I spent a lot of time in the coffee shop on the corner during the end of that school year. I wish I could say it was because of the free wifi or the good coffee. Mostly, it was because I had nowhere better to be and the barista was hot. So, I did my homework there and tried to get her number. Unsuccessfully. But with the end of the school year approaching, I was paying more attention to the tack board by the door where people posted job listings. That day was mostly like all the others, at least until the man I’d never seen before walked in. He didn’t say a word to anyone, just strode over to the board in his heavy black boots. When he raised his arms to attach a small posting to the board, I noticed the arrow tattooed on one arm and the antlers on the other. He had jet black hair tied back in a ponytail and a black leather jacket over a t-shirt that seemed entirely at odds with the rest of him. It was a jarring almost dayglow blue with a bow-and-arrow camp logo. As he walked out, he turned to glance at me for just a moment and he seemed to grin.
So of course, I got up and checked out the posting, my interest piqued. It was for an archery camp looking for counselors, no experience necessary, just a desire to help kids. I could certainly do that. I jotted down the number and packed my things to head home and apply.
The head instructor was unfairly attractive. The kind of woman who could make a room full of nuns swoon just by smiling. Her hair was a chestnut brown that she kept in a messy ponytail, though wisps of it escaped to frame her eyes. I’d thought at first that they might be silver, but that was mad. They were just a very pure gray. She really cared about those kids. Each and every one of them. When one of the littlest boys was afraid of the big dog that followed her everywhere, she took time out of her day to help him work through his fears. I can’t blame the kid, though, I’d thought that was a wolf the first time I saw him.
I’d hoped her co-instructor was her brother or something. No such luck. I’ve met her brother. He’s a piece of work. Blond surfer type who comes on the weekends to help out at the lake with swimming. Not that he’s ever gotten in the water. I think he just likes laying in the sun all day. He’s alright, though. Nice guy and great with a guitar. I think he might have a crush on her co-instructor, which is too bad really because they’re definitely dating.
We were out at the archery range one day, each of the kids lined up with their arrow to the string and their eyes on the target. That was the day we got the word that someone had snuck onto the grounds of the camp who very much should not have been there. She took one look at me and told me to take up my bow, I would hunt with her. The children would be safe in their cabins. I followed her, because what else could I do? We were miles out into the woodland of the camp before I heard a mix of howling and baying…and…laughter? There were other people now, all women like us…but green? They were carrying bows and running with the dogs that were ahead of us.
“He’s nearby. Keep your eyes out.”
That’s when I heard the twig snap and I whirled. There was a man there, a frantic look on his face and a gun in his hand. I had my bow up but panic was quickly setting in. He had a gun. I had a bow. This was not a fair fight. He raised the gun, aiming it right at my face. Just when he would have pulled the trigger, there was a pop like the world shifting and a stag stood in front of me, wheeling in panic.
“Take aim, little one.”
She was standing right behind me and I did as I was told now. My arrow loosed and found its mark quickly. She was laughing as she strode up to where the animal lay, bleeding.
“Never threaten one in my care.” Her voice was cold and harsh for an instant before she lifted the stag onto her shoulder. “Come along. I can leave this with the kitchens and we can have venison for dinner. You hunt well, but we need to work on your form a bit.”
New kids come to the camp every year and it’s the safest place they could ever be, no matter what else happens in the rest of the world. And I would never leave here. Even if she’s in love with Orion. Even if her brother is too. It’s alright, this is home.