Amenable Amelia, he called her. You mean, available, she whispered, so low he could not hear. Ellis slapped one palm against her backpack, handed her the canteen and stared off at the expanse of sky, valley and rock.
"Good job, buddy," he said. They spent three hours climbing to get up to this peak.
Amelia repeated buddy to herself, silently, mouthing the words as she stood behind him looking out on Aucklandís mountainous beauty. She wanted to replace buddy with baby or beauty.
He held out his hand for the canteen, took a long sip and handed it back to her. She wanted to lick the rim of that plastic jug, perhaps the only way she would ever touch his lips.
"Look at all this beauty," he said. "Iíll bet youíre glad you came now?"
Amelia nodded, smiled.
"Letís have our picnic, then." He withdrew bread, cheese and apples from his pack. Plus a jar of Vegemite for good measure. He sliced her cheese with his pocketknife, polished her apple on the side of his thigh.
"I donít miss her at all," Ellis said, mouth full of apple. He looked past Amelia when he spoke, and then for a brief second caught her gaze dead on. Amelia tried a bite of cheese, strangely not hungry.
"Do you want to camp tonight?"
Amelia had just bitten into her apple. She chewed and swallowed carefully before answering, her heart doing mambo rythyms.
"We donít have our tents."
"Yeah, but if we go back down a mile there was that great spot under the Eucalypts. We have our bedrolls."
Amelia imagined they would have to lie very close together to keep warm."Okay, sure."
They admired the vista for another hour, then set off toward the place where they would camp.
"I wonder if any of these trees bear fruit," he said, fingering leaves tenderly.
Amelia thought she would burst. Ten years she had waited for him to fall out of love with her sister, and into love with her. Ten years she withstood Aliceís mistreatment of him, his desperate gazes at her over Thanksgiving dinners and under the Christmas Tree. Now they were alone together, in a foreign country, and she couldnít even get him to kiss her.
Back at the camping spot, they unrolled their bed things, set their packs down. Ellis stroked long leaves of a young sapling, his back to her.
Amelia couldnít bear it. She couldnít stop herself. Standing behind him she whipped off her tank top and bra. "What about the fruit of this plant?" she bellowed.
Shocked, he stared and then dropped his head. "I just canít yet," he said. "I canít do it to her."