Promise

        He drives down the road, windows down, the wind whipping into his ears and threading the scent of sea salt into his hair.  He wants to play music. He doesn’t want to listen to the crying in the backseat.

        She lies curled, fetal position, in the backseat, arms curled around the baby. She is crying and murmuring something, words neither he nor the baby would ever know. Her voice cracks and she wipes her eyes cheeks raw with the heel of her palm, scraping hard at her skin. Once, she looks up at him, but he never looks back.

        He keeps his eyes on the road and his foot on the pedal and tries not to wonder whether he’s making a huge mistake.

        They pass by a direction sign. He doesn’t look at it. He knows the road by heart and takes the right without a second thought. The wheels bump a little as they start the ascent and his hands clench around the wheel.

        The ocean comes into view, glittering and burning the reflected sunlight into his eyes and he slips on his sunglasses and looks away.

        His phone begins to vibrate, and he pulls it out and checks the screen. They were calling again. They’ve called eighteen times in the last hour. He sets the phone back down in the cup holder and lets the call go to voicemail.

       “I’m sorry.” Her voice is too soft to be heard clearly over the wind, but he caught it.

        He nods, unable to speak through the lump in his throat.

        She sits up and touches him on the shoulder. “Thank you.”

        He puts his hand over hers and holds it tight.

        “I know,” she whispers in his ear. “I’m so sorry.” She squeezes his shoulder and slides her hand away.

        The road stops at a wide swath of road and he pulls the car over and cuts the engine. They sit in silence, listening to the distant crash of ocean waves. He breathes in the salt air and the smell of sunshine and vows never to come back to this place ever again.

        She lets out a long sigh and slips out of the car. The sunlight shines on her hair. She cradles the baby to her chest, adjusts the blanket, and bows her head, as if in prayer. He watches in silence and takes a moment to whisper a prayer of his own.

        When she heads towards the side of the bridge, he follows her.

        They walk in silence, following the rough path towards the ocean. He doesn’t think of all the times they’ve walked this path together in the past.

        They reach the fence and step around it to stand at the very edge of the cliff. The ocean stretches around them, reaching towards the distant horizon. He thinks he sees seals, bobbing up and down in the water. Below them, the sheer rock face drops straight down to the frothy waves.

        She stands in silence, holding the baby. He sees she’s crying again and this time she doesn’t bother to wipe her tears. He watches helplessly, feeling like he is going to be sick.

        She turns to him and smiles He wonders if anything he says now could make a difference. But nothings comes to mind and he hates himself for the silence.

        She squeezes her eyes shut before handing the baby over to him. “Remember your promise,” she says insistently.

        He nods once. He feels his throat closing and he can’t breathe.

        She bends to kiss the baby one last time,. “I love you,” she says against the baby’s skin, and steps away.

        He starts to back away from her. He couldn’t bear to watch. But before he could fully escape, she turns and runs three steps and falls a thousand feet into the waters below.

Tiffany Leung

Tiffany Leung is a writer living in New York City and is a full time student at the Center for Worker Education. When she’s not at work making smoothies, she’s at home reading and writing, or out watching movies with friends. She is currently working on a first draft of a multi-chapter story and hopes to share her work soon.

Opening Photo courtesy of Alegares Photography.
Author Photo courtesy of author.

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