One Step Over

By Charlotte Parr

I looked through the window of my car at the edge of the cliff. I’m going to do it. This time I will. I was trying to think of reasons to stay in my car and drive back home. It was a useless task. There was no-one here to miss me. No-one who needed me. No-one to cry when I was gone.

I bravely opened the car door and stepped outside. I left my shoes behind. I wanted to feel the grass under my feet before I left this world. The strong sea breeze caught in my hair and tore at my clothes. I took a deep breath. I loved the sea. It was a huge part of me.

Memories of flying kites on the beach with my parents flooded into my head. Our cries of laughter. The smiles on our faces. We couldn’t have known what would follow. The pain and the tears and the heartache. I didn’t know what to do when he died. I was the one who found him. Blood pooling around him all over the kitchen floor. It was my fault; I know it was. I drove him to his death.

The wind continued its assault on me, tearing at my hair and clothes and pulling me closer and closer to the edge. The sky was impossibly blue; there wasn’t a cloud to be seen. This reminded me of the long endless blue-skied summers I had spent at home. Playing in the garden with my friends, our screams ringing out over the fields.

Lazing around with my books, my closest friends. Only they could tell you what I was really like. Just by lifting the covers and reading them you could see into my world. A world full of dashing heroes and beautiful heroines and happy endings. Endings I wish could be mine. Endings that could never be mine.

A tear trickled down my cheek. I reached up to brush it away. It was warm on my fingertips. Another tear fell. Why was I crying? It was for the best; I knew it. It was for the best. I thought of all those nights I had spent crying, as a child and an adult. Silly things like my mother shouting at me or because I’d lost a favourite toy.

There were serious reasons too. Like the night after my father died. I was there all night crying into my pillow. I had cried so much that the pillow was soaked through, and my mother had scolded me for being so weak. She didn’t cry. Not in public at least. She said it wasn’t right for people to show such violent emotions.

But she cried in secret, after I was in bed. She would go to her room and take out his picture. I saw her once. She didn’t see me. Tears were pouring down her face, so she couldn’t have been able to see anything properly. It was a week after the funeral.

Even though I was only ten, I knew from then on I had to be brave. I wish I could have helped her. I didn’t know what I could have done to help ease the aching pain that wouldn’t go away. She needed someone. But that someone wasn’t me.

The grass was refreshing against my feet. So cool and soothing. I thought of the picnics in the park I used to have with friends. There was nowhere else to go, so we would take some sandwiches and sit on the grass for hours watching the sun slowly drift across the sky. I remembered my first picnic with Robbie.

It was a beautiful afternoon; the sun was shining, and it was warm. I felt as if I didn’t have to care about anything anymore. Nothing else in the whole world existed—just him and me. We talked for hours about things that didn’t matter. I wish I could go back to those days, before we got in too deep. But you can’t go back; you must never look back. The only way to go is forward.

I could see the edge of the cliff now. I was so close I could feel the spray from the waves crashing on the rocks below. A small lonely cottage stood on the opposite cliff looking at me, its windows like eyes staring into my soul. A sad and lonely stare.

I’d stayed at a cottage like that once. Another summer long ago. It had been the holiday cottage of one of Robbie’s aunts. We had gone there for a weekend. It had rained solidly from the moment we arrived, but I didn’t care. We were together. Nothing else mattered. We read books by the fire and played cards and chess. His presence alone made me feel safe, like nothing would ever happen to me when he was there.

Standing at the top of the cliff I felt so alone. It was just me, the grass and miles and miles of open water and crashing waves. The constant pounding of water throwing itself at the base of the cliff was like a drum beat walking me towards peace. I closed my eyes and felt the spray of the sea on my face. I was going to do it.

My wedding day. I was dressed in white standing at the altar. The music started, and I turned to see his smiling face. But he wasn't there. He'd left me. I had been abandoned by the only man I had ever loved, and I felt empty. Now my dress billowed around me as I stepped towards the edge of the cliff. A car was coming up behind me. I stopped. It was him.

'I'm sorry!' he said, but I couldn't look at him. My face was streaming with tears, and at last I felt a stab of pain, of loss. How could he have done this to me? 'I love you.' I could have laughed. How can he say that when he left me there, humiliated and broken in front of all my friends?

'It's too late. There's nothing you can do.' The horror on his face almost melted my heart. Almost.

'I can explain. Just let me talk to you...'

'There is nothing you can possibly say that I would want to hear now!' My feeling of loss was replaced by hate and anger. 'You were all I have ever wanted, and you left me as if I meant nothing to you!'

'It wasn't—'

'Shut up! It's my turn. Today I have lost the most precious thing in the world to me. You. You treated me like a was nothing. And you know what's the funny bit ... I still love you, and this is the only way I can deal with the mess that my life is.' I turned towards the edge of the cliff.

'I love you.' I said it so quietly I don't think he heard me. I looked back. 'Goodbye Robbie.' Though my face was streaked with mascara stained tears, my heart broken and my life about to end, I smiled.

'Don't jump!' I walked to the very edge of the cliff. I could hear Robbie running towards me, but I knew he wouldn't make it. I closed my eyes and listened to the crashing of the sea and felt the wind in my hair, savouring my final memories. I whispered it one last time.

'Goodbye, Robbie. I love you.'

And I fell.