|Isobel Brandt \\ Persephone (praxidike) wrote in paxletalelogs,|
@ 2017-03-20 08:22:00
|Entry tags:||hades, persephone|
we're gonna throw a party
Who: Isobel & Obed
What: Isobel's birthday calls for celebrations in nature. Unfortunately, there's an awful surprise waiting afterward.
Where: on the road to, and then in, Yosemite National Park. Then back home.
When: early morning, Monday, March 20th.
The bulk of their long drive to Yosemite had been spent in relative quiet. Two large travel mugs full of coffee were wedged into the cup holders of their rented Jeep. A bag of snacks lay in the front passenger floorboard, and on the back bench seat sat a backpack stuffed with food, drinks, and what passed for the makings of a picnic under these circumstances. The weather appeared to be behaving -- a mild sixty degrees with some cloud cover -- but Obed had packed rain gear beneath their picnic items all the same. He was pleased with himself, content that he had planned for every possible obstacle for their long day out. Caffeine and anticipation seemed to be waking them both up, and as they drew ever nearer to their destination, he grew noticeably more animated.
"I haven't been hiking in years," he said, smiling as he cut her a look. "If I fall and break something I don't want to hear a single 'old' joke."
Isobel looked up from her phone, returning his gaze with a wry look of her own. "One, you're not that old or brittle, no matter how much you want everyone else to believe it, and two, it's my birthday, so I don't think there should be any rules that I have to follow." The hand holding the phone fell into her lap, the other reaching out to brush his hip with her fingers. "And I know I said this already, but thank you. This is so sweet of you to do. It's going to be so nice to get away from everything, even just for a little while." She pulled her hand back into her lap, her head falling back onto the headrest. "Have I told you I love you?"
"Not recently." He grinned, but this time, he kept his eyes on the road. "Since it is your birthday, you get whatever you want. So if you hate the trail I choose, or the food I brought, or anything else, you'd better let me know. Today is not a day for grinning and bearing it."
A smile quirked the side of her mouth, her head still turned to watch the grin blossom over his. She decided there that he did not do that enough, and she was going to make it happen as much as she could over the next few hours.
"I'll certainly let you know, but right now I'm just enjoying being floored by what you put together. You really are the best."
"Thank you," he said. "I do try."
The small conversation lulled, and Isobel pulled out her phone again, where she'd been reviewing the trail Obed said they were going to hike.
"Bridalveil Falls sounds beautiful, though, so I don't think I'm going to complain one bit," she added, glancing at Obed again before looking back to her phone. "And then maybe Mirror Lake? We could eat lunch there. It looks so beautiful.
"I wonder how much will be blooming. Everything seems to work on a different schedule, no matter where you go in California." Her voice held back none of the excitement she felt, her phone going dark and dipping back into her lap. "Can you tell me what you packed for lunch, or is that a surprise?"
"Well don't expect too much from that… it was harder than I expected to figure out what's portable and the kind of meal I wanted to have on your birthday. So dinner will be better, I promise." For all his caveats, his expression made it clear he was quite proud of himself. "Still. We've got prosciutto and roasted red pepper sandwiches, goat cheese and pita chips, and a bottle of the best Riesling I've ever had. The bag is a little heavy thanks to the cold packs, but I'll carry that. You just enjoy the trails and pick out our picnic spot."
Isobel shook her head, her mouth changed from smiling to smirking at his own self-deprecation. "Now you definitely went overboard. I don't know how I got so lucky. You're setting a very high bar for when your birthday rolls around, mister." Her stomach flip-flopped at the idea that they'd still be together come November. Guilt settled hard over her shoulders, and she adjusted her glasses as she looked away from him to her phone.
"I think lunch next to the lake would be great. Hopefully the weather stays nice." She tabbed through the descriptions of the falls, the photos, trying to feel less upset that he was being so kind and she was hiding so much from him and simply excited at a simple day out. "We're definitely taking at least one photo of us in front of the falls. Maybe more." Isobel glanced back at him. "I need some kind of photo evidence that you are capable of grinning that widely, for posterity."
Obed laughed aloud at that. "My parents would adore you if you managed that," he said. "They're very fond of saying it's physically impossible to capture that on film. So best of luck to you."
Their thoughts ran more closely parallel than either of them could have guessed. Obed was putting forth a concerted effort not to think of Bryan on this day of celebration, but his mind kept wandering to him all the same. He wondered what Percy had found out about him, what he was up to now, what recourse he might have before Bryan did very real, very tangible damage. He cleared his throat, as though this might clear his mind as well, and turned on the little radio in search of white noise to drown himself out.
Between music and the passing landscape they found enough safe topics to talk about, and soon they were parked and headed out on the trail. Early as it was, the air was crisp and cool. The path was shaded and inviting, and the soft sounds of the natural world quickly enveloped them. Obed drifted ever closer to her as they walked. At the crest of one small hill he took her hand, interlacing his fingers with hers. Isobel eagerly wended her hand through his, tossing a smile in his direction as their paces matched; her other tucked itself into a jacket pocket. The trail toward the waterfall was short, 20 minutes at most, but trees quickly towered above and over them.
Whatever worries were in mind were quickly washed away by the sight of the tall pines, their burgeoning, green needles covering their brown-gray branches. Their dead brothers were underfoot, all over the path and the dirt around the walkway, crunching with each step. The forest was still in a winter slumber, though recent rains brought new life curling up out of the ground; moss, some flowers, grass. Green could be noted in small corners, tucked away or splayed out directly in the sunlight for all to see. Isobel's face showed her awe, her head tilting back to look up to where the sun managed to peek through the difficult treeline.
The sound of cascading water was heard nearly immediately from the parking lot, and only grew louder as they moved toward its source. The waterfall, the Bridalveil, poured a huge amount of water just over 600 feet down, striking rock before veering off into a calmer river. Tourists were already gathered around its foot, others having walked up the steep incline to where the fall started. Surfaces quickly became slick, nearly everything touched by the spray.
Isobel pulled Obed to a stop just after the treeline, where they could see the falls from a distance. The sound of others, of vehicles, of anything and everything was dulled by the cascading water; she paused to enjoy its echo for a moment, her hand tightening around Obed's. Then she was digging into her pocket, pulling out her phone.
"Picture," she whispered into his ear, not so much trying to be heard over the falls but instead keeping the moment as intimate as it felt. She loosed herself from his hand, turning to bump shoulders against his and try to get the waterfall behind them, raising the camera's eye high enough to capture both of their faces. She smiled wide, her image reflected back in the phone's screen. For a brief moment before the shutter sounded, Obed allowed himself a warm smile: smaller than hers, but no less sincere.
He pressed a kiss to her temple before drawing away. He made no move to look at the photograph, knowing he would almost certainly find it full of flaws. She was happy with it, or seemed so, and that was more than enough for him. He slid his hands beneath the straps of his pack, hitching it higher up his shoulders as they turned to face the falls again. Isobel's gaze was still turned down toward the photo of them, though she flipped away from it with a flick of her thumb, bringing back the camera to take a few more shots of the falls from a distance.
"It is pretty amazing," he said. "If the rest of the hike is this nice, you might actually be able to convince me to do this more often."
She let her mouth drop open in mock surprise, hip checking him softly. "You, getting more sun? Don't tease, Obed." Teeth scraped her lower lip as she flipped through the couple of photos she'd already taken. Slipping her phone back into her pocket, she tried to keep up the upbeat mood she was only half feeling. Isobel grabbed Obed's hand, and drew him closer to the falls. "Let's get a closer look. If this is the one and only time I'll get to drag you out here, I wanna make the most of it."
Together, they moved toward the lower viewing area, spray misting over their vision and their persons. Isobel laughed, squeezing her eyes shut as she tried to take a closer photo but eventually gave up to prevent her phone from getting wet beyond repair. They paused before they were close enough to get anything more than slightly damp, and rather than climb up toward the waterfall's peak, Isobel turned them toward another path that led down toward one of the park's many lakes. She kept her hand laced with Obed's, the sun warming and drying them both. She closed her eyes, tilting her head back as they walked, the day warming both its temperature and to the idea that it was a special occasion.
"You know, we could always go camping. Tents, a fire at night, making s'mores," she said, glancing at Obed. She almost made some mention of what precisely they could do in said tent, but there was no reason to bring up the dry spell she'd enforced between the two of them for the last couple of weeks. "Look at the stars without a million other lights to crowd them out. It could be fun."
"It could be…" Hesitation in his voice seemed to drag out the words. He pulled a hand through his damp hair, sweeping any errant locks back down and into place. "I always thought I'd be more into that 'glamping' trend, though. Electricity, indoor plumbing, thick mattresses…" He slid his arm around her lower back, pulling her closer to him. He, too, left some suggestions unmade, though they were present in his thoughts all the same. He felt certain that by now the briefcase would be covered in a thin layer of dust. He chuckled at his own selfishness, and pushed the mental image aside.
"You give that some thought, and I'll consider your idea. I think that's fair."
Comforted and amused, she laughed and leaned into Obed's touch. "Sounds like a cabin, then, which I think would make both of us happy. Maybe a long weekend, in the summer." Her stomach churned, thinking that there would be a summer. Isobel licked her lips and looked out across the lake, her breath taken away by the sight. The reason behind its name was obvious; the clear, flat water perfectly reflected the sky above it. Slowly greening trees, surrounded by snowcapped mountains, made it all look like a picture come to life.
"You can't tell me that getting away from the city for something like this," she said, motioning toward the view, "isn't worth it." Looking along the path, further toward the lake, she spotted a patch of grass near the water's edge. Ducks floated nearby, but they were far enough out that she didn't think they'd be too much of a problem. "How about over there? For lunch?" She motioned toward what she meant.
But Obed was still looking at her, an uncharacteristically soft smile playing on his lips. "It looks perfect." He took her hand and led her down the path, around the pristine, nearly motionless lake. Only infrequent gusts of wind marred its glassy surface. The farther they walked, the thinner the already small crowds became. At last, on the far side, on the grassy lawn she had found, they were entirely alone.
The breeze remained gentle as they spread out their blanket. Small containers of food and squat tumblers for their wine pinned the cloth down in the center. They sat close together, looking out over the water as Obed served their lunch on thin paper plates. The wine poured, food plated as best it could be, he raised his glass to her.
"Happy birthday, Isobel."
She mimed his motion, the smile on her mouth completely and utterly true. They gently tapped their glasses together, Isobel leaning into Obed's shoulder as she looked out over the lake, sipping her wine. "This might be the best birthday ever. Doesn't mean I want you to stop trying, next year, but yeah. Thank you." A tongue swirled over her lips, wiping away leftover droplets of wine as she reached out to gratefully kiss him. She pulled back a bare millimeter, a touch too close as she studied the irregular symmetry of his face, the flecks of green in his blue eyes. Her smile dimmed a little. "I love you, so much. You know that, right?"
Obed smiled in return, but the muted lines of hers made him wonder. A subtle ache stirred in his chest. It was easy to ignore when he kissed her again, tasting sweet wine atop something indefinably her. "I do," he said. "I love you too, Isobel. And I swear I will continue to spoil you as long as you'll let me." He kissed her cheek, nuzzling softly against her ear. Isobel's eyes slid closed, her head tilting back as shivers found their way through her body.
Other hikers passed by, but he paid them no mind; for this brief moment, this place was theirs and theirs alone.