Love and Family
...when suddenly her sinking was arrested at about the point the water reached her shoulders. Christy snapped out of her stupor. She could hear someone groaning, straining, trying to pull her up. And sure enough, she felt the water start to sink down again. It was down to about her thighs were she felt a sharp jerk and toppled flat on her back, the rest of the water draining away out of the crate. "Christy!" came a familiar cry-Jonathan's. "Christy, are you alive! Say something if you are!"
"Mmmmmmmm!" she cried weakly. Her will to live was returning, but how much time was left to the explosives? She heard a thump and a low cracking, then felt the night breeze on her face as the front was ripped off the crate. "Christy!" she heard Jonathan exclaim again as she was tilted back upright. "A minute thirty," he mused, scared, "Oh boy, um...well, let's see what I can do here...!"
Christy felt the bomb hung around her neck being removed, followed by a loud splash. More splashes followed as Jonathan could be heard tossing several explosives into the lake. "Let's see, let's see...!" he mumbled, frantic. Christy heard a click as the explosive collar deactivated around her neck and was hastily pulled off. Another click heralded the deactivation of her explosive vest and the bomb in her hands, followed by a sharp pain as the explosives taped to her legs were peeled off and thrown away. But time was ticking, and there were still many more left. Her heart was nearly frozen. "Forty-five seconds," Jonathan seemed deeply concerned as well. "Oh well...!"
Christy felt the tape over her wrists being snipped off. "Christy, here's the plan if I can get this in time," Jonathan's voice was hyper now, desperately pulling at the ropes holding her to the chair, "Once I get you loose, just grab on to me; we're going to have to swim for it. I got all them off you, but there's too many to worry about-thirty-five!-just hold on real tight to me and don't let go, OK-come on, come on...!"
Christy nodded frantically. The beeping was getting louder and louder, there had to be less than thirty seconds left. "Please God, please God!" she begged for her life and Jonathan's to be spared.
Slowly the ropes fell off her one at a time. "Fifteen...ten...got it!" Jonathan roared as the last rope fell free, "Grab hold, Christy, now!" he all but threw himself into her lap, apparently deciding there was no time to worry about her gag and blindfold at the moment. Christy seized hold of his waist and felt him dive into the water. She held on as tight as she could as he started stroking hard in some direction. "Hold your breath!" he cried, plunging underwater. Christy did the best she could as a loud explosion behind them could be heard. Moments later, Jonathan resurfaced and kept swimming hard, the sound of burning getting softer and softer behind them. Finally, he came to a stop and let her roll off his back. She slid into a sitting position in the water, which only came to her waist now; they must have been close to the shore now. She gasped, relieved; she was safe now. "It's all right now, Christy, it's over," Jonathan pulled her into a hug. His fingers seized the gag and pulled it from her lips. "Oh Jonathan!" she gasped, still trying to catch her breath as the tape was peeled off her eyes. She stared out at the lake once she could see again. They were no more than twenty feet from the beach now. Out in the middle of the lake, a burning vessel could be seen. "What's...?" she started to ask.
"It was moored to a dock by an empty cabin not far from here," Jonathan pointed to the cabin in question, "Which means I've got some answering to do to someone eventually. But when I saw them loading you into that plane and heard their plans, I rowed as far out into the lake as I could and hoped I'd get to where they'd drop you in time. Are you OK, Christy!?"
He started at her with deep concern. "Dawn!" she abruptly remembered her friends' predicament, "Oh God, Dawn, Jackie...!"
"They're alive, Christy; I got to them in time before I found you; I was in the shed I guess you were in earlier," he assured her, "The authorities probably picked them up by now, so don't you worry about them; I'm just worried about you; I have been since I learned you'd been kidnapped..."
"You did this for me!?" she was impressed.
"Yes, Christy, anything for you," he put an arm around her, "I...I...I love you, Christy Bryant. You're the most beautiful girl I've ever met, and you're so wonderfully sweet too. If anything had happened to you..."
"Oh Jonathan," she gushed, tears of joy flowing now, "That is the sweetest thing anyone's ever said to me. Thank you so much for this...for everything."
She hugged him, sobbing hard now. "I was so scared!" she confessed, "I tried to be brave, but they threatened my life every chance they got; I couldn't help being scared!"
"You were very brave, Christy," he assured her, stroking her hair, "And you survived. So don't feel bad about it at..."
"Listen!" she held up her hand. Sure enough, a helicopter could be vaguely seen circling over the lake, following the now ascended plane. Gunfire rang out from the plane, but that only triggered return fire from the helicopter, which almost promptly caused a major burst of flames as the plane's engine exploded. With a shriek, the plane plunged down towards the woods on the other side of the lake, where a tremendous explosion rang out after it disappeared from the two teens' sight. A large fireball then arced into the sky. "They're gone," Christy mumbled softly, letting out a deep breath of relief, "Now I am really free..."
She then noticed the helicopter starting to zoom in the direction of where she and Jonathan were sitting. "Hey!" she rose up and waved her hands wildly, "Down here!"
"Down here; she's alive and OK!" Jonathan joined her in waving. "YES!" they exclaimed simultaneously as the helicopter indeed started descending. Christy felt tremendous delight inside. The nightmare was finally over.
"There they are, down there," the pilot pointed to a clear area right next to the main ranger station at the front of the park. He started lowering the helicopter to the ground. "We'll have a medical staff ready for you once we land, Miss Bryant," he told Christy in the passenger seat next to him, wrapped in a blanket, "You'll get the best treatment possible."
"I just want to see my parents again," she said softly, "I need them right now."
"Think I see them now, Christy, so you'll get your wish," Jonathan pointed out the window from the seat behind her. And indeed, Christy could make out the two familiar figures now rushing for the helicopter. A deep, deep smile settled on her lips as she pushed open the door once the helicopter had touched down and rushed as fast as she could towards them. "Oh Christy!" her mother was all but screaming in delight as she pulled Christy into a strong hug, "Oh Christy, we thought we'd never see you again! Oh my baby, are you all right!?"
"I am now, Mom," she was crying tears of joy, switching over into her father's arms. "If anything had happened to you...!" he was beside himself with joy, joining his wife in smothering her with kisses, "Did they hurt you!?"
"I'm afraid so," she confessed, feeling her leg and shoulder hurting again for the first time in a while.
"Well they're going to pay for every dirty thing they did to you, mark my words," he growled furiously.
"You don't have to worry, Mr. Bryant; their plane crashed shortly after takeoff from where they tried to drown your daughter. We just confirmed the kidnappers are all dead," one of the helicopter pilots leaned out the window towards him.
"Well, that is a relief. And as for you," his expression brightened as he saw Jonathan climbing out of the helicopter now, "You, young man, have my eternal gratitude for saving Christy's life as I heard you did. If there's anything you ever need..."
Christy wasn't paying attention anymore. She noticed her friends over by the ambulance parked nearby. They seemed all right as far as she could tell. It was at this moment Dawn caught a glimpse of her, let out a whoop of delight, and rushed towards her. "Thank God!" she cried, hugging Christy tightly, "I don't know what I would have done if you hadn't made it!"
"I'm just glad you're all right too, Dawn," she told her friend happily, "You are all right, aren't you?"
"We are now that you are, Christy," Bobbie piped up, helping the still injured Jackie over. Christy hugged the two of them in turn, glad they had made it. "Next time, though, let's stick to the familiar trails," she half-joked with them.
"Oh I hope there isn't a next time," Jackie also seemed in a somewhat joking mood now that the danger was all over.
"Miss Bryant," a medic called over to her, "We'd like to take you to the hospital and get you all the treatment you need. Your folks can come along with us; I can guess you would want them with you."
"You guessed right," Christy smiled warmly over at her parents. She caught a glimpse of Jonathan standing off to the side, watching. "One thing first," she told the medic. She bustled over to the boy. "You'll come by later, right Jonathan?" she asked him warmly.
"If you want me to come, Christy, I'll be there," he affirmed for her, "Anything for you."
"I appreciate that, Jonathan Hilbert. And before I go, I've got something for you," she leaned close to him and gave him a huge kiss, the first of her life, and one she meant from the bottom of her heart. She held it for what seemed like an eternity before finally pulling off. "I love you, Jonathan," she told him with a deep parting smile, appreciating that he was smiling back, looking like she'd just made his every dream come true-and for saving her, she'd be more than glad to. She gave him one final wave before walking back to her parents and plopping down on the gurney by the back doors of the ambulance. "Jonathan really is great," she confided to her parents, walking alongside the gurney as it was gently pushed into the ambulance, "Why I didn't see him sooner I don't know now," she waved to her friends as they were helped into a second ambulance nearby.
"Well you do see him now, and that's all that matters," her father nodded, bending down to give her a hug, "And for making sure you were able to come back to us, he's perfect for you as far as I can see."
"Absolutely," her mother agreed, giving Christy a brief hug of her own, "I don't know what our life would be like without you, sweetheart."
"Thanks Mom," she hugged her back, "I'm going to rest up till I get to the hospital, if that's OK."
"Whatever you want, sweetheart," her father assured her, "Your mother and I are right here if you need anything at all."
He gently stroked her hair as she lay down and closed her eyes. Christy felt better than she had in years as she slowly drifted off to sleep at last. Her ordeal was over, it wasn't going to happen again, and she'd found love despite the horror she'd faced. Everything had worked out in the end, and best of all, she could live to tell the tale. It felt so wonderful to be alive.