April. That time of year when you couldn’t decide if you needed to wear a jacket or a t-shirt on your way to work. That time of year when there you still had to go out to your car in the morning and scrape frost off your window, but then after work you’d walk out and nearly melt into the pavement. That time of year where you could experience all four seasons in a single day.
Lucas Smith groaned as he hurriedly scraped the frost off the windows of his car, knowing if he took much longer, he’d be late for work. His boss, Mike Morrison, was picking on him lately and he was tired of it, so he didn’t want another reason for his boss to be mad at him.
Luckily, he managed to scrape off enough space for him to see through his windshield and hop into his car, turning it on so that the heat was on full blast and would make the frost melt faster as he drove. As he pulled out of his driveway, he recalled the conversation he’d had with the car’s former owner on the day he’d bought it, back in December last year.
“Wow, I didn’t expect you here!” Janet Atkins exclaimed when she opened the front door of her house. Janet was a former high school friend of Lucas’. They’d lost contact over the years and only late last year she started working at the same store he worked at – Morrison’s Wholesales. They had hung out once since then, and Lucas had recognized her house when the bus had dropped him off just a few seconds down the road. He hadn’t realized that she’d be the one who was selling the car he was interested in.
“Yeah, uh, you have a car for sale?” Lucas glanced around and saw a car that was sitting in the open garage. It had a “for sale” sign on it.
“Oh, you’re the one my mother’s been talking to!” Janet grinned, then came outside and led him into the garage to show him the car. “She told me someone was coming to look at it today, I had no idea it would be you.”
“Well, since me and Celeste got in that accident and my car was wrote off, I needed a new one.” Lucas mentioned his girlfriend, Celeste Minton. She was back at her place, waiting for him. He’d told her he would come see her after he bought this car.
Janet frowned. “Well, I’m sorry to hear about your accident. But let me show you the car. My mom’s only getting rid of this because she found a newer version. It works fine and has two-year safety inspection.”
The more Janet talked, the more she impressed Lucas with her knowledge of cars, but also annoyed him because he could barely get a few words in. People who never shut up annoyed him, being an introvert at all, he preferred to be around people who were like him and who’d actually listen to what he had to say. That was why Celeste was perfect for him. She was an introvert too, so she understood. Janet however, was an extrovert. Though him and Janet had been good friends, he could never see them as being anything more, mostly because he’d be annoyed from being around her for more than an hour. He knew that Janet might like him as more than a friend, but she also knew that he was taken.
Lucas peered in the car and looked around the inside, he also inspected the underside of the car as best he could, and found very little damage on the body. A few scratches and dings here and there, but nothing to be worried about. When he started it up, it sounded good.
“Do you want to go for a test drive?” Janet asked, getting into the passenger’s seat next to him.
“Sure.” Slowly, Lucas pulled out of the driveway and went down a few streets. “It feels nice,” he commented, while also testing the brakes.
“Yep, like I said, it works fine.” Janet suddenly surprised him by casually putting a hand on his arm. She wasn’t even looking at him as she did it.
It made Lucas uncomfortable, but he didn’t want to be rude and shake her off. Instead he let her keep her hand there for a minute until she removed it on her own. After another few minutes, he turned the car around and drove it back to Janet’s place.
They got out of the car and Janet came over to his side. “Well?” she asked expectantly.
“I like it. I’ll take it.” Lucas decided that he wanted the car, and handed Janet the money in cash. He’d had some saved up from his time at work that was just sitting in his bank.
Janet counted the money before pocketing it. “Thank you. The papers and stuff are in the dash. You just have to get it insured and put in your name to make it officially yours. Also, you probably want a new license plate.”
“Yeah, I know. Thanks though.” Lucas smiled at her and attempted to get into the car to drive away, but she grabbed his arm to try and stop him.
“Wait!” she exclaimed. “Don’t you want to stay for a little bit and chat? I’d like to hang out with you more outside of work.”
“Sorry, but I promised Celeste I’d go see her today after I bought the car.” Lucas tried to leave again, but Janet wrapped her arms around his waist before he could bend over to get into the car.
“I’ve missed having you in my life. I don’t know why we drifted apart. I really do want us to be as good of friends as we were back then,” she whispered.
Lucas turned around to face her, so that her head was pressed against his chest as she hugged him. Awkwardly, he hugged her back. “I’ll hang out with you sometime, but right now I’ve got plans with Celeste.”
“Please, just for a minute,” Janet lifted her eyes to look up at him. “My mom won’t be back for a few hours and I get bored alone at home.”
Lucas sighed. “Okay, fine. Not for long, though.”
Janet grinned, grabbed his hand and practically dragged him inside her house. Lucas tried to let go of her hand, but she wasn’t having it. Instead, she pulled him to the living room couch, where they sat. All Lucas could think was that he wanted to get to Celeste soon.
Janet held his hand and cuddled right up against his side, too intimately for his liking. She talked for a few more minutes while cuddling with him, but he didn’t respond to the attention. He didn’t want to be rude to her but if she couldn’t respect that he was in a relationship, he had to say something before she got the wrong idea.
Then she looked up at him, and before he knew what was happening, she closed the gap between their lips.
Quickly, he pushed her away and stood up. “No! I’m with Celeste, don’t you get that?” he said forcefully.
Janet appeared upset. “I know, I’m sorry. I just have wanted to kiss you for so long that I couldn’t hold back anymore.”
“Whatever.” Lucas huffed and left the house, leaving her sitting on the couch alone to stare after him.
After that, Lucas hadn’t told Celeste about Janet kissing him, because he didn’t want Celeste to make a huge deal over nothing, or accuse him of cheating. That was when him and Celeste had been together for a month and a half. Now, it was five months later, and he still hadn’t told her. Since then, though, he hadn’t hung out with Janet, though she still texted him some. If she asked him to hang out, he would say he was busy. But he still had to interact with her at work.
Celeste was living with him part-time, now. She lived with him during the week, then on weekends they would go to her parent’s place so she could still see her family. Lucas knew she didn’t have a job and only lived off of meagre savings, so he didn’t expect her to help with anything money-wise. He could handle it. They’d had this living arrangement since last month, and so far it was going well.
Sure, they argued some and annoyed each other like crazy, but in the end it wasn’t really anything to worry about. Mostly just picking at each other over stupid things, or purposely trying to annoy each other. He was lucky Celeste had a good sense of humor, and enjoyed his sarcastic way of talking sometimes. Other times, it would annoy her and she’d snap, but quickly get over it. Lucas knew he could handle her strong, fiery attitude. He had a pretty thick skin himself. It wasn’t like she was cruel or mean to him, she was very loving. She just had a short temper sometimes, as most girls he knew did.
Now, though, he drove over West Bridge, which was the bridge where he’d spotted Celeste sitting on the railing back in November, about to take her own life. He had known something was wrong from the way she was leaning out, as if testing to see if she’d let go. Plus, what she had been wearing was more like spring clothing than winter.
He knew the signs that someone was about to take their own life. He’d attempted to do so himself, a few months after his parent’s deaths, which was a few months into his recovery. He just couldn’t take the pain (physically and mentally) anymore. He’d tried to overdose on his pain meds, but his best friend, Adam Knight, had walked in and, on realizing what Lucas was trying to do, he’d yanked the bottle from his hand, spilling some of the pills onto the floor. Lucas had started crying then, harder than he had when he’d learned his parents were dead and that he’d been unconscious and missed their funeral. Adam had comforted him, giving him a hug and telling him things would be okay. That was the first (and last) time Lucas had cried in front of anyone, besides learning that his parents were dead. He hadn’t cried in front of Celeste yet.
Now, it was almost two years since Lucas’ parents had gone so tragically. Currently, it was April, their deaths had been in June two years ago, just before his college graduation. He missed them both, and really wished they were still around to meet Celeste. He knew they would love her, and they’d be happy that he’d saved someone’s life, and found someone who was extremely compatible with him, and seemed to understand him more than anyone he’d dated before.
Soon enough, Lucas arrived at work to begin another day in hell.
“Lucas!” Mike Morrison called Lucas from the next aisle over. It was around eleven AM, and Lucas was busy stocking shelves and putting the prices on items. He set down an item he was holding and went into the aisle that Mike had called him from.
“Yes?” Lucas asked, making it known to Mike that he was annoyed.
“You put the wrong prices on these suntan lotions, they are supposed to be $8.50, not $5.50. We’d be ripped off three bucks. Fix it.” Mike thrust the lotion at Lucas who groaned.
“I wasn’t in this aisle. Laura was,” Lucas tried to defend himself.
Mike shook his head. “She found this mistake and pointed it out to me. Since you’re in the next aisle over, she said it was probably you who made the mistake.”
“If you’d look on the security camera, you’d clearly see that Laura was here.” Lucas sighed but took the lotion from Mike.
“Don’t be smart with me. You’ve been a reliable employee, Lucas, but I can’t afford mistakes like this.” With that, Mike turned on his heel and strode away, leaving Lucas muttering to himself as he fixed Laura’s mistake.
Why did Mike have to pick on him all the time? Ever since Laura had started working there six months ago, Lucas had noticed a drastic change in Mike’s behaviour toward him, and then his behaviour towards Laura. Mike never used to have favourites, but since Laura came along, he loved to pick on Lucas. Especially when Laura made a mistake, she would blame Lucas, and in turn Mike would reprimand him for something he didn’t do. He’d tried to defend himself, but after a while he’d just given up because Mike didn’t seem to listen to him where Laura was concerned.
Sure Laura was attractive, with her busty chest and long blonde hair, but she put on pounds of makeup and would often try to get as close to breaking the dress code as she could without actually breaking it. Women here were supposed to wear their blue work tops and either a long skirt, jeans, or knee-length shorts along with sneakers or flat shoes. It was pretty casual.
Laura, on the other hand, would wear her blue shirt tied up around her waist so that just a hint of the skin on her stomach was visible. She’d also leave the top two buttons undone, showing off quite a decent amount of cleavage. Her skirts and shorts were a couple of inches above the knee. Most of the other female employees were pretty good at following the dress code, but Laura liked to push it as far as she could without getting in trouble. Mike likely wouldn’t reprimand her for it anyway.
Of course, Lucas would catch male shoppers openly staring at Laura, as she was attractive and had a curvy body. Some even stared at Janet, too, but most of the attention went to Laura. It made the other female employees jealous, one of them being Emily McRae.
Emily was a few years younger than Lucas, but she’d been here a couple of years now. She had the same opinion of Laura that Lucas did – that Mike was favouriting Laura over everyone else.
Now, Emily approached Lucas. He hadn’t even seen her in the aisle, and it startled him when she spoke up. “Hey.”
He jumped a little, then turned to her. She giggled. “Sorry,” he grinned. “You startled me.”
“It’s okay. I overheard what Mike said to you. And you’re right, I did see Laura here earlier pricing these. She was the one who under-priced them, not you. I think she did it on purpose and then tried ratting you out to get you in trouble.” Emily’s smile faded into a frown. “I think there’s something going on between Mike and Laura, but I can’t put my finger on it.”
The wheels began turning in Lucas’ mind. “You don’t think...she’s only nineteen...he wouldn’t go for her, would he?” He asked Emily for her opinion.
Emily shrugged. “Never know. Laura seems like a dumb enough person to get into that kind of relationship. Mike’s married, but Laura could care less if a guy was taken or not. I heard her gossiping to the other girls about a married man she was seeing, who had money and was older than her. She didn’t say who specifically.”
“It would make sense,” Lucas agreed. “How he suddenly started treating the rest of us like shit while he put her on a pedestal.”
“Yeah, I’m going to look out for signs of such a thing between them, but don’t tell anyone yet, okay? We don’t want the gossip to go around,” Emily suggested, then changed the subject. “How are you and Celeste?”
“I won’t tell anyone about our suspicions, and me and Celeste are fine. She’s still fighting depression but at least she’s trying to get help, and I admire that.” Lucas was more open with Emily than his other employees. Sure, he was friends with Janet too, but he didn’t trust her blabbermouth. Emily was moreso on the quiet side and kept to herself, but she’d warmed up to Lucas.
Emily nodded, giving him a smile. “That’s good, glad to hear it. Want me to help you fix Laura’s mistake? After that, I can help you with stocking your other things.”
Lucas would have turned away her offer, but looking at the bottles of suntan lotion still left on the shelf, and thinking how many boxes he himself had to unpack, he realized he could use the help. “Sure, that would be good. Thanks.”
“No problem. Just let me get a pricing gun from the back room and I’ll be right back.” Emily turned and headed off down the aisle.
In the meantime, Lucas absently stuck price tag stickers on the lotions, his mind on Celeste, who was currently at his place. He couldn’t wait to get home and be with her.
Lucas took in the sight of his girlfriend’s body, naked beneath him. Celeste’s long, chestnut coloured hair was askew on the pillow, and she was breathing heavily, her bright green eyes shining in the light of his bedroom. A sheen of light sweat covered her body, making her skin glow.
After a few minutes, they got dressed into comfy clothes before snuggling on his bed, turning on the TV.
“Are you hungry?” he asked her.
“A little. I made a sandwich for lunch, but haven’t had anything since, and it’s almost five.” Celeste glanced at the clock on the wall of his room.
Lucas nodded. “Okay, what did you want? I have pasta. I can make spaghetti.”
“Sure.” Celeste smiled at him and he kissed her before getting up to begin the task of making supper. Celeste followed him into the kitchen, where she would help when needed, but it didn’t take much effort to make spaghetti.
They ate and watched TV in his living room. This was a typical day for them, but now that the temperatures were warming up and the snow was finally melting, there was more to get out and see.
“Do you want to go for a walk on the waterfront?” Lucas asked after they were finished eating.
“Okay.” Celeste helped him put away the dishes, then they got ready and headed outside.
While it was warming up, there was still a bit of a nip in the air, so they still needed jackets. Lucas noted what jacket Celeste was wearing.
“Hey, that’s the jacket I met you in...” Lucas gave her a sad smile, once more replaying the scene in his mind.
Celeste nodded as they stepped out into the fresh April air. The evening sun was just starting to set, casting rays of pink and gold over the city of Coldstone, and in their view, Coldstone Harbour. Turning to Lucas, Celeste said bluntly, “Yeah, the day that I almost died. And you saved me. You know you’re my hero, right? You gave me a second chance at life.”
Lucas still didn’t like being referred to as a “hero”, but he let it go. “I did. And you turned my life around, too, you know. I was feeling lost, but you’ve given me something to look forward to again.” He gave her a hug and quick kiss on her lips. Her lips were already cold from the air, and yet they sent a spark through him. She was his fire.
They continued on down the street, towards the boardwalk. When they reached it, they had a better view of the sunset to their right. To their left, the harbour narrowed into a river, and across that river was West Bridge, the bridge that Celeste had almost killed herself on.
Celeste snapped a few photos with her cell phone, then took a selfie with Lucas with the sunset and South Coldstone in the background. They were currently in North Coldstone, where they both lived.
While Celeste uploaded the photo to Instagram and checked her Twitter feed, Lucas glanced in the direction of West Bridge. He couldn’t see it clearly from here, but it appeared that something had made a splash in the water below it.
Seconds later, an ambulance close by turned on its sirens and blasted off. Not only that, but the harbour rescue boats were suddenly on their way towards West Bridge. The bridge was at least a hundred feet up, that part of the river was shallow, only twenty feet deep. A fall like that would kill anyone.
Celeste gasped beside Lucas, her eyes widening as she looked towards the bridge where the activity was increasing.
Lucas watched as the boats finally arrived, and saw them pull a motionless body out of the water. Though it was a bit of a distance, Lucas could make out the lifeless human form. Once on the boat, the paramedics tried CPR but to no avail. The person no longer moved. They were gone. They had likely hit their head on the bottom, passed out, then drowned before the boats could get there. Paramedics covered the body up with a bag and brought it to shore, where the nearby ambulance sat just a few hundred feet from Lucas and Celeste. Lucas grabbed Celeste’s hand and squeezed when the paramedics lifted the body on a stretcher and put it into the ambulance. He glanced down at Celeste, saw her face was pale.
“That...that could have been me...” she whispered, horrified, as the ambulance sped off, but turned its sirens off, as it did when it was carrying a dead body. There was no emergency when the person was dead. Lucas knew that Celeste hadn’t seen a dead body before, or watched someone die, so she was more than likely in shock. He wrapped his arms around her as the rescue boats docked and everyone on board went about their business.
“I feel so sorry for the person’s family, who has to find out about this,” Celeste said quietly as they walked farther away from the scene. “I also wonder what was so terrible in their life that they felt this was the only way out. Bullying? Harassment? The death of someone else close to them?”
Lucas gazed into Celeste’s green eyes, could see them filling up with tears. He reached out to brush her brunette hair from her forehead and wipe away a tear that had fallen. “Hey. You probably understand that person better than anyone else. You were in that exact same position. So was I, but I never tried to jump off a building or bridge.”
Celeste nodded, sniffling a bit. “Y-yes, I do. I understand them completely Sometimes...I still feel it.”
This was the first Lucas had heard of that in a while. He gazed at her. “Really? When? Why don’t you tell me? What triggers it?”
“Well, I want you to know that you do make me happy, and you saved my life, you give me something to look forward to. But...you aren’t the cure-all to my depression. It still comes up. Sometimes, if Natalie messages me saying how much of a bitch I am, or if I just think about the harassment I went through...”
“Hey, I understand. I’m happy I’ve helped you, but depression can’t be cured that easily. What about Brad?” Lucas felt protective of Celeste. If these assholes couldn’t leave her alone it would hurt her continuously. Brad Auston was Celeste’s ex of two years, they had only broken up a few weeks before Celeste and Lucas had met. Natalie Lakes was a former high school friend who had turned on her, along with Brianna Himpson (Natalie’s bff and minion) and Jordan Dover, Natalie’s on-again-off-again boyfriend, who had raped Celeste during a party while him and Natalie were broken up briefly.
“Natalie does about once every few weeks, and Brad maybe every couple of months. I’ve told you most of it, but some I kept to myself because I didn’t want to worry you.” Celeste took his hand and they continued walking down the waterfront. She had stopped crying, and had wiped her few tears away.
“Please, tell me all of it,” Lucas begged. “I don’t want you to ever feel like you’re burdening me. If you ever feel suicidal or like you want to harm yourself again, talk to me. I’m here for you, you know that. And I’m not going anywhere.”
Celeste turned to smile sadly up at him as they walked. “I love you. And of course, from now on I will tell you, I won’t hide anything. So, did anything interesting happen at work today? Janet or anyone else flirt with you?” She changed the subject. Probably to talk about something other than the death they had just witnessed, and her depression.
Lucas smiled back before answering. “No one flirted with me, and I think that my boss, Mike, is having an affair with Laura. It would explain why he’s suddenly attached to her and treating me and almost everyone else like dirt. She tries to break the dress code and doesn’t get in trouble for it. He blames me for her mistakes. More like, she makes mistakes, then blames me and he believes her. I’m getting sick of it. Me and Emily are going to keep an eye out for anything weird happening between the two of them.”
“That’s gross. He’s what, in his fifties, and she’s nineteen?” Celeste made a disgusted face. “He’s married, too. What an asshat.”
“If I ever have definite proof they are having an affair, I’m going to call them out, and then leave to find a new job.” Lucas sighed. He was getting sick of being treated like scum. If he quit, he would most likely pursue the career he’d taken in college – mechanics.
Meanwhile, Celeste had applied for college a few hours away, she had originally taken photography but now she wanted to change her career and go for something in the printing industry. Lucas was willing to do a long distance relationship with her. Even though she had just turned twenty-four in March, it was never too late to change your mind about your career and go back to school. The course was only a year, so at least the distance wouldn’t be for too long, plus she would come home probably once a month or so. She was just waiting on the acceptance letter. The course would start in September of this year.
Lucas himself was twenty-four-going on twenty-five in July, so their age difference wasn’t much. Lucas had probably gone to the same high school as Celeste, since they only lived about a ten minute drive from each other, though he would be a grade older.
“Yeah, you should. It’s wrong and illegal and immoral in many more ways than one. One, their age difference. Two, he’s married. Three, he’s her boss.” Celeste squeezed Lucas’ hand and watched the sunset as they walked. “You know, it was a beautiful sunset. That was the last thing that person saw...” she trailed off, glancing back over her shoulder at the bridge in the distance, which was now back to normal as if nothing had happened there just moments ago.
Well, of course they had just witnessed a traumatic thing. Lucas couldn’t expect her to be okay immediately. “Do you want to go home?” he asked her. “If being here is making you upset after what we just saw...”
“Well, the sun’s pretty much going down anyway...so yeah, I guess.” Celeste turned around and he turned with her, their backs to the sunset, facing the bridge and the rescue boats which were now quiet. “There was a dead person on the deck of that boat...” Celeste whispered as they passed about twenty feet from it. It was moored at the dock, and the boardwalk was right next to it.
“Please, try not to let it get to you. I know you’ve already got a lot on your mind.” Lucas was worried for her mental health, that she would think about this too much. “If it ends up eating you up, you can always go back to your counsellor right? There’s only so much I can say to ease your mind.”
“Yes, Alan said I could go back any time I felt like I needed it. He said I had made progress, but still had quite a ways to go. Just that he was going on vacation for a month, and told me that it was up to me to decide whether to continue seeing him or not after he got back.”
“Okay, good, let’s get out of here.” Lucas tugged her away from the rescue boat and they went back to his place, mostly quiet. Lucas hoped Celeste wouldn’t take to heart what she had seen, but he knew that she already had.