For the last two years, it had always been James, Nathan, and Cameron. They had all met in their high school Airsoft Club their sophomore year. Playing Airsoft was not something James had initially thought he would like, but his dad had given him an ultimatum: join a high school sport or join a club. So, he joined Airsoft to get his dad off of his back.
Recently, however, Nathan had been avoiding James and Cameron. He hadn’t been to the last two Close Quarters Military Simulation Combat games at Arial Quarters and had almost stopped responding to James and Cameron’s text messages.
His last text message had just said: Family stuff, sorry. No other explanation, no offer to get together later. It was as if they hadn’t been best friends for the past few years.
“I bet it’s because of Wendy,” Cameron said, rolling his deep brown eyes as he scanned the cafeteria for Nathan, still hoping he would show up and spend time with them again.
James didn’t respond. He wanted to jump in with Cameron and poke a few jokes at Nathan for ditching them for one of the Senior girls, but he knew it would be a lie. The truth was James wanted a girlfriend himself. And he wasn’t after just any girl, but Nancy Milward.
James had only moved here two years ago, and Nancy was the first person at his new school to speak with him.
“Two doors down on the left.” Was all she said to him as he asked for directions to Dr. Thompson’s Chemistry class. But she had smiled at him widely and, when he closed his eyes and envisioned their encounter, he could have sworn she winked at him too.
Now, as he thought about Nathan and Wendy, he couldn’t help but understand why Nathan had bailed, although he also couldn’t help feeling a little jealous.
“He could at least hang out with us once a week. I mean jeez, does he have to spend every waking moment with the girl?” Cameron continued as he spotted Nathan’s bleach blond hair and bright orange North Face jacket across the lunchroom. He was trying to grab Nathan’s attention with an accusatory shrug and smirk, but Nathan only waved in James and Cameron’s direction without looking.
“Going to Arial Quarters tomorrow for a milsim?” James asked, trying to change the subject and get Cameron talking about something different.
“Yea, sure buddy. I’ll be there.” Cameron responded lethargically, doing a poor job to hide his disappointment.
“Hey, guys! Doing anything fun this weekend?” Jenny said as she sat her tray on the table across from Cameron.
“Nothing that involves girls.” Cameron snipped quickly at Jenny.
“Sorry, Jen.” He added quickly. Embarrassed by his callousness, he excused himself from the table to go for a walk around the school, something he commonly did when he was feeling frustrated.
“Don’t take it personally, Jenny. He’s still bummed about Nate bailing on us all the time.” James said, trying to comfort a distraught Jenny after Cameron’s irrational outburst.
“You know what, James. I’m sick of his attitude. I’m going to talk to him.” She said aggressively, slamming her water bottle onto the table as she stood up to chase Cameron down.
James settled back in his chair, allowing his thoughts to drift effortlessly between Nancy Milword and the Airsoft game the next day.
James arrived at Arial Quarters just a little after noon on Saturday, as he did every time him, Cameron, and Nathan met for an afternoon Airsoft match. It was a beautiful, crisp Fall day – the kind of day that the crew would live to do a military simulation. James had been particularly excited about the match today because he has just gotten the Elite Force TAC Blowback pistol for his birthday and wanted to show it off with Cameron and some of the guys they met up with from other schools.
James geared up in the locker room and checked the time of the next available match. As he suspected, the site was almost completely booked until 1:00 p.m. He signed himself and Cameron up, thankful that he was able to buy Cameron sometime until the next match since he was late as usual.
James double checked the time on his phone and saw a missed text message from Cameron: Family stuff. Can’t make it today. Sorry.
This was completely unlike Cameron. He would have killed to be on site on a day like today. Whatever was going on with Cameron’s family must have been pretty bad. James tried to respond and wish him well, but he wasn’t getting enough service in the locker room.
He walked outside to give Cameron a call and check in, but it went straight to voicemail.
“Hey Cam, sorry to hear about your family. I hope everything’s okay.” James said to the voicemail, scanning the parking lot for any other familiar cars or people that might be there to play with today.
“He’s with Jenny McNaley.” A disembodied voice said from behind James.
James turned around slowly and was shocked by what he was seeing.
Nancy looked a bit more rugged and athletic in her Airsoft gear, but she was still incredibly beautiful. It made James feel light headed and tongue-tied.
“Oh, well, yea because, okay sure, that makes sense,” James said, not sure that he had said anything at all.
Nancy giggled. “Never thought you’d see me here, huh?” She asked lightheartedly, smiling at James brightly.
“Uh, not exactly,” James responded, still feeling a bit embarrassed by their encounter.
“Well, here I am. Are you going to come to play a round or what?” She asked as she turned towards the playing area. James stood still for a moment, not sure what to make of this strange new situation. Nancy turned to face him, flashing her famous smile and waving at him to follow her. James returned her smile with his own and followed.
As she ran towards the field, he could have sworn he saw her give him a wink.