We packed snacks and squash-vine trumpets and left Avery’s house in broad daylight. The drive to the trailhead was short, but when we got out of the car we were already in shadow; the mountain blocked the sun. Avery said we’d have enough light for going up and we’d remember our way when we came down. Anyway he knew the path, and he had (he said) good balance and excellent night vision and could help me if I had trouble getting back down. I didn’t intend to need help. I would always be eight years younger than Avery, but I was eighteen now, an adult and his equal. And while it might suit him to be helpful and protective to women, it suited me to be independent of men.
The place was lovely enough to take my mind off independence. Even in the muted light the last maple leaves showed red-gold against the dark green of pines and the silver of bare branches. The trail climbed through thick woods and across narrow clearings full of berry brambles. Yes, Avery told me, hikers were welcome to pick the berries even though this was public land.
I still think of him up there in the fading light, his mouth full of sweet, juicy berries, a pine cone up his ass, his cold, lifeless eyes wide with shock as I covered his corpse with maple leaves. Yes, Avery -- excellent night vision, but you didn't see that coming, did you, you patronizing, misogynistic bastard? Your good balance didn't help you this time, did it, you fat fuck? Independence: that's what I'm talking about. Looks like I won't always be eight years younger than you, after all.
Opening: Joanna......Continuation: Anon.