The sounds of the rustling leaves and my friends bustling about, the chilly wind caressing my cheeks. My feet grounded, but my body felt as light as a feather.
I took in every sound and sensation with my eyes closed and body stationary. Every vivid sensation reminded me painfully of the fact that I'm still alive, and my chest tightened a little more with every beat of my heart, slowly suffocating me.
The longer I immersed myself in this gradually intensifying pain, the more I lost touch with reality. As I nearly lost my stranded self in the endless surging of waves that constantly threatened to overthrow and drown me, a familiar voice cut deep into me. Dragging my awareness away from the pain, pulsating in the depths of my soul, never leaving.
"Aria! Move your ass and help us with the tents!"
Reluctantly opening my eyes, I turned to look in the direction where Nathans' voice came from. After finding his hunched figure that was across the camping grounds together with Kaitlin and Alex, busy setting up our tents, I slowly shuffled my way over.
I took the time to observe the camping grounds we had rented together for our last bonding trip as graduating members of the Outdoor Adventure Club, and it lives up to its' reputation as one of the best camping grounds.
An area designated for pitching our tents, a barbeque and campfire pit in the centre, bathroom facilities split for 2 genders by the entrance, and the large open space separated from the forest by a fence. It gave the closest feeling one could get to camping outdoors, with such convenient facilities provided. Furthermore, everywhere I look is clean and tidy. For the price of the 2 days and 1 night booking, it was worth every cent spent.
By the time I reached them, they had already pitched up three tents with only one left. Their speed and efficiency in completing tasks are as astounding as always.
"You're so slow, you're setting the last one up on your own."
Nathan grumbled, moving on to complain about my lack of initiative then lectured me on why it's bad and how it would negatively impact me. Yet contrary to his harsh and sharp words, his actions were more indicative of his kind nature hidden behind his prickly personality. He was already unpacking the last bag to pitch the tent with me, he never had the intention of leaving me to finish the task alone.
Alex and Kaitlin laughed and prompted to me that they were going to help Linus at the barbeque pit. While passing by me, they patted my shoulder and winked, giving me a thumbs up with a shit-eating grin on their faces.
It wasn't hard to guess what they were hinting at, it was an open secret in the club about Nathan's not too discreet feelings for me. Though maybe due to privacy reasons and respect for a fellow member, no one was willing to inform me about it. Instead, they tried their hardest to hint it to me in the most painfully obvious ways.
Even without their help, I was long aware of Nathans' feelings since he was being pretty obvious about it whether he realizes or not. It was harder not to notice, with how attentive he was to me and his willingness to take care of me despite his complaints. It would've been fine if he had treated everyone else the same. However, it was apparent that it was a treatment exclusively for me.
But no matter how well or special he treated me, it is impossible for me to accept much less return his feelings. So I chose to pretend to have not noticed anything, as dense and oblivious as a rock.
Hence in response to the lovebirds hinting, as per usual, I tilted my head slightly to the side while feigning confusion in my eyes and giving a small perfunctory smile.
With that, they sighed and turned to look at Nathan with sympathy written on their faces. Turning back around and heading over to the barbeque pit.
I squat down beside Nathan intending to do my part, but he still did most of the work with how slow I was moving. I turned my head enough to see him from the corner of my eye and thanked him.
Nathan stole a quick glimpse at me and blushed a little as he snorted through his nose and sped up his movements.
I took back my eyes to focus on my side while wondering what there was to like about me.
My very being exudes exhaustion and lethargy. I'm lazy, slow, and unmotivated. Unlike ordinary people, I've long lost my attachment to life, and I never made an effort to hide that fact. I wouldn't care if one day I just dropped dead.
I didn't have anything to live for and the only thing I wanted, I had lost long ago. It was all my fault too, and for that, there was no one I hated more than myself. I couldn't understand how someone could love a person who hated themselves and no longer cherished their own life.
But I didn't need to understand, nothing would change whether I did or not. It wouldn't change my mind about pretending to be blind for as long as Nathan doesn't confess, and if he does, I would properly reject him. It wasn't my responsibility to take into consideration a person who doesn't want his feelings known at the moment, as cold-hearted as it may be. After all, I've long turned cold and numb to everyone else the day I lost my heart.
"You're hopeless, aren't you? You're not even half done."
Nathan's blunt words pulled me out of my thoughts, as he naturally took over what I'd been doing.
"Oh, thanks," giving him the usual smile.
"I'm not doing this to help you, you're just too slow."
Yet I could see the tips of his ear peeking out from underneath his hair slightly redden.
"You're nice," I stated under my breath with the tone one uses when talking about the weather.
His hand holding the pole shook a little, nearly dropping it. He turned to me with a red face and groaned out, "shut up."
I turned back to the task at hand, lightly commenting, "my lips are sealed."
I could feel Nathan staring at me a little longer, then heard him huff under his breath before he got busy again.
"Done, let's go."
Nathan stood up, and before he could offer his hand, I got up on my own.
He looked a little regretful as he took back his slightly raised hand, turning to match my excruciatingly slow pace.
As I shuffled my way over, I felt an intense gaze boring through my back. I initially wanted to ignore it, but a feeling that I needed to turn around and look spread through my chest. A very subtle sense is telling me that this was important, and if I ignored it, I would lose something very important.
It was ironic since I have nothing else left to lose. But then again, I rarely get this feeling, and it had been accurate thus far. So I decided to listen and turned around abruptly to catch whoever it is that is boring a hole through my back.
But all I could see were the trees beyond the fence that surrounds the camping ground. There was no figure of a person or shadow in sight.
Just a little, I felt disappointed though I didn't know what for. It was nothing but a whim, and I wasn't expecting anything yet I couldn't help but feel a tad disappointed at finding nothing. It was weird and strange. Before I could continue musing on it, Nathan called out to me.
"Aria? What's wrong?"
I turned back around to see Nathans' worried look. The sight of me abruptly turning around must have alarmed him.
I glanced over my shoulder at the area where I had felt the stare coming from, retrieved my gaze, and continued on my way.
Over the shuffling of my dragging feet, I attempted to dispel Nathans' worry. "It's nothing, just thought I heard something."
Nathan looks visibly relieved before his face stiffened a little as he warned me, "it's probably just a passing wild animal. This place is relatively safe, but just to be safe, don't go anywhere alone. Make sure at least either Linus or I am with you if you're going anywhere."
"What about Alex and Kaitlin?"
Nathan snorted, "they're too weak. If anything happens, they can't carry you and run away immediately."
As if just realizing the implication behind his words, he blushed a little and sped up. As though trying to run away from his embarrassment. Though it resulted in unintentionally leaving me behind since I couldn't be bothered to catch up with him.
Giving one last glance behind, the branches of the trees swayed with the wind as if in greeting. I turned back around with the sound of the leaves rustling behind my back.