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Heart of Ice
A gnarled root lurking beneath crunchy leaves rose up and snagged my boot.
“Oww…” I muttered, hands and knees stinging.
I heard a chuckle above me. “You have to watch out for those occasional roots, unless you’re just plain clumsy,” a male voice said.
I got up on my knees and looked up at a strong, bronze outstretched hand. As my eyes traveled upward, they focused on a young man with twinkling moss-green eyes.
“Thanks but I think I can get up by myself,” I said coldly.
“Oh, sor~ry. I was just being a concerned fellow hiker,” He sarcastically said, running his hand through his short, spiky sandy hair. “I’m Tristan by the way if you care to know.”
“Rhiannon,” I grumbled, dusting the dirt off. I swept up my long, honey-colored hair into a messy ponytail. I trotted to catch up with the rest of the group glaring at the ground for more sneaky roots. I heard another faint chuckle behind me. I gritted my teeth as heat crept up my cheeks. I mentally kicked myself for looking like a fool.
I listened to the instructor as he droned on about how great nature is. Yeah right. If that was the case, then why am I tripping over roots and getting eaten alive by the entire mosquito population? I slapped at yet another prick of pain on my arm leaving a splotch of crimson.
I jumped when Tristan murmured behind me, “You know, there is an invention called bug spray.”
I glared over my shoulder at his smirking face, and then abruptly turned my head forward resolving to ignore him. He may be handsome but he’s not going to get to me so easily. I don’t need my heart broken again. At the corner of my eye, I saw a flash of sunny yellow. Turning my head, I saw the most beautiful canary I’ve ever seen sitting on a low branch of a prickly pine tree. Entranced, I drifted toward the bird unaware that the group was drifting further away down the trail. The canary peered at me with one of its beady eyes, chirped, and flew to another tree branch. Still under its spell, I followed it as it flew from one branch to another, going higher and higher. When I finally lost sight of it, I blinked and looked around. Fear shot through me when I couldn’t see the trail. Oh shoot. How am I gonna get back?? I cursed. A dry snap entered my ears and another one. My muscles tensed up, my instincts screaming at me to run. I obeyed my instincts and crashed through the brush away from the sound. I burst through to a clearing, snatched up a random sharp-looking branch, and sprinted toward a cave. I twirled around at the entrance, gripping tightly on the branch, ready to fight. I saw a panting Tristan come through between the trees. My racing heart slowed down slightly.
“Jeez! What were you thinking, scaring me like that? I could’ve had a heart attack,” I spat out.
Raising his hands, he replied, “Hey, hey, I’m sorry for scaring you, but you were the one who wandered off the trail. I didn’t think you would make it back on your own, so I figured you would need someone to help you back.”
Scowling, I dropped the branch. “I’m sure I could’ve found my way back one way or the other,” I muttered.
I walked back toward the trees. I heard a loud sigh coming from Tristan. Suddenly I felt something wet trickling down my forehead. I looked up at stone gray clouds rolling in. A flash split the sky and buckets start pouring down. I yelped and darted into the safety of the cave, Tristan close behind me.
Wringing my hair out, I complained, “Great, I’m lost and stranded in some musty dark cave.”
Raising his eyebrow, he said, “So you’re finally admitting that you’re lost?”
I clamped my mouth shut and sat on a flat slate of stone facing away from him. I heard him step further away. I brooded for a few minutes, rubbing my arms until I heard a grunt and a clatter of twigs hitting the floor. I glanced over my shoulder to see Tristan crouching and rearranging the twigs into a pile. I turned around and frowned. Apparently sensing my confusion, he said, “Can’t have a lady catching a cold. Besides we could use some light in here.” Sparks flew from two small stones in his hands. After several attempts, the twigs sizzled then burst into a miniature flame growing larger by the minute. As I warmed myself up, I allowed the protective ice around my heart to melt a little. The ring of flickering light grew larger as Tristan fed more branches into the fire. Looking up, he whistled and smiled.
“What?” I asked.
He pointed behind me. I turned to look. Under the dancing light, I saw flashes of violet, blue, and emerald green sparkling from the walls. I gasped in awe. “Oh wow… it’s beautiful.”
“Think any of those stones are valuable?” said Tristan.
I whipped around to face him. “Probably. So this place must stay a secret so that no geologist is going to get his grubby hands on it and mar its beauty.” I said fiercely.
Taken aback, he laughed, “Okay, okay. It’ll be our secret. And it is kind of pretty.”
I was silent for a few seconds and then a smile spread across my face. “Yes, yes it is. It’s pretty. Beautiful. Gorgeous.” I could get used to Tristan. There’s nothing like a guy who appreciates beauty. I heard a crack and a tinkling and realized that the ice encased over my heart, no longer needed, is gone.
We chatted and learned bits about each other for a few hours as the storm roared outside. I felt a different warmth than the dying fire. I looked at the entrance to see watery rays of sunshine, with one landing on our clasped hands. We grinned at each other and rose. Our fingers still entwined, we walked toward the embracing sunshine.