Just before my husband pushed me, he’d whispered in my
ear. “A Roman emperor used to throw visitors
he didn’t like over the cliffs and into the sea below.”
I felt Phillip’s arms at my waist.
And then, I felt nothing.
I began to fall, the pressure of my husband's fingertips only a memory.
As I fell, the memories flew by, faster and faster until it
was all I could do to grasp at them; as if by holding onto them, I could gain purchase
on my life again.
I thought of the day I’d agreed to marry Phillip.
“Don’t go,” he’d said to me, the week before I was to leave
on a mission trip. “You can help people
here—in the United States.”
“This is important to me, Phillip.”
He took my hand. “The
rainforest is full of dangers. You’re
terrified of snakes.”
I lifted my chin. “I’ll
learn to overcome my fear.”
He released my hand. “At
least come camping with me before you go.”
Phillip killed the snake that I’d found curled inside the tent. And then, holding the snake by the head, he looked me in the eye. “There
are bigger snakes than this in the rainforest.
Marry me, Jules. I’ll keep you
Within a year, I’d given birth. I busied myself with bottles and diapers and doctor’s
appointments. As I began to navigate the
waters of motherhood, my confidence increased.
I became aware of my power as a person.
And then, the baby got sick.
“It’s not your fault, Jules.” But Phillip’s were eyes dark and angry as he
turned away and knelt to pray in the hospital chapel.
The baby recovered.
My confidence did not.
There was an accident.
I totaled the car.
There was a dinner party.
My food sickened the guests.
But Phillip was there every time, to pick up the pieces and
pat them back into place like a clay figurine, raw and unfired and malleable.
From this height, I could see the way the earth knit itself
together. The fields were anchored in
place by pristine farmhouses and pretty red barns. The roads crisscrossed here and there; so
many places to get to where you are going.
So many paths to take. Further
off, the interstate cinched itself around the ever-expanding waistline of
factories and malls and discount stores.
My mind returned to the snake, the baby, the accident, the
party. All of those events, I realized, were
linked: Phillip had put the snake inside the tent. Phillip had sickened the baby and slit the
tires and poisoned the dinner. And every
time, Phillip was there to rescue me. Now there was this; Phillip's birthday present to me, ostensibly to help me overcome my fears.
Phillip had cinched a belt around my confidence.
I wondered how he intended to save me now.
I pulled the rip cord.
My chute deployed.
So this was what it was like, I mused, to be weightless. This was what it felt like to be free of
worry. This was what it felt like to be
full of confidence. This time, Phillip's plan to rescue me had backfired: When he pushed me from that plane, Phillip had set me free.
I studied the gentle swell of
the earth rising up to meet me. I was
here. I had arrived. And as soon as my feet hit the ground I was going
to ask Phillip for a divorce.
Post script: Phillip had cut the cord on the parachute he’d intended for
me. But just before the jump, while
Phillip was in the front of the plane, the instructor switched chutes.
Apparently my husband had planned to save me mid-air.
No divorce proceedings were necessary.
For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Eric Limer challenged me with "Write something where the viewpoint character is in freefall for the duration of the story's timeframe. (Your POV can, like, think back on things, but he/she should be in the air at the beginning of the story and in the air at the end.)" and I challenged Chimnese with "You're given the opportunity to meet your mother or father at a point before your birth. Who would you meet? When? What would you talk about?"
Labels: Fiction Indie Ink