Bleeding Heart

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I'm always looking for an excuse to be surrounded by nature, but sometimes, it's all to easy to get lost in it. These massive woods seem to go on forever, almost like now that I'm here, I'll never have to leave. That I can leave all of my problems and pain in the city, and out in the wild, nothing has to exist outside of simply living.

I love these woods.

It's like the only place where I can be myself.

My peripheral vision keeps a lock on Angel, paving the way through the dense greenery, but my focus can't stay on his form. Not with everything around us. The leaves glow a luscious green, blocking out the falling sun in spots. A few twigs snap and bunches of leaves rustle from animals settling around us. The noise of the woods swells, bugs and the occasional birds, singing and buzzing. It's all so beautiful.

With the wide world around me, it's hard to notice the ache of my feet from hiking so long. Like I skipped some of it mentally and only caught up by noticing the sun lower in the sky, the time passed in a flash. These woods do something to me.

Angel really wants to find the perfect spot to set up camp. Even with the weight of supplies pressing into my back, I can't complain. I'm happy to be here. With him. Everyone.

Marty walks at a pace similar to mine, but Jen trails behind us. Her footsteps drag along the dirt, staining the front of her shoes a chalky brown. Her eyes cast down into the dirt in front of her, and a definite scowl plays across her face. She doesn't exactly seem excited about the prospect of camping in the woods from the start, but reluctantly and adamantly agreed. Probably so I wouldn't feel awkward being alone in the woods with two boys. I can handle myself, but it's still nice to know she cares.

"Jen, you okay?" I ask.

She looks up for a moment, directly into my eyes. The skin on her nose and cheeks got burned a bit in the sun, and stands of blonde hair fall from her already messy bun. A streak of dirt smears her forehead, like she brushed it with her hand.

A small smile creeps up on her face. "Yeah, yeah. I'm great."

"Better be." Still at the front, Angel tosses a wide smile back toward us. "We can't have you slowing us down when we need to set up camp before nightfall."

He practically shines, even with the sunlight spotty through the tree cover. He's just one of those people, brighter than the rest of us, bursting with so much energy and charisma that sometimes it's hard to look. The dimples under his white smile, the warm sparkle of his brown eyes, it all sends a heat over my skin.

Jen's immune to it.

She wears the kind of expression someone might have upon stepping in dog shit.

"Ignore him." I smile at her, willing the easy expression to return to her face. "You're doing fine."

We're not the kind of friends that have known each other for years, since Jen just moved into town a few months ago, but we've definitely gotten close enough for me to know that she's the least outdoorsy person in the world. And while she's a great swimmer, any sort of exercise on land is something she rolls her eyes at. So it really is admirable she made it this far.

While her nod isn't as light of a reaction as I hoped, she presses forward. We all keep walking as a group, and my breath calms with the steady music of nature. Familiar. Warm. Not even the orange painted sky, promising the cover of nightfall, can cool my excited heart.

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