Jump Solitude and silence used to be the only thing he loved. For the longest time after his family moved here, he would spend hours at a time just sitting next to the swimming hole in the woods behind his house. Even during the winter, he would sit or sometimes even lay on the smooth rock ledge high above the water. From that height he could see every part of the crystal clear blue water below. Many times he would bring a swimsuit just in case he felt like taking a dip, but he never did. He once climbed down the steep slope to the shore, if you could call it a shore, and dipped his feet in the water, but he never jumped in. This was five years ago when he was a child. Now he was 16 and officially an adult in his parents’ eyes, but he didn’t care. His eyes were looking over the water, scanning the trees in remembrance. The air was cold that morning, so he pulled the collar of his jacket in closer for warmth. Although it was fleece, it wasn’t doing a very good job of keeping him warm. Goosebumps crept all over his arms and legs despite the fact that he was wearing two layers of clothing. Somehow he wasn’t bothered by any of it though, because he knew it wasn’t the coat’s fault. He had been cold for about a year now, freezing from the inside out, and there was nothing he could do about it. His eyes kept looking over the water, noticing every detail of every ripple made. If a fish or turtle touched the surface, even for a second, he would see it and follow the waves until they subtly vanished into a calm blue world. If anyone were watching him at the moment they would probably think he was looking for something, and that isn’t entirely incorrect. He was searching for something. But this something couldn’t be seen by anyone but him.
It was a memory, a beautiful time of when he was younger, when sitting on this ledge never made him cry. A tear rolled down his cheek and he lifted his hand to wipe it away. The freezing hand on his face reminded him of Ema. Then again, everything reminded him of her lately. A small smile quivered on his lips and another tear rolled down his cheek. He could no longer see water or the trees. It had all become a blurry mixture of colors and flashing memories. He squinted the water out of his eyes but they soon became blurred once more. He could only see light as he began to sob.
The brightness of the sun was dazzling as he raced Ema through the trees to the small clearing. Only three years had passed after his family moved in, and he had already met the love of his life. For almost a year, he sat alone at the swimming hole, never meeting any new people or inviting his classmates over to swim. But one day during the Spring, a young girl from down the street saw him walking into the woods and decided to follow him. She nearly had to sprint to keep up with him, but she was always able to see him weaving through the trees as if it were a game. And to him it was a game. The first time she followed him, he was completely clueless, but one day he heard footsteps behind him and quickly looked back to see her pursuit. He smiled and kept running. From then on, the two children played this game of tag until one day Ema decided to follow him all the way into the clearing. She had never gone this far back into the woods before because no one had ever wanted to go with her, which is why she was thrilled when she saw him going alone. She stepped out of the trees and saw him sitting on the rock ledge, his feet dangling over
the edge high above the water. She looked across the tree tops in amazement and awe and couldn’t help but say “Wow!” He couldn’t believe that she had actually followed him entirely and so he jumped from fright at the sound of her voice. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you!” Ema yelped instantly at the sight of his shock. Her face flushed pale and her hands were nervously wriggling around behind her back. A smile spread wide across his face and he began to laugh almost hysterically. This went on for about a half of a minute and Ema’s face turned a bright shade of red. He sat back down on the ledge and eventually calmed back down. “It’s ok” he said still chuckling, “You didn’t really scare me.” He smiled as if nothing had happened. She saw he was trying to be funny and put on a sassy attitude. “Yeah right! You were so scared you almost fell off the edge!” She began laughing too and making scared expressions on her face to mock what he had looked like. She opened her eyes extremely wide and put her mouth in the quivery shape an O to show him how funny he looked. He laughed again and turned back to look over at the trees. Secretly, his heart was racing, but he couldn’t let her know that or she might make fun of him. He took a deep breathe and put on a straight face. “So what are you doing here?” The words practically flopped out of his mouth. In secret he had never really talked to a girl before. “I don’t know. I just felt like seeing what you always do when you come up here alone.” She had a half smile and shrugged her shoulders. His lips stopped shaking and he almost frowned at the word ‘alone’.
Alone is what he is now, still looking over the edge of the rock. The smile he had while
he was remembering was gone now and the word alone made him even sadder. He wiped his eyes for the tenth time and rubbed his hands together for warmth. The water had become very calm for the last few minutes so he picked up a small pebble beside him. The edges were smoother than anything he had ever felt and it reminded him of Ema again, so he tossed it, almost angrily into the steady water, creating a large ripple all over the surface.
The water was almost calm again when Ema’s head popped up for air. She laughed and floated on her back, yelling for him to jump in. It had been about half a year after they first met and they were best friends. They went to the swimming hole almost every day and he watched as she jumped off that ledge into the water down below. It was winter time now and he couldn’t believe that she was actually crazy enough to jump in like that. But then he thought to himself that he wouldn’t even jump in if it was warm, and laughed at her insanity. “I’m not jumping!” He laughed. She had been asking him to join her for the entire summer, but there was no way he was going to go swimming during the winter. “Aww come on, you’re making me sad.” She put on a sad face and pretended to cry. “Ha Ha nice try, I’m still not going to swim.” He laughed at her attempt and then sat down on the ledge. “Ugh, you’re so lame,” she said half laughing, “I don’t know why I ever hang out with you.” She went back under and swam to the middle, where the water was deepest. He watched her long brown hair flow smoothly in the water and thought she was almost more beautiful underwater with the light all around her. Suddenly she began to swim quickly over to the shore, her arms and legs pumping at the water almost frantically. She reached the muddy ground and stumbled out of the water.
His eyes widened and he jumped down the ledge to the hard mud floor below and ran over to her. “What happened?! Are you ok?” He asked frightened as he helped her walk to solid ground. She was shaking all over and her mouth trembled as she told him she was ‘Fine’. Apparently there was a bit of an undertow near the middle of the water hole and it surprised her. “I wasn’t scared.” She said still mocking him from the first time they met. Then she laughed and balled her arms and legs up for warmth. He ran and grabbed her a towel to dry off. As he wrapped it around her arms she leaned over and laid her head on his shoulder. “Sorry my hair is wet.” She said almost laughing. He looked down and smiled, “I’m perfectly fine with that.”
He was smiling again at the though of that memory. Another wave of tears rolled down his face and he didn’t care. He laughed with joy at how much he loved her, and wept with sorrow at how much he missed her. He covered his face with his hands and continued to cry in peace. A single tear fell from his hands and dropped passed the ledge, making a small splash in the water.
He was finally swimming, after a year and a half of Ema begging him to go with her, he finally walked into the water and waded out until he couldn’t reach anymore. “Wow.” She laughed, “I’m glad you’re finally swimming with me but come on, at least jump off with me too!” She put her hands on her hip and stood on the ledge above him. “No way Ema, you know I’m afraid of heights.” He explained again. “Fine, I’m just happy I don’t have to swim alone” She smiled brightly. She had the most beautiful smile. Her eyes were almost squinting and her lips actually curved up a little instead of the awkward wide-mouthed smiles that most people have. Her dark brown eyes sparkled and, in
those brief moments, he could always be sure to see the reflection of himself smiling back in his normal dorky way. She jumped off the edge and dived into the water dangerously close to him. He laughed and splashed her when she popped up saying “Aww I missed”. That splash started a mini water war between the two and they floated there for a few minutes just laughing and splashing wildly at each other. She swam forward and grabbed his hands so he couldn’t splash anymore and laughed at him. “Ha!” He laughed back, “You can’t splash me either.” She released his arms and splashed him one more time in the face before he grabbed her arms. She laughed and said, “Didn’t we just go over this?” He smiled and stared at her for a second before saying, “Yeah but I can still dunk you!” He plunged her under the water and she pulled him down with her. They were both laughed insanely under the water and they raced back up to the surface. But when they got back up, they didn’t splash each other. They were just looking at the other and smiling. Ema swam over and hugged him softly. “Thanks for swimming with me.”
His lips mimicked the words that he had wanted to say back. “I love you.” But he never said it. And now he’s alone.
He hugged her back gently and smiled. He was happier than he had ever been for a brief moment, until he heard his annoying ringtone going off. “Ugh, I’ll be right back.” He released Ema then swam over to the shore to grab his phone. He sat on the mud and talked to his dad for about five minutes trying to explain to him that he did ask to go swimming that day. Ema smiled at him in a funny way, like she always did when his dad called him, and he
laughed. “No dad, I’m not laughing at you!” He said in defense then gave Ema a joking disappointed look. She decided to swim around while waiting so she began floating over to the other side of the pond.
He flinched at the memory, and stopped smiling again.
She kept swimming and had gotten about half-way across when he finally hung up the phone. “Wait! No!” he yelled to her. She turned around and felt the terror she felt the day she first swam to this part of the water hole. The current tugged at her feet making it difficult for her to stay above the water. She thrashed wildly trying to get loose, but the more she tried, the more it pulled at her. He ran into the water and began swimming as fast as he could over to her. She was completely under water now.
It started to rain on him. At first he was confused about where he was. It almost felt as if he was back in the water swimming over to Ema. Rain drops were pouring down around him, making the sound of crashing waves in the water below.
His arms and legs were striking at the water at full force trying desperately to get over to Ema. He plunged his head underwater and swam down to her. At first he couldn’t find her, the
water was much darker in the middle of the pond. He finally saw her arm sinking down below and he pushed himself down and grabbed it.
He reached out into space and tried to grab her hand again, but she wasn’t there anymore. He was alone on the ledge.
He pulled her up and grabbed her waist then fought as hard as he could to swim back up to the surface. When they finally emerged, he was entirely weak and could barely swim anymore, but found the strength to float Ema over to the shore. He crawled clumsily through the mud to his phone and began dialing.
The endless ringing still screamed in his ears.
He was still shouting for help when the medics finally found them. And he saw them pumping at her chest trying to revive her as they carted her into the Ambulance. The door slammed.
The pouring rain crashed loudly against the ground, waking him back up from his deep state. The soft sirens echoed endlessly, slowly getting softer.
He called up a friend to drive him over to the hospital where he sat for hours waiting for any word on Ema. His mind was blank, at a loss as to what just happened, and not wanting to know the truth. But he feared the worst.
He was no longer looking at the water but staring helplessly at the sky, almost as if he was trying to stop remembering.
A doctor finally walked into the waiting room with a dark look on his face. “We were able to bring her back for about a minute… but we had to put her on sedatives for any pain she might have.” The words stung.
The falling water was biting at his face now and it was now impossible to tell his tears from the rain.
Just before the doctor left, Ema’s parents ran into the room frantically asking if she is going to be ok. The doctor paused before answering, but by then the whole room already knew the answer. Ema was awake long enough to talk to the doctor and have him write something down, but when they gave her the sedatives, she never woke back up. She had breathed in the water, gasping for air and for him to save her. And as the drugs worked to ease the pain, her lungs failed.
He failed her.
After a couple hours of him sitting next to her hospital bed holding her hand in disbelief, his friend finally forced him to leave. On the way out, the doctor handed him a note and said, “Ema wanted you to have this.” He had put the letter in his pocket and said goodbye to Ema’s parents who were still crying in the waiting room. For a year, he barely spoke to anyone. He was alone. He still went to the watering hole, but he never swam. He cried every time he went, but he still went every day. And he never opened the letter.
He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out the small note, unfolded it, and scanned his eyes over the words time and time again. He stood up and began pacing as he continued to look over it, jumping from line to line. “…..Thank you for being such an amazing person…..” His heart was racing. “….You’re the closest friend I ever had ….” The poring rain was making the note almost illegible so he rushed to finish the last line. “I love you.” The paper fell to the ground. His heart was striking at his chest louder than the thunder itself. He wiped away the water from his eyes and turned toward the ledge. He was shaking almost violently as he unzipped his jacket and let it fall off his shoulders. The rain was freezing through his shirt but he was numb to it. He kicked his shoes off and stared over at the edge of the rock. For almost a minute he stood just staring at the ledge wiping his eyes. Finally he took a deep breathe and broke into a full sprint. As his feet left the ground it felt as if his world had suddenly slowed. There was no more cold, no more rain, no more fear, no
more sorrow. He felt the cool breeze of the air rushing around him as he fell into the dark water below.
He popped his head out of the water and looked up at the ledge. Ema was smiling and getting ready for a cannonball splash. “Ha don’t you dare try and land on me again!” he laughed up at her. “Well I wouldn’t have to if you would jump with me sometimes!” She stuck out her tongue. “Can’t you at least jump once for me?” He looked down at the water and was filled with his fear of heights again. But as his eyes drifted back up at Ema, his fear washed away and was replaced by love and courage. With a smile he answered, “Maybe one day.”