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The gravel crunched under the tires of the blue BMW 128 as it pulled to a stop in an empty lot. The little car was more apt to city and highway driving than picking its way along narrow roads outside of town. There really wasn’t much in the way of a parking lot out here, so Ambrose eventually shrugged his shoulders and pulled off to a little gravel inlet off the road that was likely there for no other reason than to use as a turn-around for people who realized they were headed in the wrong direction.
“I guess this is as good as anywhere.” Ambrose smiled to his slight, brunette companion in the passenger’s seat. Ambrose and Angelina had been friends since freshman year; begrudgingly at first. They had been partnered together in chemistry lab and both of their reputations preceded them. Ambrose was straight-laced, blonde and clean-cut, and looked like he stepped out of an Abercrombie and Fitch catalogue. Angelina was only in the school because of a small quirk of zoning. She didn’t fit in with the mostly affluent students; her mother was a ‘dancer’ at a small club at the edge of town, and she had to live with that bias since the kids were old enough to know what that meant. So she became independent, embracing counterculture, and not giving a damn what people thought about her… at least outwardly.
And in each other Ambrose found a confidant – someone he could talk to about things that most of his friends never cared to discuss: apprehensions about his future and conforming to the pressures of what his parents wanted him to become, wanting to pursue his love of fencing, but that not being realistic, living in his older brother’s shadow whom his parents thought could do no wrong, and so forth. And over time, Ambrose began to feel… protective of Angelina. Despising the filthy rumors that people spread about her, not wanting to consider that any of them might be true. He liked her, and he grew to really like her. But his parents would never approve. And Ambrose always imagined that when he met the right girl for him, he would just know. He didn’t care that Angelina teased him about being unrealistic, or a prude – she didn’t understand…
And Angelina found herself falling for her best friend. She wouldn’t admit it – it would be too hard because he’d never actually go for a girl like her. Not… that she’d want that. It would be a betrayal of her identity. He was a blonde, preppy, pretty-boy. His family had money, and Besides, Ambrose was safe. Someone to turn to when one of her mom’s boyfriends was over, or she was feeling rarely vulnerable. He didn’t try to take advantage of her.
Now they were already a few months into their senior year, and the future was looming large on the horizon. Ambrose, at least, was doing his best to try to stall making the decision of which path to take – the one that his parents had laid out before him: medical school… or following his heart. But in the meantime, at least, there were diversions. Their Biology class had presented the class with a rather monumentous project: an insect collection. It sounded simple at first – just collect some bugs. But there was a minimum of twenty insects to find, representing at least fifteen different genuses, all of which had to be mounted, labeled with the full taxonomy, location and habitat and time of day that they were found in. Not to mention, there was extra credit for finding species that other classmates didn’t. But, despite the groaning that the assignment had produced, Ambrose saw it as a wonderful excuse to spend some real time with Angelina. To head out to the woods outside of town, go camping. It would be fun!
Ambrose shut the car door, stretched and smiled. He straightened his polo shirt and smoothed out his jeans. It was late afternoon Friday. They had headed out here after getting out of class, and the weather was beautiful. The Texas heat was beginning to give way to fall, and there was no chance of rain. He popped the trunk and pulled out the hiking backpack that he had packed with supplies and provisions, a collapsed tent, and insect collecting gear that they would need. He couldn’t help but feel a tingle of excitement – it had been years since he had gone camping, and even the normally grounded young man had a penchant for adventure stories.
He turned to Angelina, “Ready to get going?”
Angelina was more skeptical about this camping trip than Ambrose was - she had never been camping, nor had any real desire to do so. But she was willing to go along with it; Ambrose was enthused and she was admittedly curious to see how the boy who usually spent more time getting ready for school in the morning than most teenage girls was going to act in the 'wilderness' of east-central Texas forests. And the more time spent around Ambrose the better - senior year was going to rush by faster than anyone ever hopes, and she knew despite her best promises to 'keep in touch' - Ambrose was most likely going to go to some fancy school in the northeast while she would try to make her way to Austin to work on her music.
She tugged her red hoodie up as she hopped out of the car - while the weather was mild at best, Angelina had lived in Texas her whole life, so anything below 70 called for warmer clothes. She crossed her arms and slid up behind Ambrose, peering into the depths of the trunk and trying to access how much of the load she could get away with not carrying. "Following you," she said with a smile, reaching in finally and hitching her own backpack over her shoulder.
Ambrose closed the trunk with a satisfying THUNK and adjusted the straps on his own backpack, making sure the bedroll attached to the base was secure. “Remember where we parked,” He added with a chuckle, though he had already programmed the car’s location into his smartphone… assuming they would have reception.
He set off towards the tree line. The woods here, especially near the road, were not very dense. There was a lot of yaupon interspersed with the occasional oak, and a lot of shrub. But Ambrose began to pick his way through the easiest going way. “It’s been years since I’ve been out camping,” He started conversationally; “I honestly didn’t think I’d miss it. But being out in nature, well, you forget sometimes being all caught up in the daily grind how pretty and soothing it can be out here.”
Angelina followed after him, giving a backwards glance towards the car as they headed into the tree line. "Never been," she said with a shrug. It wasn't like she had been a girl scout or anything. "You never struck me as the camping type," she said with a grin. "But you know me...always up for new experiences."
Ambrose opened and closed his
mouth, cheeks coloring slightly at her implications. He cleared his throat,
redirecting the conversation, “Well, you will probably laugh, but I was
in the boy scouts. Besides, we’re not exactly going to be out that far.
Probably never more than a mile from a road, even though it might seem like
you’re in the middle of nowhere once you’re into the trees.”
Ambrose paused, looking around and gauged their location and direction. “The way I see it… we have about two… maybe three hours till dusk since we got a late start today. We should try to find some bugs, sorry, insects” he corrected himself with a smirk. Their teacher had been rather explicit. “to have some diurnal samples. Then maybe we can catch a few after it gets dark. Then we should have all of tomorrow, too.”
All work and no play.... she thought idly to herself as they hiked on. She was looking passively for bugs as they walked: kicking over stones and squinting into the bushes; but she kept her hands shoved into the deep, comfortable, cottony pockets of her hoodie. "I guess it is kind of impossible to get truly 'lost' in today's modern world," she mused, "Though, isn't that what they said in that movie? You know with the shaky cam and the snot and the weird twig voodoo stuff?" She chuckled, "At least there's no bears or anything right?"
All in all, the walk was surprisingly pleasant. The trees kept the heat of the sun from them directly, but the ‘canopy’ was hardly too thick to make it difficult to see, and a cool breeze rustled the browning leaves around them. Ambrose stopped here and there to snatch at a beetle or late-season butterfly with the net he had brought, adding them to a jar with some rubbing alcohol on a cotton swab at the bottom. He didn’t seem bothered by the fact that Angelina mostly was just accompanying him, and pointing something out here and there and letting him snag them. He was quick with his hands from his practice as a competitive fencer.
Ambrose chuckled back at her. “Well, not impossible, I suppose. You see those shows on the Discovery channel about people getting lost all the time. But here?” He rolled his shoulders, “I don’t think we have too much to worry about. They say there are bobcats around, but you never see them. And a coyote will give you the right of way. They’re smaller than you think.” He paused, smirking at her. “I hardly think that these woods are going to be the setting of another Blair Witch.” He added mirthfully.
"I dunno," she said with a shrug. "I was looking online and apparently some little kids disappeared from these woods like, back in the 80s" she said, lowering her voice for effect. "And Sean says his cousin knew of a girl who came out here with her boyfriend for some alone time you know...and all they ever found of her was her cell phone."
Ambrose arched an eyebrow as he paused in his even trek. “You don’t say…” He hedged, looking skeptical, though Angelina could tell that there was just the hint of … was it interest or anxiety there? “But come now, Angelina…” He eased, logically, “You’re just pulling my leg. Or people are trying far too hard to come up with something interesting about this place.”
"Hey, I'm just telling you what I heard," she said, shuffling a little closer to Ambrose. "I mean, I guess I don't know... they are probably just Urban Legends," she said, pulling out her phone from her hoodie. She frowned at the lack of reception, holding the phone up in the air and waving it around a bit. "Damn, I was going to show you the webpage I found about it."
A frown creased Ambrose’s face as he checked his own phone with a sigh to see similar lack of reception. “Same problem here. I suppose we won’t be using this to find our way back to the car, but it shouldn’t be much of a surprise. We shouldn’t need it.” He shrugged and slipped the device back into his pocket. “Besides, you’re probably right. Although I have to wonder why you didn’t inform me of this before we came here.” He gave her a mock scowl. “Perhaps I would have brought something to defend ourselves just in case.” Ambrose was only half kidding. He wasn’t really scared… of course not! … but in woods far enough away from anyone to not be heard if something did go wrong, and no phone reception… he could see how people could get themselves worked up.
"Protection?" Angelia chuckled. "What? If we get attacked are you going to poke him to death with your bendy sword?"
“Hey now.” Ambrose scowled, offended, “Maybe… maybe my sport fencing epee isn’t sharp, but I could have brought the prop one from ren faire..” He realized how stupid he sounded as soon as the words came from his mouth. Were they really attacked by someone, it likely would be by someone with a gun. Fencing was a fantastic way to blow off excess steam and frustration, a channel for his creative energies and emotions that had little other socially acceptable recourses. But as much as Ambrose’s romantic imagination would have loved to picture himself actually using the weapon he’d trained in for its intended purpose some day, his firmly realistic mind knew better.
"My hero," Angelina teased, grasping his elbow. She didn't let go immediately, however, smiling up at him as they picked through the darkening woods.
"Sorry, I shouldn't have said anything. I just kind of shrugged it off.. I didn't mean to make anyone nervous."
Ambrose didn’t extricate himself from her grasp, but stuck his tongue out at her
playfully. “You didn’t make me nervous.” He objected, defending his pride.
After a moment, he pinched her side lightly with a smirk, causing her to yelp.
“What? Don’t look at me! Must have been the Blair witches.” He grinned.
Angelina yelped and bucked away from the pinch, but quickly recovered by punching Ambrose in the arm playfully. "Ha. Ha. Ha,” she replied flatly, a wry smile on her face. He wanted to play that game did he? Well, she would have to buy her time to respond effectively. "You'd be singing a different tune if it was," she hmphed as they continued to walk through the increasingly thickening woods.
As they continued into the thicker woods, the remaining light of the day slowly ebbed away. The last reaches of sunlight flitted about through the leaves like clinging shadows in inverse. The singing and chirping of songbirds gave way to crickets and frogs. Ambrose reached back into his pack and pulled out a flashlight. “We could set up camp for the night… or if you’re not too tired… or scared of the dark,” he teased, “we could look a little longer for some nocturnal bugs.”
Angelina wasn't so much tired as just tired of walking around in the wilderness. By this point she had her iPod earbuds in at low volume and was lugging around several jars of dying insects. She gave as shrug at Ambrose. "I wouldn't mind setting our stuff down," she said honestly, "but I don't want to lose our campsite." She peered around the darkening woods, which, despite her best efforts to the contrary, were looking creepier by the minute. There were no sounds of a highway nearby, no lights but the beam of the flashlight and the last desperate glow of the dusky sky.
The glimpses that she caught of the sky between the dense leaves of the tree showed bright stars with much more detail than she had ever seen in the city. The whole atmosphere was different, and even if they were, as Ambrose suggested, just a mile or so from the nearest road, it certainly felt like they were deep in uncharted woods. The modern world was so removed from nature that it often was difficult to relate to peoples’ fear of the dark or of whatever might linger in the wilderness. But now, with the strange crunches around them in the underbrush, the waves of silence that would sometimes sweep through the night insects, and more and more their line of vision limited to the narrow beam of light, those apprehensions easily found their way to the teens’ minds.
Ambrose was too proud to admit it, however. “That is the problem,” He responded, “If we set up camp and then wander around, it could be hard to find it by daylight. Maybe just another hour. We won’t go very far,” He promised.
"Fine," she said non-commitally with a roll of her shoulders. She clicked onto the next playlist on her iPod and shifted the weight of her backpack on her shoulders. Camping with Ambrose sounded a lot more fun when she thought it would be skinny dipping, campfire stories, and drinking games and not actually hiking through the woods collecting bugs and doing exactly what they were supposed to be doing. And it wasn't even that late yet, but her legs burned a bit from walking on the uneven, unpaved forest floor and she didn't want to exhaust herself and pass out after her first beer.
It was nearing the end of the promised hour and they had collected only a few stray bugs since the sun had set: a cricket and a moth. Finding the zippy little things in near pitch dark proved to be much easier said than done as a whole. When they managed to catch one under the light of a flashlight, it would be gone by the time they went for it.
Ambrose was just opening his mouth to suggest calling it a night, maybe the campfire would draw more in when a flash of light caught the edge of his vision. At first, it was just momentary, but in the dead darkness of the woods after the sun had fully set, it was quite blatant. It was a brief flash of light. Then there it was again as a dragonfly sized something whizzed between two trees not twenty feet from the pair. It was bigger than a firefly, and the light it cast was a blue-white instead of the yellow typical of the lightning bugs.
“What’s that?” He whispered to Angelina, already readying the net.
Angelina jumped at the buzz of light, blinking as she tried to comprehend what she saw. "No idea…" she said, slipping behind Ambrose and the net, peering around him. "Maybe an A," she mused with a smirk.
Ambrose cast a rueful smirk back at her. But it was true – if they caught a unique species, it could do wonders for their grade. Hell, if it was really unique, it could do wonders for their college applications as well.
With renewed enthusiasm, Ambrose did his best to creep silently after the glowing insect. He waved his flashlight around, hoping it might be drawn to the light, but it only seemed to flit further off. Shutting it off and taking Angelina’s hand in his left, he set off after it, careful to avoid roots and vines in the dark. Once the flashlight was off, it was just the moonlight – and the glowing bug – to light their way. Once their eyes adjusted, just enough moonlight streamed through the branches and leaves to highlight obstacles, but beyond that, it was quite to make out much detail… not that Ambrose was giving it much pause for thought.
Neither paid attention to just what direction they were headed as the glowing light led them further and deeper into the woods, bobbing and weaving luringly. It never went too fast – and they never lost sight of it for more than a few moments. And more than once, it seemed like the whisk of his net with the fencer’s deft hands would surely catch it – but at the last moment it would zip just out of reach.
just as Ambrose was swearing under his breath with their ill luck and the bug’s
craftiness, one, two, and then countless similar lights seemed to surround
them. They could hear the soft hum of swiftly beating wings – like dragonflies,
buzzing all around them. It was, in a word, breathtaking. The whole little
glade seemed to be illuminated with soft blue-white light, and for just a
moment, it felt like they were suspended in time and space.
As they entered the strange glade and the lights began to surround them, Angelina drew closer to Ambrose. Despite having chased the one all through the woods, suddenly, at that moment, she hesitated to try and reach out and touch one. She wrapped her arms around him as they surrounded them, not so much afraid but just seeking his grounded comfort until - some time later be it a few seconds to a few minutes, she couldn't tell - Ambrose finally tied to reach out.
Right as his wits was returning to him, and Ambrose made a move with his net, they were gone. Far faster than the one that had led here them in the lazy, almost meandering pace, they dispersed – like a cluster of minnows that just spotted a large fish. Just like that, they were gone, leaving them alone in the now silent glade.
“Wow…” Ambrose finally murmured. “I’ve never seen anything like that before,” He whispered, almost reverently. It was like coming down off of a fencing match or… he presumed a high. And he realized just how tired he was from walking all evening and into the night.
Feeling a bit swimmy she kept her grip on Ambrose, only barely hearing his breathy question. "I… I have no idea…"
Ambrose let out a long exhale, shaking out his arms before resolving himself and dropping the pack he had been lugging around onto the ground with a soft thunk. He looked disappointed, but he couldn’t say that he was truly regretful for having witnessed what he did. He couldn’t even precisely say what it was, but it felt significant, and it was beautiful.
He hesitated. He felt like he should say something about what they saw, “It’s… too bad we didn’t catch it… but that certainly was something to see.”
His rational mind taking over (as always), Ambrose ran a hand through his hair and looked back to Angelina. “This is probably a good a spot as any to set up for the night. It’s… later than I planned on stopping, and I do apologize for that. It’s gotten quite dark, but this little grove here is wide enough to set up the tent at least.”
"Yeah…here's fine," Angelina responded, still a bit distracted. The clatter of the backpack on the ground seemed to finally snap her out of it. She had no idea how to set up the tent, so she mostly just stayed out of Ambrose's way while she unpacked some of the other essentials, including the six pack of beer she had snuck into the cooler.
on one of the lanterns and walked the edge of the circle of light, kicking
stones into the darkness.
The darkness beyond the small radius of light cast by the electric lantern seemed immense. Crackling of underbrush sounded heavy in the distance, and the hum of insects and had picked up once more after the odd silence that accompanied the glowing bugs. Occasionally, a strange call pierced the night that Angelina couldn’t quite place, but then, she had never gone camping before. Maybe an owl? A coyote? It was hard to say for certain.
Ambrose seemed distracted, focused on the job of getting the tent put together – screwing together collapsible tentpoles and keeping the structure together and not falling in on itself as he stretched the canvas over the structure. It took him about fifteen minutes, after a few collapses and some swearing under his breath, but finally, he was dusting his hands together and standing before a dome-shaped tent that looked just barely large enough for two people. The stakes were driven down into the receptive earth, and the bedroll had been laid out inside.
He stifled a yawn, “There we go. It may not be the comforts of home, but I hope that it will do.” Ambrose said with a lopsided smile. His eye only then caught sight of the beer. “What is that?” He said with a tsk, and his scandalous tone was only half in jest.
Angelina smiled when she saw the tent finally in completion; happy to leave the edge of the unnerving darkness. She unfurled her down sleeping bag and tossed it into the tent next to Ambrose's much high quality one.
"What's what?" she asked with a faux ignorance as she popped the top off one of the bottles and held it out towards him. "Oh c'mon... this can't be all work and no play, Ambrose. Its our senior year!" She grabbed her own beer and took a hearty swig, as if trying to lead by example.
Ambrose took the bottle as if it might bite him, giving it a very dubious look. “I don’t know, Angelina,” He hesitated. “I’m not 21 yet. Neither of us are 21 yet.” He emphasized looking at her, but knew it was futile. It’s not like it was the only time she’d had alcohol. Hell, Ambrose likely one of the few people his age that never had gone drinking. On the same note, he was one of the few guys that actually still believed in chivalry. He’d had a sip here and there out of curiosity, but never liked the taste. But more than that, he didn’t cut loose. His upbringing had emphasized that more than anything: self moderation, self control. Not listening to the baser impulses. And Angelina knew that Ambrose was more than a little wound up, and had been bottling down a lot of stress for many years. Fencing was an outlet for that stress, talking to Angelina was another, but that didn’t make things easy.
He crinkled a frown and took a seat at the mouth of the tent, still just holding the open beer bottle.
"So?" Angelina said, plopping down next to him at the base of the tent. She frowned and adjusted herself, feeling all the little rocks and branches under the tent poking at her. "Who the hell out here is going to know?" She leveled a challenging gaze on him. "Its just an arbitrary number," she sighed, shaking her head. "I ain't going to make you do anything," she said a little more softly, "But you need to quit worrying so much about other people and just do what you want because you wanna."
Ambrose rolled his shoulders. He’d heard the argument, and the irony before: old enough to vote or go to war, but not drink alcohol. “I know,” He sighed, “Maybe… forestry services…. Though… this isn’t exactly a national park,” He countered his own point.
He sloshed the bottle gently, as if swirling a glass of wine, indecisively before taking a small sip. He made a face. “It tastes bad and we’re not supposed to. Remind me of the appeal?”
Angelina just shook her head before taking another swig. "It's refreshing, and it’s cheaper than hard liquor," she said, nudging him with her elbow. "And breaking the rules taste good," she teased, knowing he wouldn't like that answer. She clinked the neck of her bottle against his and tried to give him an encouraging smile.
She pulled her knees up her chest and looked out over the blackness of the forest. "So... now what?" she said, casting a sideways glance his way.
“Ah,” Ambrose responded with a wry twist of his lips and took another pull. It was… sort of refreshing after the long day’s hike, especially after the second or third pull. He reached into his pack and pulled out a few granola bars and beef jerky, tossing a few at Angelina.
“Well, now we relax. We pushed on longer than we expected, so if you’re tired, we can turn in… unless you have any other suggestions?” He asked, completely innocuously.
The two had shared a bed before, times when Angelina needed a protective presence after something traumatic happened, or her mother’s abusive boyfriend was over. Only now did the thought occur to Ambrose that this would be the first time they’d be sleeping in such close proximity in a normal situation. He scratched the back of his neck awkwardly. “I… hope that the sleeping arrangements are all right. We do have the separate sleeping bags that zip up. But I just have the one tent, and even in Texas autumns, out in the middle of nowhere, it can get rather chilly at night.” There was a flush to his cheeks.
Angelina stifled a yawn, "Can't just go to sleep. That's boring," she whined. She looked back behind her into the tent, at the two sleeping bags side by side. Ambrose's was larger and looked far better made: thick materials and premium fleece with a built in pillow and weather-proof exterior lining.
Angelina's was blue: the exterior looking more like a windbreaker jacket material and cheap plaid fleece on the inside stuffed with plain polyfil stuffing. She sighed and shook her head. "Its fine," she said to him, patting his knee. "Not like we haven't," she stopped herself from saying slept together before. "Well, you know. I sneak out sometimes. Should be good."
good,” Ambrose nodded, looking a little relieved and taking another sip from the
beer. He smothered a yawn in response. Contagious things.
“Well… I am open to suggestions, although I’m afraid that I’m more tired than I expected to be this first night. It’s probably too late tonight to go poking through the woods for firewood. So no smores or campfire stories.” He joked. “But more seriously, it will probably be chilly tonight. Ah… at least we should be in close vicinity to each other in the tent.”
"No S'mores??" she whined, only half-mockingly. She chewed on the jerky and drank more of her beer. Feeling the food in her stomach, the ache in her muscles, and the chill in the wind did make her start to feel very tired. "I guess we should probably call it a night," she conceded, talking around the last of her granola bar. She pulled her pack over and dug through it, pulling out a bottle of water, her toothbrush, and her pile of nightclothes.
will be a more relaxed pace, I promise. We already have a fair number of bugs
from the daytime, and we made it out here. We can build a campfire tomorrow
night, and we don’t have to head back till Sunday.” He gave her leg a quick
squeeze and a smile.
Ambrose pulled off his shoes, but otherwise stayed in his clothing as he edged back into the tent and onto his bedroll. Ambrose felt tired, but in a good way. A long day’s hike over not quite even ground, he could just barely feel it in his legs. Now that he had relaxed for a bit, the bit of alcohol and some food, he’d sleep well… which was good because bedrolls were notorious for not disguising any of the twigs or small rocks that he might have missed when he hurriedly made way for the tent.
He paused, looking over and noticing now the disparity between their sleeping arrangements. Would she be warm enough? Would it be rude to draw attention to it or offer to swap…? He knew that Angelina never had the same… privileges that he had. He swallowed, “Anything else I can get you?”
Angelina rolled her shoulders as she brushed her teeth, spitting out into the darkness of the woods and rinsing her mouth out with the bottled water. "I just need to change," she said. "I feel kind of gross having hiked around all day."
Ambrose nodded, “Of course,” He responded, following suit and brushing his teeth with what he had available. He couldn’t help but wonder, as he averted his eyes, what she would change into. He scolded himself mentally for even wondering. She was his friend. And he wasn’t like that. He was better than thinking thoughts like that – and she had had too many problems with assholes who were like that.
Angelina slipped into the tent and closed the flap loosely as she quickly changed into a pair of low-riding PJ bottoms and a very fitted tank top. She rubbed her bare arms as she opened the flap back up after she had changed, finding herself looking forward snuggling up close to Ambrose in the cool of the night. It wasn't too horrible in the tent, blocking the wind, but it certainly was on the chilly side, especially for Texas.
"This is fun," she admitted with a small smile, holding open the tent for him.
finally risked a glance up as she opened up the tent, blushing nearly
imperceptibly in the dark as he tried not to notice just how the tank top
wrapped around her pert chest, and the fact that she was no longer wearing her
“I’m glad you’re having fun,” He said softly as he dropped to his hands and knees and crawled into his sleeping roll, looking back expectantly to Angelina.
The lantern illuminated her slight figure, casting shadows against the canvas of the tent. It was quiet out here now, intimate. He closed his eyes and took a steadying breath. He had been looking forward to this… the change of scene, sharing something with Angelina she hadn’t done before. He… was going to miss all of this. High School. He was surprised how fast it went. How much of it he had spent desperately trying to step out of his brother’s shadow. Now Dreu was off in college, and Angelina had personally enlightened him as to just how two-faced his could-do-no-wrong older brother really was. So Ambrose tried desperately to be the man, the gentleman that his brother pretended to be. To prove his worth, his respectability to both himself and his parents. But all they ever seemed to notice was when he wasn’t perfect, or they would raise their expectations even more. Angelina had told him before that he was being unrealistic. That when his role model was his brother, who wasn’t the gentleman he pretended to be, who obviously had an outlet for his … desires, that Ambrose was making unrealistic goals. No one was perfect, and he was just making himself more pent up – and that was unhealthy. But he didn’t want to hear that. He still tried. But it was damn hard sometimes. And moments like this starkly reminded him of that.
The intimate lighting and close quarters were not lost on Angelina, either, though she doubted Ambrose was taking notice. She slipped into her own bedroll and turned to face him, resting her head on her elbow. She smiled at him warmly, her eyes looking over his face. Though she tried not to dwell on it, she was dreading the end of the year. She knew he was going to leave her - go off to some fancy school somewhere very far away. To college. Where the girls were smart and more mature and beautiful and classy and all the things she knew he wanted and that she could never be. High School was the great leveler - sticking everyone from every social caste and clique into the same building - forcing interactions via group projects and lab partners.
But that was going to end. Angelina knew Ambrose found most high schools insufferable, but what about the grown up girls? Angelina had been told her whole life there were girls guys wanted to marry and the girls guys wanted to party with. Ambrose only wanted the marrying kind. And Angelina knew he would soon forget about her. He'd throw himself into his school work, sports - catch the attention of some high-achieving beautiful woman who would be exactly what he wanted AND would make his parents proud.
She sighed, trying to distract herself. Now...now would be the perfect moment to do something. Even if she couldn't have him forever, it was so very temping to have him for now. They were alone, the mood was right... even Ambrose would probably succumb if she was very direct. But... but she didn't want to.
No...she wanted him. That was different. But she didn't want him. Because she knew it wouldn't last. Ambrose would regret it in the morning, and she would lose the rest of her time with him this year. Not to mention, part of why she loved Ambrose so much was because he wasn't the kind of guy to just have a fling with in the woods. He was better than that.
savored the moment, watching Angelina’s expression and returning her smile. He
reached out, giving her hand a reassuring squeeze before finally switching off
the lantern and plunging the pair of them into darkness. As his eyes adjusted,
he listened to the gentle, even sound of her breathing, knowing she was close by
his side. He could feel her body heat through her thin sleeping bag.
Sometimes, what he didn’t say, was that even on nights that she needed his
comfort, Angelina was as much a comfort to him as the other way around. She
listened to him. And while she might sometimes tease him about his “first world
problems”, he knew she was really listening, and offered him perspective that no
one else did.
Sometimes, Ambrose wished things could be simpler. That his parents were easier to please or that there weren’t the social constraints that told him that the things he felt were wrong. He knew plenty of people who just could ignore what society told them, but Ambrose was never one of them. His parents made it very obvious that eyes were on him, and his actions spoke for his family. Now he was poised to go off to college, to follow their plan for him – from what school to go to, to studying medicine, to likely not having time any more to do what he loved and abandon fencing, to being a doctor, to marrying someone from a respectable family… And Ambrose found himself terrified – both of letting them mold him into who they wanted him to be, and still only ever give him middling approval; finding him acceptable – not giving him the adoration that they seemed to shower on his brother… and yet terrified all the same of disappointing them. He didn’t know which was worse.
“Good night, Angelina,” He whispered, rolling over and closing his eyes, steadying his breathing. Thoughts like that always seemed to plague him most when the lights were out and he was getting ready to sleep. Uncertainties, difficult decisions, trying to figure out who he was and wanted to be.
At least, for right now, he reminded himself, there was still some time to decide. He still had time with Angelina – his best friend… his confidant… and he loved her for that.
That night, as they both eventually drifted off to a sleep born of exhaustion, dreams came.
Angelina, perhaps it was borne of the eerie night in the woods that she had
experienced for the first time, for that is where her dreams transported her.
She was alone, picking her way through a nearly tangible darkness, with unseen
trees grasping and snagging at her, hampering her way. As is the way of dreams,
it was hard to see, disorienting, she could feel the situation more than
see it; she knew what was going on. She wasn’t alone. There was
someone… no… something out there in the dark, in the woods. And then,
she could hear it – a long, wavering, hungry howl in the distance. And
at the same time, she could hear footfalls behind her, crunching through the
leaves. She could hear panting, hot breath on the back of her neck that was
gone when she turned to confront it. She knew she was being followed, that it
was after her. She was terrified… and yet, at the same time, her fear was
exhilarating… and as the dream progressed and became more sensation that visual,
she wasn’t quite sure if she was being followed… or leading.
Ambrose’s dreams that night were powerful, freeing. He was running away from, leaving behind his worries and cares – of others’ perceptions. Breaking free of cloying ropes and binds, tearing out of what felt like a suffocating suit, and then he was running. Running through woods, through trees, unhampered by branches or thorns or darkness. He felt strong, powerful, in control. And as he ran, feeling the wind rushing over him, feeling the earth beneath his feet, the air in his lungs, he knew that if there was something he wanted, he could get it.
Morning came gradually, slowly lifting the two out of the haze of sleep. But the dreams remained at the edge of consciousness, the sensations and feelings especially strong. Their bedrolls were warm, and felt surprisingly comfortable, no sticks or rocks seemed to poke at them from under their blankets. The whole tent seemed aglow in orange light as the sunlight filled it.
Angelina shifted as she drifted into consciousness. She yawned, the feelings and visions form the dream still lingering in her mind. She looked around the glowing tent and smiled contently. In the night she cuddled pretty close to Ambrose, though still separated by the sleeping bags, she had wrapped her arms around him back, nuzzling into his back as she slumbered. "Morning," she said, trying to extract herself gently.
stretched, feeling amazingly well rested, taking air into his lungs and exhaling
with a pleased sound. “Good morning,” he responded, sounding like he had woken
up in a good mood. Slowly, he sat up, and rubbed at his eyes, letting them
adjust to the bright morning glow.
“I can’t remember having slept so well camping before…” Hell, Ambrose didn’t remember sleeping quite so well in general. “I hope you slept all right. Was you sleeping bag warm enough?” He asked, smiling down at her.
Angelina looked lovely in the morning light. Even without having fixed her hair or applying any make up, the light and that little sleepy smile of hers, her mussed hair… it was adorable.
"Yeah, I feel great," she admitted, sitting up and stretching, her tank top creeping up to expose her stomach. She sluggishly pulled over her backpack and began to poke around her hairbrush and pulled out a new shirt for exploring the woods today. "So who's getting doughnuts and coffee?" she joked, her voice still husky from the night's rest.
caught a glimpse of the flash of skin of her flat stomach before looking quickly
to the flap of the tent. He chuckled, “Sorry. No donuts or coffee… More trail
mix and beef jerky, though. I think I might have a few cereal bars in my
pack.” He shifted to his knees, reached out and unzipped the tent flap,
breathing in the sweet morning air.
It was a beautiful morning. In fact… he furrowed his brow, surprisingly beautiful. He crawled out and stood up, taking in the grove now that it was dawn. “Angelina, come out and see this…” he said softly.
The morning light seemed to illuminate the grove almost as incandescent as the tent had. The light was soft, violet, and gave the whole grove a sort of ethereal feeling, motes of pollen or dust floating in the rays. The trees were absolutely verdant, which was… odd, considering that all the trees they had seen before dark, aside from the few stray cedars or other pine trees had turned brown and ugly in the Texas fall. But these trees were succulent looking, a few even sported bright flowers. Nothing like they had seen the day before. All in all, it seemed more like spring than fall. Everything was verdant and vibrant, the smell of flowers and sweet morning dew was on the air, and the grass beneath their feet was soft and springy. The grove itself was a near perfect circle, in fact, Angelina noticed, along the edge of the treeline, small mushrooms grew. It was… beautiful, inviting, and almost otherworldly, yet, nothing in particular stood out as being unnatural.
While Ambrose had been digging through his pack, Angelina had slipped on her bra and shirt quickly, using her woman-powers to change shirts without totally getting undressed. She was digging for her discarded pants when Ambrose's voice, obviously awed, caught her attention.
She peeked out from behind him, peering around the glen. "I had no idea we had anything like this around here." She pulled the flap closed, gently and pushing Ambrose out of the tent. "Here, one sec." Not thirty seconds later she was stepping out of the tent, buttoning the fly of her pants as she looked around. She smiled and pulled out her camera, snapping a few pictures. "Check out these shrooms..." she said with a hint of curiosity.
Pausing only to slip on his shoes, Ambrose went to join Angelina by her side, looking skeptically down at the mushrooms. “They are… interesting,” He said graciously, “I hope you’re not thinking of eating them. If I learned anything from my time in boyscouts, it was don’t eat random mushrooms you find – there are quite a variety of poisonous species. Some even resemble their nontoxic brethren.” It sounded like he was reciting some cautionary warning verbatim.
are right about this glade. I can’t recall ever seeing anything quite like
this…” He slipped his hands into his pockets and glanced around.
Everything seemed incredibly bright. It was a warm day, but pleasantly so, with a bit of a breeze stirring the air carrying with it the fragrant scent of flowers. Birdcalls meandered through the trees, and the occasional rustling in the underbrush hinted at the presence of more wildlife.
“We could use this as a sort of base camp… explore around here… see what we can find…” He offered.
Ambrose shook his head with a rueful smile, rubbing his arm with a mock glare at Angelina. Then, he got to work and unloaded some of the extra clothes from his backpack, leaving it in the tent with the bedroll and zipped it up. Then, shouldering it again, and checking the compass feature on his phone, he set off with Angelina into the treeline.
However… even as they moved away from the campsite, the verdant trees, pleasant weather and inviting atmosphere didn’t seem to change. Nowhere was the straggly yaupon or barren oaks. Instead, thick bushes crowned with large berries crowded the bases of immense trees thick with leaves. Clusters of bright flowers grew in large patches, and strange scents wafted on the breeze. There were signs of wildlife about as well. Tracks left in patches of moist earth suggested rabbits and deer, and they spied the droppings of other animals as they picked their way among the trees. And especially, as they kept their eyes out, examining plants and trees for signs of insects, they noticed stark differences between the woods today versus the day before. They found plenty of insects, and while none of them looked unnatural, they seemed like different species entirely from what they had caught the day before. Many bore brighter colors, and there seemed to be more butterflies than they remembered seeing the day before.
Ambrose frowned silently as he didn’t recognize many of the ones that they saw from the brief glance he had taken through the book of local insect species. But then… he hadn’t looked at it for very long, and his main identification he was planning on doing the following week after they had taken home their specimens and mounted them.
A crease of concern appeared between Ambrose’s eyebrows as he jarred a particularly greenish grasshopper and shook his head.
"What kind of The Secret Garden shit did we wander into," Angelina queried as she took the jar from Ambrose and looked closely at the dying insect. "I mean seriously, it’s like we're in some kind of theme park."
frowned as she looked around, her eyes lingering over the crayon green grass and
large, brightly colored flowers. "In all seriousness, maybe we should head
back. We're probably on someone's private property by now. This is Texas,
I don't wanna get shot."
Ambrose shook his head, his mouth a line of concern. Angelina was absolutely right. Something was wrong – either they had walked into someone’s highly cultivated private property last night or… or nothing. That was it. That was the only option. In their haste last night to follow the strange, glowing insect, he hadn’t been paying any attention to where they had been going. They could have very easily walked past private property signs and not even known it.
“You’re right.” He finally spoke up with a resolute nod. “We have plenty of insects by this point, anyway, I think. We’ll head back to camp, pack up, and relocate to closer to where the road is.”
He turned back around and started heading back. But as they walked, Angelina, having known Ambrose for years began to pick up on signs that he was stressed. He kept looking straight ahead, barely making eye contact with her. His jaw set and shoulders squared. And, as they walked a little more, Ambrose checked his phone’s compass, frowned, turned, and walked some more. And as they walked even further, he indulged in his nervous habit of fidgeting with his ring, usually reserved for a particularly difficult fencing opponent, or right before a calculus exam. The ring bore the symbol of his family crest, and a psychologist would likely draw the connection between Ambrose’s subconscious fear of failure being analogous to disappointing his family; the rampant wolf imprinted on the ring’s being an ever-present representation of them and their seeming constant, sneering disapproval.
It took a few minutes for Angelina to notice: she hadn't been keeping any track of where they were or where they were going. She had been solely relying on her boy-scout boy-friend to be the leader. But they hadn't gone that far from their base camp, and it seemed like it was taking a lot longer to get back. She looked over to him, only to see his jaw set and his fingers clenched over his ring.
"We're... not lost are we?" she asked hesitantly.
“No!” He answered quickly, clipped. He was very obviously irritated, and he didn’t look at her when he responded, just back down at his iphone, which he gave another frustrated shake. “I… just think that this ap must be bugged. But we haven’t gone too far. We hadn’t been walking for more than an hour when we turned back.”
Angelina frowned, but she didn't say anything. She didn't want to irritate him more, and he didn't look in the mood for teasing. She sighed after moment and looked around determined. "You're right, we probably just walked right past it and didn't even notice. Maybe, uh... look for more of those mushrooms or whatever," she suggested, twisting a lock of hair around her finger.
Eventually, he clicked the screen off and shoved the device back into his
pocket as he finally looked to Angelina and nodded. “Of course. Yes.” He
could do this – he’d gone hiking before, and this is precisely the sort of thing
that he learned in scouts. He was just relying too much on technology.
He took a breath and looked around, finally, selecting a direction, and heading that way with an air of confidence. The landmarks were looking familiar, but as much as Ambrose hated to admit it to himself, he couldn’t quite remember if they were landmarks he had seen heading out from camp that morning, or when he was trying to find his way back more recently. But adamantly, he continued… and they kept walking quietly. But Ambrose’s irritation was contrasted against the almost blithe atmosphere of the woods itself. Birds trilled in the trees, and they even caught a glimpse of an elusive rabbit, pausing to look at them before dashing off. But never, as they wandered, did the trees look more like the Texas shrub-trees that they were accustomed to, or the weather look like the dead of fall that it should have been.
Finally, as the sun had passed its zenith, Ambrose sat down heavily on a fallen log and started rummaging in his pack for something to eat. He didn’t breathe a word about being lost, instead, “You’re probably hungry.” He pulled out the water bottles and granola bars and the bag of jerky, passing some of it to Angelina.
Angelina sat quietly next to Ambrose on the log. "Thanks," she said, her own worry evident in her reserved demeanor. She just knew, however, that if they kept walking they would eventually run into some sort of civilization. There were no woods in this part of Texas that were THAT big.
She munched on the granola bar and surveyed the surroundings. It was almost a shame she wasn't enjoying it more: if only they could find base camp and re-group their wits it would be better...
polished off another one of the bars and a few pieces of jerky, taking swigs of
water before folding up the trash and putting it in a different zipper pouch of
“We’ll be fine.” He said, unprompted. “We’ll just pick a direction and head straight. And even if – if – we can’t find our campsite… it doesn’t get that cold, and there was nothing too valuable in the tent.” Ambrose was at least as much embarrassed as he was worried. It was his responsibility to lead the way, keep them on their way. Angelina trusted him, and he failed that. It would figure. “When we parked, we headed east into the woods. So we’ll head West.”
He dusted off his hands and looked back to her. “You ready to push on?”
Angelina forced and encouraging smile and stoop up. "Ready," she said, looking to the sky to see if she could determine which way was West. She shrugged and just followed Ambrose's lead, staying close on his heels as they ventured back into the woods.
Angelina had grown very quiet, not even listening to her iPod anymore as they tracked through the woods. She felt a pit growing in the bottom of her stomach when Ambrose finally admitted what they both already knew. She hated feeling like this. Hated it. She took a shuddering breath, needing something to distract her from the panic welling up inside her.
She looked over to the lake and the beautiful clear water. "Fuck it," she said as she pulled her shirt up and off over her head, tossing it at Ambrose. "If we're stuck out here, at least we have water, right?" she said with a nervous laugh. Her hands went to her pants as she kicked off her shoes.
frowned, feeling guilty. Angelina was just as upset as he was, and it wasn’t
her fault. But when she started to pull her shirt off, he averted his eyes
quickly, blushing. “I… well… uhm…” he spluttered. He wanted to watch… she
didn’t seem to care… but no.
He was also feeling the discomfort of having worn the same set of clothes two days in a row… the same clothes he slept in, without having showered. He scratched at his arms, wanting to join her.
“Yes… having a source of water is very important.” He answered mechanically, staring down at his shoes. He had only brought a few days worth of water, he realized.
Angelina stripped, flinging her bra at his averted head like a slingshot. Despite her brash attitude, she had steady blush of her own on her cheeks and flushing over her chest. "I feel gross. Let's go swimming," she said, tip-toeing to the water. She looked around the edges for a moment, worried about snakes or other creepy crawlies... but she eventually stepped in, getting down to her waist with a giggle before turning back to look towards Ambrose.
fumbled with the bra slung at his head, juggling it like a hot potato before
gingerly depositing it on a low-hanging branch. “Angelina, I… I…” He
stammered, glancing only quickly over to her slender back as she stepped into
the water. She was nude, though the waterline had swallowed her up to the
waist, and Ambrose swallowed hard. He felt grungy, smelly, and was acutely
aware of this fact even more now that she had brought it up. If they lay down
beside each other that night, her clean, him coated with the grime of two days…
well, that would hardly be gentlemanly either, he justified to himself.
But yet, as fun and flirty as Angelina could be, he didn’t expect this. Maybe he should have, or maybe he just secretly wanted it. They both felt like they were on a ticking timer to the end of the year. So slowly, Ambrose stood up and pulled his shirt off over his head, laying it neatly over his backpack before removing his hiking boots and trousers.
Down to his boxer-briefs, he slowly, keeping his head down, walked to the water’s edge and stepped in.
The water was the perfect temperature: just cool enough to be a relief of the sweat and heat of the day without being too cold to be uncomfortable. It seemed to effortlessly and immediately take the grungy, dirty, grimy feeling away from the pair where it touched them, refreshing and reinvigorating. It was hard to stay frustrated and nervous about being lost in the woods the more they ventured deeper into the pond.
“The water… does feel nice.” Ambrose consented as he walked further in so that the water lapped around his thighs, still averting his eyes.
Angelina smiled seeing him relax just a tiny bit. She wasn't surprised, but a bit disappointed, that he stayed in his skivvies as he made his way into the water.
As for the water - Angelina was amazed at how cool and refreshing it was. It felt clean - not chemically like a pool or even grimy like a lake should be. She loved the feel of it on her skin as she took a deep breath and plunged under the waterline for a moment, wetting her hair. She came back up a moment later, flipping her hair over her head and running her fingers through it - scratching away at the sweat and grime.
As a bit of water trickled between Angelina’s lips, it tasted precisely as she might have expected it to based on how refreshing it felt. It was absolutely pure and almost sweet. There was no fluoride mixed in or strange sediments that were found in tap water, nor was it nearly the strange mix of nothingness and plastic that bottled water carried. It was water as it was meant to be – refreshing, and absolutely delicious. It tasted good and made her feel good.
stepped closer to Ambrose, chuckling nervously as she splashed at him.
Ambrose was starting to rub handfuls of water over his arms and chest as he was venturing deeper when Angelina surprised him with the splash. He looked up instinctively, his face turning bright red as he realized he looked right up and at her topless figure. And instantaneously, before he could look away, he appreciated that even without the support of her clothing, she was perky, tight, slender. “Angelina!” He gasped, but there was the hint of a smile on his lips as the stress was washing off of him. And then, the unthinkable for the prudish Ambrose: he smiled ruefully and splashed back.
subconsciously craved this release - to laugh, to play... to put the stress away
and ignore the panic that was hedging. She laughed as he splashed her back,
feeling good to have fun for the first time that very long day. She took
a deep breath and dived under the water, trying her best to "sneak" up behind
Ambrose - though the crystal water made it difficult.
Ambrose grinned playfully as he watched her form moving beneath the surface of the water, rotating in place. While the line of her figure was distorted by the rippling pool, she was easy to follow, and he eyed her like a predator anticipating the pounce, ready to catch her when she sprung up at him.
reached out under the water and tugged playfully at his underwear, but not hard
enough to actually remove them, but to make a point. She came up for air not
too far away from him, laughing breathily between trying to inhale, Ambrose
catching the line of water from her hair and she flipped it back. Angelina’s
lips tingled like they’d been kissed from where the water washed over them. Her
body felt clean, warm and supple.
Ambrose let loose a startled mix between a shout and a laugh as Angelina made her point, a hand going protectively to his underwear as she surfaced. And this time, Ambrose didn’t look away. He blushed, but was caught up, watching her brown hair catch the fading light as it arced over her shoulders.
play fair.” He called back to her, sinking down to his knees so that the water
covered his shoulders. It was like the whole lake was caressin him, carrying
away some of his stress and restraint. Despite the circumstances, he felt more
relaxed than he could remember, letting loose and releasing some of the pent up
stress that he eternally kept a tight seal on. For the years he’d been in high
school, and the bragging stories he’d heard in the locker room that he had never
dared to partake, he was beginning to see some of the appeal. He’d never gone
skinny dipping before, especially not with someone else. He’d never done
the crazy parties or strip poker or all the other risqué games that seemed to
pepper most guys’ high school experiences. Maybe… he could live a little,
and not have it change him too much.
"I was trying to play fair..." she said with a smirk, her eyes darting town to where his body disappeared into the waterline. She didn't pull away from his wandering eyes, but she stayed a respectable (or teasing) distance away from him - not because she was afraid he would do anything inappropriate, but more concerned that if they touched it might bust a hole in this emotional and physical dam of sexual tension that was building up around them.
“By whose rules?” He countered with a smirk.
Ambrose wondered to himself, was the ‘friends zone’ that he had found himself in
with Angelina was him just trying to resist the temptation to take that next
step. For fear of compromising his own rigid code or disappointing his
parents. But it was incredibly difficult to pretend that she was anything but a
beautiful young woman who was interested in him here and now. Unless he
was just so non-threatening that she felt comfortable in her nakedness… But even
Ambrose had a hard time of believing that line right then. She was stunning.
The way the velvety violet light played over her in the fading day – reflecting
off of the water and playing over her wet skin. Ambrose sunk a little lower
into the water, hoping that with some added depth, the crystal clear water would
obscure what he was certain his boxer briefs weren’t.
Finally, as if snapping out of a dream, Ambrose cleared his throat, splashed some more water in her direction, and dove completely under the water, pushing off from the bottom to zip like a torpedo through the water. He was trying to clear his head, hoping that movement and swimming might help him return to his normal, rational thoughts. But it felt so nice completely submerged, he could feel the subtle currents playing along his body, ruffling his hair. The thoughts of moving through silken bedsheets rather than water entered his mind before he finally broke the surface a distance from Angelina, filling his lungs again.
He was clean now. At least his body was. “We should start setting up for the night!” He called back to her.
Angelina was beginning to relax, leaning back in the water and began to float as she looked up at the darkening sky, a stunning display of stars beginning to emerge through the breathtaking hues of color dusk was providing. She let herself get lost, feeling the water lift her gently up and down, caressing her. It felt, well, very similar to getting high. A pleasant, colorful, mellow high.
Ambrose's voice eventually brought her back to reality. He was right...they had no lamp so they needed to get settled in before it got too dark to see. "Coming," she said lazily, swimming back over towards him and the slope of the lake's bank. She crawled out of the water and began to wring out her hair, smiling bashfully back over at Ambrose as she sat on a nearby rock, the water no longer provided its flimsy illusion of modesty.
strode easily out of the lake, breathing in the evening air. He had never been
high before, but the dusk at the lake’s edge was absolutely stunning. The
opening of the trees revealed a dazzling array of stars. He could see so many
more than he could in the city, and as the lake itself settled down, they were
mirrored almost perfectly in its glasslike sheen. The colors of the sunset were
so incredibly vivid, nearly a rainbow of hues as the calls of the wildlife began
to change as the night creatures took over the shift.
And just as radiant as the view was Angelina, sitting on the rock and wringing out her hair like some fairy tale mermaid. He ran his fingers through his own, much shorter hair, grabbing a towel from his pack and patting himself over briefly before passing it to Angelina. “I’ll gather some wood from around the lake. I won’t leave your sight.” He promised, knowing how easy it could be to get lost in these woods first hand.
snickered as Ambrose promised not to let her leave his sight. I bet, she
thought to herself.
He walked the perimeter, picking up fallen branches – enough to build a fire with, and built a cone with some of the wood and moss as kindling, surrounding it with small rocks. Then he dipped his shirt and pants in the lake, squeezing them out and tossing them over a branch. Hopefully they’d be dry by morning.
followed suit with Ambrose about wetting her clothes and hanging them out to dry
on a branch: though she did pull on her panties while he was out gathering
He sat down, pulled out his lighter, and within a few minutes had the fire started, just as the last rays of sunlight was dropping beneath the horizon.
“I can think of worse places to be stuck, at least.” Ambrose commented softly.
"Yeah, that's true," she said, sitting next to Ambrose, tauntingly close. "I just hope it doesn't get as cold." She pulled her knees to her chest and enjoyed the heat of the fore against her bare skin.
“I hope so
too. At least we have the fire tonight. The wood I found should be able to
keep it going for at least a while.” A pregnant pause hung in the air. “We
might have to … get closer tonight to stay warm regardless.” He risked a bashful
glance up at her again, watching the flickering firelight play over her
He reached into his backpack and pulled out the food he’d brought, handing Angelina some mixed nuts and dried fruit, frowning briefly as he looked at the supply. He’d only planned on two more ‘meals’.
Angelina just smiled to him, but didn't protest to his suggestion. She let her fingers linger over his for just a second longer than normal as he passed her her 'dinner.'
Eating junk food for several days on end, however, didn't phase Angelina much. She didn't exactly have the most attentive mother, and she had to get her dinner from the gas station more than once before she was old enough to use the stove.
"Too bad we didn't bring your S'mores..." she said wistfully.
Angelina’s touch was electric, and he looked up to her, holding her eyes for a moment before engrossing himself in opening his meal. “Actually, I didn’t leave food in the tent,” He smiled, “They say it’s a bad idea. Invites unwanted attention from wildlife. I was saving that for dessert,” He winked. But, he regretfully thought about the changes of clothes and other things he’d left behind in the tent.
"Perfect," she purred, popping some more trail mix between her lips. "Sounds like we're having a real camping trip finally," she mused, despite being lost. "So where in the hell do you think we are?"
Chuckling, Ambrose responded, “Yeah… Sorry I was so… work-minded yesterday.
Probably serves me right that I lost our way.” He sighed. “And… I mean, we
have to just be in the stretch of woods out of town.” Right?
He pulled out his phone again, trying and failing again to get a signal. “But… specifically where we are. I can’t say.”
Finally, he put it up and pulled out the crackers, chocolate bar, and package of marshmallows. There were ample branches thanks to the trees and he snapped off a pair, handing one to her, putting on a genial smile.
Angelina shrugged. "It's kind of a nice diversion, as long as we find a road soon," she admitted, taking the ingredients from Ambrose. "So I've only had the prepacked ones of these before. You roast the marshmallow first, yes?"
Ambrose shook his head with a ‘tsk. “Those are not the real thing.” He chided
with a smile.
He nodded, lancing one of the marshmallows and leading by example. “Yes, precisely. You toast the marshmallow, and when it’s brown on the outside - try not to catch it on fire! – you place it on a graham cracker, put a piece of chocolate on top, hopefully the hot marshmallow well make that a little melty, and then a top piece of graham cracker..” He illustrated, and then handed it to Angelina for the first sampling.
Angelina took a bite and grinned. "Wow, yeah, those taste anything like the prepackaged ones." She skewered a marshmallow of her own, held it over the fire, frowning as it promptly caught on fire. "Goddammit," she growled, pulling it back and blowing it out.
She handed Ambrose's back and finished assembling her own, happily munching. As she ate, a dollop of melted marshmallow and chocolate squished out, falling onto her chest, right at the curve of her breast. Angelina hissed at the initial burn - then caught Ambrose's eyes and broke into a gigglefit.
laughed, losing himself in the moment, and unable to help but let his eyes
linger on where the splotch of gooey white that fell onto Angelina’s chest. He
cleared his throat, coughing a few times, a blush rising again to his cheeks,
betraying the place that his mind went.
He almost offered to get it for her. Almost.
“It’s all right. They’re messy. And the marshmallows catch fire easily. You just have to hold them a little further from the fire, and be patient.” He winked. He took a bite of his own, making a murmur of delight. It had been years since he’d had a real s’more. It had been a long time since he unwound even a bit. At the same time, this was a fond childhood memory, and indulgence and something frivolous, while indulging in something forbidden, sharing the campfire with Angelina, both nearly nude.
Angelina scooped the stray spill with her finger and plopped it into her mouth with a playful waggle of her eyebrows. The next few s'mores went a bit better, eating several until her stomach strained in protest. She washed her hands in the lake and then came back to sit very close to Ambrose as the night's pleasant coolness settled over them.
"Look at the stars out here," she breathed, looking up over the lake. "I almost don't want to go back."
“Don’t say that,” Ambrose said softly, glancing over to Angelina before tossing another branch onto the fire. “Its undoubtedly beautiful out here…” He continued, glancing up at the stars, which were out in full now, shimmering above them and mirrored in the water. “But you can’t just run away from life.”
"Would be nice, though, eh?" she said, looking at him out of the corner of her eye. She shrugged. "Anyway, I wasn't being serious. It's just really beautiful out here."
He responded, but there was a hesitance to his voice. “It can be easy to forget
how big the world really is. How much more there is to school and work…” He
took in a lungfull of the night air, tinged with just a hint of the aroma of
crispy marshmallows and wood smoke.
“And I have to admit… the swim was fun… I needed that,” He said with another sidelong glance to Angelina.
"You need a lot of things, Ambrose," she said, looking into the fire. "But I'm glad you had fun. You need more fun in your life. Especially before you don't have any free time left for the things you love."
elbowed her softly at her insinuation, but as she continued to speak, his face
took on a more somber expression, the corners of his mouth pulling back and
forming a crease in his face. He knew he wouldn’t have time to continue
fencing if he went into medical school like his parents wanted him to. Not to
mention all the other things he already didn’t make time for. “Maybe you’re
right.” He said begrudgingly, but he still hadn’t decided. The weight of the
future felt heavier and heavier every day.
“But for tonight, we should probably turn in… I’ve got another towel I can lay out… and we can use our packs as pillows.” He was deflecting, stalling the thoughts again. But he didn’t have to decide anything tonight. And he was looking forward to snuggling next to Angelina by the campfire.
Angelina nodded as she stifled a yawn. She waited patiently for Ambrose to lay out the meager towel and set up the packs as impromptu pillows. She waited for Ambrose to lay down first and get settled, before sliding over to him and laying next to him. She gave him a bashful smile and she moved closer, pressing her back against his bare chest, using him for warmth.
The heady sensations of near-intoxication as they relaxed in the lake, as they let down their guard and laughed while they ate gooey treats returned as they began to drift off to sleep. Their bodies relaxed and the sensation of literally falling into a blanket of darkness met them that night as sleep took hold of them and pulled their consciousnesses down deep, divorcing them entirely from their waking selves and rational minds. The dreams that washed over the pair seemed to feed and build off of the palpable sexual tension that clung to the duo as they lay down to rest that night.
dreams seemed to pick up where the dreams the previous night left off…
Angelina was once more walking through the darkened woods, the strong presence of another nearby, following her. But this time, she was certain she was the one leading the way. The leaves crunched behind her, echoing her soft footfalls. She could hear a growling, heavy breathing, feel his presence behind her. And it excited her. She wanted him to catch her. To take her. To claim her. A powerful, booming roar of a howl split the night, sending chills down her spine, and she broke into a run. Not from fear.
And the chase was on.
A galumphing gait crashed behind her, fearsome growls emanated from the beast’s throat as it easily gained on her. And then – she knew it before it happened – a spring and a collision of bodies as they tumbled to the ground.
She was looking up at the beast now – a long muzzle full of sharp teeth, amber eyes alight with flame, and a massive weight upon her. She could sense its hunger. For her. And a moment later, she was roughly rolled over as its jaws closed around her neck: holding her fast, but not breaking the skin. What followed, though, was a blossom of pain and pleasure as he took her, claimed her. Driving a long, hard, distinctly pointed cock into her.
And in the
dream, Angelina loved it.
For Ambrose, his dream opened with the freeing sensation of running through the woods once more – away from responsibilities or expectations. Just him and the woods. It took him some time to realize, as he tore through the trees that seemed incredibly real to him, that he was running on all fours. But… it did not seem strange to him in the dream. It seemed… right. Of course he was – it was faster... and he felt fast. Strong. Hungry.
His prey was in these woods, pulling him to her like a dog on a leash. It was irresistible… not that he wanted to resist. Every fiber of his being needed it. Hungered for it. His ears pricked and he let loose a booming howl as he heard it begin to run. It was irresistible now. He gave chase, knowing that he could overtake his prey. And when he caught a glimpse of tantalizing red, he pounced.
And suddenly, he realized that he wasn’t hungry for food, but something quite different, as he looked down at the girl. He knew her, but in the dream just how he knew her was unclear. He just knew he had to have her. And he could smell how she needed him. An overpowering NEED filled him, and in this state, in this dream – powerful, bestial, free, he did not hesitate. He took.
For the two of them, what followed was powerful, passionate fucking – not the tasteful lovemaking that Ambrose often imagined, or even the raw hormone-driven sex that Angelina had engaged in before. The dream was incredibly vivid, and only when the two were both nearing climax in the dream did Ambrose and Angelina awake with a start.
The dream remained vividly in both their minds, and their bodies ached with unfulfilled desire. However, the morning light that now touched the lake and stained the sky a soft peach brought with it realizations of just what they were doing… and what they were doing it with or as. And while Ambrose could remember now the face of the girl in the dream was unmistakably his friend, Angelina, Angelina’s chimerical partner was unrecognizable as any other than the monstrous wolf he appeared to be.
Ambrose woke with a gasp, horrified and humiliated with the thoughts that his subconscious had brought to him, and exceedingly uncomfortable with the very noticeable morning companion that accompanied it. How he had acted, so very literally bestial… so much the antithesis to the gentleman he strove to be. He immediately felt guilty, wondering if the improper thoughts he’d had the night before – watching Angelina bathe, sitting and eating with her nearly nude had spawned this dark fantasy. He rubbed at his temples with a groan, shifting uncomfortably and sincerely hoping that Angelina didn’t feel the distinctive poking in her back.
Angelina's eyes shot open with a small gasp. The morning light pierced her vision and she closed her eyes, groaning softly as her body pulsed with the frustrating sense of unfulfillment. Acting without thinking, her hand wandered down her body, resting on her lower stomach, her fingers sliding under the elastic of her panties before her mind finally caught up to where she was. Her eyes snapped open again and she awoke with a start, sitting up and looking over to Ambrose.
She forced an awkward smile, though she felt for the time very...naked. In a sudden burst of modesty, she crossed her arms and forced a nervous giggle as she looked over Ambrose, who looked just as embarrassed and uncomfortable as she did. Her cheeks burned red: has she been moaning or something in her sleep? He looked like she had just caught him with his hand in the cookie jar.
She gave a nod to him and slid over to where their clothes were drying and hastily pulled on her damp shirt.
TO BE CONTINUED...