This story is by khloi sandidge and was part of our 10th Anniversary Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
I close the front door quietly. It’s raining, and the sky is only exemplifying my emotions. My headphones play vibrantly as I start my morning run. Running helps me mentally prepare for high school worries. Including problems, I will soon encounter as a senior. I finish running the neighborhood and head toward the bridge outside of town where I could finally take a deep breath. Feeling free of all the problems and worries I carry.
She stands there on the ledge. The rain droplets fall upon her face as tears. Her innocence is devoured by the complexity of life’s challenges in which she hides. Beautiful and young, yet worn from the pain she cannot express. I jump on the ledge startling her. “You first.” She stares into my eyes as if begging for the comfort she can’t find within. “You know the longer we’re out here the longer we give a cold to find us,” as I get down from the ledge. I reach out my hand waiting for her to grab it. She does stunned by the stranger saving her life. “I am Gus,” I helped her down. “Bridget,” she manages to reply.
I walk her home in silence. Both bewildered by the unexpected encounter that death made. But was it death or was it Cupid’s arrow that has created this emotion that I cannot yet express? We make it to her house. “One challenge with pain physical or psychic is that we only approach it through metaphor in some ways pain; is the opposite of language” the quote is by John Green, I tell her. Don’t express what is not to be put in words, the challenges life brings, or the pain. We can only solve and express them with the actions we take to solve them. I smile and turn to leave comforted because I know she’s not going through another of those moments.
Time passes slower than our time together. As we search through the history of those before us. We sit in silence studying the footprints they have left. Hoping that one day our lives would be looked upon by the generations after. Holding these pens and countless notes as if they were the solution to becoming the whole of our future. Bridget doesn’t enjoy history, but she fails to realize we are living within history. That’s why it is my mission to help her understand. Her eyes wander the pages of these textbooks in search of the answers she cannot find. While my eyes search hers for the answer to why someone so beautiful would be at the bridge. Her personality is more appealing than what she believes. We make learning through these books enjoyable the more we’re together. I’m thinking that maybe we were teenagers brought together by death and the struggles of studying these people’s lives in the school library.
I’m seeing the light in her eyes grow brighter. Each time I see her. Her smile grows bigger as I make her laugh. As if I’m the only person who makes her happy. But she has no idea how much she means to me. How her laugh that she thinks is ugly is the most wonderful sound I hear. Because she listens, and the little things I do are funny in my eyes are also in hers. Her smile brings me comfort, as if it carries all of life’s greatest burdens and greatest memories. Her eyes draw me in as if I was a pig for slaughter, although I’m being captured by her love. I buy her a necklace with a jewel that could never shine brighter than her. Only to exemplify how I feel about her. I ask if she would be with me. She kisses me with acceptance.
Followed by screams and tears from the strain of school. Is it because of school? Is it each other? Is it the lack of knowledge we know about ourselves? No answer is given, only silence the following days. I go to her house, and I watch her as her health deteriorates. She will not tell why; she only smiles as every day she gets weaker. She’s hiding something she shouldn’t, a burden unbearable. Is she afraid of losing me or of me losing her? Her distance is painful. As I try to understand the events unfolding in front of me.
Then she says. Sarcoma cancer. “Gus, this is the reason I was at the bridge on the ledge the day we met. I found out cancer grew throughout my body, it’s incurable. I was so afraid. I didn’t want it to win. It was going to take everything from me, my whole life. I didn’t want it to decide when my last day would be. If you didn’t save me, I would have done it.” She rips my heart apart. Broken because the love of my life is being determined by the thing killing her and not the love we could have in the future.
I run to nowhere in particular. Run from the problems as if I’m faster than they are. Run from the circumstances that have distanced us. Run from the pain that I can’t express. Run from the very thing I don’t know how to solve. I find myself at the bridge. I sit on the ledge where we met. I look down at the river below thinking that if I was to fall would it feel just as infinite as it looks. I ask myself are my problems as infinite as they seem, is there a solution? Such as not falling off this bridge at all.
Her parents are distraught from the pain of seeing their daughter in such misery. I’ve started taking care of her, to help with their burden. The light in her eyes is fading. Her personality is starting to be determined by the effect cancer has on her every day. My heart aches for the beautiful girl I once knew but no matter how hard she fights cancer shows through.
She lays in her bed. Helpless enveloped by the covers that wrap around her pale skin. She lies sleeping with dark circles under her eyes showing the torment of what she’s going through. She opens them slightly looking at me. Then smiles and lets out a big breath of air.
Every day she grows weaker. The person she used to be is slowly vanishing. Each day I’m faced with the thought of losing her. A thought I wish I’d never have to think about, but faced with it every time I wake up. It becomes harder to keep her hopes up. The helplessness she feels is being expressed by her words and actions. I’m broken and hurting but I won’t let cancer take what we have together. It is taking her from me. But it won’t take us.
The ring in my hand brightly shines as Bridget used to when she was well. Now the darkness within her is taking over her beauty. I walk by her bedside and place my hand on her arm. I kneel beside her bed. “Will you marry me?” I ask. “yes”
It is becoming harder for her to stay awake. And tomorrow is our one-year anniversary. Worry consumes me as I rush to prepare for her surprise. A surprise that will seal the future she had hoped she could have. An outcome of life that cancer couldn’t take. A result of love, not an emotion that cancer has created.
She sits in the wheelchair in front of me. On the bridge by the ledge, we met. Covered in a beautiful white dress that could never equal how she looks now. She smiles, and it makes me feel as if we were back when nothing happened. My hands envelop hers, there tender and warm young untouched by cancer. This moment left only for me to embrace. I look into her eyes. It rains, and I smile. “I do.”
The next day I wake to the sound of birds chirping out the window. The light shines upon her pale skin. I rollover. Her breaths are silent and short. I touch her face it’s cold on my fingers. Exemplifying the life, she lived well. I Sit up and look into her eyes. She looks at me under dark circles and smiles. Her eyes roll back and she exhales one last breath. A breath that carries all the memories we shared. Now she can walk among the stars. Where I will soon follow. Untouched by cancer that took her away, pure and innocent as the life she lived well.