Saturday 31 August 2013

The Bridge.

By Hannah Begg.

A list of excuses flicked through her mind. 

An ill grandmother. An urgent report for work. A cousin’s engagement party.

“And you can’t make up an excuse,” Peter continued, as though reading her mind. “This is really important to me, so you have to be there.”

Dina laughed. “I’m not making up an excuse! I really might be busy that day. I’ll have to check my diary.”

“No, Dina,” Peter replied, sounding exasperated. “You’re coming. End of story.”

Dina opened her mouth to respond, then turned away and stared moodily out of the window. They continued driving along the dusty road, passing towering oak trees and old ramshackle houses.

An unexpected overseas guest. An unforeseen dash to the emergency room...

Dina suddenly became aware that the car was slowing down. It rolled to a stop by the side of the road and Peter switched off the engine; they sat in silence for several moments. Dina looked over at him expectantly, waiting for him to speak. When he didn’t, she sighed loudly, and said, sarcastically, “Wow. Quick trip.”

Peter looked over at her, and she was surprised to see worry creasing his brow.

“Dina, I’m concerned.” His voice sounded hollow in the silence, broken only by the whistling of the wind outside the car. 

She turned away from him, her heart starting to race as he spoke.

“Actually, we’re all a bit concerned. You make excuses for everything these days, we barely see you anymore.”

She looked back at him and angrily responded, “What do you mean, ‘we’re all concerned’? You’ve been talking about me behind my back?”

“We’d happily say it to your face, except you’re never around,” Peter replied.

Dina scoffed. “Oh, don’t exaggerate!” she laughed. “I come out plenty of times!”

Peter traced the steering wheel with his fingers. “Monica’s house warming.”

“I had to take my mother to the dentist!” Dina exclaimed indignantly.

Peter looked across at her, skeptical. “Michael’s birthday gathering.”

Dina huffed impatiently. “What is this, a witch hunt?” Her cheeks were starting to flame. “I”m a busy person, things pop up. I do what needs to be done!”

They sat in silence for a moment. Peter said, “Are you sure that’s it?”

Dina glared at him. “What are you implying?”

Peter looked across at her and said, softly, “I think you’re afraid.”

Dina opened her mouth to respond, then turned and wrenched the car door open.

“Stop,” Peter called as Dina leapt from the car. He clambered out of the driver’s side as Dina marched away, kicking up a trail of dust as she went.

“Dina, stop!” He jogged to catch up with her. “Please, listen to me!”

She spun round to face him and he was surprised to see the sharp anger in her eyes. “How could you!” she cried. “You’re one of my closest friends! You’re one of the few people in the world who knows exactly what happened. How could you say something like that?”
She turned and continued marching down the road.

“We just want you to be happy,” he called, striding a few paces behind her. “It’s been nearly two years since the attack, and -”

“Stop, Peter!” Dina cried over her shoulder. “Just stop!” She began to run, and Peter jogged to keep up. The wind was whipping across his face, and he was squinting against the cloud of dust.

She veered off the road and, pushing through a cluster of tangled bushes, ran towards the tall iron bridge. Her feet clattered across the dry surface, sending dust and dirt tumbling through the wooden planks, cascading silently through the air before being swallowed by the river below. Breathing heavily, she leaned against the rusted barrier. Once a work of art, the bridge now stood encrusted with grime; its railings, steadily fading under the merciless sun, were a ghost of beautiful, intricately-curved iron.

Peter slowed down; the wooden planks creaked under his feet as he walked across the bridge, stopping beside Dina. They stood quietly, looking down at the river as it raced along far beneath them.

“I’m sorry,” he said softly. 

Dina didn’t reply. She was looking away from him, staring down at the river, her hair being whipped across her face by the breeze.

“They’re locked away,” he said quietly, looking down at the rushing water as it bubbled and sloshed over hidden rocks and branches. “They can’t hurt you. You’re free to continue living your life.” He paused before speaking again. “Sometimes, it seems like you’re still trapped... I don’t think you’re moving forward.” He waited for her to speak, but she continued looking away from him. The sound of the churning river echoed throughout the deep valley; high above, birds screeched as they swooped from tree to tree, chasing one another. In the distance, a truck rumbled along the dirt road, a cloud of dust billowing out behind it. Peter took a breath, and murmured, “I just think -”

“Peter,” Dina suddenly cried, spinning round to face him. He looked and saw tears pricking her eyes. “You have no idea what it’s like!” Her voice shook with emotion. “I had my freedom ripped from my fingers! I had to struggle for every breath!” She began to sob. “Do you know what it’s like to wonder if you’ll ever see the light of day again? Do you have any idea what it’s like to be completely helpless?” Her hands were trembling as she wiped the tears from her face. “I can’t just - just pretend everything is normal again! Things will never be normal.” She buried her face in her hands; Peter stepped forward and gathered her in his arms, hugging her tightly as she sobbed.

“I don’t...” she tried to speak, hiccuping and wiping her eyes against his shirt. “I don’t want...”

“It’s okay,” he murmured against the top of her head, holding her close. “You went through hell. But you escaped. You don’t have to be scared anymore.”

Pushing away from him, she looked up into his face; he saw anger flash across her eyes.

“Don’t tell me how to feel!” she cried.

She turned away, leaning against the iron barrier again, looking out towards the river. 

Taking a slow breath, she said quietly, “Sometimes, it feels like I didn’t really escape.”

Peter stood beside her, his hands resting on the barrier. “Just give it time,” he said. 

Dina let out a heavy sigh. The iron railing felt cold and solid beneath her skin. Taking a sudden breath, she hoisted herself up so she was sitting on the railing. Carefully positioning her hands, she spun her legs around, so they were dangling over the edge; she felt a wave of panic swoop through her stomach as the empty air dropped away beneath her feet, the water rumbling along far below.

“Dina,” Peter cried. “What are you -”

With a sudden movement, she pushed forwards. 

Lunging towards her, Peter’s scream echoed throughout the valley as Dina fell into the air. 

Eyes closed, the wind was roaring in her ears; her arms were outstretched, her dress billowing out behind her.

Peter watched in horror as Dina disappeared beneath the surface of the rushing river. Turning, he ran from the bridge, racing towards the edge of the river, tripping as he fought his way through thick vines and hidden roots. Yelling out Dina’s name, he desperately scanned the river’s bubbling surface until he spotted her, struggling for breath as the water sloshed around her face. Throwing himself into the water, he fought against the icy current, gasping for breath, wrenching vines and branches out of his way as he swam closer. His hand closed around her arm, and he dragged her from the clutches of a twisted tree branch, pulling her towards the riverbank. 

Spluttering for breath, they both collapsed on the ground, breathing hard. Dina began coughing, her body shaking under her wet clothes. 

Pressing his face against the cold ground, his chest heaving with exhaustion, Peter suddenly heard Dina laughing.

Pushing away from the ground, he sat up, struggling for breath. Dina was hunched over, her matted hair covering her face; her eyes met his and she smiled broadly.

“Why - why are you laughing?” Peter choked.

She pushed her hair from her face. “I did it,” she cried, reaching out for Peter’s hand and squeezing it. “I’m free.” 

Sighing heavily, he pulled her close and hugged her. They sat shivering by the water’s edge; Dina’s laughter, broken by sobs of exhaustion, echoed throughout the valley as the river hurtled past behind them.

He kissed the top of her head. Smiling, he whispered, “You did it."

1 comment:

  1. Great story! Very catchy and beautifully written! Thank you for sharing
    Also I really liked this blog. I plan to visit it more often :)



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