We paused to pull water from our packs, 2,000 meters above the plain, the bison looked like field mice, not scurrying about but standing still, without any fear of the winter we were experiencing above.
After sips in solitude, Luke swirled his cap back in place and turned, “Keeping pace?” He asked as if I was his marathon trainee and he was gauging my fitness.
“Yep.” I thought about how close we were to the peak, mere hours away from a height we had failed for years to reach in our marriage bed.
“Then let’s get this.” He patted me on the back and turned, expecting me to follow in his footsteps, the way I ‘d always done, in and out of shadows, up and down through peaks and valleys.
But I stood still long enough for him to look back, “Everything alright?”
This was my moment, with altitude thinned, about to achieve a goal we had made before our vows, I could tell him so many things. How he always wanted to walk ahead and never beside. How he pushed our children away.
I leaned against the rock face.
“We have to make it today, Lenah, we don’t have gear for another camp.”
“Go on ahead, I’ll catch up in a minute.” Luke made a sigh, his head wagging in disapproval, but he turned and went on. He was self-centered like that.
I wanted to shout at him about how practical he had been planning our lives on his paper calendars. How there had never been enough squares to pencil one in for spontaneity. How this wasn’t his first crown because I’d treated him as lord and master for way too long.
I took out my canteen again, and in the curved aluminum I could see my full features surrounded by buffalo the size of field mice. They lounged and frolicked in mellow, tickling grasses. Their tails swished with ease and a sense of peace.
It was then I started trekking again. I would not be following Luke up his final hike. I’d climbed enough, keeping his pace, and I was now prepared to enjoy a downhill stride. It was time to lay down in the grassy fields of my own fall.
This is a flash inspired by Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #106.