“How you doin’ back there, man?” Jason could hear his brother’s words floating back to him from over Brian’s shoulder. For the third time.
“Dude, quit hassling me. I’m fine. You’re not Mom, you know,” Jason sniped back. He’d willed himself to appear healthier than he really felt so he could get out of the house for this little outing.
What should’ve been just a bad cold might as well as been the flu, considering the way it had put him out of commission the last couple of weeks. But it’s not every day your cousin and best friend moves away and breaks up a group of confidants that’s been going strong for years. Katie wanted one more mountain hike before her family moved, and he wasn’t about to miss it. Even if it meant putting up with Brian pretending to take his spot as head of the group.
“Okay Brian, we get it — you’re enjoying being the lead on this hike just a little too much.” Maggie looked up from whatever secret conversation she was carrying on with Ashton behind Jason. She rolled her eyes even as she smiled. “Don’t let the power go to your head or anything.”
“Yeah, it’s not like you could defend your so-called leadership in a fight or anything,” Josh piped up from his position in the back of the group.
“Whatever, Josh,” Brian just laughed. “Jason may be the oldest, but you’re still the youngest.”
Ashton’s giggling cut off Josh’s come back. “What do you think is so funny, Ash?” Josh muttered at her.
“All of your mock arguments about who would win in a fight.” Her giggling bubbled over into outright laughter. ” You’re triplets, silly. It’s not like any one of you has a leg up on the competition.”
Even Jason had to smile at that. So did Katie. “Still,” she said with a chuckle, “senior rights tend to trump everything else, so Jason wins by default.” That was his pal Katie; always loyal to a fault. Good thing she was on his side.
The six of them had been thick as thieves for years. They’d all bonded together almost instinctively in elementary school, and were the best of friends since then — even when they were enemies. And now they were hiking essentially in a line through a narrow part of the mountain path on their last trip together.
Jason’s voice cut through the smack talk and chatter. “Yippee. That old rope bridge is just ahead.”