I’d been wanting a little adventure in my life. But clinging to a tree in a swollen river was not what I’d had in mind.
Everything had been fine that morning. Thomas and I were finally going on our first date. It had taken weeks from when Thomas first asked me to find a Saturday that was going to work.
I had never kayaked before but was determined to try something new, even though I was a little scared.
We’d been enjoying the sights and the quiet of the morning on the river, the early morning sun warm on my arms. We were about 6km along our route and I was starting to get the hang of this paddling thing. I took a break and allowed myself to float along with the current for the first time.
I felt more relaxed and confident. But the moment didn’t last long.
My kayak started turning in the current. Oh, this wasn’t good. I dug my paddles into the water, desperately trying to straighten my direction. But I couldn’t do it and I started drifting sideways until my kayak came crashing against a tree. I fought as hard as I could not to capsize, but the current was too strong and my struggle short lived. I rolled into the cold, muddy water, groping for the rough branches to keep me from whooshing downstream.
“Um, I’m a bit stuck!” I called out, sounding way more relaxed than I felt.
This was way too much excitement for a date. Particularly for someone who had trust issues.
I saw Thomas, still perfectly upright in his kayak, a bit further down the river. He turned his head so he must have heard me. Did he see me too?
I waited. Patiently. Calmly. Desperately. In the loud, turbulent current that rushed through and around the branches, threatening to cart me away.
I hated rivers. I’d never even been in one before!
Why had I agreed to a kayaking date?
My arms started to ache. I tried to readjust my position and a pain etched its way up the skin of my forearm, the bark leaving its mark.
For goodness sake, what was taking him so long?
I strained my neck and saw that Thomas had rescued my kayak and paddle and was securing them to another tree. I supposed that was a good thing. We probably needed them.
It must be my turn next to be rescued, surely.
I didn’t think I could hang on much longer. I imagined myself letting go, slipping away in the current and disappearing all the way to the next town. Would I stop there? Or keep going all the way out to sea?
I started to shiver. This was such a bad idea.
Thomas was coming to get me, right?
I looked around. Maybe I could climb up into the tree and at least get out of the water. Gritting my teeth, I pulled on the branch as hard as I could, straining to lift my body up and haul myself across to the tree trunk. But the current was too strong, roaring around my ears. I didn’t have that kind of strength in my arms. I gave up before I fatigued my arms completely.
There was a crunch, and I dipped lower into the water. I really was going to die! I grasped for another branch. Dear God, please let it hold.
How were my sunglasses still on? Why hadn’t I gone underwater yet? Then I remembered—my life-vest! Thomas had made us wear them that morning.
I managed to settle in the water on my back and wrap my legs around the branch as well. That was better. I might have even called it comfortable—under different circumstances, of course.
Finally, Thomas paddled close. I bet he hadn’t imagined he’d be playing knight-in-fluorescent-armor today. His arms worked hard against the current. Thank goodness he was strong.
Ducking under the branches he came up beside me. “Um,” he said, looking at me. I felt like a big fool, stuck there like a frightened animal. “I think it’d be easier if you let go and swim over to the bank.” He spoke calmly as though I was chilling out in a resort pool.
Was he out of his mind?
I shook my head. There was no way I was letting go.
“Right,” Thomas said. “Well, I have a loop at the back of my kayak. How about I turn around, you grab it, and I’ll tow you over to the bank.”
Yes, okay. I could do that. I nodded.
I watched carefully as Thomas turned his kayak around, and as soon as I saw that loop, I lunged for it. Relief overcame me as my fingers grasped the rope. Within a minute, I was slipping and scrambling for a foothold on the steep bank.
With some effort we managed to haul both kayaks onto the bank and climb up onto flat ground. Trudging through thistles and overgrowth we found a bit of space and a log to take a rest.
I was shaking. And freezing. The sun played peek-a-boo with the clouds, taunting me with moments of warmth then abandoning me to the chill of shade.
We didn’t say much. I was sure I’d ruined the date. Worse, I knew we’d eventually have to get back in the river and keep paddling to our destination. It was the last thing I wanted to do.
Thomas offered me the crackers he’d packed. My own food hadn’t fit in the sealed container anchored inside the kayak and was probably now being devoured by some fish.
“You’ll have to improve your waterproofing methods if you’re ever going to take me kayaking again.”
Thomas smiled. “Well,” he said, “I won’t not take you again, if that’s what you’re thinking.”
Eventually, and without any pressure from Thomas, we returned to the river and safely made it to our destination. I declined Thomas’s offers for lunch. The only thing I wanted at that moment was to go home and have a hot shower. He understood, and took me home.
Once I’d showered and calmed down, I realised Thomas probably felt as badly as I did. I was touched when he showed up at my door a couple of hours later to check on me. I asked him to come back for dinner later that evening. We ended up having a lovely evening, talking for hours, and already laughing about the day’s escapade.
We didn’t know it then, but God was beginning our intensive training course on trust-building, and this had been our first lesson. From our date I’d discovered what a patient and calm man Thomas was—qualities, that for a scarred woman like me, were as vital as oxygen. I got to see how strong, dependable, and capable he was. And he learned that I was trusting, determined, and willing to face things even if they were a bit scary.
It wasn’t your picture perfect first date, but we learned a lot of important things about each other. And boy does it make for a good story now!