The sun cast a gleaming reflection on the water under the bridge as we passed over it and into the city, a gold sea running along the border between the quiet town and the boundless city. Bella and I were on our daily bike ride and today we stopped at the base of a crane. Judging by the surrounding buildings, today’s stunt would be some ten stories tall and put us in a perfect spot for the police to catch us. As Bella looked around for a ladder or stairway to begin her ascent, my eyes darted from Bella to anything else to avoid awkward eye contact. Whenever I had extra time to spare, I was reminded of one of my teachers who always said the best way to assess your own life is through the lens of an object so when my eyes landed on the bike I began analyzing it for all the bits and pieces I could take from it. From the tire I began to think about the cycle of life; for me in particular it had become an emotionless journey of the same routine with the only color being these daily bike rides. While many might consider the process boring and excruciating, I found comfort in habit as I had nothing to think about, drifting through life on cruise control. Bella had always hated me in that way, but to be honest I could no longer handle the stress and anxiety that accompanied these stunts, especially the ones like the crane that faced legal consequences.
Whenever I refused to do something, Bella would bring up my past self, a boy who had not yet been influenced by rules and society. When we were kids, I would blindly follow Bella through all of her stunts, thinking nothing could ever go wrong. This bubble finally popped the night I learned what happened when things went wrong. At nightfall, we hid our bikes in the woods near the bridge and began our trek to the ladder leading to the top of the supports. On the climb up, the infamous red and blue lights flashed through the spokes of the ladder and panicking, I forced myself off and into the water. As I plummeted into the river down below, I prayed that I wouldn’t go to jail and it was only once I hit the water that I thought about the forty-foot drop I had just taken without thought. Although the cop left and nothing bad happened, I saw the danger that accompanied her escapades and refused to continue for the sake of my health, not only physically but mentally.
With a thud Bella landed right where she had started her ascent, only now she was a bit dirtier and in her hand she tossed a rock she had found on the site; she threw it at me and whether it was to get my attention or hurt me for not following her, it worked. We rode back over the bridge and into town, only stopping to watch the sunset at the park to make a wish. This had become a ritual and although I had the same wish every day, it never seemed to come to fruition. Even as early as freshman year people assumed Bella and I were dating but it never happened because I had refused to pull a move, too scared of rejection. I often made excuses when people asked, saying a girlfriend would be too difficult or that college would be the time to take that step when in reality I was scared to branch out from the routine I had made and scared to ruin the relationship we already had. So, instead of ever trying to make a move, I wished that some spiritual being would magically bring us together. As the sun continued to disappear over the horizon, we talked for a few more minutes before disappearing into town, ending another successful adventure only to embark on a new one the next day.
Although investigators were never able to find her body in the river under the bridge, they deduced that she had jumped into the water and died on impact, ruling her disappearance as a suicide. I may have not known her as well as I thought but I felt pretty confident the investigators had gotten it wrong. I remembered the night we jumped off the bridge to escape the police and how although it hurt when I landed, the drop was far from fatal. There had been few rocks in the river under the bridge and the water was deep enough in the middle of the bridge. More than anything else, I was almost positive Bella would not kill herself intentionally; though she might have despised society and often criticized college and the future her parents were making her pursue, she had made do with the world she was born into and continued to enjoy what she could. I continued my daily bike rides alone, visiting the spots we used to go to together and watching the sunset at the park. My wish changed after she left, a wish that I would someday see her again but as the days continued on, it seemed as realistic as my original wish. That was until months later when I noticed a letter that had been slipped into my window. Although it was dark and was written with lipstick, the handwriting was undeniable. The only thing Bella wrote was “the most beautiful lie on the other side of fear… find me.” I took the same keys she had off the counter and drove to the bridge. When I arrived, the sun rang in a new day as faint streaks fell on the river, the river that lay on the border between our quiet town and the boundless city.