The river’s gotten wider with the rain, so we begin weaving our way in and out of trees away from the sides. Rory walks shoulder-to-shoulder with me, not saying anything. At this point, there really isn’t anything to say, either. We just wanna get out of the rain.
I step first through some branches and hold them back. Rory passes by me next and I swear I hear him say, “Thanks” but I’m not super sure. I run ahead again, but see him turning around a cluster of trees in front of me. I turn and let the branches go back.
“Fuck!” Rory’s hand is over his face. “You did that on purpose!”
“I thought you were going around!” I shout. The wind’s picking up.
“Augh, God!” He pulls his hands away. The skin’s only lightly torn across his face. There’s only a little blood. Rory wipes his face with his hands and then wipes the blood on my poncho. “There. I’m muddy and you’re bloody,” he says, grinning.
I don’t have time to say that I was the one originally muddy because I run out into the rain and wash it away. At least it isn’t touching me. When it’s mostly gone, I go back to Rory. “Fuck…sorry.”
Rory’s got torn skin in pretty straight lines around one eye and over the bridge of his nose. He pushes past me and look up into the rain, rubbing his face hard. “Are you gonna stand around or are we gonna find this fuckin’ bridge?”
I nod, and we keep going. Rory’s basically pulling me along by my poncho until we get to the top of a small hill.
And there it is. The bridge over the Calumet River. This low, wooden thing that looks like it’s been there since, like, a million years ago.
I sigh, relieved. But then lightning flashes across the sky.
“Good,” he says, turning to look at me. “Now I don’t have to look at you anymore.”
I run up and grab his arm, stopping him. “I said I wanted to call a truce.”
“That still doesn’t mean I’m gonna like you.” He swings me forward, and I land on my hands and knees in the mud. Before I can freak out, Rory tugs me to the side of the river.
The water’s ice cold. But that probably means it’ll be super clean. “Does that mean we can’t be nice?”
I look back at him. “I wanna break your nose again.”
“Break it one more time and I’ll break your arm again.”
“Aw. I figured if I break it one more time, I get a free sandwich.”
Rory cracks a smile, but he doesn’t actually look too happy about it. “Ya done, Princess?”
I stand when I figure my hands’re clean enough. And because I’ve basically been rubbing my hands with the rocks in the riverbed and they’ve turned red. So I figure I’ll shower when we get back to the Cottage. “I guess I – ”
Rory’s pulling my backpack and my poncho like a dog trying to go into the street. “Come on.”
“I’ll let go when you can keep up with me.”
And I only really pull away when I trip over a rock. I fall backwards onto rocks and almost crack my head if Rory’s foot wasn’t there. His foot stumbles over my head and he lands hard on his gut, wheezing. “You did that – ” He takes in a big inhale of air. “ – on p – ” Rory coughs like he’s sick and trying to get rid of phlegm.
The rain’s coming down harder. I stand up, rubbing my back. “If you weren’t dragging me, I’d of not made you trip.” I grab Rory’s arm and pull him along. “Now it’s my turn to pull you.”
“You think that I’d let you –” He begins coughing again, and his foot slips on some rocks.
“I’m not letting you break your neck until we’re back at the Cottage.” His arm goes around my neck and I pull him to his feet. “Whatever beef we have, it’s not okay now. We need to get help. Or reception.” Whichever comes first.
The thunder sounds like a goddamn train. It shakes the ground as easy as it is for someone to shake a table.
I’m hoping we find help first.
“Why’re you bothering?” Rory asks over the rain. He tries to push me away, except he can’t. Or at least his arm’s wiggling, but nothing’s happening. “I hate you.”
“Shut up! Shut! Up!” I screech in his ear, pounding my foot on the rocks. “You know I’d love to see you get everything you have coming to you, you fucking asshole, but now isn’t the time for us to pull our dicks out and see who’s bigger.” I inhale through my teeth. “If you’re just gonna complain more, shut you mouth. If you stop, congrats.”
Rory just grumbles as we climb up the rocks to the bridge. Which isn’t a hard climb, but it’s raining and the wind’s trying to either sweep us into the river or into the forest.
Thank God Rory has the strength to pull us onto the trail. I’m so fucking tired of carrying him.
“Hey.” I’m out of breath, and Rory falls to his knees. A park ranger approaches us from this shelter on the side of the trail, her hat bouncing raindrops off its stiff brim. “We’ve issued flood warnings up here. What’re you guys doing here alone?”
“Hi,” I pant. My head’s spinning and I can’t really see because my hair’s getting in my eyes. “Can you, like, call our parents for us?” When I look at Rory, wheezing on the ground like he’s just walked a thousand miles, I add, “Maybe a doctor?”