Ashlyn watched as the other campers ran off after breakfast and she almost went after them. Almost. It had been over a week and she still didn't really know anyone. It wasn't that she was shy or hadn't tried; she just had a tendency to fade into the background without anyone noticing or caring and so most of them forgot she existed. She'd attempted to interact with the girls in her cabin, but no matter how friendly she was she felt like they wanted her to go away.
It hurt, but she forced herself to shake it off. After all, she was here to have fun. As the others vanished to their own activities, Ashlyn wandered down the path leading to the lake. The sky was azure blue with a few silky wisps of cloud. A gentle breeze played with her ponytail and she smiled. At least the weather is nice, she thought. Rounding the bend, Ashlyn spotted three of the girls from her cabin, Janice, Carol, and Shanti. Just as she was about to wave in greeting, their words reached her. "It's that girl," Janice muttered, glancing towards Ashlyn.
"The one that acts so polite?" Carol asked, sneering.
"Yeah. It's like she thinks she's better than us," Janice sniffed.
Tears pricked Ashlyn's eyes, but she kept walking, pretending she hadn't heard them. When she was level with them, the other girls fell silent and stared at her as she passed. Before she was even out of earshot, Ashlyn heard Shanti huff indignantly, "Did you see that? She wouldn't even say hi to us!"
For a brief moment, Ashlyn wanted to turn around, to defend herself, to tell them that all she wanted was a few friends. But she couldn't; she wasn't brave enough and she never would be. Brushing at the few tears that had crept down her cheek, Ashlyn forced herself to smile again. It's not you. You haven't done anything wrong…she told herself. But what if I did? No. Don't do that. Seth told you that what other people think of you is their problem. That you're amazing and talented.
The smile became more real as she thought about her older brother. Maybe she could practice her acting today so she could show him when she got home. With a goal in mind, she started running to the lake. Five minutes later, Ashlyn came to a stop beneath a large weeping willow. She'd always loved weeping willows, their name was sad, but they were beautiful and unique. They were what she wanted to be. So when she'd found this one at the lake she'd fallen in love.
Pushing through the branches, Ashlyn entered what she thought of as a private stage, with the branches serving as curtains. The cool green light became her spotlight. On tiptoe, she pulled the script out from its hiding place in the trunk. It was one her school had done last year about well-known fairy tale characters getting together and everything going hilariously wrong. Ashlyn had wanted to try out for Sleeping Beauty, but her mother had shot the idea down. Here at Camp Creation, however, Ashlyn could be who she wanted to be.
Leaving the script open and on the ground, she'd already memorized most of it, Ashlyn began her one person play, switching between roles. She lost herself to the imaginary world and its characters.
"Sleeping Beauty fell asleep on the cake!"
"Snow White, would you please keep the dwarves out of the kitchen."
"Ariel, you really shouldn't try to breathe in the pool."
"Has anyone seen my slipper?"
"Somebody ate my cupcake!"
"Be our guest. Be our guest. Put our service to the test."
"What have I told you about touching strange glowing objects, Bell? Seriously."
A sudden fit of giggles broke her attention. Ashlyn whirled around, cheeks turning bright red. Standing just outside of the branches were the girls she had passed on the path. All three were doubled over, laughing so hard they were crying. "You call that acting?" Janice gasped, clutching her sides.
"I can't believe it," Carol snorted. "You sounded so stupid."
Blushing harder, Ashlyn stammered, "I-I was j-just ha-having fun."
Shanti smirked. "I hope that's all you were doing. 'Cause if you thought you could actually be an actress, you're more pathetic than I thought."
Tears stung her eyes as the other girls nodded in agreement. "I'm not pathetic," she protested softly.
"I'm sorry, what?" Janice demanded. Head tilted tauntingly, she leaned towards Ashlyn who cringed.
"I-I'm not pathetic," Ashlyn repeated.
"Not pathetic?" Carol sneered. "Please."
"You can't act, you think you're all that when no one likes you, and you seem to think you belong here," Shanti added. Picking up the script, Shanti looked at it for a second before tearing it in half. "You should just go home."
No one likes me…don't belong…home. Hot tears spilled down her cheeks and without another word she sprinted away from the tree. Blinded by her tears, Ashlyn collided with a boy from the other team, sending both of them sprawling on the ground.
"Watch it!" he snapped, pushing her away as he got back up.
"S-s-sorry," she managed, scrambling to her feet and continuing her mad dash for isolation. Several minutes later, burning lungs and a runny nose forced her to stop. Still sobbing, Ashlyn collapsed behind the cafeteria and huddled against the wall. What was she doing wrong? Why didn't people like her? Why was she here? Was there a point? Why did she try when there was no point? It was like being home all over again, only this time Seth wasn't there to help her, to tell her it was going to be okay, to remind her that she wasn't alone.
"I just want some fr-friends. Why is th-that so-so hard?!" she sobbed. After several minutes, she whimpered, "I-I want to g-go home." Out of tears, she made her way back to the cabin and curled up on her bed to sleep.