I rubbed the scratchy stubble on my chin as I leaned my elbows on the wooden railing of the old bridge. I couldn’t remember what prompted me to stop here. I vaguely remembered playing in these woods as a child but that felt like a lifetime ago. Below me the expanse of river reflected the engorged moon as the water moved almost soundlessly over the rocks. It wasn’t the first time I contemplated jumping.
Exhausted, I bent my head and massaged my aching temple. I tried to think about all the clues that might have added up to this night, all the ways I’d gone wrong that had led to my broken heart. In my pocket still rested the ring box. I’d been planning to propose to Amber but I didn’t get up the nerve and then before I had the chance, it was all over.
On the soft breeze, I heard a whisper that sounded like my name. I looked up but of course, I was alone. After two in the morning in a rural town like mine, I’d be lucky to see a car pass even if I spent the next several hours standing on the bridge.
Maybe it was the fact that she’d never liked my job. I wasn’t ambitious enough, she’d told me once. I liked my job though. It didn’t make me rich. What I could afford was humble in contrast to what she was accustomed to receiving but I thought we could find a way to make it work. I thought she loved me for the person I was on the inside. Isn’t that the way that love is supposed to work?
Amber had accused me of messing around with some girl I didn’t even know. She told me she had proof of it, that others had admitted to seeing us together but I shook my head sadly to the night, acknowledging the conspiracy that had been set up against me. None of her friends had ever liked me. Was I destined to be alone forever, I wondered?
The breeze wrapped around me and I shivered. The seasons were changing so quickly now. At this rate, winter would settle over us before we knew it. I pulled my leather jacket tighter around me to try to keep the chill from settling into my bones but it was no use.
A scratching sound distracted my ruminations and I quickly looked behind me, not sure what I was expecting to find, but the bridge was still void of any sign of life, except for my own. My heart sank and I looked down at my cell phone at the last text message I’d received from Amber asking me to never contact her again. I contemplated responding, asking her what happened, asking for some sense of closure. She owed me that much at least, didn’t she? It wasn’t fair to leave me like this. No matter how many times I went over the past six months in my memory, I couldn’t put the pieces together to come to a conclusion for why she might have turned so cold. I deserved to know the truth.
My fingers hesitated over the keys as I remembered the look in her eyes. Ordinarily her eyes were a bright blue but the sadness had dimmed them to a murky gray as the tears threatened to spill. She hadn’t wanted to say goodbye. I was convinced of it, but yet she had insisted, and after all the arguments, there was nothing left to say to try to change her mind.
For better or for worse, my relationship with Amber was over.
I reached into my pocket and fished out the ring. It wasn’t anything special but it had taken me several paychecks to finally be able to afford it. I’d picked the beautiful blue Sapphire to match her eyes. I couldn’t imagine anyone else wearing the ring other than Amber so although it may have seemed crazy, I pulled back my arm and pitched the ring as far down the river as I could manage. It fell with a plop that almost seemed to echo through the quiet night.
I dug my hands into my pockets and stepped back from the edge, giving one last look over the river before turning my back and moving toward my beat up old car waiting for me at the side of the road. As I shuffled along, I could have sworn I heard the sound of a woman crying in the distance. I stopped and double backed, listening intently for the sound again. At first it didn’t come. Even the lonely crickets had given up and returned to wherever it is that crickets go when summer has ended and fall begins. Around me was only silence.
That’s it, I told myself, turning back toward the car. But something didn’t want to let me go, some strange nagging tugged at me, urging me to look closer.
Under the bridge, the wind whispered in my ear. I shuddered involuntarily. It would be a dangerous climb down the steep hillside in thick underbrush to reach the overgrown woods under the bridge. It was unlikely I would find anyone there. But then I heard it again, this time more distinct and without reservation I knew, it was the sound of a woman crying.
…. to be continued