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Amy met Tasha the next morning by the stream, where they washed up and brushed their teeth. The rain from the night before had made the bank muddy. Clad in her bathing suit, Tasha stepped gingerly into the stream and made a face.
"Is it cold?" Amy asked her.
"No. It's just that I keep expecting to step on something icky." Tasha sighed. "You know what I like about my bathtub at home? No fish."
Amy strode into the water with her bar of soap. "I think it feels neat to take a bath outside. It's like we're back in the Stone Age or something."
"I'll take civilization any day, thank you," Tasha replied.
"Oh, come on, Tasha, you're enjoying this just a little bit, aren't you?"
"It's okay, I guess," Tasha said. "What are we doing today?"
"Rafting, I think. Remember that picture in the brochure?"
"I remember," Tasha said, and her tone made it clear that it wasn't a particularly pleasant memory. "It looked scary."
"Exciting," Amy corrected her. "You'll love it."
"Only if you're in the same raft with me," Tasha said.
"I don't know how they'll divide us up," Amy replied.
"Amy, please be in the same raft with me," Tasha begged. "Make a fuss about it. Tell them I'll have a panic attack, or worse, a total and complete mental breakdown."
"A mental breakdown? Isn't that a little extreme?"
"Not necessarily," Tasha said. "Okay, maybe I won't have a breakdown. But if we're bouncing around on water, I'll definitely get motion sickness. Isn't that bad enough?"
Amy burst out laughing. "Oh, that's just great. You want us to be together so you can throw up all over me."
"Well, I'd rather throw up on you than a total stranger."
"Like Dallas?" Amy asked with a knowing wink.
Tasha turned bright pink. "Ohmigosh, what if I did throw up in front of him? I'd just die."
"Don't tell me you've fallen madly in love with Dallas," Amy said. "Isn't he a little old for you?"
"I can have fantasies, can't I?" Tasha retorted. "Don't you think he's sexy?"
"Not really," Amy replied honestly. Her recollection of his tone when he found her and Andy on the rock the night before had sent him way down in her esteem.
Tasha wasn't offended by her opinion. "I guess that's what happens when you have a real-life boyfriend. You stop thinking other guys are sexy."
Amy couldn't come up with an immediate response to that.
"Of course, I really wouldn't mind being in the same raft as Dallas," Tasha said. "If I fell into the river, he could jump in and rescue me." She shivered in imagined delight.
But it appeared that they wouldn't be going out on rafts that day. "It was a heavy rain last night," Flora told them all at breakfast. "The water's too high. It's over the acceptable level for rafting." She put up a hand to ward off the groans of the campers. "We'll do some real rock climbing instead," she told them. "And by the day after tomorrow, if it doesn't rain again, the water will be down to a level where we can take the rafts out."
"Wait a minute," Dallas said. "The water's only slightly over the level. I don't see why we can't go rafting today. It can't make that much of a difference. I've rafted on waters higher than this with no problem."
The briefest from crossed Flora's face, but she replied calmly. "Yes, I've rafted on high waters too, but this is the rule. The water's at two point five, and the highest allowable level for Wilderness Adventure programs is two point three."
"Oh, come on," Dallas remonstrated. "Two point three, two point five, that's nitpicking."
"Yeah," Eric said. "Why can't we bend the rules a little? I don't care if the water is two-tenths of a point higher than it's supposed to be. What about the rest of you?"
Andy and Brooke both made noises that indicated their willingness to go on the water. But Flora still shook her head.
"Sorry, guys," she began, but before she could say any more, Dallas took her arm. They walked away form the campfire to avoid being overheard. Of course, they didn't know they had a pair of super ears in their midst. Amy tuned in.
"This is stupid," Dallas was saying. "You're going to throw us completely off schedule. The hang-gliding equipment arrives on Tuesday, remember? Besides, if it rains tonight, the river will really be too high, and it won't go down enough before the week is over."
"But Dallas -- "
"Look, you may be the counselor with seniority, but I'm more experienced with white-water rafting than you are. Remember that vacation we took in Colorado? Remember how I handled the rapids? Are you going to tell me that you know more about rafting than I do?"
Amy couldn't see the counselors, but she suspected that Flora was torn between following regulations and not wanting to injure Dallas's macho pride. Amy understood. She glanced at Eric, and he looked at her. Then he looked away.
Caught up in her own thoughts, she didn't listen to the rest of Flora and Dallas's conversation. But apparently Flora had given in, because when they returned to the group she announced that they would be rafting after all.
When they reached the river, Amy had to admit that the water certainly didn't look dangerous. It was smooth as silk, clear and calm. Dallas set to work inflating the rafts while Flora distributed bright orange life jackets.
Eric objected. "Do we have to wear these things? Look at the water! You'd have to be weighted down with cement to drown in it!"
"Sorry," Flora said lightly. "Rules and regulations, you know. And the water can get rougher downstream."
Amy saw Eric exchange a look with Dallas. Personally, she was getting a little bothered by the counselor's influence on him. Somehow, she had to find an opportunity to talk with Eric privately.
Before they could get into the rafts, they were given instructions. Flora demonstrated what to do if they were flipped out of the raft. "You'll want to swim on your back, with your feet pointing downstream to fend off rocks. Dallas, would you show them the correct way to handles the paddles?"
Dallas held a paddle up for them to see. "This is the regular stroke," he said, demonstrating the movement. "When you have to get around an obstacle, you pull the oar through the water like this, against the current. Now, you don't want the paddle knocked out of your hands, because once it's floating in the water it won't be easy to retrieve, particularly when there's current. So you need to grip it firmly, with both hands, and --"
"Dallas," Flora interrupted. "There should be more space between each hand. That way you have more control."
A shadow crossed Dallas's face, but either Flora didn't notice or she chose not to. Quickly, she divided them into two groups, and Tasha was in luck. She had both Amy and Dallas in the raft with her. Eric was with them, too. Without discussing the subject, the boys took the front seats, while Tasha and Amy got in the back. Amy was annoyed at the way the guys just assumed they would be in the lead, but she kept her feelings to herself. She didn't want any more problems with Eric, especially not in front of his new role model.
So she settled back, determined to enjoy herself. The sun was shining, the air was fresh, and she was here to have fun. This wasn't like the picture in the Wilderness Adventure brochure, though. The rafts weren't moving fast -- no one was paddling furiously. Amy felt like her raft was moving in slow motion.
The other raft floated along a few feet from them, and she smiled at Andy, who was sitting alongside Brooke behind Flora and Willard. Obviously, Andy didn't feel it was necessary to be in the front.
Brooke was beaming. She was clearly happy, and the smile she gave Amy was triumphant. Amy smiled right back at her. She wasn't going to let anybody ruin the day.
"I like this," Tasha declared.
Amy nodded. "It's nice. Not exactly exciting..."
"I know," Tasha said happily. "That's why I like it." She leaned over and stroked the water.
"Hold on to your paddle," Amy warned.
"I will," Tasha said dreamily. "It's not like we really need them."
"Not now, maybe," Amy said. "But if the water gets rougher, we'll need the paddles to steer the raft."
"Mmm," Tasha murmured. Her eyes were half-closed, and she looked very peaceful and contented. That was why Amy didn't mention what she thought she was hearing up ahead.
She could be wrong, of course. Her hearing was exceptional, but it wasn't always precise. That dim whooshing sound -- it could just be the wind. But after a few seconds she knew the wind wasn't making that noise.
She tapped Dallas on the back. "Dallas, are there rapids up ahead?"
Dallas was in the middle of telling Eric a story of how he'd gone on a white-water trip that nearly ended in disaster, and didn't seem to have heard her.
"Dallas," she said again, this time more urgently.
"What?" he asked.
She repeated her question about the rapids.
"I don't see anything," Dallas said. "Relax! Didn't anyone ever tell you? -- don't trouble trouble till trouble troubles you."
How could she say that she was hearing something no one else could hear? Tentatively she touched Eric's shoulder and leaned forward so she could speak into his ear. "Eric?" she whispered. "I hear something." Surely he could sense the urgency in her voice. He knew all about her skills; he had to pay attention to her.
But he was engrossed in Dallas's tale of disaster. She couldn't warn them of what was coming without revealing her special skills. And when the foaming water became visible, it was almost too late.
From the other raft came a cry that could barely be heard over the rumble of the water. "There's a drop coming up," Flora called frantically. "It looks rough!"
Amy gripped her paddle as their raft nose-dived into the foam. The impact threw her backward, and she heard Tasha shriek. There was water everywhere, and as the raft careened through the huge waves, Tasha continued to shout. It was only when the water began to settle down that she realized why Tasha was still screaming. It wasn't just out of fear. Eric had gone overboard.
Amy had jumped up and prepared to dive into the current, but Dallas grabbed her arm. She could have pulled free, but it wasn't necessary. Dallas had already thrown a rope to Eric, and Eric was holding on to it with both hands. The water was almost placid now, and Eric had no problem keeping his head above water as Dallas reeled him in. Eric was soaked when he climbed back into the raft, but he didn't appear to be at all disturbed by his accident. If anything, he looked a little cocky.
"Thanks, man," he said to Dallas. "I thought I could swim back, but there was a heavy undertow."
"Are you okay?" Amy asked anxiously.
"Fine," Eric said. "It was no big deal."
Amy was glad she hadn't jumped in after him. The way he'd been acting, he would probably have been offended by her attempt to rescue him.
"Is that going to happen again?" Tasha asked in a frightened voice. "Will the river stay calm now?"
"Probably not," Dallas told her. "But don't worry, we've got plenty of rope! And if you can't get a grip on the rope, I'll save you."
That seemed to calm Tasha a little, but her face was still tense. The water wasn't quite as calm anymore. It seemed to be stirring, and more foam was appearing. The crashing noise of the turbulence increased. From the other raft, Flora yelled, "Watch out for sleepers!"
Amy leaned forward and shouted into Dallas's ear, "What's a sleeper?"
"A rock submerged below the surface," he yelled back. She caught only a glimpse of his face, but he looked grim. Then she realized that they weren't even using their paddles. They didn't need them to move -- the current was so strong it was swishing them downstream on its own.
The other raft had moved on ahead of theirs. Through the shower of water that rose before them, Amy saw Flora turn and yell something. But now the water was barreling by with a thunderous, deafening roar, and even she couldn't make out Flora's warning. But she caught one word by lip-reading -- it looked like drop. Now the raft was hurtling and crashing through the waves, and everyone in the raft was getting thrown about.
Amy's stomach lurched when she realized she couldn't see the other raft anymore, but she didn't have long to consider the possibilities. Without any warning, their raft plunged downward, in what seemed like a sheer drop. She was engulfed in water -- it was in her eyes, her ears, her nose... with all her strength, Amy held on to Tasha and the raft and hoped that the guys in front could take care of themselves.
It was just as the raft began to level itself that she heard the screams from the other raft. "Flora's overboard! She's underwater! She can't reach the rope!"
Andy was standing up in the raft, preparing to dive. "Stay put!" Dallas barked at him, and dived off the raft himself. Amy watched as he pounded the swirling waters, moving in the direction of Flora's bobbing head. Then a massive surge of foam prevented her from seeing any more.
She and Eric began paddling furiously toward the riverbank, and the other raft followed them. For the zillionth time, Amy breathed a silent prayer of thanks for her exceptional strength -- without it, she didn't think they'd be able to generate enough momentum to keep the boat from continuing downstream and to get them to the side. She couldn't imagine how the three normal kids in the other raft were going to make it.
But somehow they did, and the two rafts hit the bank almost simultaneously. Amy leaped out and dragged the raft onto the shore, with Eric and Tasha still occupying it. She hoped no one was watching. They'd have to wonder how a twelve-year-old girl was strong enough to pull so much weight.
Fortunately, Brooke and Willard were busy shouting at Andy. He was diving back into the raging water. Dallas and Flora were nowhere in sight.
Everyone collapsed on the bank, but there was no sense of relief -- not until Dallas surfaced in the water with his arm across Flora's chest. Then Andy popped up. The two guys staggered out onto the bank. Dallas placed Flora on the ground and began performing artificial respiration.
In stunned silence, the others gathered around. Dallas had his mouth pressed against Flora's. He pounded on her chest in rhythmic motions. Then he breathed into her mouth again.
Amy had no idea how long this went on. But finally Dallas stopped working on her. Flora's limp body lay sprawled like a bruised rag doll. And even before Dallas spoke, they all knew the truth.