“Are you ready for this?” James asked nervously.
I nodded silently, positioning my hand to open the document to the first page. My thoughts raced as I wondered what we’d learn from these documents. Had Silen told us the truth? What if he hadn’t told us everything? I still had so many questions…
A loud noise from outside startled us, causing me to drop the paper.
James jumped up and bolted for the door to investigate the noise. Had someone found us already? I followed behind him with worry, stopping at the doorsteps as he circled around the house.
The sound of metal clanking pierced the cold day from the side of the cabin and I heard James laugh heartily.
He emerged with a large metal trash can in hand, firmly holding the lid in place on top. I gave him a quizzical look, thankful that, from the looks of it, the noise seemed to be benign.
“I found lunch!” He teased as he cracked the lid open to reveal a scrawny looking raccoon, “Looks like he got himself stuck.”
“Eww!” I threw my hands in the air and let out a cry as I took in the raccoon’s matted hair and dark eyes, “I’m not eating that!”
“Why not?” James retorted, “It’s only fair! After all, I ate your macaroni…”
“Hey!” I said as I indignantly crossed my arms.
He grinned and started to open the lid further, pointing it in my direction.
“You wouldn’t dare.” I narrowed my eyes at him.
He raised an eyebrow with a smirk and after a brief stare down, he closed the lid.
“What are we going to do with him?” I gestured at the trash can.
“Well…he probably wouldn’t taste good,” James conceded, “So I figure we should take him into the woods and let him go.”
James went to lock the cabin as I stood nervously with the caged raccoon. It angrily rattled the trash can in a desperate attempt to escape.
I breathed a sigh of relief when James got back and hoisted the trash can up to carry it to the woods.
“Don’t these things have rabies?” I asked, keeping a good distance away as I followed behind, just in case the critter managed to escape.
“Don’t girls have cooties worse than rabies?” James shot back.
I narrowed my eyes at him and stuck out my tongue as he turned and walked backward for a moment, just to see my reaction.
“What would you know about girl cooties, James?” I sassed him, putting my hands on my hips as we walked.
“Admittedly not much,” He acquiesced with a wink, “But I hope to change that soon.”
My heart betrayed me as it skipped a beat.
“Oh yeah?” Was all I could manage to say in reply as my mouth began to feel dry.
James looked me dead in the eye with a serious expression, “Yeah.”
“You are the only person I know who could manage to make a captive raccoon into an opportunity to flirt.” I said with a nervous laugh in an attempt to lighten the serious mood James had created.
“It’s a gift.” He shrugged, locking eyes with me for a moment longer than necessary. His intensity felt like it was burning a hole through me.
I began to nervously fidget as we got to a spot in the woods where James felt it was safe to let the creature go.
“Ready?” He asked.
I nodded, though I was admittedly unsure about this plan.
James tipped the trash can on its side facing away from us and slowly opened the lid. He took a few steps back and watched to make sure the raccoon was going to exit.
After a moment of waiting, he tapped the bottom of the trash can with his boot to try to encourage the raccoon to get out.
James thought that maybe it had gotten injured on the trip and began leaning forward to peek inside. As soon as he got close to the top, the raccoon bolted out of the trash can and disappeared into the woods, startling the both of us. James spun on his heel and grabbed my hand as he sprinted back the way we had come to get away.
He stopped after a few yards and tried to catch his breath as I stood in a state of disarray next to him. The short run had made my hair fly in all directions. I reached up to smooth it out, but quickly realized James had a hold of me.
His hand was warm as it held mine and his strong grip made me feel a little faint, though not in a bad way. Guilt and shame suddenly washed over me for even thinking about it.
James had managed to catch his breath and began to laugh a little at the silliness of running away from a raccoon, but I was preoccupied. I felt my skin start to burn, though I didn’t see any signs of fire.
“Are you okay?” He asked with concern.
I felt a pit form in my stomach as I saw the way he was looking at me.
“Yeah,” I looked up at him with embarrassment, “I’m fine.”
His expression was curious, but he let it go. What he didn’t let go of was my hand.
“I guess we probably better start thinking about lunch soon.” James said, squeezing my hand with a contended smile as he looked up to see where the sun was in the sky.
“Mmmmhmmm.” I squeaked, beginning to panic. I wasn’t sure if it was because I was scared that something might happen, or freaked out that nothing was happening. Both scenarios suddenly seemed equally terrifying.
I pulled my hand out of his, mumbling to him that it was starting to cause a problem.
“I’m sorry.” James apologized. He looked defeated as he hung his head.
I held my wrist with regret at my decision to let go, a sharp pain in my heart as I whispered, “Me too.”
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