I looked up from my pointless doodles to find Max's eyes directly on mine, scrutinizing my every move.
So, because I knew that, despite how much he did it to me, I stared right back at him because it would make him feel awkward. He held my gaze for a minute, and then his eyes flickered down briefly.
"Max, you don't need to have me under constant surveillance," I told him.
"I feel like I do," he sighed and looked back up at me. "Every time I look away something else happens to you."
"I always recover."
"You almost didn't recover from this time," he stared at the grass again. "At one point you weren't even breathing."
I thought for a second about what to say. Max's one true fear was that I would die and there would be nothing he could do about it. I moved closer to him and pushed my fingers through his. "I'm still alive."
"Yes, but I am." He knew what I was trying to say. He knew that, harsh as it may seem, by now he should be used to it. He should expect these things, and know that I would always get better, however long it took.
"Sara." He said. "I love you."
"I love you," I echoed, smiling.
He pressed his lips gently to mine and then hugged me tightly.
Then we sat in a comfortable silence while I looked around. This place seemed so empty. And there was definitely something missing. Something I was so used to seeing that I probably should have worked it out by now. I scanned the clearing again, and saw only one tent. And that was it. What was missing. One tent.
"She went away."
I felt my eyes widen. "What do you mean 'she went away'?"
Max groaned. "We had an argument and she went away."
An argument. "Well it must have been pretty big for her to just leave."
"It was," Max sounded like he was still peeved about whatever it was. "If you knew, you'd understand."
"Well tell me, then."
"I can't," he said through gritted teeth. "But I really, really want to."
"Why can't you?"
"Because! I promised- I promised I wouldn't."
I frowned. "Well you have a bit of a dilemma there, don't you? Keep your oh-so-important promise to her, or keep the one promise to me that I actually care about."
He looked at me like I'd told him that my life would be at risk if he broke his promise to me. "I... I can tell you half of it."
"Go on, then."
"I found out why Abbie spends half her time alone in her tent. That's why we were arguing. I wasn't supposed to find out, but I did. And I'm sorry I can't tell you but you just have to trust me. I wouldn't be breaking this promise if I didn't have to keep the other one."
I nodded. "So what you're saying is that it's... an opinion that I'm not allowed to know."
"No. It's a fact. And it's a necessity that you don't find it out."
"Right," I got up and started to roll up my sleeping bag and shoved my blanket into my backpack.
"Sara," Max asked, confused. "What are you doing?"
"We're going to look for Abbie."
"She decided to go."
"I couldn't care less. We're going to find her." I threw my bag to where Max was sitting, and then started taking the tent down.
"You seem annoyed," he said, getting up to help me.
"I am annoyed."
"Are you annoyed at me?"
At this point we were face to face, and he looked a bit deflated because normally I would pretend my bad mood had nothing to do with him. I stood on my toes and kissed him.
"It'll pass," I said. "Don't worry."
"I know," he smiled. "I just feel so... stupid."
I grinned, laughing. "Welcome to my world."
He laughed as well as we tried to walk out of the clearing, and then we were stopped. It was like an invisible barrier, but not like a solid stop, like a wall of something. It was more how I would imagine the effect of trying to walk through caramel. Really, really thick caramel.
And I just stood there, stunned.