In the days leading up to Friday, all of Prospect Avenue as well as perhaps the rest of New Hamlet were abuzz about the news of the new couple planning on camping with the Huntingtons, duly informed by Betty Hayton. There were mixed reactions ranging from approval to indifference to apprehension, particularly from the children.
The children strongly believed the man in the black trench coat and his wife were set on devouring the Huntingtons during their camping trip, or worse, made into new werewolves. Naturally, their parents dismissed this very notion as ludicrous and bade them to forget all this silliness about the couple.
The folks regarded Travis’ new job with interest, as they were aware of Cyberdyne Systems, the computer factory, residing several miles away from New Hamlet off of Highway 51. They concluded by assuming his classified job was no more than making computer chips just like any other computer factory elsewhere in the United States.
Agatha was perhaps a little more surprised than the others as she apparently wasn’t part of the decision Hunter made to offer a camping trip with Travis and his wife. Perhaps Hunter was becoming fast friends with them, she wondered.
“All I’m saying is, since we were going camping anyway, I just thought it’d be nice to give them a chance to experience more of what New Hamlet has to offer,” Hunter said when asked on this subject by his wife.
“Well, all right, you have a fair point. It is lovely at this time of year, so it’ll be a shame if they didn’t take up on your offer. You like them, don’t you?” she asked him, smiling. Hunter looked at her for a moment before replying, to make sure she wasn’t wising up to what he had in mind.
“They’re okay once you get used to them, seems sociable, don’t you think?” he did his best to be as off-hand as possible, shrugging a little.
“Yes, they’re decent folk as far as I can tell. I think it’ll be a good chance for us to get to know them better.”
“Exactly what I had in mind, my dear Aggie!” Hunter chuckled and Agatha joined in. He was pleased to see her going the way he wanted her to: thinking one way, unsuspecting of anything else.
He was definitely going to take his chances, after all.
Upon Friday, Travis and Guardian were ready to follow the Huntingtons into the Dark Forest, a vast stretch of wood aptly named for the perpetual shade they provided just beyond the Otter River. It was part wildlife preserve and part campground, spanning at least a hundred miles in all. The campground itself took up at a quarter of the place, an effort to have man coexist with nature for at least short periods of time, especially in the warmer months of the year.
The moment Travis and Guardian followed the Huntingtons’ loaded station wagon in their blue Oldsmobile with its windows tinted to the highest legal limit of blackness; they set to discussing precautions, always keen on making sure history wouldn’t repeat itself.
When they got to their campsite, Travis got out of the car first, walking around to open the passenger door and reached in. He helped his wife out of the car onto her feet carefully with such tenderness and dignity that gave the Huntingtons the impression he was being chauvinistic. He and Hunter then went to setting up their tents while their wives stood by watching them work.
“If you don’t mind me asking, why does Travis always wear that trench coat?” Agatha asked delicately to Guardian, who looked at her indirectly from her bowed head. She didn’t immediately respond, making Agatha wonder if she had asked a very sensitive question.
“It is because he loves trench coats, simple as that,” she spoke at last, seemed to say something more and then fell silent.
“Oh, I thought it was part of… being Muslim,” Agatha replied. She immediately felt something akin to laughter threatening to break free from inside of her, and she was certain that was coming from Guardian.
“Oh no, not at all,” Guardian shook her head slightly and then faced Agatha fully. “I wish to tell you something and you are free to tell your husband of this if you wish.”
“What is it?” Agatha frowned slightly.
“I have to take my meals inside the tent at all times, while the rest of you eat outside around the fire. I am forbidden to show even my mouth when it comes to food, this is the true reason why I abstained from eating with you people at the anniversary party.”
She could see that Agatha was beginning to understand and nod.
“But of course, that’s… quite understandable! Hunter and I want nothing more for you two to enjoy yourselves with us here and of course, we will honor your request,” Agatha replied with a smile and made to put a hand on Guardian’s arm, but thought better of it, withdrawing it.
“Thank you, Agatha. I am glad you understand. We will do our best to make the most of our stay here with you and Hunter.”
The men had finished setting up their campsite, Hunter and Agatha’s tent was closer to the campfire while Travis and his wife’s tent was farther away, tucked into a nook and three of its sides surrounded by underbrush. Hunter and Agatha’s tent was a simple domed one while Travis and his wife’s had three “chambers,” which was really three domes overlapping each other at the center.
“That’s a big one!” Hunter pointed out and Travis grinned.
“Yep, more space for the romping, a-yup!” this caused Agatha to look at Travis with a shocked expression bordering on disgust. Travis merely grinned wider and shrugged innocently. “What?”
Hunter and Agatha shook their heads before resuming unpacking their things from the station wagon.