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.