by Jordan Bolay
Rejected From: Danforth, Existere, Geist, Gulf Coast, Humber Literary Review, Prairie Fire, Prism, Queen's Quarterly, Thrice, The New Quarterly
“I love you.”
Oh shit, thinks Natalie.
James stands on the mauve and white carpet of the motel with a helpless grin on his face. Natalie tries to smile, sheepishly she hopes, and pulls him in for a hug. Not a “condescending pat-on-the-shoulder” kind of hug, but a “oh, hun, it’s cute that you think so” sort of hug. Definitely not the “I love you, now we’re face-sucking” hug James goes for.
“Mmm,” manages Natalie after some backing-away-but-not-into-a-wall-for-you-to-pin-me-against manoeuvres. “That was uh, that was nice. I’m going to grab a smoke.”
“Yeah, smokes. You know, to yeah, smoke. Ok.”
She leaves the room, takes the stairs at the end of the walkway two at a time, jumps into her Jeep, and begins to drive in the opposite direction of the only corner store she’s seen since arriving in Port Edward.
“What the hell was that about?” She mumbles around the end of a cigarette that she tries to light with one hand while shifting gears with the other and holding the wheel between a knee and an elbow. She considers tracking down Tanner and Taylor, but they’d likely be high, or having sex, actually probably both. God, why couldn’t she and James have just stayed with them? High and horny one minute, chill and sated the next…
“It’s the damn bears!” Natalie yells, slamming her palm on the top of the steering wheel. “Who the hell puts a campground near a bear sanctuary? Who the hell puts a bear sanctuary—a grizzly bear sanctuary!—next to a fucking town? What do they even need to claim sanctuary from? They’re god damn grizzlies! And what kind of assholes charge five-hundred bucks for a boat ride to the only place that has a worthwhile beach within four-hundred clicks?”
The four of them were supposed to be spending the better part of the week in Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve. Supposedly there was walk-in, radio-free, ocean-front camping. They were going to lay naked on the beach, smoke up, go down, and apparently escalate our casual hook-ups to bold romantic declarations, ponders Natalie. She had been hoping to do some writing on the island, some real writing. Three months with a no name magazine in Calgary, trolling out the same old story of who wasn’t sportsing hard enough and who sportsed right this time had earned her some time off and the right to a proper story. Guy thinks girl thinks sex equals love, there’s an original one. Natalie snorts in attempt to seem more disgusted than she can be bothered to be.
She realizes that she is heading to Prince Rupert and drives halfway into the shoulder to make a U-turn and head back towards Port Edward.
“Nope,” she states, remembering all three of the hours she had spent in the town the previous day. After realizing they couldn’t afford the ferry to Haida Gwaii, or at least that it wasn’t worth the price for only four days (Tanner’s delicate flat ass meant that it took them three days to reach the end of the line from Calgary), they had gone in search of another beach they could camp on.
“What do you mean, ‘no beach’? We’re on the coast!” James had said to the bored-looking kid at the visitor’s centre.
“Sorry man,” the kid said, “there’s just the port, and it’s like closed unless you’re taking a ferry or whatever.”
“So, there isn’t, say, a nice island or something where we could camp on the beach?” James had insisted. Natalie clues in. This had not been a spur of the moment declaration. Well, it had been, but only because things had gone awry; he planned this. The bastard.
“There’s like, this one little island,” the kid struggled to recollect, “and you can probably camp there, no one’s really gonna come out to ticket you, but you’d have to paddle there, so like, you’ll need kayaks or something.”
“Hah. Nope,” Natalie had said. Last thing she needed was to be toppled into the ocean by some orca. It’s like the damn bears hanging out by the campground. No thank you.
Natalie drives past the motel, continues through the town, and follows Skeena Drive, heading south. This is a port, there’s got to be a beach somewhere with a wooden arm chair—preferably one with arms wide enough to double as a writing desk—right?