They call Mercury Overpass a 'Bridge to Nowhere.'
Construction began in the late summer of 2001, but the funds dried up before anything was finished. The overpass connects smoothly from a junction of the motorway, juts out over Summit Lake, and then hovers somewhere close to completion near the cliff edge. For obvious reasons, its entrance is boarded up.
I think the plan was to finish it later this year: make it the Bridge to Somewhere, charge a hefty toll and rake in the tourist money. Perhaps Grace threw a spanner in the works for that scheme, because I hear that now they call Mercury Overpass the 'Suicide Bridge.'
A few days after they fished her body from the lake, some kids from our school snuck through the sealed entrance to lay flowers by the railings. Once they'd done that, more bouquets appeared; someone even pasted a photo of her to a lamppost. Every time I walk by, the shrine has grown like a hungry tumour.
People remain adamant that I orchestrated the whole thing, and I've done nothing to put the rumours to rest, but the truth is I can't face even walking onto that bridge, let alone leaving her gifts. That's not to say I haven't visited her grave: I have said goodbye. But is that truly possible if she'll never hear me? Who knows any more; I certainly don't. All I can do is keep turning these thoughts over and over in my head until I have the entire argument scripted to perfection. That's been the routine for a month now.
I sigh and glance down at my watch. The glass face cracked a while ago, and there's a great jagged scar that obscures the minute hand. All I can see is that it's nearly two o'clock, but the specifics hardly matter when you've never got anywhere to be.
I can feel my legs cramping up underneath me, so I push myself up out of the chair. My letter sits unfinished on the desk, but I've run out of words by now and the shroud of sadness has begun to settle around me again. When that happens it's as though my entire body flickers like a dimmer light, and suddenly my energy disappears.
I pad slowly into the kitchen when I hear a clatter of pots and pans. My mum stands by the sink, scrubbing furiously at a wok with a brillo pad: a look of grim concentration on her face.
"Mum?" When she hears my voice, the motion falters. She jerks her head upwards to meet my gaze, but her body slumps once her hand stops scouring. The running water chimes against the metal as I talk, "I'm going to the shop, do you want anything?"
As she considers this, she reaches out and wrenches the tap closed. The sudden, hostile silence descends and crackles between us. That's the thing when someone dies; any and all quietness hovers around you like an unanswered question. If Grace were here, there would be no lull in conversation: she despised silence. And now she's left it behind for me.
Mum wipes her palms against her apron and reaches for her purse on the counter. With her shaky fingers she plucks a five pound note from the pouch and waves it at me.
"Grab a lottery ticket," She wavers slightly, "we could do with something nice."
I nod, but can't bring myself to smile. Her words, far from being encouraging, end up sounding like morbid irony. She pulls me into a hug on my way out, and runs a damp hand over my hair. I relax into her arms for a moment, and then I'm out the door.
The minute I tug our front gate shut, I burst into tears.
Somehow, I haven't found a way to stop the crying yet. It seems to be the one facet of grief that I can't shove down with the rest; no matter how I try it just bubbles over the edge, unannounced and indefinite. What's worse is that once I start sobbing, all of the other damning thoughts start to wash over me.
YOU ARE READING
The Jump That Left Me StrandedTeen Fiction
When Grace Ballard jumped to her death from Mercury Overpass, the whole town halted to a stunned silence. They halted to a stunned silence for all of a few weeks, before things picked up as normal. It's not the same for Natalie, one month in and sh...