I have some trouble coming up with a suitable teaser for this one that doesn’t give anything away, so just read it without one, please... Enjoy!
I’m standing on the ledge. Wind shakes up my hair and puts tears in my eyes. The world below is quaking. Or maybe it’s just me shaking.
A few people are out for a walk. One of them stops and watches me. Now his friends have stopped too. Must be a sight, some girl up on a bridge above the water, preparing to jump. They point. One even gets out his phone. It’s kind of funny though, despite the situation.
John steps in and clasps his hand around my waist, pointing down and giving me advice. Jump so and so and the sorts. It doesn’t really make me more at ease with the whole thing. Reassuring enough for the people below, however, to see that I’m not alone. Now I’m no longer their problem and they continue their little stroll as if everything’s fine. For them at least. Bye, bye, audience.
John scans the way for obstacles and checks the ropes and straps yet again.
“All clear.” He concludes.
I gasp. Hope I won’t be hearing that later today. I tense up even more. Maybe, if I just stand here long enough, mankind will develop wings. Ten thousand years or so should do. It’s just like waiting for the bus.
“Why don’t you try to relax, Ellen?”
“Relax?! I’m about to fall thirty feet, for crying out loud!”
“Oh, doesn’t that make a difference.”
I wonder if the thing that hits the ground if this goes wrong would still look like me at all. I wonder, but I’m not very keen on finding out. As of today, I’m going to be ‘that girl who crashed’.
“Tragic accident”, they’ll say, shaking their heads. And of course they’ll stop going bungee jumping as a teambuilding activity, then they’ll stop and go to a movie or something instead, like every other manager with half a brain would.
“New members go first!” I mutter through clenched teeth. “Well, thanks a lot!”
Oh, but I’ll get back at him, no doubt! As of tomorrow, I’ll use twice the toilet paper each time! There! That’ll show ‘em!
John’s hand on my shoulder. I look into his autumn brown eyes, with the warm melted-honey shade. I almost forget what I’m about to do. Almost.
“You can do this.”
“Oh, I have every faith in the force of gravity, that’s just the point.”
He laughs. It’s a cute laugh. The kind of laugh I’d totally go for in any other circumstances. I did try to hit on him, but that was before I knew what he was here to have us do. I have my limits.
“Go ahead, you don’t know what you’re missing.” He says in a meaningful tone.
“Maybe, but I’m not willing to give my life for the experience.”
“Don’t worry, the ropes will hold.”
“How would you know that before I actually try?”
With a playful grin he whispers in my ear:
“Plain old guessing.”
“Now that’s comforting! I’ll be sure to keep that in mind when I crash to my death.”
“Such faith in me.” He clicks his tongue in disapproval. “You know it’s a dangerous business insulting a bungee-instructor when you’re about to jump.”
“Who says I’m about to?”
“Because if you’re not soon, I’m just going to push you!”
“Murder!” I shout in mockery.
“Sure, because it’s just bound to go bad. After all, I’ve only done this like a few hundred times.”
“How many times did it go wrong?”
His smile calms me, but his avoiding to answer the question is unsettling.
“Just remember to...” He holds me close, together on the narrow ridge and whispers some pointers for “the perfect jump”, which for me would be any I survive. I’m not picky on this.
My female colleagues are starting to notice and protest his special attention to me – I can tell by the rising tone of their conversation – as befits a roaring pack of cougars.
“Come on, Ellen!” They really just want to get it over with, don’t they? Impatient little... Great way to deal with competition though.
I move as far on the edge as I can go to have one final glimpse of the abyss before I plunge into it. My stomach turns at the sight. I’m dizzy. I’m either going to be the girl who crashed or that girl who threw up. Wonder what’s worse. The latter would haunt me forever, with the former I’d haunt them forever. Above all that presumptuous little manager. Jackass.
Memo to self: never go on ‘surprise trips’ with adventurous bosses. Especially when you’re afraid of heights.
Okay, here goes, to crash or not to crash, no telling beforehand; the moment of truth will be when the ropes straighten.
One wide leap and I’m flung through the air. As I go down – it feels like flying and being in a merry-go-round all at the same time – I make a bargain with myself: if I live, I’ll ask John out for a drink, once my organs are back in place. If not, well... Anyway.
There I am, thrown and falling like a rock, waiting for the ropes.
* ksssss *
The stories I’ve posted so far were written in a short span of time and were therefore more or less similar in tone and rather dark (but that was to be expected, I really hate winter). I made this story with the intention of having something less dark and more amusing. Especially since my prime reader, who proofreads some of what I post and gives feedback, doesn’t like dark so much, so I tried to make it more to her liking. And failed. According to her, the other stories were a lot funnier, which really creeps me out, by the way. I’m interested in finding out what you guys think.
Because she hates bad/open ending, I wrote an alternate ending. You can read it below, but do bear in mind that I just went from one possible interpretation. If you have a different idea of how the story ends/should end, that’s just fine. So do I. Happy readings!
I put the picture frame back on the table. Some memory. My first bungee jump. First of many too.
The door falls shut and a deep, melodic voice goes: “Honey, I’m home.” He’s humming.
“Hey, babe. How did it go?”
“Fine, like always. A few screamers. And one chicken. Almost as bad as you, when we first met.” He pulls me close and kisses my neck.
“Do you remember?” He says in a raspy tone.
“How could I forget?” I clasp my arms around him.
“I was the laughing stock of the office for months!” I even asked my pushy little boss to be my best man at the wedding, so he’d feel too guilty to pick on me in the future. And it worked! “And, of course, it’s how I got you.”
“Yeah, I guess I always had a thing for scaredy-cats.”
“Shut up!” I playfully slam my fist against his shoulder. “This is no time to be mocking me, mister!”
My jumping days are over. At least for now, with the baby on the way and all.
“Might be a good idea to try jumping again and bungee the baby right out if it doesn’t come soon.”
I’m a week late already. Makes me feel so fat. I’m not at ease anywhere any more, even sitting down is burdensome. Guess the child was not a jumper... Yet. Must have gotten that from me.
So here we are, holding each other in front of the mirror. Just the perfect little bungee-jumping family.