Seated at a picnic table at a rest stop on the westbound side of Interstate 40, a light dusting of snow falling around them, Peter pulled a leg off of the turkey, juices sizzling as they dripped into the fire.
“That is quite some haul,” he said looking at the wheelbarrow piled high.
“Yeah,” Kyle said around a mouth full of candy.
This drew a laugh from both Brian and Zach.
“I’m glad you approve,” Zach said, grabbing the other drum stick. The fire crackled and popped again. “This is one good bird.” He added, using his sleeve to wipe the juices oozing from his mouth.
Soon, the rest of the bird was gone, a pile of bones the only reminder that it had every existed Rocky snuck in and grabbed one of the bones, gnawing off what little turkey remained on it. The beer was horrible, but they drank it anyways, Julie even allowed Kyle to have a sip, but that was all it took for the boy to realize that he would rather have water.
Another snap, this one sobering the group up rather quickly.
“What was that?” Brian said, drawing the pistol that was never far from his side.
“Probably just a fox or something,” Amy said, but her hand was on her own gun.
“I’ll go check it out,” Peter said, wiping his greasy hands on his shirt.
“I’ll go too,” Amy said, standing up and grabbing a flashlight from her cart.
Peter grabbed his shotgun and led the way, heading off into the darkness, Amy behind him, flashlight off.
They had made it a hundred feet before Amy turned on the flashlight, scanning the tree line ahead. The light revealed nothing and the two headed further into the woods. The fire was out of sight, hidden by the trees before they caught the flash of a squirrel’s eyes in the shine of the flashlight.
Peter laughed nervously. “You were close,” he said.
“Yeah,” Amy said as she shut the flashlight off, stepping closer to Peter.
Their lips met for the first time, and Amy pulled him close, her hand on the small of his back.
Peter began to protest, but stopped and gave in to the kiss, realizing he had wanted it too.
They were still kissing when they noticed a light bobbing through the darkness toward them. They composed themselves and a moment later, Zach had joined them.
“I saw the flashlight go out,” he said, adding, “I just wanted to make sure you were okay.”
Unable to meet Zach’s eyes, Peter said “Yeah, we’re fine. It was just a squirrel.” He began the trek back to the camp, his eyes cast downward the entire time.
Head held high, Amy walked back, offering her arm to Zach, who took it, accompanying her back to the camp.
“It was just a squirrel,” Peter announced once he was back within the ring of firelight.
“Must have been looking for some nuts,” Brian said, laughing.
“Yeah,” Peter agreed, half heartedly.
“Ok, well Kyle,” Julie said, “Time to turn in,” and pulled up the flap on the tent the two of them shared.
“But mom,” Kyle whined, but got up anyway, Rocky following him into the tent.
“I’ll take the first watch tonight,” Peter said, absently.
“You sure?” Sarah asked, “You seem a bit, I don’t know, distracted.”
“Yeah, I’m fine.”
“Night.” She dug around in one of the carts and grabbed a yellow and black book, Sewing for Dummies.
“Night.” Peter watched as Amy followed her into the tent, a slew of questions on his lips.
Brian slipped into his own tent leaving Zach alone with Peter.
“You want to tell me what that was all about?” He asked, keeping his voice low so as not to disturb everyone else.
“What,” Peter responded.
“I saw the kiss…” Zach whispered.
“I don’t know, she kissed me. I mean, I think she did, I don’t know, maybe I kissed her.”
Zach laughed. “Really? How old are you?”
Peter stammered, “I’ll be thirty-five in, I mean, I guess I’m thirty-five now.”
Zach choked on the last sip of beer out of his can. “Really? Then don’t act like a fucking teenager. I’m sorry for interrupting you, but you’re not getting any younger.”
“I know, but-”
“But nothing. Come on, is now really the time to question anything?”
“I guess not.”
“You’re damned right, ‘you guess not.’”
“But what do I do?”
Zach smiled, bringing his had up to his head.
“Go get some sleep or something, I’ve got the first watch. I’ll wake you up if I need you.” He said and Peter took his advice, undoing the zipper on the tent he, Brian, and Zach shared and sliding into his sleeping bag.
“Night,” Brian said.
“Good night Brian,” Peter replied.
“I hope so,” Brian said, ever the optimist
Peter’s dreams were vivid, haunted by Amy and the kiss.
It was still dark when Zach woke him. “Your turn,” He said, crawling into his own sleeping bag.