Before I can overthink what I'm about to do, I step onto the ledge, feeling the wind around me, its long fingers caressing my face and arms, pulling me towards the water below. Don't back down. This is what you want. It is what is best. In the background I can hear sirens. That means I haven't much time. The moment they arrive, they will try to talk me down, but it is a useless attempt. This is what I want, and for once in my life I'm going to get it.
An uneasy feeling erupts in my stomach and I try to shake it off, with no success. I look down at the water far below and can't help but wonder what the fall feels like. The sirens are closer. It won't be long.
Memories surge forth and embrace me. I fight to push them back, to no avail. My eyes close as I remember my seventh birthday. I remember sticking my hand in the cake and bringing it back out, wiping icing and cake all over my mother's face. She was so beautiful. Her skin like ivory and her eyes like emeralds. She had long curly brown hair so dark it was only a few shades lighter than black. She held herself high even when she had tears falling down her face and was always the strongest person I knew.
This last year has been a nightmare. Images flood in and out of my mind until I settle on a more recent one. It is of her when she was in the hospital. She got sick shortly after my parents' twentieth anniversary and the doctors knew that there was no stopping it. She had brain cancer. And the worst part was that I had to slowly watch her lose herself and everything that made her who she was.
Now, standing here, its almost as if I can feel her in the wind, sweeping my hair off of my shoulders and whispering into my ears. I throw my head back and listen to the whispering of the wind and the sound of the waves as they rock back and forth, colliding with the columns below. I breath in the salty breeze and concentrate on the image of her. She fought so hard. Even after she had accepted that she would die, she tried her best to still be her when she did. She didn't want to be a different person.
I know exactly where she was coming from. In fact, I'm facing that right now. For the past year, it has been hell trying to keep my head and not go insane.
"Hey, my name is Jessi." A velvety voice says behind me. At first I ignore him, but eventually give in and turn around.
"And I should care why?" I try to put on my mask as best as I can, but by the look in his eyes, he doesn't buy it.
"You should care because you'll need to know it when you thank me." I raise an eyebrow and cock my head to the left, assessing him.
"What could possibly make you think that I would be thanking you?" I ask, starting to get annoyed by his cockiness.
"For saving your life, silly." I turn my back on him at those words and once again let myself be hypnotized by the waves below.
"There isn't anything left to save." I whisper, so low that I doubt he heard me. A hand slides around mine and holds it, squeezing reassuringly. But I don't want his reassurance. I want him to leave me be and let me do what I came here to do.
"There is always something to save." I turn my head, shocked at the softness of his voice. It has lost all of its cockiness and on his face is a sad smile instead of a smirk. I look down at our hands, still intertwined, and back up at him with my eyes narrowed.
"You don't know me. You can't make that observation." He chuckles and my eyebrows furrow. He confuses me. One moment he is cocky, and the next he is holding my hand, smiling up at me reassuringly, and then he laughs. I don't think he understands the gravity of this situation. I am going to jump and the fact that he finds something about this amusing bothers me.
"You aren't going to jump. I know that much."
"Oh really?" I turn my attention back to him and roll my eyes. "And how could you possibly know that? I mean it isn't like I'm not standing on the ledge of a bridge or anything."
"I know you won't jump because I won't let you." Before I can register what he is doing, he stands up on the ledge with me. My eyes widen and immediately, my carefully put together mask falls to the ground, shattering.
"Get down! You are a whole new kind of moron! Did you know that?"
"If you jump, I jump. Its as simple as that." he says, ignoring my comment completely. My vision becomes blurry as tear make their way into my eyes.
"You aren't going to let me jump are you?" I say as the first tear falls. I look into his eyes as he reaches up and wipes away the tear with his free hand.
"Never." Is all he says before he gently pulls me into him. He steps carefully off the ledge and pulls me down with him as I bury my face into him, letting myself go. This is the first time I have cried since my mom died. I cried so much while she was sick that I just didn't have it in me to cry the day she died.
After that day, everything changed. Dad would come home wasted and beat the living daylights out of me. Sometimes even after I was unconscious. He's even raped me a couple times. I let myself go completely as I cry into his shoulder. He holds me tightly and shows no sign of letting go anytime soon.
Eventually, when I have no more tears to cry, I wipe my face clean of anything left and pull back. I turn back to the ledge and think about pulling myself up and throwing myself over before he has a chance to react. "Don't even think about it." He says and I lower my head, giving up completely.
I look at him, raising my hands in surrender. He smiles half heartedly and I do my best to smile back. To be honest, I feel like the hole in my chest that she left just got a whole lot bigger. I look back at him and look him over once, actually paying attention to him now rather than looking at him like another cocky guy.
"I'm Kass, by the way. Thanks Jessi for saving my life." I say his name, lacing it with my best attempt of humor. I wish I could say that I meant the second part, but to be completely honest, I didn't. I was hurt more than before.
"We're sure to be all over the news, so don't freak out when my face starts showing up on billboards." He says cockily with a bright smile on his face, even though it doesn't reach his eyes. I commend his effort to make me feel better, but a thought suddenly sends my stomach churning as realization hits me.
We're sure to be on the news. Fuck. I'm so dead. My dad is going to kill me. I try to control my breathing as I curl into a ball and go to my happy place, trying to block out everything else. I am not ready to face him. I can't face him. I can't.
I'm not sure exactly how it happened, but eventually, Jessi calmed me down enough to get me up and off the ground. As of right now, he's walking me home. I don't want to go home. I don't want to see him and odds are, he's drunk, meaning it'll get worse for me.
"You live over here?" he asks quietly.
"No.." He looks over at me and gives me a quizzical look. It reminds me of a few days before my mom died. She couldn't remember who I was, and when I walked into her hospital room, I could feel that something was off. I didn't realize what it was until she asked me who I was. When I told her that I was her daughter, her eyebrows shot together and she pulled her bottom lip between her teeth, trying to remember me.
I shake my head in an attempt to block everything out. I look away from him, not able to meet his eyes.
I look around at my surroundings and stumble back when I see where we are. My mom's favorite place. Tears blur my eyesight and I let out a choked sob. Once again, he pulls me into his arms and I give in.
When I regain my composure, I carefully pull away. Jessi takes my hand and a small smile makes its way to my lips. "What is this place?" he asks. "It is absolutely beautiful."
"It was my mom's sanctuary. This was where she would come to think and get away from everything. She showed me this place after she was first diagnosed. She said that one day, she wanted it to be my sanctuary. When she died, that's exactly what it became. My dad destroyed or sold everything that held even the smallest connection to her. This was the only thing I had left of her. And somehow, I feel closer to her here than I think I would've anywhere else."
When I make eye contact with him, there are tears in his eyes, threatening to fall. I expect him to wipe them away, and make some casual excuse about their being something in his eye, but he doesn't. Instead, he lets them fall. He pulls me into his arms and holds onto me so tightly, that part of me fears that my blood flow is being cut off.
We break apart and I walk over to my favorite tree. Instead of scaling it and sitting in my favorite spot, I sit against the base, closing my eyes. I feel the air shift beside me and know that he is sitting next to me.
"You know, sometimes it feels like I can feel her here, in the wind, in the leaves rustling, in the sunset and sunrise, just everywhere. Sometimes it feels like she never left. That it was just a dream. Then I go home and-" I cut myself off, not knowing how to continue.
"And what Kass?" I look at him as he reaches for my hand. Jessi takes my hand and places it in his lap, caressing it and tracing designs into it.
"My dad hasn't been the same since she died. I mean, we were never that close to begin with, but after she died, everything changed. He would come home almost every night drunk and beat me until I was unconscious. If he was wasted enough, he would tie my wrists to the headboard and rape me. Over and over." I stop, feeling my emotions disappear. This is what usually happens. My emotions will drain, and I will be left as a hollow shell, numb to everything.
Jessi sucks in a breath and I can't meet his eyes, even though I can feel his gaze burning into me.
"That's why you were on the bridge isn't it?" He says more as a statement than a question. I nod. He squeezes my hand and keeps rubbing circles into my hand. "Please continue. I want to hear more."
"He does this almost every night and it is getting more and more difficult to hide the bruises and burn marks-" I stop as soon as the words come out of my mouth. He tugs at my jacket sleeve in an attempt to push it up.
Before the gasp falls from his mouth, I close my eyes, knowing what he will find there. My breath hitches as I feel his lips touch each scar. A tingling sensation spreads from my arm to the rest of my body. I look at him and he meets my eyes as he continues to kiss them.
Surprisingly, I'm not blushing. But more than that, I'm surprised that I haven't scared him off yet. When he finishes, he shows me the underside of his arm, which is covered in white lines. I close my eyes and breathe in. Trying to regain oxygen from my lack thereof.
"You aren't alone in this." His voice says roughly in my ear. I can tell that this is hard for him. He isn't used to letting his walls down, but neither am I. I guess that is another thing we have in common.
I notice there is a scar that is going vertically rather than horizontally and instantly find myself tracing it.
"I tried to cut the vein so that I would bleed out. I did it to the other wrist too. It wouldn't have taken much longer if my little sister hadn't found me on the floor already unconscious." I close my eyes as I can't help imagining him lying on the floor in a pool of his own blood. I can't imagine how scared I would be if I had found someone I cared about like that.
"She had nightmares about it for months. They stopped after she finally realized that I wasn't going anywhere. I've been clean ever since." I nod to let him know that I'm listening. I am completely and utterly speechless. "That is why I couldn't let you jump. I was driving by and I couldn't help myself. Which is a good thing I suppose." I do my best to attempt a smile, but it fails miserably.
"So what happens now?" I ask shakily, not ready to know the truth. "When we go our separate ways, will we remember each other as this and get on with our lives? Will we become friends or ignore each other?" He looks at me with a shocked expression.
"I may act cocky on the outside, but I would never ignore you. Especially not now. I couldn't have ignored you on that bridge and I can't ignore you now." I look away from his heavy gaze.
"So what? We become friends?" I ask warily. I've never been good at making friends.
He laughs which catches me off guard completely. "What?" I ask him.
"I think we're already friends, Kass." I laugh at the thought as I realize he is right. He gets up quickly and pulls me up with my hand that he seems to have claimed. Without giving me time to react, he drags me back the way we came.
"Where are you taking me?"
"Home. I think it's about time that I meet that son of a bitch father of yours."
I groan. This cannot turn out well.