Water splashed up over Brittany’s lap, running down over her already soaked shorts. More liquid sat in the bottom of the canoe, the level rising with every new dousing.
“Left,” she cried. “Go left.”
The canoe went right, against all her efforts to turn it left. Smack, another rock hit the hull. Water slapped her in the face and her anger grew. If they capsized it would not be her fault, but it would take two to get them through and right now Eric was not helping. The cutest, most athletic looking guy on the trip, Eric had promised he knew how to handle a canoe. “Well,” she thought. “He lied.” She should have gone with Sam. Another rock loomed up ahead to the right.
“Go left,” she yelled. “Left!”
“What,” Eric yelled back.
“Left!” Thunk, they hit the rock. This time the canoe tilted precariously, threatening to spill them into the cold mountain water. “Too late.” she mumbled.
“What,” Eric called.
“Nothing,” she said. Another rock was coming into view. They were almost through the rapids. “Just one last rock, Lord,” she prayed. “Help us through.” In desperation, she reached out with her paddle and used it to push the canoe clear of danger. They shot through the last bit of rough water and into an open, more peaceful stretch of river.
Brittany sighed in relief. “Thank You, Lord.” Never again would she believe a cute guy, who said he knew what he was doing, just to soothe his ego. This guy had a big one. “The only canoeing he’s ever done was in his grandmother’s bath tub!” she thought.
“Hey! We made it,” Eric’s voice rung out in triumph. The canoe began to rock. Brittany looked back to see Eric standing with his paddle above his head in victory.
“Sit down,” she yelled. “Oh no!” The canoe tilted again, suspended at an unnatural angle, and then capsized. Cold water hit her in the face. “I hope he had his life jacket on,” was her last thought before her head went under, then bobbed to the surface seconds later.
She could see the canoe drifting toward shore where the rest of their party was waiting for them. Several objects were bobbing around in the water, drifting down stream. “I told him to tie his stuff down, but he just didn’t listen.”
She turned in the water trying to catch sight of him. He was not visible. A knot of fear rose in her throat. “Where is he?” She quickly removed her life jacket, kicked off her shoes, and began diving. She came up for air and looked around again. Suddenly she saw a tuft of blond hair bob to the surface a few feet ahead of her. She swam toward it in with a few swift, strong strokes. Grabbing him around the chest, she pulled him to the surface and swam toward shore. Blood oozed from a wound on the side of his head. “The canoe must have hit him when we capsized,” she thought. “Lord, give me strength to get to shore.”
When she reached the beach, others were waiting to take over. Someone did CPR while someone else put pressure on the wound. “If he would have just kept the life jacket on…,” she thought, as she sunk to the ground in exhaustion. She lay on the warm sand not caring if she ever opened her eyes again.
"He’s coming around,” she heard someone say. “He’s breathing on his own now.”
“Good,” she thought. “Now I can sleep.”
“Are you all right,” She opened her eyes to see someone kneeling beside her.
“Hi Sam,” she said. “I’m fine, just tired. Did you rescue my stuff?”
“There was nothing to rescue and you know it,” said Sam. “It was tied securely to the canoe. In fact, I had a hard time getting your knots undone.”
“How much gear did Eric lose?” she asked. She raised herself up on her elbows, remembering what had happened. “Is he okay?”
“He’ll live,” said Sam. “But remind me not to take him on another trip without giving him some lessons first.”
“Just don’t ask me to take him in my canoe.” she said. “Are you shipping him out to a hospital?”
“Ya, we’re just lucky someone’s cell phone actually worked.” Sam said. “Search and Rescue is flying in with a helicopter to pick him up. They should be here soon.”
“I’d better get into some dry cloths,” she said. “I’m getting cold.” Brittany got up and brushed the sand off her wet shorts.
“Brittany,” Sam said.
“Yes?” she could hear hesitation in his voice. That was unusual for Sam. “What is it Sam.”
“I have to admit,” he paused, took a breath, then continued. “I was jealous when you chose to double with Eric.”
“Jealous?” She stared at Sam. Was he saying what she thought he was?
“I like you Brittany, I always have. I… I…,” his voice broke. “I was worried about you... Brittany, I … well… I...”
“You what Sam?” Hope rose inside her. Sam had always been a dear friend. She knew she loved him when they were still in junior high. He was a good man who loved the Lord.
“I love you Brittany, and I don’t want to share you any more,” he said.
“What does that mean Sam?’’ she asked. “You don’t want to share me, I mean?”
“Will you… will you… marry me?” he finally got the words out. Brittany threw herself into his arms, tears streaming down her face.
“Absolutely,” she said. “Absolutely.” Well, maybe the trip down the rapids with Eric had been worth it after all.