Having spent the morning trudging through wet leaves and heavy mist, my eyes had grown accustomed to the low visibility and my lungs were almost enjoying the watery air. Although my friends and I were just barely pubescent, we liked to think that we handled ourselves at least as maturely as the leaders who hiked with us.
It was therefore a complete surprise when an acorn connected with my temple, the hollow little knock echoing through my head while the point of contact started throbbing. I was so shocked, I didn't even say anything at first. I simply turned around to face my attacker, half expecting a squirrel to have bombed me from a tree. When I'd turned sufficiently to see that it was the leader (looking incredibly sheepish as he perched on a rock), I was finally able to choke out, "Hey!"
"I'm so sorry!" he said. "Are you ok?"
"What, did you expect me to duck? This pack is heavy!"
"Sorry!" he repeated. I felt a quick surge of energy before the throbbing returned. Did all women have this kind of power over men? To look them in the eyes and let them know with barely a sentence that they'd done something stupid? It was, no pun intended, a heady feeling for a thirteen-year-old to have such sway over a man who was at least twice her age.
"Heh, well," I said. "It's fine. You have really good aim."
"Or really bad aim," he laughed.
"One or the other." This hiking trip had basically been a ploy to spend some weekend time with our favorite teacher. He was our favorite, of course, because he was only twice our age, and about ten times better-looking than our short, greasy-haired middle school classmates. If I had been a sillier girl, I would have picked that acorn up and framed it in a heart-shaped shadowbox.
We had taken a rest near the highest point of our hike, at a clearing near a cliffside. It was difficult to see the cliff itself as the heavy fog rolled in over the edge. If we didn't know it was there, we probably would have fallen off of it. I did pick up that acorn, after all. But instead of shoving it in my pocket as a romantic keepsake, I tossed it over the side. And when I watched the mist swallow it whole, like a hook falling into a murky pond, my headache subsided completely.