“You’re so beautiful,” I whispered, extending my arm. “I don’t deserve you.” Her delicate blue eyes grew wider in the moonlight. You could spot every star inside of them.
“Don’t say that, babe,” Grace implored. She laced her fingers with mine. They were barely poking out of her grey sweater. She was always so cold. “What we have… it’s wonderful. Real. You’re everything.”
The fire crackled in the background as crickets sounded off, maybe cicadas. They were undoubtedly nestled in the pine trees that circled us. If you kept still and calmed your breathing, you could even hear the river’s gentle flow. It was everything we’d wanted. To get away. An escape where there’d be zero distractions. Only each other.
I softly chuckled, “Don’t say that. Please.”
“Jess,” she strained. “Is something wrong?” There was a moment of silence as I put my head down. “Just tell me—
“No, um,” my voice grew shaky. “I just… can’t believe we’re here. Together.” Awestruck, she clutched her necklace before standing and walking in my direction.
“You know what I think,” she asked, placing herself on my lap. I sighed as the two of us nestled in together. “I think that you are afraid. You always have been.”
“And just what am I afraid of?”
“No, that’s you.”
“Hmm. What about heights?” Her tone grew disingenuous, overt in its sarcasm.
Resigned, I simply glared, absent response.
“Me again, huh? Well, maybe this will refresh my memory.” Her eyelids gently fell as her lips grew ever closer. The moment they touched mine, a wave of bliss washed over every limb in my body, rendering them useless. For the first time, I felt truly powerless. Rather than scary, it was beautiful. Relieving. To just be able to let go. I’d never known what it was like to give into another person. I don’t think she realized I was completely at her mercy in that moment. Or maybe she had. Our mouths parted. “That’s what it is. You, gorgeous, are afraid to be happy.”
“Uh,” I could feel tears welling up, my cheeks surely flush. “You might be right, babe.” She then placed her head on my shoulder.
“I know you don’t believe in god. But how else do you explain it?” She asked, her every word caressing my neck.
“Us. You and me. Not many people find true love, y’know. But the ones that do? They can’t deny what’s out there.”
“Well, your father would disagree—
“My father… never knew what he had. He was a drunk.”
“Yeah, a religious drunk,” I chortled, stroking her soft, blonde hair. “What a combination.”
“You’d think I would throw myself at men because of him. Instead, I end up here. With you.”
“Forgot to ask how your mum’s doing. Is she back on her feet, yet?”
She groaned, “Yes. I talked to her this morning. What a long conversation that was.”
“Linda’s very sweet. Speaking as someone who actually has mommy issues, I wouldn’t mind her adopting me.”
“Um, that might complicate things with you and I.”
“You know what I mean.”
“I told her we’re seeing each other. That things have never been better. She was telling me something about her neighbor, Mr. Goranson, and I just… blurted it out.”
“And, uh, how did she take it?”
“Just fine. Did you know you have a mole right here?” She began kissing it before I had a chance to answer. Instead, what came out was a soft moan. “You should just give in. You don’t always have to act so tough.”
“Mhm. I don’t know, maybe I have a thing for bad girls like you.”
“So cliched.” She guffawed.
“And maybe that’s because I’m such a delicate little flower.”
“God help me.” Her laughter grew raucous. All the while the pit in my stomach seemed bottomless. “Can I ask you something?”
“How cold do you think that water is?”
“Um, freezing. Hello.”
“So, if I threw you in, you might be upset?”
“Uh-uh. Don’t even think about it.” I stood up. “Babe! You throw me in there and we are through.”
“No, we’re not.”
“Okay, we’re not, but don’t you dare!” Snickering, I quickly kicked off my shoes just as we reached the edge. She struggled, playfully, though her piercing yelps were very real.
“Aren’t you gonna take yours off?” After some finagling, they fell from her feet. She smiled a mile wide.
“It’s nice to see you like this. If I drowned, this would be a beautiful last memory.”
“I won’t let go.”
After a running start, the two of us were airborne. To tell the truth, I was a little scared of hypothermia. Just a tad. Once we re-emerged from having plunged, neither of us could breathe initially, shock having set in. “We’re gonna die,” she assured me, teeth chattering. “Jess, we’re gonna die.”
“Look at me. The two of us can get through anything. You taught me that. As nauseating as it is to admit, you make me a better person. I didn’t think anyone could.”
“Come here. You can’t tell but I’m crying.”
“Bring it in, soft serve.” We embraced as the current nudged us along at a tepid pace. I began crying, myself. “You know. I see the whole world inside of you. Everything that’s good. You’re like a Mother Teresa or something. You have a soul.”
“You do, too. I know some bad experiences have hardened you up. But I see you for who you really are, Jessica Schwartz. Lover of life. Self-proclaimed badass.”
“That’s me.” Sniffling my nose, I focused my attention upwards to the sky. “Do you remember when we first met?”
“Of course. At the grocery store. That creeper wouldn’t leave me alone in the frozen aisle. Lo and behold, he grabbed my ass and you stepped in. My hero.”
“I’m not a hero,” I retorted, shivering. “I hate that—
“Word, I know. So, you keep telling me. But like it or not, I’m the luckiest girl alive. And I have you to thank for that.”
“Back at you, kid.” We floated for a few minutes longer. She had no idea how broken I really was. And am. Believe me, I’m not after pity. There’s no coming back. I couldn’t bring myself to see the look on her face when I had tightened my grip, slowly forcing her under. The sound of the bubbles as she gargled, the feel of her thrashing once the realization had set in, it was torturous enough when it happened, now it’s in my dreams. Again, I don’t expect sympathy. But I learned something that day. I am human. Somewhere in there. She had a gift. She could see people for who they are, or, well, can be. To tell the truth, it was almost a murder-suicide. After reaching the camp, stripping my clothes, and laying them by the fire to dry, something began to shimmer in the distance. Grace’s necklace. Wasting little time, I sprinted back over and dove in to retrieve it. Spent a lifetime staring at this little piece of fool’s gold.
I’m sorry, what was your original question? Oh, right, right. ‘Why did I do it’. Well. I had orders. Someone wanted her dead. I don’t know why. I never ask. You could say I stalled for a while. But it soon turned into a situation where it was either my head or hers. We can’t all be saved, detective.