Ruby panted and puffed as she made her best effort to keep pace with her hiking partner. Marissa wasn’t too far ahead of her at the moment, but the trails where snakey and Ruby was deathly afraid of losing sight of her guide.
I need to keep up. She told herself silently, She can’t know how much of a slob I am.
Around her the forest was alive with energy. Bushes rustling with the scampering of unseen rodents, trees hosting the happy ballads of birds in heat.
Ruby hated all of it.
She hadn’t wanted to come out for a hike at all today, or ever if that was a option.
Ruby was the girl in highschool who spent her P.E. classes smoking cigarettes behind the bleachers, writing poetry about death and the end of the world while the other girls played softball.
Marissa was team captain.
They’d gone to the same high school, but never really interacted until they started working together. Ruby was bar manager at Father Gregori’s Abbey, one of the hipper bars on the downtown strip.
It was the kind of place that served all their drinks in mason jars, tin cups and novelty boots, with one of the older guys even bringing in a fishbowl for a special.
Really anything other than a normal glass was fair game according to the ownership.
A few weeks back Marissa had applied to be a hostess, a position Ruby was in charge of doing the hiring for. Despite her complete lack of experience – Marissa had never held a real job before – Ruby ran down the hostess qualifications of; is pretty, can smile, speaks without a stutter, and decided she was a perfect fit.
And this was before Ruby even knew Marissa liked girls.
“Mar,” She gasped, her heart feeling like it might explode. “Can we take a break for a second?”
“We’re almost there though,” Marissa replied before looking back to see the state Ruby was in. “It’s like, two kilometers stil.”
Slumping up against the side of an old oak tree, Ruby slipped into a coughing fit.
“On second thought, maybe let’s take that break.” Marissa teased, heading over to join Ruby. She sat next to her on a suitably comfortable looking rock, placing a compassionate hand on Ruby’s shoulder.
“You gonna be okay?” Marissa asked, sounding more than a little concerned.
“Yeah,” Ruby replied, quickly determining whether or not to tell Marissa the truth. “I’m just really hungover.” She finished, deciding transparency was the best option.
“Well yeah. No kidding.” Marissa responded with a soft chuckle. “You smell like a 40 of Old English that someone left out in the sun. I figured that’s why you were dragging your butt all across this trail.”
Ruby laughed at herself, “Yeah well, you finished up last night at 10. I was at work till 2 in the morning.”
“And you thought going out drinking after was the best option.”
Ruby shrugged, “Not much else to do at 2am.”
Marissa laughed again, so hard this time she snorted a little. “You’re so much different than the people I usually hang out with.”
“I know.” Ruby conceded, “You probably think I’m a total lame-ass.”
Marissa was used to sporty types like her. Girls who drank kombucha and wheatgrass and went for 5 mile runs before the sun came up.
To her surprise Marissa was shaking her head, “You aren’t a total lame-ass. Just a bit of one.”
“And besides,” Marissa continued, ignoring Ruby’s indignant, “I definitely couldn’t keep up if we were out drinking. 2 glasses of wine and I’m on the floor.”
“I’d like to put that to the test.” It was Ruby’s time to tease.
“Next time.” Marissa promised, “Third date you can buy me a drink.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
“But first we need to finish the hike. You haven’t even seen the best part yet!”
“Which is?” Ruby pressed.
“I told you it’s a surprise.” Marissa replied with a sly wink before heading back to the trail.
“You’ve been telling me we’re almost at the surprise for 8 kilometers…” Ruby grumbled unhappily.
“But now we really are.” Marissa assured. “Just listen.”
Ruby went silent, listening to the sounds of the forest as they sang in cacophonous melody. Then she heard it. The sound that didn’t belong.
“Is that water?” Ruby asked, suddenly feeling a rush of excitement course through her veins.
“Two more kilometers and you’ll find out.” Marissa baited like a carrot on a string.
“Fine, but I’m throwing you in the water when we get there…” Ruby mumbled.
“What was that?” Marissa asked.