In the absence of my eyes, my other senses filled in with startling clarity. Whoever said that the country was quiet had definitely never taken a camping trip. Frogs and crickets and whippoorwills created a deafening cacophony of night music as we tripped through underbrush and over logs. All sorts of woodsy smells – wet leaves, the upturned earth from our trek, rotting wood, and occasionally the granite smell of cold stone formations – regaled my nose. The sound of water rushing over rocks grew louder as our unlikely party continued further downhill. Frankie’s hand tightened on my elbow as we came to a stop.
“She won’t be able to cross that with the blindfold. Should I take it off?” He had a smooth, intelligent voice, and deeper than I would have guessed based on his size – he was only an inch or so taller than I.
“No.” proclaimed Ian. “Can you carry her?”
“Over that?” He sounded hesitant. “S’pose I could try."
He wrapped his arm around my ribcage and, hooking his left arm under my knees, picked me up bridal-style. I gripped his shoulder and we started forward onto what I could only assume was a fallen log that had created a makeshift bridge over a creek or stream. Shakily, he slowly pussyfooted his way across it.
As we approached what I guessed was the centre, his foot slid dangerously, and instinctively I flinched a bit. The slight movement threw him completely out of balance and we fell. His legs slipped off the log to the right while my jump propelled our top-heavy bulk to the left. He painfully banged his shins on the log and our top-heaviness flipped us into a headlong fall towards whatever was down there.
Instinctively, he curled up into a ball, protecting my torso and vital organs. Almost instantaneously, we hit the water hard.
I panicked. Living in the city, I had never learned how to swim. Struggling wildly in my terror, I broke free of Frankie’s loosened grip and flailed wildly for what seemed like minutes until a strong arm gripped my shoulders from behind. Frankie hauled me unceremoniously upward.
“Calm down, you’re fine. See, you can breathe and everything – I’ve got you, stop flailing. Deep breaths, girl. Deep breaths.”
Coughing up a few ounces of water, I looked around in a panic. The bandanna had been blasted off when I hit the water, but I didn’t recognise my surroundings at all. Tall trees shot up around the creek we were in, which bed sank down a good ways below where we had been walking. The sheer sides pressed in like a grave, and the sky was now obscured by the thick canopy above us.
His voice sounded again in my ear. “Good girl, good girl. I’ve got you. Now kick your feet a little, help me keep us floating. Harder. That’s it, you’ve got it. I’m going to try and get to the shore now, okay? Just keep kicking, okay?”
Still hanging onto me, Frankie rolled onto his back like some sort of otter, and began kicking towards the shore. I couldn’t help but notice how much I liked the feeling of his ab muscles working against my back and how soothing the rhythm of his strokes was. I realised that I was noticing the feeling of his arms crisscrossing under my bust and his hands gripping my waist…
Wait a sec. I don’t even know him! Damn hormones! Damn them to hell!
I forced the ideas from my mind as we approached the shore and crawled out of the creek like a couple of wet river rats.