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"Since you can't find your way around a map, I'm quite certain you'll struggle to figure out how to put a tent together," Kate said, and then smirked.
Alone with Adam, Kate was free to vent all of her frustrations toward him without her friends getting uncomfortable. Sierra and Alexis had set off in search of dinner food, and had left Kate and Adam to set up the tent. Kate wanted to do it herself, but Adam had insisted he needed to stay to help. As if.
"Well, now," Adam muttered under his breath, but loud enough for Kate to hear. "Those are fighting words."
Kate fixed him with an evil look and muttered right back, "What did you expect, Kate pulled the tent's assembly instructions out of the bag and squatted down to start to put the pieces of the tent together. "Step one...," she muttered, grabbing a couple of pieces off the ground.
"Why are you doing it like that?" Adam asked, squatting down next to her. "These pieces go here." He pushed two long poles together. "See? Like that."
"You're supposed to put this part together first." Kate pulled the pole apart and adjusted it slightly. The way Adam had put them together would maybe have worked, but it wasn't the way it was supposed to be done. She had the instruction booklet...not him. "Then you can push these two poles together."
"Oh, I see." Adam nodded. "So even though the end result is exactly the same, the way you've done it is right, because you're incredibly bossy and stubborn and want to be difficult?"
"Or maybe it's because I have the instruction booklet and don't want you to assemble a tent that's going to fall apart on us during the night? Fine, I'll just let you put all of these poles together. Let me know when they're done. Don't screw it up."
Kate stormed off and grabbed their tarp out of the trunk. She laid it down on a flat part of the campsite that looked like a good place to set up the tent. It was right next to the campfire pit, which seemed like it would help keep the tent nice and toasty if the air cooled off overnight. She could feel Adam watching her as he put the pieces of tubing together. "Do you have something else to say?"
He held his hands up in front of him defensively. "Nope. By all means, keep doing what you're doing."
"What's wrong with the way I'm doing it?"
Adam surveyed the tarp and glanced around the rest of the campsite. "I guess I was just thinking we could put the tent up back there," he said, and gestured to a tall stand of pine trees that had a gorgeous, soft-looking grassy space in the center. "But if you want to sleep right next to the fire and hope the wind doesn't blow the fire onto the tent and burn us all up in the night, by all means..."
Huffily, Kate grabbed the tarp and pulled it across the campsite to the stand of pine trees. Adam had made his point, and she decided it was easier not to argue with him. Maybe if she ignored him, he'd just go away.
After a few glorious minutes of silence while they each worked independently, Adam had all of the tent poles assembled and Kate had the tarp laid out. She had put rocks on each corner of the tarp to keep it in place. Adam brought the long poles over, and Kate dragged the pieces of tent fabric.
"So next," Kate said, pulling the instruction booklet out of her pocket, "we put these little stakes into the ground to hold the corners of the tent in place."
Adam paused, then said simply, "Okay."
"Do you have a different idea?" Kate could tell he was questioning her logic. It was the way he'd said "okay" with a totally non-okay tone.
"I think we need to put the long poles through the channels before we secure the corners that way we know how big the tent will actually be."
Kate was boiling with frustration. Adam was so bossy and couldn't stop acting like a tent know-it-all. In truth she had never actually been in a tent before, but there was no way she was going to admit that. Instead she said simply, "I have the instruction booklet, Adam. So let's do it the way it's supposed to be done." She hated the way he brought out this side of her. She knew she was being completely confrontational and argumentative, but the way he criticized her every move was infuriating.
After a few false starts the center of the tent eventually lifted into the air. It wobbled slightly in the evening breeze, but stayed upright. "That looks about right," Kate declared, stepping back to admire her work.
"Nicely done," Adam complimented. She realized he was being genuine, and swelled with pride. "Let's get our gear inside," Adam instructed. "It's getting dark, and we should get things ready before Lex and Sierra get back with dinner."
"Don't we need to finish securing the tent first?" she asked, studying the instruction manual.
Adam shook his head. "No, we can do that afterward. As long as it's up, we're fine pulling our gear inside." Kate shrugged and tossed the instruction manual outside the door of the tent. She'd let Adam have his way this time, since things seemed to be going okay. No thanks to him.
They walked together back to the car. Kate popped open the trunk and pulled her big duffel bag out. "Do you want me to get that for you?" Adam offered.
"I can handle it," Kate snapped back. Now he's trying to be helpful? she mused. When they got back to the tent, Kate climbed in with her bag and Alexis's sleeping bag. Once she'd finished arranging Alexis's spot in the center of the tent next to Adam, who was on the far wall she unzipped her big bag and started to pull out her pillow.
She had just lifted her pillow to fluff it when suddenly the center of the tent made a snapping sound and the whole thing came billowing down around them. "Ayeeee!" Kate shrieked, buried in the mounds of tent fabric.
"You okay?" Adam cried from somewhere nearby, under the fallen fabric.
"I'm buried alive!" Kate declared, then burst out laughing. Adam cracked up too, and they both started flailing around in the tent trying to find an escape route.
"Stay still and I'll try to get it back up again. There's no sense in both of us risking our lives to dig out of here," Adam joked. A few moments later he was standing in the center of the tent fabric with the posts back in place. Kate applauded from her seat on the ground. Adam shrugged, "I guess you were right.... We should have secured it a little better before we started to get our stuff inside."
Thank you, Kate mused silently. Ha, ha! I was right! Out loud she said, "No biggie. If you hold it up for a sec, I'll get the final stakes in place and we should be back in business." She went outside the tent and quickly read through the rest of the instructions. After she placed the stakes, she was confident that everything was in order. She ducked back inside the tent and started to get her bedding out.
"Did you bring a duvet?" Adam was rolling his thin sleeping bag out on the floor on the other side of the tent, but had stopped to watch what Kate was doing. "Please tell me that's a duvet."
"It is. Why is that funny?" Here we go again. Kate had started to consider that maybe Adam wasn't as intolerable as she had thought, but now she suspected things were about to sour again.
"Princess, we're in a tent. You don't bring a duvet to go camping." Adam was cracking himself up. "Did you bring your hair dryer and tanning oils as well? Do you need me to pick up your mattress from the front desk? Shall we call for room service?" Adam held his hand up to his ear like a phone and spoke in a fussy accent. "Yes, yes, I'll take the lemon verbena hand massage and a salmon salad, thank you."
Kate narrowed her eyes at him but kept her mouth shut. It wasn't worth engaging with him further. Once she had her sleeping space in order, she turned to Adam and blurted out, "Can you get out of here? I need to change into my pajamas."
"Are you going to bed? What about dinner?"
"I'm not hungry."
"Don't you need to brush your teeth or anything?"
"Is that any of your business?" Kate wanted him to scram. She just wanted to change and go through her nighttime routine in silence and privacy. She hadn't even thought about how they would get ready for bed and change and all the other things you just do in front of your girlfriends but that seem especially private and embarrassing when there's a guy nearby. She noticed that her retainer case had fallen out of her pajama pants pocket, and she quickly shoved it deep inside her pillowcase away from Adam's prying eyes.
"Brushing your teeth is not my business," Adam responded, just sitting there, completely disrespectful of her wish that he leave her alone. "But it will be my business when you're breathing dragon breath all over the car tomorrow."
"Ugh, you're such a pig!" Kate cried out.
Adam grinned, the way he always did when Kate started getting loud and angry. "Sorry."
"If you're really sorry, you'll get the hell out of this tent immediately. I just want to go to sleep, and I want to do that without you staring at me like some sort of creep. Tell Lex and Sierra good night. I'm sure I'll be up first in the morning, so I can drive first shift."
Kate zipped the tent shut after Adam crawled out, closing the door on her terrible day. It couldn't be over soon enough. Copyright © 2009 by Erin Soderberg Downing