The caves were a good distance away, and several miles of hiking lay ahead. As much as she wanted to bond with Andrea and compare notes on the last expedition, Gordon kept engaging her. he pointed at a fern with magnificent leaf structure, and as she bent over his hunched form to take a closer look, she could smell earth on his neck, and sandlewood soap, which he probably had used yesterday right before they went out. He had not mentioned last night’s overture, and she refused to mention it, but he did seem closer and more intimate. She tried to ignore this without seeming cold. It was just unfair her feelings should surface right now like this. Unfair that all the previous years they spent together had yielded no apparent attraction. Unfair that this trip, this one, might change everything she had previously known about caves. Which, of course, was still remarkably little.
Byron had first piqued her interest. They had met at the one little bar, with a view of the sea. An invitation to accompany his expedition the next day had sounded great after three beers, and surprisingly still sounded good in the morning. He was always more excited about the adventure than her though, and something about that riled her. Perhaps it is because it is exactly how Reyna was: she craved adventure, and to share it with someone else was wondrous. To experience it all on her own, to have it as hers alone, was a true joy.
She loved how the rocks and caves told stories,really. Geology is like time travel, she thought. You can go back and experience it in so many different ways: imagine how one plate subsided and another protruded. See the floor of Bryce Canyon before all the erosion formed hoodoos. She giggled at the word. In the night, camping, these eroded protrusions looked like giant misshapen gods…the real Owners of the Earth, who populated it and rested giant effigies of themselves so the humans would not forget. But they were formed by erosion, gradual seeping of water, both frozen and liquid, between cracks, until gradually they broke apart and formed spires. Their orangey hue contrasted with white snow reminded Reyna of Creamsicles, a childhood treat she enjoyed occasionally with her mother.
Now, though, the trail wound in front of her. This was not Bryce. This was unfamiliar territory, and she chastised herself for wondering how long it would be until the next switchback break. Then she could sit next to Gordon and still smell sandalwood while she guzzled some water. Enjoy the scenery, she told herself, forget the man. There would be days and weeks, months and years, to forget about him, just as she had come to know him, and he had wedged herself into her life, like the ice breaking the hoodoos apart.