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Ryan, The Show-Off
“Happy birthday, Kayla.”
“Yes. Happy birthday, happy birthday.”
My friends and I dug into a banana and strawberry shortcake, sweaty and tired and gazing at the view. The cake was small and pathetic, not to mention warm and covered with whipped cream. Ryan and my best friend, Adeline were picnicked right next to Castle Craig, after traveling my favorite hiking spot and Ryan’s. Ryan had made the cake special, but dairy does not go well with the spring sun and the whipped cream bottle’s due date was questionable because the numbers were almost unreadable, apparently. Ryan, you had to tell us that, didn’t you? I wouldn’t have been so wary to start eating if he hadn’t, but I was polite and also very hungry. Adeline was exhausted and was really frail and small to begin with, her face reddening and her blond hair escaping from its ponytail from time to time in little strands, blowing in the gusty wind. The hike did not treat her well and listening to Ryan talk about animal tracks the entire way up was not ideal, either. We had a blast.
I had already crashed from Adeline’s energy drink because I drank my water and she is camel, but I was having a very happy birthday.
I hung my feet off the cliff and stared at the Sleeping Giant, trying to make a laying figure out of the hills and making everyone’s house below seem pocket-sized that sat next to the large clumps of broccoli.
“Hey, hey, be careful. You could fall off and die. We would have to come to your funeral. I can see the headstone now; ‘Here lies Kayla. She died on her twentieth birthday. May she rest in a million pieces’,” Ryan joked.
“Stop it, you’re just jealous that I have more guts than you. As you can see, hanging your feet off the edge of a cliff takes lots of courage.” I smiled at him teasingly but Adeline looked very concerned.
“What are you talking about? Have people actually died here?”
“Aw, Addy. It’s okay. Me and Kayls are just having a little fun. Being here is perfectly safe. Come on, I’ll show ya.” Ryan headed towards the end of the rock farther away from the castle.
“Wait, Ryan. Maybe this isn’t a good idea,” I called after him; anxiously. I sighed, Ryan is such a show-off. I look back at Addy who is chewing on her thumb-nail. “Don’t worry, Adeline. He’s fine.”
“Come on, Addy, I’m giving you a demonstration, now.” A voice shouted to Adeline and she raised her eyebrows. She was thinking the same thing.
“Yeah. Come on. We better make sure he’s okay.”
I led as we made our way to the end of the cliff. Ryan was hanging quite precariously on the edge of the ledge, under the top of the wall and leading to the second grass-lined step. Adeline covered her mouth. I realized her concern and was surprised at mine.
“Stop it. You could get yourself killed.”
“Lay off me, I am just having a little fun,” Ryan called back. “Oops.” I gasped as he slipped a little and then put his arm back, he is playing a game.
“Ryan, seriously; this is no time to be a show-off. Please,” I begged him as he smiled back at me, as if he is not doing any harm.
“Okay, okay.” Ryan begins to climb back and I held out my hand to support him. Suddenly, his leg drops out from under him. He was hanging on with only three limbs.
My body goes into panic mode; my Ryan, my Ryan, is about to fall to his death. It’s not happening. He’s not slipping. He’s not slipping.
“Ryan! Grab my hand!” I yell to him. There is maybe a fifty-feet drop. A fifty-feet drop that will shatter his bones. Ryan, the boy who will never finish college, who will never get married and have kids. I will be at his funeral, morning him and pitying myself forever. Kayla, the girl who stood and watched her friend fall.
“Ah, ah. I’m trying!” He only has two hands on now. Ryan, the boy who would hold my hand when I was in his class in the second grade. The boy who still believed in cooties. Ryan will fall, his body rolling down in the rocks. I hear Adeline whimper behind me.
Time slowed and sped up with each swing Ryan tried to reach my hand, his feet dangling under him like a doll. Ryan, the boy who died.
I felt his arm grab my hand, sweaty and gross. His was rough and worn and scratched.
“Pull me up.”
I tugged on his arm, his foot caught on the ledge and he was dragged and swung up. His face was red and his blond hair was straggly, like Adeline. The sweat was pouring down from his head and he was breathing heavy, and I was already kneeling by his side.
“Never do that again.” I push his sweaty hair behind his ear and look into his eyes, then I laugh. I am probably just as sweaty as him, I felt gross. Laughing usually makes me feel like it is less scary, it’s all over.
Adeline regains her courage and rushes over. “Are you okay?”
Ryan smiled. “Yeah, I am.” We help him up and we head back to our picnic spot, the sun warning Ryan over our heads. The Sleeping Giant was untouched, and the houses were not roused of their simplicity that day, nor were they taken of their drowsiness.
I learned that adrenaline crashes are worse than energy drink crashes, and I experienced Adeline being super annoying when we were walking down the mountain, though she didn’t drink anything. All of that fear probably made her hyper. Although Ryan did not cease to keep talking about animal tracks and the ways of nature with me behind Adeline too, I listened the entire time. Because he’s worth it, because he is not gone.