he motor was already rumbling, the bus driver starting to look impatient, when Rina came running out of her house together with five of the actresses, carrying yet another load of boxes. After shoving them into the luggage compartment, she paused to wipe her forehead, then called out to the driver, “Okay, I think we’ve got everything.”

The rest of her cast was already seated on the bus, suitcases stored underneath, for their two-week stay at camp. Rina climbed on, wincing from the sudden assault on her eardrums. The volume and giggle pitch whisked her back to her own camp days… Somehow, the noise hadn’t bothered her then.

“I feel old,” she said, letting out a loud sigh as she sank down into the empty spot next to Gabriella.

“Nah, you’ve just been pulling crazy hours for the past month. No wonder you’re tired.”

Rina closed her eyes. “Can’t disagree with you there.”

“Well, that’s a relief.”

Rina opened an eye at the sarcasm. What did Gabriella mean? But she saw Gabriella smile, and Rina found herself smiling back — laughing, actually, and Gabriella was laughing, too.

It was a beautiful momentary release of the tension that had been building between them over the past few weeks. Rina could still feel the bitter taste in her mouth as she’d told Gabriella the news about Kepler’s sponsorship. Gabriella, to her credit, hadn’t gloated. Perversely, Rina had resented this even more. Why couldn’t the woman at least act gratingly arrogant, so that Rina could feel justified in her irritation?

But that was a mere drop in the bucket. Over the past four weeks, as Rina rushed around in a frenzy revising the script, running practice sessions, and making all the necessary preparations for their trip up to camp for filming, she felt Gabriella’s silent disapproval hovering in the background at every step — as if Rina didn’t quite measure up to her professional standards.

And what made it all the worse was the niggling feeling that Gabriella was right. That she was an imposter who was in over her head, pretending to be expert at something she knew nothing about. Rina wasn’t used to the feeling, and she hated it.

With a jerk, the bus pulled out of its parking space. Behind her, all the girls cheered.

“We’re really going,” Gabriella muttered. “I can’t believe I’m about to spend the next two weeks in camp.”

“Not such a camp person?” Rina asked lightly.

“Oh, I went every summer, but I was the type who hung out in the bunk with my friends, whining that every activity was stupid.” She rolled her eyes at her younger self. “You know, too cool for anything.”

“I hated those girls,” Rina said. “They ruined the fun for all the rest of us.”

“Yeah, you would.” Gabriella smirked. “You probably won Best Camper award every year. I bet you were even color war captain.”

Rina blushed. “Yeah, I was,” she admitted. “How do you know me so well?” Gabriella kept pegging her accurately, whereas she felt like she barely knew anything about Gabriella.

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 608)