Sheila: The beginning
copyright 2003, all rights reserved.
The trip was shaping up to be fun. Sheila and Casey would be on the
same team. The end-of-term wilderness challenge was approaching.
Both girls were about to end their first year of college. Many
things had come together for both of them. Both made the gymnastics
team, in their freshman year, both were maintaining 4.0 or better
grade point averages and they had nailed and were looking forward to
summer jobs that every college gymnast would die for.
The final course and exam facing them in the school year was the
Wilderness Challenge. Similar to Outward Bound, all of the Physical
Education degree students were required to complete the two week
experience as part of their course work. Casey was apprehensive, but
Sheila was excited. Camping, rock climbing and hiking were
activities she enjoyed. She could do without the canoeing. The water
scared her for some unknown reason. Casey was not an outdoors
person. She would tolerate the trip because she had to.
When the bus pulled in to the vacant summer camp that was to be
their starting point it was early in the afternoon. The trip
coordinators and group leaders were already there getting equipment
and supplies organized. One of the first bits of business was to
introduce the leaders to their 5 man crews. Sheila and Casey were
matched with three guys from their class and assigned to Eamon.
Eamon was a very tall good looking guy with a cute cowboy accent.
Hearing him speak was a novelty for the two Canadian girls. Sheila
liked the look of him immediately, and then felt a little twinge of
disappointment. He looked like the type who would go for the tall
blond beauty queens. “He’s out of my league.” She thought and as she
did her mood shifted. As if her thought had come from him as a
rebuff to an advance from her, Sheila began to feel peeved with the
man. He had yet to even say hello to her. Casey noticed her friend’s
mood change and nudged her.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
Sheila came out of her thoughts and turned to look at Casey.
“Nothing,” she said. Casey knew that it wasn’t true.
The first two days of the course were spent at the camp. Classes in
map reading, repelling and climbing rock face, paddling techniques,
as well as fitness measurement filled the time. There was an
astonishing amount to take in, and this was after all a course worth
credit toward their degree.
Eamon was a good teacher. His skill with the things he was teaching
was impressive. Sheila found herself watching him. In spite of the
fact that he was friendly toward her, she found herself being rude
to him. She nicknamed him “cowpoke,” and when she used it there was
a sarcastic edge to her voice. She noticed quickly that she could
get a rise out of him with it easily. At first he just gave her
questioning looks, but eventually he commented, and it was clear he
didn’t like it.
Eamon didn’t know what he had done to bother the girl. He was drawn
to her immediately. She was a compact little bundle of energy, with
a face that seemed to welcome people. He watched how the other
students gravitated to her, and immediately liked the way she was at
ease with them and them with her. She became the natural center of
their team. He was awed by how unaware she was of her effect on the
group. The way she seemed to be needling him was not sitting well.
He would like to get to know her and was irked by her apparent
animosity for him.
The last session of the first full day was a swimming endurance
test. All participants, including the team leaders were required to
swim a mile, and then when finished remain by the docks treading
water for twenty minutes. Swimming was not an activity that Sheila
enjoyed. She took the requisite swimming lessons as a child, and was
capable, but she was out of her element in the water. The fact that
her dense gymnast body sunk like a stone didn’t help. She had to
work to stay a float during the last twenty minutes.
At the fifteen minute mark, she began to express doubts that she
could finish to Casey. Casey did her best to reassure, but Sheila
was winded and fed up. Eamon was nearby and heard her speak. He
moved his long body easily over closer to the girls.
“Hang in there, you can make it, just a few more minutes,” he said,
his voice gentle and encouraging.
“Butt out cowpoke. If I want to quit I can quit,” Sheila spit out,
her teeth were chattering and she was shivering.
“If you quit you’ll wear a life vest at all times on the canoe leg
of the trip,” Eamon advised her. He could see she was getting tired,
and her shivering was using energy she might better put into getting
through the last minutes. He decided he would keep her occupied to
keep her mind off the time.
“Keep it up, you can do it,” he moved between Sheila and the dock.
“Butt out cowpoke, I said,” Sheila turned to face away from him.
“Come on Canuk you can do it,” he persisted, swimming around her so
she was facing him again.
“Go away!” Sheila sputtered through her chattering teeth.
Casey backed away and started to laugh at her friend.
Sheila was close to exhaustion and it made her feel juvenile. She
felt herself transition into ‘the whiner.’ “Buzz off I said, leave
me alone, quit circling me like that, I’m not one of your cows,” she
pushed water at him and twisted around.
He followed her so that she barely lost sight of his face.
“Buzz off!” She whined, continuing to twirl away.
“That’s it Canuk, you’re doing it,” he laughed.
“I’m going in,” Sheila stretched forward in a side sidestroke toward
the dock. Eamon caught her around the waist as she eased past him.
He pulled her back in front of him.
“Come on Canuk, it’s almost over,” he smiled. Keeping her focus on
him was working, she had stopped shivering.
Sheila was almost ready to cry. The whiner was a part of her
personality over which she had very little control. Once invoked it
was a pretty sure spiral for it to take her back to when it had been
a useful strategy. When she was a child and it got her what she
wanted. When the whiner wasn’t fast enough at getting things,
crybaby came out. She knew the physical sensation of that outcome.
Her throat was tight and her eyes burned. She could not let herself
cry, but she was getting way too close. If he made her cry, she’d
kill him! Anger interceded to protect her from tears.
“Fuck off! Cowpoke, leave me alone!” Eamon didn’t get a chance to
respond immediately, the whistle blew to indicate that time was up.
Everyone made it through the test.
Eamon was right beside Sheila when she pulled herself up on the
dock. He was up before she was, and he reached down and pulled her
up by her wrist. When she was standing on the dock in front of him,
he wouldn’t let her go until she looked at his face. His expression
was all business. Not angry, but sending a clear message of
displeasure. It made her shiver.
“Cuss me again Canuk and you’ll regret it. Is that clear young
lady?” he spoke the words so that only she could hear them, but in
her mind it was as if he’d yelled at her. The warning he issued had
power. Power, that shot through her and clicked awake something deep
and secret within her. The sensation was electric, sending sparks
shooting through her whole skin surface. A tingle lingered in her
hands and her groin. Her mind formed a retort out of the substance
of her secret.
‘Why what’ll you do? Spank me?’ her mind hissed. She did not say the
words. Instead she gave him a saucy look, pulled her wrist out of
his hand and walked down the dock away from him. Mindful of his eyes
on her back, Sheila tossed her head, and put a cocky little swish
into her stride.
Eamon watched her go. Electric energy surged within him as well. The
little spitfire was getting under his skin in a major way. He made
up his mind that he wanted to get to know her. He also wanted to
shake sense into her. Her saucy attitude made her a challenge,
something Eamon enjoyed. He shook his head as he thought back over
her antics in the water. He was just trying to help her, and she
carried on like he was doing something to upset her.
Casey was beginning to catch on to her friend. Sheila was never one
to flirt or play up for the guys. From Casey’s perspective though,
it was obvious that the tall Texan had Sheila off balance. She
chuckled to herself as she watched the interchange on the dock.
“This just might be a fun adventure after all,” she thought.
“He’s got your number Sheila,” Casey warned when she caught up to
her friend. The tone of her voice held just the hint of a tease.
“Yeah? So?” Sheila hissed. She wasn’t in the mood to banter. At that
moment her mind was a muddle of confused thoughts. She was
embarrassed at having behaved so childishly, angry with herself for
letting the man get to her, frustrated that there was no way he’d
ever think of her as more than a kid now and incensed that he was
dismissing her because she wasn’t a tall cheerleader type. The
whiner and the cry baby were still alive under her skin. Sheila
could feel them in the beating of her heart, churning of her stomach
and tightness of her throat. Her teeth began to chatter.
Wrapping herself in the towel she grabbed with her bundle of
clothes, Sheila turned and headed to the cabins. “Come on, I’m
freezing.” Casey laughed and followed her friend.
Orienteering and rock climbing were easy for Sheila. Her light and
flexible gymnast’s body had no trouble negotiating the crevices and
odd angles of natural foot and hand holds on the bluffs and rock
face. Her innate artist’s eye and spatial acuity made her a natural
when it came to interpreting the trail maps and recognizing the
landmarks and topographic features. It was the water skills she had
Most of the afternoon of the third day was spent on the water, or
near it. Canoe safety and paddling techniques were probably easy
enough to master physically, but Sheila had to contend with the
added element of her fear and dislike for the water. The fact that
Eamon seamed to be making a point of singling her out, and
commenting on her every move and mistake didn’t help things either.
The first on the water tasks seemed more like games to most of the
members of the team. There were six team members including Eamon,
and the next day they would head out in three canoes. Eamon’s first
goal was to pair off al the members so that their skill levels would
be best matched. Initially his manipulations of pairs met with
resistance, but when he explained the rationale for matching strong
with weak so that no team held up the others, he was able to get
Paddle strokes and technique occupied a little over an hour. There
were three main strokes taught and practiced. Each member was
evaluated, and Eamon was able to get a good feel for the relative
strengths of each.
The first of the water safety exercises was gunnel bobbing. Each
pair paddled their canoe out into waist high water, and without
tipping, maneuvered so that they stood face to face on opposite ends
of the canoe with their feet on the gunnels. The object once that
balance was achieved was to bob the canoe ends in opposition without
tipping, or falling off. An activity that was much easier said than
done, since the balance of skill worked out so that the larger team
members ended up matched with smaller members.
The point of the exercise according to Eamon was for each pair to
get a feel for the balance and weight of their craft along with
their partner’s movements. What ever it was supposed to accomplish,
for all but Sheila, who was the lightest and smallest, and whose
skills were weakest it was a hilariously fun activity.
Of course it made sense that she was paired with the member with the
strongest skills, and that was Eamon. He also happened to be the
largest and heaviest, so her challenge was more than her nerves. And
her nerves were on edge for more reasons than her lack of comfort on
“Come on Canuk, tuck that butt in! Keep your weight on your toes.
Use your quads. Come on head up, eyes front. Use your arms for
balance not your rear! Come on, tuck your butt under! ” Eamon
repeated this series of short commands in various combinations at
least 50 times over the next 20 minutes. All in all they both spent
more time in the water than on it, although Sheila was finally able
to find some balance, and they were able to bob for the 25 strokes
Eamon asked of each team.
By the time they’d done it though Sheila was fuming mad. Being the
brunt of jokes was not something she appreciated. She was a good
player, and she loved good fun when she was in the middle of it, but
that afternoon, at least for those twenty minutes she’d been more
the joke than the joker. For his role in putting her there, Eamon’s
hide was quickly accumulating gouges in her mind. If she’d been near
enough to him the last time she hit the water with her legs flat,
she might well have used her nails to remove a few rakes of flesh
from his skin. The backs of her legs were flaming red from all the
slap hard impacts she had made with the smooth surface of the lake.
The next challenge was physically almost as hard, but for Sheila it
was the worst. Out in deep water, the teams set about deliberately
tipping, rolling and then righting and reentering their canoes.
There was almost no way to do this without becoming fully immersed
in the water, and Eamon seemed to make a game out of hefting his
weight, so that she was under before she felt or could anticipate
the movement. When he started to tip them almost as soon as she was
back on board, before she could really get her bearings, the whiner
and the crybaby began to fight her for control of her mind and body.
The possibility that the crybaby was going to win became all too
real, and finally when her eyes and nose burned with water forced
into them by another unexpected submersion, Sheila came up fighting
“You sorry mother fucking son of a bitch! Would you at least let me
catch my breath and get the water out of my eyes so I can focus and
see the God damned mother fucking water before you do that again!”
she screamed. “God Damned ham brained jock ass hole!”
Eamon had been working to get a reaction out of her. He could tell
she was less than comfortable on the water, and part of his
strategy, although not all of it, was to get her physically tired
and mentally distracted enough that she’d let go of her fears. He
certainly did manage to distract her from her fears. When he burst
out laughing, Sheila turned, and started swimming for shore.
It was too far for her to make it as tired as she was, but Eamon was
relatively sure she’d be OK until he could retrieve the paddles and
follow her. When he did reach her, Sheila was shivering, and running
out of steam. The bow of the canoe passed her on the right, and then
the end with Eamon in it steadied and kept with her pace.
“Up you get now. In the boat,” Eamon chuckled.
“Leave m-m-me alon-n-nnnn!” Sheila spit into the water, her jaw
shuddered around her chattering teeth. Eamon could see as her
strokes became shorter, that she was winded, and would not last much
longer before she might start to cramp up. Her lips were blue also,
letting him know her blood flow was starting to shunt to conserve
“In the boat now! No argument!” Eamon’s voice boomed, the authority
in it designed to pre-empt any further stupidity.
For an instant, as Sheila whirled around in the water so she could
look at him directly, she contemplated defiance. His expression and
her absolute fatigue won out though, and she relented. She was going
to get in the boat under her own steam though, and when Eamon
reached to help her, she pulled her arm away.
“I c-c-can d-do it-t-t!” she stuttered, and she caught the side to
pull up. It was her turn to tip the balance though, since Eamon was
leaning toward her. Her weight with his worked to launch the canoe
out from under him. Eamon fell in, and Sheila ended up surfacing
under the overturned canoe.
She giggled just a little, but the cold made her refocus quickly.
Eamon got the canoe upright, and himself back in it, in just a
minute or so. Twice more Sheila’s clumsy efforts tipped it again.
Ordinarily, turn about would be fair play, but at this stage of the
game, the humor and novelty was being lost on her completely. After
she refused his help for a fourth time, and her heavy muscled
efforts threatened to tip them again, Eamon interceded. As Sheila’s
shoulders cleared the gunnel, Eamon reached down and grabbed the
butt of her swim suit, and heaved her onto the floor of the canoe at
his feet. He had to shift his weight quickly a few times to maintain
balance, but this time the craft stayed upright.
Sheila grumbled and cussed under her breath. The whole experience
had been enough stress, that she barely reacted to the intimate
handling, the wedgie and the somewhat embarrassing exposure that
Eamon’s maneuver produced. She concentrated on righting herself, and
trying to control the now vigorous shivering and tooth chattering
that her body was doing.
They made their way back to shore. Sheila managed to utter a few
choice expressions through the tension of her shuddering jaw;
otherwise there was silence between them until they got to shore.
“I think you’re going to need to keep a life vest on for most of the
trip Sheila,” Eamon announced as she helped him lift the canoe over
to the racks.
“N- n- n-oo f-f-f-fuckk-k-k-ing w-w-ay!” Sheila stuttered. “I d-did
the sw-wim! I kn-now-w the rul-l-lessss!”
“May be, but you don’t have the confidence in the water that you’ll
need if we do capsize in the rough.” Eamon tried to reason.
“L-l-l-loook-k you assss h-h-olllle! You del-l-l-libbberat-t-tlllly
jerkkked m-m-m-e aroundddd outtt t-t-there! I’ll bbbbe j-j-j-ust
f-f-fine!” Sheila dropped her end of the canoe, and turned on him,
her hands on her hips. Her movement was too fast, and she stumbled
sideways. That caused Eamon to drop his end also, only his tipped
and landed square on his instep.
“God Damn!” he exclaimed, and to keep from falling, he hopped off to
the side. Pain from the sharp heavy impact of the hard metal gunnel
shot through him. It was all he could do to hold in a blood curdling
At first Sheila was concerned, but in only a few seconds she was
overcome by laughter. In another few seconds, she was doubled over
rolling in the rugged grass, her sides aching from a combination of
laughter and shivering.
Her team mates gathered around, and joined in the laughter, at the
same time as the helped Eamon stow the canoe, and Sheila get to her
The next day when they set out, Sheila and Eamon’s interactions had
deteriorated to short commands and surly retorts. If their moods
weren’t bad enough, the weather turned warm, and the wind dropped to
nothing. Mosquitoes, gnats and the lingering black flies were
torment any time the group neared shore. Since there were three
portages, and only one stretch of open lake on the first leg of
their route, the torment was more or less constant.
The first discussion centered on whether Sheila would be required to
wear a life vest when they reached white water after lunch. It
became somewhat heated, and Sheila was glad she was in front, and by
necessity had to carry on her side of it with her back to Eamon.
While she sensed that she was pushing buttons, she could not see his
reactions. It was a very good thing, she thought, that he could not
see her expressions. Distain, only barely approached an apt
description for what they would have conveyed, if he could have seen
That subject closed with the final outcome unresolved. Eamon decided
she would wear the vest, and Sheila decided hell would freeze first.
The next revolved around Sheila taking the rear on the next paddle.
She was adamant that she was not ready. Things might not have
escalated the way they did if she’d actually come out and said that.
As it was, she conveyed her reluctance with flip comments and
sarcasm. Most of her remarks centering on his size, thick jock ham
brain, and some other less than flattering descriptors.
Behind her, Eamon was fast reaching his limit. It was one thing for
team members to joke and tease, but the little brat in front of him
was well past that into outright defiance. She would have to learn
to do as she was told, if not for her grade, then for the safety and
progress of the team. A number of options to force obedience and
compliance with his authority were cycling in his mind. One of them
was to come down on her publicly with thunder and rage, and make
damned sure she understood that she may well be repeating this
course next year if she didn’t smarten up and shape up. The other
was less direct, but definitely more demonstrative and physically
satisfactory. He would like nothing more than to bare her boney
little ass, and flip her over his knee for a paddling she’d never
forget. Every cuss and comment that she made over the next two
hours, made that prospect more and more attractive.
When they lifted out for the second portage, Eamon was fuming. There
was brief discussion about lunch, and the decision was made to have
it in the water on the other end of the hike. It would only be four
Eamon and Sheila pulled up the rear. Their relative difference in
size obligated Eamon to carry the front so that he could see a head
of them from under the canoe. Just a mile into the trek, the subject
of position on the next paddle came up again. There would be some
white water, but it was only class 2 to 3. Eamon was adamant that
Sheila should take the rear. That she could handle the steering if
she’d keep her mind on the strokes instead of her fear of the water.
Something about the patronizing way he talked about this whole thing
being about her fear of water hit Sheila’s last patience nerve and
she lost it.
“Look you mother fucking shit for brains jock! I told you no and I
mean no!” she screeched. As she did, she stopped short, lifted, and
then heaved her end of the canoe onto the ground.
That action occurred so quickly, that Eamon could not react. He took
two more steps forward, while the canoe dropped behind him and came
to an abrupt stop. As Sheila watched the chain reaction, she was
amazed that his head was still on when his shoulders appeared from
under the canoe.
The look of black burning rage in his eyes was instantly terrifying.
Sheila didn’t have time to fully appreciate the shock of electric
arousal that pulsed through her. She felt it, and reacted to it in a
split second after she saw Eamon’s face, his torso shift, and his
hands reach for his belt.
“Oh Shit!! She squealed, and she took off at a dead run back the way
they’d just come.
She didn’t get very far, when Eamon was on top of her, and she was
falling over a dead tree that crossed the path. His belt lit a line
of fire through her denim shorts. Several licks whipped into her,
before Sheila was able to catch her breath and cry out for him to
Eamon whipped her furiously a good thirty or forty licks. Sheila was
sure she had never felt anything so painful in her entire life. As
angry and afraid as she’d been only moments before, now she was only
aware of the flaming stripes the belt put into her, and how
desperately she needed to get away from it. A couple of the licks
branded her bare legs, but most set fire to her butt.
“Oh God help me! Stop!” she screamed.
Thankfully, Eamon did. “Are you going to do what you’re told?” he
“OK! I will!” Sheila promised.
“Alright! Get up!” Eamon stepped back, and started to put his belt
When Sheila stood up, she backed away, and eyed Eamon warily. She
saw the blood oozing from a gash just below his hairline. “I’m
sorry! I didn’t mean that!” she whispered.
“Oh I’m sure you didn’t,” Eamon growled, “And you’d better not try
anything like it again.”
“OK,” Sheila nodded. There was absolutely no remnant of the anger or
animosity she’d been feeling. She wasn’t exactly sure what she was
feeling, but for some reason the words second chance came to her
As it turned out, that thought was an understatement. The
relationship between the two calmed almost immediately. Incredibly
there was no uneasy truce either; instead there was an almost
immediate understanding and recognition. What had made it so easy to
get on each other’s nerves turned out to be a connection that would
ultimately result in their lifelong partnership. Eamon and Sheila
would marry only 11 months to the day after this event.