It comes down harder. The thunder gets louder and the clouds begin lighting up. It’s not cold; it’s humid. There’s no wind, but my teeth’re chattering.
And the bridge is nowhere in sight.
“I don’t wanna get struck by lightning,” I tell him.
Rory keeps moving. “We’ve stopped too many times.”
“What if this is Pequot Creek? What then?”
He turns and pushes me. “We wouldn’t be here if you didn’t run off.”
I glare, turn, and go sit under a pine tree. “If you really wanna keep walking, go ahead. I’m not going to stop you.”
His jaw’s clenched and he kicks mud towards me. “You fuckin’ piece of shit!” he shouts, stomps over to a nearby pine tree, and sits down on a rock by the trunk. “If we get sick, I’m murdering you before you can die.”
I stand when I realize I’ve been sitting in mud, which makes my stomach turn with anxiety.
“Oh, sweet fuckin’ Jesus,” I hear Rory groan. He stands up and takes off his poncho. When I don’t move, he gestures me to come over. “Unless you wanna wash your ass off in the rain, come take mine.” I walk over and take it. Rory’s still glaring, like it’s inconveniencing for him. Which it kinda is. “Your mom’d never let me live down that you threw yourself in the river because you had, like, a fuckin’ panic attack.” Rory throws on my mud-ridden poncho on and slams his back into the tree trunk. “Now don’t talk to me.”
I sit on the rock beside him. I check my phone just to see if I have reception, which I don’t. When I look up, I just see the rain coming down. No lumpy clouds, just a grey, cloudless sky. “I’m kinda surprised we haven’t found a trail yet.”
“Shut up.” My eyes drop to the mud under my shoes, and my first impulse is to try and scrape it off. “If you’re trying to do that, go stand in the fuckin’ river.” Rory cups his face in his hands and stares off in another direction.
I do the same and wait. For what, I’m not sure, but I wait with Rory in the rain under a tree.
A few lightning flashes later, I can’t stand it anymore. “You don’t like me that much.” I finally say.
“Shut the fuck up.”
I drum my fingers on my leg until Rory tells me to stop. “Then let’s talk about something.”
“Because I don’t.”
“So you don’t like me that much.”
Rory looks away. “What’s there to like?”
I sigh. Leaning forward, I ask, “What was it that started us doing this?”
He looks at me for a minute, either staring daggers at me or thinking. I can feel a snappy, swear-word-ridden sentence coming, but instead, he says, “…I don’t remember.” His voice is really soft.
The air’s turning hot despite the rain. “I do wanna call a truce, Rory.” I look away and add, “Mom keeps promising me to be nice to you, and it…doesn’t really play out.”
“My mom does the same thing.” Rory shrugs. “Maybe we’re just not meant to be nice to each other.”
“Well, for what it’s worth,” I say, looking back at him, “I’m sorry I turned your family against you. Even if you had it coming.”
Rory sniffs and looks away. “And I guess I’m sorry for being way smarter and better than you at pranking.”
“Making me relive Carrie was not a prank.”
I can hear him swallow. “I am sorry for that. I…just thought you’d break my nose or something, not burn yourself.”
I inhale and stretch my legs out. I don’t know how to describe what happened because I only remember little things about it, like my mind’s shut it out. “Well, I’m sorry I texted everyone in your phone that you liked them.”
He smirks and looks at me. “Kinda worked for some of them.” He holds his gaze with me and adds, “I’m sorry about the bugs.”
I look down at my phone, which still doesn’t have any reception. I stand and ask, “Wanna head on?”
Rory’s eyes watch the clouds as lightning glows in the sky. “I’d rather eat mud.”
I look around and grab a clumpy piece of mud and smear it on his poncho. “I’m walking. Now you can eat that and get off the mountain with me.”
He grumbles and stands to his feet. “Screw you, Rivera.” Rory still brushes the mud off him, then wipes his hand on a tree.
“Think of it this way – if I go back alone, they’ll still come looking for you. Maybe try to turn this against you.” I offer my hand as thunder rumbles in the distance. “At least walking with me makes it look like a joint effort.”
Rory sighs and shakes my hand. “Fine.”
I inhale and pull out my phone again. I ask, “So staying with the river?”
I nod my head and turn. “Then let’s go.”
~ ~ ~
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