Stanislav reached the summit first. I wasn’t far behind, but he summited before I did, before any in our party. What started out as a friendly outing between friends, with no hint of competition, had devolved into a contest of endurance. An easy climb, well marked, and popular with the locals, Stanislav and I, and one other, began the day with coffee and bagels; a lazy proletarian morning.
“We should do something,” said Stanislav. Before you know it, we trundled into Genevieve’s car on our way to the mountains. The view was inspiring, but for some reason, insufficient for Stanislav.
“We should climb the mountain,” said Stanislav, and off we went, the three of us, comfortable companions out for a hike.
Genevieve and I had known each other for many years, as had Stanislav and I, but from different social circles. I was the common element in this social molecule. It was nothing for me to hold Genevieve’s hand or put my arm around her, any more than it would be for me to embrace Stanislav. As I said, it was nothing. But as we paused to catch our breath and get our bearings, Genevieve leaned against me and away from Stanislav. I only took note because that was the moment when Stanislav jumped to his feet as though stung by a bee or challenged to a duel.
“We should get going,” he said, and the comfortable pace became an effort, the outing became a race, something to prove. Swept up in the secret undercurrent between Stanislav and Genevieve, I found myself determined to keep up, if not better, my sudden rival for Genevieve’s affections.