I lay across the cold, golden sand listening to the soothing sound of waves crashing onto the white shore. Thousands of silver stars above me twinkle, lighting up the sky. The salty air tingles my nose as I take a deep breath, praying that everything will be alright. I can’t believe she was right next to me a few days ago, laughing and smiling as we shared stories. It seems as though she was the only one I had, the only one that understood me for who I was, not who I pretend to be. She knew the girl underneath all the layers, the insecure, quiet, vulnerable child.
The moonlight shines across my arm, revealing the scars from late nights of pain I’ve had. I quickly pull my dark gray jacket over it, longing for some form of protection against the rest of the world. Suddenly, a black jeep pulls into the parking lot, lighting up the whole beach with its headlights. I immediately stand up, slip on my black sneakers, and run down the sidewalk towards my house. I can’t get caught being out alone at night again, not after everything. The last thing I want is another lecture from my ignorant mother about how I am not allowed to be outside at this hour.
The bushes and trees are all a blur as I speed up to a sprint, hearing the jeep catch up behind me. If she finds out, I will be grounded again for another month with no phone. Just as I set foot in the driveway, the front door opens and my little brother steps outside. I don’t know why he is up at 1 AM, but that’s unimportant right now. He opens his mouth to call my mother over who has just pulled up behind me. ****. I hear the door slam and the footsteps get louder as she approaches me. All of a sudden, she comes to a halt and grabs my shirt, thrusting me around so I am facing her.
“Victoria! Stop right there! What do you think you are doing?” she screeches into my ear like a banshee. I throw her arm off of my shoulder, refusing to look into her dark brown eyes. My brother snickers as he closes the screen door and goes back to bed, knowing he should be fast asleep at this time. However, I don’t think it would really matter if he were up at this point since anything he does makes him my mother’s perfect little angel who didn’t screw up their whole life. To her, I am just like my horrible father that left her when she was pregnant with me, always running away from his responsibilities.
“Do not walk away from me Victoria! VICTORIA!” As I try to run away, she chases after me and pulls my arm backwards so that I fall in her direction. I am so sick and tired of her thinking she owns me and can manipulate me to be like her. This time, I slap her arm and run up the dark cement stairs into the house and up to my room, slamming and locking the gray door behind me. I can already hear her stomping up the dark brown staircase, nearly breaking the wooden steps to pieces. After pounding on my door for a few minutes she screams, “You are grounded for two months! If I see you sneaking out again you will be in so much trouble young lady!”
I turn off my lights and close my shades before sitting inside my dark closet, all alone. I don’t understand how even with 7.5 billion people on this stupid planet only one understood me and she is gone. I have nobody at all. Enough tears to fill the deep blue ocean begin streaming down my face uncontrollably. It feels as if hours and hours pass by and my stomach grumbles from starvation but I have to ignore it. There is no way I can go out there in such a vulnerable state and experience the wrath of my demon mother just to get food.
Instead, I reach into my dresser and pull out a bottle of painkillers and take a few to try and block out everything around me. Everyday I relive the same nightmare, knowing I could’ve prevented everything from happening. I could have stopped her from dying. I could’ve been the one to take the fall and finally have a chance to rest peacefully away from the horrible world. No matter how hard I try, the memory is still crystal clear.
“Tori, come and see this, it’s gorgeous!” she exclaimed, pointing to a mini waterfall that ran through the forest. I ran over and gazed at it for a few minutes, enchanted by its pure, ice cold water flowing through the black rocks and down the curvy bank, towards an infinite amount of tall trees. Dying of thirst, I drank a handful, not worrying about whether or not it was safe. It seemed too good to be true, and I should’ve known.
As soon as we started walking uphill again to get to the top of the mountain and look down at the tiny village below, I looked back at how much we had already climbed before hearing her scream at the top of her lungs. Scared, I sprinted towards her and saw a bright-colored snake slither away, leaving her unconscious on the ground. By the time I had found enough signal on my phone to dial 911, it was too late.
As the paramedics raced up to where we were, they couldn’t save her. It was all my fault. If I hadn’t been so selfish and looked away, I could’ve prevented the whole thing from happening and she would still be next to me now, able to make me feel better. But I don’t deserve it. I don’t deserve anything except more punishment because I had one job and I couldn’t even do it right. I run out of tissues, so I wipe my eyes on my jacket, longing for a taste of any kind of food.
Because it was her birthday and I knew she would’ve wanted me to keep going, I continued the trek up the mountain but was stopped by one of the paramedics who forced me to go home, insisting that I didn’t get bitten as well. As I walked through the front door, my mother didn’t let me forget how stupid I had been for hiking in the first place and blamed everything on me as usual. I couldn’t take it anymore, so I waited until dark and snuck out to the beach to try and calm down. It’s the only place at night that is empty and far away from my family, if you can even call them family.
I can’t stand thinking about it anymore so I open my window and climb outside, on my way to the mountain. I creep through the dark forest, ignoring the howling of nearby wolves. With each step, the knot in my stomach grows bigger and bigger until I can barely walk anymore. I sit down by the waterfall and take a sip of refreshing water, washing the tears off of my face. Then, I climb to the very top of the mountain, thinking about her along the whole way. No matter how many times I think about turning around, convincing myself that it’s a bad idea, I am drawn to the top by some unknown force. My feet keep moving forward even though I try my hardest to plant them in the ground and stop myself from going further.
As I take my last step towards the end of the cliff and sit down, I feel a tingling sensation spread throughout my whole entire body. I scoot forward, letting my feet dangle 1,000 feet above the ground. I stare down, observing what I can see of the tiny red houses below, trying to find something that will make me happier, yet everything I see reminds me of places we’d been to when she was still there, alive and smiling.
The sun slowly begins to rise, the sky a faded pink full of swirls of orange and purple. A slight breeze blows my hair forward and I realize that I can jump and end this once and for all. For the first time in my life, I am in full control of what happens to me and when it happens. I close my eyes, letting all my worries fade into the darkness and disappear, leaning forward until I am only hanging onto the edge by an inch. This is it. I feel as free as a bird, and the same force from before drags me forward even further until the slightest movement will push me over.
Out of nowhere, I hear a deep voice behind me gradually get louder and louder. “Hey! Are you alright?” I can’t let somebody else stop me, especially a complete stranger. Not now. I’ve already gone this far and I can’t back out now or else I will fail again just like before. “Stop! Don’t jump!” he exclaims with a hint of authority in his voice. His footsteps stop right behind me as he gently lays an arm on my shoulder. “Please, do not jump. You will regret it,” he repeats in a comforting voice.
I try to back up enough to stand and look him in the face but the rock I am standing on breaks and begins to tumble down the mountain. My foot slips, and before I know it, I can feel myself start to lose grip and follow the rock down. He attempts to grab my trembling hands but misses. My surroundings get fuzzy as I try to grip the mountain and stop myself from plummeting to my death. Scared, he leans forward as much as possible and throws down a bright orange rope to where I am barely hanging on. Luckily, I am able to grab it and pull myself up onto the ledge where I sit down, far away from the drop.
“Thank you,” I whisper in a shaky voice, tears rolling down my cheeks. He slowly walks towards his bag and pulls out a blanket and a tissue, offering me both.
“Here, keep it,” he replies in a soft tone. I still cannot believe what just happened. My whole entire life almost slipped away within seconds, just like that.
“You just saved my life,” I say in a raspy voice from all the crying. “I can’t believe I came so close to dying. What if you weren’t here?”
“I am really glad I saw you at the moment I did because if I were a second later I wouldn’t have been able to help,” he responds, handing me a bottle of water. I wrap the blanket around myself, hiding my weaknesses from the world although he has already seen it all. He looks about my age, around sixteen, so I don’t know why he is up when it is a school night. I guess I’m not the only one who doesn’t care much about academics.
After sitting on the ground in silence and adjusting to what just happened, I get up and walk towards the ledge again and look down. The ground is covered by hundreds of tiny green treetops that are surrounded by huge brown boulders. They would have instantly killed me if I had landed on them, but I bet that would make my mother happy. He comes over to make sure I don’t try to jump again and sits beside me.
We both watch the sunrise together, ignoring everybody below us and their problems. For the first time in a long time I feel the slightest bit of happiness in the pit of my stomach, somewhere deep inside my black soul. A tiny connection forms and I am no longer completely alone on this crazy planet. We continue talking until the stars dance throughout the night sky. I decide that the brightest one will be hers, watching over the mountain every night, and carve her initials into a nearby tree so I know she will always be there.
The next day I come back and put a red rose beneath the carving, smelling the sweet fragrance, and each day for the rest of my life I visit the Rose Tree and make a different carving, slowly bringing our bittersweet memories back to life.