Bradley and Maggie shared a look that made him wonder even more. They were alone, though only for a little while, and he wished they had gone on the trip without the added company. She held her marshmallow over the fire along with Bradley. She grinned and put the nail of her index finger between her teeth, still smiling.
“You know, if you keep it that low, it’ll burn the marshmallow, and burnt ones are gross.”
“Says you,” Brad said, smiling but not as big as Maggie was. “I like my s’mores a little crispy in the middle.”
“You’re disgusting,” she said, keeping the nail of her index finger between her teeth.
“What are you two laughing at?” Cassandra said, rejoining them at the campfire.
They both looked over, and Maggie took her nail out her mouth. She kept the smile and glanced at Bradley.
“Nothing much, just how awesome s’mores are with a little crunch in the middle.”
“You’re both gross. All that sugar is going to give you diabetes and rot your teeth,” Cassandra said, tossing two of the five sticks she’d grabbed from the forest on the fire. “Why are you even doing this now? It’s barely three in the afternoon. Don’t you two want to wait?”
“First of all,” Bradley said, smiling as he glanced between Cassandra and Maggie. “S’mores are good any time of day.”
“I don’t know about that,” Maggie said taking her marshmallow out of the heat and holding it in front of her face. “I mean, they’re good and all but I just wanted to save time for scary stories around the campfire that we absolutely have to do later.”
“You two are the most immature bunch of 30 something I’ve ever seen.”
Bradley and Maggie shared a look, and she lowered her eyes. He knew she wanted him, and she knew he wanted her, but they’d only met because he had been dating Cassandra since high school. Everyone said they were taking too long to get married, and Bradley agreed, but Cassandra thought the institution of marriage was silly, and their relationship went deeper than the societal constructs.
“Oh, Em Gee!” Cassandra squealed.
She had just plopped down next to Bradley but hopped back to her feet and started off toward the woods. Bradley had known her for a long time, and there was very little that startled her, so no fear shook his heart from her exclamation. Still, curiosity caused him to look in the same direction she was looking.
Standing at the rim of the forest was a doe. It sniffed the air around them with its large black nose, taking a few unsteady steps in their direction despite Cassandra’s cries of surprise.
“I absolutely love deer!” she said louder than Bradley thought she should have.
Bradley and Maggie both stood, and Bradley stuffed his marshmallow in his mouth without touching it. Maggie ate hers as well, but she pulled it off the stick with her fingers, licking the tips while watching Bradley.
The trio went to stand in front of the doe, and it continued to step toward them. They were upwind, and the smell of the fire was thick in the air. Bradley fought the urge to cough so as not to startle the deer any more than Cassandra already had.
“Do you think it’ll let us pet him?” Bradley said.
“I’m pretty sure deer carry diseases, and I’m also pretty sure this is a female,” Cassandra said.
“Well, when I said him I meant it.”
The three just stared at the deer for a little while until it stepped directly in front of Maggie. She held out a hand, and it sniffed it, and she knelt to one knee. It sniffed around her face and Bradley was reminded of a dog even though the deer didn’t lick her. It sniffed around her hand a little more and gave her fingers a few licks.
Maggie giggled. “I think she likes me.”
“I’m sure all the ticks and disease she harbors will like you too.”
They aren’t the only ones, Bradley thought, grinning at the thought of her in his arms.
“For someone who got that excited about spotting this thing, you sure do sound like you hate it,” Maggie said as the doe sniffed around her clothing for a bit.
The doe sniffed its way over to Cassandra, but she held up her hands so it would be unable to smell her. When it reared back on its hindquarters and rested its front legs on her shoulders, she screamed. Startled, the doe hopped down and scampered back into the forest.
“Aw man, now it’s gone.”
Cassandra was breathing deeply. She swallowed hard, and her face took on the dread of a person wanting to take a shower but knowing they would be unable to for a long time. The trio walked back to the fire, and Cassandra’s face stayed the same.
“What do you think made that thing so tame?” Bradley said as they reached the fire.
“Probably too many people were feeding it while camping out,” Maggie said.
Cassandra sat in front of the fire and held out her hands even though it wasn’t cold.
“I don’t care. I wanted just to see it,” she said, a grumpy face staining her features.
Bradley wanted to say something about the fact that she had been the most excited person to see the deer, but the most afraid to go near it, but he decided not to poke the bear. No one spoke after her words, and the silence was only broken when Bradley rustled the marshmallow bag to take out another. Maggie did the same, and the two stuck their marshmallows over the fire again.
Maggie and Bradley tried to avoid eye contact with Cassandra around, but they still shared an occasional smile when they felt Cassandra wasn’t looking. The sun started to set behind the forest, sending orange rays through the branches and leaves and making Maggie’s eyes sparkle like emeralds. With a sigh, Bradly started to wish one of the many diseases harbored by the deer managed to make Cassandra so sick she broke up with him.