© Copyright 2010 by Elizabeth Delayne
With the RV moving steadilly down the road, Tyler stood at the counter of the kitchen area and played around a little with the internet maps. He’d become fairly adept over the last few seasons at knowing the interstate and various state highways systems, so it helped him to relax and to think.
Without it looking as if he was brooding.
The cameras were irritating on their best day, though over the years he’d learned to remove them from his mind. It wasn’t so much that he was aware of their presence, but he was more aware of himself. That was his problem with Zeke ... that he could not completely control himself.
And maybe that he could not forgive.
How could you forgive and forget when your daily issues were documented along the way? The producers and the assistants and interns questioned you, brought the incident up weeks after you thought you were over it. The cameras were always there, to amplify the negative.
To pull apart his team.
Right now those cameras magnified the tension on the RV. They waited, capturing meaningless footage that would be montaged together to show their irritation and anger. They lost. So what? Someone had to win, someone had to lose.
They couldn’t, didn’t blame Jamie.
But they had turned on Felicity.
There was fear there, in her eyes, but she said nothing. He wasn’t so sure that she was more afraid of them or of the cameras. Or of something else.
He understood the something else. What the camera caught that people normally didn’t see would and could highlight your greatest fears ... or your hidden weaknesses.
It was why he was careful when signing up again for the show, why he had his own rules and his own way of playing the game.
You want me to come back? Then give me my one place of privacy.
He didn’t have a moment to really get Felicity alone. Neither did George. As soon as the results were announced, they were ordered back onto their buses and were moving out. Felicity headed back to her bunk almost immediately upon getting on the RV.
He didn’t blame her. Cameron and Thessa both showed their distrust with well aimed verbal barbs and questions, all on camera. They complained about her texting, which did seem to be constant and kept very private. Tyler knew that Cameron would be caught on camera, but he had a feeling he'd gotten to her phone, only to find the messages deleted.
Tyler wasn't worried about the texting, but he was worried about what Felicity would feel later.
The thing was ... they all needed to be a little more careful and a lot more forgiving. By the end of this whole game they would all fall short.
It was why it was so important to be a team first. No one could take any blame for any loss... nor could anyone claim responsibility for a win.
That, he believed, would be Zeke’s weakness.
Still, the bus moved on, taking them further away from the cliffs and the disaster of the game, and his team remained ... splintered.
George was at the table, the newspaper folded and in place in front of him. He eyes were shut, he was simply waiting it out. Thessa sat on one end of the love seat in front of the tv. She flipped through a magazine, each motion chipped and agitated. She wasn’t reading. She was waiting for a moment to strike. Cameron had crashed in his bunk.
On the sofa, her leg stretched out, Jamie shifted uncomfortably. She reached forward and adjusted the ice pack. She was frustrated; with herself and with the cameras. She glanced over at him, and he saw the question in her eyes. The drama had happened without her, but she knew it was there.
He stepped over and stooped down, and carefully balanced himself as the RV continued on.
“What happened?” she asked, her voice quiet—the conversation between them and the camera that was suddenly on them.
There was something in the way she rolled her eyes at him that warmed his heart. A small movement, really. Maybe it was the concern there in her eyes, or the hint of pain. Or both ... or neither. Maybe it was just because she was ... Jamie.
“I get that we didn’t win.”
“What?” his thoughts had taken him a completely different direction.
“The loss. It’s the rest that’s weird. Its not just because we lost.”
He shook his head. “Even with your blocks included, we came up short by two. Felicity didn’t have any blocks when she came back. Zeke’s team had more than they needed. Simple math.”
“It’s not that simple.”
“No ... she’s worried, scared about something. She’s not talking. Whatever happened ... something happened. The camera crew, the producers wouldn’t have let anything ... really bad happen, but ...”
“With Felicity? This team doesn’t have a greater cheerleader.”
“Maybe you could talk to her. She trusts you.”
“I know. She sees me as a mother.”
He laughed and resisted the urge to reach out and take her hand in his. If anything would light a fire under the camera crew it would be the light flirting that usually came so easy to him. It wasn’t easy right now.
Not when it suddenly mattered.
She glanced over her shoulder towards the back of the bus. “If we could find a moment alone. You’re never really alone here.”
“No ... but you find ways to work around it. You’ll get used to it.”
They pulled to a stop in time to catch the first rays of the sunrise over the grand canyon. Jamie watched as they escaped the RV en-mass, leaving her behind with Tyler to fumble her way off. On the ground outside, finally on firm ground, she tested her weight on her knee.
“All better,” she told Tyler, then winced as she took a full step. It wasn’t so bad, but it wasn’t all better.
“You sure about that?”
She laughed. “As long as I don’t have to run down the cliffs out here? I should be fine.”
She stayed back as Tyler headed to the railing that ran along the edge of the canyon’s drop off. He became a silhouette in front of the color as the sun rose over the horizon. For a moment in time, the cameras were trained there, catching that spectacular shot.
Of the sunrise.
The sunrise ... not the man. Jamie inwardly sighed.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Thessa walked up and stood beside Jamie looking out across the landscape, across the great rift where they were going to descend. Cameron and George had stepped up to the rail on either side of Tyler. Down a little further from them, Felicity stood alone.
"Its a wonder she's not texting someone."
Jamie shook her head. "You're texting people all of the time."
"But I'm open about who I text."
"Who would she be texting that it's any of our business knowing about?"
"Whoever she was helping out during that competition. It wasn't us."
"Thessa," Jamie said patiently. The other woman shrugged. "The only reason you're not suspicious of me is because I hate texting."
Thessa laughed then. "Now that doesn't surprise me. Ever been here? Done this?"
Jamie looked over to the left where the park ranger had come out, talking to producers, the donkeys the they were to ride were tethered just beyond. That was where Thessa’s gaze had gone.
Oh... They weren’t just visiting the Grand Canyon, they would be exploring it. She wasn’t—she couldn’t focus on that.
The landscape was alive with colors of reds and oranges, various shades of brown. As the morning moved on, the sky brightened into a smooth bright blue, barely doted with clouds. The sun was bright overhead, the morning quickly losing its chill. Jamie took off her team windbreaker and tied around her waist.
Tyler turned toward them and headed over. “You guys are missing the scenery.”
“We’re taking in the big picture.” Jamie looked again, from right to left, “Its so big ... so ...”
Thessa scoffed. “How many times have you made that journey—down there.”
“A few,” Tyler shrugged as he looked over at the donkeys. “It’s a great journey—though, I’m not sure I should sell you on it.”
He glanced back at Jayme. “Did you read the sign?”
“Knee problems,” Thessa pointed to the side of the building. “Back, knee, hip, weight, and fear of heights—it even says to be aware that they will test you.”
“I don’t have knee problems. Its just a little sore from where I fell.”
“Yeah, but you still put ice on it last night,” Tyler glanced down, studied the wrapping around the knee. “It’s not a bit deal, you’ll have something else to do ... and you probably won’t be alone.”
No—of that she was sure. A camera person that stayed behind with her would make sure to have plenty of film to show her being ... by herself at the top.
“I’m sure it will make riveting television.”
“And you think watching five people ride down a canyon on donkeys is going to be better?” Thessa scoffed. “You could consider yourself lucky.”
Jamie followed Thessa’s gesture toward the donkeys lined up, prepared for their trip down. Tyler reached over, gave her arm a gentle squeeze. “Its okay ... its part of your story.”
“With my own private cameraman.”
“There’s that, but hopefully not the same one,” he teased.
Jamie laughed, “I’ll be more worried if he goes with you guys. A tumble here and ... splat ... or more like bowing pins rolling downhill. Probably best if you make sure he’s in front.”
“Thanks, thanks for pointing that one out.”
And for a moment the laughter in his eyes, that easy going smile, made her forget everything else. He was simply a great guy she was getting the chance to hang out with, getting a chance to know.
It was over too soon. He turned away, headed down to toward where Felicity stood, her hands clasped around the guard rail, her knuckles white; doing his job, calming the team. He was so good at this.
“You think he’s using you?”
“Huh?” her eyes had followed Tyler. Thessa’s question drew her back. ‘What?”
“Tyler. It’s a tv show, he’s got a role. You think he’s using you?”
Jamie looked back at him, watched as a producer caught up with him, motioned him to follow her in a different direction. He glanced again at Felicity, then changed course with the producer.
“No ...” she murmured. “He’s just being Tyler.”
Whatever his responsibilities, she knew his intent. Since he’d been pulled away, she headed over to Felicity. Maybe she wasn’t back to full steam, maybe her leg did hurt a little.
And whatever the merit there was to heading down the narrow path of a canyon on a donkey, she wasn’t sure it outweighed common sense.
She stepped up beside Felicity at the guard rail, looked down. It took a moment. She’d known it was big, and had been prepared for depth ... but not this much depth. “Wow.”
“Yeah. Did you know there’s a ranch down there you can stay at? Maybe we’ll get down and they’ll have us ride the rapids or something.”
“Or something,” Jamie repeated. She seemed calmer up close, or maybe she’d simply settled herself a bit. “You okay heading down there? You seemed worried earlier...”
Felicity looked at Jamie, surprised and something filtered through her eyes. There was the uncertainty. Just a moment of it. Fear, of something.
“No, not of this. Not ... I mean, this is what you come here for. This kind of thing. Once in a lifetime kind of things. I just ... I’m not afraid. At least,” she looked over the canyon, and slowly dropped her eyes down. “Not in a big way afraid. I just ... I don’t want to ...”
“Something happened during the race. You want to talk about it?”
“No ... its not that big of a deal. I just wish I had—“
“Felicity—James. Come on.“
It was Cameron who had called them. Their team had been summoned together, toward the center.
She’d missed her chance. Jamie was certain now, suddenly certain, that something had happened during the competition.
And it wasn’t shame, or just shame, that Felicity felt.
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