General Fiction posted January 9, 2022

This work has reached the exceptional level
stepping back from the edge

Just Moments

by giraffmang

The gradient was proving an issue for Adrian. The incline had been tough on the ascent, but the descent was much harder. Trying to keep an even pace was proving futile; his breathing ragged and feet burning. Adrian kicked up small clouds of dust as his feet pummelled the gravel road, accompanied by a crunch each time they landed. He leant backwards to try to slow, but it was a losing battle. As he rounded the bend which led to the bridge over Cook's Gulley he heard the strained noise of a flat out vehicle. He glanced backwards to see a jeep careening down the hill he had just traversed, swerving erratically as it approached his position.
"Bloody Hell!" he shouted, leaping onto the verge, stinging his bare shins on the nettles. The jeep hurtled past him at an alarming rate, a young woman behind the wheel.
Dumbfounded, Adrian watched her struggle with the heavy beast as it began to slide, fishtailing madly. He saw the tail-lights flicker on and off as if the driver couldn't make up her mind what to do. Eventually they came on and stayed on, the vehicle finally grounding to a halt. The driver's door flew open, and the driver hurled herself out.
"Hey! You okay?" Adrian shouted at her.
The woman glanced up, startled. Adrian wondered if she’d even seen him on the roadside when she hurtled by. She took off in the direction of the gulley, her long blonde hair trailing out behind her like a windsock.
"That’s not good." Adrian muttered, running after her, this time as fast as he could manage.
"Hey! Stop!" She's way too close to the edge of the gulley.
"Leave me alone!" she screamed at him over her shoulder. "Just go away."
Hell, is she going to jump?
Adrian sprinted so hard he thought his heart was going to burst clean out of his chest. The girl was so close to the edge she was almost walking on air. He shot out a hand and managed to grab her rapidly retreating wrist as she ran out of ground. Pain erupted in his shoulder as he yanked her back from the edge. They tumbled onto the gravel road in a messy heap of arms and legs. He righted himself as the woman lay shrieking, swearing, and flailing in her own personal dust cloud.
"Jesus, lady. I thought I wasn't gonna make it in time." he spluttered, gasping for breath.
She became still and looked at Adrian through her dirty hair and tear-streaked makeup as if only noticing him for the first time. Her tears flowed, and her chest heaved but she fixed him with an unnerving and steely stare.
"You shouldn't have bothered."
The look in her eye gave Adrian a chill. He wasn't sure what to do, or more importantly what to say. She just sat there looking at him. The silence was becoming unbearable for him. He stood and stretched out his legs and back.
"Is it really that bad?" he feebly proffered.
A low, growling chuckle emanated from her. "You have no idea, mister." She ran a hand through her hair, pushing it away from her face.
Adrian saw her face for the first time and realised that she was barely more than a girl. Old enough to drive but probably not much else.
"Adrian, please." he replied, waving a hand.
"You should just go now, Adrian. Good deed done, and all that."
"At least tell me your name."
She paused, looking hard at him. "Beth."
Adrian smiled at her. The smile he usually saved for the jury. "Well, Beth. Wanna tell me about it?"
"Life's shit. You didn't know?"
"Yeah, I've got some kind of idea, but everything?"
"Pretty much. I can't take it anymore."
"So, this then?" Adrian gestured towards the jeep and the gulley with a sweeping hand.
"Why not?"
Adrian paused for a moment as a nagging question wormed its way into his consciousness. He looked long and hard at the jeep before turning his attention back towards Beth, who still sat in the road. He offered her a hand and helped her to her feet. "Okay. I'll leave you to it then."
"Just one question for you before I go. I mean, try and be truly honest with the answer as, you know, it'll be your legacy."
Beth snorted, "Legacy, Adrian. Okay. What you want to know?"
"Why did you brake?"
"I ... I ..."
"If you wanted to die, why stop the car? I watched the braking lights flicker on and off before they firmly stayed on. You could have ploughed right into the gulley. God knows many have done it before. Jumped, too, which I assume is the preferred option now."
"I don't know. It didn't seem right, I guess."
"Okay." Adrian looked at the setting sun in the distance and squinted, "Good enough for me." He shrugged his shoulders and he started to walk off down the slope, looking over his shoulder as Beth tiptoed closer to the edge.
"You see, Beth, I think you had a moment."
"A moment?" She paused by the edge, staring at the drop.
"Of doubt. You weren't sure in that moment if you could do it or not. Or if you wanted to or not."
Beth shook her head. "You don't know what you're talking about. I have nothing to live for. Nothing. No one."
"And yet you threw on the brakes."
"It doesn't matter. Even if that was true. The moment's gone."
Adrian turned around and took a couple of steps forward. "That's the thing about moments, Beth. There is always another one. Life is made up of them. Some seem to last for a lifetime, yet others are so fleeting that we almost miss them entirely. Moments of joy, sorrow, pain, happiness, love, friendship, chance encounters all come our way. We just need to be mindful of them… and recognise them for what they are."
She turned to face him "What? You think we're having a moment here!"
"Of course we are, just not like that. You say you have nothing and no one, but that isn't true. You braked. I'm here. Right now, in this moment, we are connected. Probably more connected than any two other people. What kind of moment this turns out to be, I'm not quite sure."
"That's a load of bullshit, Adrian. Life isn't simple like that. You have no idea what I've been through, what I've done."
"No, that's true, but it doesn't matter. You having no one was a moment that has gone. Things have changed. Right now, you have me."
Beth met his gaze, doubt in her eyes. "I ... I ... don't know what to say."
"Beth, right here and now. Nothing else exists except this moment. In this moment, you are my world."
Beth shed another tear and smiled up at Adrian. "Thank you."
"And hold that smile. That moment. Hold it for as long as you can, until the next one comes along because it will. It always does."
Adrian put an arm around Beth's shoulder, and she melted into him, still tearful but not distraught.
"You want a lift somewhere, Adrian?"
Adrian took a moment and squeezed Beth’s shoulder. "Only if I can drive."
Beth let out a small laugh.
"See, Beth, there's another one now."



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