“Katie! Can you hear me?” Jason shouted. She didn’t answer, but turned her frightened eyes from the river rushing around her to focus on his face. Good enough.
“When I tell you to,” he continued to yell, “push away from the rock — toward me. Okay?”
That ludicrous idea finally elicited a response. “Are you crazy? The river — ”
“I know, but you have to trust me. Just push yourself toward me; I catch you.”
She looked at him for along moment, and then the fear in her eyes flickered with something else: fight. She hadn’t given up yet. That was his girl.
“Promise?” She had him there. In the lifetime that they had been friends, he’d never broken a promise to her. He couldn’t let this be the first time. “Promise.”
He could see her steel her gaze on him and her body against the side of the rock as best as she could, preparing to jump. Jason maneuvered slightly around the rock in front of him and counted. “One… Two… Three!”
Jason pushed away from his rock, and Katie launched herself toward him. The rush of the current nearly killed her momentum, but Jason caught her outstretched hand at the wrist. He managed to wrap his other arm around her before the river slammed them both back against the last boulder that had been between them. He turned as they hit it, letting the force of the impact spin them around. They spun twice, into smaller rocks, but out of the violent strength of the water. His gamble had paid off.
Their feet touched semi-solid earth beneath them. Tripping and stumbling, Jason pulled Katie over the shallow stones and onto the land at the river’s edge. They collapsed on finally solid ground, gasping and coughing from the pain of the they’d been fighting and from the water in their lungs.
At least they were still breathing, and they were safe; that was all Jason could think to care about. As the adrenaline ebbed from his body, he prayed silent thanks to God, and then closed his eyes toward oblivion until the others could find them.