I got a little behind on making posts, so if you would like to see my first draft, the link is here. The following is the second draft, aka self edits, and I was pleasantly surprised how little I felt like changing–which also worries me… I’ll leave the rest of my thoughts at the end of this post, so I don’t sway your view too much. Enjoy!
This was it. Her final resting place. She was going to die on this dumb mountain without even reaching the top.
“Come on, wildcat,” Matt called back, already an annoying distance up the trail. “If we drop below fifty this bus will blow.”
“Screw that, Keanu. Let the mountain take me.”
“It can’t be much further,” Matt repeated for the seventh time in the past hour. His perfect ass was no longer enough motivation to keep going.
“Oh wow. Tessa, look at this view! It’s so beautiful.”
They were on a mountain in a national park. Every bend had a beautiful view and she was getting pretty damn sick of them. Jesus help her, if he did another handstand, she would push him off this mountain.
Dragging her feet up the path to where he stopped, she looked out where the trees parted revealing a clear view. The mountains faded into the distance from a deep, rocky grey to ocean blue and a distant, pale purple. It was gorgeous. If she wasn’t sweating like a pig and gasping like a fish on a freaking mountain this could almost be considered romantic.
“This would be the perfect backdrop for another inversion.” Matt interrupted her musing.
Before she could respond, he tossed her his phone, threw off his shirt, and flipped himself into a perfect handstand on the cliff.
“But, babe. Look at this view.” He switched his weight to one hand so he can point to the mountains behind him and she seethed. Could he at least look tired? “My followers will love it. Do it for the gram, babe.”
“I’m hot. I’m tired. And I don’t even like tea!”
“It’s not about the tea. It’s about the journey to the top.”
This was it. He was a nice guy and the sex was amazing, but she would not take one more photo and she was done with this mountain.
“I’m done, Matt. Don’t get dead.” And with that she turned to walk back down the way she came when a swift breeze whipped around the side of the mountain, tangled in his legs, and pulled.
There was an infinite moment where his eyes met hers before he tumbled out of view.
Tessa was surprised to see Keanu Reeves flash before her eyes. Hours and hours of Keanu, sitting on a lumpy, upcycled couch with boxes of takeout food on the coffee table and Matt laughing and cheering Keanu on with her. This was supposed to be something casual. And even if it wasn’t, he was supposed to be safe. Miles up a mountain and he’s still doing handstands. He was supposed to be indestructible, someone who could carry her hopes and fears–her heart–and never die.
“Tessa?” A soft call came from over the ledge. “Are you still there?”
She ran to the edge to find that the cliff was not as sheer as she though. He clung to the face like a baby opossum on its mother maybe five feet below her.
“Matt! I’m here.”
“I don’t think I can move.” He shifted and the gravel beneath him began to trickle precariously.
“Hold on, I’ll find help.” They had to be about three miles up now and the last group that passed was maybe ten minutes ago. There was no telling when the next would come by, or if they would even have any idea how to get him out of this.
“Thanks, Tessa. I really appreciate you, but also I might have overdone it with the inversions, and I’m not sure how long I can hang on.”
Damnit, Matt and his handstands. She whipped off her shirt then, a shallow part of her glad she picked her cute sports bra for the hike.
“Ok, I’m going to lower this down to you, but you’re a meaty giant, and I can’t pull you up on my own. Do you think you can do it?” She lowered her shirt over the edge. Stretching as far as she could, it landed about a foot above his head. It would have to be enough.
“Tessa I’m scared.”
“Pop quiz, hotshot. You’re stuck on a mountain face and this is your only way out. What do you do?”
He chuckled. “Thank goodness this isn’t a ‘shoot the hostage’ situation.”
Taking a deep breath, he performed some sort of jump and scramble until he caught the end of her shirt. Tessa’s arm felt like it would rip out of its socket, but she held on as he pulled his way back to her.
“Tessa, you’re amazing,” he cried, wrapping her in his arms and planting small kisses along her cheek and neck. Her heart melted and she pulled him closer, unable to get enough of him.
“I have to warn you,” she said. “I’ve heard relationships based on tense experiences never work.”
“We’ll have to base it on sex then,” he replied automatically, giving her ear a nip.
A chuckle from outside their embrace brought their attention back to the world around them. Another couple appeared around the corner, both of them blowing at steaming to-go cups and pretending they hadn’t heard their entire conversation.
“We’re almost there!” Matt grabbed her hand and they both hurried the few yards up the mountain until the trees parted, and there in a clearing was a small cottage with a neatly printed sign over the door simply stating ‘Teahouse’.
Matt walked straight inside and up to the register.
“Two chai teas, please.” Tessa was surprised how much she liked that he remembered the one tea she would drink. He placed his card confidently down on the counter for the barista to take.
“I’m sorry, sir,” she replied. “We only take cash.”
He turned back to Tessa, his eyes wide and covered his mouth with both hands. “I didn’t even think about bringing cash,” he mumbled through his fingers.
Tessa burst out laughing. “This wasn’t even about the tea. Remember?”
After Frankenstein-ing together a lot of the dialog while making the first draft, I was worried that it would be choppy and maybe skip around. Perhaps it still does and I just know what the characters are supposed to be like.
For example, I knew that Matt was an instagram influencer with an inspirational yoga theme (hence “inversion” vs “handstand”) and a classic himbo: athletic, a little ditsy, and a heart of gold. Picture a yellow lab with a tennis ball and that is Matt.
Tessa is a prickly pessimist with a mushy center that we don’t get to see until it’s forced out of her, and that’s part of what I really like about these two together. There’s something unknown in her past that’s made her close up, but Matt’s openness is a safe space for her to feel soft again and have fun.
I probably revealed everything here instead of letting the story tell the… story. If you would like to read more about how I processed the photo prompt, you can read my post on that here.
As an added bonus, I finished creating a Pinterest board for this short story, so check out that if you would like. I still haven’t come up with a name, though and am growing concerned, so we’ll see how that goes. The title for last year’s story just came so easily, but this year is being allusive.