This story is by Alanna Allen and was part of our 10th Anniversary Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
*Content Advisory: Graphic Language (Cursing and Crass Language)*
The fall was short. Alexis hit the ground and rolled, crashing to a stop against something hard. And sharp. She cried out, shoving herself away from whatever just stabbed her backside. Rolling onto her stomach, she looked over and saw the monster cactus in the breaking dawn light. Dammit, she thought, those are seriously big thorns. Craning her neck, she looked at her butt. Her flimsy sleep shorts did nothing to protect her from the damnable spines of the cactus. By her best guess, she had half a dozen spines sticking out of her left buttcheek.
“Well, that’s just great,” she muttered to herself. “This is what you get for going to pee without taking a flashlight.” The dip in the sand had come out of nowhere in the dim light of a new dawn, and her already clumsy self was rolling before she realized she had fallen.
She gingerly got to her feet, wincing when her shorts shifted the spines. She reached around and tried to pull one out, then gasped and pulled her hand away. That wasn’t happening.
She limped back to camp, muttering under her breath about what a bad idea it had been to go camping in a desert, and mentally cursing her best friend Jenny for convincing her to go on this bat-brained camping trip to celebrate the anniversary of their friends getting together. The seven people at the campsite had met the previous year when randomly paired together at an escape room event, and since then, they had been an inseparable party. Jenny was the ringleader, always planning outings and keeping everyone tight. Alexis would just wake her up early then so she could help her pull the spines out of her ass, that way she could tell her ‘I told you so.’
As she approached the ring of tents she saw a figure in the growing light sitting by the still-smoldering fire pit. She groaned when she saw who it was.
Miles looked up as she approached, setting the fire-poker he had been playing with on the ground. He grinned at her odd gait. “Morning Lexi, you have a hard bathroom break or something?”
She made a face at him. Miles was half the reason for her resisting her best friend’s pleas for her to come along on the trip. Today officially marked a year since the group at the campsite had all met, and she and Miles had a complicated on-again, off-again thing going on throughout that year; decidedly off as of a couple months ago. Alexis could hardly stand to be around him; she still had some unresolved feelings for him that just made her more annoyed every time he made a snide comment. Jenny had sat her down before the trip, swearing up and down that Miles would be on his best behavior, and things wouldn’t get awkward. “Or something,” she muttered.
“Hey.” He reached out as she tried to limp past him in a way where he couldn’t see the embarrassing damage. She yanked her arm away before he could touch her. This caused her to shift her full weight to her left side. She hissed in pain and almost fell, trying to compensate for her balance. The pain of the spines made tears prick at her eyes. “Whoa, Lexi, stop for a second,” Miles said, standing this time and grabbing her shoulders to help steady her. “You’re actually hurt. What happened?”
Lexi turned her head away from him, blinking rapidly and pinching her palm to chase the tears away for the moment. She would not cry in front of him. “I’m fine. I just want to go back to my tent and sleep a little longer, is that a problem for you?” Miles really brought the bitch out of her.
He blinked, a flash of hurt crossing his face. “Fine, be that way, I was just worried about you. You’re limping and covered in dirt, and your hair is a mess. But God forbid I worry about you, right?” He took his hands off her shoulders and crossed them, his worried gaze cooling to one of annoyance.
Her anger peaked, and she crossed her arms to match him. “You have no right to be worried about me anymore. You gave up that right a long time ago. You can’t just come around whenever you feel like it and pretend like you give a damn, that isn’t how it works.” Momentarily forgetting her pain and the spines sticking out of her ass, she turned and started away from him.
“Lexi, what the hell!” His frustration forgotten, he darted over to her and put another hand on her shoulder. “Alexis, that’s a lot of blood, what happened to you?”
“Blood?” Alexis turned her head and looked at the back of her left leg. Sure enough, long rivulets of blood ran down the length of her leg, half-dried from her walk back. Her vision tunneled as she looked at her leg, the pain coming back full-force and making her ears ring. She was never very good with blood. Miles caught her as she stumbled, making her put an arm around his shoulders while he supported her with an arm around her waist. She hurt too much to be mad anymore. “I fell and rolled into a cactus. This is what I get; I didn’t want to come on this dumb anniversary trip anyway.”
He snorted as they made their way to the tent she shared with Jenny. “Yeah, I guess you made the wrong call there. Would you hit me if I made a ‘pain in the ass’ joke right now?”
She patted his chest with her free hand, too woozy with blood loss to think about their complicated past. “Miles, you’ll always be the biggest pain in my ass.”