She was wearing surf shoes. He knew she liked to feel the ground underfoot, and would walk barefoot if she could do it safely. He wished she had dressed more carefully. Denim shorts and a lightweight striped-cotton shirt were not going to keep the bugs off.
She was walking west along the access road, shoulders slumped. Birds’ songs dropped into the forest, like celebratory mini-bombs. She seemed distracted, maybe even unconscious of the birds’ music.
To her south, the Sawkill gurgled over clusters of boulders left by thousands of years of thaws and floods. To her north, forest understory rustled when brushed by her knees and shoulders.
He worried, when she shortened stride and stayed more on her toes on slippery patches of moss. He worried, when the forest touched her shoulders, prime landing spots for ticks. He worried, as she walked, that she might not come home.
Though his following her was urgent, he didn’t want her to know he was there. So when when she stopped by an old wild-apple tree, he ducked.
She raised her chin to peek up into the tree. Her mouth was turned down. Maybe she was counting time lost, in her so-far no-vacations life?
A couple of squirrels lunged through the tall tree’s branches, making a muffled ruckus. Every few moments, leafy twigs or small, green apples fell through the tree, onto the forest floor.