Sunday, August 16, 2015

45. Where to Now?

Alan is sloooowly checking items off of his list of pictures...

Alan is sloooowly checking items off of his list of pictures...

Alan's next assignment is a picture of the settlements of either Womby or Lizard, both about five miles south of Lizard Point. After that he plans to walk on to Hoodoo Beach, an obscure stretch of sand near Ghost Heads, that Adrian marked on the map for him. 

For their lunch, Alan made a salad with canned tuna, mayonnaise and a chopped-up carrot, and Chloe brought out some crackers and an apple. "Too bad we don't have any more wine", she said. They sat on a grassy hummock and ate (again) in silence; neither feeling the need to say anything. Or relative silence...there was the constant thunder of the surf and a lot of chattering among the birds.

Finally Alan said, "You seem to be feeling better today, and thanks for the shell." 

"I think I am...you're welcome. And don't look at the note!" 

"Oh don't worry. I'll control myself," he grinned.

More silence, then Chloe said, "But I'm not too excited about continuing on by myself..."

Alan continued munching while his mind took off...does she mean I should ask her to come along with me? What would that mean? I don't think I'm ready for relating, but it would be more fun to have a companion. Maybe if I told her 'Okay, but...' and set some rules. 
But what would the rules be? 
Or maybe...

"Uhh, Alan?"

"Oh, um, I was just thinking, should we...or, would...you...liketocomealongwithme?"

She looked at the ground with what Alan thought might be a hint of a smile. 

He quickly continued, "It looks like, on the map, that my route and yours are the same for some distance. I have to stop, though, to paint a few more places. We could just hang out like we are now...if that's okay with you." 

She looked at him. "Umm, sure, and I suppose if we don't get along, we can split off, right?" 

"Right."

Chloe took a deep breath - she was taking a leap of faith here. Even at 35 years old, she'd never spent this much uninterrupted time with a man before. Her life had revolved mostly around caring for her mother (who she still painfully missed) and the library. Her only serious relationship, if you could call it that, was with Dennis. 

She was definitely not up for any romantic entanglements right now. This was her trip, and she wanted to maintain her independence. On the other hand, she wasn't against forming new friendships. Anyway, this fellow Alan would only be tagging along for a few days, and that would be it. She hoped her note in the shell won't give him some weird impression...

She did feel good around him. She liked his quiet energy. His youthful, open face belied his age of what, 40? He had a pleasant, calm bearing but also a hint of a mischief and playfulness about him. She liked his slender build, his bushy brown hair that he apparently never combed, his easy gait while walking. And those hands of his. 

"Okay, then," she said, and they shook on it. 

Then they both went straight to the business of cleaning up and packing everything for the next leg of their hike.  Neither said a word.