Justin picked up the stick and held it aloft like one of his great-great-ancestors with a club, grunting and hooting like he just discovered fire.
“Sit your stupid ass down, Justin,” Tammy said, rolling her eyes at his demonstration of exactly how much brain power he commanded.
Justin grunted once more as he tossed the stick on the campfire that he’d built with his own two hands. “We’ll see who’s a stupid ass when you’re not freezing to death at two o’clock in the morning,” he muttered under his breath.
“I heard that, and that’s what sleeping bags are for.”
I lay on my back in the sleeping bag, head pillowed on crossed arms, no tent between me and the sky. The meteor shower was supposed to peak around four in the morning, but I wasn’t so sure I could make it that late. Early? I never know how to talk about the time between midnight and sunrise.
I know how lucky I was to find that clearing. After a long day of hiking, it was a godsend to find somewhere tailor made for watching the night sky. The moon was the merest sliver of light; only a new moon would have made for better viewing.
I snuggled a little deeper into my bed under the stars, the soft rustle of nylon and polyester singing me a sweet lullaby of peaceful, warm comfort. I smiled to myself as I saw my third double meteor of the night. I don’t know why two shooting stars at the same time make me feel that way, but they do. Like it doesn’t really matter how much we’ve screwed up, that things will still be okay in the end.
I dozed off for a little while, but when I checked my watch upon waking, and it was a little after three. I felt rested enough to stay awake for a while, so I felt around to my right until my hand touched my water bottle. I took a slug and looked at the sky.
We didn’t set the tent up tonight; there weren’t enough bugs to make a difference here, and the stars went on for a million miles.
“The sky is so much bigger here,” she whispered as she snuggled deeper into her sleeping bag. “I never want to go home.”
I didn’t reply. There was nothing I could say. She knew as well as I did that we had to go home one day, and one day would come much sooner than either of us wanted. I reached over to rest my hand on her arm through the sleeping bag. It was a little chilly for my bare skin, though, so I squeezed and returned my hand to my own sleeping bag.
Maybe the tent would have been a good idea after all, but oh, the stars were so beautiful. Scattered across the sky above us like ten thousand conflict diamonds.
I listened to her soft, even breathing as she slipped away into sleep. It blended perfectly with the starscape above us, and the fresh air smell perfected the scene. I realized that I really didn’t want to go home. Like, ever.
Maybe we didn’t have to. We could live out here forever. Forage, live off the land. We could do it. We didn’t have to go home.
But it was only August, and we already needed our sleeping bags. We couldn’t possibly survive a winter out here unprotected, and we sure didn’t have either the time or the know-how to build a shelter before the first snow.
But maybe if we moved further south we could do it.
Except, if we decided to do that, we’d have to find a phone somewhere. Because one of us would have to tell Mary.