The River

by Síobhan Smith

Cathy had walked up this road a million times before but today it was different. Today she actually saw everything which surrounded her. The beauty in this journey became more apparent, she’d never seen how the sun touched the trees making them glow with a sparkly hue. She never noticed the beauty in the shapes of those trees, the way the branches reached out into the sky like fingers grasping for something just out of reach. The breeze blew Cathy’s hair into her face, this was the perfect day. She took her steps slowly and deliberately, her intentions were clear in her own head. She glanced at the ground it was hard and rough, this road hadn’t been maintained and the cracks and holes reminded her of her own imperfections. She followed the road on, beginning to feel her heart beat a little faster; she felt a bittersweet mix of nerves and excitement. Cathy wanted this to be perfect. Her pace quickened and she breathed a little deeper, she was smiling inside. The sort of satisfied smile that happens only when something worthwhile has happened, for Cathy it was clarity. She was counting down the minutes. Smile. Minutes.  She had been down this road many times but she had never seen it. She never looked beyond what her eyes choose to view. Now she recognised life in an array of forms and she sighed, appreciating every second of this time. She could see the end of the road where it leaps directly into the river and she wondered how many people had been in this position. How many have walked this road and thought of not returning?  How many have relished the fact that this might be the last journey they ever take? How many have come down here with truly selfish intentions and have thought about that leap into the pit of the water? How many have then returned to their families and friends and thought the journey wasn’t for them?

As Cathy approached the river she checked to make sure no one else was around, she yelled a loud ‘Hello’ across so that no one could attempt to save her from the other end. Cathy felt an overwhelming need to sit; the soft wind blowing stray hairs into her face. She didn’t like her hair being captivated so she set it free from its bobble. She wanted to set herself free that is why she came here to this place.  The wind carried with it small specks of dust. Her worries, too small to be considered significant but so numerous that they had become overbearing. As she sat there on that rock by the bank she looked at her watch. It was three fifteen. Fifteen minutes early. She wanted it this way, she wanted some thinking time. People always say your life flashes before you when you are about to die, Cathy wanted something different she didn’t want a flash; she wanted to cover herself with memories, moments that she would take with her. The happy times from long ago.

A bird flew overhead; it made her envious she wanted to have wings. She wanted to fly, to soar. All she wanted from life was meaning, it failed to materialise and she ended up here. She sighed. She thought of all the good times in her life, she thought of the bad. She thought about the things she would change if she could start again and the things she wouldn’t. She cried and laughed alone. Three twenty seven. She wanted to jump in at three thirty.  She knew this was the last time she would sit here on this soulless bank so she didn’t need to worry about her clothes getting dirty. As she sat, she rocked back and forth as she watched the ripples on the heartless water as they ebbed and flowed. Back and forth, it sounded rhythmic. The water captivated her senses and she was enveloped by its grasp. She took off her shoes and stood on the edge, she took off her watch and rings. She took off her beautiful dress and her pretty white socks. She reached up into the cold sky and she got ready for the jump. Her last breath would be a deep filled one, her last taste of air was intoxicating and she had a great rush of relief, liberation. Her toes squelched in the mud and her arms felt like lead, she took a leap into the air, the seconds it took for her to hit the water felt like an eternity every hair on her body was standing on its end and for a few seconds she was soaring like the bird she longed to be, then it happened she hit the water with a great splash.  Her lungs filling with water, the initial panic as her body hit was over instantly, with that came the dawning realisation that she was past the point of no return. Cathy could feel the cold water on her skin and she knew she was immersed. The freezing temperature made her spine tingle as she had expected but only for a few minutes, she knew she would bob up twice before her final ascent she was happy there in that moment. She felt the water penetrate her lungs as she tried instinctively to reach the surface. She sank into the water again as it controlled every movement her body made. She was happy. She was at peace.  It was over.

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