“You girls have work to do.”
The six Girl Guides reluctantly sloped away from the fence that separated our pitch from the neighbouring one where a group of scouts kicked a football about. They walked past me to the QM tent where I was about to set them preparing lunch and one of them, Gemma, shot me a glare.
“You won’t be giving me that look when those boys start giving you trouble.” I handed her a loaf of bread and some butter.
“We wouldn’t mind.”
I looked round the group, all of them rolling their eyes in that “Sparrow doesn’t know what she’s talking about” way. So keen to be adults so soon, but the oldest of them was only thirteen and the youngest was ten.
“Well I know I minded, when I was a Guide.”
Mildly curious frowns appeared on a few faces.
“When I was twelve I went on camp to a big scout campsite near Oxford. There were loads of boys there. We thought we knew how to handle them but they were older than us.” No one scoffed; I had their interest.
Our group was a small one, only eight Guides and our leaders. Most of us had camped before, on smaller, Guide run sites, but Youlbury campsite was epic in comparison. We drove past at least a dozen other camps before we reached our site.
Known as the Small Lawn our site was fringed by a tall hedge and we reached it through a pretty little arched gate.
Once we had camp set up, Ozzy, our head Guider, gave us free time to go exploring before dinner. We had one goal in mind and that was the shop to get sweets. A little over half way there we met a group of five scouts coming the other way. They stopped and the two older boys slouched against the fence while the three around my age approached us.
“Hey, what’s your names?”
I giggled. “Sam.”
The other two older girls in our group, Jess and Ella gave their names and then the boys looked to Kelly, who wasn’t quite twelve yet.
“None of your business,” she said quietly.
Behind her the rest of the group, all ten or eleven years old, kept their eyes on the floor, too shy to say anything.
“I’m Simon, this is Kenny and Tom.” He looked over his shoulder at the two older guys, probably both about fifteen or sixteen. “That’s Pete and Jason.”
Now, the three younger boys were all pretty average looking, kind of scruffy with a smattering of acne, but Jason was pretty swoon worthy; his longer hair tickled his forehead above gorgeous pale blue eyes. Pete was kind of cute too; he wore his t-shirt sleeves rolled up over his shoulders which did funny things to me.
Jess, Ella and I smiled, shyly. “Hi.”
A couple of brief smiles flashed across the older boys faces.
“Where are you camping?” Simon asked.
Jess indicated the way we’d come. “We’re on the small Lawn, up that way.”
Kelly put her hand on my arm. “Guys, don’t. I thought we were going to the shop.”
“Oh it’s okay, why don’t you guys go on, we’ll catch up in a bit.”
Kelly led the younger girls off down the path while Jess, Ella and I stayed with the boys.
“So, where are you guys camping?” I asked.
“On the beacon field. We’re going home the day after tomorrow.”
“Shame, we just got here today.”
Simon grinned. “Better make the most of it then, come on, we’ll show you around.”
Simon and his friends took us on a guided tour of the campsite. They showed us the big communal campfire circle, the climbing wall and the assault course. To start with Jason and Pete hung back but they joined in a bit more when they saw we weren’t as immature as boys our age.
We found a rope swing on one of the unoccupied campsites and sat round chatting. Ella climbed up on the swing.
“Hey, I’ll push,” Simon said, taking up position behind her.
Jess did a couple of handstands and cartwheels, challenging the other boys to see if they could do it too. I sat watching and Pete dropped down on the grass next to me.
“So, how old are you?” he asked.
“Fourteen.” My cheeks turned molten and I was sure he knew I was lying. But hey, I was only fourteen months off fourteen, that was nothing really, right?
He smiled. “Cool. I like your hair.” He reached out and flicked a dark wavy lock and my molten cheeks went nuclear.
Across the campsite Kelly appeared. She ran over when she spotted us. “You guys. We’re supposed to be back at the site! Ozzy’s getting really mad.”
I checked my watch as Ella scrambled off the rope swing.
“We’ve gotta go,” I said to Pete.
“That’s cool,” he said. “How about we meet up later?”
Later? There wasn’t much later, was there?
“Umm, I don’t think so. We might have some free time tomorrow though.”
“What, you never snuck out of your tents at night?”
“Er, we really have to go.” I grabbed Jess and Ella and followed Kelly back to the campsite.
Ozzy gave us a lecture about responsibility and trust and how the rules were for our own good, to keep us safe, but what harm was there in talking to a couple of Scouts for a bit? Did it really matter if we were a little late for dinner?
When the sun started to set we gathered around our site’s little campfire, toasted marshmallows and sang verse after verse of Quartermaster’s Stores and Oh You’ll never get to Heaven. By ten o’clock we were all ready to collapse into bed. Ozzy sent us down to the toilet block to clean our teeth.
We sang as we walked down, torches bobbing. “Oh you’ll never go to heaven.”
“On a boyscout’s knee.”
“Cause a boyscout’s knee.”
A voice from the darkness stunned us into silence. “Hey.”
Simon and his friends emerged from behind the toilet block. Pete appeared beside me and a wave of excited butterflies fluttered through me.
“We don’t all have knobbly knees you know,” he whispered by my ear.
I stifled a giggle.
“You girls wanna come see something cool?” Simon asked.
“We can’t,” Jess said. “We have to get to bed after we’ve brushed our teeth.”
“But it’s only like ten thirty,” Pete said.
Simon stepped in front of the door to the toilets, blocking Kelly who was trying to get in. “Yeah, and if we don’t let you in you can’t brush your teeth so you might as well hang out with us.”
“Hey stop it, let me in,” Kelly said.
I turned to Pete beside me. “Guys, leave her alone.”
He glanced at the younger girls, huddled together behind Ella. “Simon, let ‘em go, they’re just kids,” he said.
I went to walk past him and he put his hand out to stop me. “I said they’re just kids. We’ll let them go if you and your two friends come see what we have to show you.”
I squared my shoulders. “What if I don’t care what you want to show me?”
He put his arm around my waist and leaned down to my neck. “Oh I think you’ll like it,” he whispered. Then he licked my neck and grabbed me round the ass. I shrieked.
“Hey, stop it,” Kelly shouted, shoving him in the side. Simon grabbed her by the elbows and held her back.
“Just you then Sammy, you come with me and all your friends can go off to bed like good little Girl Guides.”
“Get off me!”
But he was a lot bigger and stronger than me and he backed me up against the wall…
I paused to take the whistling kettle off the stove.
“And? What happened?” Gemma asked.
“What do you think happened?”
She shrugged but her eyes were wide, her mind going to dark places.
“Did he hurt you?”
“Well, you remember I said the younger girls were hanging back? Well a couple of them knew what trouble looked like and went to get Ozzy. When the boys heard them coming Pete let me go and they all pretended they were just messing around. Ozzy stood outside while we used the bathrooms to make sure they didn’t come back.”
Her face sagged with disappointment for a fraction of a second.
“I’d like to say I beat him up and they learned not to mess with Girl Guides but that’s not how it works in real life. Truth is if Ozzy hadn’t been there I might have been in serious trouble.”
She nodded. “Bet they were scared of Ozzy.”
I smiled. “They may not have learned not to mess with Girl Guides, but they certainly learned not to mess with a Guider!”