Flies, Fishing Lines, Hooks, and Lies
By Becky Lees
I was tired of tripping over tree roots and stumbling. The blisters on both my heels were killing me. Couldn’t Owen see that the whole backpacking, communing with the wilderness, Zena-Warrior princess, just wasn’t me? I was sick to death of trying to please him and decided that it stopped today.
I always allowed myself to get sucked into doing things I didn’t want to do. The night I met Owen on “girl’s night out” was a classic example of my inability to say ‘no.’ The girls from work begged me to join them for drinks. All I wanted to do was go home, enjoy a bubble bath and read a good book. I suppose that night didn’t turn out so bad, I did meet Owen after all, but why did I feel the need to please others all the time?
Owen and I had been dating for eight months. When he suggested we attend a play at the theatre or go to his uncle’s barbeque, I agreed. When he took me to the mud bogs to watch stock car racing, I tagged along. When he said, “Let’s go camping,” why didn’t I just politely say, “No, thank you.”
A girl has her limitations. Why couldn’t I just admit mine?
“How much farther?” I called out to Owen who strode ten paces ahead of me.
He stopped, whirled around and scrutinized me as if it was the first time he noticed that he did indeed, have a traveling companion with him. “Mmmm, what did you say?”
I hauled my exhausted legs five more steps and stopped in front of him. He ruffed up my hair on the top of my head like I was a little kid. “I said,” over emphasizing my words, “how much farther?”
The grin on his face brought out one dimple on the left side. Why did he have to be cute when I was so angry? Maybe I’d have an easier time of telling him ‘no’ if he was less handsome, but I doubt it.
“I love a woman drenched in sweat. It’s such a turn on.” He unclasped the belt of his backpack and hoisted the gigantic thing to the ground. “It’s time for a break.”
I stared at him dumbfounded. “A break you say? Gee, thanks.”
He unhooked my backpack and hefted if off my aching back. Grabbing my hand he led me to a rock ledge that protruded nicely from the side of the mountain. We sat beside each other and he handed me a water bottle. I was still angry. This little break wasn’t going to let me forget about my blisters, although it did revive my senses and stirred the best of my sarcastic tendencies. “You make me hike for miles just to see me sweat? Is that your secret mission? I’d be happy to meet you at the gym next time. A treadmill works nicely. And what do you know? There’s a shower nearby. Lavatories even.”
He laughed. “That’s what I love about you, Libby—your sarcastic wit.” Wrapping his arm around me, he kissed my forehead. Once again, I felt childlike.
If I was going to be treated like a child, I may as well act like one. I crossed my arms in a harrumph. He always called me Libby, when my name is Elizabeth—another annoyance he imposed on me.
“I have the best girlfriend,” he said in a mocked tone, almost to himself. Was I supposed to react to that, because I was still just a wee bit angry?
He gazed out across the mountain tops and valleys, his face calm and peaceful.
I stared at him. If that was his attempt at a compliment, I guess I’d take it. But what really unnerved me was the “L” word. He loved my sarcastic wit, but did he love me? He said he did. I was quickly falling in love with him, despite this million-mile hike. I wasn’t ready to fall for him. I had my heart broken before and wasn’t anxious to have it ripped apart again.
The cool breeze blew the curled ends of his hair over his eyebrows. The tips of his brown hair were sun-bleached because of all the time he spent outdoors. The kind of natural highlighting most women paid well over $100 to have done. I looked more closely at the angles of his jaw, examined the beginnings of beard stubble, and couldn’t find one single bead of sweat anywhere.
It occurred to me that perhaps I agreed to do all these things with Owen, not because I was allowing him to dictate my life, but because I just loved being with him.
“Ready to go?” he asked, interrupting my personal journey of thoughts inside my head.
“Do we have to?” I whined.
“Yup, come on.” He stood up and pulled on both my elbows. “We’re almost there.”
“Almost where?” I begrudgingly rose from my perch on the rock.
“I told you. It’s a surprise.” Slipping his arm around my waist we marched back to our backpacks. The sweat had begun to cool on my skin and moving again warmed me.
After climbing a mostly barren mountainside for thirty minutes, we crested the top. I thought we must have arrived, but Owen kept going and we descended into a valley thick with pine trees. The tangy smell invigorated me. My boots sunk in the spongy moss and fallen needles of the forest floor. I glanced up and I thought maybe this hike wouldn’t kill me after all. That, or I was getting accustomed to blisters.
Following a bend in the trail, Owen stopped. “We’re here.”
I stood beside him and sucked in my breath. “Wow,” I said, as I surveyed the oblong shaped lake before me.
“Nice, isn’t it?”
“I’ll say. How did you know about this place?”
“My Dad used to take me here to fish when I was a kid. You’ve been fishing before haven’t you?”
“I tend to forget you’re a city girl.” He coiled his fingers around my hand and tugged. “Come on, let’s set up camp.”
I had no idea how to ‘set up camp,’ but I had a feeling I was going to learn. Owen opened up our tent on a flat grassy area beside the lake. He pounded stakes into the ground with a fist-sized rock acting as a hammer.
I plopped in the dirt, peeled off my brand new hiking boots and socks, and massaged my heels.
Hunched over, Owen called to me, “Can you give me a hand here?”
Dirt and sweat stuck to every crease of my skin. My feet hurt. I just wanted to go home. A bubble bath sounded particularly good.
Ignoring my secret desires, I stood up on my bare feet, hands on my hips and asked, “How may I be of assistance?”
“Stand on that corner of the tent, while I push the pole through to your end.”
Brushing the dirt off my shorts, I positioned my foot on the corner of the tent. I glanced down at my chipped pink toenail polish. That was the other thing I would have enjoyed this weekend…a pedicure.
Owen efficiently stood all the poles of the tent. He worked unloading our gear as if I wasn’t there. Tired of being ignored, I sat next to my backpack, and lifted the flap in search of food. “Do we have anything to eat?”
“I’m going to catch our dinner. Didn’t I tell you?”
I wanted to slap the idiotic grin off his face, but I refrained. “How nice,” I said, instead.
He strutted to the lake, fishing pole in hand, without a second glance.
I refused to let the situation upset me. I asked for this. I innocently agreed to this hiking camping thing, trying to please my boyfriend, but next time I’d know better. I made myself do busy work, unpacking the cook kit and unrolling our sleeping bags. I’d fantasized about zipping our sleeping bags together, but I was having second thoughts now.
“Libby,” Owen called from the lake’s edge. “Will you help me with this fish? I’ll teach you how to clean them.”
What? He hikes me into the ground, ignores me, then expects me to clean his fish? I don’t think so.
I glanced at the two fish lying on the ground. I squinted my eyes in suspicion and asked, “What are you smiling about?”
“You,” he said with a wicked grin. “You’re beautiful.”
Now I was really flustered. What kind of game was he playing? I tried so hard to stay mad at him and somehow he always broke through my defenses.
He bent down and slopped lake water over his hands to clean them. “Will you hand me my pocket knife out of the tackle box?”
I looked around in search of the tackle box. On the other side of him, I spotted it in the grass. It was small, about the size of a miniature breadbox. I suppose it made sense that everything was small when you had to carry it so far into the woods. The tin box had a handle on the top. I picked it up and extended my arm toward him. Still crouched on his knees, he said, “Will you open it? My hands are wet. Just hand me the knife.”
Fine, I thought in indignation. I unlatched the lid to see centered on top of the flies, fishing lines, hooks, and knives, a piece of black velvet material…and in the middle of that laid a diamond ring.
I sucked in a breath. My hands shook. With a knot in my throat, I focused on the face of the man on his knees in front of me. Tears welled in my eyes as I gazed into his.
“I love you, Libby. I’ve loved you from almost the first moment I set eyes on you. I brought you out here today, well, to frustrate you a bit…” He chuckled. “And to see how you held up in the woods, partly to amuse me, but partly because I want to share my love of the outdoors with you. I could never love life more than when I’m with you. I want to spend the rest of my days being with you, taking care of you, and loving you.”Tears leaked over the rim of my eyes. My heart raced.
He took the tackle box out of my hands and set it on the ground. Then plucked the ring out of the center and held it gently between his calloused fingers.
“Will you marry me, Elizabeth?”
I covered my mouth with my quivering hand, dropped to my knees and gazed into the depths of his blue eyes. “Yes, I’ll marry you.”
He locked his arms around me in a warm embrace.
Lifting my head from the crook of his shoulder I said, “You did a darn good job of frustrating me Owen Parker. I never dreamed that you had this elaborate plan in place to propose.” I sniffed and wiped my nose with the back of my hand. “But I do love you. I love you with my whole heart.”
And he kissed me.
Young Adult Fiction Author
Copyright © 2011 Becky Lees
All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, locations, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, or have been used fictionally. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, locales, or events is entirely coincidental. No portion of this work may be transmitted or reproduced in any form, or by any means, without permission in writing from the author.