Standing with my bike at the top of the roadway, I was thinking Riley Grayson might have gotten the best of Simon. I mean, the two of us did just see him, a ghost - a dead boy - standing in the middle of a forest. It’s not every day something like that happens. I was actually surprised I managed to hold myself together this long. Anyway, maybe Simon lost his marbles or something and needed some time alone. Who knows?
Pete pulled the chain off the rusty gate and opened it. “I’m sure he’s okay. He probably just needed to go to the washroom.” He looked around the group. “Did anyone see him at all?”
I looked back down the path and over to the docks by the camp. “Pete, you know Simon can’t swim right?”
“What if he fell down the side and into the lake?”
Pete shuffled over to the ledge and peeked out at the drop down to the water. Jagged rocks and rotten branches covered the shoreline. He rubbed the dark bristles along his chin and stepped onto his bike. “Mrs. Finch, take the group to the camp. Just follow the old bridge.” He looked back at us before disappearing down the path.
“Okay, kids, stay close." Mrs. Finch hopped on her bike and pedalled over the shaky bridge and onto a dirt road.
Michelle rode along beside me again as we checked back through the trees. I couldn’t help but worry about the kid. I doubt he was in trouble, but I didn't like to think he fell into the lake - I mean, who would? Well, besides Brandon...but he wasn't that cold - at least I thought.
“Why would he leave his bike?” Michelle stood up on her pedals and glided along the road for a few seconds. The sun glistened on her lightly tanned legs. “Like, we’d hear him screaming if he was drowning. Wouldn't we?"
“He’s fine,” I replied. “Like Pete said, he probably needed to take a leak.”
We both giggled for a second and then focused our attention back on the road.
The camp was about a mile away, at the top end of the lake. We’d managed to travel about half way around the perimeter before cutting back along that bridge.
“You know, my ex-best friend lied to Coach Mackleby,” Michelle said.
“Lied about what?”
Michelle blew some strands of hair out of her mouth and looked at me. “About being able to swim. Simon isn’t the only one.”
“Yeah, Sarah can’t swim to save her life. She forged a life guard’s signature on the private swim test she took. Her mom apparently knew all about it too.”
We turned down a slope, and into a sandy valley where a couple groups were playing capture the flag. I loved that game. I couldn’t wait to play it later that day. Michelle waved at a few friends, while I nodded at Clay who was hiding behind some plastic barrels.
I didn’t realize Michelle and Sarah were ex-friends because they acted all nice around each other when ever I saw them. Girls confused me most of the time, but then again, wasn’t I doing the same thing with Brandon? I wondered why I was friends with him sometimes.
Our group finally pulled up to the meeting shed, and parked our bikes in the wracks. I placed my helmet on a hook beside Michelle and noticed someone behind the benches where we had listened to Pete do his bike demonstration.
“So, what are you doing for the talent show?” Michelle asked. She took off her helmet and let her hair fall down over her face.
I tried my best to listen to Michelle’s question but I couldn’t help but peek over her shoulder at the benches. For a second, it looked like Simon, but the shadows under the trees made it difficult to see.
“Um, we’re gonna dress up as the Spice Girls,” I replied.
Michelle giggled and fixed her hair into a ponytail. “That’s hilarious. Are you doing it with Brandon?”
“Yeah, I guess.”
Michelle walked over to the bench with me and sat down. I glanced back over at the trees again. I couldn’t believe I was talking to her and all that was on my mind was some kid hiding in the bushes. What was the matter with me?
“Is Brandon still your best friend?” Michelle drew a line in the sand with her feet. Her right pinky finger was about one inch away from my hand.
“He is, but sometimes he gets to me, you know?”
Michelle nodded, making a heart with her shoe. “Yeah, I’ve noticed you seem kinda distant around him sometimes.”
I looked out into the shadows again. The wind pulled the branches away from the spot where the kid was kneeling. He lifted his face and looked out to me.
“What the?” I muttered.
Michelle lifted her foot from the sand and turned to me. “What’s up?”
Simon ducked back behind the trees and disappeared from our view. I stood up and walked over to Mrs. Finch. “Shouldn’t we go back to the hill? I think Chaz said to meet us there after our activity was finished.”
Mrs. Finch nodded and grabbed her backpack from the helmet wrack. “Okay, kids, let's get going. Hopefully Pete will have found Simon by the time the next activity starts.”
I hated when teachers referred to us as ‘kids’ but, whatever. I had more important things on my mind. Michelle and I followed Mrs. Finch across the sandy road and up toward the hill by the lake. I wanted so desperately to talk to Michelle but I couldn't help but wonder what was up with Simon. What was the guy's problem anyway? It wasn't like Brandon was in our group chewing his head off. Why was he hiding?
"I forgot my hat, I'll be right back,” I shouted out to Mrs. Finch. I turned around and left Michelle walking with Jessica Sterling. I don’t think they were friends, but at least she wasn’t alone. I hustled over to the bike shed and looked out into the trees. “Simon? Are you there?”
Simon poked his head out and moved into the clearing.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
Simon shrugged and sat down on the bench. A red leaf floated down and landed on his lap. “Not much.”
“Where were you?”
A gust of wind swirled around us, pulling grains of sand up into the air. The red leaf danced around in front of us before settling on the ground. Simon fixed his hood and looked down at it. “I was looking for Riley Grayson” he said finally.
My throat tightened, as though I had just swallowed a rock. “Why?”
He looked at me. I wasn’t sure if it was the first time, but I don’t think I had ever seen his eyes up close before. They were a pale, ghostly blue. Like the life had been sucked out of them. He opened his mouth. His lips trembled. "Can you keep a secret?"
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