The campfire crackles as he puts a new log in place, trying to catch the spark and create a larger fire. A few metres away she checks the tent, making sure it’s all secure. That done, she silently appears behind him, watches him add kindling and small logs to the fire.
“It’s kind of caveman-like, isn’t it? A guy, trying to impress his girl with fire.”
She tilts her head at him – “I’m not actually your girl.”
Abashed, he looks away. “Yeah, I, uh, I meant in general. A guy, a girl. Not a specific girl.”
She disappears back into the tent and he sees her silhouette pinning up a blanket, separating her space from his.
He waits a few minutes longer and the fire flickers, flames jumping higher. She comes back out carrying marshmallows and skewers. The scent of burnt wood mixes with the smell of singed sugar that isn’t caramel, and he can’t help but feel that this moment is pretty close to perfect.
The light dances off her profile, painting her in gold and orange. She’s smiling and they’re both silent but it’s okay because they’re here and for once it’s just them, no interruptions.
“Remember this,” she murmurs. He doesn’t know if she’s conscious of speaking, if she’s talking to him or herself, but he holds her hand and nods quietly. The rain catches them unaware and they dive back into the tent, her unfurling her blanket over both of them.
They return home on Sunday evening and he drops her off at home, watches her vanish indoors. His car still smells of wood smoke and pine tree.
A few days later there’s a parcel on the doorstep. It’s a shoebox, decorated Jackson Pollock-style with nail polish. Inside is a collection of photos the size of credit cards, each of which is dated and captioned from the camping weekend. Strange, but he doesn’t recall her taking photos. There’s a letter buried under the photos.
by the time you read this i’ll be on the other end of a flight out of here – i decided to transfer schools. the photos are for you; keep them, please. i don’t think you’ll see me again, and –
he never did see her again.