"What?" she asked innocently.

"Could you make any more damn noise? I think they can hear you back in the city."

"Maybe I want them to."

"Don't be a brat, Lacey."

She shook her head and decided to test him out. "Maybe I don't like to hunt. Maybe I think the idea of shooting innocent animals is barbaric and ruthless."

He laughed lightly and turned away from her. "So, you've been lying for the past four months? You just told me what I wanted to hear? That would be pathetic."

The word pathetic jabbed at her chest like a bully's stubby finger.

"Ha, yeah, it would. Look, I just didn't realize you had so many rules out here. Don't talk, don't eat, don't play Candy Crush. Hell, I'm not even allowed to pee."

"Lacey, you knew what you were getting into. Now, be quiet," he said in a harsh whisper.

She sighed and crossed her arms, tucking her numb fingers into the opposite armpit. "Fine. But, I refuse to cause irreversible bladder damage. Next thing you know, I'll be leaking every time I laugh or sneeze and wearing Depends to bed just because you wo-"


One hunter and one pseudo hunter turned towards the sound of wood breaking under foot. Toby held his hand up to halt her ranting, but she'd already stopped. The sound of her pulse pounding in her ears resembled the eerie beat of a horror movie soundtrack. All morning she'd been praying to not see anything, but now it moved towards them on an unsuspecting path. Toby raised the binoculars to his eyes and a slow grin spread over his face.

"I can't get a clear shot from here, you'll have to do it," he said quietly.

Lacey froze. She felt the PowerBar climbing it's way back up and out of her throat. "Switch with me," she whispered back.

"It'll make too much noise. Just do it."

Another rustling sounded in the bushes and then silence. She raised the gun and pointed it in the general direction. She decided she'd fire to satisfy her boyfriend, but shoot wide right so she wouldn't hit it. She could do this. It would just look like she missed, not like she had lied, not like she was pathetic.

Her finger found its way to the trigger and she pressed lightly against it, getting her bearings. The barrel shook from her unsteady hold and she pulled in a deep breath. She could feel Toby's hopeful eyes on her, waiting. Ever so slowly, she slid her aim to the right, far off from the cluster of ferns and shrubs wearing antlers. Counting down in her head, she wondered how long she could stall. Her muscles began to ache from the position, her lungs burned with their need for air. Lacy squeezed her eyes shut and pulled.


The sound exploded next to her ear and echoed through the winter trees. A large buck took off in a sprint, escaping towards safety. Lacey fell back onto the floor and sighed, waiting for her heart to mellow out. It was there, with shaky fingers still wrapped around the weapon, that she decided she'd never do that again. She would be stronger than her need to pacify this man.

"Damn," Toby said. "Maybe next time."

There won't be a next time, she thought.

With no more action for the day, the couple packed up. Toby trudged ahead, not bothering to wait for her. 

She thought about her next conquest, Phil in the accounting department who was ruggedly handsome and into scuba diving. This time she'd let him teach her about his passion. As she pictured warm salty water and white sand beaches, she looked at Toby in disgust.

"I don't think this is working out," she said to his back.

"We'll get you a different gun. The recoil won't be so bad."

"Not the gun. Us," she clarified.

Toby stopped and faced her, the crunch of leaves beneath his boots quieted. "You're dumping me? Here?"

"Yeah, I guess so."

Lacy dug the barrel of her gun into the ground and leaned on it.

"What are you doing? Get the barrel out of the dirt! You're going to ruin my gun!"

She rolled her eyes and swung the barrel up, looking into it. Lacey closed one eye and blew down into the barrel. Dirt flew back into her face. She coughed and squeezed her eyes closed.

"There. Are you happy now?" she asked.

"Happy? No. They told me you were nuts," he said. Toby turned and stomped off. "I can't believe this. I mean, you're great in bed, but definitely not worth all the crazy that comes with it."

"Wait, who told you I was nuts? Who is 'they'?" Lacey yelled. She ran after him, angry tears blurring her vision. "I'm not crazy!" she yelled.

Toby continued to flee towards the truck. "You just pointed a gun at your face!"

Lacey's big clunky boots seemed to weigh a ton as she chased after him. One caught on a buried log and she fell hard against the ground.



Lacey looked at her recently fired gun and then to the spot where Toby had been. It was empty and backlit by stripes of tree trunks against a gray sky.

"Oh shit. Toby, where are you?"

She stood and pushed the hair from her face. Her eyes scanned the ground in every direction.


The low moan seemed to rise up from a nearby bush. She ran over and found Toby rubbing the back of his head and frowning.

"Get away from me you crazy bitch! You tried to kill me!" Toby scrambled backwards, tangling himself further into the shrubbery.

"I didn't mean to. I fell. The gun went off. I'm sorry! Did I shoot you?"

"No, you didn't shoot me. I dove for cover and hit my head. I'll be okay."

"Let me help you," she offered, holding out her hand.

"I don't need your help." Toby struggled to his feet, took two steps and fell against a tree.

"Come on," Lacey said.

She hung both guns over one shoulder and leaned Toby against the other. He was heavy and unsteady, a feeling she'd grown used to.

The trip to the truck seemed twice as long as when they'd arrived. Lacey was struggling to keep them both upright. Toby grunted a bit as she tucked him into the passenger seat. She wanted to feel pity or regret, but those emotions escaped her. Instead, she felt a smile spread across her face. She found the entire situation amusing.

Not wanting to concrete her crazy diagnosis, she hid her smile away. Lacy climbed inside and began the long trip back towards civilization. A minute later, Toby doubled over.

"I'm so dizzy. I think I have to throw up," Toby groaned.

Feeling pressured to get him medical attention, Lacey accelerated. The dirt and gravel flew into the air behind them creating a cloud to hide their failed day.

A brown blur of fur and antlers leapt in front of the truck. Lacey screamed and slammed on the brake. The truck slid, unable to gain traction on the unstable terrain.


"Oh no. Oh, please no," she whispered.

Lacey put the truck in park and eyed the new speckled red pattern on the white hood. She climbed out of the driver's seat and moved slowly, knowing exactly what she'd find.

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