By Dick Narvett
Helen counted the wooden slats on the walkway, stopping when she reached dead center on the abandoned bridge. Here, at the highest and deepest point, she leaned over the railing and stared down at the shadowy waters rushing beneath her. She had made this walk to the river numerous times before, but tonight was different.
Helen shifted her gaze upriver where the water roared over the old dam creating whitecaps at its base. She could see her life being played out in the churning foam… the turbulent rise and fall.
That a handsome fellow like Eddie would show any interest in her had been a dream. All through high school, it was her girlfriends, not her, that gushed about their latest romantic escapades. Then she met Eddie and everything changed. He made her come alive, made her believe that she was more than she was. For this, he deserved her all and she gladly gave it.
How quickly joy had turned to sorrow. Helen soon realized this was no fairy tale and Eddie no prince. Her mother had warned her from the start, but what did Mom know? How dare she judge them when her own marriage was such a disaster?
But Mom had been right. As the mystique of her relationship with Eddie wore off, deception, suspicion and bitterness crept in. The past year had taken its toll both mentally and physically. The river had become her friend, growing more inviting with each trip.
A chill ran through Helen’s body. She had left without a jacket and her soft-knit, empire dress offered little protection against the coolness of this October night. She could only imagine how frigid the waters would be. A flood of feelings washed over her. There would be no indecision this time.
Sensing another presence, Helen glanced down the walkway. A large figure approached, wearing jeans and a tattered jacket. When the older, dark-skinned man reached the center of the bridge he raised two fingers to the brim of his fedora.
Helen made no response. She looked back toward the river. The man took a few steps past her, stopped and turned around.
“If I may … a young woman in your condition ought not to be out here in this cold.”
Helen turned to face him.
The man looked up to the heavens. “Sure is a fine night though… a great night to be alive!”
Helen gave a slight nod. The beginnings of a smile crept over her face as the man continued on his way. She too looked skyward, where a dazzling array of stars framed a bright orange, harvest moon. She felt strangely calm. Taking a deep breath, she turned from the railing and began walking back the way she came.
The river would have to wait … at least for now.
Dick Narvett retired from a life in international business and independent film acting. He currently lives in rural Pennsylvania, where he writes flash fiction and poetry.