“Where we are going is here.”
The statement came out of his mouth so matter-of-factly that Cheryl didn’t even consider the that he’d just thrown a dart at a map of the country. Stephen followed it up with another statement, this one even more unsettling.
“Pack your shit, it’s time to go.”
She blinked at him, temporarily frozen in her surprise. “Right now? Stephen, you can’t be serious. It’s the middle of the night!” The paralysis wore off, and she gestured at the open window next to him.
He turned to regard the twinkling stars and flowing galaxies high above the rooftops of the houses across the street. With a shrug of his shoulders, he turned back to look her in the eye again. “So what?”
She didn’t have an answer for that.
The face-off lasted less than a minute before Cheryl gave in and left the room to pack the few things that she wanted to keep with her on this adventure. Excitement began to blossom deep in her stomach as she zipped the bag closed and trotted back out to the living room. He was standing in the same spot, arms crossed over his barrel chest, staring out the window again.
The dart had fallen from the map and rested on the floor beneath it.
“Stephen,” she began, timidly. “Do you remember where you hit the map?”
He grunted, still standing at the window.
She tried again to capture his attention. “Do you want to throw it again?”
His head straightened abruptly, as though he’d awoken from a deep sleep. “What was that?” he asked, turning to face her. His eyes dropped to the bag in her hand. “Where do you think you’re going?” His eyebrows drew together and that gruffness that she hadn’t heard in so long, that gruffness that she feared so much, crept into his voice.
The bag slipped from her loosened grip to land softly on the carpeted floor. “I-I…you just…nowhere, Stephen.”
His glare softened. “Well, don’t just stand there, Cher, bring it to the truck. We’ve got to get–” he turned to look at the map and noticed that the dart was missing. “Shit. These walls must be too solid. You wanna throw it this time, girl?”
She shook her head, but stepped forward to retrieve the errant dart and pass it to him. He took it from her hand with a caress, and winked at her as he did so. “Let’s go somewhere sunny,” he whispered in her ear. “You look beautiful on the beach.”
He took her in his arm, and as their lips met, he threw the dart again, and it thunked solidly through the glossy paper map and into the plaster behind.
“Southern California, here we come,” he murmured, brushing her hair out of the way with his nose and kissing her beneath her ear, in the spot that made her breathing heavy and her muscles weak. He broke away and slapped her ass. “Pack it up!”
Cheryl ran back to the bag she’d just dropped, and when she straightened, the smile was back on her face.
Today we went hiking at Bodcau. I’d looked up a map of the trails last week-ish, and, while a tad squirrelly, they seemed easy enough. Catch a couple loops and head back, not too far since Abby was with us. Ian found a photo of the map since Safari kept crashing on AllTrails’ site (so no link to that).
We hit the post office, stopped at Arby’s for some sandwiches, signed in, and unloaded our lunch at the one picnic table at the trailhead parking area. After we cleaned up, we grabbed our water bottles and crossed the street where we laughed at the map on display–the red, orange, and yellow trails had all been sun bleached to a nice lemony yellow. Whoever had shared their photo of the map had obviously been here when it was new.
We lined up in our order, Ian, Abby, then me, and set off. The plan was to start at the left side of the orange trail, the spot nearest the arrow on the map, and make those first two loops before showing Abby the dam, playing at the park a bit, and going home to swim.
That map is old. Has to be. Highly inaccurate. And yes, the one posted is the same as this one. We got to a bench–a bench, one of three that we found on the orange trail, even though only one is marked–and sat down to see if we could puzzle out where the heck we were. Where the small loop should have been was the beginning of a much larger loop that appeared to be monopolized by bikers. We’d passed it up rather than up-and-down it with Abby. The second and third loops had never appeared.
We shrugged and kept going.
We came to a good sized hill around the middle of the map (maybe?) and discussed turning back versus keeping on. We kept on, and we saw a chair-shaped tree, a fungus, and a splash of feathers.
The next bench was just around a bend, so we kept on some more. And I pointed out that we’d come to the fence, so this map was crap. The trail headed away from the fence again, but never out of sight of it, and we finally came to the piles of gravel across the street from the office. What?!?
Another bench was near the road, so we took another break for discussion. Ian wanted to take the road back. Abby took his side. I said, ‘race ya! I’ll take the trail.’ I knew I could beat the two of them back even though I had twice as far to go. Ian wasn’t too comfortable with this idea, but he agreed because I was excited about it. Don’t let him tell you otherwise.
And so we parted ways, briefly.
Oh em geez I can make so much better time without a three-year-old. I knew I had them. On my way back I picked up Abby’s feather that she’d lost, along with her water bottle label that she’d peeled off and stealthily discarded. She’ll learn.
The quandary: should I cut off a dogleg or stick to the trail we’d taken out? I stuck, so as not to cause Ian undue concern. Not that he’d know until I got back, but for future reference.
I was seriously enjoying myself, confident that I had this race in the bag. Then I heard Abby piping from the road. I kept one eye on the trail and the other through the trees, trying to catch a glimpse of Ian’s red shirt or Abby’s pink one. No luck. I got closer and saw a red splotch a few feet from the red shininess of our truck.
They beat me by eight whole minutes! I don’t know how it happened. He even carried her for three quarters of a mile, and I walk fast by myself. Oh well.
Since we hiked over an hour more than expected, we just took a quick drive over the dam and back before checking out and going home to hop in the pool. Which turned out to be too cold for anyone four and up. But hey, my feet and Abby had a good time in the water.