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by Joel Caris
"Sounds like an umbrella," Tim said.
Sara traced her fingers along the floor of the tent, the plastic crackling, loud against the quiet background of falling rain. Drops rolled across the top of the tent—a mix of small ones from the clouds and large ones from the tree branches above them.
Tim shifted on his sleeping bag. Sara stared down at her fingers, back and forth across the tent's floor. "I like this," she said. "This cocoon."
"It's warm in here," she whispered, still staring at her hand.
A slight wind shook water from the trees and it battered the tent, a two-second downpour. The tent held both their sleeping bags, unrolled and ready for the night, and two small duffel bags of clothes, supplies. Bread and peanut butter and blackberry jam sat in one corner. The rain had been falling all day. Lunch was two hours in the past and already Tim felt hungry again. He couldn't bear the thought of another sandwich, though, so he ignored the discomfort.
"I'm going a little crazy," he said. "I wouldn't mind going outside and walking around. Too much sitting."
"Mmm, no. It's nice in here." She took her hand from the floor and laid down on top of her sleeping bag. "I guess I should be stir crazy, but I'm not. I like the sound of the rain, this warmth."
"You don't want to stretch your legs?"
She raised her legs into the air and slowly split them apart, then dropped them back against the sleeping bag. "All stretched."
He said nothing. The rain pattered against the tent and outside, a twig cracked. An animal, another camper? It didn't matter. The rain had been falling for hours and he kept imagining going outside, no coat, nothing, allowing himself to be drenched, wandering amongst the trees.
"We could just pack up and go home, you know." Sara turned to stare at him. "I know you've been looking forward to this, but it hasn't stopped raining since we got here. And it's supposed to keep this up. How much fun are we really going to have?"
"I think it will still be fun."
"If we never leave the tent?"
"Well, then let's leave the tent. We can just go outside and take a hike, get wet. It'll be fun."
"Why do that when we can stay inside and be dry?"
"Because then we're inside, and bored. And why not get wet?"
She grinned. "Wet is cold, and uncomfortable, and it's nice and warm and comfortable in here. And I like that."
Another wind blew and the walls of the tent shook. "Right," he whispered.
She watched him, ran a hand through her hair, pulled a few strands away from her lips. God, he thought. Brown hair, dark green eyes. A dark blue shirt, perfect fit. Black jeans, bare feet. Her smile stayed a few more moments, then faded. And now she really watched him, close, thoughts and considerations behind the gaze. Second by second, she worked through his words, his motivations, everything she knew about him and what he thought of her, felt of her. He held her gaze, almost frightened, knowing that everything was about to be exposed. But it had been exposed long ago, no doubt. This moment was nothing more than a reminder.
"What are you hoping for, Tim?"
He closed his eyes.
The trees would tower above them, both shield them and be their own source of rain. Birds would flit through the canopy and there would maybe be squirrels, maybe not. Every step would be wet leaves and mud, slippery and uncertain. But they would be fine, together, walking side by side, saying little as they moved through the forest, the trees, the ferns, wet and fragrant, slaking their thirst, thriving in the wet day.
There would be glances and short conversations and exchanges. Much of what they thought would go unsaid, though, but understood. They would laugh, multiple times, and they would stand close to each other again and again.
The hike would end, of course, and they would be back in the tent, wet and tired and satisfied. They would take turns changing their clothes, keeping their backs turned.
The tent would be filled with the scent of Sara's wet hair.
They would wonder what to do next.
"No," she said.
Tim realized the rain had stopped, for the moment. He looked up. The shadow of rain drops painted the top of the tent. Silence pressed in on them and he could hear his breath, could hear Sara's, and it became hard to continue those inhalations, impossible to exhale. The tent's warmth turned stifling, in only a moment, with only a change in thought.
"I wanted it to be a memorable camping trip." The words sounded ridiculous to him and he wanted them dead, gone, a moment later—even as he was saying them.
"Oh." She nodded, and now she stared at the ceiling, as well. "That's nice."
"Don't say that, don't say it like that."
"You knew," she said. Her voice trembled for a moment, then came back strong. "You knew what this trip would be."
"I didn't," he lied.
"Well, you should have."
The tent was too small. He had nowhere to hide, nowhere to be out of her sight, away from her influence. "Right," he said. "I should have."
She shifted on the sleeping bag and sat up, her feet planted firm on the tent's floor. The plastic crackled, creaked, and then she was staring at him, green eyes flat, but filled at the same time, racing. They watched each other.
"Hey," he said after a few moments, trying to make his voice light. "I just need to get outside, move around a bit, you know?"
"Yeah." She nodded and the lie sat heavy between them. Her voice betrayed it. "You could go crazy sitting in this tent all day."
"Exactly." He stood, crouched due to the low ceiling, and began to unzip the tent's flap. It was such a loud sound, dominating and intrusive.
"Take your coat," she said as he stepped outside. "It's gonna start raining again."
"No." The world smelled of wet leaves and pine needles, open stoma, the breath of plants and trees. He closed his eyes and he could hear the plants moving, shifting, existing so dramatically in the drenched day. They breathed freely and outside there was so much fresh air. Everything was promising, new, unburdened by the past. "I need to get wet."