Two work colleagues discover they have more in common than they imagined.
|A Double Dog Dare|
Hal looked across the aisle at Jenny Seburg. Even disguised in overall, helmet and bulky parachute, she was easy on the eye. And that intelligent sparkle in her eyes was an acute reminder that she possessed a mind easily capable of leading the company research department.
This latest challenge was merely the most recent in the accelerating tests of strength between them. It seemed that, whatever project they worked on, each step forward by one in the completion of the task was accompanied by an immediate breakthrough by the other. So the summer had progressed in a constant struggle for superiority.
In time, the unspoken competition between them had broken into direct challenges. The sports and activities suggested became more and more taxing until they arrived at sky diving. And now, here they were, sitting opposite each other in the belly of a light plane as it climbed higher and higher.
The idea had nearly broken Hal. His fear of heights was such that, had it been anyone else daring him to it, he would have backed out. But no, he could not lose to Jenny. Somehow he had steeled himself to accept the challenge.
And now Hal was kicking himself. His stomach churned in abject fear. The thought of leaping out of the door left him weak and helpless.
He knew he should confess his fear to Jenny and back out of the challenge. But his body seemed so enfeebled by the approaching doom that he could not command it to speak. The plane flew ever upwards.
Then the instructor was standing over them, asking who wanted to go first. Jenny’s hand shot upwards and, compelled by habit alone, Hal’s followed. A coin was tossed and they both called heads. The instructor shook his head and said, “Never mind - I’ll decide.”
Then they were on their feet and were being urged toward the open door. The wind and engine noise howled outside. The two waited for the instructor to give the word.
Suddenly, he grabbed the scruff of Jenny’s overall and threw her bodily out of the door. “It was always going to be easiest if she didn’t expect it,” he explained. “Right, your turn, pal.”
He pulled Hal forward to stand in the door. For a moment there was a pause and Hal’s mouth opened to protest, then he felt a powerful shove in the back and he was falling through space.
His training must have taken over, for he adopted the recommended position and began to soar down toward the reeling earth. As his eyes opened, he could see Jenny in the same position, some distance below him. He tipped forward to increase the speed of his fall and began to close with her.
To his surprise, Hal found that he was beginning to enjoy the experience. Though the wind whipped past with fierce force, there was no real sensation of falling. They were so high up that the ground did not seem to be getting nearer. He came level with Jenny and shouted to her, “That was brave of you, to go first like that.”
She gave him a searing look of disdain and looked away.
“Oh, come on, Jen,” he yelled. “I didn’t mean to crow.”
She ignored him.
Then Hal began to worry about their rate of descent. “Time to pull the cord, don’t you think?” he asked.
Jenny turned slowly and looked at him with hard eyes. “You first,” she said.
Hal looked down at the approaching earth. To pull first would be to lose, that was obvious. And it wasn’t fair for her to introduce this extra challenge right at the end. And yet the ground was becoming too close for comfort. This was no time to get into a staring match.
He pulled the cord.
Afterwards, when they had landed and gathered the deflated chutes together, Jenny thanked him for going first.
“I needed you to do it,” she said. “I was so scared, I wanted you to do the thinking for me.”
They laughed and hugged each other in relief and joy.
Word count: 686
For The Weekly Quickie Contest, June 1 - 10
Prompt: Enemies to Lovers.