Chapter One : The Boy Near The Bridge
"Yo, you dead?" Jamal asked suspiciously through the phone and I laughed quietly.
"Not yet. Are you waiting for my death to whisk away my signed Katy Perry sweater?" I teased.
"I know, so after my death, my sister won't get it. It'll be all yours," I announced and for a moment, I swear I heard him squeal.
"How many more days you'll live?" he asked between his noises of pure excitement which made me smile.
"Dunno," I mumbled and suddenly, I heard my mum call me from behind. Our entire family had gone to a family restaurant nearby for a delicious lunch. I suggested that we would go for a walk after lunch, so here we were, aimlessly strolling on the bridge.
"Your mamma near you? If she heard that I'm secretly wishing for your death, she'll castrate---"
"Relax, she didn't hear a thing," I whispered and pressed the phone above my chest to inform mum, "Maa, I'm going a little further! You guys can go home!"
"I'll be fine! I just need fresh air!" I shouted and quickly walked further to put some distance between my family and me.
My family, especially my mum was always lingering around me and I didn't quite blame her because I could drop dead any second. Any second.
Okay, I was exaggerating, but then sometimes I felt particularly low and when I started to feel nauseous or exhausted, I felt like I was dying. It wasn't true though. I still had some months to live and I was grateful for that.
"White chicks are crazy," I heard Jamal mutter under his breath since he had always been very scared of my mum and I snorted.
"My mum is half Asian---"
"And half white."
"Fair enough," I admitted and we remained silent for a while as I hunched over and stalked on the deserted bridge. The road bridge was constructed over our town's wide river, a major water source for many of us. It had a thick, black railing of either side to serve as a barrier. Occasionally, one or two cars passed by, but this flyover was mainly isolated during noon.
My mind was occupied by tense thoughts spinning around, the harsh noise of the river water and the gales swishing, creating absolute mayhem. There was a prolonged silence until I heard Jamal's voice.
"Let it all out, I know you won't call your fireman unless you need to be rescued," Jamal said in a sassy tone, proud of knowing me too damn well and I sighed.
"Well . . . Shaun got an internship abroad and will finally do something productive, but maa is not allowing him. She says that he needs to stay home and spend some quality time with his sisters, to look after me since I have some months left," I elucidated and Jamal just hummed in response. "So . . . What do you think?"
"I ain't got any say when it comes to your mamma, you deal with her your way 'cause she's always right," he replied nonchalantly and I shook my head in self-pity.
"Alright, knew you would say that-oh wait," I paused when my gaze flickered to a tall figure standing at the edge of the bridge as if the figure was ready to leap. I inhaled deeply and rushed through my words impulsively, "Listen, Jamie, there's kind of an emergency situation here. Call the cops and send them to the bridge over our town's river. There's a boy who might commit suicide."
I didn't know why I jumped straight to a conclusion, but the strong feeling in my gut screamed that the boy wasn't some daredevil, but depressed. A delay in my call could lead to death and perhaps I was being reckless, but better safe than sorry. Besides, the aura around him was plain glum.
"Not now, Jamie, I-I'm serious," I hurriedly cut him off and hung up the call, praying desperately that Jamal would take this earnestly and actually call the cops. I could call the cops myself, but I didn't have the time. I bolted towards the boy who was dangerously balancing himself on the edge of the wide railing and my heart raced. His right foot dangled like he was mentally preparing himself to plummet down to his death.
My life would be over in some months, but not his. He was young and probably healthy- at least physically. He had a long way to go and he couldn't destroy himself now.
"Hey!" I called out while approaching him and he visibly flinched. I should have been more sensitive and vigilant since the negative result of this confrontation would lead to death. Suicide. Right in front of my eyes, I would witness a life getting squandered, just like that, within a snap of fingers.
I couldn't let that happen, I just couldn't.
I clutched my fleece jacket and yelled unceremoniously, "I-I won't let you die so easily. I can't do that, I'm sorry, I just can't . . . And if you jump, I'll jump right after you and I'm not even kidding. You see, I have cancer, so it doesn't matter if I die now or later. I'll be your mirror- you jump, I jump. You die, I die, as simple as that."
I did feel guilty for addressing my own problems when I knew that he was suffering from his own set of issues. I even regretted my choice of words, it sounded so selfish and I couldn't believe that I was blackmailing him.
The boy turned around slowly and I held my breath, afraid his feet might slip. His crestfallen ashen face was pale, his dark hair tousled and limp against his forehead and his sea-coloured eyes glassy and red-rimmed. He looked so vulnerable and raw like he would break down any second. I was glad that I could catch his attention since his hands were balled into fists as it almost seemed like he was waiting to hear me out.
"You see-see this scar." I pulled down my t-shirt a little to show the port scar below my collarbone and pointed at it, unsure if he could see it. "It's from chemo. I don't have a choice, but you do. You have a choice to save yourself."
I didn't know the reason which drove him to take such an extreme step, but I could only assume. Failed grades . . . Failed relationships or major issues like drug addiction . . . Alcoholism . . . However, the boy looked innocent enough to confirm that the reason was probably the former than the latter. Anyway, the reason didn't matter for now. What mattered was for him to not take such an extreme step.
I could see his legs wobbling and cold sweat trickled down my forehead. His gaze was averted to the ground and it seemed like he was in deep thought. Suddenly, my phone rang and in panic, I accidentally answered the call.
"Hush Jamie . . . Listen, I'm trying to talk to that boy, to see if he can understand. Don't disturb me and just call the cops," I hissed and glanced at the boy who cocked his head, staring at me.
"Oh, he's still there . . . Boy, what are you doing?" Jamal raised his voice in bewilderment so the boy could hear and continued, "Don't do this. Listen to the blondie girl who probably pulled her cancer card out. She's right, although she's blonde and dumb."
"Alright, there's no time for this nonsense---"
"And boy, it's not going to be easy, but you'll eventually move on man. Blondie girl will---"
"Shut up! Why can't you understand? Bye," I cut the call abruptly while he continued to blabber.
The boy seemed baffled as he gave me a perplexed look.
"Look, in any way, I'm not letting you jump. I-I can't . . . I can't see life getting wasted just like that. You have a long way to go. You really do even if it's hard to believe right now," I croaked and stretched my hand out. "Come down now, will you? Come on, please."
I noticed his Adam's apple bobble as his gaze was fixated on my stretched out hand, his eyebrows drawn together in concentration. It seemed like he was battling an inner conflict with himself. I wiggled my fingers, encouraging him to hold my hand and get down. I had to be gentle with him and careful with my words.
"Come on, it's going to be alright. This will pass and you'll find yourself in a-a better position. There are so many people out-out there who love you. I know it's difficult right now and that's why I'm here. I'm here to help you and I do care about you. I really do care so come on now. You can do it. You're strong. I see it in you, honest to God I do," I whispered gently, a slight tremor in my voice which I couldn't suppress. He reluctantly held my hand. "Come on please, all will be okay soon."
My blackmailing methods hadn't taken me anywhere, but a few words of kindness did.
His hand was firm yet soft as I pulled him down hastily, afraid that he might change his mind and plunge into the river. He stumbled down and leaned against the railings as we awkwardly let our hands drop. My shoulders sagged in relief and I saw his chest heaving up and down. He was taking deep breaths as if trying to calm himself and my happiness of helping him to save himself was ephemeral when I heard the police sirens. The boy's alluring sea-coloured eyes widened in alarm, his gaze darting between me and the distant police car approaching us.
"I erm . . . called them so they could help you . . . " I trailed off and gave him a helpless look.
The boy's thick eyebrows furrowed, but he didn't say anything. Instead, he ran away with all his might, leaving my flabbergasted self to deal with the police.