It was the shadow I saw first, nothing more than a trick of the light in my eyes. My feet carried me forwards, careful to dodge any unexpected twigs hidden in the soggy mud. The river raged, currents almost competing to be the first to hit the rocks with great force, droplets of water forming a mist to match the icy fog of the winter night air. Just a single dim lamp lit up the ancient wooden bridge, its wood ready to split at any given moment. That was when I saw her. More than just a shadow, a girl, just a teenager, standing tall on the side of the bridge. I froze, watching her tremble, as if every bone in her body was trying to say something, screaming, desperate to be heard. I watched the wind carry her long auburn curls, fighting to bring her back to the ground, back to safety. She was about to jump. Countless ideas rattled my brain, my tongue stiff, not bringing the words to life. I stepped forward, careful not to scare her. The twig snapped, and that was the first time I saw her face, pale, shaken, beautiful.
Just jump, just do it. I stood on the side of the bridge, not daring to look down at the wild river rapids below. My brain raced, thoughts unclear, hazy, memories too painful to remember. I’d been planning this for months, tonight was the night. Nobody would know, nobody would care. Goosebumps formed on my bare arms as I faced the winter chill, imagining the shock of the frozen water, like a release. That was when I heard it, the twig, the faint crack of wood, a harsh contrast to any other noise. I jumped, heart stopping when I saw his face. He flinched as our eyes met, a look of painful longing growing in his eyes.
“Wow.” The rasp in his voice felt welcoming, almost kind. I stared back at him, still, unable to move, unable to think. “You’re beautiful.” He stepped closer, holding out his hand. I watched his every movement closely, positive that he was faking it. He wasn’t really being kind. Not to me. It didn’t happen. His gaze pored through me, what would’ve have been intimidating if it didn’t feel so gentle. I stared into his eyes, the smile curling onto his lips. His eyes twinkled in the dim forest light. My whole body shook at this point, thoughts jumbled, emotions wrecked. I reached forward, his hand meeting mine. I stood there for a lingering second before collapsing into his arms, drenching his woollen sweater with my own pity tears. He held me tight, like no one had ever held me before. My mind replayed the two words he’d uttered. You’re beautiful. How I had longed for those words to be said to me, just once when I was wearing my most special navy dress or when I had spent hours perfecting my hair. Just once. It had never happened. Good things didn’t happen to people like me. Kindness was a distant dream that I could only hope to come true.
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