"Go look for the magic flower, he said." Gianna Reece was many things, confident and sometimes cutting among them. But she was neither a believer in magic nor good with kids. "So what on Earth possessed me to find the kid a magic flower I know doesn't exist?"
"Because despite what you say, you like kids," Gianna's best friend Brennan said. He jumped at the sound of a branch falling out of a tree. He was the furthest thing from an outdoorsman and hated every second of traipsing through the woods. After twenty minutes on the trail, Gianna decided they should veer off course. "Why you had to bring me with you... that's a different question."
"I do not!" Gianna retorted. She whipped around to see what the fuss was. "Brennan," she said slowly. She brushed strands of hair out of her face. "You spent your whole childhood in one form of boy scouts or another. Why are you more freaked out than I am?"
"I hated boy scouts. When I said I was part of nature clubs, it wasn’t to boast.” Brennan’s foot hit a rock and he nearly stumbled forward. He threw out his arms and caught himself with a hand against a tree. “My dad was all this is great bonding. I'm afraid of bugs," Brennan said. He eyed a butterfly on a leaf.
"That's fair," Gianna said after a moment's thought. She shooed the butterfly away and heaved a sigh. "Are you sure we can't just... Pick something and spray paint it blue or purple or whatever?"
"You're the one that said it was this whole magical thing that caused magic and shot magic out its roots. Or whatever." Brennan flailed his arms when a bug floated around his head. He swatted in one direction, then another. The bug, meanwhile, seemed unbothered. "Go away you vile thing!"
"I got caught up in the story!" Gianna grabbed one of Brennan's flailing arms and hauled him after her. He grumbled the entire way. "I'd tell you to sue me, but after dragging you into the woods like this I think you might."
"My uncle is a lawyer..." he said off-handedly.
"He's also single," Gianna pointed out. "I'm not above setting him up with one of my co-workers, and we would all hate that."
Brennan sighed. "Yeah, he's not a good dater. He tends to have the most disastrous dates.” It was a running joke between them to envoke a threat to turn to his uncle for fake lawsuits. “The ceiling once fell down. On the table. In the middle of the restaurant." Brennan stopped suddenly. He pointed with a wild gesture of his hand. "Is that blue??"
"Where?" Gianna whirled around and scanned their surroundings. When she saw a dull blue flower in a patch of shadows she lunged forward. She knelt in front of it, staring at it intently.
"It looks... half dead," Brennan said. He frowned and peered closer. The flower had brown on the rim of the petals. Suddenly a bug with a dragonfly body appeared and flew off it. It was orange and brown with clear see-through wings. He waved his hands about and flailed backward.
"What are you doing?" Gianna demanded, catching Brennan before he could fall.
"There was a bug," Brennan said. She stared at him. He cleared his throat, feeling ridiculous. "Tell me this looks magical so we can go."
"Your phobia's making you see things," Gianna said. "There was no bug." She reached for the flower and hesitated. She was sure there was a proper way to pick flowers. She just didn't know it. "I guess it doesn't matter," she muttered, taking the stem firmly and yanking it out.
"There was a bug." Brennan huffed. "Just take the cursed little flower and let's go. This place has too much nature happening." He waved his hand in front of his face as a gnat fluttered about in front of him.
"Cursed flower?" Gianna laughed. She looked down at the half-dead flower and wondered if she could spritz it up with some spray paint to make it look more alive. Brennan cleared his throat to get her attention. She waved the flower in his face. "We got what we came for, so -"
"Did you hear that?" Brennan interrupted. He grabbed her arm. "It sounded like a rustle.” Gianna imagined the reaction similar to a rabbit that freezes with ears raised high, twitching. He lowered his voice. “Do bears rustle?"
She was quiet for a moment. Silence. "I don't think so?" Gianna replied. Brennan shushed her. She listened again then shook her head. “Nothing.”
"Okay... that was anti-climatic then," Brennan said. "So what does rus-" A figure burst out of the trees suddenly and barreled into Brennan, knocking him to the ground.
"Oh my God!" Gianna shrieked. She kicked the figure. "Stop that!" She kicked him again. "Leave Brennan alone!"
Brennan twisted and turned. "Bear!" His eyes were squeezed shut and he flailed his arms dramatically to ward off his attacker.
"Its not a bear!" Gianna yelled. The man turned to shove her away. "Okay, not the animal kingdom kind of bear." She aimed her next kick between his legs.
Brennan shoved the attacker off and hurled his full body towards Gianna. He searched for rock and grabbed one. He chucked it at the man's head.
"Run!" Gianna pushed Brennan back the way they came and stumbled after him.
Brennan took off running but eventually had to stop to catch his breath. "What - was - that?"
"I don't know and I don't want to know!" Gianna leaned heavily against a nearby tree she vaguely recognized. They weren't far from the entrance. "Are you okay?"
"I think..." He shuddered. "I haven't been tackled like that since my dad talked me into playing football."
"The bear-man definitely had strength on his side," Gianna grumbled. She caught her breath and walked over to Brennan. "You aren't gushing blood, so that's a plus. We better go report this."
"Let's not come back here, huh?" Brennan sighed. "At least you still have that flower."
"Huh?" Gianna lifted her hand to find the flower still there, although a little worse for wear. "I could have sworn I dropped this..."
"Never mind. Let's just get out of here." He didn't wait for an answer.
Gianna frowned. Something felt off with Brennan all of a sudden. She hesitantly chalked it up to the sudden attack and followed him out of the woods.
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