Harper knew she'd made a mistake the second the boat began pulling away from the dock. Of course, she wasn't looking in that direction, but she could hear the engines kick into a gear and the water beginning to churn. She couldn't turn and face the eyes of those people. She couldn't turn and submit herself to his gaze that was almost certainly boring into her back at this very moment. She wanted to hang her head and just run away, but she steadied herself. Shouldering her backpack and walking as confidently as she could, she left the dock and walked along the muddy shoulder of the main road of Hoonah.
She was grateful for the company she was in. Her cousins followed alongside her, no one speaking, the only noise being the crunchy earth beneath their feet as they trudged to where their vehicles were being stored during their visit to the southeast Alaskan town and surrounding wilderness. Even farther behind them, still gathering gear on the docks, was their production crew responsible for following the cousins around and documenting their accents around the country.
She'd spent most of her childhood as an only child, and the cousins were the closest things she had to siblings. Even the cousins that had their own brothers, treated Harper as if she was their own sister. When she finally became an older sister at 10, she already knew how to love her knew little brother because of how close she was to the rest of her family.
Out of the 14 cousins that were on the main reality show they starred in, 5 of them (the 5Main, as they called themselves) came to the remote area of the Alaskan bush to start in a short crossover series that combined both shows to document the intertwining of two lifestyles. Harper, at 29, split the pack in age. Older cousins and brothers by 1 month and 5 years respectively, Braden and Jack were present. Harper's younger brother by 10 years, Alex, also came along. For Harper's part on the show, it was rare to not see her with Alex. Their age difference didn't seem to hinder the bond they'd formed. Rounding out the group was her younger cousin by 1 year, Koby.
As much as the guys wanted to say something encouraging or thoughtful to Harper, they knew they shouldn't. She was very easy-going most of the time. Her drama factor was very low, mostly she was just one of the guys. But in situations like this, when tensions were sky high and her emotions threated instability, Not poking the proverbial bear was in all their best interests...even if they also thought or knew she was making a mistake. Even Alex. They knew given a short time to self-evaluate, Harper would come around and open up to them. But it wasn't that time yet.
Harper, cursed under her breath when she stepped in a phantom puddle that turned out to much deeper than she anticipated. Deep enough to crest over the top of her hiking boots. Deep enough to make her wish she'd listened and got the taller boots that had more practicality that the cuter, sportier pair she'd ended up with. She breathed in deep through her nose as the chilly water seeped into the shoe and saturated her sock within seconds. It was late spring and the weather was much warmer, but it was always wet here, storms coming from the north bringing cold rains and winds that didn't seem to let it heat up. Nothing like the sweltering heat in the lower 48 that the cousins were used to.
As the cold wetness crept up her pant leg, she wanted to curse as loud as she possibly could. She was frustrated. Frustrated with herself. Frustrated with the way things had turned out. Frustrated with him. Frustrated that every time she took a step now, she could hear and feel a squishiness between her toes that threatened to undo what little cool she had remaining. Her eyes cast forward, her face set in stark determination to keep going forward, to not look back for a chance she'd see the boat before it rounded the edge of the inlet.
They reached the garage where their ride was safely waiting. The boys exchanged glances as Harper yanked open the back hatch of the SUV and tossed her bag inside.
"Harp, we've got time if you want to change real quick." Braden said more carefully laying his bag in the back floorboard.
"I'm fine." She said, almost monotone. She went to the front passenger side, climbing in the seat. The rest of the group followed suit. Braden hopping into the driver's seat, finding the keys in the visor. He started it up and looked over at Harper. She looked at him. She knew he was silently asking her if she was sure she knew what she was doing. She knew he was making sure this is what she wanted. She knew that he thought she was wrong.
When she said nothing, Braden put the vehicle in gear and sped off down the dirt road. Harper glanced once in her side mirror and only saw open water by the docks.
They were at the airstrip within only a few minutes, a plane ready for them on the tarmac. After boarding, Harper swallowed the softball sized lump that had formed in her throat, desperate not to cry. Why was she so stubborn that she would continue to subject herself to feeling like this when she knew full well she was making a mistake? Why did she so adamantly refuse herself experiencing something that she knew would make her so happy? Maybe she was scared of being happy, because then what...what happens after that? Maybe she was scared of letting someone else have control. Maybe she was just so incapable of admitting someone else was right that she would rather hurt herself and him in the process.
As everyone settled down into their seats, one of their crew pointed one of the mobile cams at her from the seat ahead of her.
"So you wanna give your side of the story, wanna tell us why we are leaving so suddenly?" Luke asked, have grinning from behind the camera, his face pressed to the eye piece. She smiled incredulously, shaking her head.
"You are a piece of work, Luke, a real piece of work" she chided, right before she slapped the lens of the camera with her palm, jamming the eye piece squarely into Luke's eye socket. He cursed out loud as one of the other crew came to see what was wrong. Joe was in charge of the crew and responsible for most of what aired on their show. He looked at Luke's puffy eye and then back at Harper.
"We have a short ride to Juneau, once we land and get settled at the hotel. Interviews. Everyone. We have a show to do and you know that." Joe said.
Harper looked away, out of the window, but did not argue. Alex settled into the seat next to Harper, grabbing her hand on the arm rest between them. She looked at their hands, then at his face, then back out the window. The sooner she got out of Alaska, the sooner she'd stop feeling like her heart was being ripped from her chest.