As part of the A to Z Challenge, through the month of April I’ll be posting a story a day based on photographs by Joseph T. Richardson and prompts given to me by blog-friends.
Writing prompt: She stood at the crossroads
They had walked together for five weeks and four days, but it felt like months, decades.
As if all they had ever done was walk, him leading the way, her following, a little resentful she couldn’t take the lead, and sending up a prayer of thanks she didn’t have to.
And now, he’d left her standing in the blinding morning light, on the bridge that would take them to the next town. He’d walked away from the bridge, round the bend, and up the hills beside her.
The first time they met, she felt a spark somewhere inside her clothes, her stomach, and he felt it too. She saw it in his eyes. But they did not refer to that spark, except in the most roundabout of ways like when he asked if she liked the way rain-soaked earth smelled, and what it reminded her of. She told him it depended, and when he asked the obvious question, what, she pretended to have fallen asleep.
They talked about Socrates in the beginning, and the death of Camus, and how the large hadron collider would fail. Slowly it became about what rations to buy. She paid for bars of chocolates which she could not eat, because of her stomach ruined by weeks of drinking roadside water, but she had to carry them. After a while each bar seemed like a brick inside her backpack.
He made plans, drew lines on maps by torchlight, lying inside the tent. She’d put up that tent, while he’d sat on a nearby rock slapping mosquito repellant on his neck and arms. She worked so she didn’t have to watch him. She wanted to watch him all the time, each flex of his shin as he walked, the way his perfect, round butt fitted his shorts, so she kept her eyes to the ground instead, and kept her hands busy. She felt overworked, her body hurt, but she kept at it.
Now, she stood at the crossroads, watching the way he’d gone, the shallow slopes that would lead to steeper ones.. He had no time for this he’d said when she complained of backache, wanted a day of rest.
She could follow him, catch up, say sorry yet again for a tantrum she hadn’t thrown, spend more nights waiting for him to touch her, on his terms, the way he stopped by in the red light areas they’d crossed in the shanty towns on their way. Relieves my tensions, he said, to nothing and no one in particular, when he came back from one of those evening jaunts.
But she wouldn’t. Nor would she wait for him to come back and find her. When backpacking, you meet people and pay your debts. When the debts get paid off, you part, and that’s that. She flinched at the weight of her pack as she strapped it on. She would walk. Each day, you wake up and walk, putting one foot after the other, he used to say, you make your own way, alone.
Maybe that’s the lesson she needed to learn. Her back cramped, but she took one step, then another, away from him, towards the lighted bridge.
Are you taking part in the A to Z challenge? Do you read or write fiction? Ever write based on a prompt? Ever been backpacking? Had a fallout with a friend or a significant other?