We nursed a low-grade bicker halfway up the hill, following the ruts that tires had plowed through mud the spring sun had since baked into a path. We laughed—to ourselves, at each other—pretended we were just playing because a whole weekend with three other couples was waiting up there for us.
You kept walking when I stopped, kept talking, and I was about to follow without sharing my find but something made you turn your head and you walked back to me, silenced, and stared down where my eyes were fixed. I felt you share my wonder and delight, I felt you feel, in your held breath, the caterpillar's gait ripple through its bald green length and for a moment I believed anything was possible—even that I had been wrong about the gully between us, a space that a moment before had been as obvious as the signs around us of the mountain spring: late afternoon sun, swift running creek, budding clover and poppies. We looked at each other and for once that was enough.
A motor, shifting into second gear and climbing toward us, called my attention away. I bent to pick up a leaf and as you stepped up out of the groove you said What are you doing? and our disagreement rematerialized and you tried to disguise it and said, softly this time, He'll be OK and I heard in your tone and saw in your eyes how you needed my accord so I stepped up beside you but looked down toward the approaching car.
I couldn't tell you what kind of car it was or whether there was a mark left there in the dirt afterward but I remember how hot the sun was and how bright the day, how tight the turtleneck around my throat as I watched you shake your head and whisper I thought he'd make it.
You took my hand and in that gesture I heard your contrition, heard it snap the last remaining thread that had tethered me to you.
Part of the Covers series