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The Ledge

A metallic clanging cut the stillness of the night. Taran knew that sound. She heard it every time she slid down the bridge support and walked across the suicide net to where she now sat, her feet dangling hundreds of feet above the icy-cold water. But this sound came from a bigger body than hers. She turned.

“Steven.”

“Taran. Thank God. Finally.”

“Steven, what do you want? It’s over, you made that perfectly clear. You have no business being here, in this place-” She broke off, hating the tremor in her voice. Acidly, she added, “you made your choice,” and turned away, staring across the river at the city lights, seeing nothing, inviting nothing. But still he came closer and dropped down beside her.

“Taran, I’m worried about you.”

“I don’t need pity,” she snapped. “Not anyone’s, and especially not yours.”

“It’s about those friends of yours,” he continued, as if she hadn’t spoken. “I don’t like them, Taran. No, listen! Ever since you started hanging around them, it’s been hell to find you. When I have, it’s like- it’s like it’s not you there. You’ve completely given yourself over to them. You’ve become them. Completely. Every thought, every action, God, it’s almost like- like-“
He shook his head, helplessly, the moonlight shimmering on his hair. Taran looked away.

“Like what, Steven?”

“A cult. God, it’s like a goddamn cult!”

Silence. And then finally, evenly, “A cult, Steven?” Then louder, “A cult?”

“Well, for Christ’s sake, Taran, at least listen to me! What else could change you so entirely? What else could take all of your time, all of your energy, all of your everything?”

“I believe you did, once.”

“Damn it, Taran! I loved you because there was a ‘you’ to love! I never dated a reflection of myself. You were there. But then you started to become other people, and I was losing you, and I just couldn’t take it anymore. You were slipping away. But this- this- is different.”

“Actually, now is the first time in months I’ve heard your voice independent of anyone else’s.” Steven laughed, emptily. “It’s nice, in a way.”

“It’s just- you can’t just give yourself like this, Taran! I’d say that even to myself. You are the only thing you’ll ever have no matter what. You can’t just give that away, especially to them. Can’t you see? Oh come on, Taran, where are you going? Please, just hear me out. Can’t you understand how dangerous this devotion is? This kind, it’s irrevocable! Mallory-“

Taran spun around and stalked back from the bridge support which she had been about to scale, her face dangerously close to Steven’s. She tried to ignore his lips. “Mallory got mixed up in gangs,” she hissed. “She was loyal to the wrong people, and she got what was expected from that. My loyalty is with people who deserve my trust. With my friends.” But her voice shook.

“Taran, please.”

“I’ve heard enough of your childish selfishness to last a lifetime, Steven. Not everything is about you. Other things are more important, other things deserve my loyalty, yes, all of it!”

“Do you need to see what I’ve been watching, what I tried to block out by leaving you? Fine! I’ll give myself as freely, as defenselessly to the water down there as you’ve given yourself, and then maybe you’ll understand. You promise to get yourself back Taran, or I’ll jump, I swear I will! I’m not joking. All it takes is another inch or so.”

He waited, eyes flashing, until he saw the fight leave her eyes, saw her sag to the ground. Finally, painstakingly, Steven stepped toward Taran, away from the ledge. The worst was over.




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