Ting Ting went to the tent when the boys started acting immature. Or at least more immature than usual. She turned on the small lantern and set it up on the tent floor so she could see what she was doing while she took out her contacts. After doing that, she picked up her toiletry bag and made the trek to the camp shower house to wash up and brush her teeth before bed. There was nothing worse than waking up with whiskey breath. She learned that after the freshy parties at the beginning of the year.
Last night, she shared her tent with Tang, but he was spending the night with Phu tonight and Tee was in her tent, or was supposed to be. He was still sitting outside by the bonfire by himself when she was coming back from the showerhouse. She finished her bottle of water and shut off the lantern before sliding into her sleeping bag. It was cold on the mountain, and she was glad she’d brought one that was flannel-lined.
The campgrounds were dark, but certainly not quiet. All around, Ting Ting could hear the other students talking and laughing in their dark tents. Someone was even snoring! A few tents had the muffled sounds of feverish lovemaking, but she didn’t bother to look. Everyone seemed to have a partner these days but her, not that she was truly mad about it.
Not long after, she heard scratching noises outside the tent, and a soft thump that sounded like sneakers flopping into the dirt. The door unzipped quietly and Tee stepped in softly. Or at least he tried to. He stepped right on Ting Ting’s ankle, rolling off it and landing hard on his butt on the tent floor.
“Ow! Hey,” she cried out in shock. It startled her more than hurt since he fell off so quickly. Ting Ting began to laugh as she watched Tee lean over and rub his ass where he fell. “Did you hurt your brain?”
“Really funny, Ting. I was trying not to wake you up actually. Sorry,” he said.
“Were you the last one up?”
“Yeah. King and Ram left for their tent an hour ago.”
“Is P’King okay?” she asked. King had been acting weird around Ram all trip and especially ever since she saw them at the waterfall.
Tee looked at her for a long time. It was hard to read his face in the dark, but he seemed to come to some decision.
“I think he needs to talk to Ram,” Tee said finally.
Ting Ting nodded silently in agreement. She thought the same thing, but about Ram. “Boys are stupid,” she said at last with a laugh. “Here, come see the photos that we took today at the falls.”
Tee lay down on his bag and stretched out next to Ting Ting to peer at her phone. She quickly pulled up her gallery and started swiping through to show Tee all the photos she snapped while walking around all afternoon. She hadn’t swam with the others and mostly bounced from group to group visiting with friends and getting to know the engineering students.
“How long have you known Pete?” Tee asked, pointing to a photo of Ting Ting posing with another first year.
“I met him for the first time today.”
Tee turned to look at Ting Ting with a blank expression on his face lit solely by the light of her phone app, “Phu and I heard him ask you out. That must have made you happy.”
“What?! No.” She felt her face heat.
“Why? You’re always complaining about how everyone else has a boyfriend but you.”
She couldn’t help but laugh. “That’s just talk. I like to be dramatic. It doesn’t mean I’ll just say yes to the first guy that asks.”
Suddenly he came to the photo of P’Thara and burst into laughter. “What is that?”
“It’s -” Ting Ting began laughing so hard it made her stomach hurt. “It’s his lizard!” She rolled to her side and started sucking in air.
Tee zoomed in the photo and it clearly showed a lizard crawling across Thara’s face, tail wrapped under his nose.
“He, he, he says his name is cupcake!!”
She put her phone away then and plunged the tent into darkness while they convulsed in laughter. They spent the next few minutes talking about Duen’s weird cousin and wheezing. Ting Ting had known him since she was fourteen and she was happy to dish about all the strange stuff her friend’s cousin had gotten up to over the years.
“Can you believe Bohn thought Duen was dating him?” she asked.
“Sorry, that was my fault,” Tee confessed. “I saw them hug at the mall and I didn’t want Bohn to get his heart broken.”
She punched him in the shoulder hard as punishment, then reached out to tickle Tee’s side. He curled into a fetal position, laughing with his back to her.
“Stop stop stop!” he begged, laughing so hard he was crying.
“Okay okay,” she relented.
When she ran out of stories, they stopped talking but still broke out into giggles as they remembered something. Ting Ting lay back and listened to their breathing as the scent from the plumeria flowers drifted through the camp on the night breeze. She heard Tee roll onto his back and clear his throat.
“Did you kiss Tang?”
Oh my god. “Yes.”
“I thought so,” Tee said quietly.
What did that mean? She decided to tell him. “We kissed like when we were fifteen. It was so bad. All our friends kept telling us it was obvious we liked each other and we should date and how we were basically already husband and wife. And we finally kissed one day after school in the music closet and,” she shuddered, “it was sooo awful . We were both grossed out and we realized we are better off as best friends.”
Tee turned over in the dark and looked at her for a while before rolling back to stare at the ceiling of the tent.
Ting Ting breathed a few more minutes and made a decision. “I’m not talking to anyone right now, if that’s what you’re asking,” she admitted.
“I-why not?” he asked.
She shrugged but realized he probably couldn’t see it in the dark and spoke instead. “I don’t know. I guess this first year has been kind of tough being in the pre-med program. Flirting with someone would be fun, but my grades are more important right now.”
“Are you? Talking to anyone, I mean?” she asked. She knew he flirted with some girls in the Communication faculty earlier in the semester, but was curious what he’d say.
“I try to flirt and talk to girls, but no one from our faculty. They all like Bohn and King anyway and don’t even talk to me.” He laughed. “I have a lot of friends that are girls now. King’s sisters always tease me because I’m always in the friend zone.”
Ting Ting had heard that Tee was popular for watching over the juniors at the club, being the first to take out the girls when they needed cheering up, and making sure no one bothers them. “It just means you’re a good guy. That’s what they say anyway.”
They lay quietly a bit more, just breathing in the dark.
“What are you thinking?” Ting Ting asked him.
Tee put his hands over his face and said, “Bad thoughts.”
Ting Ting reached out her hand and lay her fingers on Tee’s forearm. “Wanna fool around?”
“Yes.” Tee answered right away and rolled over to her.
He rested one hand on the sleeping bag next to her shoulder and slid his other hand in her hair before bending his neck and kissing her on the mouth. Ting Ting slid her hands around him, hugging him close, and kneaded her fingers into the muscles of his back. For a while, all they did was kiss slowly. Tee’s hands never even went below Ting Ting’s shoulders.
Growing impatient, she leaned up into the kiss, sucking a little at his bottom lip. She withdrew her arms from around Tee’s back and pressed her hands to his chest, pushing a little. He popped back from their embrace and she followed him, crawling out of her sleeping bag to lay on top of him. Finally, Tee let his hands wander over her back and waist before breaking off the kiss with her name.
“Hmm?” she asked.
“We should sleep. Just sleep now,” Tee insisted.
“Unhuh,” she murmured in disagreement, kissing him some more.
Tee grabbed her hand off his stomach and scooted up a little bit, trapping her in a hug by his shoulder, keeping his mouth out of reach. He smoothed her hair with his other hand.
“We’re drunk. We should stop now,” he explained and then kissed the top of her head.
She was disappointed and continued to kiss his chest a little bit through his shirt before giving up. She lay there quietly then, listening to the sounds of the camp and the rise and fall of Tee’s breath while wrapped in his arms. She wasn’t drunk, not anymore, but figured he was right for them to stop.
She woke up to the sounds of breakfast and other students packing up. Sometime in the night, Tee had covered her up with her bag and he was inside his own sleeping bag with his back to her. Ting Ting slipped out of the tent with her backpack in hand and joined Phu and Tang on the field by the mess tent and watched as everyone mingled around and said their farewells.
At the sound of the alert, Ting Ting pulled her phone out of her backpack to look at the message. The notification showed a text from Tee and she tapped on the preview to see the start of the message.
I’d like to talk, but if you don’t want to, that’s okay too. Just let -
Tang started to lean over her shoulder and she quickly closed the messenger app and opened her gallery instead. She scrolled through her photos before she found the one of King and Ram at the falls with the flower wreaths and hit share. She’d need to wait to open the full message later. It could stay on unread until then. Tee was a big boy. Besides, she needed to figure out what she wanted anyway. The bus ride would help.