I dip my paddle into the lake, testing out how it works.
“No, no,” Grayson says. “You are doing it wrong. You want to
go with the water. Look…”
He picks up his own paddle and dips it in the lake, moving
it smoothly. I try to copy his movement, but he just sighs loudly.
“No.” He demonstrates again. “You are going against
the water. If you expect to get anywhere—”
“Alright!” I say through gritted teeth. “It’s my first time.
Just let me—”
I stroke my paddle in the water. Grayson explodes.
“You still aren’t doing it right! How hard can it possibly
be to follow instructions?” He grabs the end of my paddle, exasperated. “Just—”
“Let go!” He’s pushing me close to the edge. I can feel my
temper starting to balloon up. Gripping my paddle, I rip it from his
Anger flares in his eyes. “You are so—”
“What is your problem, Grayson?!”
He’s already got a response loaded. “You are my problem!
What in the fuck are you even doing here, Rachel?”
“I could ask you the same thing, but you would probably not
have an answer,” I grind out. “Again. I generally don’t like to repeat
He bristles. “Are you saying that I was a mistake, then?”
I narrow my eyes. “That’s not what I meant, but… yes. My
mother’s right about you.”
As soon as the words are out of my mouth, I wish I could
take them back. My mother said a lot of hideous things about him while we were
together. How is he supposed to know that I’m referencing something she said
when he was already gone?
Grayson gets this wounded look in his eyes for the barest
second. Watching it is like being slapped in the face.
“I didn’t mean—”
“Enough.” He glares at me. “Just use your fucking
paddle like a normal person, okay?”
He stands up and carefully turns around, so that he’s facing
away from me. He dips his paddle in the water and starts rowing wordlessly. I
mimic him and he switches to the other side of the canoe with a heavy sigh.
We actually move pretty quickly then, especially since we
are not communicating. I realize that I probably should have stopped back on
the shore for a sample of water, but I guess we can stop on the return
I try to breathe and paddle in time with Grayson’s mighty
strokes. As we leave the shore behind us, I look up at the calm blue sky
overhead. Except the sky isn’t blue exactly; it’s light gray now, thunderclouds
Struggling to keep up with Grayson, I watch the sky darken.
It’s definitely about to rain. As soon as I can see the shore on the other
side, I see raindrops begin to hit the lake’s smooth surface.
“Shit,” I hear Grayson grumble.
Digging my paddle into the water deeper doesn’t help as much
as I want it to. The skies open up and dump rain onto us. There is suddenly
water everywhere, each raindrop seeming to bounce back up from where it falls
on the lake.
When we are almost there, Grayson actually gets out of the
canoe, soaking himself up though to the waist. Unsure what to do, I try to
stand up. I see Grayson glance back at me and do a double take.
But it’s too late. I tip the canoe over and fall out,
flailing awkwardly. The only thing that breaks my fall is the water, which is
shockingly cold. Then I am submerged for several breathless seconds, underneath
the lake’s muddy waters.
I feel something move in the water beside me. My heart
starts to pound.
Grayson materializes right there, grabbing me and pulling me
to the surface of the lake. I gasp for breath. My arms automatically go around
his neck as he pulls me toward the shore, dripping wet.
Even though I’m half drowned, I’m also intimately aware of
how warm the hard muscle of his chest is. He holds me tight, almost uncomfortably
so. If everything wasn’t happening all at once, I might make some noise about
I try to clear my face of my own water-dampened hair. He
runs up onto the shore with me in his arms, not stopping for a second. He keeps
going until he trots into a little lean-to.
Only when there is something over both of our heads does he
stop and breathe. His eyes dart to and fro, scanning the downpour outside. He
leans forward and pulls the door closed just a little.
Something about his behavior is… off, somehow.
“Grayson,” I say, gently putting my hands on his chest.
He looks at me as if he’s seeing me for the first time. When
he speaks, his voice is oddly quiet. “Hey.”
I squirm a little but he doesn’t get the picture. “Can you
put me down, please?”
There is a moment of hesitation there. I can see in his eyes
that he wants to say no. But he lets me down.
And for just the briefest moment, soaking wet and pressed
against his warm body, that I don’t want him to let me go. I peer up into his
eyes and wonder if he ever thinks about kissing me. And he looks right back at
me, his eyes glinting blue.
Then he pushes me away. It’s so silly to feel this way, but
it’s like being rejected by him all over again. My eyes mist over and I curse
myself for being so weak.
Grayson heads out into the pouring rain and I watch him go,
determined not to cry.