"Jump!" Cayden called from right behind me.
We'd cracked open our first beers before 11 that morning, and we'd lost count of them by 2. None of us were shitfaced, but we all had happy buzzes. We'd spent the day drinking on the boat with Rae's parents and their family friends playing drinking games back at the lake house. It was just before dinner time, and we'd taken the boat out for one more trip, this time sans parents. It was just Rae and Chaz, Joyce and Joey, and me and Cayden.
"It IS that cold you liars!" Rae said as she bobbed in the water next to me.
"You look like such a dork," I said to Cayden, commenting on his life jacket. "You don't have to actually wear it." He looked around and noticed that none of us were wearing our jackets. Instead we were sitting 0n them like diapers to keep us afloat. Cayden's was clasped all the way to his chin. He smiled a slightly drunk smile at me and kissed me.
He unsnapped his jacket and grabbed onto my shoulder while he readjusted, accidentally dunking me under the water. I came up coughing and sputtering.
"Oops!" Cayden said, pulling me up and toward him. "I didn't mean to do that!"
We all laughed while I coughed up a mouthful of lake water.
"Man, this is the life, isn't it?" Joey said from a few feet away as he held his beer can up in the "Cheers" position.
It really was. I leaned over and kissed Cayden again, our mouths slick with lake water. His lips were cold from the water but his tongue was warm.
I smiled as I pulled away. A flash of light caught my eye. Was that lightning? Or was I just seeing sparks?
I noticed Joyce looking off in the same direction.
"Was that lightning?" she asked no one in particular.
Another flash answered her question. Dark clouds rolled in, turning the dusk to dark.
"Anyone else think it's a bad idea to be in the water in the middle of the lake during a storm?" I asked.
Rae took control, as out captain. She climbed back on the boat and we followed one by one. I was freezing, so I wrapped myself in a towel and took a seat at the front of the boat next to Cayden. He ran his hands up and down my arms to warm me.
"I freakin love lightning," I said, leaning into him. "But I like it better when I'm watching it from inside."
"Don't worry," he said. "We'll make it home."
Just then I heard Rae turn the ignition and the boat made a revving sound and then died. She turned the key again. The engine revved and died. Again. Again.
Chaz came over and turned the ignition while Rae pulled some lever near the dash. The engine revved. Died. Again.
Smoke billowed out of the engine.
My stomach dropped as I saw the lightning streaks roll in a little closer.
"So... I don't want to be the idiot to ask, but are we stuck out here?" Yes, that was me. The idiot asking the obvious question.
"We'll get it," Joey answered, stepping in to help.
Lighting flashed closer.
"Uh-oh," Joey said. "Rae... look."
I didn't want to know what he was talking about. I just wanted to get on dry land. Under a roof, specifically.
"What?" Rae asked.
"Well... the ignition... it just fell through the console," Joey said, carefully.
"Fuck." I'm not sure who said it. It could have been just me or all of us in unison.
"You kids alright?" We heard a weak voice coming from somewhere on shore. I followed the voice with my eyes and saw an old man standing on his porch.
"We're fine, thanks! I'll just call my dad to come get us," Rae yelled back.
Fine? Really? I was ready to jump ship and hope for the best. Apparently Cayden was thinking the same thing as reached for a life jacket.
"Let's just jump out and swim to shore? We can pull the boat in," Cayden suggested, a glint of excitement in his eyes.
"Are you fucking crazy?" I asked. "You want to jump in the water during a lighting storm and pull a freaking boat to shore?"
I started to question weather it was safer to be in the water or on the boat if lighting struck. Either way, I didn't want to find out. I looked toward the shore and tried to gauge the distance.
My chest tightened and my breath started coming out in wheezes.
"I don't mean to alarm anyone, but does anyone on this boat happen to have an inhaler with them?"
"Oh my god," Rae said. "Are you about to have an asthma attack?"
"No, no. No worries. Just asking!"
I gripped the edge of the seat and forced myself to take steady breaths. I was scared shitless, and it was getting harder to hide it. The look on Joyce's face told me she was freaking the fuck out, too.
Lighting struck closer and a crash of thunder made me jump. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
"I just called 911!" The old man called from his porch, straining to be heard through the wind and thunder.
Oh, thank god, I thought.
Rae had called her dad and he was already on his way to get us, but I didn't care who showed up first.
I noticed Joey down on his back, reaching up through the console, trying to bring the ignition back up through the opening. Chaz was helping him guide it in from the top.
I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to focus on my breathing. Cayden stood in the middle of the boat, still trying to convince everyone to jump ship and swim.
Another crash of thunder.
"I don't know if you guys are the praying type," Joyce said. "But I think now would be a good time to start."
"Cayden, sit down," I said. "You're freaking me out."
He sat down next to me and put his arm around me. I wanted to feel comforted, but I was still panicked.
"911 is coming!" the old man yelled again.
"Chaz, I'm going to push the ignition up, and you reach down and turn the key once we get it in," Joey said, still on his back with one up stretching up through the bottom of the console.
I wasn't sure what they were doing, but it sounded like a better plan than I had.
I squeezed Cayden's hand and tried to breathe and calm down. Joyce kept a close eye on Joey.
"Almost there," Joey said.
"So close," Chaz added.
"There. Turn it!" Joey yelled, excited.
What I heard next was a sound I'll never forget. It was a blood-curdling scream from Joey's mouth that made my breathing stop altogether. I thought he was kidding until I saw his face.
Joey was getting electrocuted.