Over the Edge
Rebecca L. Monroe
“You ready?” He looked up, tightening his harness, helmet in place. He was slim, tanned with blonde hair bleached by the summer sun. He was a poster picture for an outdoors man.
“Yes.” Alice replied, breath short as she finished adjusting her leg armor.
“Let’s go take a look.” Todd held out his hand.
Alice took it, walking to the edge of the cliff with him. Beside Todd, she felt tiny. Her head barely came to his shoulder. Brown hair cut short, she was a jogger and so kept herself slim, often being mistaken for a boy.
They always high jumped and so always used a rig instead of just throwing their chutes up behind them unpacked. They’d done it so many times before. It should seem normal. But it didn’t. Not to Alice. For her it was always the first time. The fear, worry, and excitement, never faded. Todd was the one who had taught her to BASE jump. She’d done it at first because it was something he loved and she wanted to share it. Now she did it because she was afraid not to. They’d always been successful together. If she didn’t go it would upset the balance. She had to go or Todd wouldn’t be safe.
They looked over the edge. Directly below them were jagged rocks trying to grow small pine trees. Further out was the ribbon of the river. Their destination. It was thrilling, the first feeling of letting go of earth, the sudden emptiness. Then the wind, whistling past, louder, faster as images flashed by on either side. Alice was too focused on Todd to look at those images. Todd would see. At the bottom, feet safely on the ground, she would look through his words, his exhilaration.
They walked back away from the cliff and Todd released her hand.
“I’ll see you back on earth.”
“Just don’t miss,” traditional words they always said to each other. She felt the pounding of her heart double.
Suddenly he was running, launching all she loved off the edge into nothing. Then she was behind him before she could think about it, before fear could freeze her.
The treading of her feet told her she was over, on the way down. Alice’s hand groped for the handle that would save her life, gaze glued to the form below.
It was this moment she hated most: waiting for his chute to open. If it didn’t, she would watch him die. She would have no choice. Would she pull her own cord? Or would she wait, join him before her grief really hit.
Alice began to pray as the ground rushed toward him, toward her. His chute should have opened by now. Was this it? Tears ran from her eyes, only partly wind whipped. “Open. Please, let it open…,” she whispered over and over.
Then it was there – his blue and white lifesaving cloud. Alice sobbed with relief, pulling her own cord. She would have time to regain control before she reached the ground. Be ready for Todd’s excitement, his plans for their next jump.
Her feet touched, the soft, sheet sound of her chute collapsing about her as Todd came to help her.
“That’s a hundred.”
The words hit her like an insult. “What?”
“That was our hundredth jump.”
She stared back up the rock face. A hundred times and she was still this scared? She looked at Todd. His deep blue eyes were clueless. What was she doing? This wasn’t love. “Let’s make it 101. Except this time I go first.”
Todd’s eyes widened “Why?”
“Because I want to.”
“I’ll let you go first the next time.”
“No. I want to go now and I want to go first.”
“By the time we get repacked and back up it will be nearly dark,” the waves of resistance were like gusts of wind.
She began repacking. “Then we’d better hurry.” Alice knew it was now or never. The anxiety, her one hundred times fear, was intolerable. Next time it would be a new place and he would insist on going first.
“Later, Alice.” Todd’s tone was tinged with warning. If she pushed him, he would get mad. It was how he won arguments. Not this time.
“Pitch a fit if you want. Come or don’t. I’m going again.”
Todd’s jaw tightened but he began packing.
Five hours later they were back on top. They’d already walked to the edge and Todd was seething so there was no point in repeating the ritual. Alice felt her mouth go dry, palms moist. Enough! If they died, so be it. She was sick of being afraid. She ran and leapt.
This time there was no Todd below her to worry about. She felt the wind rushing past her. She saw the beauty of the earth, the silver of the river dimming in the dusk. This time she felt the hugeness of what could be if she let go. There was nothing below her but beauty, nothing about her but freedom. A voice inside gently reminded her she might want to pull her cord before she became one with it all. She pulled, feeling the chute ripple loose behind her – the yank and she was floating, choosing where she would land rather than having to try to land close to where Todd was. Her landing was a little harder than normal because she’d waited so long. Turning, she watched Todd float down and land too. She checked inside. The fear was gone. It felt wonderful!
Silently Todd began releasing himself out of his chute. Dark was closing in and so he was in a hurry. “Next time I go first,” he finally said. “You release way too late.”
Alice began undoing her own chute. She knew what was bothering him and understood.
Next time they would go together.
Rebecca Monroe lives in Montana in a log cabin by a river and has been writing for most of her life. She has over 100 published stories and a book of short stories Reaching Beyond published by Bellowing Ark Press. Along with writing, she volunteers at the local animal shelter.
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Posted in Boudin, Boudin September '22 Edition, Fiction and tagged in #boudin, #RebeccaMonroe, #September'22Edition, Fiction