Chapter Twenty-four

(Dan’s Point of View)

I wish this moment could last forever.

Everything was perfect; Haylee was by my side, a cool summer breeze blowing towards us, and even Chris was respecting our space. This had to be the best birthday I’ve ever had.

All too soon, Chris broke the silence. “Alright, guys. I think I’m going to head in for the night.”

I heard Haylee yawn beside me. “Yeah, we can’t stay out here all night.” So much for forever. With that, we walked back to the camper in silence, where we all turned in for the night.

The next day flew by, partially because of all the exploring we did. Before I knew it, I opened my eyes to Haylee’s alarm at 7:30.

“Wakey, wakey, rise and shine!” She chorused, waking Chris in the process. “The Grand Canyons are waiting!”

The Grand Canyons! I thought excitedly, jumping out of bed. “Great! I’m up!” I said, looking over at Chris, who had just sat up.

I poked my head into the main room. “Are you showering first, Haylee?” I asked.

“Not if you want to.”

“Alrighty, then. You can go first, and I’ll wait.” I ate some cereal with Chris, waiting for Haylee to finish.

“Hey, Dan.” She called once she was dressed.

“Yes?” I answered, putting my bowl in the sink.

She hesitated. “I have no idea what to do with my hair.”

I smiled. “Well, how about you clip your bangs back so that they don’t get in the way while we’re hiking.”

“Yep. I think I’ll just fishtail the rest to the side.”

“Sounds good to me.”

We were ready in no time; all of us were packed and showered, ready to go. We hopped in the car, finding our way to the Grand Canyon with only a little of trouble, considering the traffic. Finding a place to park, we got on tour, our guide introducing herself.

“Hi, my name is Tori, and I’m going to be your guide for today. We’ll be going deep inside the Grand Canyon, and will also be entering some caves, and be doing some climbing. In order to keep you all safe, please follow all of my instructions and listen to the information I have to offer. Remember to stay with your group at all times and never to stray off. Are there any questions?” Nobody said anything, so we set off, our bags bouncing against our backs.

The orange and red and tan swirled walls of the Grand Canyon were beautiful, especially with the way the light touched them. It was enough to make even a horrible camera such as Chris's old one take pictures that looked professional. He has forgot his new one back at the camper, getting the cases confused and grabbing the wrong one at the last moment.

"Isn't it beautiful..?" Haylee whispered from close beside me while the guide was speaking. She was looking directly at me, so I smiled and nodded in agreement. She looked absolutely gorgeous in the light, especially her hair. It almost looked as good as it did when she left it down. How was she able to do a fishtail braid so well without any help? The tight horizontal loops had a perfected size, and it tapered evenly all the way down to the curlycue after the hair tie. I decided to let her know how much I loved it.

"Friends or more than friends, I will always love your hair. I looks great like this."

I gave her another smile as she glanced at me from under her sunhat, and I could see a smile creeping onto her lips as well.

"Thanks, Dan, but I truly think your hair is better."

I swiftly avoided her compliment and knocked her sunhat off of her head, releasing a chuckle as she made a noise of protest and stopped to pick it up. Tori glanced back at us with an annoyed expression on her face. What? We’re not allowed to have fun? I made a face back at her and she turned back around, probably deciding that we were just being stupid.

By this time, we had reached the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and were headed towards an opening in the side.

“This cave is called Still Fire, named by the Indians so long ago. It is a dead end, so don’t be alarmed when we find one. It is advised that you don’t enter this cave if you have claustrophobia, for some areas can become a little tight. Ari, my assistant, will stay back with you if you choose not to enter.” I hadn’t noticed him before, for he was much shorter Tori, but looked about my age. Despite his lack in size, he looked confident and professional.

“I wouldn’t want to mess with him.” I whispered in Haylee’s ear.

She nudged me. “Stop making fun of people and pay attention.” She said, although I could see a playful spark in her eyes. Soon after our little converse, we enter the cave, our flashlights on.

We walked for a while, our footsteps echoing strangely off the walls. Other than that, the silence was killing me; I was thankful when Tori finally spoke.

“And these are crystals, formed by magma cooling on the rock by a volcano explosion thousands of years ago. Do not touch the crystals, or lean over the safety tape.” We all stopped to look at the crystals, most of us snapping pictures. They seemed to glow in the man-made light that was now shining in the cave, and looked nearly as beautiful as Haylee. Nearly, but not quite.

We journeyed through the rest of the cave, eventually coming to the dead end that was mentioned earlier.

"Alright, folks, let me get to the front here, and we'll head back out." She scooted past me, shooting me a hot glare. What's her problem? I thought sourly.

I turned to Haylee. “Did you see that?” I asked her.

“Yeah, I don’t know what her problem is.” She replied. “Don’t worry about it.”

I just snorted and followed the rest of the crowd out of the cave. The sudden sunlight blinded me, causing me to have to squint for a moment.

“Okay, gang, we’re going to be walking for a while, for the next cave is a bit farther off.” Tori began. We walked for a while, me and Haylee brushing arms. Then thought came to my head. Maybe I should try holding her hand? I wasn't sure, but before I could make up my mind, something shiny caught my eye.

There was a part to the cave where it split off. It was a small space, but there were crystals in it that weren't marked "DO NOT TOUCH." And I really wanted to touch those shiny molten rock formations.

I gently nudged Haylee with my arm and gestured with my head towards the tunnel. She raised her eyebrows at first before I touched her hand instead and smiled. She turned to tap on Chris's shoulder, clearly understanding. He immediately, without question, began to slow his pace as we did. Tori wasn't watching, just blabbing on about something uninteresting up ahead, her back turned towards everyone,  and the three of us now at the back of the group quietly slipped off to the side, and towards the tunnel. Neither of them dared to ask what it was about, probably in fear of being heard, therefore caught, but instead followed me in and towards the beautiful rocks. When we were out of sight and none could see and probably not hear, Haylee whispered in my ear, though it practically came out as a hiss.

"What in the name of everything good are we doing here, Dan? What have you dragged us into this time?"

She only sounded slightly angry, but when I looked into her eyes in the dim light, I could see she was just as willing to adventure as I was. Chris looked a little scared, though, as if he didn't like being away from the rest of the group.

Well, too bad for him. He decided to tag along,  now he has to stick with us or else we'll be caught and be in so much trouble. I thought, giving him a look over Haylee's shoulder with the fishtail braid on it.

Just as he saw my look and was opening his mouth to object to what he assumed I was thinking, two figures appeared from the entrance to the tunnel place where we were. Nearly jumping out of my skin, my heart rocketed up to my throat. We can't get caught now! I thought as Haylee and Chris turned around to see what I was looking at.

"Who are you?" The taller figure hissed, approaching us slowly. He had a Brittish accent to match my own.

"Look, we just wanted to see the crystals again; I think that they're pretty wicked." I began nervously. The two came close enough that I could make out their physical features. The taller one hair brown hair and a nicely trimmed beard and mustache, and the shorter one was female, and she had brown, wavy hair about shoulder length and blue eyes.

“It’s okay; we wanted to touch the crystals, too.” The girl smiled.

“Well, in that case, let’s hurry up before we get caught.” Chris let out a sigh of relief, walking towards the molten rock formations. The crystals were hanging over a hole, but were dangling into it, so that none of us could fall in.

“Hey, guys. Do you think that we could break a piece off as a souvenir?” The taller one whispered.

“Are you kidding?” I heard Haylee raise her voice some. “That’s damaging their property! Do you have any idea how much trouble we’ll get into for that, let alone sneaking off like we did?”

“Haylee, this isn’t their property. They can’t own something that was never theirs to own.” I tried to reason with her. She just rolled her eyes in the dim light. “Look, let’s just touch the crystals and get out of here, before we’re left behind.”

With that, we approached the shiny molten formations slowly, until we were finally standing right in front of them. We glanced at each other nervously, as if asking who would touch them first. Eventually, the shorter girl reached out and ran her fingers down the crystals, her eyes widening.

“They feel really smooth, but delicate at the same time. And a volcano made this?” She said as the rest of us reached out to touch the crystals as well. Seeing what she meant, this made me really want to take one back home. It would be the souvenir of a lifetime! But just as I was about to break a piece off, the whole cave around us shook, and without warning, the crystals came crashing down.

The End

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