Seaside Cliff

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She sat on the edge of the seaside cliff, looking down. The white capped waves smashed against the rocks, which looked jagged and sharp, but she just smiled. She swung her feet back and forth, even though she knew she shouldn’t swift her weight on the edge. The sound of thunder rumbled from the clouds over the gray ocean. They looked like they carried a heavy burden. She grinned. Instead of getting up and retreating to the house, she gripped the grass by her sides to keep balance. She imagined what it might feel like to topple through the air and- she felt a hand on her shoulder.


“Dahlia, come on. Storm’s coming”. She looked up, though she knew the voice. Sure enough, there was Shelby. Shelby stood above her with a smile on her face, though it didn’t quite reach her eyes. Dahlia nodded, standing up and following her sister towards the house. She turned for a second and looked at the churning water. Then she tore her eyes away and went inside.


“Hey girls” her mom called out as the door closed “we’re in the living room”. Her mom and dad were sitting on the couch, feet on the ottoman. Shelby turned to Dahlia and smiled. Their mom was giggling with a glass of wine in her hand. Next to her was their dad who laughed and said what as she smacked his stomach. “Our trash TV starts in an hour” she said with a grin. Their dad rolled his eyes and mentioned something about being ‘so excited’.


Dahlia said a drawn out yes with emphasis on the s. Then she boogied danced across the room. Without any warning she popped over to her sister and said “Can we go get ice cream sandwiches?”


Shelby turned her head to the side and said in her normal deadpan tone “I was thinking of popsicles, but they are at the same place”.


“Yay!” Dahlia jumped up and clicked her heels together. Shelby chuckled and grabbed her sister’s hand and dragged her to the door. She got her keys; the lanyard they hung from was decorated with the name of her college. After this summer she would go back for her second year. Dahlia froze a little when she saw it and her brow furrowed. She shook her head and put on a smile. They piled into Shelby’s Jeep, Dahlia in the passenger seat.


“You’re the DJ, girlfriend” Shelby said as she handed Dahlia her iPhone. Dahlia picked a song and they dance, or at least as much as you can dance in a car. They laughed and sang along as they drove down the road. In a lag between changing songs, Shelby looked at her “How have you been sleeping?”


Everyone in the family knew Dahlia didn’t sleep well. She woke up late at night panting and clutching the bed sheets. The images left over from her nightmares would continue to taunt her. She would try to fall back asleep, but when she still saw monsters in the shadow of her room, she would walk around the house to calm herself down. As she moved up and down the stairs and through the hallways, her heartbeat would slow down and she would go back to bed. Sometimes the beasts in the shadows would follow her to the hallway, and she would grab her iPod and walk the streets with the music blasting in her ears. Dark circles collected under her eyes, and that day was no exception.


Dahlia shrugged and played with her fingers “Same as usual. I really don’t like the night, I guess”.


“Wanna talk about it?” Shelby tried to keep her expression cool, but her eyes were a little wide.


Dahlia looked out the front window, watching the trees fly past her. “I don’t know. Have you ever felt empty at night?”


“What?”



Dahlia tried to shrug it off “I don’t know, just empty”


“Don’t ever say that. You have so much to live for. You’re talented, and you have a family that loves you”.


“I didn’t mean it like that” she looked away from the road and at her sister “But yeah, you’re right”.


They gave each other tentative smiles, and Shelby reached over and squeezed Dahlia’s hand. Shelby nudged her and said “Pick the next song, buddy”.


When they got home they sat down with their parents and made fun of the people on the show they were watching. They laughed till their stomachs ached and made cheesy jokes. Their parents eventually went to sleep, and Shelby and Dahlia stayed up until one in the morning watching their favorite TV show. They stayed up another hour talking, and then they finally went to bed. Somehow, as Dahlia walked into her room, the empty feeling was gone for the night.
*

Dahlia crossed her arms. Shelby stood at the door, with a small smile. Dahlia closed the distance, and gave her a tight hug. Shelby said “I’m gonna miss you, buddy”


Dahlia felt an itching feeling on the edge of her eyes as she nodded. Her voice wobbled a bit “We’ll talk every day”. After a moment, she let Shelby go and walked her out to the car. As Shelby pulled out of the driveway, the first tear rolled down Dahlia’s cheek. She stood there, clutching her arms until she could no longer see the Jeep.


That day she went back to the cliff, dangling her legs over the edge. She swung them back and forth, getting little thrills from the danger. She watched the water toss and turn like a girl who couldn’t sleep. She wondered if the waves sometimes felt empty at night too. Her imagination took over and she thought about what it would feel like, hurtling through the air. Freedom she decided. Then, she thought of slamming against the water or hitting the rocks and she shuddered. She looked down for a long moment, then stood up and walked inside the house.





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