Dark and Stormy Nights

Jen Thompson By Jen Thompson, 9th Mar 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Short Stories

I wrote this one a couple of years back. Some of the characters were loosely based upon people I knew whilst I was at Sixth Form.

And so it begins...

It was a dark and stormy night. This was annoying, as the BBC weather forecasters had sworn up and down that there would be clear skies. Still, Elaine thought as she huddled under one of the three remaining mostly-upright tents, more the fool her for actually believing them at all. After all, they weren't exactly the most reliable of sources available. She was not alone in her foolish trust with the BBC, however, as most of the tutor group hadn't thought about bringing wellies and umbrellas to the 12ECO camping/team-building trip. It wasn't going so well thanks to that. It had been planned as a way of helping the new Sixth Form tutor group to develop and connect. Right now, the only sign of connecting the group was the possibility of a shared bout of influenza. That possibility was something which wouldn't make their tutor leader particularly popular with either the head of Sixth Form or the parents of the students.

The really annoying thing was that it was only early September and the weather was already tempestuous. What had happened to the concept of sunshine? Global warming didn’t appear to be all it was cracked up to be in the end. Where were the nice, hot summers and the freezing winters? Where was the heat wave in early autumn followed by the high chances of a white Christmas? It was a crying shame, really. If the weather could at least try to fit the time of year, everyone would be much more cheerful and then things like a team-building camping trip and therapy sessions for depression and such in psychiatrists wouldn't be needed. Then again, the loss of therapy needed would damage the psychiatrists’ occupations, and then they’d need therapy because they’d be depressed. But then they’d have jobs... Elaine sighed as she realised that, once again, her mind had decided to take a hike and had fallen into some sort of philosophical ditch. It wasn't too hard to tell that she wanted to work with writing. She could go on about things for hours at a time, and completely lose track of the original conversation.

Elaine watched as Tom and Kevin both tackled Matt into the ever-increasing muddy puddles. At least they’re working together and having fun, she guessed. It was more than could be said for the rest of the group. Still, she had absolutely no idea at all how they were planning to get themselves clean and fairly dry in time for bed. Was it still ‘bedtime’ if there were no beds? Elaine quickly dismissed the thought, instead watching as Matt wrapped a muddy arm around Kevin’s leg and brought him down to share the puddles less-than-delightful qualities. Hiding behind the tent’s flimsy cover, she was more fortunate in escaping the resultant mud splash that Millie – tutor group fashionista – who had been thoroughly coated by the three-way rugby tackle. She was screaming blue murder at the boys almost immediately.

In a way, you could tell that the team-building camping idea was needed, just by watching the students around her and counting the expletives that were easily heard. There had also been the tutor-wide fight that had happened on the second day of Sixth Form. So, really, it wasn't a completely random and pointless idea. It was simply the fact that camping had been chosen as the choice of accommodation for it all. None of this would have been too bad if only they’d booked some large barn house to stay in, instead of desperately relying on the good graces of the typical British weather. Looking over towards the third tent – the one that somebody had thankfully decided to attach to the minibus itself – she could see the instigator of the whole camping idea.

Miss Oberman was currently mid-breakdown, and Toby was awkwardly trying to calm her down. It wasn't working. It really was a shame, considering. Miss Oberman, fresh out of teacher’s college and full of bright ideas, had come up with this particular golden nugget after the huge argument – and corresponding scuffle – within the tutor group. Unfortunately, it appeared to be the case that Miss Oberman had forgotten about one, highly unreliable thing; the weather. Yes, in most normal places there would be nice clear skies in early September, but they weren't anywhere normal, they were in England. It was quite a shame that things had gone wrong, really. If the weather had been nicer or, as Elaine had already considered, they’d booked somewhere indoors the idea would have, most likely, been a huge success.

As another roll of thunder was heard overhead, Elaine considered the other possibly issues about the camp, and began to make a mental checklist of everything that had, thanks to the storm, gone downhill. There were only three tents and a minibus left for shelter – well, those and the communal toilet and showers situated handily near the camping site. Somehow, she couldn't imagine anybody willingly sleeping in there. It was going to be a squeeze, but people would probably find places to sleep. The fridge was out of order, thanks to someone forgetting to turn off the lights on the minibus, causing the battery to run down completely. That meant that the milk had gone off, so everyone could look forward to dry cereal, and black teas and coffees for breakfast the next morning. It also meant that they’d had to chuck the bacon for fear of it going off.

The main concern for most people, however, was the lack of a fire. Everyone was cold and wet, and there was no way for the tutor group to successfully dry off without a campfire. Alex and Ben were currently trying to make one under the cover of an umbrella as she thought about all of this. It wasn't going too well so far. Sighing again, Elaine was about to risk going over to help when she heard the sound of a guitar being strummed gently. People gradually began to notice, one by one, and all turned to see where the music was coming from. Sitting in the minibus was the tutor’s resident musician, John. He’d brought his guitar along for the trip intending to play a couple of songs in front of the campfire. Obviously, Elaine thought, he’d decided that as no campfire was available, he’d make do with the minibus. She watched in surprise as people slowly began to drift over to the minibus and the tent, grabbing towels out of bags and wrapping themselves up in them before sitting down under the shelter. Even Miss Oberman had managed to control herself enough that she was merely sniffling.

Elaine made her way over as well, using her pocket umbrella so that she wouldn’t need her towel yet. Jumping into the bus, she sat further back as one by one people made requests for songs. The next few hours saw everyone cheering up and singing along to a variety of songs. The tutor group’s musical tastes were made up of most styles, and they had fun flitting between pop, rock, folk, R and B and classics. It wasn't long afterwards that somebody suggested a game of ‘this or that’. Elaine was pleased to note that most people seemed to favour the majority of other options over Justin Beiber and that there was a fair few Doctor Who fans within the group. There also appeared to be a nearly-equal split between Star Wars fans and Trekkies. The games and talking went on throughout the night, and at some point it had stopped raining so that people could risk going outside again. They did so, only to grab their sleeping bags and night clothes, and to change in the communal bathrooms. It was decided that the girls would stay in the minibus with the adjoining tent, and the boys would share the other two standing tents. Luckily for them, the tutor was only 18 people and Miss Oberman (who was going to sleep in the driver’s area), and so there wasn't too much of a squeeze.

People only began to fall asleep around one in the morning, as they were too busy chatting with their new friends within the group. Eventually, however, they managed. As they were only leaving camp in the late afternoon, they could sleep late and still have time for team-building. Most people were up and about by nine, though, as they didn't want to stay in the tents for too long. It was understandable, really: the tents were chilly and sagging, and there was heat with the newly-made morning campfire. Not to mention the chance to talk with everyone else for a while. Even Miss Oberman seemed fairly relaxed, if a little exhausted. Elaine rushed over to the communal bathroom to brush her teeth, change into a fresh pair of clothes and run a brush through her unruly light brown hair. Apparently a source of mild envy for others, Elaine’s sole opinion was that it may be pretty and wavy, but just you try and keep it neat. Not so much fun, then.

After brushing it and tying her hair into a loose ponytail, Elaine headed back outside to claim herself a place in front of the fire. Apparently Kim and Matt had both woken up at the crack of dawn and, as both were cross-country runners, they’d headed a mile up the road and back to bring some fresh milk and bacon from the shop they’d passed the day before. Luckily for the group, there had been one situated in Nowhere, Middle of. Because of this, both had been given the privilege of sitting in the most comfortable places in front of the fire, and getting the first cups of tea and coffee. Within half an hour, people were eating away at their bacon rolls and sharing embarrassing stories across the campfire. Elaine’s ribs were hurting by the end of it all, and Alex had nearly suffered an asthma attack from laughing so hard.

Eventually, Miss Oberman pointed out that they still had to do the various activities and to make their way to a town a few miles away, and so everyone needed to grab their stuff and pack it away ready for later. Once that was done and everyone was ready to go, the tutor group walked over towards the forest, ready to start their hike towards the town they were to be picked up from. Luckily, whilst they’d been in the shop Kim and Matt had been able to find the number for a nearby mechanic who was going to collect the minibus later and take it to the town. Therefore, Miss Oberman had decided that they would kill two birds with one stone and do the challenges on their way towards the town. There was only one challenge which involved large equipment, and so they were starting with that.

“Come on, Elle!” Kim was yelling, waving her arms desperately. Elaine smiled, even as she tried to scale the leap she’d have to take. The issue was the fact that, at 5’4’’, trying to leap across a large distance with only a plank to use as a run-up was difficult. After a pause, she raced along and jumped, just managing to land on the next plank – the ‘safe’ zone. The point of the challenge was for a group of 6 people to make it across a part of the forest using only planks. If someone fell onto the ground below, the whole team had to start again from the beginning. It was tricky for people who couldn't leap that far, but everybody was having fun with it. In the end, one of the other groups won. Still, Elaine thought as she helped to move one of the milk trays used, they’d at least come second. It wasn't like her group had come last at all.

A few hours later, and they were doing the ‘plant bingo’ game. Elaine was carrying a dandelion in her hands, and an oak leaf was sticking out behind her ear. Up ahead, Kim was wearing a bluebell in her ponytail, and Luke and Kevin both held stalks of hedge garlic. In the same three teams as last time, the students all had to find examples of twenty different plants growing in the forest. The first team to have all twenty examples would win the game, and Miss Oberman had promised to buy each member a drink when they made it to town. Elaine’s group had seven examples so far, and were desperately searching for the other thirteen.

As they were doing so, Elaine was losing herself in her own thoughts once more. This time, she was considering the team building trip as a whole. Yes, they’d started out badly, but it had improved slowly. In fact, people were commenting about how they didn't want to head back again that afternoon. Elaine had to agree – the trip had been great as soon as they had something other than the weather to focus on. The songs had started it off, and after a while everyone had completely relaxed and the supposed divides within the group had vanished as people found out how similar everyone else was.

By the time they’d reached this point in the forest, the tutor group were chatting to each other as if they’d grown up in the same street. It was nice, watching the group banter and gossip. Even Miss Oberman had been joining in, telling the tutor stories about her time in teacher’s college and back when she was in sixth form herself. To say that the group were surprised by Miss Oberman’s habit of playing pranks on other people was an understatement. In fact, there had been a few seconds silence before Kevin had walked up to her and given her a high-five for the skills involved. Because really, it wasn't exactly every day that a teacher admitted that they had grown grass in a fellow student’s room when they were away for a fortnight.

The rest of the walk seemed to be on fast forward as she considered everything. In fact, it was only as they reached the edge of the forest and the town started to appear when Elaine was startled out of her thoughts again by an excited voice. “Cowslips! Yes, I found it! We win the challenge, we win the challenge! Miss, I expect a Dr Pepper for that level of plant-hunting effort.” Kevin was yelling at the top of his voice, triumphantly waving the final plant needed for his team like a banner of some sort.

Elaine grinned as the other four people in her team whooped and group hugged the hyperactive teenager. Although never one for things like group hugs before, she headed over and patted him on the back. “Nice one, Kevs! Good searching skills.” She congratulated, still grinning and using the tutor group’s new nickname for the boy.

He grinned back. “Thanks, Elle!” Apparently, that was the group’s nickname for her. Everyone now had a nickname within the group, and she’d even overheard a bunch of students calling their tutor ‘Miss O’ or ‘Obi-Won’. She wondered how long they would last. Given Miss Oberman’s youth and her penchant for Star Wars, Elaine had a feeling it would probably stick. And the group would stick as well, throughout their two years. Watching as people reluctantly said goodbye to each other as, one by one, they were collected, Elaine felt that it would take a lot to split them apart. After all, they’d survived the trip together.

Maybe ‘Dark and stormy nights’ weren't so bad after all.

Tags

Camping, Class, Short Fiction, Short Story, Sixth Form, Story

Meet the author

author avatar Jen Thompson
I'm a law student at the moment, and an avid reader. I have no idea what my writing will focus on, but it will probably range between university life, reviews, original writing and general thoughts.

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
9th Mar 2013 (#)

Well detailed, Jen. Great bonding to last a lifetime - siva

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author avatar Jen Thompson
9th Mar 2013 (#)

Thank you Siva!

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