Alex’s position, sitting cross legged on the bed was meant to clear her mind. Instead, she stared at the cherry wood walls. Her thoughts trying to convince her there was something she needed to do, but her heart refusing to comprehend.
With a glance around, her gaze fell on a graduation photo of Jay hanging on the wall across from the bed. His dark eyes, alight with joy that night, sparked her memory of another time he was there for her.
Gated hallways and gymnasiums decorated in school colors, were supposed to entice them away from the rowdy, drinking parties brewing underground since their freshman year.
Alex was indifferent to the grad night celebrations, but Jay had that look in his eye. The one she knew meant he was up to something. Their parents, agreeing to suspend curfew, left them at the high school, probably assuming they would be chaperoned by the senior class faculty.
Jay’s eyes burned bright in the dim light of the parking lot as he told Alex about the plans for later.
“The Falls.” Alex gulped harshly. “At night? Isn’t that kind of scary?”
"“We are going to build a bonfire and roast hotdogs. Besides, cliff jumping isn’t any fun unless you do it at night.”
A group of their friends were gathering around trucks and jeeps in preparation for the excursion down into the canyon a few miles from town. Alex felt as if the tide of the party were pulling at her and her instinct was to fight it.
Jay begged her with his eyes. “I need to get as far away from…her… as I can tonight. She’s going hot-tubbing with the football team and I just can’t be around for that.”
Jay watched his ex- girlfriend, half dressed and all drunk, making a fool of herself with the offensive line. , his need pierced Alex’s worries.. “What are we waiting for?” Alex agreed, her broken smile all she could manage.
If she was nervous before they left the school, two hours later she was furious. The main road down the canyon was blocked off by the police, hoping to discourage parties like this. They, instead, took a narrow winding gravel road which dropped at a too steep angle, into the dark abyss. The sheer canyon walls and the unpaved, rutted road made progress slow until they were forced to stop. A jeep with a blown tire, brought the entire caravan to a precarious halt on the too thin road. A friend of theirs, Jenny Peters , sprained her ankle when they tried to walk the rest of the way.
At first, Alex thought this was good news. They would have to go back. Jen and her boyfriend saved the day though when they volunteered to baby-sit the cars instead. , using the backseat, the radio, and the night for camouflage, Alex listened to Jen and Travis making out in the car while she was just annoyed. as they made their way to the driftwood fire, she let go of Jay to pout alone on a splintered stump. Some of the guys were drinking, one of them taking up an obsessive fascination with her. When he tried to drag her into the pool of water above the falls, Jay appeared beside her..
“In order to jump from the falls, we have to cross the water and go down stream. Are you okay with that?”
Alex glanced at her unwelcome admirer before Nodding.
Jay got them over the crossing to a rocky bank handing her his flash light.. “Are you sure you’ll beOkay, if I go jump? I know you hate rivers.”
I’m fine Jay; I’m just not going swimming in the dark. You should go have fun though.”"
“I’m going to have a tough time doing that, while you’re down here imagining nightmares,” he muttered under his breath. “Well,don’t think about it like that then. Think of it more like I’m here, safe and sound. Watching you and not remembering almost drowning in ghoul’s wash.”Jay rolled his eyes and then grabbed her hand to take her back upstream.“We don’t need to be here, Lex.”
“We do need to be here.” She insisted fiercely, digging her feet into the stoney ground. “You need to go forget everything for a while. I need to grow up and quit acting like I’m still 9 years old. I didn’t drown and it was a long time ago. I can handle this.
She couldn’t see his expression in the dark, but she didn’t need to see anything. She was all to aware of her flimsy words betraying her. Taking a steadying breath she pulled her hand out of his. “Please Jay, it was hard enough to cross over the first time. I don’t think I’m ready to go back, and I won’t be any better off by the fire with the drunks.”
The expression on his face argued with the worry in his eyes, but he climbed back to the head of the falls anyway.
With every wild fling of his body off the top of the falling water, Jay seemed to be releasing the stress Alex had seen building in him over Olivia. Tonight, he was free and for an instant she was glad they came.
“Swim with me Alex,” A nasal voice said behind her.
Her drunken admirer from earlier appeared on the river bank, grabbing at her and dragging her toward the foaming water.
Before she could scream a protest, the bank beneath their feet gave way and Alex plunged into the river.
The drunk guy, her flashlight, and All rational thought, fled downstream in the rushingwater. The spring run-off chilled her bones, weakening her arms and legs as she fought the current.
The thundering falls filled her senses and she felt herself hyperventilate. It was dark, and her sense of direction became masked by her fear, until she heard Jay’s voice “Lex!” he shouted above the crashing water. “It’s me. Don’t move until I get to you.”
No problem, she thought. I couldn’t move if I wanted to.
The movement of his body through the rivers current blended with the slapping water. She heard shouts, the falls and her own thundering pulse, but it was his voice reassuring her which broke her catatonic state. his strong arms pulled her against his chest and she sucked in a breath. He held her, in one long bronze arm, towing her along as if she were just a part of his lean muscular torso. Taking her to a grouping of rocks next to the falls, he helped her climb out of the water.“Are you OK?” he asked brushing the limp wet hair out of her face. “I’m sorry…”
Jay kept saying it over and over again, trying to still her shaking lips and frightened eyes. She couldn’t pull back from him, and he just kept apologizing. When her mind caught hold of his words, she shook her head, feeling the terror of the river finally, replaced with the safety of him still holding her.
“I’m okay,” she assured him, “but I think Chris Connors is going to drown if someone doesn’t get him out of the river.”
Jay growled, a curse slipping from low under his breath. “Chris is passed out in Baldwin’s Jeep, otherwise I would have drowned him myself already, I’m sorry. Let’s just take you home.”
He started to pull her to her feet but she remained on the boulder, watching the freedom of their friends jumping from the brim of the falls. “I’m already wet,” she offered with a shaky laugh. “You might as well go have some fun.”
Grimacing with a guilty glint in his eye, Jay stared out into the deepening night.
“It was only fun as long as it kept my mind offOlivia,” he muttered. “I don’t care about any of that anymore. She was just a girl and if she thinks she’s better off with Trent Christian, then he can have her.”
Alex smiled at the memory now, recalling how Jay’s former girlfriend had ended up married to Trent Christian six weeks later and having his baby seven months after that. She’d done the math and realized what happened that night.
Now she breathed a sigh of relief. He’d dodged that bullet.
Alex stood from the bed and walked over to the framed photograph. The cerulean blue of his cap and gown contrasted perfectly with his dark skin and eyes and the smile on his face made a flood of memory pulse against her heart. “How did those girls ever let you go?” she whispered touching the glass with her fingertips.
Is it time to fix this? She wondered.
Alex pulled out her phone to dial his number.