Aria was a geologist who was asked to explore a newly discovered underground cave to see what she could learn. She was very excited. This was huge because it was the first time she’d get to go alone on a study. A man named Evan was going along with her but this would also be his first time so it wasn’t like they were sending a babysitter. He hoped that he was a decent person since the cave was apparently really big so she was supposed to stay in it three to four days.
She couldn’t imagine three to four days with a jerk. As her mentor would say dealing with jerks is part of the job and you wont always like who your partnered with until you’ve been in it enough to be able to choose your own or go completely alone. If she did well on this trip she could be trusted to go all by herself.
Aria started packing for her trip. She had to take a plane to get there. It was private though so it would only be her and Evan on there. The flight would be a great opportunity to get to know him. When she was packed she settled into bed and set her alarm for morning.
Evan stared up at his hotel room ceiling, unable too sleep. His flight was early and all he could think about was being stuck in a cave for four hours with someone he didn’t know. They had made him come all the way Portland just to take a flight with her. He huffed and sat up, swinging his legs over the edge of the bed and standing up. All he knew his her name was Aria. Another thing he didn’t need was a woman terrified of dirt and tight, dark places. He pulled his jeans and his sweater on then found his socks and shoes. He needed to walk off some of his excess energy. He grabbed his key card and left, taking the elevator down and waving at the receptionist as he passed through the lobby. The night air felt amazing on his face. He walked until it was almost three in the morning then he ran back to the hotel and went upstairs. He jumped in the shower, washing away the sweat. He got out, dried and slipped into bed. He closed his eyes and drifted off.
Aria’s alarm went off, making her jerk awake. She switched it off and crawled out of bed. She stretched as she walked into the bathroom and switched on the shower. She pulled her night shirt and panties off then pulled her hair up on top of her head. She stepped under the warm spray, the water waking her. She switched it off and dried. She dressed in jeans and her yellow Bowie t-shirt. She checked her watch, grabbed her bag and practically ran out to the waiting taxi. The driver helped load her bag and she jumped in the back seat.
When she arrived at the airport there was a man waiting for her to take her to the plane. Evan wasn’t there yet so they had to wait. She was highly annoyed he didn’t show up on time. A few minuets passed by and she saw a man running towards them. She guessed that must be Evan. “Sorry I’m late” The man didn’t say anything and just turned to guide them to the plane. Evan glanced at Aria. There was something about her that seemed familiar. He felt like he had met her before. He shrugged it off as the man took their things to load it up.
They sat as far away from eachother as possible. He couldn’t shake this feeling that he had already met her before. “Why do you keep staring at me?” Aria asked startling him. “I’m sorry, have we met before? You seem familiar.”
“I don’t think so.”
“Alright I’m sorry.” Evan kept his mind busy trying to remember. Until Aria dropped somthing then proclaimed “Fudgesickles, flippin fudgesickles.” because she had dropped her ipod. He then knew who she was. He had only ever met one girl in his life who said that but it couldn’t be. When he was 14 he went to visit his Aunt Sadie for the whole summer. Back then he wore braces and glasses instead of contacts and a bunch of boys started to tease him. This girl with short black hair scared them off. They spent the entire summer hanging out and before he left he kissed her. It was his first kiss. They didn’t speak again once he got home.
“You didn’t by any chance live in Wisconsin when you were 13 did you?”
“I met you when I was fourteen and you were thirteen. We spent the summer hanging out together.”
“No, you’re that Evan? Wow you look completely different! Jesus you actually recognize me?”
“I only pinned who you were because of you saying fudgesickles to cuss.”
She blushed crimson and pressed her fingers to her lips. She had kissed him that summer. Back then he had been a gangly teen with braces and black rimmed glasses. He had been sweet, polite and cute. She remembered chasing off a bunch of young boys pushing him around. He had never been willing to raise a finger to hurt anyone, not even in self defense. Now he was a twenty-five year old with bright blue eyes and stood over six feet tall. Where he had been boyishly cute before he was drop dead sexy now. “I never liked saying the F word. Besides my grandma always said it.” She said and he flashed her a smile. That smile could make her melt on the spot.
“I always loved when you’d say that. It always cheered me up.” He went back to minding his own business, staring out the window and watching the world pass by. He frowned, thinking about how smooth he sounded. He shook his head and reclined his seat a little and closed his eyes. He felt like the lord of dorks. He could feel her watching him, but he kept his eyes closed. He preferred not to dig an even deeper hole for himself.
Aria was really surprised he remembered her since they hadn’t spoken since then. Her hair was long now, a little past her shoulders. She couldn’t believe after all these years she was with him again. They were going to be spending a few days together inside of a cave. If he was still a nice guy and fun to be around this time she’d make sure to atleast get an email. If he wanted to still speak to her. Just because he remembered her didn’t mean he was excited to see her again.
That was a really fun summer and she thought about it many times. It wasn’t long before they landed. They got their backpacks back and another man lead them to a jeep. When they stopped the man said “I’ll lead you to the cave entrance but then you are on your own. There’s lanterns lining the walls almost all the way through the cave. Not all of it has been explored so now would be the time to buy batteries if you forgot to get them.” They both remembered so the man started walking to guide them to the cave.
They came to the entrance and dug in their bags for their helmets. They strapped them on, shouldered their bags and moved inside. It was dimly lit inside and beautiful. Stalactites and stalagmites reached for each other. The cave started too slightly decline and it became cooler. This cave was nothing like anything Aria had seen before. They could hear water and came across and underground stream. She stopped to study some of the rocks, picking up a few and sticking them in her pack to analyze in better light. They ventured deep, the cave going down until her skin was ice cold and she had to stop. She opened her pack and was shocked when she didn’t see her sweater. She cursed herself for forgetting something so important.
Evan could tell she was irritated. She glared at her bag as if she was willing it to burst into flame. “Something wrong?” He asked and she glared up at him before zipping her bag and slipping it back on. She took off and he sighed in exasperation. He reached out, grabbing her arm and spinning her back around. “What’s wrong?”
“I’m a little embarrassed to say.” She replied with a frown.
“Come on, tell me.”
“I forgot my sweater.” He started laughing and she glared at him. He coughed and cleared his throat. He took off his pack and pulled out the extra one he had packed and held it out to to her.
“If you need something just ask. I’ll only briefly tease you.” He smiled. She grabbed it and he brushed his thumb over her knuckles before letting it go.
Aria slipped off her pack, tugged on his sweater, and then put her pack back on. His sweater was big on her, hanging to mid thigh. She could feel him watching her and a blush moved up her neck and into her face. He had the most intense gaze. It was like he was looking right into her mind and seeing everything. She cleared her throat. “Thank you. We should keep going.” She said and turned away.
He was trying really hard not to stare but it felt impossible. She was even more beautiful than she was then and looked ridiculously adorable wearing his sweater. Once again he was regretting how he chose to do things. His timing with that kiss had been planned. He wanted to kiss Aria all summer but didn’t feel good enough for her. He waited until he had to run to catch his flight home before he kissed her. He ran to the plane and never looked back.
He couldn’t bare to hear that she didn’t like it or didn’t like him in that way so he didn’t call her even though his Aunt got her number for him. He should’ve called, but by the time he got the courage to he felt he had waited to long. He was grateful to the universe for bringing them back together. He looked a little better now so he felt he might have a shot with her. Aria still filled him with butterflys like she had before.
They kept walking along but didn’t find anything else so far that they wanted to take back with them. Soon they found themselves infront of a drop in the cave. They’d have to get their climbing gear out and go down. He was walking behind her but sped up to get in front of Aria. “I get to go first since I did you the favour of giving you my jacket.” She sighed “I guess.” Evan wanted to go first so if she slipped he could catch her. She’d be attached to the rope but in a fall you could still swing and hit somthing before it really stopped you
Evan strapped his flashlight to his arm then slowly lowered himself over the edge, the rope sliding in his hands. He shined his light down, but didn’t see the bottom. He wondered how deep it was, but kept going. Aria followed and he couldn’t help, but steal a look at her bottom. He cleared his throat and silently reprimanded himself. He went back to paying attention to the descent. The air started to get even colder and goosebumps crawled up his arms even though he had a sweater on.
Aria glanced down at Evan. Every now and then she would catch a glimpse of his face. He was very focused on going down the dark hole. She really liked looking at him, she had always liked looking at him. She remembered the last day she had seen him. It had been a bright, warm summer afternoon. They had walked hand in hand to his gate at the airport. He had looked so sad, but smiled at her anyway. She had wanted to cry, but she put on her tough girl image. He had kissed her, a very brief touching of lips and then he was gone. She had almost called him back, but stopped herself. Her foot suddenly slipped out from under her, shocking her back to reality. She was slipping toward darkness, couldn’t find purchase on the smooth rock. Fingers wrapped around her wrist, jarring her to a stop. She looked up. Evan had ahold of her, his teeth gritted in pain. She wondered if he had dislocated his shoulder.
“Just hold on tight, I’ll get us down.” He said and continued to slide slowly down the dark hole. He would have gone back up, but he only had one hand and her rope had come loose.
When they got to the bottom he pulled her into his arms hugging her tightly “I almost couldn’t catch you.” The way he was holding her and his voice made him sound scared. “Thanks, I guess I didn’t tie it right.”
“Well if we do that again I’m going to set you up and I dont care if you like it or not.”
“How’s your shoulder?”
“It’s fine it just hurts.”
“want to go ahead and rest? It’s probably late by now anyway.”
“That sounds good.” he smiled through his pain to be tough in front of her. They found a nice flat spot that wasn’t damp to set their stuff down on and get their sleeping bags out. Aria pulled out something to eat and so did Evan. Her falling really had scared him. They werent too far from the bottom but the fall still would’ve killed her. “You’re lucky I went first Aria”
“I am, Thank you for catching me” He decided not to say anything else about it because she looked really sad. She was frustrated and embarrassed that happened. “It’s ok Aria. You don’t have to look like a beaten puppy.” He said hoping she’d smile. She did and it was just as captivating as when they were younger. “We should zip our sleeping bags together so eachothers body heat will help keep us warm” He said blushing. “ok” He was surprised she agreed. he took hers and his and zipped them together and got inside.
She slipped inside after him. Evan hoped his shoulder would feel better after they slept a little bit. Aria didn’t know what to do with herself. There wasn’t very much room in the sleeping bags and she would’ve been more comfortable draping herself over him but it wasn’t like they knew eachother yesterday. Years had passed and he never even bothered to call her. She fell asleep remembering their summer. Evan just looked at the ceiling. His shoulder hurt so it was hard to fall asleep. It wasn’t too long after Aria fell asleep that she ended up rolling over and putting her arm and one leg over him.
It was instantly relaxing. He loved being so close to Aria. He put an arm around her then quickly fell asleep. Their kiss played over and over in his dreams. Aria woke up and then noticed she was on him. Her face turned blood red. His hand was resting on her head. She kept still so he could sleep. She felt really bad about hurting him. So far she had made a fool of herself twice. She didn’t bring a sweater and then she didn’t tie herself up right. She hoped that would be the last of her embarrassment. She decided it was best to not keep in touch now that she looked like an idiot.
Evan’s eyes snapped open at the sound of something banging. He looked around, realizing he was still in the cave and it was probably loose rocks falling from somewhere. His shoulder was killing him. He shifted and Aria lifted her head. “Sorry, did I wake you?” He asked.
“No, I was already awake. How’s your shoulder?” She replied as she found her flashlight and switched it on.
“It hurts to be honest.” He sat up, clutching his arm.
“Let me see.” She grabbed his arm and gently probed with her fingers. “It’s dislocated. I can fix it if you like, but it’s going to hurt.”
“Just do it. I can’t climb with a dislocated shoulder.” She gripped his arm and rotated it. She kept moving it until she felt it pop back into place. Air hissed out from between his teeth and he clenched his fists. She wrapped her arms around him and he rested his forehead on her shoulder. “I’m sorry.” She whispered.
“Don’t be, it’s feeling better.” He said, his voice shaky.
“We need to get out of here to have that looked at.”
“Can’t climb with one hand. We can head deeper and find another exit.” He grabbed his pack and unzipped it, pulling out a lighter. He flipped it open flicked it on. The flame was sucked away from them, deeper into the cave. “The air comes in one side and is sucked out somewhere else. We can use the flame to find our way out then call for help. We have food and water so we should be fine.”
“This is my fault.” She felt like crying, a knot formed in her throat. “I’m a walking disaster.”
“Don’t say that. Our plane didn’t crash.”
He pulled her close and brushed his nose against hers. “I’m very funny. You’re just too worried to appreciate it. Now, help me get our stuff packed beautiful so we can get out of here.” He flipped the lighter shut and stuffed it in his pack.
They quickly put everything up and walked on. They found a few more rocks they wanted to take back along the way. She felt Evan take her hand “I don’t want to lose you. It’ll be easy now that we can’t see all around us. Without realizing it he started rubbing her hand with his thumb. She giggled and he stopped “sorry”
“It’s fine, you did that everytime you’d hold my hand that summer aswell.” He stopped and looked over at her “I’m so sorry I never called you.”
“It’s fine, I was just your summer friend. You went home to your real friends and forgot about me. I decided you weren’t going to call after about two months of nothing.”
“I didn’t forget about you Aria I was too nervous to call after kissing you like that. I’m glad we ended up in the same line of work and together in this cave.”
“Even though I can’t seem to keep myself together?” She said jokingly. He cleared his throat. Evan wanted to ask her to be his girlfriend. All his feelings from that summer had come right back but instead he just said “I hope you’ll give me your number again so we can keep in touch after this. I promise I’ll call this time.”
“I don’t know, I’ll feel even more pathetic than last time if you don’t call me again” She tried to start walking but he didn’t move “You felt pathetic?”
“Honestly yes, I mean that was an amazing summer to me and I thought it was for you until you left and never called or anything. You must have not enjoyed yourself as much as I did.” She said slightly embarrassed. He pulled her back hugging her again “That wasn’t it atall. It was the best summer of my life Aria. i’m such an ass for not calling I was just too embarrassed.”
“Why? Because you kissed me? Because you didn’t think I really liked a nerdy little thing like you?”
“Well you were a bit scrawny.” She teased with a big smile.
“Not my fault. I’ve always had a really high metabolism. I can still eat a whole pizza on my own. Besides I’m not scrawny anymore, I’m dead sexy.” She laughed, the sound echoing in the large cave. He liked that sound. They came to a Y in the tunnel and he pulled out his lighter. He flicked it on and held it up. The air was pulled to the right. He closed it and stuck it in his pocket so it was easier to get too. He grabbed her hand and they walked slowly down the tunnel. It was so quiet it was almost maddening. Their breathing sounded overly loud. The tunnel started to get smaller and he had to stoop to get through. “It’s not fair you’re so short.” He said.
“It’s not always fun. You should see me trying to get stuff off of the top shelf. I have to stand on my tip toes and stretch.” She sniffed because the cold was making her nose run.
“I could help with that. One phone call and I’d fly over to get whatever you need.” The tunnel suddenly opened up into a large cave and they shined their lights around. They were standing on a ledge, but there was another one across from them. It looked within jumping distance.
“Are you going to be able to make it with your shoulder?”
“Yeah, I think so. I’ll go first and you follow.”
He let go of her and went back a little bit. He ran fast and made it to the other ledge. It wasn’t that hard. He just hoped she could do it without getting hurt. Aria prayed she could do this one thing right. She went back like he did then jumped across knocking into him. He grabbed her hand again and they kept going. “You shouldn’t make promises you aren’t going to keep Evan.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well I am going to give you my number but I have no faith atall you’ll call me or I’ll ever see you again.” She said jokingly but she was serious. ” We’ll if you’d go home with me you wouldn’t have to worry about me calling. You’d just see me every day.” She laughed thinking he was joking but he was very serious. Evan wanted her to come back to Portland and live with him. He determined that he would atleast get the courage up to ask her to be his girlfriend before this was over. Long distance wouldn’t matter. He’d fly to see her every chance he got.
Aria was looking all around at everything. She had been in many caves but every time was just as amazing as the last. “What’s been going on in your life lately Aria?” He said fishing to see if she had a boyfriend. “Nothing really, My mom and dad got divorced and they spend all their time with their new families. They still love me but pretty much if I want to see them I have to go to them.I work a lot. I really have nothing else to do. When I’m at home I’m thinking about work or reading to be better at it. Very boring.” She laughed and it echoed again “I wish it wouldn’t do that” Evan smiled saying “I love that the cave does that. I get to hear that amazing laughter multiple times.”
She blushed and watched her footing. The ground felt like it slanted down a bit and she didn’t want to go plummeting into the darkness and not be able to stop. It started to get steeper and they had to slow their progress. She pressed a button on her watch so it glowed blue and she could see the time. It was already past noon. She didn’t think they had been under that long. No one was going to come looking for them either since they were supposed to be gone for awhile. Her stomach growled, sounding loud in the quiet cavern.
“Hungry?” He asked.
“Yes, very.” She smiled, feeling embarrassed.
“Lets take a break then.” They sat down, their backs against the wall and she unzipped her pack. She pulled out an apple and a bottle of water.
“Want to share?” She asked.
“Probably a good idea. That way we can make our food and water last for as long as possible.” He grabbed the apple and took a bite then handed it back. He watched as she took a bite and chewed. She made eating a lot sexier than he thought it should be. She handed him the water and he took a sip. He rotated is shoulder, wincing in pain. It wasn’t as bad as before, but it still felt like he’d been hit by a car.
“So how about you, what’s your life been like?” Aria broke the silence.
“It’s been alright I guess. Went to Brazil for a year after high school to go cave diving, broke my leg while I was down there. I was stuck for two days before rescuers got me out. My grandma passed away. I don’t know if you remember her, but she used to talk about you all the time. Drove me crazy. I already couldn’t get you out of my head and she had to go and talk about how sweet and pretty you were.” He chuckled and took his helmet off to run his fingers through his hair. “You’re nothing like I imagined you’d be.”
“What does that mean?”
“Well, you’re a lot prettier than I thought and you let your hair grow out. I always loved your hair. I always knew you’d still have that fire in your eyes, that passion.” He put his helmet back on. “We should get going again. We’ll walk until we’re tired.”
She got up and he quickly took her hand again. “You really thought about me?”
“Yeah, I thought about you every day for a long time. Then I decided there was no way to talk to you again so I needed to move on. I still think about you from time to time and beat myself up over not calling you right away. Did you think about me?”
“Yeah especially when I still lived in Wisconsin. I used to hope you’d come back. I didn’t stop thinking about you every day until i got a boyfriend. I got so wrapped up in school though I haven’t had very many and I don’t currently have one. My world has been consumed by school and my best friend Emma. She makes sure to drag me out of my apartment atleast once a week. Sometimes she’ll stay with me and not let me work atall. She’s a lot of fun. If you come to see me where I live after this you’ll have to meet her.”
“I’d love to meet her as long as she shared you while I was there. I fear I might be selfish with your time after we get out of this cave. You’ll probably miss the days of me not calling.” She laughed “well I can always just not answer if I’m tired of talking to you.” She smiled and he held her hand tighter. Evan said in a softer tone “I didn’t realize how much I’ve missed you until now.”
“Lets make it out of here alive and you’ll never have to miss me again.” She squeezed his hand reassuringly. She wasn’t going to let him run away again. He had brought her life to a screeching halt when he told her who he was. It was like her vision had been clouded and he cleared away the smoke. They found themselves in another tunnel and had to actually walk sideways to fit through. It was scary, feeling the earth pressed against her chest. She started shaking, feeling herself on the verge of panic.
“Calm down sweetness, I think we’re about out.” Evan said and forced his way into another cave, this one a bit smaller than the last. He helped Aria through and pulled her into his arms to help her calm down. He had never thought someone who loves caves would be claustrophobic. “It’s alright, just breathe.”
“I’m okay. I’ve never felt that way before. I think it’s the silence mixed with the darkness and the disorientation.” She said and smiled. They flashed their lights over the walls and she gasped at all the beautiful crystals. She had never seen so many. She ran her hands over the pieces sticking out of the cave wall. She wanted a sample. She pulled off her back and took out a small chisel and hammer. She placed the chisel against the crystal and hit the end of it until a nice chunk popped off. She put them in her pack and shouldered it as she felt the ground beneath her quiver.
“Aria, give me your hand right now.” He said calmly and she reached for him. She felt the ground shake and he grabbed her wrist, yanking her towards him as the floor gave out. “Holy shit, that was close.”
“I didn’t realize it was hollow.” She said and looked down into the black hole.
“We should watch out step really close from here on out. If there are more hollow patches we could easily break through and never see each other again. Wouldn’t that be a damn shame?”
“Yes it would. Thanks once again” she said smiling.
“I can’t let anything happen to you now that I have you in my life again. You’re in it to stay this time no matter what I have to do.” Evan was nervous now. It was hard for him to remain calm when he asked for her hand. He didn’t think she’d be able to think clearly if he freaked out. He wasn’t sure if he’d be willing to let her hand go again if she wanted to collect something.
They walked through the cave very carefully. It was absolutely amazing and she couldn’t stop looking at the walls filled with crystals. It seemed this part would go on forever. Evan was getting really tired but he just wanted to get her out before somthing else happend. They soon came to another point where their were two paths. He took out his lighter again and it still told him to go right. They kept on going until he felt her slowing down. “are you tired Aria?”
“Yeah but we don’t have to stop. I’ll be fine. My teacher drug me around until I couldn’t move any longer so I’m used to walking while tired.”
“No we’ll stop. I’m tired anyway. I have been for awhile.”
“Why didn’t you say anything?”
“I just want to get out of here before you seriously hurt yourself.”
“I’m sorry I’m causing you so much trouble.”
“Stop apologizing to me. You’re fine.” They set their stuff down and Evan put their sleeping bags together like he had the night before. They took a drink and each shared a protein bar. When they were done Evan was relieved to lay down. Everything about him was hurting really badly. He hoped Aria laying with him would have the same affect it had the last time. Instead of holding him she layed flat on her back like she started the last time “You know you’re going to end up on me anyway Aria. Besides I liked when you were sleeping on me.”
She blushed and then layed her head on his chest flattening her hand out beside her head. He let out a long sigh. “what?”
“You just relax me so much. I wish I could sleep with you every night.” He didn’t mean to say the last part. He waited for a response but she didn’t say anything. He put his hand on hers holding it. He gently layed his other arm around her back resting his hand on her shoulder. Evan just layed there enjoying this time before they had to start walking again.
Aria didn’t know what to say. No one had ever said anything like that to her before. She just listened to the sound of his heart. What could she say? That she loved him, that she had come to depend on him, that she would give anything to have that summer back and call him every day. She wondered how different their lives would be if they had stayed in touch. She bunched her fingers in his shirt and held onto him tightly. He was her anchor, her rock. She closed her eyes and allowed herself to drift off.
Evan was too restless to go to sleep. He stroked his fingers up and down Aria’s arm, enjoying the closeness. He kissed the top of her head and to pass the time he told her stories. He whispered about his time in Brazil, about how beautiful it was and how he wanted to take her there. He told her about skydiving over Hawaii and how freeing it was to feel like he was flying. Then he told her about scuba diving and how he had nearly been bit by a bull shark. If it had not been for their guide he would have died that day. He kissed the top of her head, feeling lucky that he was still alive to be with her now. What if she had wound up with another man, a sexist jerk or someone lazy? What if he had not been paired with her? “I know you’re sleeping and that it might not matter, but I want you to know that I love you. This isn’t the fear talking, this is me. Even if you plan on leaving afterwards and getting with someone else, I just want you to know that I love you.” He whispered and stroked his fingers over her cheek. “I promise I’m getting you out of here.”
He was just laying there with his eyes closed when Aria woke up. He had tried to go to sleep but just couldn’t. He was breathing so rhythmically and was completely still so she thought he was still sleeping. Aria just layed there thinking of the last words he said to her right before she fell asleep. She didn’t understand why he was being so bold and saying all these things. He said so many sweet things over the summer to her. She felt like crying because parting with him a second time was going to be really painful.
That summer she thought he’d be in her life forever and he just left. She was sure he’d just leave her again no matter what he said. That was even if he got the chance. She had gotten them stuck in the cave. She felt so bad for Evan. If he hadn’t been paired with her he wouldn’t have hurt his shoulder trying to keep her from dieing. Maybe it was good he just left her like that. His life was probably better for it. A few tears started to fall down her face. Evan felt the wetness against his shirt.
“what’s wrong Aria?” his voice filled with concern “I’m sorry. That’s all I can say. Sorry you got paired with me on this Evan. You’re stuck here because of me. I really wont blame you if you never speak to me again after this. I don’t know why you’re so nice to me.”
“Aria stop.” She lifted herself and looked at him with tear filled eyes that broke his heart. Evan just couldn’t take it any longer. He pulled Aria into a kiss. One hand on the back of her head and the other on her cheek. It was long, sweet and passionate. Evan couldn’t stop kissing her once he started. Everything felt perfect with her lips pressed against his. He finally managed to make himself let her go. She pulled back slowly “Now why would you go and do a thing like that Evan?”
“I love you Aria. The dumbest thing I ever did was not call you. Don’t say you’re sorry we got paired together on this because I feel lucky. I love you and I want to be with you the rest of my life. I don’t care how we do it. If you want to have a long distance thing I can do that or if you want to move in with me I can do that or if you want me to move in with you I can do that. Even if you just want to be my friend after this I can do that. I’d prefer to be with you as more but all I really need is you in my life.”
Aria was speechless, she leaned down and kissed him again. “I love you too. I don’t like my apartment so I’d love to come live with you after this.” He wrapped her in a hug. He did it so quickly his arm throbbed because it hurt to move it in general.
“You’re straining your shoulder.” She said softly.
“I don’t care. Just let me hold you.” He replied and kissed her cheek. “I wish we weren’t in this damn cave.”
“Besides the obvious, why?”
“Because I’d have you naked in an instant if it wasn’t so cold.” She pulled back and laughed.
“I’m surprised you can think about anything but this cave.” She checked her watch. It was early morning. “Lets eat and get going.” She kissed him one more time before crawling out if the sleeping bag. She grabbed her pack and pulled out a bag of jerky. She handed him some and they both ate while they got everything rolled up. They drank some water and pulled their backpacks on. They held each others hands tightly as they walked across the loose cavern floor. Aria spotted a gooey substances on the ground and shined her flashlight toward the ceiling. She could see bats hanging there. She hated bats.
“They came in while you were sleeping. I’m surprised they didn’t wake you. There must be an entrance close by.” He said as he lifted her over a small gap.
“How close is close by?”
“Don’t know. They could have come in through a series of tunnels or a more direct route. We won’t know until we see daylight.”
“I love you Aria” He meant it but he really said it at that moment because he wanted to hear her say it to him again. “I love you too” Aria just hoped that they didn’t have to spend another night in this cave. She was ready for a few days when they came but it’s different when you know you can’t just leave. Aria tripped over somthing while she was busy thinking but Evan didn’t let her fall. “sorry” she said as she looked at what she tripped over.
It looked like some type of fossil so she picked it up. Evan grabbed it “wow it’s a fossil. We should take this back to get a better look at it.”
“Should we see if there’s more?”
“Other people can see. You’re not staying here any longer than you have to. I’m sure when we get out and show them this they’ll send people who know what they’re doing when it comes to fossils. You know how funny paleontologists are anyway. It’s probably best we don’t look for more.” She giggled a little “You said that like you’ve had a horrible experience with one.”
“Oh yes, he went crazy because I dropped it. If I was standing I could understand but the thing fell like an inch.”
She laughed, the noise startling the bats. She gripped his hand tightly as a few of them fluttered to a better spot. A shiver of disgust traveled up her spine. She would gladly switch the bats for any other creature like Komodo dragons or rattle snakes. She couldn’t stand how absolutely unhygienic they were. They peed and pooped wherever and it didn’t seem to matter if it was on one of their fellow night creatures. She shivered again and moved closer to Evan. They came to another Y and he pulled out his lighter. This time the flame was pulled toward the left. They walked until the tunnel became so narrow that they had to crawl on hands and knees and shimmy their way through.
Evan had the hardest time making it through the tunnel. He was broad shouldered and had to squeeze his way past many tight spots. The ground beneath him suddenly opened up and he found himself sliding head first down the tunnel. He didn’t have time to warn Aria and he heard her scream as she plummeted after him. A sharp rock sliced his face open and he threw his arms up to guard against more. He slammed into a large piece of cave sticking out the side of the tunnel and was spun around so he was sliding feel first. He finally came to a stop at the bottom and Aria slammed right into him, knocking him forward. They just lay there for a moment, catching their breath. “You alright?” He asked as he tried to stand and a sharp pain shot through his side.
“Yeah, how about you?” She crawled over to him.
“I think I may have broke a rib or two.”
“Let me check.” She lifted up his sweater and shirt and ran her cool fingers over his warm skin. He winced in pain when she touched his third rib. She probed a little more, but it was only the third rib that hurt. “You definitely broke one. We’ll take it easy, but we have to get out of here. I don’t want it puncturing your lung.” She helped him to his feet and let him drape and arm over her shoulder. He gripped his side and his breathing sounded shallow and painful.
Aria hoped they were almost out. She was worried about him getting hurt even worse than he already was. She had been lucky during the fall and didn’t really hit anything. The only problem she had was scraped up arms. Evan was putting as little weight as possible on Aria to spite the massive amount of pain he was in. “You should really put more weight on me Evan. I’ll be fine.”
“You just wouldn’t be able to stand being any closer to me.” She said teasingly but instantly regretted it because laughing would make him hurt worse. He just said “You know that’s not true Aria. In facts as soon as I have you home I’ll be tangled up in you every chance I get.” Even Evans voice sounded terrible. Him saying that would’ve normally made her smile but she felt so bad for him.
Soon the air smelled different. It wasn’t so damp and smelled a bit fresher. They had to be getting close atleast. She sighed in relief “am I hurting you?” Evan quickly asked “No, don’t worry about it. I was only sighing” They walked on and on for hours. Aria paused to check the time. It was around five pm. It frustrated her because there was no way he could sleep another night in this cave. At the very least they wouldn’t be able to combine sleeping bags any longer. She’d just keep going without stopping unless he absolutely needed to stop. She prayed she wouldn’t have to.
Daylight glowed brightly above them, about twenty feet. There was a rock wall in front of them that made her heart drop. Evan sounded like he was in a lot of pain, like he was only on his feet because she was there. “We have to go up.” She said as she helped him sit so he could catch his breath. He leaned his back against the wall of stone.
“You know I can’t. You have to get out of here and get help.” He cleared his throat.
“I’m not leaving you.” She dropped down in front of him, feeling like crying.
Evan pulled her into his arms and kissed her. His chest felt like someone had kicked him in it. “Listen to me. I love you very much and I refuse to let you stay stuck down here with me. Get up there and call for help, I’ll be fine.” He brushed fly away strands of hair out of her face. “You can do this. You’re my tough little grizzly bear.”
She nodded even though she didn’t want to move. She kissed him and stood. She found a good hand and foot hold and keeping her eyes toward the bright light she started to climb. She couldn’t look back. She moved up at a quick, but safe pace. Her foot slipped and she gripped tight, her heart pounding loudly in her chest. “You’re alright baby, you’ve got this.” Evan said from below, giving her strength.
“I love you.” She called back as she pushed herself up.
“I love you too, very much. Do you remember when we went down to the river and you pushed me into the water because I wouldn’t jump in?”
“You held your breath to make me think you’d hit your head and when I jumped in you grabbed my ankles and pulled me under. It wasn’t very nice, I thought I’d killed you.” She had been so terrified in that moment. She had jumped in to save him.
“I remember you laughing then.” His voice was a lot quieter now.
“Because if I didn’t laugh I would have cried.” She slipped again, knocking small rocks down. He didn’t say anything so she figured she had missed him. “Evan?” He didn’t answer. She could taste her fear. She guessed he was unconscious, but she couldn’t go back. Her arms would be too tired to attempt a second climb.
She just kept heading up until she finally crawled out of the top. She scanned around her only seeing dirt road and trees. There was nothing around her that she could identify to somebody on the other end of a phone. Aria pulled out her phone. Her GPS on it could tell her where she was. Before she got on the plane she had turned it off since it wouldn’t work in the cave anyway. Aria turned it on and it didn’t recognize the road so she had it search for the nearest gas station because it was the only place she could think of at the moment.
It said she was 15 miles from a Shell Station. She called 911 and explained to them what happend and told them she was standing on a unamed dirt road that was 15 miles from a gas station. They figured out where she was and asked her not to go back down to him. The lady on the phone told her it would take rescue a half hour to reach her because the nearest town was farther out than the lonely station on that road.
Aria wanted to go back down really badly but she knew they wouldn’t be able to find the spot if she didn’t stay. She paced checking her phone to see how much time had gone by. Every second felt like hours. Help finally arrived and she hurriedly ran back to the cave opening. A man went down carrying the unconscious Evan up and into an ambulance. She climbed in the back and held his hand while tears started streaming down her face.
She was relieved and worried at the same time. At the hospital they separated them. They ran a bunch of tests on her to make sure she was ok. Every chance she got she’d ask a nurse how Evan Halt was doing. Most didn’t have much to tell. When Aria was cleared the doctor that had taken care of her guided her to his room. He’ll be ok but still in a lot of pain for about eight weeks. When we discharge him we’ll be giving him a prescription for pain medication.
Aria nodded and then walked over to kiss him on the cheek. She was so relieved to see him alive and doing ok. Aria knew she smelt bad and probably looked horrible so she left to go buy new clothes for Evan and herself. She hoped eh wouldn’t wake up before she got back. She took a cab to the mall and quickly picked out outfits for them both. When she came back he was still laying there so she went into the bathroom and took a shower. She was shocked at all the dirt that came out of her hair.
When she was clean she put on her new clothes then brushed her hair. Evan was still sleeping which now disappointed her but he probably was in need of rest. He had gone through so much in that cave and almost all of it was her fault. Aria wanted to get on the bed with Evan but was worried about hurting him. She just sat there at his bed side holding his hand.
Evan woke feeling like he’d been hit by a bus. He coughed and heard a shuffling sound to his right. He turned his head and smiled when he saw Aria curled up in a chair, asleep with her head resting on her knees. “Aria, wake up.” He said and her eyes fluttered open. She raised her head and blinked as if she couldn’t quite believe he was awake. “Don’t worry you’re not dreaming, I’m not a manifestation of your conscience. Come here.”
She narrowed her eyes at him, but stood and moved closer to the bed. He grabbed her wrist and pulled her until she crawled onto the bed next to him. He needed her close. He inhaled her fresh, clean scent and it breathed new life into him. “You shouldn’t be joking around. I thought I was going to lose you.” She said softly. He stroked her hair and kissed the top of her head.
“I’m sorry. I thought lightening the mood would make our situation better.”
“It’s my fault you’re hurt.” Her voice cracked and he could feel her tears soaking into his hospital gown.
“No it’s not. I don’t blame you so don’t blame yourself. I wanted to save you and I broke my rib because I’m bigger than you. That’s why you missed the large piece of rock sticking out of the tunnel.”
“If you had been paired with someone else you wouldn’t have dislocated your shoulder and have to go trekking through the dark.” She sniffed and he titled her chin up so she had to look at him.
“Finding you again was the best thing that ever happened to me. What were the odds of it being us? I don’t regret a single moment. I would have rather spent a couple of days with you in the cold darkness of a cave and died happy than spend the rest of my life regretting never seeing you again.”
She smiled at Evan. Her face was the most stunning thing he had ever seen. It was incomparable to any of the beautiful sights he had seen over the years. He kissed her gently, loving every second. They heard a doctor clear his throat. “I need to examine you again now that you’re awake. If you pass I can get the paperwork started to discharge you. Will you get out of the bed please miss?”
Evan grunted “does she have to?” Aria smiled. “You’re going home with me. You’ll be fine if I get up for a second.” The doctor examined and asked questions to a obviously annoyed Evan. All he wanted was to be with Aria and to enjoy her and he just saw the man as a huge inconvenience. He finally walked out “I’ll start the paper work then bring you your discharge papers and pain prescription. It’ll take awhile so you can take a shower and get dressed if you’d like. I think Aria bought you clothes.”
“Ok” aria said happily. She felt bad for the doctor because of the way Evan had been looking at him. “He was only doing his job Evan.”
“You bought me clothes?”
“I didn’t think you’d want to put the ones you were wearing back on. Sorry if you don’t like them but you couldn’t come with me to tell me what you want.”
“I’m sure I’ll love them. How does he know you bought me clothes?”
“He came in here a lot while you were sleeping. He talked to me almost every time.” She found the bag and handed him his clothes. He walked to the bathroom and showered. Evan wanted to invite Aria to join him but he didn’t want the first time she saw him naked to be with dirt and blood all over him. He put on the clothes and then walked out “I really like these. You and I should go shopping so you can pick out a whole new wardrobe for me.” She smiled brightly “I’m glad. I’m sure what you already have at home is great.” He sat back on the bed and held his arms open.
“I think I should just lay beside you Evan. Your ribs are supposed to be sensitive for about eight weeks.”
“I’m not waiting eight weeks to hold you now please come here Aria” She could see in his face he wasn’t going to budge so she got in the bed and he wrapped himself around her. Evan sat his head on top of Arias and held her as tightly as he could without being in serious pain. When the doctor came back in he said “Doesn’t that hurt?”
“Yes but she’s worth it” Him saying that made a huge smile stretch across her face. “Be careful, you want your ribs to heal properly.”
“So we can go now?’ he asked eagerly. “Yes here you go. Get this filled right away. Youre already on them so you don’t realize how much you’ll need them right now.” Evan called to arrange a flight. The people they worked for arranged one right away so they hoped in a cab and headed to the nearest airport. They were going to Arias home so she wouldn’t be going to his house with nothing.
They held hands on the plane. Aria rested her head on his shoulder and brushed her thumb against his palm. “Where would you want to live?” He asked.
“Home is where you are. If you want me to move in with you then I will. I just want to always be with you.” She answered and kissed his cheek.
“I love you.” She lifted her head and he kissed her. The flight attendant blushed and kept walking, checking on other passengers. Evan hated that they were on this plane. He wanted to be alone with her.
“Down boy, we’ll be off this plane before you know it.” She laughed and rubbed her nose against his. She pressed her forehead against his and they closed their eyes just savoring the contact.
“You have no idea what you do to me.”
“I think I have some idea.” She smiled and they kissed again. She rested her head on his shoulder and they fell asleep. Soon they would be home where he could rest and recover. She owed it to him to take care of him until he was better. The sun started to go down and Evan woke to stare out the plane window at the glowing lights below. He was never leaving her again. He wasn’t going to kiss her and run away. He loved her, had wanted her since he could remember. He had never forgotten those bright eyes and sunny smile. Their plane landed and he gently shook her awake.
“We’re home.” He said softly. They retrieved their luggage and left the airport. They hailed a cab and Aria gave the driver directions. When the driver pulled to a stop in front of her apartment she asked the driver if he could carry the luggage so she could help Evan. The man was nice enough to do so and she payed him a little extra for being so nice. She unlocked the door and put their bags inside. She helped Evan inside and to her room. He lay down and pulled her on top of him.
“Your rib.” She said, trying to move to the side. He held her tightly.
“Screw my rib. I need you close to my heart.” He kissed her and she rested her head on his chest. “I’m not leaving you again Aria, never again.”
“Good because I don’t plan on letting you.” They stared into each others eyes, smiling happily.
When Evan fell asleep she gently got out of his arms to lay beside him. She would have loved to keep laying on Evan but knew it wasn’t a good idea. When she woke up in the morning he was still resting so she quietly left the room to make muffins. She hummed as she mixed the batter. Aria couldn’t believe how perfectly happy she was. She hadn’t felt this happy since their summer together. Aria poured the batter into the muffin pan and put them in.
Aria set a timer and then grabbed her laptop to email her parents. She sat on the bed and then opened it up. She couldn’t wait to tell everybody about him. When it was sent she got up to call Emma. She left her laptop on the bed. Emma was ecstatic for Aria. Aria almost forgot the muffins she was enjoying talking about Evan so much. She set them on the counter. The combination of the smell and Aria talking woke Evan up. He layed there listening then noticed her laptop. He picked it up to check his email and message his mother.
When he was done Aria was still on the phone so he started looking through her picture folder on the laptop. He loved seeing them and couldn’t believe it when he saw a folder called Evan. He opened it up and it had a bunch of pictures of them during the summer. They almost made him cry. Every single memory flew through his head and finally he couldn’t hold it in any longer. Aria heard him and told Emma she had to go.
“What’s wrong Evan?” He set her computer down and she got on the bed beside him. “I’m just so happy to be with you again.” he pulled her down to kiss her. “You hungry?” he nodded and she went to get the muffins but he held onto her “Not hungry enough for you to leave me”
“I’ll be back in no longer than a minute Evan”
He reluctantly let her go and she brought back a still warm muffin and a glass of milk. She watched him eat, his satisfied expression giving her butterflies. She didn’t think they were that good, but obviously she had been wrong. “Good?” She couldn’t help, but ask.
“Well they’re pretty good, but there’s only one thing better.” He said and took a sip of milk.
“You of course. I bet you taste absolutely scrumptious.” She blushed and he laughed then clutched his side in pain.
“That’s what you get for messing with me.” She smiled.
“Messing? Hell, I thought I was flirting and being irresistible. Guess I’ll try again later.” She laughed and it lit up his world. He could listen to it forever. “I need to ask you something?” When she just stared at him he kept talking. “Would you consider taking a trip with me back to Wisconsin and maybe living there? You don’t have to say yes, it’s just it’s where we met. I was given my aunt’s house. I just haven’t done anything with it.”
She leaned in and kissed him, her fingers bunching in his shirt. She pulled back and smiled. “I’d love too. I really would. I love that place and I can still do what I do from there. I want to be wherever you are.”
“Are you sure because it would entail a lot of things.”
“Getting engaged and married, making love to you every night, having kids maybe getting a dog or two and lets not forget the swimming pool.” She laughed and he pulled her closer.
“Oh yes, the swimming pool. We could never live without that especially in summer.” She kissed his chest.
“So that’s a yes to everything?”
“Yes, one hundred percent.”
He felt a warmth spread through him. He was overjoyed, absolutely ecstatic. He would start making plans while he was healing. He wanted them moved in together as soon as possible. He knew he could make her happy, that he could give her everything she ever wanted. “You are the light of my life Aria.” He said softly.
“I love you too.” She whispered back, feeling once again like that little girl who had found her one true love. She couldn’t be happier than she was at that moment.