach Jones.
The armchair was large enough to hold two people, but only if they sat close together. Against the butterflies' wishes, I sat on the very edge of the seat, so as to not brush shoulders with Zach. I didn't want him to think that I liked him. I didn't know if I liked him. And even if I did, I wasn't going to allow myself to like him, that was for certain. Besides, what if I sat all the way back in the chair and our shoulders did touch, but he didn't like me at all and was just trying to be nice, but got the impression that I liked him? Then our friendship might get complicated and awkward, you know, if he thought I liked him and he didn't like me, right? I couldn't let him think that I liked him unless I knew that he liked me. What was I thinking---I couldn't like him period. I was going to college...
These were the profoundly philosophical thoughts that filled my head throughout the staff meeting.
(And don't you dare act like you don't over-analyze situations, either...)
The only thing I remember from those thirty minutes is an announcement concerning the washing machines being broken. We were told to "be creative" with our laundry over the weekend, and then dismissed until Sunday afternoon.
I walked outside and sat on the back porch with my best friend, Alyson. Everyone was outside; it was a gorgeous evening. Alyson and I were talking about our week when my other best friend, David, came walking up.
Do you guys wanna come to my house tonight and do laundry?
David lived in Roanoke, which wasn't too terribly far from camp, especially compared to where Alyson and I lived. It was just a 30 minute drive or so. Although I've washed my clothes in a sink and hung them up to dry plenty of times, I wasn't about to refuse an offer for a functional washer & dryer, and Alyson whole-heartedly agreed. Besides, Alyson and David were my two closest friends on staff. I couldn't think of a better way to spend the rest of the evening.
Perfect. Zach and I are going down to the cabin to get our clothes. We'll meet you back up here in ten minutes.
Wait, what? Zach was coming, too?
Cue the return of the butterflies.
• • • • •
As Alyson and I headed to the girls' side of camp to collect our laundry, I remembered that I had agreed to take another friend (Estella) to the Roanoke bus station that night (she was taking some time off and returning home for the week.) Alyson assured me that the laundry crew would wait for me; I could take Estella to the bus station, return to camp, and we would all go to David's. When we got back to the staff house, the boys agreed to postpone our laundry adventure for another hour. As I took off to find Estella and hop in the car, Zach momentarily stopped me.
I'll go with you.
We were standing in the exact same spot where he had said those exact same four words to me as I was on my way to Brugh's Mill for Skittles nearly two weeks prior. Except this time, there were no rude thoughts running through my head. I was really, really glad he offered.
Okay, I grinned.
Zach ended up driving. Neither of us were familiar with downtown Roanoke, but we were able to find the bus station relatively quickly and get Estella safely on her way. All that was left to do was return to camp so we could get to David's house.
Did I mention that neither of us were familiar with downtown Roanoke?
Yep, we got lost. We got incredibly lost, actually. We spent forever driving all over that stupid valley, catching a glimpse of the highway that we needed to be on every so often, but not being able to figure out how to get ourselves there. By this time, it was dark, which only complicated things. The random one-way street signs did nothing to help our situation. After countless dead ends and u-turns, we stopped at a Sheetz to get situated (and buy some Skittles), and finally, we found our way back to the highway. We pulled back into camp... a little after midnight.
Clearly, our inability to navigate (that still haunts us to this day) put a damper in the laundry plans. However, Alyson and David were still wide awake upon our return and suggested that we go ahead and get the laundry over with. We left for David's house, and after throwing in a load of girls' clothes, we headed into the living room to watch some quality 2AM programming (Braveheart was on). I sat down on the couch... and Zach sat down next to me.
He could have sat on the other couch that was completely open when he came in the room, but he sat next to me. Does he like me? True, he could have just been being nice when he slid over in the chair to make room for me during staff meeting. And he could have just been being polite when he offered to drive into downtown Roanoke with me so I wouldn't have to drive back alone. But sitting next to me when there was an entirely empty couch?
I was over-thinking things again.
Seriously, I had to stop focusing on if Zach liked me. He was just incredibly nice and sweet, hence why everyone on staff absolutely loved him. He was THE Zach Jones, remember? Besides, I wasn't interested.
But I certainly wasn't interested in William Wallace and his cries for freedom on the television screen.
I was driving myself absolutely insane---this issue needed to be resolved once and for all. I surveyed the situation and decided that if I repositioned the way I was sitting ever-so-slightly, I could move my hand closer to his without making it look intentional. If our hands then happened to brush up against each other and he instantly moved his, I would know that I was crazy. He didn't like me, he had never liked me, and we were just friends. Perfect.
But what if he didn't move it?
There was only one way to find out. I discreetly dropped my hand onto the couch in between us. After holding it there for a second, I shifted my eyes to glance at him. He was completely fixated on Braveheart, oblivious to the fact that my hand was just inches away from his.
It seemed like an eternity before our hands lightly touched, and when they finally did, my stomach flipped out in knots.
As expected, he didn't keep his there.
But he didn't instantly pull it away either...
(to be continued)