This is an excerpt from a manuscript I never finished called Calamity Jill. It won the Kathryn Hayes Love and Laughter contest in 2008 and I thought I'd share it:
As soon as they pulled into the parking lot of their destination, Jill recognized that the evening was going to be a “litmus” date. He’d be watching closely, and her reaction to his choice of entertainment would give him a better idea of their relationship potential. Tonight she was in for a rousing evening of indoor skydiving. Jill mentally cracked her knuckles.
The first thing they did upon entering was read and sign a waiver that graphically depicted a long list of possible wind-tunnel injuries. Tom looked like a kid who had just presented her with the best gift of all time, so she was determined to enjoy herself. Or at least survive.
“Hey Zeke,” he said to the guy behind the counter.
“What’s up, Tommy-my-man?”
“Sam said chamber two was mine if I wanted it at seven.”
“Yeah, it’s dead tonight. She certified?” Zeke asked.
“Nah, I’ll give her the basics.”
“We got a party coming in at eight, so no unzipping.”
Tom led her into a narrow room and retrieved two blue jumpsuits from a rack. Jill slipped the one-piece garment over her clothes and pulled the zipper from mid-thigh up to her chest. Even though the lightweight nylon was loose-fitting everywhere else, the inseam was not long enough for her torso. It was uncomfortably snug from shoulder to crotch, but she didn’t want to complain. The next size up was big on Tom. If she said anything, he’d outfit her in what amounted to a tent.
“What did he mean by ‘no unzipping?’” she asked as they entered the main arena.
He reached out, pinched Jill’s zipper pull and slowly pulled it down, holding her gaze with a sexy smile.
“Oh.” She looked at the octagon-shaped vertical wind tunnel. Although the facility appeared for the moment to be deserted, anyone walking by could see through the clear plexiglass lower walls right into the chamber. Not very private for the ‘unzipping,’ Jill thought. She wanted to ask if he’d ever unzipped anyone, but was afraid of the answer.
Tom must have seen her dubious expression, because he laughed and said, “It’s a joke, Jill.”
“Oh,” she said again.
He helped her fasten elbow and knee pads, and handed her a helmet with goggles attached.
“Sure,” she said with what she hoped was the right quantity of enthusiasm.
He explained the rules and instructed her on the basic hand signals they would need to communicate over the noise of the fans.
“So can I do flips and stuff?” She was getting excited now.
“Not on your first try. You’ll see what I mean. It’s a challenge just balancing your body against the wind. I’m going to hop in first and show you some of the stuff you can do once you’ve tried it a few times. Then it’s your turn. Oh, and Jill?”
“Don’t open your mouth in there.”
“Nope. You may not be able to close it again.”
He winked, tucked a bright orange silicon earplug into each ear and entered a small room attached to the chamber. He tapped some keys and turned some dials, stepped out onto the elastic mesh floor in the tunnel, and was rewarded with a hum that within seconds built to an almost deafening roar. He put his head back and his arms out in a dramatic pose as he slowly lifted into the air.
After watching Tom cavort in the 120 mile-per-hour wind for a minute or so, Jill suspected he’d tried it more than a few times. People began to gather on the observation deck to watch him. He expertly flew front-wise, on his back, head-down and he even pretended to sit cross-legged. Despite the chill of the blasting wind, Jill was almost overheated watching him, but his gymnastic skill was not her primary focus. Ignoring the comical flapping of his cheeks in the wind, she examined the lean, muscular contours of his body revealed through the thin fabric plastered against him. She’d already been treated to the memorable sight of his chest, and now she got a teasing sample of the rest of the package.
Tom finally stopped showing off and brought Jill into the chamber with him. The goggles protected her eyes from the force of the wind, but it was hard to breathe with her mouth firmly clamped shut. She was very unsteady at first, since every movement changed her body’s aerodynamic profile. Tom placed his hands on her, impersonally guiding the position of her shoulders and arms, the arch of her back and the angle of her hips. Within seconds he must have gotten an intimate portrait of the shape of her, like a blind man seeing with touch. Under his tutelage, Jill soon learned to hold a steady horizontal pose, turn right and left, and slide forward and back. If she wasn’t afraid her mouth would get stuck open like a puffer-fish, she would have laughed aloud in the wake of each accomplishment.
After her miserable performance on the slopes, Jill just knew her quick grasp of free-fall choreography was impressing him. He hovered next to her with a big smile, and she was riding such a wave of exultation that for a split second she forgot every cautionary lesson he’d just taught her. She threw her arms wide for a spontaneous embrace, maybe even prelude to a little ‘unzipping.’ Before her mistake had time to register, the wind fired her at him. Like a battering ram, her helmeted head made contact with his chin. The repercussion sent her flipping head over heels and instinctively she thrust her arms and legs out. The convulsive action put too much strain on her already overburdened jumpsuit seam. She felt the back split from crotch to waistband. Not sure if her jeans had exploded along with the jumpsuit she shot one arm behind her to cover herself. Her body immediately curled backwards in another flip and her compromised jumpsuit poofed full of air. She felt one foot connect solidly with something soft in Tom’s midsection. Upside down now, rolling like an inflatable beach ball, she glimpsed him doubled over in a slow agonized spin. Without his guidance, Jill had no idea how to stop her momentum. Still trying to beat the torn fabric down to hide her exposed rear-end, she bounced off the mesh floor and headed like a pinball on another course straight for the out-of-commission Tom.
Just before her flailing limbs made contact, the air cut off abruptly. Like cartoon characters falling off a cliff, she and Tom seemed to float for a split second before collapsing in a tangle of arms and legs.
“What the heck are you doing?” cried Zeke from the control room
“Everything’s fine. No problem here.” Over the ringing in her ears, Tom’s groaning voice came from somewhere beneath her, and she realized with alarm that his head was pressed face-down into the mesh. As soon as she scrambled off him she heard a muted sound like the fans were starting back up, and thought for a brief, frightened moment that she was about to be launched back into the air. When she pulled her helmet and goggles off, however, she saw to her ultimate humiliation that the entire observation deck had erupted in laughter and applause.