Rachel!! Jeff!! Get your asses down here this instant. No pizza for a month if you are not down in 10....9….8….7….6….5…..4…..3…...2…..
“We are here, Mommy. We are here.” Two pairs of feet ran down the stairs and out the door to the car standing in the driveway. ‘Great! Let’s go now. The vehicles will begin to traffic the roads in an hour. We must get out of the city before that.’ said Lisa, locking the door and keeping the keys in her pocket. ‘Wait, but we can order pizza next month now right?’ A chuckle made its way up Lisa’s throat and escaped from her lips. ‘Yes. Yes, you can. Let’s get moving for now, shall we?’ A collective hurray followed the proclamation and the car moved down onto the road, marking the beginning of a new adventure.
Rachel and Jeff were going on their first-ever camping trip together with their parents. In the 7 years they had been on this planet earth, not once had they seen the jungles in their life. Sure, they’d been to Paris, Tokyo, New Delhi, New York, Sydney, and even Rome. Their parents loved traveling and saw to it that they traveled every 4 months. But never had they gone on an adventure into the woods. The kids were excited beyond belief. Rachel had even packed her binoculars. Jeff had taken his torchlight and rope with him. Their parents had told them that this trip would be different. They won’t go roam about the city, learn about its history and take nice pictures for the memory wall in their house. They would have to walk, run, get dirty in the mud, and even sleep without a proper bed. They knew they were bound to get tired but they didn’t know just how much. Nevertheless, the trip to the Chandertal Reservoir was going to be a memorable one, both for the kids and their parents. Why one may ask? One pair was coming here for the first time and the other after 20 long years.
The car ride to the Reservoir was filled with laughter, music, and fun. After a long drive of 5 hours, the family of four had finally got onto the road leading into the woods. By the time they reached their final destination, it was 2:00 p.m. and the sun shone brightly over their heads. The family found themselves in a clearing surrounded by trees in all directions. Any normal person would probably have said that they are in the middle of nowhere but Lisa and Ryan, they knew this place by heart. They had spent the best summer of their lives in this very forest at this very spot. Lisa and Ryan took out all the necessary equipment, set up the tents, and put up the barbeque station while the kids roamed about and inspected the place. Jeff seemed to be enchanted by the slow-moving bugs in the nearby bush and spent his entire evening sitting on his haunches admiring them. Rachel, however, was more energetic and ran around, climbed the broken trees, and annoyed Jeff.
The evening had them all tired and hungry. Lisa and Ryan sat in their chairs, looking out into the jungle. “They are having fun,” said Lisa, looking fondly over her children. “That they are. I told you they’d love this place. We did too.” “It’s been so long huh? Who would have thought that you and I, of all the people, would end up together and bring our kids camping to this very particular spot.” “It’s where it all began, love. Of course, we were bound to end up here.” The conversation was halted by two simultaneous shouts of “Mommy!!! We are hungry. What do we have?” Ryan laughed and carried the children into the van where the food was set up on the table. “Dig in, little monsters,” said Lisa as everyone took a seat at the table. The kids were quick to sleep after the tiring journey and dozed off directly after dinner. Taking a last look at the sleeping figures, Ryan made his way out of the tent, taking two bottles of beer on his way.
“Here,” said Ryan, handing one bottle to Lisa, who was sitting comfortably in front of the bonfire. Lisa smiled, took the open bottle, and clinked it with Ryan’s.
‘To old times.’ Clink. ‘Cheers.’
The stars in the night sky seemed like dancers running across an open room. Shining here at one second, and there at the next. The rustling of trees, chirping of the crickets, and the occasional sound of breaking of a branch rang out in the otherwise quiet forest. Ryan and Lisa sat in their folding chairs, taking occasional sips from their beer bottles.
“It was a night like this, wasn’t it? Clear sky, a forest eerily quiet, and a bonfire to keep us warm. Except there were 7 of us back then.”
A chuckle escaped Ryan’s lips as he murmured “We were all young. And so was the night.”
“Get the food ready, boys. I and the girls will be done with the tents in a few. And you better cook it right, James. I don’t want to eat raw meat after doing physical labor.”, a shout was heard in the distance as the 4 boys danced around the campfire in their shorts.
“Yeah yeah. The food’s almost ready. And don’t blame us for having to do all the manual work. It was you who lost the bet, after all.”
Laughter rang in the forest as the boys moved to high five each other and got the food ready for the girls.
30 minutes later saw the 7 teenagers sitting in a circle around the fire, plates of food in their hands while they laughed, sang, and played games. “Let’s play Dumb Charades”, suggested one and a murmur of agreement rang about. “James, you go first.”
The 7 teenagers sat outside late into the night - talking and laughing. They were planning to go explore the lake nearby the next day. If looked hard enough, they may even find the Japanese Tombstone hidden somewhere in the jungle. Agreeing to meet at 7 a.m. sharp the next morning, they bid each other farewell and moved into their respective tents.
The next morning, all 7 of them were dressed in trekking clothes, bags packed with essential equipment, and ready to find the lake. They divided into three groups - of 2, 2, and 3 respectively and wandered into the forest. They were on a mission and they were going to complete it no matter what. The whole day, they searched the woods, looking for a tell-tale sign of water or the tombstone but to no avail. The group returned to the meeting point at 7 p.m. and proceeded to share their discoveries. Lisa’s group which consisted of her and James had found a bunker about three kilometers from their camp. Ryan, Maya, and Ollie hadn’t found anything interesting but they did come across a few pink ribbons hung on the tree branches. They’d followed them for two hours until they disappeared suddenly at a diverging path. Frank and Lorelai had only managed to go around in circles the entire day and only realized their mistake an hour before they were to gather back at the camp. This brought everyone to laughter. No matter how futile their efforts felt, they couldn’t deny the fact that they had fun.
The group then divided into two, based on who won rock-paper-scissors, one making supper and the other lighting the fire, and arranging the beds. They played truth and dare this time. When Maya was dared to kiss Ollie, Frank had seen red and stopped her from kissing Ollie by kissing her himself. That had certainly been entertaining. They’d called it a night after two more hours of drinking and sharing stories, for they still needed to wake up early tomorrow.
The party once again began searching for the lake and the stone the next day. This time, they succeeded. Frank and Maya, when looking for a place to make out in private, away from the prying eyes, had accidentally tumbled into what they thought was simply a nook but had been the passage to the lake. They had gone and looked around the place and if one were to believe their words, it was simply mesmerizing. It seemed to have come to life from a fairy tale. That night, the group celebrated. Beer was replaced by champagne and the party danced to the light music which blared from the car speakers. The night had been filled with more than just music that time. Something in the air had shifted. They just didn’t know what.
The next day, the seven of them went to the lake together. Uncovering the passage hidden by the Ivy, Lisa questioned the truth behind Frank’s statement. It did not seem anything like a fairy tale to her. If anything, the tunnel smelled horrible and birds flew out towards them once in a while. “Just a bit more, keep moving. Go on, don’t stop.”
After walking for about 100 meters, they came across another ivy covering, crossing which Lisa found the most beautiful place she’d ever seen. Surrounded by the forest on three sides and a veil of flowers on the other, a lake of clear water stood simmering in the afternoon sun. The blue water was so clear that they could even see their reflections in it. The group jumped up in joy and quickly got rid of their clothes, jumping into the water as soon as possible. They’d splashed each other, thrown people into the lake, and even had a jumping competition. This was the kind of fun they’d hoped they would have. It was a dream come true.
After having fun in the lake, the group had gone back to their camping site, making dinner and having fun. They had found the lake and all that was left was the tombstone. They didn’t need to wake up early though now, since they were already done with the lake. The next few afternoons had them running around the jungle searching for the tombstone. In the evening, they all swam in the lake, taking recluse from the sun in the water. One afternoon, when Lisa and Ryan were going to the lake, they saw another ivy veil a few meters before the entrance to the lake. This time, instead of a tunnel, there was simply a cobblestone path. A path that led them to the place where they most wanted to go. The Japanese Tombstone. They ran back to the lake to inform the others about the same and everyone cheered upon seeing the tombstone. They had finally accomplished their mission. They had found the two things they were looking for and they had had more fun than they could have imagined. The trip was a total success. Upon reaching back to the site, everyone sat huddled around the fire, once again sipping on their beer bottles, playing games, and laughing their hearts out.
They were going to go back to the city tomorrow. But they will be taking back much more than just a few pretty pictures or fun stories to tell the others. They will be taking with them stronger friendships, new relationships, and numerous promises to never forget this trip. The trip where they found themselves while finding the lake and the tombstone. Morning came earlier than expected that night. They had barely slept when the morning sun penetrated through the tents and woke them up from their slumber. They’d proceeded to get out of the woods soon after, singing songs in the car on their way back home.
Five years later, Ryan had asked Lisa out and they had been going strong ever since. Maya and Frank had ended up together, and so had James and Lorelai. Ollie, however, had chosen to stay a bachelor for as long as possible, for he was too much in love with his adventurous life for him to want to be tied down and attain stability. As far as Lisa knew, he was still traveling around the world, his travel agency making more than enough money in a year.
End of Flashback
Lisa stared fondly at the fire, reminiscing about the days she spent in this very place as a teenager with her friends. Friends who were now all too busy to meet regularly. They still met each other twice a year, but that was about it.
“You know, I had planned to propose to you near the lake.” Ryan’s soft words broke the comfortable silence, eliciting exactly the reaction Ryan wanted from Lisa. “You did? Why didn’t you, then? Oh right, we eloped.” Lisa chuckled. “That’s one way of putting it. Yes.”
“We had so much fun here, Ryan. The jokes, the confessions, the teasing, I miss it. I miss everything about them.”, said Lisa. “I know you do, Love. I do, too. But now we have another story to write. A story that won’t always revolve around us.”
A sigh made its way up Lisa’s throat. “I know. We should go to bed. It’s late and the kids are alone in the tent.”
“Sure, let’s go. Goodnight. I love you.” “I love you too.”
Lisa and Ryan shared a quick kiss before making their way inside the tents. They needed to sleep on time, all right. They were going to begin a new chapter of their lives. A chapter whose heroes were now Rachel and Jeff, and not Lisa and Ryan. They were here to show their kids what the best summer of their life was. One day, Rachel and Jeff might do the same.
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