"Ready guys?" Ray yelled to the small group. Everyone nodded. They had anxiously waited for this, but the tallest kid in the group, Katherine, was nervous. The rapids were wild today. It was a hot summer day in Wimberly, Texas, and the group of teens were ready for some fun. Warren and Josie were pumped.
"I am so ready!" Josie squealed. Warren slapped his inner tube excitedly. Ray's deep dark brown hair shone in the sun as he stepped onto the bank and lead his fellow teen friends to the water. Katherine paced. She had been excited for the trip with her friends, but she wished her dad, who had come on the trip also, had come tubing with them. He was back at the river house, barbecuing for dinner.
Josie noticed Katherine was nervous.
"Hey, are you okay?" Josie asked sincerely. The boys had picked up rocks and were throwing them into the raging rapids. Katherine tugged at her fluffy, curly, blonde hair.
"I'm just nervous. What if we go down a wrong canal, or one of us falls out and the others keep floating-"
Josie stopped her.
"Kat, we'll be fine! I've done this a million times! It's a tradition at our family reunion.” Josie put a hand on Katherine’s shoulder. "It'll be fun! The boys are ready." Josie waved a hand over to the two boys who quickly looked away from the girls and started aimlessly throwing rocks again.
Katherine giggled. "Okay," But the worried look never left her face.
"Yeah! Let's go!" Warren swept his caramel colored hair to the side and chest bumped Ray. Josie smiled and waved to Katherine to come into the water. The boys jumped into their inner tubes. The water started to sweep them away.
"Kat, come on!" Josie cried. Her long, wavy, blonde hair blew in the soft breeze as she stood in the shallow water. Katherine smiled and brought her tube to the water. Both the girls threw their tubes and hopped into them. Katherine squealed as the water splashed onto her tan skin.
"They're catching up!" Warren yelled to Ray, who was holding onto a thin rope tied to Warren's tube. Ray yelled and started to paddle.
"Dude!" Josie laughed, her army green one-piece becoming soaked with splashes. She jerked Katherine's tube rope and started to paddle after the boys. "Whoa!" Katherine cried. Josie laughed again. Katherine would have to pay her back! She splashed her friend with the cool river water. Josie looked at Katherine in her cute yellow ruffled suit and cried, "Hey!" They laughed together until they caught up to the boys.
"Aw, Ray they caught up! I guess they'll just have to stick with us." Warren sighed. The girls giggled. Ray was wearing his alligator swim trunks.
"Not those again!" Katherine chuckled.
Ray looked down. "What do you mean? They’re trending." He nodded and wiggled his thick eyebrows.
"They're not, man. These are." Warren stood up in his net-bottom tube and showed off his bright orange safety jacket colored shorts.
"Yeah right." Ray waved Warren off.
Suddenly Katherine gasped. "The rapids are coming!"
Josie pumped her fist. "Yes! Everyone hold on!" Everyone grabbed a tube rope of the person next to them. No way they were getting separated!
Up ahead they could see a small dip in the river, and large rapids accompanying it.
Ray glanced at Katherine who was holding onto his rope for dear life. "You'll be fine. It's gonna be fun.” He smiled. Ray's reassurance comforted Katherine, and she managed a small smile.
All the while, Warren and Josie were making excited faces at one another. Josie was tightly grasping both Warren and Katherine’s ropes.
The group was swept down the first dip, and Katherine made a little scream. The rapids started. Josie laughed at each bump.
"That was a wimpy rapid!" Warren cried.
“It'll take more than that to soak these shorts!" Ray yelled.
Up ahead was a small cliff-like drop off. But Katherine wasn’t anxious. She was beginning to like the rapids.
"Ohhhh, here it comes!" Ray shouted.
"Oh my gosh!" Josie's green eyes shined as she held tighter to the ropes.
The four teens held on as they were propelled off of the small drop-off into the water. They all stayed afloat, but the waves had soaked all of them.
"My hair!" Katherine humorously patted her curls. Everyone chuckled.
The water had begun to calm, and the rapids had slowed to tiny waves.
"Well, this is boring." Ray commented after floating on the water for ten minutes.
"This is the life." Katherine disagreed.
"Ooo, guys look at those perch!" Warren slapped his goggles on and stuck his head under water. His tube tipped a little and Josie jumped to grab him. She thought he was falling in! But Warren leaned back up and started laughing.
"Gotcha." He cocked his head and smiled.
"Warren!" Josie exclaimed.
She reached for the sunscreen in her cup holder. “Sunscreen, anyone?” She held it out to Katherine, who was ironically putting on her own sunscreen that moment.
"Sorry, I brought my own." Katherine said quickly as she slathered the white cream onto her tan shoulders. Josie held the bottle out to Warren. He shook his head.
"I don't burn. I tan." He put his hands behind his head and laid back on his tube. Josie rolled her eyes playfully, then held the bottle out to Ray. "Sunscreen?" She asked.
17-year-old Ray contemplated. "Mmm, no. Sunscreen makes me burn."
Josie peered at Ray with squinted eyes. "Okay, then." She shrugged and squirted some into her own hand then wiped it onto her legs and arms.
"Look!" Katherine suddenly shouted. It looked like a small rapid was ahead.
Ray sighed. "I was hoping for something bigger."
As they approached, they noticed that the drop was bigger than they expected. A 6 foot drop was not a small rapid.
"Oh my lanta, guys!” Katherine screamed.
"That's huge! What do we do?" Warren yelled.
Everyone began paddling against the current but it wasn't enough. And they were too close to the drop to do anything. The four teens fell six feet down. When they hit the water, Josie and Warren's tubes flipped over, and both of them hit the large rocks at the bottom of the river.
"Josie!" Katherine cried as her best friend went underwater. She grabbed onto a huge rock and pulled herself out of her tube to help her friend. Ray stopped himself also to assist Warren, but as he got out, he realized that there were other people around. One old man sat on a large rock next to the drop. He was taking videos of the group falling off. Ray's anger boiled up as he helped Warren out of the water.
"You ok?" He asked.
"Yeah," Warren replied, holding his shoulder. "Just a little banged up." He removed his hand and Ray saw that his shoulder had a mild scrape. "I'm fine. Is Josie okay?" The boys look over to see Katherine kneeling next to Josie who was standing in the rushing water. Josie looked like she was almost crying.
"Where does it hurt?" Katherine asked worriedly. "It's my hip. I landed on a rock when I fell out." Josie moaned.
Katherine inspected Josie's hip. A large bruise started to form, but she wasn't bleeding.
"Y'all okay?" Ray yelled to the girls.
"Yeah, we're good!" Katherine yelled back.
A group of kids were sitting by the river watching. A pop up tent was set up nearby also. One of the kids spoke up. "Are you guys ok?" Ray threw his hands in the air. "Yeah, sort of! Two of us just fell out of our tubes and landed on rocks, but yeah, we're ok." He said a little sarcastically. Ray was annoyed.
How could those people just sit and watch kids fall off of a six-foot-drop and video them? He thought.
"Ray, we're okay. It's fine." Josie shouted.
Ray nodded and walked over to the girls.
"Ready to get back on?" Josie asked.
"What?" Katherine cried. "You just fell on a rock and you want to get back on?"
“Yeah, I'm fine!" Josie smiled and assured everyone. Warren nodded. "I'm fine too, if you were wondering." He showed off his tiny scrape. Everyone chuckled nervously, and Ray slapped Warren's back.
"Okay, let's go!" Ray exclaimed.
Then they all hopped back into their tubes and began to float down the river again. The rapids were average, but after not too long, they came across another huge drop. This time they saw it from far away.
"Guys, we'd better get out." Warren warned.
"Uhh, yeah." Katherine agreed.
All the teens carefully yet quickly slipped out of their tubes and tried to walk slowly over the algae covered rocks.
"This. Is. So. Hard." Ray said forcefully.
"I know!" Warren groaned.
The tubes were almost swept away with the water but the group held on tight. This drop was taller than the last. Katherine noticed that it would be easy to reach the bank next to them.
"Hey, we can just walk around! This wa-" Katherine slipped on a rock, and Ray caught her. "Thanks, Ray." Katherine said, her eyes full of admiration for Ray.
"You were saying?" Warren said as he struggled to stand in the current.
"Oh!" Katherine started. Ray let go of her arm. "Let's just go around!" She pointed to the trail that lead around the drop.
Ray and Katherine lead the group to the bank and helped the others out. As they began their short trek around the drop-off, they heard loud shouts and laughter from behind them. A couple of women were floating straight toward the drop, unaware.
"Hey! Get out!" Josie screamed.
"Stop! Stop!" The rest of the group yelled.
The women didn't notice their cries until they were seconds away from their fall.
"Ahhh!" They screamed as they fell.
"Are you ok?!" Josie screamed down to them.
"Yeah, we're fine." One lady with long black hair replied. She pressed her hand to her back and winced. "Let's go, Jennifer." She commanded her companion. The other girl stood up out of the water holding her head.
Ray looked at the rest of the group. "I hope she didn't get a concussion." The rest of the teens nodded vigorously in agreement.
Katherine watched as the two women made their way out of the water and started their long walk back to the bank.
I knew these waters were dangerous. She thought solemnly.
“Lets get back in." Ray said.
"Really?" Katherine asked. But she knew there was no use. She was having a great time, but it was getting kinda dangerous.
“Yeah, we haven’t been fatally injured so far, what else could happen?" Josie said calmly. Warren nodded in agreement.
“Okay, I guess we could.” Katherine looked at Josie. She knew that behind Josie's confident words she had a small fear too. As if reading her mind, Josie nodded at Katherine.
Soon they were back in the water floating along peacefully. The group chatted, played games, and bonded. The rapids started to pick up a bit after a while. The group still held onto each other's ropes loosely.
A divide started to become visible in the middle of the river. The rapids picked up even more.
"Okay everyone, let's look for a drop-off." Warren said sarcastically. But everyone looked anyway. They spotted the fork in the river.
“Right, everyone.” Ray said as he started to paddle.
The group paddled to the right, but the water pulled Warren and Josie to the left. Their fingers slipped from the ropes.
"No! I slipped!" Josie cried.
"Warren! Josie!" Ray yelled as the violent waves stole he and Katherine away from their group and swept them down the right canal.
"War, what do we do? I can't even see Kat and Ray anymore!" Josie spun around in her tube, squinting her eyes to see through the brush that divided her from her friends.
"Josie, chill. We'll find them." Warren floated along as if nothing had happened.
"But what if me or you gets hurt? No one will know!" Josie's wet hair shook as she started to panic.
“I’m here for you. We’ll be okay. It won’t be too hard to find them.” Warren's voice soothed Josie's worry, and she sat back in her float and continued to grip Warren's rope. She stole a look at him. He was calm.
Meanwhile, Katherine and Ray were not so calm. "Hold my float still while I stand up!" Ray shouted to Katherine.
"Okay!" Katherine shouted back. She held Ray's tube steady as he stood up, searching for Warren and Josie.
“I don’t see ‘em, Kat.” Ray called down.
Katherine held his tube steady as he sat back down and sighed. “I guess we can scream for them?” Katherine asked.
“Nah,” Ray shook his head. “People might think we’re dying. The river may come back together and we’ll meet back up with them. For the time being, we’ll be fine.” Ray seemed to calm Katherine down a bit.
"Okay." She said quietly. “Lets play 'who can count the most piranhas'?" Ray smirked at Katherine.
"Wait, for real?!" Katherine quickly looked into the water.
Ray started laughing. "No, but if there were piranhas I would save us." Katherine smiled at Ray's confidence and affection. She sat in her float and tried to relax.
On the other side of the divide, Warren and Josie were having a pretty good time. They had climbed out of their floats, tied them to their waists, and were splashing each other as they floated along in the light rapids.
"Let's see who can pick up the biggest rock." Josie suggested.
"You're totally dead." Warren laughed.
They dove under and started their competition.
After a while, Ray and Katherine started having a good time too.
"Would you rather, get trapped inside your phone, or become your favorite animal forever?" Katherine asked.
“Become my favorite animal. Dogs don’t have any responsibilities. ” Ray shrugged.
Katherine chuckled, still nervous. She looked into the brownish river water. The water was starting to flow a little faster. Suddenly her tube tipped and she fell face first into the water! Ray shouted and dove out of his tube. He swam underwater and grabbed Katherine.
"Are you ok?" He asked as he brought her to the surface. Katherine nodded.
"Yes! I thought I saw a piranha!" Katherine giggled. Ray laughed.
“Second time I’ve saved you today!” He let go of Katherine and looked around. Their tubes were gone.
On the other side of the brush Warren and Josie had climbed back into their floats.
"Why didn't we ever think about climbing out of our floats, walking through the brush and getting into Ray and Kat's canal and just floating down to find them?"
Warren stared off into space, his dark brown eyes twinkling. "I have no idea." He shrugged.
Josie groaned. "We should probably do that!"
The two teens jumped off their floats, out of the rushing water, and onto the dry bank. Warren carried Josie's float for her as she lead them through the brush. They made their way to the other side. Warren put his float in the water and handed Josie hers. Warren got into his float. Josie was making her way to the water but tripped over a root sticking out of the ground and fell onto Warren’s tube on top of him!
“Hi, Josie.” Warren shouted and laughed in surprise.
“Uh, hi.” Josie blushed and scrambled out of the tube, laughing. She put her tube in the water and jumped in.
“C’mon, War!" Josie propelled herself into the average-sized rapids.
"I'm coming!” Warren followed.
"Let's stay here in case someone comes along." Ray told Katherine. She nodded. The had to use teamwork to stay above water.
“I’ve had a great time with you, Katherine.” Ray said over the sound of the flowing water.
“Really?” Katherine asked in disbelief. They had fallen off of a drop-off, watched two people get injured from another fall, got separated from their group, and they lost their floats.
“Really.” Ray’s smile shone. He liked Katherine. Even with her quirks. Katherine blushed and looked away. She liked Ray, but only Josie knew.
“Do you see them yet, Josie?” Warren shouted to his search partner.
“No, not yet.” Josie replied. Their floats travelled at a good pace in the flowing water, side by side.
“I’m glad I got separated with you.” Josie said quietly. Warren looked over at Josie. He thought the same thing. “Me too.” As Warren and Josie floated along silently, they started to hear voices.
“Oh my lanta, look, Ray! Josie and Warren!” Katherine cried.
“Hey, guys! I knew you’d be here.” Warren cheered.
“I knew you’d be here.” She playfully pushed Warren.
Ray and Katherine were relieved. “I’m so glad you guys found us. Katherine fell in then I had to save her, and we lost our inner tubes, so…” Ray trailed off. Josie was almost laughing. Katherine was blushing.
“Well I guess we’ll have to get out and walk back.” Warren stopped himself and Josie so that they wouldn’t float away. Ray and Katherine slowly found their footing and waded through the deep current to the bank. Warren held Josie’s float as she got out and then she did the same. They waded after Katherine and Ray. Once they were all on the bank, they realized that they had a very long walk back.
The sun was shining down in waves of scalding heat, so each pair, Katherine and Ray and Josie and Warren, took a tube and used teamwork to carry it on their backs to help with shade and to just bond even more with their friends.
The teens walk back to the river house was long, but was accompanied by a sunset. They were forever bonded, and it was all thanks to the rapids.