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Falling For You

by Millie Bauer 10 months ago in Short Story
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A Life of the Wolf-Hart story

Photo by Marcelo Cidrack on Unsplash

The rush of the water fills her ears. The overwhelming urge to jump in, to join the rushing water as it flows down the cliff, is killing her. The desire to climb over the fence grips her heart. She closes the notebook and clips her four ink pen to the cover. Sliding back in her bag she gets up and walks over to the rail. She sighs at the spectacular sight before her, as her hands grip the cool metal guard rail.

“Are we going to Canada now, Mommy?” the brat kid from earlier whines as the family finally finishes with their pictures.

“No, sweetie, we’ll go tomorrow.”

“But it’s right there! And there’s a Ferris wheel!”

“No!” the father says sternly, “we are going back to the hotel. Canada is closing.”

“But it has lights on.”

“No, Ryan. Hotel. Now.” The father barks, dragging a large cooler behind him towards the parking lot. The kid continues to whine as his parents take him back to their hotel.

Lia is all alone now. She closes her eyes and breathes in the smell of the falls. The wind plays off the few chunks of frozen froth, blowing mist off the spring thaw rushing over the falls. She leans over the rail, stretching her torso closer to the water. She can see the lights changing colors through her closed eyelids.

“Careful,” a too familiar voice calls from the shadow of the Maid of the Mist gift shop. “You don’t want to fall in.”

Lia freezes, hoping that it’s not really him. She squeezes her eyes shut tighter, and digs her hands into the rail. Carl approaches slowly, a smirk paints his features. He saunters over and puts his face on her shoulder, whispering in her ear.

“I know you love the water, but I don’t think the rocks are all that friendly.”

“Go away.”

“Why? It’s a national park, sweetheart; I can go wherever I want.”

“Leave me alone.”

“C’mon, babe, you and me, remember? Together, forever, ‘always and eternity’, isn’t that what you said?”

“I also said back off.”

“You don’t really mean that.”

His hand travels from her shoulder down her arm. Then to her hip, where her bag hangs limply. He reaches in and pulls out her spiral journal with the four ink pen clipped to the cover.

“‘the water calls me,’” he reads, “‘pulls me, I have this overwhelming urge to jump in, join the water.’ Well, sweetheart, that’s a bit morbid, isn’t it? Whatever would happen to our precious baby girl if you did?”

“Go away, Carl!”

“C’mon, Mia Lia, don’t be like that.” He strokes her cheek, she swats his hand away.

“Move on! I will not let you ruin this!” She tries to walk away, but he leans in closer. He plants one hand on either side of her. His right hand is anchored to the guard rail, and his left clutches the tourist binocular pillar. Lia is pinned in a spot she cannot escape, again.

“You always said you wanted to soar, well, honey, come fly free with me. I could bring you higher than any bum you could snag. Come back to me, baby, you know you want to.”

“No. No, I don’t. Jared is a gentleman. Not some child hiding in a big brute’s body!”

She tries to push past his massive frame, but he grabs her arm. Her phone rings in the bag. Carl goes for Lia’s phone as she tries to break free. He looks at the screen, the picture from Valentines Day fills the screen. It’s of Lia and Jared kissing while red, pink, and white flower petals rain down. There’s a red one caught in Jared’s smooth black hair.

Carl snarls as he twists around. He holds Lia in a sloppy head lock, his arm around her mouth and nose, instead of her neck. She can barely breathe and her vision starts to blur as he twists her around.

“You little bitch! How could you leave me for a little twerp like him?” he jerks her over to another vantage point, closer to the edge of the cliff drop. He punches the green ‘answer’ button on her phone.

“You Bastard! She’s mine!” he slams the phone on the ground. The screen shatters and splinters, but Lia can still hear Jared’s panicked voice. Amazing, she thinks, how the damn phone broke when it fell off my bed, yet survives being chucked at the pavement.

“Huh? What? Hello? Who was that? Lia? Lia!?”

She manages to break free for a moment, she takes a huge gulp of air and lunges for the phone, but Carl grabs her waist and throws her to the ground, knocking the wind out of her once more. He kicks the phone out of reach, but Lia can still hear Jared.

“Are you still at the falls? I think I can hear the water. I’m coming! Lia? Lia! What the hell is going on? Lia!”

Carl turns to face her. His eyes are full of such rage that they bore holes in Lia’s soul. And freeze her heart so that she temporarily is too terrified even to scream. She just now notices the faint smell of vodka on his breath as he pants into her face.

“You are mine.” He growls. “And you will stay with me forever and always.” He swings around, and her journal falls to the pavement. He stares at it for a moment, an idea stumbling through the fog of alcohol. Then he walks over to the rail near the corner of the falls, where the Niagara River meets the cliff. There are only a few feet of grassy space between the guardrail and the icy April waters.

“You want to ‘jump in’? You want to ‘join the water’?” he mocks her as he sets her down right on the edge, her heels hanging out over the seemingly endless abyss. The only thing keeping her grounded are his hands on her shoulders.

“Well, I’ll be happy to make your wish come true.”

“Carl, you don’t want to do this!” Lia panics and grabs him by the front of his shirt. She looks into his eyes and notices the tears there. He's genuinely crying and it breaks Lia’s heart. “Please.” she begs again, starting to feel the tears in her own eyes. “I do still love you. I’ll never stop loving you.”

“But you… said you hated me…” Carl stumbles back onto the dew soaked grass in a haze. The lights on the falls turn white, meaning that it’s the end of the lights show, 10PM, and soon it will be barely light enough to see the bank of the river, let alone get back over the rail.

“I know what I said, but..” Lia tries to scramble over the rail, but she’s too shaky. Carl gets up, still looking dazed, and helps her back over the rail, all rage suddenly forgotten.

“But what? You weren’t just mad, Lia. You kicked me out. You weren’t just acting on an impulse for six months! You meant what you said.”

“I do hate you, Carl Wolf. I hate what you did to our daughter. I hate that you were reckless and stupid. But I still love you. I still wish that we could be together. I wish I could be your ‘Mia Lia’ again. I wish all of that were a reality, instead of this cruel nightmare that keeps playing over and over.”

“Then dump this loser, and come back to your real man. We can leave the kid at some orphanage, and we’ll start a new life. We’ll finish college, get married, travel, and then settle down in like ten years. When we’re ready to have kids.” his hands again find their way to her hips. She's on the ground, sitting in his lap, not really sure how she got there. Her bag is slumped on the ground about ten feet away, with her notebook nearby, and her phone lost somewhere in the darkness.

“Carl, I can’t do that! Jayna is only eight months old! I can’t do this to her! She needs her Momma, she needs me for food, for life. I can’t just abandon her now to live out some fairy tale with you.”

“Fine, we keep the baby. But Lia, we can still be together!”

“Carl…” for a minute she considers it.

He might deserve a second chance. Maybe this time he could be responsible. Maybe this time it would all work out. Maybe this time Lia and Carl could be happy together. Maybe this fairytale could work.

But then the image of Jayna on the ground comes back to haunt Lia’s mind again. The sound of her daughter screaming in a pain only newborns can feel. the sudden silence, Lia rushing to her daughter and administering clumsy infant CPR. Jayna screaming again, as the button exits her mouth and rolls off into the apartment. Lia crying as she calls 911, Carl laughing it off and not ever showing remorse.

“Carl, I can’t.”

“But you love me? I don’t get you, Lia. You love me, and you hate me?”

“Yes, Carl.”

“Don’t you love me more than you hate me?”

He moves his head closer to hers, and kisses her. She loses herself in that kiss. She tastes the familiar sweetness of his lips, the wetness of his supple lips. She once again feels the brush of his tongue against her bottom lip.

“Carl…” she tries to speak, but it comes out more as a sigh.

“Lia.” he moans and pulls her closer.

“Carl, I can’t.” she doesn’t fully pull away. His lips are still on hers, and she still kisses him back, though every fiber in her body is screaming to stop, she keeps going. “Carl, I… really… really can’t…”

“You love me.” He smiles as the knowledge suddenly hits him.

“Yes but… no!” she pushes him off her lips, but not totally away from her. Carl is taken so off gaurd that he topples backwards, letting go of Lia. She stands and grabs her bag, journal, and phone. The lights on the falls are out, but Lia still hears the rush of water, and her hands and ears are frozen in the cold breeze.

Carl shivers and rolls over, looking at Lia as if he’s a wounded puppy.

“Carl,” Lia says, tilting his chin up to face her as she stands over him, “there will always be room in my heart for you.”

“Lia!” Jared calls from the parking lot. “Lia! Lia, where are you?”

“Over here!” she yells, not daring to break eye contact with Carl, he seems to have finally sobered up enough to hear her. “But, Carl, there isn’t room for you in my life right now.”

With that she turns to leave, and for the first time in their lives, Carl doesn’t stop her. Instead, he lays his head down and sobs as Lia walks away, swallowing her own sobs as Jared rushes into the light.

Short Story

About the author

Millie Bauer

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