Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Bridge (07/31/08)
TITLE: Betty Lynn's Solution
By Marita Vandertogt
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So she sat on the edge of the bridge and watched the water move below. It was black, deep black, bottomless black. And it made a noise. A noise she used to love, the sound full and rich to her ears, loud gurgling and soft thundering, together, separate, blending.
The river gave her hope in a dark sort of way. It was connected to something she couldn’t see. Something so much bigger than itself. Something that ultimately held its power, harnassed its power, brought it peace. She needed that peace. Ached for that peace.
She had it once. But the house was empty now. The bedrooms were empty. The dinner table too. And she couldn’t take it anymore. Or rather, didn’t want to. Every day the same. The same emptiness flowing through her thoughts. The same trips to the mall to fill in the hours.
Betty Lynn’s legs dangled over the side of the bridge, her sandals hanging precariously from the tips of perfectly painted toenails. She watched them dangling on the end of her feet, and listened to the thick movement of water below. She could join that flow, move with it, be carried along with it, to the place of peace it emptied into. She let one sandal go and watched it disappear from sight without a sound. Just like she would do if she let go of the edge. Her fingers were cold, the circulation slowing down by the tight clamp she had on the railing. The breeze was soft around her skin, the night air cool against her forehead. And for one small moment she felt a tiny surge of hope in the pit of her stomach. Maybe, just maybe, there was a reason to get up and go home. But the black came around her again just as quickly, like a vigilant jailor.
She turned her head toward the sky, and whispered a prayer, simple words that she’d found herself saying over and over again. “Jesus, forgive me. I’m sorry. Really I am. But I can’t do this anymore.” With that, she pushed herself closer to the side of the bridge, feeling the roadway part cutting into the back of her legs, scraping against them as she moved. The pain pulled her back for just one moment. One moment, where she let herself think what they would do. Nothing different. John would marry again, and the kids, well, they were busy with their careers now, on the other side of the country.
She dragged herself closer, until she could see the water, looking directly down on it between her parted knees. One more good push, and she would be gone, swept away into the black that was her constant companion now anyway.
Back home that morning, John pushed the alarm button until it snapped off and turned over for a few more minutes of sleep. He stretched his arm out to her side of the bed, like he did every morning. This time all he felt was the mattress. His eyes opened to see the place beside him empty, not a dent in the pillow, the sheet still shiny and smooth. He got up and made his way to the living room, ignoring the feeling of panic that started to churn at his heart. Maybe she’d slept on the couch. No sign of her there either. Try as he might, he couldn’t remember when he saw her last, what they said, what she might have said about where she was now.
He walked into the kitchen and saw the piece of rose coloured paper on the table at the same time he heard the phone ring.
“John” she said, breathless into the phone. “Did you open the note. Did you read it yet? It’s okay, I’m okay.”
“Where are you?” his voice was sharp, cold from worry. But she didn’t hear it that way.
“It doesn’t matter I guess,” was all she said, her voice monotone now, reacting to his anger.
Police cars stood out front of their home, red lights flashing.
“Why?” was all he could think to say.
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