The Rift

All Rights Reserved ©

Chapter 19

Dinner on the Rift was a quiet one. Each person wrapped up in their own thoughts, chewing in silence. The sound of metal on tin and the crackle of dry wood snapping in the fire pit, melded with the hushed movements of the river and crickets beginning their evening songs. The sky glowed in silvers, pinks and burnt umber. It was a sunset scene for the ages.

Someone cleared their throat. Another shuffled around on the ground, trying to get comfortable. The awkward vibration in and amongst the group was one none of them was used to. For more than a decade, three of them never experienced such tension between their friendship.

Bethie tossed the used paper goods into the flames and then took the pans down to scrub in the river. Mac went to his kayak and dug around until he pulled out a bottle of whiskey, swiped from Nita’s stock pile. She’d find two twenty-dollar bills left in the empty nook of the cabinet, when she looked. He unscrewed the cap and sat on the beach with his feet in the water, taking long swigs off the neck of the bottle. His breath sucked in through his teeth as the liquid burned and then numbed his throat. Liam went to his and Jay’s tent, the sound of the opening and closing zipper sounded like a shriek of some unknown monster in the quietness. Judah walked up behind Bethie and began to help with the cleanup. “You shouldn’t be expected to take care of all this,” he spoke, softly.

“I don’t mind.”

He took a pan from her hands and rinsed it with a bottle of clean water. “You never do. It’s okay to speak up, say no once in a while.”

She shook her head. “I know that.”

“I’m going to end it with Leslie.” His confession was sudden and out of the blue.

Bethie stopped. Her hands dropped to her side, taken off her guard. “Why? I thought-”

“She’s been right all along.” He dropped his head and scuffed his feet in the sand, fluffing nonexistent locks with his fingers like a comb. “I haven’t gotten over things. I haven’t let myself...” Judah choked back on his words.

Bethie let go of the dishes in her hands, they dropped in the sand becoming coated in layers of granules. She went to Judah, wrapping him in her arms, holding him. His body shook with pent up hurt and sorrow. She stroked his short hair and shushed his pain. “It’s okay, Jude.”

“I wasn’t there. It’s my fault. If I was there for you, instead of running.”

“Shh. It wasn’t your fault, Judah. It wasn’t anyone’s fault.” She cupped his cheeks and tilted his face to look at hers. “It wasn’t your fault. I’m sorry if I made you feel like it was.”

He shook his head. “If I had been there, you wouldn’t have needed to go to Mac. He wouldn’t have seen that open gap.”

Bethie dropped her hands from his tear-streaked cheeks. Her face dropped its expression of sympathy. “You’re kidding me right now,” she sighed. “It wasn’t anyone’s fault, and that includes Mac.”

“Beth, he kissed you. He was ready to take you to bed right there during-”

“No,” she yelled and kicked sand over the already dirty pans, in frustration. “That’s not what happened. That’s what your messed up brain told you and you’re so stubborn you didn’t want to hear anything after the fact.”

“Beth, I’m trying to apologize here.”

“Maybe she doesn’t need your apology.” Mac was standing behind them, the bottle half empty in his hand.

“Mac, shut it,” growled Judah.

“Screw you, man. You can’t see the perfect person standing right in front of you, trying to explain. You’re not always right, ya know. You weren’t there, be here now, you ass.”

Judah turned with fire in his eyes and moved in on Mac like a lion on prey. He grabbed his collar and drove him backward in the sand. Long ditches of scuffs and dragging heels, marred the surface of the beach.

“That’s it, big boy. ’bout time we finished this, all of this.” Mac half yelled, half chuckled as Judah held him in his raging grip.

Judah threw the first punch. Mac reeled back and caught his footing, righting his stance and straightening his body back up. He signaled for Judah to come at him again. His lip bleeding down from the corner of his mouth. Judah charged and knocked Mac to his back. Bethie screamed at them to stop.

The two men rolled in the sand, sending out dry clouds of dust and grit in all directions. There was an audible breaking of glass. Judah’s clenched fist met Mac’s body several times. Mac didn’t return the blows. Liam came out of the tent. “What the hell is going on?”

“Liam do something. He’s going to kill him.”

They could hear Mac’s laughter. It was the sound of insanity. Liam grabbed Judah’s shoulders and pulled him backward with all his strength. Judah was breathless. “I don’t know why I even bother,” he spat.

Mac wedged himself up against a tree stump. His face was puffy. He huffed for air. “Me either, buddy. Did it help? Do you feel better? We all good now?”

Judah dropped to his knees, defeated in spirit. He gasped for air as well, his hands resting on his thighs. Mac wiped at his face and left long streaks of blood over his cheeks. Bethie covered her mouth, her eyes wide. Liam ran to Mac and took up his hands, turning his arms over from front to back. His skin, on one wrist, was cut wide open. “Beth, get the first aid kit and a shirt or towel, anything.” Liam held his hands over Mac’s wrist. “That’s it. I’ve had enough. We can’t keep doing this.”

“Liam, I’m sorry.” Judah fell back on his backside, staring in disbelief at the scene he’d left in front of him.

“Judah, can you stop saying that. We’re all fucking sorry.” Liam seethed, shaking his head and keeping pressure on Mac’s wounds.

Bethie knelt down by her brother. She opened the kit and handed him disinfectant. Mac winced as the clear liquid poured over the cuts. Bethie turned her head away. Mac took deep breaths. Liam looked for shards of glass in the open wounds and found none. He gazed into Mac’s slack features, his heart in shreds. “Judah get over here and rip up some bandages out of that shirt.”

Liam applied pressure with the towel. “We should pack up and head back. You’re going to need stitches, Mac.”

“No way,” Mac hissed.

“Mac, please,” pleaded Bethie.

“No, just wrap it. I’m fine. We’re doing this. I’m not coming back here. We’re doing this like we planned.” He shut his eyes tight while Liam wrapped the strips of fabric around his wrist, tying it off in a tight knot.

“Liam’s right,” started Judah. “We have to end this.”

“No one asked you what you thought, oh mighty leader.” slurred Mac.

“Looks like the whiskey is hitting him. I guess that’s as good a pain killer as we can get right now.” Liam adjusted the knots. “Let’s get him in a tent.”

Liam and Judah each took a side, their arms cradling Mac, as they carried him to his tent. Bethie unzipped it and held the flap open. They set him on his sleeping bag and propped his arm up with the pillows. Liam backed out to grab some water. Mac snagged Judah’s foot in his uninjured hand, holding him back from leaving. “She loves you, man. Always has. I didn’t betray you, man. I never would do that. You have to know that before I go.”

Judah narrowed his eyes. “Where you going, Mac?”

Continue Reading Next Chapter

About Us

Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered publisher, providing a platform to discover hidden talents and turn them into globally successful authors. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books our readers love most on our sister app, GALATEA and other formats.