Story Go Round 1/25/2003, round 2, #1

The Hike

The snow-laden forest passed by slowly as they tramped up the steep trail. The temperatures dropped as the sun melted behind the horizon. Sheila felt woozy with fatigue, her calves aching. Dan held one arm of hers lightly, a half-welcome aid. She found an obliging tree stump, brushed it off with her mitten, and lowered herself thankfully down onto it. Dan stopped in front of her and cleaned snowflakes off of his glasses. As their breath steamed out into the breezy air, the storm set earnestly to work covering them in fluffy whiteness. It was much worse up here than it had been down in the valley at the trailhead. Their gentle goal of the first base camp was farther than expected. Sheila was unhappy.

"Of all the lousy luck," Dan murmured, and Sheila tensed immediately. Getting trapped here meant spending all night with him in a pup tent.

"What's the matter, sugar?" she murmured out of habit. Dan's face reddened at this allusion to their married life, something that had been over for almost a year. She returned his glare with an apologetic expression. They didn't need words for that sort of thing. Their fondness had resulted in their reuniting, and was still trying to find a place to nestle in the desert of their experience. They sought how to love again and yet honor their past, what they had learned about each other, that was why they were here.

If he started the negativity thing, though. It was touch-and-go.

"The, um, the path is, uh, going south when the map shows it turning west. I wonder if we took the wrong branch, uh, back there," he said nervously as he swivelled to point back to the waterfall they'd passed a mile ago.

"If you think so," she said, failing in her attempt to keep the irritation out of her voice and give him room to be confident. She gave him the apologetic look again and gave it another try. "We can make it," and, with inspiration she added, "it was uphill." Dan nodded.

He flicked on their flashlight, the snow falling like bright jewels in its beam. The beam was unsteady, unfortunately. Of course Sheila had recommended bringing hers, and of course he had dismissed the idea, so now there'd be that hanging between them as well.

The snow abruptly stopped, and the wind, which had been at their backs, came around from the side now. Moonlight lit up the ghostly landscape around them, and they looked up to see the clouds clearing away. It was beautiful, and they joined hands almost unconsciously as they passed the frozen waterfall. Now they both knew the path was right.

Amber is purple; John is pink; Alan is blue; Terry is orange