The bridge was quiet, a haven of solitude; flowers – white, red, yellow and purple – clung unto tendrils that hung down from the stone arches which curved over the length of the bridge, arches that had been overgrown with crawling leaves; each leaf swayed in the gentle, yet biting rush of cold wind.
He shrugged out of his leather jacket and hung it over her shoulders, and began to shiver in his T-shirt, rubbing his palms together to keep frost bites from eating off his digits.
She smiled and looked at him with big, bright, brown and grateful eyes which preened with lashes; she thanked him with a kiss which she hoped would warm him up. She’d left her jacket in the truck – deliberately – to angle for the gentleman in him.
He would do anything for her, even freeze to death, and soon would if he didn’t do any vigorous activity to warm himself up. White steam shot out of every hole in his head. Crazed with cold, he climbed unto the stone railing of the bridge, and told her he would jump into the stream or her.
She replied that she was already on the bridge, needing him not in the river, but by her side, to hold her hand and kiss her temple and her neck.
He was past hearing; the cold had plugged his ears, having frozen his drums. He jumped.
She was aghast at first, but calmed herself when she heard him shout, over the raucous rush of the river,
“I jumped for you,”
which made no other sense to her than that he was putting his love for her on display. She looked down at him bobbing on the water with his hair plastered against his face. She palmed the railing where his feet had jumped from, loving him, loving his bravery.
He had been in mid air when he remembered that the stream was always cold in November. He had splashed his volumes worth into the air, resurfacing after a few seconds, turning around, seeing her, and telling her that he’d jumped for her. Yet he thought in singularity of words,
“Help! Help! ”
He screamed in his head, and his jaws ached as his teeth chattered, and he began beat the water in an attempt to swim.
She could not swim, and could not read his thoughts of alarm. She saw in him the king of swimmers – the cat fish, the shark, the whale – and giggled like a child, loving him, loving his bravery.
He was buffeted by a thousand torrential wavelets fresh from under the bridge, and was tossed in a thousand directions until he faced her, but being fluent only in gulps of water jumping unto his face and into his mouth, he waved for rescue.
She, though wondering why he was swimming farther away, waved back at him, excited, smiling, loving him, loving his bravery.
He is carried into the first of – one two three four five and eight and nine – nine tributaries, and the currents kept coming back for more of his frenzied breaststrokes which only enslave him more to the turbulence of the riven flow.
She lost sight of him, but held onto the thought that this was one of his practical jokes (he had once convincingly played dead one evening at her apartment; she’d have given him an Oscar if she hadn’t been distraught – it was a joke in bad taste, for all the boys she’d previously dated had died by one mystery or another; it was a mystery to her why she’d stayed with any of them for more than six months; none of them had a sense of humour, and none had ever popped out from behind her, to startle her, as she was expecting him to do anytime soon.) She loved him, she loved his bravery.
He clutched at a handful of straws, having drifted to the edge of this tributary; they snapped. His heart was racing as fast as the thrusts of the river were throwing him. He said a fast prayer, his eyes wide open, searching for fast answers, firmer answers that wouldn’t snap in his clutch.
he spat through gritted teeth that yet chattered, his nostrils flaring, as fumes shot out of them and into the cold water that yet tossed him on, affording him no breath to waste on cursing innocent straws, dragging him to deeper flows, to where there were no straws to clutch – or to curse.
She clutched her purse, pulled out her phone, and dialed his number. She couldn’t get through. Suddenly cold, she put her hands in the pockets of the jacket she was wearing – which was his – and felt, at the tips of her fingers, something hard and cuboid. She dug out the box and slowly opened it, but didn’t look inside; rather, she scanned the vicinity to see if he was looking at her from a place of hiding. When she looked back down at the box, there wasn’t a ring in it, but a note spread at the base of it:
“Will you marry me?”
It was written in beautiful calligraphy. She looked up slowly and scanned the area again, eyes glazed with tears.
“Yes! Yes, I’ll marry you. Please, come out now!” she cried as the cold wind carried her voice in every direction, and brought it back to her in reverberations that cancelled one another. She had become worried, though she loved him more.
He felt his muscles begin to stiffen, and slid his right hand into his trousers pocket, and felt the ring – platinum, with a diamond stud –and tried to smile, but his facial muscles had atrophied. He thought of her, of how he loved her, of how they’d met, of how he’d won her heart, of how they’d made love, of how they’d planned a future together, of how he would never see her again and hear her say yes to his proposal. Salty rivers flowed from his eyes, yet he was too tired to weep, let alone swim. He sank.
She began to pace the length of the bridge in quick, unfeminine strides, loathing his bravery, his foolishness that had kept him playing this prank for almost an hour.
“Maybe he’s not joking,” she thought.
“Maybe he’s hurt and needs my help.”
She bit her fingers. She raked them though her hair. She climbed a step up the railing. She hopped down.
“Help,” she whispered.
“Help!” she screamed.
With eyes round and pupils dilated, she looked around, but the bridge was quiet, a haven of solitude, with flowers and tendrils, and leaves and arches, and a cold wind. She was alone, and he was gone.