The Two Worlds of Sydnee Cameron Year 3 Episode 9: Date Night Horrors

Welcome to The Two Worlds of Sydnee Cameron, entering its third year. If you’re new to this series, just start reading. 

If you enjoy this episode and want to catch up on Year 1, you can start with Year 1, Episode 1: Winners and Losers or check out the List of Year 1 Episodes or read the Year 1 Synopsis.

Previously in The Two Worlds of Sydnee Cameron, Sydnee had a party at the mansion, and wrong two friends became a couple. (Episode 8: Party + Sydnee = Trouble)

Episode 9: Date Night Horrors

I glanced over my clothing choices in the full-length mirror hanging on the back of the bedroom door. Did jeans and long-sleeved, red-and-black shirt say “date with my boyfriend?”

Abby Stewart, my best girl friend, would say no. But she didn’t know about tonight, because it was sort of a double-date. And worse, sort of my idea.

A couple of days ago, I’d told Angel Lincoln that the Harvest Festival with its hay bale and corn mazes, pumpkin patches, craft booths, and food vendors looked like fun. Angel agreed and said we should go—with our boyfriends. Made sense. My boyfriend, Chris Clayton, was best friends with Dean Larkin, Angel’s new boyfriend.

Unfortunately, Abby had liked Dean for two years now, and obviously Dean wasn’t interested in her, but I wasn’t sure if friendship rules required me to never hang out with Dean and Angel, even if they were my friends too. So to avoid the drama, I wasn’t telling Abby.

That also meant I had to rely on my own skills to dress for a date. Even less drama. Really, not telling Abby was working in my favor. Abby would say I needed to dress up more, but we were going to a pumpkin patch and walking through a corn maze. I needed jeans and comfortable shoes.

I slid my phone into my back pocket, and just in case, I put a credit card in my front pocket. Then I left the bedroom and met Chris in the kitchen.

“Ready to go?” Chris pushed away from the counter, a slow smile stretching across his face. He wore jeans too, and a button-down shirt, and he smelled different.

I knew all his smells. We lived in the same house and hung out together all the time. I knew how he smelled after playing basketball or helping his dad work outside on the Cameron Estate. I knew how he smelled after a shower. But I didn’t know this spicy but sweet scent that sent my stomach swirling.

“Be home by eleven.” David Clayton, Chris’s dad, startled me. I hadn’t noticed him follow me into the kitchen.

“It’s almost eight already.” Chris glanced at the clock above the doorway. “That’s only three hours. Why not midnight?”

“Why not ten?” David said in the calm way he had that didn’t sound threatening but warned which way the conversation was going.

“We’ll be home by eleven.” I grabbed Chris’s hand and tugged him toward the garage door. I wasn’t an expert—or even knowledgeable about—dating, but listening to your boyfriend argue with his dad about curfew couldn’t be a good start.

“Have fun,” David called after us.

In the garage, we climbed into David’s blue car, and Chris backed down the driveway.

“Sometimes I don’t think he wants us dating.” Chris drove a little fast away from his house.

“Who? David?” I glanced over my shoulder, but we were already out of sight of the house, driving down the driveway along the tall stone wall surrounding the Cameron Estate. “Why not?”

“It’s just . . . nothing. Never mind.” Chris reached the road and stopped.

“If David didn’t want us dating, he’d say so.” David never had trouble telling us what we could or couldn’t do. But this was only the third time Chris and I had gone out on a real date in the two-and-a-half months since Chris got his license.

We were still sitting at the end of the drive. I glanced up and down the road. No cars. “What are you waiting for?”

Chris reached behind my head, his fingers rough and cool against my neck, and pulled me in for a kiss.

“Oh.” I suppose that was worth waiting for.

“Just in case Dad changes his mind and says we have to be home by nine.” Chris flashed a grin. He was joking, not complaining now.

“He’s not.” I swatted his arm. “Let’s go. Angel and Dean are going to wonder where we are.”

Open only on weekends in October, the Harvest Festival was busy. The parking lot was a mowed field, the parking rows indicated by colorful triangular flags. Chris parked, and we met Angel and Dean at the entrance.

“Hey!” Angel waved us over to where they waited under a light. She and Dean looked good together. They were both basketball players, like Chris and me. Dean was a couple shades lighter than Angel, and they were about the same height, but Angel’s dark poof of hair added almost three inches. “‘Bout time you got here.”

“Sorry.” I glanced around at the bales of hay, the scarecrows, and the pumpkins lining the straw-covered path. Signs pointed the directions to the mazes and the pumpkin patches and the food.

“What do you want to do first?” Angel didn’t wait for an answer. “I want to do the haunted maze.”

“The haunted maze?” I wrinkled my face.

“Come on, girl. You’re not scared, are you? ‘Cause I didn’t figure you for someone who got scared.”

“Nothing scares Sydnee.” Chris slid his arm around my shoulders. The spicy-sweet scent distracted me for a few seconds.

“Things scare me,” I said, when I could think again.

“Yeah, well, your mother’s probably not going to be there.”

“True.” I shrugged automatically, feeling Chris’s arm move with my shoulders. “If you all want to do the haunted maze, that’s okay. I’ll go too.”

“Let’s go then.” Angel, holding Dean’s hand, led the way down the straw-covered paths.

The Harvest Festival was free, but everything inside cost. A booth about a hundred yards from the haunted maze sold tickets. We got in line, and even from here, we could hear eerie noises and an occasional shriek.

I looked at the posted prices. Twenty dollars a ticket? Was Chris paying for both of us? Because that was a lot, especially since I wasn’t really excited about the maze.

“I’ll get my own ticket.” I slipped my hand into my pocket and fingered the bumpy credit card numbers. Good thing I’d stuck the card in my pocket.

“What?” Chris glanced at me. His arm was still around my shoulders, so his nose was inches from mine. “No, I’ve got this.”

“But they’re charging way too much.”

“Don’t do this.” Chris pulled his arm away from me and shoved his hands into his pockets. He stared straight ahead, his jaw tense. “I can buy two tickets to a stupid haunted maze.”

“Okay.” I knew Chris had money. David paid Chris extra in the summer to help him in the gardens and around the Cameron Estate, and Chris got an allowance. “But if you think the maze is stupid, why are we paying to do it?”

“You can’t do this, okay?” Chris turned on me, his voice firm and a little angry, but I didn’t really understand why. “Look, I know you’re always going to have way more money than I do, and I’m never going to be able to afford something like fly you to every game in the World Series.”

“Every World Series game? That sounds . . .”

Chris’s eyes narrowed on every word.

“Like something I wouldn’t ever want to do?” I didn’t sound even a little bit believable, since attending every World Series game would be so awesome. Especially this year, when the Cubs might be playing the World Series. Why had I never thought of buying those tickets?

“But I can take you out to somewhere like this.” Chris’s argument was started to sound rehearsed, like he’d planned to say these words at some point. But I’d never expected it. “So you can’t go around trying to pay, okay?”

“Okay.” My voice was small. I hadn’t meant to hurt Chris’s feelings—or his pride.

We moved forward with the line. Dean and Angel were buying tickets. Chris crossed his arms and stood away from me. Not far, but far enough that it felt like we’d had a fight. Which wasn’t fair. What had we fought about anyway? Was I not allowed to spend money at all if Chris was involved? Could I still buy him birthday or Christmas or because-I-thought-you’d-like-it presents? I’d never worried about how much I spent on gifts. Something that cost a thousand or ten-thousand dollars was obviously too much—I’d never bought something that expensive for a gift or for myself—but a few hundred dollars wasn’t a big deal. And I knew what I bought Chris usually cost more than what he bought me, but he’d never complained. So why were things suddenly different? I didn’t want things to be different.

We reached the front of the line. Chris paid for our tickets, and we stepped over to the haunted maze’s entrance line.

“Now it’s my turn.” I grabbed Chris’s shirt sleeve and made him face me. His face was still tense, but I concentrated on his blue-gray eyes that looked more uncertain than angry. “Because you’re right, thanks to Alexander, I have more money than I’ll ever need. And you know I’d give it all away to have him back.”

Chris’s face softened and he opened his mouth to speak.

I rushed on before he could. “But I can’t, so I’m stuck with his money instead. And sometimes I want to spend it on something for you. I get to do that. And someday, when I decide to fly you to every game in the World Series, you’re going to be excited and happy about going without any of this macho money talk, got it?”

“Yes.” Now Chris spoke in the small voice.

“Now are we done fighting?” The heat in my voice also sat in my cheeks. “Because we’re supposed to be teenagers on a date, not a middle-aged couple arguing about money.”

“I’m sorry.” Chris wrapped his arms around me.

I leaned my cheek against his shoulder, breathing in his new scent.

“But if you do buy us tickets to every World Series game or something similar, will you make sure Dad knows that was all your idea?”

I lifted my chin, my cheek rubbing against the soft fabric of his shirt. “Why?”

“Just something he said.” The line into the haunted maze had shortened during our conversation, and now Dean, Angel, Chris, and I were up, and the male ticket taker was giving instructions. “Never mind.”

“The actors in the maze aren’t allowed to touch you,” the ticket taker said. The meat cleaver sticking through his skull fit with the haunted maze image. “You aren’t allowed to touch them either. Exits are marked throughout the maze. If at any point you want to leave, walk through the exit and follow the lighted path out.”

In front of Chris and me, Angel squeezed Dean’s arm with both hands. She grinned and bounced on her toes. I guess she found haunted mazes exciting.

“Have fun.” The ticket taker pulled aside the black curtain covering the maze entrance. An evil laugh welcomed us.

We followed glow-in-the-dark strips along the hay bales and into a room. A man wearing what looked like a metal muzzle sharpened an ax on a wheel thingy. On the hay bale walls hung more axes and hatchets. Sixteen total.

The man looked at us, and a strategically placed light in the otherwise dim room reflected off the ax and his crazy eyes.

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Angel squealed and danced on her toes and clung to Dean’s arm. Dean guided her from the room.

I looked the crazy, ax-man in the eyes. Impressive.

Then Chris and I followed Angel and Dean.

The next room had a huge man chained to the ground. The chains rattled and scraped as he moved toward us in that slow, stiff way that horror movie crazies have.

Angel tangled herself in Dean’s arms, and I couldn’t tell who was pulling who out of the room.

I stared for a few seconds. The chained guy really wasn’t making much progress. Staring him down was like one of those comedy sketches where they show a giant, slow moving machine and a frozen, terrified person. Then the camera pans out and you realize the machine is, like, a hundred yards or more from the person. All he has to do is move—and not very fast.

Chain-guy got within a couple of feet of me.

“You’re missing a button.” I pointed to the front of his shirt. “Or is that part of the costume?”

He paused and relaxed for a second. Then he lunged forward, the chains clanking.

Chris yelped and grabbed my arm. He might’ve darted behind me too.

Guess chain-guy was sensitive about his costume.

“You know, acting scared is half the fun.” Chris’s breath rose goose bumps down my neck. Not terrified goose bumps.

“Like you?” I glanced over my shoulder. The hay bale hallway was too dark to see, but I could feel him pressed against my back. He was definitely standing behind me.

“Yeah. Just like me.” I heard the grin in his voice.

“I can’t act scared, but I won’t talk to any of the other actors. I think I offended him.”

“Yeah, that might—Ack!”

Someone popped out from a giant jack-in-the-box in the center of the next room, and Chris tried to bust my eardrum. But really, couldn’t he see that coming? A jack-in-the-box, of course something’s going to jump out of that.

I patted Chris’s hand gripping my shoulder. “Don’t worry, I’ll protect you.”

Chris didn’t even pretend to be offended or brave. Guess his pride wasn’t hurt by having a girl protect him from monsters, just from a girl offering to pay on a date.

Dean and Angel had moved ahead of us by that point, so Chris and I were alone, except for the actors doing the haunting. And I admit, I started to see what made the scary fun. It had nothing to do with the scare part, but everything to do with the guy holding on to me and smelling so good.

We made it through all sixteen rooms of hauntings, and then the maze was over. Not that it was really a maze, because the path was lit the whole way. No getting lost. But I didn’t mention that to Dean or Angel or Chris.

We spent the next couple of hours sampling food—Chris paid—and choosing pumpkins. The pumpkin choosing turned into trying to find and pick up the biggest pumpkin. Chris won with the biggest at twenty-three pounds, but at two dollars a pound, I’m not sure he really won.

Then Chris and I had to leave. At least Chris kept quiet about Dean and Angel having a midnight or later curfew.

At the Claytons’ house, we carried our pumpkins inside, left them on the kitchen counter, and found David sitting on the couch, watching late night TV.

He glanced at his watch. “You’re a whole two minutes early.”

“Two minutes? Let’s go.” Chris pulled me toward the kitchen.

I lightly shoved him and freed my hand from his grip. We stopped at the bottom of the stairs leading up to Chris’s room. He slept all alone up there now that my cousins didn’t live here.

Chris glanced behind me, probably looking at David. Then he kissed me. “Good night.”

“Good night.” I took one last deep breath, committing his scent to memory.

Chris ran up the stairs.

“Have a good time?” David asked.

“Yeah.” I walked around the chair and sat on the couch close to David in his recliner. “But I need to talk to you.”

“Something wrong?” David switched off the TV.

“Kind of.”

“Something with Chris?” He leaned forward, his forehead wrinkling.

“No, with you.”

“Me?”

“What did you say to Chris about me spending my money when we go out?”

“Oh.” He settled back into his chair and blew out a sigh. But he didn’t say anything.

“Because it’s my money, isn’t it? And I can spend it however and on whoever I want, right?”

“Of course, but . . .”

“But what?”

“But you can be very generous with people you care about. Money and things aren’t important to you. And I don’t want to see Chris or any other boy you may date take advantage of that.”

“So you think Chris or other guys might go out with me because I’m rich? And you don’t think I’m smart enough to figure it out if that’s their only reason?” The accusation stung. “Because I’m not stupid.”

“I know you’re not, but Sydnee . . .” David ran a hand over his face and paused as if struggling to find the right words. “A lot of people have left you. Your mother. Your dad.”

Maybe it was the topic or the ache hanging onto David’s words, but my heart twisted.

“Money. It can’t buy love, but it can convince people to stay.”

“Have I ever used money to buy friends?” My voice was harsh, but I was fighting the pain in my chest.

“No. But until recently, you weren’t inviting people to parties at your house.” His gaze flickered to the window, even though he couldn’t see the mansion from here or in the dark.

“That has nothing to do with trying to make friends. It has to do with accepting me.” I pinched my lip and dug a confession from the scarred parts of my heart. “I’ve always been embarrassed by that side of my life, but I’m trying to not to be ashamed of having a theater in my house or a huge game room. I’m trying to enjoy having all that. That’s what Solomon says in Ecclesiastes. Enjoy what God’s blessed you with, right?”

“Right.” For the first time in this conversation, a smile passed over David’s face. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have made Chris think he couldn’t let you pay for anything on a date.”

“Thank you.” I stood and headed for my bedroom. At the hallway, I glanced back. “And just to let you know, someday I’m taking Chris to every game of the World Series.”

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