Chapter Twenty-five

“Run!” I screamed, pushing everyone ahead of me as we sprinted out of the collapsing cave. I could feel the rocks falling at my heels, threatening to take me down with them. I ran as fast as I could towards the light at the entrance of the cave, until it finally the light consumed us all; we were out safely. We stood there for a while, catching our breaths. I heard Chris behind me let out a nervous laugh, which lightened the mood some, causing us to laugh as well.

Haylee wasn’t laughing. “Now what? They’ll catch us for sure.” Her annoyed comment quelled our laughing.

“Well…” I began slowly. “Let’s get back to the others first. Maybe we won’t get caught if no one notices our absence.”

“Alright. Which way do we go?” Haylee replied, looking down the two paths. Nothing seemed familiar anymore, for the collapsed cave spilled out onto the trail.

“I think I remember heading that way before breaking away from the group.” The taller one said, pointing down the path to the left. I inwardly agreed, and apparently so did the others, for no one raised any objection.

“Alright.” Chris shrugged. “That way it is, then.” With that, we started walking, nervousness sparking between us.

“Oh, I guess we never introduced ourselves.” The shorter girl said, glancing in our direction. “I’m Jackalyn, and this is Kyle. Everyone calls me Jackie, though.”

“And I don’t think I have a nickname.” Kyle added.

“Hi!” Haylee said, introducing the three of us as well. “I’m Haylee, this is Dan, and that’s Chris.” She stated, gesturing to each of us in turn. “Hey, haven’t I seen you someplace before?” She asked, turning to Jackie.

“Hmm…” Jackie thought for a moment. “Oh, did you eat at Olive Garden a few days ago?”

“Yeah, we went there on the fourteenth.”

“Yep. I was your waitress. I just got a temporary job there a few weeks ago.”

“Huh. Who would have known…” Chris trailed off.

“So where are you guys from?” I said, attempting to start a conversation.

“We’re both all the way from Ohio.” Jackie answered. “You?”

“We’re from Eng-” I stopped myself before finishing England. “Er, Pennsylvania. Chris and I just moved there a couple of months ago, and we’re not quite used to living there yet, I guess.”

“Weird.” Kyle piped up. “I’m from England, too. I moved to Ohio so that I could find a job there, and then met her.” He finished, glancing at Jackie.

I wonder if they’re a couple? I thought, but decided that I’d find out sooner or later.

Jackie continued, bringing me out of my thoughts. “Yep. He’s like an older brother to me.” Nope, guess not. “He needed a place to stay since his rent was about to go out in his apartment, so he stayed at my place for a while. I had worked with him some, and we had become friends.” She shrugged. “I guess I’m stuck with him now.”

Kyle started. “So what are you guys doing all the way over here?”

“Vacation. We needed a break from work.” I answered.

“Work?” Haylee teased. “What work? And what do you mean by break?”

Chris teased back. “Well, maybe you should live your life a little and stop writing for once.” He turned to Jackie and Kyle. “She’s an author. Never takes a break.”

This is when our conversation broke into little groups. Jackie started to talk with Haylee, while Chris and I talked with Kyle. I found out that he had an interest in music, but couldn’t sing even if he tried. He’s been looking for a band that would take him, but couldn’t find one. I caught him up on what Chris and I were doing with The Virgin Records and all that, and I invited him to the band. He accepted with only a tiny bit of persuasion needed.

Talking a little more, I found out more about what was happening in his world. Him and Jackie were sharing a house in Ohio, but were planning to move to PA. Their car had broken down once they got here in Arizona, so they rented an apartment, and were planning to stay there once their car was fixed. I invited them to tag along with us, since we would be staying for a while in our little camper. I figured that they could move in with one of us for a bit, until they found a house that they liked. If fact, I had seen some houses for sale a few miles down from the road I live on. It would take a while to get everything settled, but it would be worth it. I shared my idea with Kyle, and he said that he’d bring it up with Jackie, but most likely she would agree to it, since she was the one that wanted to move so bad. We exchanged numbers, and agreed to talk about it later.

“Oh, this is just fantastic.” I heard Haylee say from in front of us. Looking up, I saw that we had come to a rocky slope, and it looked like there was no other way around it.

“Well, the sooner we start, the sooner we finish.” Jackie said, beginning to inch her way down the slope, Haylee following close behind. I slide down beside her, wondering if we could talk without anybody overhearing, since they were concentrating on where they were placing their feet and hands.

“So what did you learn about Jackie?” I asked.

She shrugged, grabbing ahold of a rock and making her way slowly down. “She loves nature, and wants to get a job as a teacher. We have a lot in common, actually.”

She finished, hesitating before starting again. “Hey, Dan.”

“Hmm?” I answer, but before she could speak, her foot slipped on a rock, and with a squeal of shock, she lost her balance, her sun hat flying off. Loosened rocks tumbled down with her.

“Haylee!” I yelled, racing over the rocks and fighting to keep my footing. Haylee stopped herself from sliding too far, grabbing a solid stone.

“Ow.” She said, examining her right calf. Blood was oozing from a gash, dripping onto the rocks. “Oh, isn’t that lovely?” She said, wincing as she tried to get up.

“Here. Sit down.” I started, pulling a tangerine of water out of my pack. “Lay down on your stomach so that I can clean this up.”

“I’m not helpless, Dan.”

“I know, but it’ll be easier for me to do it.” By this time, the rest of our group was gathered around Haylee, and Jackie was pulling out a piece of cloth. Chris had retrieved her hat. I opened the tangerine, pouring water on her cut.

“Here.” Jackie handed me the white cloth. “I don’t have a first aid kit, so this’ll have to do.”

“Thanks.” I mumbled, wrapping Haylee’s calf and covering the wound.

“Ow.” She repeated as I tied it tight.

“Sorry, but this’ll help, I promise.” I said, offering my hand to pull her to her feet. “Can you walk?”

“Of course I can walk. It’s not like my whole leg got chopped off.” She limped the rest of the way down to the bottom, which was luckily not far away. Chris came behind her, pressing the sun hat crookedly on her head.

“Thanks.” She said, straightening it and smiling.

She turned to me. “And thanks to you, I won’t bleed to death today.” Her smile grew wider as she spoke. I returned her smile, tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear.

“Not today.” I replied, but before we could get any farther, I heard Kyle call from around a corner.

“Hey, guys. I think we just got ourselves un-lost.” Following his voice, we walked around the corner, seeing a traveler’s sign:

THIS WAY TO MAIN CAMPUS

It was pointing to the left, where a rocky uphill then stairs went up, and then it finally leveled out.

“Oh, this is great. The one muscle you use most for uphill climbing, and mine is all messed up.” I barely heard Haylee mumbled under her breath.

“Hey. I’ll be right here the whole time. If I could carry you I would, but I don’t think I have enough stamina for that.” I smiled, trying to lift Haylee’s spirits.

It worked. “Yeah. No, I’ll be fine. Hopefully.” With that, we began our long climb, our pace slowed a bit with Haylee’s injured calf. Jackie and Kyle were murmuring amongst themselves, and I guessed that they were probably talking about moving to Pennsylvania.

When we finally got to the top, we found our group, and nonchalantly scooted to the back the crowd.

Tori was finishing up. “Okay, guys. We hope that you have had a great time here today, and wish to see you again tomorrow.” With that, the crowd was dismissed, and we all went shuffling back to our own cars.

“Hey, Kyle. Text me if you want to clear things up a bit. We could invite you over our camper or something.” I said as we parted. He gave me a thumbs-up, and we all hopped into the car. I ended up driving, with Haylee in the passenger seat and Chris in the back.

“So what’s going on with you and Kyle?” She asked once we were on the road. I caught her up on the conversation that we had, and how he had wanted to move to PA with Jackie. She thought that it was a great idea, and that Jackie would be welcome to move in with her. She suggested that Kyle move in with me, since him and I were a bit closer than she was with him.

That night, I invited Kyle and Jackie over tomorrow at one, since our next tour of the Grand Canyon was going to be on Monday. Turning my thoughts off, I closed my eyes, slipping into a dreamless sleep.

The End

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