Sara’s fingers worked quickly, plucking the clusters of dark shapes from Maggie’s sweatshirt. “You’re sure there aren’t any ticks or anything, right?” Maggie asked.

“No, just some beggar’s lice.”

“Lice?” Maggie said in a panic, “Are you serious?”

“Oh—no it’s not—” Sara laughed. “They’re just stickseeds.”


“Seeds.” Sara held up a cluster of spikey brown kernels and leaned closer to Maggie. “They’ve got these little barbs that stick to clothes and hair and stuff. Pretty annoying.”

Maggie’s eyes darted distractedly between the seeds and Sara’s face, but all she said was, “Oh.”

“Yeah, you must’ve really charged right through them.”

“I guess so,” Maggie said with a brief, uncertain smile.

“You’ve never spent much time in nature, have you?” Sara asked.  Maggie shook her head, but didn’t speak. Sara felt her smile fading. This wasn’t working. Better to cut things off, to tear away the barbs of hope she had let accumulate. “I guess you probably aren’t interested in any more hikes then.”

Maggie was picking absently at a line of seeds stuck to her jeans. “Actually,” she said, looking away as a blush rose to her cheeks. “I think I’d like to do it again some time.”