All of YouBy: Lindsay Detwiler
I swerved to the side of the road, certain she was gone, the blackness of her hair fluttering behind her and blending into the darkness of the night. Just like so many things in life, one second she was there, hunched into herself under the bright streetlights on the Cedar Bend Bridge, clutching something like it was her lifeblood. And then, in the next second, she was gone, slithered away as if she’d slipped through the cracks of life itself, obliterated from existence.
If I hadn’t been driving by, if I hadn’t seen her disappear with my own eyes, no one would have noticed her descent into darkness, into the lapping waters of the gentle river, or of her almost goodbye.
But I was there. I did see her.
The truth was, looking back, I should’ve seen her even before the fateful night that tossed our lives together.
I should’ve seen her in every goodbye I’d said before her. I should’ve seen her in every wistful dream I’d walked by and didn’t chase. I should’ve seen her in every empty seat beside me for the twenty-six years I didn’t know I was missing her.
She was the lifeblood I waited to uncover. She was the answer to the midnight wish I didn’t know I’d asked for. I wouldn’t know it until long after I first saw her. I couldn’t have known until I met her that I needed her.
Because when I swerved my car to the side of the bridge, chest heaving with adrenaline and fear, I had no idea Marley Jade would eviscerate everything I ever thought I knew about life. I didn’t know I would end up saving her that night and on many nights to come.
Most of all, I didn’t know she would save me from something I didn’t even know I needed saving from.
I turn the radio down as if this is going to help things, as if a lower volume of Bruno Mars’s song will help me not be fifteen minutes late for my shift.
“Shit,” I mutter to the hula girl on my dashboard, a memento from the spring break trip my roommates went on without me.
I glance at the clock in my dashboard, each minute that ticks by feeling like the end of my career creeping closer. So much for the solid impression I thought I’d established these past few weeks in the Rosewood ER. How could I be such an idiot? Pretty sure Dr. Conlan isn’t going to be too pleased his doctor in residency’s late again. The weariness in my bones begs me to turn the car around, to take the break I already desperately need from the crazy hours. The persistent dreamer in me, though, knows I’m too close to my goal to screw things up now. Just a few more years and the white coat will be completely earned, my life path set before me just as I’d planned. I’ll have everything I ever dreamed of—if I can just get to the damn hospital.
My Chevy chugging over the now-familiar bridge from my one-bedroom to the hospital, I glance across the barren two lanes of traffic as something on the ledge catches my eye.
I ease up on the gas, although I’m already late and can’t afford to.
It’s dark, but the streetlight casts an eerie glow over her raven-black hair, long and straight, as it billows in the wind. She’s wearing a bright red hat that contrasts with her hair in a way that steals my gaze from the road. I grasp the wheel tighter, reminding myself to pay attention to my driving, snapping away from the call of her. Not like there’s much traffic, but it won’t do for tonight’s ER doctor to end up there himself.
Still, I can’t take my eyes off the slumping body on the ledge, her legs bunched up as she clutches them. As I get closer, I notice there’s something in her hand, a crinkled bag. She looks shifty and lost, but with an air of beauty I can sense even from behind my grimy windshield.
It’s odd, and maybe it’s the mixture of energy drinks and Doritos I had for dinner, but it’s like I want to know her story. Something about her checked flannel shirt and lace-up boots, the way she’s clutching the bag like it’s her last possession on earth, makes me want to approach her, to know her.
And then my heart stops, my foot slamming on the brakes.
Because, as if the wind took her into its gripping claws, she’s gone, tumbling down, hair wafting behind her in a grand exit that must only be a few seconds but feels like a slow-motion horror scene.