Reagan points to the poster of the hiking models. “In the backcountry . . . that’s where things will get good. There’s a hidden waterfall inside King’s Forest to die for, and it’s not far from the glamping compound. I’m talking bucket list. Do you know how many people get internet famous just for having the guts to travel to cool locations and take photos?”
Avani’s story about overhearing Brett talking on the phone pops into my mind. My pulse quickens. “You still haven’t told me who’s going.”
“I thought I did,” she says absently. “Summer.”
One of Reagan’s troop. Summer sometimes eats lunch with us in the courtyard at school.
“And?” I coax. “Who else?”
“Kendrick Taylor.” Goes to the private school across town, Alameda Academy. Which is where Reagan would be going if they had a decent athletics department; they don’t, and that’s why a lot of rich kids who play sports go to public school with the rest of us riffraff.
“Summer started seeing Kendrick a few weeks ago,” she explains before I can ask, and then mutters, “Why are hiking boots so ugly?”
“Because no one cares what you look like when you’re sweating your way up a mountain?”
“Look, if you don’t think you can handle a little hiking, don’t come.”
Her words feel like a slap to the face. And could she have said that any louder? Her booming voice carries through the store, and another customer has turned to look quizzically at us. Public shame is the best.
“I’m sorry,” she says, mouth pulling tight to one side. “I didn’t mean it to come out that way.”
I pretend I’m not upset. Ever since the Olympic trials, Reagan has had the shitty tendency to lash out at people to make herself feel better, so whatever is bothering her probably has nothing to do with me. But now I’m wondering whether I can handle this trip.
“Quit scratching your arm,” Reagan chastises.
I hadn’t realized I was doing that. Stupid hives. I’m going to need to take medication.
Exhaling a long sigh, I calm myself and try to focus on what’s important. “Who else is going?” I press. “It can’t be just Summer and Kendrick.”
She shrugs. “Brett Seager and some dude he’s bringing.”
Bingo. “Oh, really?”
“Yes, really. Don’t faint on me.”
“I won’t,” I say.
“I just know how you are about him,” she says. “You get obsessed and freaky, and I don’t want things getting weird.”
“Why would they get weird? You think I’m going to attack him in the woods?”
She chuckles. “You never know. What happens in the woods stays in the woods.”
I clear my throat and try to sound breezy. “I did hear he’s single again.”
Reagan makes a noncommittal noise. “I thought you were over him?”
“I am.” Mostly.
“Okay, good. But seriously. This is supposed to be a drama-free trip. I don’t want it to be awkward.”
“It won’t be awkward.”
“Excellent.” After a nod, she wheels the cart toward a wall of paddles. Colorful kayaks are suspended alongside them, greens and reds and purples.
“So this waterfall we’re hiking to is only a couple hours away from the glamping compound?” I ask.
“That’s what Brett says. He’s trying to convince the guy who told him about it to lead us there. Oh, that reminds me. Bikinis. We’ll be swimming. Do they sell those here?” She cranes her neck to peer around the store.
No way am I getting in a bikini in front of Brett. Forget it. My stress meter goes up, but I mentally push it back down and try to focus on what I was going to say. “I’m just wondering exactly where the waterfall is, because there are some people I know doing a meet-up on Condor Peak, and I thought about trying to find a ride out there one night.”
Reagan’s nose wrinkles. “Who do you know who’d be meeting on Condor Peak? Oh, hold on. Is this an astronomy club thing?”
“Meteor shower,” I confirm. “There’s a big star party.”
She considers this. “That’s not far from where we’ll be, and you can definitely find a ride out there. The High Sierra bus line has a stop near the compound. I’ll bet even Uber picks up there, if you throw enough cash at them.”
That sounds promising, but I need firmer details. I don’t want to scramble at the last minute. “I guess I could email the compound and ask for advice.”
“Is Avani going to be there?” she asks. “At Condor Peak?”
I nod. Sometimes I think Reagan might be jealous of the astronomy connection Avani and I share. This is ridiculous, because I only spend time with Avani during our club meetings. Before summer started, I saw Reagan every day.
Trying not to scratch my itchy arm, I pretend to browse a display of wide-mouthed water bottles. An idea suddenly hits me. “You could come with me to the star party. I know Avani would like to see you.”
Reagan’s quiet. Just for a second. Then she shakes her head. “I can’t invite people camping and then abandon them.”
I chuckle, slightly embarrassed. “Of course not. Duh.”
A heavy awkwardness fills the space between us, and I don’t know why. Maybe she’s remembering how we used to all be better friends. Maybe she actually wants to go with me to Condor Peak but needs a little push. Sometimes if I prod her, she’ll let down her guard and show me the other Reagan—the girl she used to be when we were younger. Before all of the pressure of the Olympic training. Before her parents got rich.
She slaps my shoulder, startling me. Sometimes Reagan doesn’t know her own strength. “Don’t be such a worrywart. It’s all good,” she says, voice bouncing with positivity. “I think everything will work out for both us. You can spend a little time glamping with my group and then head to your astronomy thing with Avani.”
“Might take some coordinating,” I say, still unsure.
“Nah, it’ll work out fine,” she insists, bugging her eyes out at me comically and then sticking her tongue out briefly. “Just roll with it, Zorie. Let life happen.”
I’m not sure if she realizes, but that’s Brett’s motto. He says it all the time.
Maybe it’s time I take this advice.
* * *
The next morning, I’m letting life happen in the only way I know how, which is me going over my extremely detailed fifty-five-bullet-point list for the camping trip while sitting behind the clinic’s front desk. We leave tomorrow, which doesn’t give me a lot of time to ensure that I have everything I’ll need. I’m a little worried I might forget something.
What that is, I’m not sure. I’ve never been camping. But I’m poking around the glamping compound’s website, and it’s mostly magazine-worthy photographs of the surrounding landscape. The only information I find is a glowing write-up of their chef and wine collection. That and a list of their prices, which are insane. You’d think we were staying at a four-star hotel instead of in a tent.
Avani and I talked on the phone for almost an hour last night. We firmed up plans to meet up at the star party, and she helped me research the bus lines that run out there in the Sierras—which are not frequent. Seems as though I have two chances each day to catch a bus heading toward Condor Peak. At least I now have a plan, which is all I ever wanted.