Hunter was trying to revive the campfire to full strength in order to cook breakfast to no avail. He yawned loudly and shook his head afterwards, blinking a few times. Both he and Agatha didn’t sleep very well last night no thanks to Travis and his wife’s “romping,” as Travis succinctly stated yesterday. He frowned at something that gave both he and his wife pause: the definite dog-like sounds coming from their tent. Was Travis’ wife capable of passing for a real dog with those sounds or were the children onto something?
“Can’t get the fire started, dear?” Agatha sat next to him, interrupting his thoughts.
“I should get some more wood,” Hunter replied, sighing softly.
“It’s a good thing we got up early enough. Got all morning to get the fire started,” she chuckled. “I think by the time its back up, it’ll be lunchtime!” Hunter harrumphed at that, got up and then walked off to the stockpile of firewood at the ranger’s station. Agatha settled comfortably upon her place at the picnic table, and like Hunter, yawned but held up her hand to cover her mouth.
The sound of a zipper zipping alerted her to Travis and his wife’s tent, seeing the front flap being opened. Travis came out first and nodded to her before turning around to help his wife out. She couldn’t help but notice that Travis seemed as tired as she and Hunter.
“Sleep well last night?” Agatha called out to them, suppressing a smile.
“You could say that, what about you?” Travis replied with a grin as they made their way to Agatha at the table. Travis’ wife sat down across from Agatha slowly and carefully, but Travis didn’t join them.
“All right there, babe?” he asked his wife, putting a hand upon her shoulder the moment she settled in.
“Yes, thank you, love,” she replied quietly. Travis kissed upon the top of her head with a smile and then nodded to Agatha.
“Sorry, girls, but duty calls. I should be back around early evening, like five or six o’clock. Whenever,” he shrugged.
“You have to go to work now?” Agatha asked, slightly surprised.
“Yep. I wanted to stick around some more, but at least we got all week, right? I’ll see you later!” he walked off to his car, black trench coat flowing behind him like a cape in his brisk pace.
“Where’s Hunter?” his wife asked Agatha no sooner than when Travis drove out of sight, her golden eyes barely seen from underneath her bowed head.
“He’s gone to pick up more firewood for the fire here,” Agatha replied and Travis’ wife merely nodded her acknowledgement. Silence fell between them amidst the birdsong throughout the campsite and Agatha found herself feeling awkward, glancing to Travis’ wife who seemed to be sitting there in deep contemplation, the way she had her head bowed down.
“Thinking of something?” she blurted out loud and then caught herself, adding quickly, “oh, I’m sorry—“
“It’s quite all right, Agatha,” Travis’ wife spoke, and Agatha could feel amusement coming from her, as if that question was funny. “And yes, I always think of something. Many things, like… we all do,” she went on, seemingly catching herself from saying something with something else smoothly.
“Mind telling me some of these things?” Agatha pressed, anxious to know more about Travis’ wife. She was so mysterious to her, perhaps that was why Hunter was giving her cow eyes when they first met…
“Perhaps at a later time,” Travis’ wife spoke after a length of silence, choosing her words carefully despite her dreamy tone.
“Well, can you at least tell me what your name is?” Agatha did her best not to come off as pleading, as she couldn’t take the mystery any longer. Travis’ wife shifted in her seat slightly at that.
“As much as I want to tell you what my name is, I doubt you’d believe me anyway,” she replied almost quickly with a hint of amusement. Was she joking around? Agatha couldn’t tell for sure.
“Why wouldn’t I believe you?” her brows furrowed deeply in confusion. At that moment, she felt waves of amusement wash over her, making her feel like wanting to laugh, but only for that moment. The feeling died down as quickly as it began. She looked at Travis’ wife hard, narrowing her eyes.
“You’re joking, aren’t you?”
“Why would I be joking about something as serious as a name?” This left Agatha exasperated, concluding that Travis’ wife was really joking.
“I’m back!” Hunter’s voice startled Agatha and she turned around to see her husband walking towards them with several logs in his arms.
“Oh, here, let me help you, dear!” she got up from the picnic table to hurry towards Hunter and helped him carry the logs to the campfire. Hunter groaned and massaged his lower back after putting them down.
“Ohh, where’s Travis?” he asked as he sat down next to Travis’ wife along the plank seat of the picnic table, the closest to the campfire. He was acutely aware of who he was sitting next to.
“He’s at work, just left after you went to get some more firewood, in fact,” she replied.
“Is that so? Did he say what time he’s coming back?” Agatha noted a strange expression on Hunter’s face when he asked that question.
“Around five or six o’clock this evening.”
“A full workday, I see,” Hunter murmured and wiped sweat off his brow, glancing to the logs. “Well, I should take a shower after I put some into the campfire. Sweating like a pig here.”
“Don’t work too hard, dear. I’m going ahead for my shower now. What about you?” Agatha asked Travis’ wife who shook her head slightly.
“No thank you, I’m quite clean today,” her remark got the couple to stare at her suspiciously, looking at one another as if asking: how can she be clean after last night?
“Well… if you say so,” Agatha said after a short length of awkward silence that seemed to be full of the strange feeling of amusement and went to their tent to gather her things for the shower. Hunter set to loading three logs into the campfire and tried to stoke the dying ashes to heat up the wood.
As soon as Agatha walked out of sight towards the showers, Hunter took his chance to be right next to Travis’ wife as innocently as possible, sighing and wiping his brow with the back of his hand.
“Whew! It’s gonna be a hot one today, don’t you think?” he looked to her, seeing her look back at him as much as possible from her bowed head.
“Yes, very much so,” she spoke as she sidled up next to him so that she brushed against him. This made Hunter’s body thrill with excitement. When he made sure she wasn’t looking at him, he took the chance to smell her. To his surprise, she smelled like earth, like freshly dug-up black dirt. He was so surprised and confused, he smelled her again. He picked up on the same smell, plus something else he couldn’t quite put a finger on…
“You know,” she spoke, startling Hunter into thinking he was caught sniffing her. “We are quite alone with each other for at least a few minutes.” This made him swallow nervously, his heart beating against his chest he thought it might explode.
What happened next didn’t make it any better, or any worse. She placed a covered hand upon his thigh and began to stroke along it slowly towards between his legs. It was such a gentle and perhaps tentative stroke that left Hunter wondering if she was as nervous as he was. He grasped her hand before it could go any farther up his thigh, and placed it upon her own. He swallowed again.
“What about your husband?” He muttered as he fought against the urge to return the favor by stroking along her thigh. She looked at him slightly and leaned in towards his ear.
“What he doesn’t know can’t hurt us,” she whispered huskily, and Hunter blinked, frozen in indecision.
“And what your wife doesn’t know can’t hurt us either,” that added statement seemed to form his indecision into a sort of resolve that solidified within his heart, a sliver of understanding shined in his mind. Travis’ wife nodded to him and it occurred to him that she must’ve seen what went on in him on his face. His expression was first worry, then changed to an intense determined stare which could go on for a thousand yards.
“We will wait until the time is right, do you understand me?” she went on, asking Hunter as she sidled away from him, her hands upon her lap. He blinked and then nodded, clearing his throat.
The rest of the day had Hunter doing his best to calm his nerves from the morning’s event and took Travis’ wife’s advice to heart quite literally. He’d be not only keeping his distance from her but rather attentive to his own wife as to pass the time to wait for the “right time”.
When Travis returned from his job around 5:30 P.M., he bear-hugged his wife in greeting, growling and laughing, she also joined in. The Huntingtons were surprised in the way she reciprocated the entire greeting with him, punctuating with a brief full-body grind against him. This left Hunter envious of Travis and longing for his wife to do the same thing to himself.
“Hey guys! Got a meal cooking or what?” Travis joined the couple, grinning as he sat down with them at the picnic table. He glanced at the campfire and saw nothing added to it and his face fell, “apparently not.”
“No worries, Agatha and I were just about to break out the deer ribs when you came back,” Hunter replied, a slow grin of pride coming upon his face as he noted Travis’ look of surprise.
“Deer ribs? Babe, do my ears deceive me?” he glanced to his wife with a disbelieving expression who shook her head in reply.
“They told me earlier today, love, so it’s something I’ve been looking forward to the whole time.”
“Nice! You guys are the best!” Travis grinned at the Huntingtons who merely grinned in turn.
The cooking took at least two and a half hours, in which the camping party used the downtime to swap stories of their camp pastimes when it came to cooking, what they used to do back then. Of particular interest to Travis and his wife were the hunts Hunter used to do during his younger camping days in this very location. They exchanged glances with each other every now and then throughout his tale, giving the Huntingtons fleeting impressions they were up to something, having an idea or two. Or they were just into each other that way.
“We should do that sometime, you know,” Travis spoke up offhandedly after they got the ribs fully cooked and parceled out to everyone. His wife took her portion into their tent to eat by herself.
“What?” Hunter was startled out of looking towards Travis’ and his wife’s tent back to Travis, having a feigned look of innocence. He prayed Travis wouldn’t notice him looking after his wife, that would’ve ruined the camping trip and Agatha wouldn’t forgive him at all, ever.
“I said we should do the hunt sometime this week, you know,” Travis repeated, rephrasing the statement for clarity. “For old time’s sake, right?” he added the question quickly.
“That’s a mighty tempting offer, my friend, but I didn’t bring my rifle with us and I don’t think you did, either.”
“That’s true, but what’s stopping us from going back to New Hamlet and pick up our stuff and back here? Hell, we could do that tomorrow if you want,” Travis said with a smile at first and at the end had a look of suggestion.
“Do you really have a gun? No offense, but you don’t look like a hunter to me,” Hunter furrowed his brows as he scrutinized the man, sizing him up as if making sure. Sure enough, Travis didn’t look like a hunter according to his own expectations. Travis smiled in reply.
“True again, Hunter. However, I’ve picked up some skills in woodcraft, so that’s a start, right? I know how to handle a gun, from pistols to shotguns to rifles. Especially sniper rifles, really good at those babies,” he grinned and then went serious. “I don’t have a gun of my own or a permit, unfortunately. I was meaning to get one, but… you know. Life got in the way,” he ended with a wry smile, shrugging and then ate his meal with relish.
“You mean you got married with your wife, right?” Agatha spoke and Travis nodded, chewing on a mouthful as he was unable to voice an affirmative.
“It’s not too late to get those two things, you know.”
“Well, yeah, but the permit takes at least a month or less once you get it underway. So it’s kind of a pain in the ass waiting for it so you can get the guns you want,” he said after swallowing.
“Good things often take time,” Agatha’s reply got him to laugh after a moment or two of thinking about it, grinning.
“Oh, how very true, especially when it’s worth the wait, indeed,” Travis’ expression slowly changed from knowing merriment to a brooding one. This, however, changed quickly to a cheerful one as he looked to the couple, smiling. “So how about it? A hunt in the woods sometime this week?”
“Hold up here, Travis. How did you learn to shoot pistols, shotguns and rifles?” Hunter interjected, holding up a hand.
“Oh, target shooting,” Travis said matter-of-factly with a nod. Hunter blinked at that and had a considering look. They continued to eat their meals in silence for a couple of minutes.
“All right, deer season doesn’t start in two months, so the most we can do right now is scout out the grounds tomorrow. A lot has changed since the last time I hunted ’round these parts, so a little refresher wouldn’t hurt. Plus it’ll be of great help for you too,” Hunter said at last as soon as he finished his meal.
“Good suggestion. Also, that’s plenty of time to get me that permit and a gun of choice,” Travis said after chugging down his drink.
“Exactly. Which gun are you getting?”
“I don’t know, man. A lot of appealing choices out there these days now, know what I mean? I’ve had my eye on those Barrett M82s and M60s for a while, though,” Travis grinned.
“Uh, aren’t those military rifles?” Hunter blinked and Agatha had a concerned look.
“Bingo. They only hold sentimental value to me, mind you. But seriously, any decent hunting rifle with a scope is good enough for me.” Hunter seemed to consider Travis’ words and then nodded after a length of time.
“Well, all right, then. It’s a plan.”
“Excellent, I look forward to this,” Travis smiled and finished off his meal.