Partially inspired by my own time at university, this is the story of two friends who embark on a series of increasingly daring adventures. Any comments or feedback are much appreciated, hope you enjoy!
Chapter Seven -- Payback
how would you feel about a weekend camping?
A few minutes later and Holly's phone buzzed.
omg that would be so fun!
Haha excellent, thought Holly, now she could put her plan into action...
Two weeks later Charlie and Holly were over halfway through their hike, trekking through a dense evergreen forest in the heart of the countryside. They'd set off from home early that morning and arrived at the campsite a couple of hours prior, where they'd quickly set up their tent next to the parked car. The site they'd chosen was pretty basic, it had one large communal building which included some showers and a small shop, but mostly the visitors were left to their own devices. They'd driven to one of the far corners but there were still quite a few other tents around them and they waved hello to their neighbours as they unpacked. Charlie couldn't afford to take too much time off away from her home office and so they were just there for one night, packing in as much time as they could walking and enjoying the fresh air, free from their phones and computer screens, before they headed back the next evening. So after they loaded their bags with some picnic things they set off on their first route, a sixteen mile hike through a winding valley which would eventually loop back to where they started. They were now three hours in, all their food had been eaten and Charlie was tired.
'Maybe we slightly overestimated ourselves on this one.' Holly was also starting to flag, both girls were in good shape but after weeks of sitting with a laptop all day this amount of exercise was definitely taking its toll. 'Only an hour left though, just don't give up.'
'I'm giving up.' Charlie unslung her small rucksack from her shoulder and slid theatrically to the ground, resting against a tree trunk. 'Go on without me.'
Holly sat down next to her and offered her a bottle of water, which she turned down.
'No thanks, I'll be fine in a minute. Just need to rest for a while.'
'Yeah no problem.' There was still plenty of daylight, thought Holly, as she lay back and looked up into the canopy above, they were in no rush. And there were worse places to take a break, all around them were chirping birds flitting between the tall branches which were themselves filtering the warm autumnal sunshine down onto the moss and dirt covered path below. It was very pretty, and the two friends spent a pleasant ten minutes quietly enjoying their peaceful surroundings.
'Right come on lazy, let's finish this off.' Holly got up and tugged her friend to her feet, and with their energy slightly replenished they continued on their way. 'So according to this,' Holly studied her map, she was the designated navigator and so far hadn't got them too lost, 'there should be a ford up here, over the creek, and then after that it's just fields all the way back.' However, as they approached the supposedly small and easy to cross stream they could hear the alarmingly loud sound of rushing water. 'Umm...' They finally reached the edge of the forest and stepped out into the open, where the path continued down a shallow bank and they could see where it continued on the other side. The only problem was that they were faced not with a gentle stream, but instead a deep and fast flowing river.
'Sorry, you said we're meant to walk through that?' Charlie dropped her bag again and sighed, looking exasperatedly at Holly. 'It's way too deep.'
'It's just a small crossing on the map... I guess it must be flooded? Maybe they had a storm recently.'
'I suppose, it wouldn't be a popular route otherwise if this is what it's normally like. What do we do then, is there a bridge further down? Or further up?'
Holly had a look. 'Yes.'
'Great, let's go to that.'
'But it's over two miles the wrong way, and then we'd still have to walk up the other side again.'
Charlie groaned. 'And is there any short cut back the way we came? Retrace our footsteps for a bit?'
'No... no we'd just have to redo the whole walk.'
'Which has already taken over three hours.'
'We are not doing that.'
Holly had another look to see if there was any other way through, then Charlie had a go too, and they both concluded that the only way over the water was to go to the bridge downstream, which would add another hour at least to their journey.
Charlie was not happy. 'Why did we choose camping as our way of relaxing? Why not a spa weekend? I could be getting a massage right now or chilling by a pool, not getting blisters in the middle of nowhere, looking forward to a night of sleeping on the rock hard ground, in a freezing tent.'
Holly ignored her friend, who was definitely a city girl at heart, and walked to the edge of the stream to inspect it.
'Well the little wooden bridge ford thing is still there, just submerged. We could still walk over it.'
'Holly it's in a river.'
'Yeah but it's not so deep that it goes over our heads, is it. If it just comes up our legs a bit so what, we'll just take off our shoes and carry them over. I'll check.'
'Ok, if you don't mind getting soggy feet.'
Charlie sat on the grass as she watched Holly pull off her walking boots and socks, then walk tentatively into the water.
'I'll keep going.' Holly took another step in, feeling with her toes to see how deep the water was before she moved forwards. The cold mud and sediment oozed around her skin but she persevered, and was soon a third of the way across with the water rising above her knees and lapping just below the bottom of her shorts. 'Honestly it's not that bad Charlie, I think we can -- shit!' Holly had taken one more stride towards the opposite bank and suddenly there was nothing beneath her foot, she just stepped straight off a small step. She pitched forward and landed awkwardly, almost losing her balance entirely, but just managed to save herself.
'Hahaha, not too bad you were saying?'
'Oh... my god.' Holly looked down at herself in dismay. She was now in the middle of the river, which was of course it's deepest point. Moments before the water level had been at her upper thigh, but now it was around her waist, just high enough to reach the hem of her waterproof jacket. 'Are you kidding me man.' Her lower half was now soaked through and already getting cold, and she looked forlornly down through the clear blue water at her goosebump covered legs.
'Well you're already most of the way there Holls, you might as well carry on.' Despite her amusement Charlie was actually right, and so with much more care this time Holly waded across until she felt the ground sloping higher again, then trudged up the bank as her shorts dripped with every step. The bedraggled figure turned to look glumly back at Charlie, who was still laughing.
'That looked awful, hilarious but awful. Are you freezing?'
'Of course I am, I didn't think it would be that steep.' Holly checked behind her briefly but they hadn't encountered another hiker for hours, so she stepped out of her sodden shorts and wrung them out onto the grass. 'My underwear is soaked too, gross.' She paused then looked back at Charlie and frowned. 'Look away.' She hooked her panties down and also squeezed them as dry as they would go, as Charlie began to snicker even harder than before.
'This is surviving in the wilderness taken to the extreme.'
'Shut up. Anyway at least I'm here, what are you going to do?' Holly undignifiedly tugged her clothes back up to her hips and fidgeted uncomfortably at the dampness.
'Good point... it's a bit too far to chuck the bags isn't it?'
'Yeah, if they land short they'll just float away.'
'Ok, I guess I'll have to carry your shoes too.'
'Sorry but yeah, I'm not going back across.'
'Ok. Well then I know what I have to do...' Charlie copied Holly by taking off her boots and stuffing her socks into them, then smiled shyly at her friend. 'And I don't want soggy clothes like you, so...'
'Oh my god Charlie.' This time it was Holly's turn to laugh and cover her mouth in shock as she watched her companion unbutton her shorts and then quickly yank them down, along with her panties, leaving her standing completely bottomless in front of the stream. 'You look so stupid!'
'I don't have a choice do I?' The now blushing Charlie shouldered both bags onto her back, pinned the two pairs of footwear against her side and used her remaining hand to hold the clothes, holding them bashfully in front of her crotch as she tiptoed to the water's edge. 'Fuck it is cold.'
Holly watched with great interest as Charlie gingerly stepped forwards, even more tentatively than she had. 'So it's pretty flat until about there, then it goes down gently for a bit...'
'Ok... oh wow, oh wowww...' Charlie's face contorted with a mixture of pleasure and pain as the cold water rose past her groin. 'That hits the spot.'
'Grossss. Ok now careful, this is where the drop off is.' With Holly's guidance Charlie managed to edge up to the ledge and then gracelessly lower herself down and onto the flat base of the river. 'Nice! Now just get to me.'
'Holly this feeling is so intense, honestly.' Charlie was the taller of the two and so she was able to keep all the gear she was holding high enough to stay dry. However, as she passed the halfway point one of the bags on her back began to slip. 'Shit, Holly this one's going to fall.' She tried to lean over to one side to keep the angle as shallow as possible, but the strap over her shoulder continued to slowly slide across. 'Holly!'
There was nothing she could do though, and Holly watched with alarm as the bag fell off, the strap still hooked under her arm. It fell into the water and the sudden shift in weight distribution caught Charlie off guard and she had to take a large step to the side to try and keep her balance.
'Shit!' The overcompensation caused the other bag to also come loose and splash down behind her, immediately starting to pull away with the direction of the current.
'Charlie our shoes!' One of the boots was now threatening to spill out from under her arm, and Charlie twisted as she tried to use her other arm to pin it back in against her. But now the combination of the bags tugging at her arms and the strong current became too much, and with a shriek she finally stumbled and lost her footing on the slippery mud, falling backwards into the water with one arm stretched out to break her fall.
'Fuck...' She got back to her feet in an instant, her hair now wet too as she had been briefly completely engulfed. 'Oh for fuck's sake...' She held the shoes tightly to her chest as the two bags floated in the water by her side, thankfully still tethered to her. However, she hadn't managed to keep hold of everything...
'Oh no...' Holly looked on wide eyed as the pair watched Charlie's clothes flow swiftly away from them downstream, now totally lost forever. With no need to worry about staying dry anymore Charlie stormed towards the shore, dragging her cargo with her. 'Well thank god you managed to save the shoes Charlie, in the grand scheme of things they were more important-'
'Save it.' The semi naked hiker reached the shore and stepped up onto the bank, water streaking sown her bare bottom half. 'Look at me.'
Holly tried her best to hold in a laugh but the second they made eye contact it was hopeless, and soon tears were streaming down her cheeks.
'And I thought I fucked that up! Oh my god I wish I'd filmed that, Charlie you should see your face.'
'Ahhh my top is waterlogged!' Ignoring her Charlie shrugged off her jacket and then looked down despairingly at her woolly jumper which was indeed soaked through. 'I hate the countryside, so much.' She peeled the top over her head and stood there now only in her bra, a broken woman. 'How has this gone so badly so quickly? Is it even sunny enough to dry these things?'
Holly looked up at the sky, it was a bright day but not warm by any means, if anything it felt like there might be some drizzle on the way. 'We could try, like lay them out on the grass for a bit, but I think it's only going to get more overcast. And to avoid freezing we should probably start walking quickly to generate some heat.'
Charlie was standing covering herself with her bundled up jumper, looking fairly tragic. 'Urgh, fine. I guess my legs will air dry a bit at least.' The girls wrung out their socks and pulled on their damp boots, grimacing as they did so. Their jackets were both the lightweight water resistant type and so after a quick shake they were the warmest and driest things they had to wear.
'Probably best to just wear your coat, the wet fleece will probably only make you colder overtime, you can't get enough water out of it.' Holly said, now extra pleased that she'd managed to keep her top half out of the stream.
'Shit, you're right.' Charlie reluctantly stuffed her jumper away, then unhooked her bra too and stood completely nude, hunched over her bag as she packed it. 'Ok let's get going, before my nipples fall off.' She finally put on and zipped up her jacket, stuffing her hands in her pockets and then stalking off along the trail, her body shivering with the cold. Holly felt bad, she was wearing an entire outfit more than her friend and even she was struggling to warm up. She had to half jog to catch up, her feet squelching in her boots as she did so, and then settled into a brisk walk, watching her friend's bare arse swaying along in front of her. Holly's legs began to thaw out over the course of the next half hour as Charlie maintained an impressive pace, any earlier signs of fatigue having magically disappeared. The mostly flat fields they were navigating now made for easy walking, and the only hurdles were the stiles they had to climb over every now and then, where Charlie would make Holly go first so she didn't get a gynaecological view from behind. They were nearing the home stretch and were starting to perk up when Charlie, who was still in front, suddenly gasped and dropped to one knee, grabbing Holly's arm and forcing her down next to her.
'There's a couple coming down the other way, on the foot path!'
'Oh, shit. Umm, what do we do?'
'Give me your coat!' Charlie almost ripped it off Holly's frame and frantically fiddled with one of the arms which was now inside out. Holly squinted along the trail and sure enough she could see two small heads just appearing over the slight crest ahead of them.
'What do you think I'm doing?' Finally the jacket was unfurled and Charlie wrapped it around her hips, tying the arms behind her waist so that the back of the coat fell down in front of her, forming a makeshift skirt. Well, half a skirt.
'Oh yeah, that looks perfectly natural.'
'You have any better ideas?' Holly guessed not, Charlie's jumper would take longer to get out and even then it was probably better to have a dry jacket to wrap around yourself than a wet fleece.
'Ok, sure.' They both stood up and walked side by side towards the newcomers, Charlie acutely aware of the breeze playing across her butt. 'Just play it cool, nod hello and keep going.'
'Of course.' The friends tried to act naturally as the distance between the four hikers continued to narrow, and soon they could see it was a middle aged man and women, probably married, who were approaching them.
'Afternoon! Lovely day isn't it.' The woman called out cheerily to them and the girls smiled back, Charlie nervously so.
'Isn't it!' Holly responded friendlily as were drawing level, both pairs stepping slightly to their left to let each other pass. 'Just a heads up, the river a couple of miles down has overflown, the ford is flooded.'
'What?' The couple abruptly stopped and turned to face Holly, and Charlie only just managed to spin to the side quickly enough to stop them getting an eyeful. 'The one on the loop trail?'
'Yeah,' Holly replied, realising her mistake. 'We did it but from the other end, and we had to, umm, take a detour down to the bridge. It took an extra hour.'
'Oh dear.' The man turned to look thoughtfully at his partner. 'We probably won't have time to do all that before it gets really dark. Shall we head back darling, do one of the smaller routes then try this again tomorrow?'
'I think so, no sense risking it. You girls must be exhausted then after all that, and aren't you cold dear? I couldn't be out here without a coat on.'
'No I'm fine, it's not that bad really.' Holly looked nervously to Charlie who just stared back pleadingly. 'So are you guys local?' She turned and continued up the trail with the woman by her side, who quickly began chatting with her. The man smiled at Charlie and moved to follow them, and Charlie slotted in next to him, making sure to walk slightly slower so that he would never be able to see the curve of her butt peeking round the side of the flapping coat. The two of them made polite small talk too as they headed back to the campsite, and if the man, who's name turned out to be Andrew, was at all confused by her appearance he didn't act like it.
As they approached the first stile he politely paused by the side of it. 'After you.'
Charlie panicked. 'No after you, really, I insist.'
Nonplussed, Andrew vaulted over and Charlie followed cautiously, retying her knot after she felt it beginning to loosen. She managed somehow to keep herself from accidentally flashing Andrew for the next thirty minutes, and when they arrived at a fork in the path his wife, Susan, announced that they'd be parting ways as they went off along another trail. 'Lovely to meet you both, we'll probably see you around the camp later. Come and say hi!' Holly waved them goodbye and they watched them go until they were safely out of sight, then she immediately turned to apologise.
'Charlie I'm so sorry, I didn't think-'
'You complete idiot!'
'I don't know why I said-'
'Two miles Holly, two miles I had to walk next to a guy worrying that this stupid coat was going to fall down around my ankles.'
'I know, I think it was just a reflex, I was trying to be helpful-'
'It doesn't matter anyway, just don't be so stupid ever again, or next time I'll throw you in the river.' They walked the short distance back to the row of hedges which marked the border of the campsite, and stopped at the final gate that led into it.
'How about I go in and get you some bottoms, just in case.'
'That would be lovely, thanks.' Charlie lingered awkwardly with her back to a tree as she waited for Holly to return, and when she did she slipped on the shorts that were offered to her. Finally covered again she followed her friend into the site and they walked past a few campers lounging on fold up chairs, cooking food on small gas stoves. Back at their tent Holly offered to get dinner going, to warm them up a bit.
'Sure, you get the fire going and I'll have a shower, I think I'm still at risk of hypothermia. Holly got out one of those disposable miniature barbeques and set it alite with a match as Charlie disappeared inside, rummaging about a bit before remerging wrapped in a towel and clad in a pair of flipflops. Holly noticed her bare shoulders as she strolled off towards the shower block.
'Someone's getting used to only one item of clothing.'
Charlie didn't respond, instead just lifting the back of her towel to moon her friend briefly. Holly chuckled at the sight then looked down and swore as she realised the fire was already out. After many failed attempts she finally got it going again and got out some burgers from the cooler in the car. Once they were sizzling away she decided it was her turn to get out of her damp things, so she unzipped the tent flap and began fishing through her bags. It wasn't a big tent, it only had one compartment with room for two sleeping bags and not much else. Holly decided to get changed straight into her comfy pyjamas and then put her huge hooded overcoat on top, so first she slid off her shorts and underwear and dried herself off with a towel, then put on her pyjama bottoms. Next she took off her shirt and bra and was looking for her hoodie when the only flap separating her from the outside world was unceremoniously ripped aside.