A little bit different
My footsteps echo from the gravel path as I look around to trees everywhere, and the grass of Mount Binevenagh is still ever so fresh, just the same as I had last seen it a summer ago. The yearly trek up the mountain is a tiresome one, but the lake above is divine and well worth it, I thought as I looked forward to setting camp here for the night. To dipping my hands in the cool crystal lake, watching the birds up high, admiring the stars at night and sitting by a toasty fire. I took a deep breath, crisp, clear, a perfectly quiet day, until someone tapped my shoulder halfway up the path.
“Hey, would you like some help with your bag? It looks heavy” said a stranger with eyes as grey as clouds of rain.
“No, I’ve got it, I come here every year with this bag” I said, noticing that he also had a bag as large as mine.
“Ah, I’m Ken by the way” he said while flashing me a smile.
Returning his smile, I said “Lilly… were your parents a fan of barbie?” His laugh was the most joyful thing and made me smile to know that he had a sense of humour.
“Not that I’m aware of, but I’m pretty sure there’s a character in the barbie films called Lilly as well”
I raised an eyebrow at that “Oh, so you are the barbie fan and not your parents”
He blushed a light hint at that “…I have a little sister who nags me to watch them with her”
“That’s what they all say”
Ken had turned out to be really easy to talk to, chatting all the way up the hill about how his quest for some peace led him here and how he couldn’t wait to see the lake, which he had called the lake of wonders upon seeing it. I watched him run to it, bag still on and couldn’t help but admire how he still had energy after two hours of uphill hiking, I was certainly tired and walked instead.
“Oh, it’s glorious” he said having taken his shoes off and dipped a foot in.
“Yeah, the water certainly is clear today” I said, breathing in the serene calm of mountain air. I come here every year precisely for this calm that I’ve never experienced anywhere but here; mountains are naturally calming but find a mountain with a lake of slowly moving water and it’s a surreal experience.
“Can I offer you cake for half a sandwich?” Ken said as we were sat down eating lunch
“You brought cake for lunch?”
“Yeah, I like cake” he shrugged
And I handed him a sandwich without another thought, chocolate has always been the one thing I couldn’t refuse, not even his smug grin could make me say no. Eating for me requires absolute quiet, to divide even a quarter of attention away from your food is a crime in my mind, and so we didn’t speak again until after lunch when we were setting up our tents a little ways from the lake, well I was setting up my tent, Ken it turns out had only brought a sleeping bag, a waterproof sleeping bag was what the clerk at the shop had told him.
“How many nights are you staying?” He asked while I worked at nailing down my tent
“Just the one night”
“Ah, same here” He said “I’ll go look for firewood, the sun is beginning to set”
I hummed in response and heard him leave as I realized how different this year’s trip was going to be, how different it already was now that I had company, and strangely, I didn’t mind it, a handsome man for company on a summer trip. What a story this will be I thought as I nailed down the last flap of the tent at the same time Ken returned with a pile of twigs in his arms.
I watched him approach me with a dashing smile before getting to work on arranging the wood and lighting a fire. He had done it with such ease that I wondered if it was actually he who camped here every year and not myself.
“Do you go camping often?” I said warming my hands with the fire.
“Yeah, my family were big on ‘wilderness survival training’ when I was younger, in fact my dad used to harp on about how you weren’t really sleeping in nature if you brought a tent, that you couldn’t drift off to the sight of stars if you were in a tent” he said with a fondness shinning in his eyes.
My gaze drifted up on the mention of stars, “…I suppose he does have a point about the stars, they are beautiful”
A moment of silence went by as we admired the stars before Ken spoke again, his tone a playfully deep “How about you forget the tent and sleep next to me then?”
I blushed “tempting… but it had been a lot of work putting up that tent, and despite what your dad says, tents are very cosy”
“Fair point, tents are very cosy, tell me about your family, are you close with them?”
“Yeah, I am” I said, telling him about my adventures with my siblings, how we used to make our parents worry staying out late, having forgotten the time playing our imaginary games. My parents were true saints putting up with us troublesome kids.
The night passed quickly, with us talking until we couldn’t stay awake any longer and fell asleep upon the sandman’s request, him outside, while I was in the tent. That was how I met my fiancé three years ago, on an innocent summer trip that was just a little bit different than planned.