The closer we get to the line of trees, the more confused I become.
"Did you bring me out here to kill me?" I ask Eli, only somewhat kidding. We are in the middle of nowhere, Minnesota, and the coffee shop is getting smaller and smaller behind us.
"I wouldn't tell you if I did." Eli laughs and shakes his head at me. "You're ridiculous," He adds when he notices me stop in my tracks. "Come on."
When we reach the edge of the forest, Eli releases my arm but glides his large hand down until it's holding mine. I can feel every nerve in my fingers ignite at once as he leads me through the maze of towering pines.
I follow closely behind him, and after a few minutes of weaving through the massive trunks, he releases my hand and moves out of the way. "Okay, we're here," he says.
It takes a moment for my eyes to adjust to the bright reflection of the sun beating down on the water, but once they do, I'm greeted with one of the most enchanting sceneries I've ever laid my eyes on. There's a lake that's not too large, entirely surrounded by a thick forest of trees. It's perfectly silent aside from a few birds chirping off in the distance. The sun is lingering just above the tallest pine, making its way to set, causing a gorgeous reflection on the water to illuminate the secluded space. Only a few feet of bank separate the tree line from the water, so I walk down to the edge and place my fingers in the lake, instantly regretting it. The sun might be beating down, but the water is so cold that it will probably freeze over in just a few short months.
"It's beautiful," I tell Eli as I stand up and turn to face him, with the water and sun at my back. I tightly grab ahold of my latte, trying to warm my hands again.
He's still standing up at the top of the shore, close to the tree line.
"Yeah, it is," He says while staring directly at me. I'm not sure if he's referring to the scenery or me, but I don't ask him to elaborate.
"So, you brought me to one of Minnesota's ten thousand lakes?"
"Actually, its a pond. It's too small and shallow to be considered a lake." 1
"So, why the pond?" I ask as I walk back up towards him, standing directly in front of him.
He looks around for a moment. "Here. Come here," He nervously says as he grabs my hand again and pulls me to a small bench on the bank of the water. It's the only manmade thing among the stunning scenery.
I take a seat as he unfolds the blanket in his hands and places it on my lap before sitting down as close to me as he can, tucking himself under the blanket as well.
His eyes are locked on the pond as he gathers his thoughts. Eli takes a sip of his coffee, followed by a deep breath before he begins.