When Lana had first said "We're here" I had thought she was joking. She drove on a narrow, only slightly paved road, between two thick walls of trees. It was silent for a moment as we pulled away from the highway, then the sound of voices echoed over the muted radio.
"Where are we?" I asked, craning my neck every which way to find the source of the voices. When the trees began to thin a little, I could see ropes tied in between them, and on those ropes were wobbly-walking people. The thin road gave way to a wide parking lot, with only a handful of cars occupying space. There was a wooden cabin on one side and trails branching off at every interval. Lana pulled up close to the cabin, and stopped the car.
"This," she said, "is La forêt des aventures, it's an aerial park." While I sat in shock, looking around the parking lot, Lana came around and opened my door.
"You want to go zip lining, at night?" By now it was getting slightly darker (the drive had taken almost two hours, factoring in the Tims stop) and I was worried about heights to begin with, never mind in the dark. How would I be able to make a good first impression when I would be too scared to even get on the equipment?
Lana looped her arm through mine and patted it reassuringly. "There are aerial courses as well. Do not worry, Amelia, I won't let anything bad happen to you. You will be wearing a harness attached to steel the whole time, it is perfectly safe." I was about to retort that I wasn't worried, but that would be a blatant lie, and something told me she would be able to see right through me.
A young looking, dark-skinned man, with the biggest and most beautiful head of hair I'd seen stood behind the counter. Lana spoke to him too rapidly for me to catch, but to whatever she'd said he retorted that it was nearly seven and the camp would be closing to the general public at this time. After some back and forth a solution seemed to have been reached and the man waved Lana and me around the corner. "Um... M'excuse, but I need to use the washroom."
In the washroom I looked myself over in the mirror self-consciously. It wasn't like me to be this nervous, usually I didn't really care what people thought of me—I suppose the combined effects of Lana and the thought of zip lining at night. My heart was pounding and I was struggling to swallow, because the feeling so nausea was so strong. Maybe this had been a bad idea? No. No, I'd come out here for adventure and to do things I wouldn't have done back home. Grand theft auto, perpetuating underage drinking, and going to a midnight bush party were already on the list. After a moment of calming myself down, I patted my reddening face with cool water, tried to smooth down my hair, and returned to the front.
Lana was already standing in her gear, the harness secured tightly around her wide his and resting on her slender waist. Her curly hair fell perfectly despite the helmet, and I quickly wondered how she could even look so pretty with it on. When I wore helmets and hats I looked like a little boy, my thin hair was molded to my face and whatever shape my face had seemed to vanish. Another employee helped me get on my equipment, it was so tight I could hardly breathe. Lastly, we were given flashlights to mount on our helmets. "A guide will go with you from stations and attach you at each, he will also guide the way through the forest. Do not stray from the path. You both have filled out your wavers yes?" We nodded our heads and the employee left, we waited for our guide outside in the orange glow of the light and the setting sun.
Things I was good at:
2) Making a meal out of odds-and-ends from the fridge
3) Painting portraits
Things I wasn't good at:
1) Small talk
"Amelia? Are you alright?" Lana asked, she looked down at me with wide eyes and I gulped. She lifted a hand to my forehead and then to my cheek. "You are very hot, you are not sick are you?"
"N-no, I'm fine. I've just never done anything like this before," I explained.
"Well, you will love it. I know you will. It seems scary at first when you get up there, because the ground is so far below. But once you let yourself just fall, all you notice is the wind in your hair and the trees rushing by. All your nervousness will go away. And you are attached to a steel wire by your harness, you can pull on it with all your weight and everything is fine. The aerial courses are even easier, because there is another wire underneath." Lana removed her hand from my cheek and I could feel the burning of the places where her skin had touched mine. "Amelia?"
"Yes?" I asked.
"You look very cute in that helmet. Très mignon." I smiled at the compliment but internally I cringed at the word 'cute.' I'd been 'cute' my whole life, and up to now it had always meant cute as in puppies or dolls or whatever. Cute made me feel like a kid playing dress up in adult clothing; the word gave me no indication on what she really thought of me. Was she interested in me at all? Did she feel the way I did? Could she possibly be as nervous as I was? I really hoped she wasn't just toying me along for fun. For a moment I nearly voiced my questions, but I was interrupted by our guide before I could even get a word out.
"Are you both ready?" he asked, and we nodded. "My name is Thomas, I'll be your guide for tonight. A few simple rules: no smoking, no bouncing on the cables, and don't go before I give the go ahead. There are lights to guide the way. Stay on the path, stay close to me, and everything will be fine."
Our footfalls crunched on the summer dried leaves and branches on the ground, the parking lot was now only occupied by a few single cars (belonging to employees) and our breathing filled the silence. As we entered the trees, lights strung along trees illuminated the way, the wires towered high in the trees and I couldn't imagine how I would feel once up there. "This is one of our initiation zip lines, it's only a few metres long and not very high. I just need to see how you position yourselves and fix any mistakes." Thomas led us up to a small platform and then attached me to the wire.
"I'm going first?" I demanded anxiously.
"You'll be perfectly safe," he promised. "Place both of your hands around the metal clasp... No, the thing that holds your harness to the wire. Yes, that. Now make sure none of your fingers touch the actual wire, we have had people lose fingers due to getting it caught or getting severe burns. Now all you have to do it give a little push and gravity will do the rest." I positioned my hands the way he said but when I looked down I felt as if the ground were already rushing at me, even though I wasn't moving.
"I-I don't know if I can do this," I said honestly.
"You can do this, Amelia, I know you can. What's the point of living if you do not try new things? You can grow to love this, but only if you trust that you are safe here," Lana said. When I turned my head, the flashlight illuminated her bright smile. She looked as if she with conviction that I would be fine. And who knows, maybe you can grow to love this. Maybe you can become the type of person who just does new things without second thoughts. I took a deep breath and felt as my left foot pushed me off from the platform. Suddenly the wind was hitting my face and my hair was flying madly all around, my feet kicked below but there was nothing, and it terrified me a little. Luckily, I didn't scream, though that was due mostly to a fear of swallowing a bug. My eyes stayed open but all I could see were blurring lights in the blurring twilight around me. The next platform came rushing up so quickly I hardly had time to realize it. Feet shaking I stood on the platform, still holding the clasp for dear life.
There were cheers behind me and I turned my head. "Perfect!" Tomas remarked. "Now you just need to unhinge the clasp." After several minutes of Thomas explaining how to free myself, I finally stood at the end of the platform waiting for the others to join me. My heart pounded in my ears and I held the railing for stability. But yet... I wanted to do it again. It was terrifying, dangerous, and also mesmerizing. The feeling of the wind echoed across my skin even though I stood still. Lana landed on the platform next, not needing nearly as much coaxing, then came Thomas. "Alright, now that I have initiated you we can go to the next course." Thomas wandered ahead to show the way, which naturally left Lana and me behind.
"I knew you could do it," Lana whispered, her voice was slightly humorous. I felt her hand brush against mine but I wasn't sure if it had been intentional, I didn't know if I wanted to hold her hand. I'd never really held anyone's hand (except maybe immediate family) and especially not the hand of someone I was interested in.
The next course we were taken to had five parts to it: three courses and two zip lines. It was much higher but I tried not to look down as Thomas gave us instructions. On the course we would have to overcome certain obstacles, and one of the zip lines was designed so we had to push ourselves along with the movement of our legs. This wouldn't be as easy as the initiation. Lana went first this time, and once she had finished the first course I was allowed to follow. I was intently aware of Thomas' eyes watching me as I struggled along. The first course had a tire I needed to maneuver through, it required crawling, turning, and a steady foot. I contorted my body to slip through the tire but lost my footing coming out. A scream escaped my mouth as my feet trashed in the air, looking for the wire. "Pull yourself up with your hands, the wire can handle your weight, you just need to regain your footing," Thomas instructed.
My hands reached up, first finding the clasp and then the wire, with effort I pulled myself back up. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the bobbing white light that identified Lana, she was well through the course by now. I kept my hands on the wire, one in front and one behind, and slowly walked my way to the end. Next came a zip line, the easier of the two. I took a deep breath and held it in my chest, this time I pushed myself off a little more bravely. The wind began whipping past me again, it was cold, and all the lights became one indistinguishable stream on either side. Greens, browns, and oranges merged into each other. This was crazy. I was crazy for doing this. And I thought that maybe Lana was a little crazy too, but in a good way.
Maybe she was my manic-pixie-dream-girl?
In any case, I still wasn't brooding.
Once we'd finished the first course Thomas asked us if we wanted another beginner course or if we were ready to move onto an intermediate one. "That was only beginner?" I mumbled to myself.
"I think we're ready to move onto an intermediate one, right Amelia?" Lana beamed.
"Je sais pas si je veux le faire," I responded. Looking up at the swinging wires hidden in the treetops.
"I think I can find you a compromise." Thomas gestured for us to follow him and we began to take a very convoluted path toward the thickest part of the forest. Lana began to slow her pace and the distance between her and Thomas grew, I wanted to walk by her but I was also terrified about the idea of losing Thomas and becoming lost in the seemingly never ending trees and swaying wires and lights. Suddenly I felt something wrap around my arm and I was yanked back, I gasped in surprise before I saw Lana's bright smile.
"What are you doing? We have to keep up with Thomas," I stated. Lana's hand was cool against my hot (and slightly sweaty) skin.
"I wanted to walk with you," she replied, her hand found its way down my wrist and our fingers intertwined. For a moment we walked in silence and I watched the lights from our helmets cast an inverse shadow. "Do not make a noise, just follow me." Her hand tugged mine and I followed her into the darkness, behind us Thomas' footsteps disappeared.
"What are you doing?" I whispered anxiously. Was she crazy? Had I gone on a date with a crazy person? Where was she taking me now?
"Just watch, I saw this before. I knew Thomas would not take us there, but I had to make sure you saw it," she stated matter-of-factly. Lana walked briskly with a sort of graceful determination while I kept my light shining to the ground to avoid the debris on the ground. After a moment's thought, I decided not to press it and just followed along. What's the worst that could happen? Besides, she seemed to know what she was doing.
Then she was helping me up a later and I began to regret my decision. The rungs were damp under my hand — and not from sweat — but from the condensation that had begun to blanket everything during the creeping night. When Lana reached the top she squatted down and held down a hand, and I took her hand thankfully. I didn't dare to look back. Lana pulled me up, my final step propelling me onto the platform and pressed close to her. My head began to dance from the proximity. I'd never been this close to anyone. Ever.
Her arms wrapped loosely behind my back and settled on my hips, my hands were placed unsurely against her upper chest (just in case I needed my personal space quickly). The lights twinkled in the darkness around us, and above between the breaks in the trees I could see the stars glinting. Lana watched me with contentment.
"So, this is a date unlike any other, oui?"
"To be honest, I've never been on a date before. So I couldn't tell you. But I imagine most first dates don't involve zip lining at night," I confessed. Lana laughed slightly, her chest rose underneath my hands and I relaxed a little, a smile breaking out across my face.
All I noticed was the gleam in Lana's eyes before suddenly her lips where on mine. Her hands tightened around me and I moved my hands to her shoulders, feeling her soft curls brush against my skin. We broke apart all too soon and I let out a burning breath of air. My lips tingled with an unfamiliar feeling, and I couldn't decide how to react. "Is that what you wanted to show me?" I asked.
"In part, but the stars and lights here are also very lovely," she laughed and then added, "Are you ready to go?"
I looked behind at the later which seemed to go down into an abyss of darkness, and then over at the wire which did likewise only more terrifyingly. "Can't we stay up here?" I wondered.
When she spoke, I noticed that there was a smear of pink from her lip out to her chin. That smear was from me, and it gave me an excited feeling. I wanted to kiss her again, until her lipstick got all over me. But her hands fell and I stepped back, not able to hide my disappointment. "If we stay gone too long, Thomas may lose his job," Lana stated lightly.
She turned to the wire and then back to me. "I will hook you up." My stomach instantly dropped, and images of falling several hundred feet to the damp forest floor filled my mind. "I know what to do, you do not need to worry." I took a tentative step and handed Lana my clasp, she hooked it onto the wire and gave me a peck on the cheek. "See you on the other side, ma chérie."