They bicycled, vectoring through the soft air of an early summer afternoon. Alternately drafting one another, folding into a practiced rhythm. Deep, green, humidity smacked them in the face as they hit the depths of a road near the Canacadea State Forest. A mini-pocket of warmer air frequently encountered when traveling by bike. Not often felt by walkers who moved too slowly or passengers protected by their cars.
They set up camp at the beginning of sunset, working together, putting up the tent. Peter unpacked dinner and put a grill over the fire pit, pulling out items as Jennifer searched for firewood and kindling. Fond of going off road, she returned crashing through the underbrush, arms brimming with fuel. Peter had marinated chicken thighs in olive oil, garlic, basil, and chili peppers. He had a small baguette of French bread, sliced and ladled with butter and garlic in an aluminum foil sheath. From a plastic box he was, withdrawing chunks of peppers, onion, mushrooms, and zucchini. Piercing them onto a few wet bamboo skewers.
“It look’s lovely,” exclaimed Jennifer
The often, too busy ceramic student, admired his cooking skills. From the two years of being together, he’d expanded his horizons, paying rapt attention whenever she cooked in his kitchen. Walking to the cooler attached to her bike rack, Jennifer withdrew a six pack of Geneseo beer, a bottle of white wine, and eight quarts of water. She walked to the lake, tying a rope around the water bottle necks, beer, and wine tops. The water was icy. The beer was heavy and sat between two big rocks. She secured the rope first, under a heavy boulder on shore, and tied it off on a low tree limb nearby, securing the beverages.
“Thanks for creating this delectable dinner,” Jennifer said, as they drank wine, sitting around the fire with their chicken, garlic bread and skewers of vegetables. “I love you.”
Peter grinned back at her and blew her a kiss from the palm of his hand.
The night was shrill with peeping frogs and the occasional bass note of hooting owls. It grew cooler as lake fog drifted into the forest and over their campground. After brushing their teeth with bottled water, they climbed into their tent. Making love in an almost feral fashion, inspired by the mineral earth smell and breathing tree scented air,
Afterward, having climbed into their sleeping bags, sharing sips from Jennifer’s water bottle, Peter asked,” So you slept over at Roxy’s?”
“It was a girl thing. Pajama party.”
“Uh huh. Who with?”
Jennifer swallowed, “Roxy and Simone.”
Peter didn’t say anything. He was asleep.
* * * * * * *
They rose at dawn. While Peter made coffee, Jennifer unpacked the fruit salad, deviled eggs, and her notable cheese Danish. Hoping to get some perch or trout for their next evening’s dinner, Peter had brought fishing gear. Even though he’d prepped a rack of lamb in a large foil packet with potatoes, cabbage, and carrots to roast in the fire’s embers. After breakfast they sat on rocks within the shoreline and silently cast their poles. Birds trilled and darted over the water dining on flies and water insects.
Jennifer’s thoughts wandered to the far shore as her line bobbed in the rippling dawn water.
“A cotter pin for your thoughts?” Peter quietly asked.
Jen had been thinking about Simone and how she was going to extricate herself from the situation. But there was a part of her that appreciated the knowledge Simone had about her body, because she was a woman. Making love with Peter was good, great even, but there was a sensitivity he would never have just because he was a man.
Grimacing to herself, she voiced,“My schedule for the fall. I’ll be graduating in January because I’d done so much school before I transferred. The ceramic engineering courses in materials science and high temperature silicate matrixes have me the most excited.”
Two minutes flew by before Peter continued, “ I was hoping you were thinking about me, us, really. Our future when you graduate. We could look for a studio for you and you could build a kiln there. I could help.”
Jennifer’s lips pursed, and she could hear her heart beating faster, “We’ll see. I still have to get through summer and fall semester. And they’ll be even busier than this last one. Look at the trouble I caused you already. Do you think you could stand weeks without seeing me as I slaved away in the lab and studio?”
Peter stared straight ahead at the far shore, gaining definition with the lifting light of dawn.