Jason sat in the dorm lobby anxiously fiddling with the handle on his duffle bag. He was waiting for Bill to pick him up. They were heading to the lake for Spring Break. Jason had made excuses to his parents that he would be staying at school during break instead of coming home. His grades were not where they needed to be for the semester so he could use the quiet time to study.
Jason and Bill had thought of the idea of renting a house on the lake. The lake was the perfect place to party for the week. They planned to divide up the cost of the house, gas and food between the five students who were going. Jason had scrimped together just enough money over the course of the semester to make the trip. He knew he could not ask his parents for the money. They would never have agreed for him to go.
Bill’s rusty van pulled up, sounding the horn. “Let’s go, dude!” Bill, Nancy, Carmine and Troy shouted in chorus.
The students’ duffle bags were thrown in the van haphazardly and the back filled with enough snack food and alcohol to last an entire semester. They were on their way to the rented lake house in Cape Vincent. Though they knew that the Thousand Islands would not be particularly warm in April, they weren’t prepared for how cold upstate New York still was in the spring. Besides, none of them could afford a plane ticket to warmer climates, so they settled on waterfront property on Lake Ontario.
Troy had called shotgun but was sound asleep before they even left Buffalo. Jason didn’t really mind; it gave him the opportunity to sit next to Nancy. Jason had had a crush on her the entire year but never could muster the courage to have a full conversation with her, let alone ask her for a date. In fact, Jason was lacking in most of the social graces that his friends had. He didn’t talk much at all. He was a loner.
High school buddies, Bill and Jason were best friends. University had offered new social challenges for Jason, but somehow Bill always pulled him through. They went through Greek Rush Week together, but Jason did not receive a bid to the fraternity that Bill pledged. Nevertheless, Bill still took care of his friend and invited him to all the parties. He always said, “That’s what best friends do.”
Helping to navigate from the back seat, Jason guided Bill to the lake house. As they pulled into the driveway they noticed that the house was a bit run down, but private and remote. The house sat at the top of a hill on the east end of Lake Ontario, close the mouth of the St. Lawrence River. It was a perfect location for five college students to cut loose for their break.
“Wow! It’s freaking cold up here,” Carmine whined as she opened her car door.
Troy tossed her a beer. “Don’t be a baby, this will warm you up.”
The boys unloaded the van, moving all belongings into the house, while the girls scoped out the sleeping arrangements. Bill and Carmine had been dating all year, but the rest of the students were not involved romantically, so Nancy busied herself assigning beds.
After building a fire in the fire pit, Bill raised his beer with the group. “Here’s to Spring Break at the North Pole!”
Troy played a guitar, Bill made jokes that made the girls giggle, and Jason sat quietly watching the group. He felt frustrated, he wanted to move to sit next to Nancy, but couldn’t find the courage, and Nancy seemed to be intently listening to Troy play anyway. At the end of the evening everyone retreated to bed, but Bill stayed by the fire with Jason a bit longer to talk. He could tell Jason was irritated.
“Are you even going to talk to her or are you just going to let Troy go for it?” he asked Jason.
“I dunno.” Jason shrugged. “I was going to, but she was all into Troy. I don’t play guitar and do cool stuff, I got nothin’.”
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