The Hike

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” I said of the green brush and trimmed grass that faded into the forest. The water rushes across dense rocks, which merged into a creek, leading to a waterfall. I had an engagement ring tucked deep in my pocket. I’d been with Rachel for going on five years now. Rachel loved to hike, and, for her, any reason was better than none. I’m not so much the hiking type. I’m more of a movie, workout, and chill type.

“Now I can see why you woke me up so early,” Rachel said, embracing my arm as if I were a soldier soon to leave to fight for oil in the Middle East. She sucked in a lungful mountain air. “Should we put up the tent first, or hike further?”

I scanned the distance. “There…” I pointed in the general direction upstream from the river. “We can camp there.”

Rachel slammed her eyes shut and took several more deep breathes. I could tell that something bothered her; I didn’t want to ask, though. I didn’t want to ruin this moment. I embraced her, giving her several quick pecks on her lips.

We set up the tent without reading the directions. This had only happened one other time. I was in the eighth grade, and my brother and I had to put up a tent at camp. We didn’t read the directions, and it looked like–well, let’s just say it didn’t look so well.

I held my finger to my chin and read the instructions. I watched Rachel cover a smile. It was the worst feeling ever. It was as if she had little confidence in me or thought that I was too uptight.

“My Dad used to take me camping all the time,” she said. “Throw me the poll. Not that one,” she said, pointing to a shorter one. “My brother would kick my ass if I didn’t put up the tent just right. I stayed in the tent and read books while the guys went fishing.”

“Not the fishing type, are you?” I said. I’d never been fishing either, though. I was scared to death of the water. I could let her know that I was a complete wildlife loser.

“Haven’t been fishing either, have you?” Rachel smiled without me admiring it. “So, you brought me here for more than just camping, didn’t you?”

I scratched the back of my neck.

“Can’t a guy bring his girl on an outdoor adventure?”

“Yeeeesssss,” she said, raising a brow. “But, usually there’s some kind of reason.”

I pointed at the tent. “How does it look?”

She folded her arms across her chest. “Not going to answer me?”

This was the first time I’d ever taken Rachel camping. I’d brought Rachel here to pop the question–to ask her to marry me. I needed someplace special. Someplace unexpected. Someplace she’d never forget. I could have been one of those guys who asked their partner to marry them in a park. Instead, I took Rachel to the real outdoors. And although there were several mountains, it was secluded. Very few people were in sight.

(sample of the unedited version)

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