Home > We Were Never Here

We Were Never Here
Author: Jennifer Gilmore



For my mother







Part 1 Day 1: It Happens at Camp

Day 1: But Still Before Any of It Really

Day 3 Begins

Day 3: World Building

Day 4: A Lot of Information

Still Day 4: The Anatomy of an Innocent Frog

Day 5: Apparently Life Goes On

Day 6: And On . . .

Day 7: The Wig; the Mountain

Day 7 Still

Day 8: Well, Now We Know

Day 9: Life Time

Day 9, afternoon: Finally

Day 10: Like Honey

Day 11: Frog, Prince, Fairy Tale

Day 11 Continues! We Were Never Here

Day 12: Window Seat

Day 13: Not Spain



Part 2 Day 13: Lite-Brite

Day 14: The Lone Ranger, Alone

Day 14 Continued: Pumpkinhood


Girl Groups

Peel Back the Skin . . .

The Shelter


Letter 1

Blue All Over Again

School Spirit

King, Queen, Prince

Under the Clock

In Ether

Letter 2

Closet of Lost Toys

Warm Phone

Good Citizen

House of Wax

Scars Make the Body Interesting


Making Plans

Lost and Found



Stars and Stars

Moon Inside

We Were There


How Lost

Letter 3

Making Contact

Finally, Listening

Canine Good Citizen


Out of the Blue





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About the Author

Books by Jennifer Gilmore



About the Publisher



Part 1



Day 1: It Happens at Camp


It’s a single moment: It’s on the archery field on the third-to-last day of my first year as a CIT—counselor in training. I watch the campers all pull back on their bows, and they’re all in a line, ready to shoot.

I’m thinking about the most random things. How camp is ending and all these girls still look so young. When I was a camper here, we’d toilet-paper other girls’ cabins. We used to sneak into the boys’ side of camp. We’d run out in the night and sprint through the woods, snapping tree branches. We’d shine flashlights in the boys’ faces and watch them wake up screaming.

But now it’s different, though sometimes we slip away from the bonfires, the sound of singing behind us as we couple off, fan out, stray, lie out all night long.

And I’m thinking about two nights before, when Nora and her friend Raymond and David B and I went down to the lake. Dave and I sat on the dock and dragged our feet through the water and kissed until our mouths were numb.

I’m thinking about the feel of the water when, as suddenly as a heart attack, a pain tears into my side. I double over and the head counselor yells, “Put down your bows!” just like we’d practiced on that first day in the safety part of class, the part everyone barely listens to because who thinks something will actually happen?

The campers all set down their bows, and there’s that creepy sound of the arrows not shooting, then the short, sad sound of the wood of the arrows hitting the wood of the bows.

That’s the sound of my whole life changing.

Just like that. Right there. That kiss on the dock, my bare feet in soft water, that was the last time I was myself.

I had no idea then that something so small—that single stab of pain—could do that, just change absolutely everything.



Day 1: But Still Before Any of It Really


This is how it starts. Like this: The head counselor takes me off the field and I go to the camp infirmary, a place that’s kind of like a regular camp cabin and kind of how I imagine an old-fashioned country doctor’s office would be: jars on metal counters filled with tongue depressors and cotton balls, all this dust shifting in the light, like no one has moved in here for a week. It’s time for afternoon swim, so I imagine the lake. I can picture the girls in our cabin walking down the path, towels folded over their arms as they stick their gum on the gum tree, which is really an evergreen whose trunk is stuck with everyone’s chewed gum. Then I think of the kids all lining up after swimming, tilting their heads so Frank and Rhonda, the lake counselors, can squeeze alcohol into everyone’s ears so they don’t get ear infections from the moldy lake water. When I was a camper, we’d make paper boats and put candles inside and push them, lighted, out onto the water. I wish I wish I wish, I’d think. I wished to be skinnier, to be prettier, for green eyes. I think I also wanted to be more like my sister, Zoe, who is a year older and does everything first, including having a boyfriend, this super-nice guy named Tim, who she’s been with for over six months. Every day after school the two of them go up to Zoe’s room and close the door.

I think for a moment of David B and me. How we could hear the sound of Raymond and Nora giggling, Ray trying for Nora like everyone else had. Guys never like me that way. Only Dave, who uses the word “wicked” all the time because he’s from Bangor, Maine, near our camp, and I guess they say that a ton there. Dave is a tennis instructor, and while he has really nice legs, tan and smooth, strangely hairless, he also makes birdhouses and God’s eyes. Like constantly. I never thought of him at all until the Fourth of July when he bought illegal fireworks and set them off, howling. There was something so reckless about that. It made me rethink David B.

Now I lie down on the dusty cot—the pillowcase smells like a combination of insects and wildflowers—and I hold my hands across my stomach. I throw up until I’m empty. I can’t even drink water, because that will make me throw up again. The nurse calls my mother, and I tell her: I have no idea what’s happening to me. No, I say, it’s not like the flu at all. I have had the flu before, and when I did, after it was over, my mother set a flat Coke by my bed and there was this feeling of, I don’t know, finishedness. But now it just goes on and on and on, and, to add to that misery, I go to the bathroom all night long. All night. And my mother isn’t anywhere near here.

Whatever an infirmary feels like in the day, at night it is the setting for a horror movie; everywhere there is blackness except for the gleaming bits of glass and metal that glimmer in the dark.

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