THE TOPIC OF THIS CONTEST WAS:

It was supposed to be the summer job of a lifetime, working as a chef at an upscale “summer camp” for adults. But, the air conditioner was broken again. After closing, the stale outdoor air brought little relief. The path to the cabins housing seasonal employees was dark but short. She stopped in her tracks when she came across one of the windows. With her pupils dilating, she couldn’t look away… 

(Stories need only touch on this topic in some way to qualify.)


“I cannot believe you dragged me to this,” Derek said, flopping onto the bed. “We could be on a cruise, but no, we’re at Couples Camp.”

“We had to do something,” Iris replied.

“We could have gone on a second honeymoon,” he suggested.

“Please don’t start.” Iris continued unpacking their suitcases into the wooden dresser in the cabin. The room was cozy, one open room, sparsely furnished.

“We missed dinner,” Derek continued. “And we’re too far from anywhere to go out.”

“It’s not my fault we left late,” Iris countered. “Besides we’re not supposed to leave camp until the week is up anyway. No distractions.”

Derek huffed. He hated everything about this, from the touchy-feely therapy sessions to the role playing. When she had shown him the website he had thought she was kidding. He only agreed following a compelling ultimatum: either go on the retreat or she would leave him.

“Maybe I can go try to find a 7-11 or something. We should have stopped on the way.”

“Tell you what,” she said, “if you finish unpacking, I will run up to the cafeteria and see if I can scrounge up some food.”

“Deal.” Derek sat up, and received a quick kiss from Iris before she exited the cabin.

The suitcase was mostly empty, a few t-shirts and pajamas bottoms remained. The fact that she had even packed pajamas was a bad sign. This wasn’t the way they were. A few years ago, if they had run off to a remote cabin for a week, they both would have been naked within minutes. Food wouldn’t have been an issue and this tension wouldn’t hang between them. But that was before.

Derek rose from the bed, deposited he remaining items into the dresser, and stashed the suitcase in the corner. He paced around the room, restless. The floors creaked and the sound quickly irritated him. Doubt was was seeping in as quickly as the evening chill. This week was supposed to fix everything. Apologies hadn’t worked, neither had begging. So, he would give her this week to show her how sorry he was.

He considered her willingness to go fetch dinner and realized he shouldn’t have let her go off in the dark. The camp was enclosed and they had seen plenty of other couples milling about when they arrived, some smiling and some… not. He thought of the last time he left her alone at night, a night he didn’t spend alone. A night that had meant nothing to him, but to Iris it had meant everything.

Derek grabbed the key off the end table, and locked the door behind himself as he walked out of the cabin. He set off down the trail, back the way they had come. The cafeteria was near the main building where they had checked in. He jogged quickly until Iris’s agitated voice stilled his progress.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I’ll try to get away in the afternoon, we’re booked pretty solid with activities.”

“He really doesn’t know?” asked a second voice.

Derek ducked behind a pine, leaning around tentatively. The mystery woman had her back to him, but she wasn’t someone he knew.

“He thinks we’re here to fix things,” Iris said. “I don’t know what I’m doing.”

“Now isn’t the time to backpedal, you’ve come so far,” the woman replied. “Don’t let him confuse you.” She leaned into Iris, kissing her like an old lover.

“I think I may be the one who’s confused,” Derek stated, emerging from behind the tree. The two women looked startled at first, Iris soon turned to panic.

“You must be Derek.” The woman stepped toward him, and extended her hand. It hung in the air untouched. “I’m Dr. Peters, one of the therapists here at Camp.”

“You seem to have gotten to know my wife rather quickly.”

Iris blanched, stuttered, but ultimately said nothing.

“Iris has been my patient for some time,” Dr. Peters continued. “I suggested Camp to her, as she seems unable to resolve certain… issues.”

“Is kissing part of your therapy?” Derek raged.

“I’ll admit, the evolution of our relationship was unexpected. As I’m sure it was for Iris as well.”

Iris nodded, but was otherwise unreadable. Her silence angered Derek almost as much as her infidelity.

“I want to apologize to both of you, and assure you that I am going to renounce myself as your counselor. There are many others at Camp who will get you two back on track.”

Derek pulled Iris away and began whispering furiously at her. She shook her head, tears began to fall. He gripped her arm and marched back toward their cabin.

Turning in the opposite direction, Dr. Peters pulled out her cellphone and dialed the camp founder.

“Alicia? I just finished my closure with the Jacobs. Yes, they’ll be staying the week and we’ll get them signed up for ongoing treatment. Nice call on getting to the husband last fall, such an easy mark. And, hell, if this doesn’t work, we’ll refer them to our divorce lawyers. Either way, we’ve got them.”

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