Yves

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My name is Yves Thomas. That’s Yves, as in Yves Saint Laurent and Yves Montand, who were famous Frenchmen of the 1950s and 60s, or so my parents tell me.

Apparently neither of those two, unlike my parents, was actually born in France so that makes three of us. My surname might seem typically British but it’s possibly even more common in France.

My parents came here as newly-married doctors in the days when it still welcomed Europeans. Having settled in the UK and provided it with me, they’re both still happy living here, and are both almost as English as anyone born here. My dad even plays cricket, would you believe, despite still having a distinct French accent, whereas you would never guess my mum wasn’t a rather posh Englishwoman.

We all go back to our roots in Bordeaux each summer and I always look forward to my three weeks staying with my aunt, uncle and three cousins, and especially the week when we all go for a ‘holiday within a holiday’ to their seaside apartment.

Anyway, being dedicated family doctors, and, given the state that the National Health Service is currently in, my parents decided that they’d change the routine this year and take less holiday so we’d only have one week in Bordeaux. I’m usually very meek so they were taken aback when I acted up about this. Perhaps it was because I always have fun with my cousins, so for me it’s the highlight of the year. My strop could also have been because I’m getting closer to becoming a teenager, and perhaps teenage grumpiness is kicking in a bit early! Anyway it made them think.

So they then came up with an alternative proposal. They had found a summer camp for me in this country, where I’d stay for two weeks, to be followed by our one week in France. I think there was a hidden agenda though, because I’m very shy and don’t have many friends in the UK, either locally or at school. I get on really well with my French cousins though, but I suppose shyness isn’t a problem with people you’ve known all your life.

My folks obviously wanted me to come out of my shell, and hoped that two weeks of varied activities with strangers of my age would be good for me.

Apparently this camp was 50 miles away and took both girls and boys using separate accommodation blocks, but the activity programme was mostly mixed wherever practical. I also suspected that this was another reason for my parents’ choice of camp – I went to an all-boys school and they thought the camp might get me used to mixing with girls I don’t know.

I still wasn’t keen but, having made a stand which had at least resulted in a change to the plan, I thought it was only fair to go along with it despite my reluctance.

So school finished for the summer. I was now trusted to look after myself and not burn the house down, and was perfectly happy entertaining myself with reading and computer games until my parents came home from handing out prescriptions.

A week later it was time to set off for the summer camp and I was dressed in tee shirt and shorts. My bags were packed with more tee shirts, more shorts and whatever else you’d expect a boy to take, including jeans and a waterproof coat – the UK is not the south of France, after all!

My packing had been checked by mum before we set off, leaving us plenty of time to be there as soon as the camp gates were open.

We were the first arrivals, and someone at the gate ticked me off on her list and directed us to the reception hut. My dad helped me carry my thoroughly-checked kit from the car and I only just managed to prevent my mother embarrassing me by checking through my backpack and holdall yet again before I went in. I was, however, unable to avoid the hugs and the tears – hers I’m glad to say!

So at the reception desk I was asked my name by a quite bossy lady and I said “Yves Thomas”, pronouncing my surname the French way, like ‘Toe-mar’. She typed my first name into the computer then asked me to say my surname again, then asked me to spell it, which I did.

“Aah, ‘Thomas, like Dylan Thomas’ ” she said as she typed that in. She pressed a button and a printer produced a card which she then fitted in a clear pocket on the end of a dazzling fluorescent pink lanyard. They obviously don’t want us to get lost! Which, I suppose, is quite important in places like this.

She said. “Here’s your badge and lanyard. Wear it round your neck at all times that you’re not in your dormitory.”

Another camper came in behind me.

The lady pointed through the window then said “That’s your dormitory, Yves, the big building on the right. Now take your stuff over there, go through the big door and someone will meet you inside.”

“NEXT!”

So with lanyard round my neck, small backpack on my shoulders and carrying the heavy holdall, I struggled to where she’d said, and went through the door.

I was met by a nice, youngish lady, who smiled then looked at my badge and said “Hi Yves! I’m Trish, and I’m sure you’re going to have a fun time with us.”

She showed me where everything was, toilets, fire exits and the like, then gave me a guide book which should cover everything I needed to know. She finished by pointing out which was my bed and told me to stow my stuff in the adjacent wardrobe. Then she greeted the next arrival, who wasn’t dressed much differently to me, except that he seemed to be wearing faded tennis shoes that must once have been red.

“Poor lad”, I thought. “Obviously hand-me-downs.” I was lucky, being an only child, so I never had to wear hand-me-downs.

After Trish had finished the welcoming speech for the new lad, she allocated him the bed adjacent to mine and then said “And this is Yves, your neighbour. Yves, meet Jamie.”
With that she dashed for the door to immediately repeat the whole thing again for another two recruits.

Jamie smiled and said “Pleased to meet you, Yves!” I quickly said “Hi, Jamie, pleased to meet you too!” And would you believe, he actually hugged me!

I thought I’d better be more friendly than I usually am and asked him how far he’d come and if he’d been here before. He’d come about the same distance as me but from the opposite direction and we were both new to the camp. We got chatting and it seemed that we had something in common as we both had foreign parents. He said that Thomas wasn’t a French-sounding name but I explained that it’s spelled the same way in both the UK and France but is pronounced differently. So I gave him the French version.

Then the two new lads came over to greet us. One was called Mia and he was wearing a kilt so was obviously Scottish but didn’t seem to have an accent. I assumed that Mia must be a nickname but couldn’t work out what it could be short for. Damian perhaps? The name of his friend Nick was a bit easier to fathom, although I noticed that he had a picture of a kitten on his tee shirt. I thought he must be a bit of a softy as I wouldn’t let my mum dress me in a tee shirt like that.

More new campers arrived and introduced themselves. They all seemed like nice lads and were very friendly. I was beginning to think that this might turn out to be much better than I’d feared, even if some were dressed a little more adventurously than me – quite a few had long hair and several even had an earring or even two. But we were supposed to be at an adventure camp so I thought it was probably quite appropriate to dress adventurously.

A couple of hours later there were twenty of us, with more ‘adventurous’ clothing on view. A few of the lads even had what I’d only ever thought of as girls’ names, but they were all so nice that I didn’t give it much more thought.

Once we’d all unpacked and had got to know each other, if only slightly, Trish called us all together.

“Right guys, now we’re all settled in, we’re going to go for a little walk around the camp so you’ll know where everything is. The site includes some woodland so you’ll need your jeans. You wouldn’t want to get nettle rash or insect bites on your legs on your very first day, would you!

“The guys from the other dorm will be doing a similar tour but we won’t be meeting up with them until later!”

“Spoilsport” came a reply!

As Jamie had been the first camper I’d met, and the one I’d spoken with most, we naturally teamed up and walked together. In the woodland, a large spider crossed our path and Jamie became frightened and grabbed me. He then linked arms with me until we were out of the wood again. I thought “He may be nice, but what a wimp!” That made me feel a bit smug until I realised that it could just be that a lot of kids who go to summer camps are sent there precisely because they’re wimps, and need toughening up!

After our walk we were all told to take a shower and be ready to have dinner in the dining cabin, where the boys would be meeting the girls for the first time so we should dress smartly and be on our best behaviour.

As we were getting prepared to shower, some of the guys were less worried than others about stripping off in public. I did notice that some of these lads were a bit chubby around their chests, which puzzled me a bit. That caused me to have a sneaky look at them – and none of those that I could see had a willy.

And that’s when the penny dropped – I grabbed my badge and read my name – Eve Thomas, spelled E-V-E! – that’s a girl’s name! Eek!

I must have been put in the girls’ dormitory by mistake. And that kilt I’d seen on Mia might have actually been a skirt. And Mia is a girl’s name anyway. So everyone else in this dorm must be... a girl! And they must all think I’m one as well!

What should I do? I could have fessed up but I was too shy to even think of doing that, and they’d probably send me home anyway rather than transfer me to the boys’ dormitory, where I’d be mocked mercilessly. I’d spent the last week psyching myself up to make the most of my time here and didn’t fancy another two weeks of reading on my own.

So after a bit of thought I came up with an idea. I would just brazen it out and pretend I was a girl! I thought the chances of my deception being exposed could be easily managed if I was careful. But first I needed to sort out my clothing situation. I only had boy’s clothes with me so that might not work for long, but I then came up with a possible way around that.

I had a quiet word with Jamie and told her I had a problem. I said that my parents had brought me here along with Charlie, a lad from down our road. After dropping me off, they had taken him to a different camp a fair few miles away, but somehow his similar holdall had got mixed up with mine so he’d now got most of my clothes and I’d got his.

She said “With twenty of us here I’m sure we can do something about that! And I’d love to have seen that lad’s face when he opened your bag!”

Jamie then explained the situation to the other girls who all volunteered spare items so in no time at all I had a full set of girl’s clothes as well as a spare set. Soon I was able to join the other girls as we all went along to the dining cabin to meet the other guys, who I now knew to be – guys!

As you might expect, the boys were a bit rowdy and Jamie and I found many of them tedious and childish.

We were able to sign up for various activities the next day and Jamie and I both decided to choose the least strenuous option, painting. Most of the other takers were girls but there were a handful of boys, none of whom was inclined towards being rowdy, for which we were grateful. We had an enjoyable day and got friendly with Rob and his mate Tim, and it became obvious that Jamie and Rob had taken a shine to each other. I quite liked Tim too, but not in that way.

Back in our dorm, Jamie said she wanted to get together with Rob and had quietly asked him if he and Tim would like to go for a walk with the two of us after dinner. I wasn’t best pleased to have not been asked beforehand, and even more so when she wanted me to distract his friend for her so she could get Rob on his own. While not being too enthusiastic, I thought that, given how she had helped me out by organising my girl clothes, I really ought to return the favour.

So, after dinner that evening, the four of us went for a walk and Tim and I slowed down a bit to create a discreet distance between us and the other two. I could see that they were enjoying themselves up front, but we were unsure of what we ought to do. So we just carried on talking about painting and then whatever else came to mind while ambling around aimlessly and trying to not catch up with the lovers.

But then I tripped over a tree root and Tim had to grab me to stop me falling. I don’t know why, but after having been in girl mode for a whole day, I felt the urge to lean in towards him and thank him with a kiss on the cheek.

He then thanked me for that with a kiss on the lips.

To cut a long story short, we became inseparable (as did Rob and Jamie!) until the end of our stay. We actually did most of the activities offered, but really they just became time fillers before our evening walks.

So when my parents arrived to pick me up, Charlie wasn’t with them as he’d be staying at his camp for another week. At least that was the cover story I told the girls, and I made sure we drove away quickly in case anything awkward was mentioned.

My parents obviously asked if I’d enjoyed my stay. I told them I’d loved it and got to know one lad and one girl well but probably chatted with more of the girls than the boys. That was all true, and it definitely pleased them no end to hear me say so.

When we got back home I covered my tracks by making sure that at least some of the contents of my holdall were suitably creased and grubby before they went into the laundry basket.

We flew to Bordeaux the following week where I met up again with my cousin Jeanne and her twin sisters, Marie and Eloise. The girls asked me about my time at summer camp and soon extracted the real story, which was certainly more interesting than the version my parents had been given.

Jeanne was close to my age but the twins were now eighteen and, thanks to parental guilt at the loss of my annual seaside trip, the twins didn’t have to try too hard to get permission to borrow their mother’s car and drive us cousins to their seaside apartment for a few days, leaving the oldies to stay in Bordeaux to catch up.

So, unknown to our families back in Bordeaux, it was four girls rather than three girls and a boy who arrived on the beach, ready to fight off the boys with sticks.

©2024 Suzie Dalkin

This story was written before I came up with my entry in the New Year competition. I couldn't get this one to fit the theme so I used it as an exercise for writing pieces with word counts in thousands rather than my more usual hundreds. It's obviously fairly implausible but I had fun writing it.

As with my previous creative writing efforts over many years, I thought of the basic premise and then just started typing, having no idea how it would evolve or finish. That may not be an efficent way to write as it can take you up a lot of dead ends, but it suits me!

Suzie

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Comments

Not Implausible

joannebarbarella's picture

Fits really well with the vibe on this site. The mix-up between Yves and Eve would be typical at a summer camp, and actually led to an enjoyable two weeks.

I liked it.

Great story

Lucy Perkins's picture

Thank you for writing this really fun story!
I liked Yves' rather naive view, which created the scene of a young person overcome by circumstances, and then enjoying them.
Thankfully I managed to avoid a Summer Camp, but I think that I would have enjoyed one like this!
Lucy xx

"Lately it occurs to me..
what a long strange trip its been."

Suspense!

Emma Anne Tate's picture

I kept wondering just how long it was going to take Yves to figure out what had happened!

Emma

Actually, I've seen the trope before.

Patricia Marie Allen's picture

I can't recall the name of the piece, but in another story involving some college age kids (three girls and a boy) who were close friends at school. They signed up for some conservation program that had them off in the wilds of some tall timber for about a month.

Through some mix up and/or mischief of the group to keep them together rather than send the boy off to room with a bunch he'd never met, they convinced everyone he was a she and had similar adventures.

So you're not the only one to tackle this "implausible" situation.

Hugs
Patricia

Happiness is being all dressed up and HAVING some place to go.
Semper in femineo gerunt

Fun summer camp story!

I'd always wanted to go to summer camp when I'd been in school, but never got to. I think that's why I love summer camp stories, and this is definitely a fun one! Thank you for sharing it. :)

Yves

It can't be too implausible, as others have commented I've run across the situation before. I liked your take on the story, and it was well written, the only thing I wondered about was how he got around the shower situation?

Time is the longest distance to your destination.

Thanks to all you lovely commenters

My big plausibility concern was that the two fundamental issues of my plot were both things that would probably get any camp shut down these days, namely unsupervised liaisons between pubescent/pre-pubescent minors, and sloppy gender identification. However, I never attended a summer camp but no doubt in former days such things may have happened.