Take Care, Sara

By: Lindy Zart

1





He asked her name and smiled.

It wasn’t the blueness of his eyes or the crinkles around them when he grinned. The brown softness of his hair or the way it curled on the nape of his neck didn’t come close. The masculine beauty of his face; plain, but so much more, and yet nothing more than average wasn’t it either. It wasn’t any of those things that had made her pause and pretend her heart didn’t speed up, though the blush of her skin proved otherwise.

It was all of that and as little as that.

Sara blinked and drew in a ragged breath. Her eyes took in her surroundings, a reminder of where she was and what she was about to do. The park was empty, which was just as well. The wind was picking up, caressing her dark brown hair and sweeping it up and around her head.

She had realized something over the recent months: it didn’t matter who you were or what you’d accomplished in life; none of that mattered when tragedy struck. You had no pull; no power. You had no choice. There was nothing to gamble with; nothing to do to put the odds in your favor. You were there and then you were gone, leaving those around you to realize how insignificant they all really were; leaving them to try to pick up the destroyed pieces. Sara knew now. No one mattered, not really.

The sun, making a brief appearance moments ago, was once again behind the clouds, and it was fitting somehow. Why should the sun shine on this day, as though to applaud her actions? Sara’s flesh was bumpy and tingly and her teeth lightly chattered together.

She looked down and reflexively jerked back. It had seemed so simple earlier, so very easy. Now that she was about to do it, it wasn‘t as uncomplicated as she‘d thought.

“Don’t,” she told herself, “don’t you dare be a coward.”

Sara squeezed her eyes tight against the burning wetness. It trickled past the closed eyelids and made jagged trails down her cold cheeks. He had always loved her eyes, said they were like warm chocolate. Sara let out a shaky laugh. He wouldn’t think they were so lovable right now, would he? The laughter abruptly cut off and Sara forced her eyes open.

It registered in her mind that she was clutching her midsection, as though to hold the pain in, and she let her arms drop to her sides. Inhaling slowly, she stepped toward her destination. Leaves crackled under her shoes and a sob escaped her.

“Leaves make their own music. Listen once. You’ll see what I mean,” he’d told her with a wink and a sweet smile.

She stared straight ahead at the mountain on the other side of the vast river. The mountainside was trees and rocks, and a covering of fog kept it out of focus.

A bird’s cry startled her and she jumped, flinging her arms out to steady herself. Sara’s eyes traveled downward, focusing on the choppy water below. She watched the waves lower and rise, over and over. The river was wide and deep and brown and cold; she knew it would be so cold.

He came home every night from work and before anything else, before he took off his coat or boots or baseball cap, he’d pull her into his arms and hold her close. He’d kiss her forehead and tell her he missed her and he’d smell so good, so familiar, like sunshine and warmth. Like home.

He told her once that if anything ever happened to her, there wouldn’t be enough tears in the world for him to cry.

Sara placed a hand to her mouth.

If she focused really hard, she could almost remember the feel of his arms, the scent of him; that addicting combination of man and soap. His lips had always tasted like cherry Carmex and coffee.

She took a step forward.

Sometimes, when she was really silent and still, she thought she could hear his deep laughter, hear his low voice. He always sounded far away and faint and Sara had to strain her ears to make out his words. But if she thought too hard about it, his voice disappeared, and she was left feeling empty, hollow.

Another step.

They’d bought their first house together. It wasn’t much, just a little two bedroom ranch, but it was theirs. She planted flowers along the front of it, red and pink and yellow ones. Sara kept forgetting to water them and they died. He’d teased her about her green thumb. Then he bought her a fake plant to put outside on the porch.

“This one can’t die ‘cause it ain’t alive,” he’d drawled in that slow country boy way of his. That twang had always been an enigma to Sara, since he’d lived in Wisconsin his whole life.

Sara lined the toes of her scuffed tennis shoes an inch away from the end of Wyalusing State Park. The side of the bluff was jagged rocks and bent trees and dirt. She tried not to look at it. She didn’t want to think about the landing, she didn’t want to think about where that landing might be. She didn’t want to think. Period.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered, wondering if he could somehow hear her. Sara closed her eyes, inhaled slowly, and let her body fall forward.

“Hey!”

The unexpected shout caused Sara to snap her eyes open and flail her arms, which in turn propelled her backward and away from danger. Before she could land on the hard ground, vice-like arms were wrapped around her and pulling her farther and farther away from where she wanted to be. Sara didn’t like the arms around her. She didn’t like what she knew instinctively to be a man holding her that way, the way he’d held her. No one else could hold her that way.

“Get away! Let me go!” she shrieked, kicking her legs out and slapping at the warm flesh.

With a grunt, the arms were suddenly gone. Sara landed on her side in the leaves, the crisp sound of them agonizing to her. She stumbled to her feet, shaking, and turned to face her unwanted rescuer. She didn’t see features or eye or hair color, she didn’t see anything but a person who’d thwarted her plan, a plan it had taken every ounce of her courage to put into motion.

The man asked something. Sara saw his lips move, but there was a buzzing in her ears, blocking out the sound of his voice. She felt numb, like all the energy it had taken to get to that ledge had drained her. She was spent. Sara looked at him, not really seeing him at all, and turned away, back to her car, back to her unnecessary life.

“Hey! Lady! Do you need help?”

Sara walked the short distance to her car, a red four door Pontiac Grand Prix, opened the door, and bent her legs and body into the front seat. She sat with her hand on the keys, looking out the window. She could drive her car over the edge. A vision of her in her vehicle falling, falling, falling into the icy cold water shot through her mind. She saw the car filling up with murky water, she saw herself struggling to get out, to breathe. Sara shuddered. No. Not today.

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