Tough Love

This is a short story that I wrote for a flash fiction course I took recently. Enjoy!

 

Cassandra scoots to the edge of the world, the tip of her black and white Nike’s kicking rocks down the face of the canyon. They fall and tumble down the cliff and disappear into thick, cotton fog. Leaning out, her blonde hair hangs straight down, catching a breeze and dancing on the wind. The blood collects in her face until her cheeks are flush. Her pulse pumps behind her eyes.

“Cass–,”

Pushing branches and leaves aside, Tom emerges from the forest behind her. His khakis are slashed with dirt. His bright flannel, unbuttoned, reveals a white T-shirt underneath, and the sleeves are rolled up to the middle of his forearms. His cheeks burn red and his shoulders heave. He says, “Why’d you run ahead?”

Cassandra doesn’t look back when she says, “You ever wonder what it feels like to fall forever?” She leans back up and gazes out into the scenic landscape.

His feet snap twigs and crunch dirt into lonely shoeprints as he squints out into the sun, just beginning to peek beyond the rim of the canyon.

Tom wraps his arms around Cassandra’s slender frame and grips the rusted handrail on both sides. He puts his chin on her shoulder and breathes in the sweet coconut from her shampoo. In a soft voice, he says, “Only if I can fall with you.” He kisses her cheek and can smell the powder foundation.

She turns to pull away. Staring out at an isolated cloud she says, “Don’t.”

Tom lets go of the chipped, broken railing and steps back a few feet.

He kneels down, one knee soaking up wet soil. His heart pounding, he pulls a little box out of his pocket with sweat-slicked hands. He takes a giant gulp of fresh, mountain air and says, “Cass”.

Cassandra, looking out towards the sun, she says, “I want to know what it feels like to fly.”

His heart still pumping in his throat, he chokes out, “Cass, come on.”

She turns and throws her hands up. “Can’t you just let me–?”

Tom kneels there with an open blue box and a tiny silver thing inside. The silver thing protrudes upward, a row of diamonds cutting across the top and haloing around a bigger, princess cut diamond in the center.

For a moment, she stands frozen in time, her mouth gasping open, her dull blue eyes darting back and forth between his beaming face and the ring.

Without anyone breathing, you can hear the wind whipping through the canyon.

“Um.” Cassandra’s eyebrows wrinkle together in the middle. She looks from left to right, almost expecting a punch line. “What?”

Tom’s face is as bright as the rising sun. Even his eyes smile. He says, “Well, will you?”

A dove flies by overhead, missing it’s partner. Cassandra raises up her hand like she’s holding a dinner tray and says, “Sure?”

Tom jumps up and excitedly throws his arms around her. “I can’t wait to tell my folks!” he screams in her ear. Her arms still hang at her sides and she stares back toward the forest. Tom pulls away and plants a single, solitary kiss on her forehead. He turns back toward the forest. “I gotta go find service and call my mom!”

Cassandra watches Tom disappear into the lush vegetation holding his phone straight up into the air, trying to get cell reception. Once he’s gone, she walks back to the broken railing.

She climbs the rusted metal fencing and positions herself on the other side, so most of her feet float over the canyon and only her heels touch concrete. With both hands gripping metal behind her, she leans out at a 45-degree angle. Her fingers begin to slip until she’s holding on with just her top knuckles and the tips of her fingers are pressed translucent white. Glancing over her left shoulder, she sees the ring on her finger, the round halo of diamonds sparkling in the sun. She looks back out toward the vast, rocky abyss, closes her eyes and takes a deep lungful of cool morning air. A cool breeze pushes bangs into her face. Tom’s voice bounces down the canyon, echoing, “She said yes!” and it's then that Cassandra lets go.

Ricky Olson2 Comments