On May 30, I’ll be publishing a new book in my series of short story collections. The first in the series was simply titled: It’s Complicated: Short Stories About Long Relationships. The next book will be It’s Too Complicated. Click to pre-order a signed copy.
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Below is an excerpt from the upcoming book. If you like this, be sure to read and share this post with someone else you think will enjoy It’s Complicated.
The metal water bottle she had clipped to her belt loop had been banging against the side of her left leg for the past twenty-five minutes (yes, she’d checked) but Tammy didn’t dare stop now. She scanned the rocky ground ahead with the large flashlight she held in her right hand, and kept up her almost-jogging pace.
“You don’t have to walk so fast, you know.” Luke had been complaining about her pace ever since they got out of the car, like walking a hundred miles (or so it felt) in the dark in unfamiliar territory hadn’t been his idea. “There’s nothing to be scared of, Tammy! And the stars will still be there whenever we get there. Just slow down, please.”
Tammy already had one foot atop a large rock, ready to scale the boulder in front of her like a champion rock-climber and press forward, but she jumped down and pointed the flashlight at him. His words offered no reassurance and she let him know.
“Why are you complaining? This wasn’t my bright idea.” She pointed the flashlight right at his face so Luke had to turn his head to avoid the glare. “I’m just going along with what you told me to do. You wanted to come out in the middle of nowhere to watch stars. You wanted to walk in a dark, lonely field at nighttime. I told you two hours is my limit and that includes the time it takes to get there. You wanted to walk with enough stuff like you’re moving into the wilderness. I am just keeping my promise. I am walking, I am going to go, do whatever we have to do and get the hell out of here as soon as possible. What’s in that bag anyway?” With the bright light finally out of his face and trained instead on the brown canvas sack he had been lugging on his shoulder like a hobo, Luke blocked the bag with his body as though the light was an X-ray.
She brought the flashlight’s beam back to Luke’s face but shuddered when she heard a movement somewhere in the distance. Curiosity forgotten, she jumped back on the rock ahead and starting moving again. “And I’m the crazy one for not wanting to be out here a minute longer than necessary? Or am I just a fool for being here at all?” She muttered to herself.
Seventeen minutes, several flies in her nose, way too many scares where she had jumped at random sounds, and one bruised left leg later, Tammy stepped into a clearing and stopped suddenly.
Up ahead, on top of a small hill, stood a cabin that looked like it had been built on purpose to be inhabited at least part-time, like it was part of someone’s regular routine, except she couldn’t imagine how they would get here considering how far away they had had to park.
Tammy trained the flashlight into the brush next to the cabin, looking again to see if there was any light or signs of activity in the cabin and then just dropped the flashlight at her side altogether.
Now that she looked at it, really looked at it, the scene in front of her was breathtaking. The stars illuminated the cabin and cast a pink shadow framing the windowless cabin wall and roof, darkened by rotten leaves that had fallen from the trees surrounding it.
Tammy swallowed hard with regret. If she had known it would be so beautiful, maybe she wouldn’t have given Luke such a hard time for insisting they come. But it was his fault for wanting to make everything a surprise. How was she supposed to know such beauty was in front of them when she was struggling to come through what felt like the jungle?
And the low grass on the little hill leading up to the makeshift shelter would be perfect for sitting and watching the stars. Maybe she’d even listen to him yammer on about the solstice as he tried to teach her about the stars yet again.
The sounds of leaves crunching behind her weren’t enough to pull Tammy’s attention away from the picturesque view but she leaned into Luke’s arms as he came up behind her. His woodsy smell was the perfect backdrop for the scene she was witnessing. It was strange that she hadn’t noticed it before.
“Isn’t it the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen? Thank you! Did you know this was here?”
He didn’t answer right away so Tammy turned her head to look at him, the forgotten flashlight unnecessary as the moon was just starting to crest the roof of the cabin.
She didn’t feel when the flashlight fell on her foot and rolled down the hill.
“Who are you? Where’s Luke?” was all she managed to whisper before the cloud, that seemed to be in collusion with the musky stranger, covered the moonlight and everything went black.