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Present DayThe Night of Her Fortieth Birthday
She stumbled through the dark woods, the trees dripping raindrops onto her hair and her party dress. Her shoes were covered in mud, and she trembled from the cold.
“Hey,” she called out. “This is crazy. My shoes are soaked.”
“Just a little farther.”
She was out of breath, and her feet were killing her. It wouldn’t be good for the baby if she tripped and fell. Then they rounded a bend. She got an open view ahead, and knew finally where they were. When she saw the ghostly shape looming in the distance, she stopped dead.
“You know why.”
In a matter of minutes, they reached the foot of the bridge. A frigid wind blew in her face, carrying the scent of decaying leaves and ice-cold water. There were barriers across the bridge now, blocking access, and a profusion of warning signs. Danger. Private Property. No Trespassing. The signs were there for liability reasons, but from what she understood, the local kids still loved to make the breathless leap into the river. The more people who died here, the bigger the dare. Kids had no fear; they were young, and didn’t know better. She could have told them. Somebody dies, and it changes the lives of those left behind, forever.
“I don’t know what kind of point you’re trying to make, bringing me here,” she said, her voice shaking with tears. But she didn’t turn back.
They walked forward a few paces, stepped over an old, tumbled-down metal fence and kept walking until they got to where the center of the bridge used to be. There it was, the abyss that he’d fallen through, the night he disappeared forever. She looked down and saw the water roiling against the rocks. The town had done a crappy job of boarding it over. They’d “fixed” it many times in the intervening years, but they were too cheap for the one fix that would work, which would’ve been to tear the evil thing down once and for all. Below, the water swirled and foamed. She could hear the roar from up here, over the pounding of her heart.
“No,” she said, backing away from the edge.
“Go … ahead?”
“Go ahead and jump. You know you want to.”
Copyright © 2017 by Michele Rebecca Martinez Campbell