To Carry the Torch of Leadership
Her spry, Timberland-clad foot planted itself upon a jagged boulder, motionless, until her calf muscles tightened and catapulted her small frame into the next stride. Then Sara's dance continued, her feet playing effortlessly with the difficult terrain. As her foot lifted from the ground, compressed mint-colored lichen would spring back into position, only to be crushed by my immense boot, struggling to step where hers had been. My eyes fixated on the forest floor, as fallen trees, swollen roots, and unsteady rocks posed constant threats for my exhausted body. Without glancing up I knew what was ahead: the same dense, impenetrable green that had surrounded us for hours. My throat prickled with unfathomable thirst, as my long-empty Nalgene bottle slapped mockingly at my side. Gnarled branches snared at my clothes and tore at my hair, and I blindly hurled myself after Sara. The portage had become a battle, and the ominously darkening sky raised the potential for casualties. Gritting my teeth with gumption, I refused to stop; I would march on until I could no longer stand.
Suddenly, Sara's light step halted and she turned to face me. From her hazel eyes blazed an intensity of exhilaration and courage, which mingled with pride and concern as she surveyed my resolute expression. I watched longingly as Sara unfastened the Nalgene bottle from her side; one sip of water sloshed tantalizingly at the bottom of the bottle, heightening my senses into acute desire. Sweat poured down from my face, biting at my eyes, and after I dabbed at them with my shirt, I saw Sara was presenting the water bottle to me. Both anticipating and squelching my refusing, Sara said simply, "Drink, Stacy. You cannot help the group when there is nothing left of yourself to give." For a moment we grinned at each other, as gratitude and wonder for her selflessness coursed in my veins. The cool water instantly revived my strength and love for the trail. Then Sara removed the rustic compass from around her neck and slid it over my own. She swung her arm around my shoulder and raised an eyebrow, inviting me to lead.
Euphorically, I grasped the smooth plastic, flushed with pride that Sara believed I could lead the group to safety. Then ruthless doubt sliced through my...