Looking Down The Leap

By Mark Cunningham

Jill spread out the blanket, snapping it easily across sand pebbled with morning dew.  The sun danced in wispy clouds; the lake sank first into listless gray, then rippled in shimmering blue invitation.   The kids were swimming by the rocks beneath the ledge.  They knew not to actually go up. 

“Lynne’s back to work.”  Macey whispered, though the beach was empty.  “Back at the bank.” 

“Jim was downsized?” 

Macey shook her head.  “George’s cousin Sheila is in IT there.  They found some dirty videos.”   George was Macey’s husband.  He worked with Jill’s husband Larry. 

The sun escaped clouds, swelling the lake with color.  Screaming laughter rode on the wind from the rocks beneath the ledge, stirring Jill’s memories.  She had grown up on the lake.

“Go on and jump.”  11 year old Jill tries to ignore it, but the red heat on the back of her neck will not cooperate. 

The drop from the ledge is about thirty feet.   From where she stands now, it looks like three hundred.

“She won’t jump.”  The burning on the back of her neck races in all directions like a grease fire.

“Jill…”  Macey hesitated for long enough that Jill looked back at her.  “Sheila made copies.”

“Copies?”  Jill thought about Larry’s thrashing noises.  Sometimes she woke up.  That was how it had started.

“George picked one up this morning.”  Macey grinned wickedly.  “He and Larry are going to watch them at lunch.  We are married to a pair of perverts.”  Macey laughed.

“George has seen the video?”

“Videos.”  Marcey corrected.  “Some of them are apparently hysterical.  Oh Jimmy…you make me sooooo wild.”   Macey laughed.  “He asked me if I wanted to watch them with him.  Do you believe that?  I told him to wait for Larry”

Jill looked at the water; calm blue; so easy to get lost in.

Green rocks just below the surface.  She sees them, feet grown solid into the grass of the ledge, hands trembling.

More laughter; she clenches her fists and jumps, too startled to scream until she hits the water, just missing rocks. 

The night of the video, Larry had been particularly restless, making it impossible for her to sleep.  

It starts slowly.  Jim is a flirt.  She slowly loses control.  He dares her to do it.  Larry noises creep under the bedroom door, as she stands on the ledge. 

“Go for it” Jim’s voice over the phone.  “Be wild.”  Finally, she jumps.

Macey finished eating.  “Let’s go to my house.  The kids can play in the backyard   I’ll whip up margaritas” Macey suggested.  She began packing up. 

Jill looked at the water; at the ledge; at the sharp green rocks her kids were playing on.  Her cell phone vibrated.  She saw who was calling and let it go to voicemail, then got up and walked away.

Macey was too excited to even notice.  Guacamole and chips would go well with the margaritas.  She heard a loud splash.  There was something different about the screams that followed.

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