It was hard for her to believe.
To Bella, it seemed like it might turn out to be just another autumn evening a lot like the rest before it, yet not. She only knew at that moment she couldn't bear any more boredom.
The slender brunette wore a red, strapless dress, a modern ‘Jennifer Aniston’ haircut, and an enigmatic expression.
If I'm gonna go out, it will be in style,
she thought to herself.
So, sticking her foot off the edge of the flat roof, she tested the air...but just as quickly pulled her lifeline back in.
The next time the bottom of her black stiletto pushed out, it went a little further over the ledge than she'd planned, as if it had a mind of its own. Her heart, as if on cue, began to gallop.
The idea of instant death thrummed like a soothing binaural beat in her head, but her pulse, by then, was pounding in her ears, sounding a little like the snare drum Billy Bassett had played for the high school band a decade earlier.
Taking risks had always made her feel more alive when her emotions were dull. During those moments, she could breathe in life and death, and more importantly, the in-between, but this time, her collapsing foothold on life became too terrifying. She teetered, pulling back just in time. Instead of the expected rush, there was dizziness, nausea, and panic.
So, it occurred to Bella then that she maybe she wasn’t out on the roof to end it, but to feel something…
Imagining how she must look out on the roof's edge in a red dress and high heels sent a fit of laughter to her thin, red lips, which she’d just painted only an hour before.
But when the laughter faded, her thoughts shifted...
Maybe a little vodka and juice could give her a little more nerve? But courage for which one? Death, Life, or that strange "in-between" she now felt in her soul?
She thought on how she used to have a life. One that was worth something. She used to be busy, even popular in high school.
Now, she just had an office on the third floor and an empty apartment. So much had changed since she graduated.
She’d considered a fancier roof for this overly dramatic event, but her dullness had caused her to end up there instead.
Perched high above everything and with such a nice view in front of her, she could now clearly see it,
The place where it all went wrong.
It was not even that far at all, just a few blocks away...where Brian had proposed to her on the day of their graduation. He’d bought her a ring and presented it to her on bended knee on the football field after the commencement, the same field where he used to play each time they had a home game.
She hadn’t married him though.
She'd wanted her freedom.
Now, there were times she regretted it.
All she had now was herself and her cat.
Two divorces and a place to work.
Their daughter would be 9 now.
Bella went back to breathing the memories in and out. Keeping them at arms length for the moment, afterward deciding to go home so she could drink the remaining ones down like watered-down whiskey.
Fifteen minutes later she was slipping the key into the door to her apartment, finally home at last, realizing she must have been crazy to even think of doing such a thing. To forget her foolishness, she poured herself a large glass of Chardonnay.
Of all people, she should always know life was precious.
But thinking of precious, fragile life made her wonder
Just what name had the agency given their baby girl all those years ago?
What would she look like now?
She knew she would have been a terrible mother, anyway, just like her mom was.
She reminded herself for the hundredth time it had all been for the best.
Yes, it was futile to even ask questions about the child she would never know.
On her dresser, the invitation still sat...
She picked it up and read it aloud,
Mocking its formality.
“Bella Franklin, you are cordially invited” it said.
“Cordova High School Reunion, September 17th, 2020.’
“Be There or Be Square.”
Couldn’t they think of something more trendy?
Tonight, she sure wasn’t up for any small talk, bullshit, or competition.
And what if people started asking her questions she really didn't want to answer?
Just then, the phone rang.
It was “the” Taylor Flynn, class president.
Sweet, perky voice, the proverbial sugar, spice, and everything nice.
“Are you coming to the reunion tonight? You have to!! You and Brian will the main attraction, Miss Prom Queen 2010 .”
“Nah, I think I’m feeling a little off tonight.”
“Girl, you just gotta come! All the gang will be there. Good times!”
Hanging up the phone, Bella couldn't decide.
Should she go to the reunion or just go to bed?
But then she thought,
“What’s a few hours gonna hurt? I’m already dressed.”
She walked in the door to the high school gymnasium where everyone was exchanging pleasantries and recreating memories of old times. A cozy atmosphere seemed to pull her around from person to person.
Belle was the delicious tray of hors d'oeuvres that everyone wanted to taste. Basking in her former prom queen glory, she became the person she was before everything had gone horribly wrong.
Old memories came flooding back, mostly good ones and even a few of the naughty. Like the time she and Ron Pickett had went under the bleachers to make out and it went a little too far, and the time she cut Mr. Gardner's class to spend the day with Brian doing something else besides learning.
“It’s your birthday today, isn’t it, Bella?” her high school bestie, Ashley Green, interrupted her thoughts, speaking in her perpetual cheerleader voice. “Girl, we’re having cake and ice cream in the back in honor of your 27th, and we all chipped in for a pretty nice gift.”
Bella’s cheeks turned light pink, then she smiled meekly,
‘Oh, Thank you. You didn’t have to do that.” Secretly, though, she was delighted.
Later, standing with her friends on the sideline, Bella hadn’t planned to dance until Brian, in a surprisingly shy way, asked,
“May I have this dance?”
Though the same age as her, time hadn’t been so kind to him. He walked with a bit of a limp from an old football injury, but it didn’t make him any less handsome.
Across the room, she noted a couple of her old girlfriends had gained several pounds and some of the guys had lost some their previous hunkiness. Time is cruel, Bella thought to herself. It could only get worse from there once everyone passed their prime.
As for Bella, she’d always thought she'd rather die young than lose her wits or her looks. She realized that was another part of what put her out on the ledge. Knowing that each day would rob her of her beauty, steal away her previous opportunities, bring her a step closer to the end.
It hit her suddenly that she'd rather step into life, death, and the in-between with full force, enjoying both the "now" and the "not yet" to the fullest than to be dragged away kicking and screaming on her final day.
It was on the dance floor she released those thoughts,
And began to feel again.
Her thoughts were not racing anymore.
She was beautiful and alive, connected to everything.
At the end of her drive home, she stepped out on the slightly wet sidewalk...
The drizzling rain kissing a sweet pattern onto her skin.
She stood there a few moments, letting it wash over her.
And thinking how this birthday could have been an ending but instead became a new beginning.
She now felt clean. Full of new hope.
Praying silently that she could feel like this forever,
Bella knew the tide would eventually roll back in and carry her with it.
For better or worse..
But for now, she was 27,
And fully at peace.
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Beautiful narration cynthia. I wonder how many times did I read these lines.... "It hit her suddenly that she'd rather step into life, death, and the in-between with full force, enjoying both the "now" and the "not yet" to the fullest than to be dragged away kicking and screaming on her final day." You have narrated a complex futuristic and complimenting situation in a single line. Wow!!! Keep going dear. Plz take time to read my story too...
Thank you, Vajeda!! 🌹 I'm glad you enjoyed my story. Those words stood out in my mind, too, as I was writing the story. It kind of highlights the whole experience the protagonist was having at the time, that feeling of not wanting her destiny to be out of her hands, but to embrace it and have more control over it. I will be glad to read your story as well and comment!! Thank you again so much for everything you said here. 🙂
This is an intriguing piece. I like the mix of prose and poetry you achieved here; I haven't seen that unusual structure before on this site. Your voice really exudes descriptive imagery, too. Some of my favorite lines: "Belle was the delicious tray of hors d'oeuvres that everyone wanted to taste." (Although, I believe her name is Bella, so just a slight mistake there.) "The drizzling rain kissing a sweet pattern onto her skin." "She was beautiful and alive, connected to everything." There are few grammatical/punctuation errors here,...
Thanks for the compliments and critique of this piece. I'm glad you appreciated the mixture of poetry and prose as well as the imagery within it. The answers to your questions can be found in two sections from the story which I have quoted below: "Later, standing with her friends on the sidelines, Bella hadn't planned to dance until Brian, in a surprisingly shy way, asked, "May I have this dance?" And then later another passage that says... "It was on the dance floor she released those thoughts, And began to feel alive again...
Thanks for the explanation. I have a little bit of a different interpretation of your writing as I read it, and I don't know if the meanings you intended came across as well as they could have (but I can certainly see where you're going with your comment). As a fellow grad student, I can see where you're coming from, but frequent punctuation/mechanical errors read differently than minor errors; they come across more like mistakes than intentional writing. I'm not sure if I agree with your comment that "depressed people often do not dance...
Thanks for explaining your intent. I appreciate that. My reply really was not defensive in nature. I was addressing your previous comments and also explaining that at least for me, this is just short story writing practice, not a reflection of what I would put forth in traditionally published work. I have seen a LOT of other work on this site from other writers that had many punctuation and grammar errors, but I never comment on those aspects, (though for a few years I worked as a university writing tutor, and could make a lot of comments r...
This story was so amazing! It reminded me of a movie I watched once. I don't know the name though. Anyway, I loved your descriptions! The part that said she was a tray of hors d'oeuvres and everyone wanted a taste, had me dying! That was the best way to use personification! Keep up the awesome writing!
I'm so glad you enjoyed my story. Thanks so much for the compliments and encouragement!! 🙂🌹 There are quite a few movies with jumpers in them, i think, though I don't t think any one before involved the character attending a high school reunion. At least not any I've seen. If you remember the title of the one u watched, please let me know. I'd like to check it out. When I was developing the concept for the story, I just had this really clear image in my mind of a character in the red dress and stilletos and kinda went from there imaginin...
Yes!! I know exactly what you mean! If I remember the name of the movie I will let you know. But I don't know if I'd recommend it because it was kinda depressing. The main character was an author that got divorced and moved back to her old town. Then she got to see everyone she went to school with. It was similar to a reunion, but not quite.
Enjoyed the read. Going through tough times to realize it’s not all bad. We just need to seek it out before we drown ourselves into oblivion. Well written so it flowed like a lazy river
Thank you so much, Corey!! 🙂 I'm so glad you enjoyed my story. I was hoping it would have that affect on readers. 🌹
Hi, Cynthia, Great use of tension to build the suspense in the story. One could feel the MC's heart beating in her throat. Your prose flows well, and there weren't any nits to detract the reader from the story. KEEP WRITING great stuff! ~MP~ Would you mind reading a few of my stories? I would appreciate your feedback.
Hi Mustang!! Nice to meet you on Reedsy. 🙂 Yes, I'd be happy to read some of your work here as soon as I can and comment on it. Btw, Mustang has a nice ring to it. It will look great on your book covers as you write novels and publish them. Thank you for the compliments on my story. I'm really glad you enjoyed it!!! 🎉🎉
Hi, Yes!! Mustang does look awesome on my book covers. Nice to meet you!
Hi Cynthia! Finally made it over to your story! :) Great work here--I liked the emotion in the beginning, and found it quite emotional that she was thinking about jumping. A couple quick/easy fixes: 1. To Bella, it seemed like just another autumn evening a lot like the rest, yet not. I think this sentence would hit a lot harder without the "yet not." Let the reader come to that conclusion on their own. 2. a ‘Jennifer Aniston’ haircut -- so Jennifer Aniston has had a lotttt of haircuts, but I feel like the one you're going for (sinc...
Hi Leilani, :-) Thank you for the extensive feedback you have given here. I appreciate you for taking the time to offer so many suggestions. I didn't mean for you to feel like you had to do a line-by-line review. I'm sure that took considerable time. I just wanted an overall impression. Nonetheless, these comments you made had me look deeper into the story, going beyond the surface, the way one would about literary fiction, perhaps. I think it will help if I explain to you that a lot of these things you suggested I already considered ...
Got it!! Thanks for explaining that, Cynthia!! I love going line-by-line, so no worries there, I do that with most of the stories I read on here. :) But yes, definitely feel free to ignore my suggestions!! I like to provide more than a "good job" and nothing else, so I usually try to leave random thoughts and ideas and easy-to-fix grammar mistakes. :) Don't feel like you have to apply them at all! Looking forward to reading more of your work!
That's understandable that you like to go line by line. I had a good master's program professor who had the same style of being directive with her feedback. You probably would do well as a teacher or writing instructor, i imagine. 🙂 Incidentally, I just finished a Masters in Professional Writing, and that professor was very helpful in offering feedback on my thesis. I am glad to finally have it published and the degree completed. I'm just waiting for the diploma to arrive in the mail. It could be up to 2 more weeks, and that's after paying 1...
Congrats on your masters, that’s awesome!!!! 🎉🎉🎉🎉 I think I’ll definitely learn a lot from you!!
Thank You!! I'm sure the learning will be mutual. 🙂 I'm grateful for the opportunity to know you. 🌹
Oh and i forgot to mention that i also truly look forward to reading more of your work!!! 🎉🎉
Thank you so much!!! :D Can't wait for the new prompts tomorrow!
Yw. Me too!! 👍🙂
Also, apologies if it seemed like I was looking too deep into your story--As a writer, I could totally see where you were going, but as a reader I just had some questions. :) But like I said, thanks for explaining!
It's ok. I just figured maybe when I asked for feedback it seemed like I wanted something lengthy. The fact that we were both considering some similar aspects of the story at some point shows that we are both learning how to think like a reader as well as a writer.
soothing story and very concise tooo which complements its simplicity, beautifully described :-)
I'm really thrilled that you enjoyed it. It seemed to come easier than some pieces I've written, such as "Man Down, " which included more twists and turns, plus was much longer.
I would love to😀😀
This captures a glimpse of time in someone's life very well. I like the line "The drizzling rain kissing a sweet pattern onto her skin." That's some smooth detail. The studying I'm doing is focusing on taking out past tense in a present tense story. Getting rid of 'has' and 'was' and so on. It is unavoidable in some cases but as described to me, it jolts the reader from the present to the past then back to the present, as they continue to read. Eliminating these in my stories has become a dedicated practice. I want the story to be smooth...
Hi Robert. 🙂 I really appreciate your positive feedback!! I had a lot of fun writing this piece even though it included some sad emotional affect for the character at first. The rule of thumb which I've read is that it's more appropriate to use "had" if you are writing about a flashback. And if you are using a flashback you need :"had" before the first two verbs then you can leave it out from then on through the rest of the same flashback. In this story, i think there were some places in the first part where flashbacks were indeed going ...
Anytime, let me know when you post another story. Robert
I loved this story! Very descriptive :) Can't wait to read more
Thank you so much, Simon 🙂. I look forward to reading more of your work also. Hope you're having a great evening!! 🎉🎉
I love your story. I really like short sentence writing and I enjoyed your story. The story was fast paced but the ending was quite rushed. Otherwise, your story was awesome. Keep writing. Would you mind reading my new story "The royal fork?" Thanks.
I'm glad you enjoyed my story. A few other people said the same thing, but I used a quick conclusion intentionally for a specific purpose, which was to get across how the moments of dancing took away the MP's woes for the moment and eased her depression, though it didn't solve the problem forever. It was simply a slice-of-life story and some people who read it didn't realize that aspect of it, i suppose. It wasn't meant to have a complete resolution because depression doesn't just go away forever in patients who experience suicidal ideation....
Yeah, that makes the ending somewhat clearer. Thanks for explaining. Welcome! Thanks!