It was very warm, almost hot out on the smooth rocky point. Much warmer than it should be for the middle of September. But then again, in Mark’s experience, “normal” weather was anything but common. It was just the average between extremes.
The sun poured down from a deep blue sky, occasionally interrupted by puffy clouds. Might build into thunderstorms later in the day. Or maybe not… A light wind rippled the lake’s surface, keeping it from being oppressively hot. Couldn’t knock the view: the expanse of the lake was interrupted by scattered rocky islands, making it seem much smaller than it actually was. Not all lakes were as gorgeous as this. Some had low, swampy shores, with cedar trees growing right down to the waterline, falling into the lake and forbidding access to the land. Others were ringed by high hills and cliffs: scenic, but providing passage only, with no place to stop or camp. But this lake was perfect. The peninsula on which he stood jutted far out into the lake, guarding a tiny pocket beach at its elbow. The rock was smooth, polished by the passage of the ice thousands of years ago, washed by the rain and baked by the sun. The lake was complex, cut by deep narrow bays and false passages. Tricky to navigate. High hills on one side, with lower land to the south. Big red and white pine everywhere, with more modest spruce and jack pine finding a niche in the rocky, less fertile areas. Big country. Shield country. Mark loved it.
He had known this would be a perfect campsite as soon as he spotted the point, as they wove their way through the islands and emerged into the central basin of the lake. It had that look that to a practiced eye was unmistakeable: the smooth, pink rock of the point, the gap in the trees farther back, the yellow sand of the tiny beach. When they got closer he had been unsurprised to see the crude rock fireplace set back in the trees at the base of the point, sheltered from the wind. They had landed on the beach and Monica had gotten out to inspect the site while Mark remained in the canoe, but he had known that this would be the place.
They were due for a rest day. Eight days out so far, and nine more to go. Mark was pleased: he couldn’t have asked for a better spot. Of course they didn’t need much: a reasonably flat spot to set up their small tent, a place to rig a tarp in case of rain, a safe spot to light a cooking fire. But this site had so much more. The water dropped steeply off the point, making it perfect for swimming. Jumping and diving: Mark hadn’t done that in years. The point faced south, but there were shady trees set back where they had pitched the tent and tarp. Looked like good potential for fishing, too. But not now, not in the middle of the day. The fish were probably hiding under shady overhangs. Mark imagined them there, hidden in the shadows, waiting to dart out should any sun-loving minnow venture too close. Mark’s casts had been fruitless so far. Maybe later in the evening, the fish would begin patrolling the shallows in search of prey. Maybe then…
Or maybe not. Mark’s success rate at fishing was not what it once was. He remembered hiking into the back lakes with his dad when he was a kid, easily catching a limit of big bass, and lugging them home on a stringer made from a forked stick. Now it seemed a rarity to catch anything worth keeping. Or maybe he just didn’t try hard enough. Just didn’t have the patience for it anymore. The simple repetition of casting out his lure and reeling it in was enough, for now. Actually catching a fish might be a distraction.
The trip had gone reasonably well so far. They had been rusty at first; it had been so long since they had paddled and portaged together. They were out of shape, too, their paddling muscles sore for the first few days. Trying to make the daily distances that he had so carefully planned out had proven more difficult than either of them wanted. He had based his planning on the trips they had made together more than three decades ago. But they had been younger and stronger then. Mark remembered carrying a pack and that old, heavy canoe, while Monica lugged everything else: one-tripping the portages, eating up the miles. Now, every portage required two trips, meaning that it had to be walked three times. That had really slowed them down. After four days, Mark had poured over the maps and found a way to shorten the route, making it more manageable for them. Now they were finding their groove, starting early in the morning but camping by mid-afternoon, leaving plenty of time for reading, swimming or just enjoying the view. They had settled into a simple rhythm, and it was starting to feel like it once had.
Going on a long canoe trip together had seemed an impossible dream as recently as a year ago. They had tried going on short trips with Kevin a few times, but it was so stressful that they had given up the idea. He just wouldn’t settle in the canoe, and his sudden shifts around made capsizing a constant danger. Campsites were a problem, because he couldn’t be trusted not to run off, which would be disastrous in the trackless bush. And being near water meant that he had to be watched constantly. He could swim, but would often strike out across the lake, requiring them to pursue him in the canoe and drag him back. In the end they had agreed that having him along took all the joy out of something they once had loved. Mark’s canoeing over the past 20 years had consisted of an annual solo trip, and an occasional boys-trip with some high school friends. Monica had done virtually none.
It had taken them a while to come to the realization that they could do this. Kevin was settling well into the group home, after a long transition period. For so long, Mark had felt trapped, imprisoned by circumstances beyond his control. But now, everything had changed. They had time and opportunity. Whole new vistas of possibility had opened up, and neither one of them quite knew how to deal with it. Part of the idea of going on a long canoe trip was to kick-start the rest of their lives together, to prove to themselves that they could still have adventures. That they could still have fun together.
The idea was one thing, making it a reality was a different matter. After such a long hiatus, they didn’t even own suitable equipment for a trip together. Their tandem canoe had long-since been discarded, after having decayed from being left out in the sun for so many years. The small canoe Mark had been using for his solo trips just wasn’t big enough for the two of them and their gear. After doing some research, they had bought a new one, an emerald-green 16 footer in the classic prospector style. Mark still couldn’t believe how lightweight it was: he nearly giggled every time he flipped it up onto his shoulders. New paddles and PFD’s. New tent. A couple of waterproof canoe packs to replace the ratty, mildewed canvas ones. New inflatable sleeping pads, so much more comfortable than the old foamies. Still using the same old zip-together down-filled sleeping bags they had bought decades ago: they seemed to last forever. All this had cost money, a lot by Mark’s frugal standards. But he figured it was a well-deserved reward after such a long drought.
Right now, in this beautiful spot on this gorgeous day, it certainly felt like it had been worth the cost. Mark felt good: better than he had in years. Still, he had to wonder, what was going on? Why had Monica banished him to the end of the point, just out of site of their secluded campsite? What was she planning?
He had his suspicions. The situation was reminiscent of another trip, over 30 years ago, when they had been so young and their passion for one another so intense and all-consuming. Another rest day. Another gorgeous campsite on a pristine and secluded lake. That time, he had prepared a surprise for her. Maybe she was planning something similar.
For the first several days of the trip, they had been so tired come nightfall that they had turned in early, both of them asleep by nine. They had had no energy to spare for anything else. Disappointing for sure: Mark had hoped the trip would mark a renewal of their sex life, which had suffered from all the tension of recent years. At last, a couple of days ago, they had made camp early at a gorgeous spot below a small rapids. She had taken hold of him and kissed him as they stood on the rocks, saying simply “I want you tonight.”
Mark was surprised: Monica rarely spoke this directly about sex. Their intimate life had had its ups and downs over the years. Going through menopause had been particularly rough for her, with the hot flashes, mood swings, dryness: it had taken more than a year before they had regained their previous closeness. And having Kevin in the house, seemingly always awake, always into things, always loud, had gotten in the way so many times. Lately, the stress of what was in reality a huge life change, one that should have made things easier for them, had had an impact. But maybe, just maybe the trip was beginning to work its magic.
“Well, maybe I can arrange some way to meet your needs,” he replied, then kissed her back, making her giggle when he playfully darted his tongue into her mouth.
It was a dull day, threatening rain, and they had made camp quickly and efficiently. Set up the tarp first, to give them a sheltered spot to set up the tent in case of rain. Then the tent. Gather firewood: best to do that before the rain started. Saw up the wood into manageable lengths. Assemble the little firebox Mark had made: this allowed them to move the fire under the shelter of the tarp if need be. Then dinner: spaghetti and meat sauce made with ingredients Mark had dried himself, followed by pudding for dessert. Through it all there had been a playful tension between them. Mark had taken every opportunity to touch her, brush against her ass or breasts. She had simply smiled, leaned in and kissed him.
The rain had started shortly after dinner, and they had retreated under the tarp, stashing the firewood there to keep it dry. They had vaped some cannabis, using the little butane-fired portable vapourizer that was just the ticket for long trips. Then they had simply watched the rain sweep across the lake until it became too dark to see. Not saying much, just enjoying each other and the wild panorama before them, so different from home in the city. Then they had gone to bed. Ridiculously early, but they had plans. Monica had left the little candle lantern lit in the tent vestibule, casting a dim flickering light that subdued the garish colour of the tent. They had lain down beside each other under the down sleeping bag, cuddling to warm up. Skipping the preliminaries, they started kissing immediately, Taking turns probing each other with their tongues. Deep and urgent, then gentle, almost teasing. So familiar, yet this never failed to turn him on. After a time he had thrown the down quilt off and started kissing his way down, first her neck, then lingering for a while on each nipple, making them hard and firm, then the belly, then her thighs. Pushing his tongue between her lower lips, swirling it around, mingling his saliva with her juices. He almost always did this first, to help her get nice and wet and slippery. Then he had concentrated on her clit, pushing in hard with his jaw, flicking it with his tongue. She started moving against him and he could hear her moans, rising to a gentle keening, that could have been mistaken for despair, had he not known otherwise.
Then she had pushed his head away. Didn’t want to come, not yet. Knowing what she wanted, he had lain on his back, and she had swung her leg over top of him. Mounting him. Then she had licked her hand and stroked his firm cock, moistening it, fingering the soft underside where she knew he was most sensitive. Getting him harder. Getting him ready.
At last she had moved forward and raised herself up on her knees, positioning herself over his now fully-erect cock. She had taken him in fully in one long, deep thrust and held him there. He felt the familiar feel of her cunt enveloping him, the walls of her vagina gripping and massaging him deliciously with the slightest movement. They were made for this.
She had fucked him hard, almost wildly that night. Stroking herself with her fingers as she pounded down on him. She had come quickly, wailing, nearly howling into the night. But there was no one else to hear, just the two of them.
That had been three days ago, now. He felt the familiar hunger and anticipation rising in him when he thought back on it. Nearing the age of 60, those feelings didn’t come as often as they used to, so he savoured them now. He wondered again what Monica was planning, hoping she would finish up with whatever she was preparing soon.
He took another cast out into the lake, his lure landing in the water with a sharp plop. A breeze had sprung up from the west, providing a welcome relief from the heat. There were no bugs during the day on an open point like this at this time of the year. September was a fine time to be out: It wasn’t often that he could be in the bush wearing short sleeves.
At last Monica appeared over the little rise that separated him from the camp side of the peninsula, beckoning him to come. He followed her to a little nook under a tall white pine tree that angled out over the lake, shading a rare flat area beneath, right at the lake’s edge. She had made a little nest there, laying the groundsheet down first, then the two air mattresses, held together by two thin straps. Over this she had placed the fleece bottom of their double sleeping bag, unzipped from the down-filled top. Didn’t need that today. Their inflatable pillows occupied the end of the bed. A comfortable nook for two. A room with a view.
Mark smiled at her and asked “What’s this?”
“This,” she replied, a coquettish grin on her face, “is going to be a great way to spend an afternoon.” She sat down on the edge of the mattresses, facing the lake, then held out her hand to beckon him. He took it and sat down beside her. She reached down to her pillow and pulled out the little vapourizer she had secreted there. He heard the hiss of gas as she turned it on, then a series of clicks as she pressed the igniter switch. After a tiny orange glow indicated that it was on and lit, she put it aside to heat up.
Mark looked forward with anticipation to the familiar glow from the warming weed. Cannabis had become their ally over the years, providing some respite from the endless irritations and tedium of daily existence. Even so, their use of the drug had stabilized at a frequency of two or three times per week. For Mark at least, it was self-limiting: there was a definite residual effect the next day. Not a hangover exactly, not that horrible sick feeling he used to get after drinking too much. More like a light drowsiness, a slight numbness that persisted for several hours. It wasn’t unpleasant or limiting: he often felt that he could concentrate more effectively in this condition. Nonetheless, it wasn’t something he wanted to experience every day.
No, it wasn’t addictive, not physically at least. Even so, Mark wouldn’t want to do without it. It made good things so much better. The sauna, music, a good movie. And, most of all, sex. For Mark, cannabis was the great aphrodisiac, never failing to put him in the mood. Slowed him down, made him enjoy the moment in a way he couldn’t do otherwise. Made orgasm so much better. The gift of pleasure. He tried always to imbibe before making love to Monica. She was less dependent than him, but still enjoyed it. On this, at least, they agreed.
Monica picked up the vapourizer and sucked on the little tube at the top, drawing in the warm gasses. She held it in, then exhaled a thin, nearly invisible cloud of vapour, then passed it to Mark. He allowed it to cycle on again before taking his hit. They continued on like this, holding hands, gazing out at the lake, and passing the vapourizer back and forth, until each of them had had about five draws. Then Monica switched the little machine off.
Already Mark felt that relaxing warmth, almost as if his very flesh was loosening on his bones. The aches and pains of the last few days receded. It was as if he had become a spectator to his own sensations. He could feel the soreness in his knee from the fall he had taken yesterday, but the feeling was not nearly as unpleasant as before. He began to flex the muscles there, working to reach the root of the pain.
Gazing out at the vista before him, he noticed that the sky had become a deeper blue, the puffy clouds a sharper white. The lake, the shore, the trees: he was amazed by the endless intricacy and complexity of it all. Unplanned certainly, but with patterns nevertheless. The landscape had a story to tell, if one only listened.
They were still holding hands, and he felt Monica lean against him, resting her head on his shoulder. Felt such love for her in that moment. His life partner. His best friend. And she could still get him hot, turn him on. Sure, not like in that first year after they met, when the strength of their bond had been almost frightening in its intensity, dominating their lives with its totality. They both knew, had always known that something so strong could never last, could not be sustained. Their love had changed, morphed into something else. And he knew it could never be broken. It would last until the end.
Mark felt good. Everything had come together to make one of those rare days that you know you will remember for the rest of your life. It wasn’t just the drug, although that certainly played a role. It was being here, in this beautiful place, with his beautiful wife. Knowing that they would soon share their love. Knowing that they could be out here, didn’t have to rush home.
No longer trapped. That was it. He realized then that he had felt trapped, imprisoned in a situation he couldn’t escape, for more than twenty years now. For the first time, he felt the enormity of the change that had come to their lives. The possibilities that had opened up. The freedom. After so long, after nearly losing hope that anything could ever change, it was almost overwhelming to realize that it had, in fact, changed so suddenly and completely.
A loon started running across the surface of the lake, its wings clapping together as it struggled to take off. The sound, so distinct from the near-silence that surrounded them, brought him out of his reverie. He turned to Monica to find her smiling at him. Pulled her to him and kissed her.