Authors: Jessica Gray
Stepping out of the borrowed tent, I watched everyone for a minute in silence, wondering what I was supposed to do now. My anger at Michael came rushing back and my only thought was finding him and telling him off!
One of the girls noticed me and waved me over, “You look a little worse for wear.”
I shrugged; I didn’t want to talk to a complete stranger. I was also embarrassed that I had gotten drunk and fallen asleep on them. How stupid could I get! Something really bad could have happened last night!
“Hey, we saved you breakfast, if you’re interested.”
“Thanks,” I said. “You don’t happen to have any coffee?”
She laughed, “Sure. I’m Marilee by the way. Hey Peter, sleeping beauty’s awake.”
I turned to see whom she talked to and cringed. The most gorgeous guy in the group looked over at us and with a shake of his head and a disdainful look dismissed me. Still looking at Peter, I asked, “What’s his problem?”
“Women in general, I think. He went through a bad breakup a while back and has basically kept to himself.”
I looked at the man in question and figured he probably had women throwing themselves at him all the time. The guy was in great physical shape, had a gorgeous body and his cerulean blue eyes would make most women melt. Myself included.
I had seen him on the trail yesterday, and had attempted to bring him into our conversation with a little light flirting. He had completely ignored me.
I realized the girl next to me was still talking and tried to catch up.
“… he has room on the back of his bike. He’ll help you try to find your campsite this morning and then meet the rest of us at the trailhead. We’re headed up Half Dome today.”
“Great. I’m ready to go whenever he is.”
“Hey, Peter, she’s ready to head out.”
Peter glanced over one more time, raking me from head to foot before shaking his head and finishing his conversation.
I had never felt so dismissed! What was wrong with this guy!
He came over to me several minutes later, walking past with a muttered, “Let’s go.”
I followed behind meekly, knowing that I should be grateful, but not liking his attitude one bit.
“Do you even have a clue as to where you made camp yesterday?” he asked, derision evident in his voice.
I pointed up the road, “About half a mile up that way.”
He climbed on the bike and steadied it while I did the same. I placed my hands behind me, holding onto the seat. I didn’t want to hold onto him if I didn’t have to. We headed up the road at a gentle pace and I kept my eyes open, looking for the large rocks that had marked the dirt path leading to our campsite.
Why had Michael left last night without me? It didn’t make any sense.
When I spotted the rocks up ahead, I got excited. Pointing over Peter’s shoulder, I yelled, “That’s it right there.”
Peter navigated the bike around the ruts in the road. When I saw the top of my tent, I was so relieved, I forgot myself and hugged the man in front of me. He didn’t return my enthusiasm, but he did stop the bike.
I scrambled off, anxious to change into clean clothes and have it out with Michael. Maybe he would take me home and we could forget about what had happened?
I turned to thank Peter, taken aback by the look on his face, “Uhm..thanks for the ride.”
“You’re not very bright are you?” he asked.
“What? Who do you think you are! You don’t even know me!”
“Evidence speaks for itself. An inexperienced climber comes up here and expects everyone to help watch over her. Did you even think about the burden you were putting on Michael when you started drinking last night? I saw his face when he left; he was one pissed off dude. I can’t say I blame him, with the way you were acting.”
I was so furious I couldn’t think straight.
Who did this guy think he was and what gave him the right to pass judgment on me? Michael and I were just friends, he didn’t have any claim on my time or affections.
“Hey, I don’t have to listen to this. Thanks for the ride.” I turned and had the pleasure of dismissing him. Peter was arrogant and opinionated. Two things I didn’t need to deal with right now. I had enough problems to solve with Michael. The mere thought of having to spend some more days with that rat made me almost puke. What kind of guy dumps a girl in the middle of nowhere! I mean, he’s a friend of Karen, so he should be a decent person, right?
I heard Peter gun the bike and leave, no doubt headed to the ranger station to get their passes to hike Half Dome. I rounded the bushes that concealed our camp and stopped short.
There stood only one tent! My tent! Where was Michael’s tent?!
When I unzipped my tent, all of my stuff was neatly stacked in the middle of the tent, along with half of the groceries we had bought for the week. No note indicating that he might be coming back.
He had abandoned me in the middle of nowhere!
Oh my god! I panicked for all of two minutes. Images of myself meandering helplessly in the dark forest, starving to death, attacked by wild animals formed in my head. I quickly shook of those thoughts and tried to calm down. I needed to find help and the closest help had ridden off on his motorbike, headed for the ranger station. I remembered having seen it as we drove in yesterday. It probably was about half a mile away.
Without any further thought I changed out of my sandals into my tennis shoes and headed out, running as fast as possible with my pounding head and dehydrated body.
I promised myself to never ever drink so much as one drop of alcohol again!
Relieved to see the rooftop of the ranger station I quickened my pace, hoping that Peter was still in there. I saw his bike parked out front, and stopped to catch my breath. I needed to calmly explain my situation to him, and then he would take me back to their camp. Since they all lived in Santa Clara, maybe they would give me a ride to town with them.
Before I walked up the stairs, Peter came sauntering out and stopped short when he saw me, “Didn’t I leave you up the road? Am I never getting rid of you again?”
I nodded, “I need to talk to you for a minute.“
“I don’t have a minute. The group is waiting on these permits.”
I swallowed hard and whispered, “Please. I…” I tried to contain the tears that threatened to spill over as the reality of my situation hit home. “Michael left me. He dumped my stuff in my tent and is gone. No trace of him or his things. He didn’t leave a note and I don’t think he’s coming back.”
Peter looked a bit puzzled at me and started laughing. By the look of his face I knew that he was silently applauding Michael for his actions.
What did this jerk know?
“Guess he really was pissed off last night. You should do a lot less drinking and flirting when your boyfriend’s around. That’ll keep you out of trouble.”
That was enough! I screamed in frustration, “He’s not my boyfriend! He’s buddies with my roommate Karen. He wanted to take her on this trip, but she went to visit her parents. So I offered to go to get some climbing experience in, and he said yes. And now he’s abandoned me in the middle of nowhere and I have no idea what to do or how I’m supposed to get home and….,” I finally ran out of breath and the tears started dwelling up again. But I wouldn’t give this jerk the satisfaction to see me crying and quickly turned away.
Peter had stopped laughing by now and looked at me sternly, “He’s not your boyfriend? That’s pretty convenient, isn’t it?”
I shook my head, leaning my hands on my thighs to catch my breath and hold back my tears. “He’s not. I don’t have a boyfriend. I’ve hardly even dated the last year I’ve been so busy….” My voice trailed off. Why the hell did I even defend myself? This Peter had no business in my relationship status.
Peter tried to tamp down on the urge to offer comfort to her. She looked so fragile and vulnerable. Even though he wouldn’t admit it even to himself, he was immensely attracted to her. Her slim body, her long legs, the way she moved elegantly and swung her head to move that stubborn little strand of hair back in place. He’d love to take her into his arms and kiss the tears, the angst and the sorrow away. He wanted to murmur ‘Shh, everything will be fine’ into her ear and touch those luscious lips with his.
He shook his head to banish those inappropriate thoughts. He was a man of principles and didn’t allow himself to be attracted to another man’s girl. And he reminded himself, that he couldn’t stand flirts like her. His ex-girlfriend, Lara, had been exactly like this Rachel. Flirting with everyone she met, standing him up whenever the mood suited her – he should have dumped her sorry ass months before he actually did.
A little doubt nagged at him, though.
Had he misjudged her that badly? Michael had sure acted like a boyfriend.
Well, evidence spoke against her, and he decided this was probably a convenient lie of hers to make him help. He knew how those manipulative women worked. “Do you make it a habit of going camping with men you barely know?”
She looked at him like a wounded fawn “No. I told you…”
I’m not gonna fall for her. She’s just like Lara. She just wants to manipulate me.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. I got what you told me.“
Crazy college girl!
He muttered under his breath.
“So, will you help me, please? Perhaps you could help me get my stuff back to where you guys are camping and I could hitch a ride home in someone’s car?”
Peter shook his head, “I don’t think they have room in one of the cars. They are all packed up to the roof.” When he saw her face fall, he couldn’t help but feel sympathy for her and offered a small glimmer of hope, “But, hey, I might be wrong.”
Peter got on the bike and gestured with his head, “Hop on. I have to get these permits back to the group.”
It became clear that my stuff was never going to fit on the back of the bike. Peter grew impatient and made no pretense otherwise. Finally, he’d had enough, “OK. Leave your stuff here. We’ll head down and send somebody up here with a vehicle to haul it back to our campsite.”
I nodded, not wanting to rock the boat. It was evident that Peter reckoned like he was babysitting me and we were starting to get on each other’s nerves. “Fine. Let’s go.”
I walked to the bike and waited for him to mount up before I climbed on. At the campsite, everyone was ready to tackle Half Dome. Peter explained briefly what had occurred and everyone seemed really empathetic. The men and the women in the group had some choice words for Michael – nothing I hadn’t already called him a million times in my head.
Marilee offered to help me retrieve my stuff and we made short work of that. After returning to their camp, I proposed to stay at the campsite for the day, while they went out on their hike, but they would hear nothing of it. Ten minutes later I found myself, backpack and water bottle headed towards Half Dome with a bunch of strangers I had met less than 12 hours ago. It was the weirdest feeling, knowing that I was dependent upon this group of strangers for my very survival.
This trip to Yosemite with Michael had been one of my most outrageous adventures yet. Usually I preferred to stay in the safety of my comfort zone. If I had known what would happen, I’d still lie on my sofa and read a good book! It had felt safe to go with him, because he’s the buddy of my roommate. What a mistake! I was horrified with the possibilities of what else could go wrong, but tried not to show any trace of anxiety. Instead I put on the most assuring smile I was capable of.
I quickly learned everyone’s names and realized that this eclectic bunch of people all lived in Santa Clara, but not all of them were college students. There were two married couples along, Seth and Barbara and Seth’s sister – Anne and her husband Tom. They had met at college and made this a yearly trip to kick off summer.
Peter was friends with Seth and had been climbing and hiking with him since high school. All of these people were nearing thirty, but they didn’t seem old to me.
Three single girls, the one’s whose tent I had slept in last night had the names Marilee, Jamie and Sarah. All three of them students at the same college I attended, and roommates. Marilee was Seth’s younger sister and her fiancé, a Marine, currently attended training mission for the next three weeks.
The other two single guys, Mark and Brad, were also college students who had just graduated. Both planned to head off to graduate school in the fall. Overall, the group was a good mixture of people who liked nature and having fun.
They made me feel welcome, well - most of them did. Peter didn’t seem to be too happy that I now formed part of their group. I tried to stay out of his way and observed him doing exactly the same. That was fine by me. Once we returned home, our paths would likely never cross again.
We climbed and hiked for two days and enjoyed the evenings around the campfire. I actually learned quite a bit about climbing during the second day, and it was a lot more fun than I had anticipated. I loved the challenge of pitting my strength and knowledge against nature. It was exhilarating!