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Up the Parkway, then to another lesser highway through Connecticut, Massachusetts and finally their mark in New Hampshire’s finest hiking mountain. Mt. Monadnock’s granite steps suddenly seemed dangerous.

It was the silence that engulfed her, consumed her thoughts. All the worries, the food poison from the night before, the world going to hell-in-a-handbasket, the hopeless search for a job (really, any kind of job) seemed to drown in that golden, rare silence. The great outdoors had a way of taking her beyond the lawlessness of New York City’s “great outdoors.”

The steep, craggy rocks with the trickle of a stream running through were glaring at her. “A challenge,” she thought darkly.

“I think I hear the voices of that other couple,” he said while climbing up heedlessly.

That was the thing about this new boyfriend. He seemed to have no fear in this strange setting. Any old axe murderer or edgy squirrel could be lurking behind the fir trees. Yet, he climbed with a gusto that made last night’s saltines churn uncomfortably in her less-than-yielding stomach (as if the recovery from food-poisoning wasn’t enough).

She paused with a sniff at the cool air. A loud, breathless voice echoed from somewhere west of them (was it west? Who knew at this point?).

“We should wait and let them pass,” he continued, oblivious to her random thoughts. “I don’t want to talk and hike with anyone nearby.”

The rustle of leaves beneath their sneakered feet was the only sound that harmonized the silence. Like a chorus in a catchy pop tune, the crisp noises floated aimlessly around them.

Discussing their mutual love of a simple, yet quality meal, their favorite childhood memories and how stressed out New Yorkers were in comparison to the kind folk they had met thus far on this journey, their conversation waxed and waned.

He was close, despite being six or so granite steps ahead of her.

Then … a clearing above them seemed to open up. They were three quarters of the way to their goal. The ache in her soft legs agreed.

Higher and higher they climbed. Now they had no choice but to grip the rocks with uncertain hands where they would soon tread. She wondered, in a vague sort of way, if a body (or two) fell in the forest and no one was around to hear it, would it make a sound (or crack a skull?) at the bottom of this massive hill?

Stopping briefly for a sip of water and a granola bar, they realized how close they were to the pinnacle of this seemingly agonizing journey. Well, agonizing for her, as this man-creature leading her had boundless enthusiasm for exploration. They could look down into the valley without the cluster of trees blurring the magnificent sight. A mist from last night’s rain still hung about, as if waiting for a signal from the thin clouds above.

When they finally reached the peak, the once blazing sun had settled into a hazy myriad of golds, reds, and pinks. Far above them into the galaxy, the darker blues and hint of indigo began to emerge. It literally snatched the already-diminishing oxygen from her lungs.

Triumph mingled with peace, as they looked at each other with ridiculously large grins. They had done it. She almost wished she had timed it, just to prove that they had broken some sort of record (although that was highly unlikely considering the number of breaks they had taken; still, it was nice to dream).

A gray silence washed over them, as they admired the view. No bustle of leaves, no sounds of the other couple (they must have stopped if they weren’t here yet), no chatter of voices from a dingy street, no rumble of truck engines, no murmur of traffic, no chorus of pigeons flapping their wings madly as the hustle and bustle trampled over their space on the sidewalk and basically what seemed to be no sign of human or animal life.

They both savored this rare moment in their New York-stuffed lives.

Then, his arms encircled her waist. Both of their lungs burned raw considering the strenuous activity. She could almost feel his heart pounding a beat through the thick layers of sweaters, fleeces and coats.

The whistle from the wind set a new meter to their song.

Their refrain was a gentle kiss.


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