“I can never go back there.”
She would, we’d both known that. Janine just needed her moment at centre-stage.
I’d turned away irritated. We all missed Mel, but trust Janine to try to claim the greatest loss.
Jack had sighed; was it exasperation I’d wondered…or empathy?
“Look Janine,” he’d pleaded quietly, “Remember what Mel said.”
It had been a joke that had started one spring morning as we scrambled up the mountain, lagging behind the other hikers as our small group often did. Jack had said he wanted his ashes scattering at sea, and we’d all followed on, spouting about final gestures. I can’t remember what I’d said but Mel, whose new boots were causing blisters, wanted us to toss them from the top of Helvellyn after she’d gone. We’d laughed.
We’d made two assumptions; firstly that this eventuality was a long way off, and secondly that we’d all still be friends by then. The first assumption was wrong – a few months later Mel had slipped whilst scrambling along a narrow ledge near the top of Helvellyn, plunging to her death.
And the second assumption was at risk now, if Janine continued these attention-seeking tactics. Jack’s loss had been the greatest; he and Mel were engaged to be married.
Eventually though, Janine had agreed we’d honour Mel’s wishes and we set the date.
It’s a beautiful morning, and although the valley is shrouded in mist, the top of Helvellyn emerges, clear and inviting. I’m looking forward to this. It seems like a fitting conclusion to an incident that’s plagued my dreams. A year has passed, to the day; time for us all to move on.
Jack strides out ahead, and the distance between the three of us widens, as it always does, with Janine lagging behind, her whingeing carrying towards us on the breeze.
I concentrate on trying to stay close to Jack. I always do.
When I reach the clearing just before the ledge where Mel fell, I see Jack has placed her boots together on the grass and I have to look away. There’s something about a dead person’s shoes that starkly underlines their absence.
I go to the ledge and stand there. Janine calls out for Jack as she approaches and I wonder if she irritates him as much as she does me.
I hear gravel crunching behind me; Janine gasps. I turn.
Mel’s boots, still muddy, are trudging slowly across the scree towards me, the toecaps kicking up pebbles.
Jack stands white-faced, arms folded until Janine moves to his side. He puts a protective arm around her.
And I see it all, everything I’d refused to recognise before. They’d always wanted to be together, even when Jack was with Mel.
I look down; the boots are right in front of me now, and I feel icy hands round my neck.
As I fall I realise what I did for them that day… pushing Mel off the ledge like that.
And I scream.
As the winner of yeah write speakeasy #100 I got to set the first line for this week’s challenge. So the piece had to start with the words “I can never go back there.” And this picture has to form part of your story, which it does, in a rather eerie fashion.