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Never Forgive Never Forget

Forgiveness is not only for others

By Andy ortegaPublished 3 months ago 16 min read
4

My shirt stuck to my body and my jeans felt noticeably heavier than they did earlier that day. The rain was coming down hard, pelting my face and forcing me to squint. The sound of the high tide roared as the waves crashed into the cliff. The bright flash of lightning followed by the loud boom of thunder jolted me from my petrified state.

“Helen!?” I yelled over the rain.

A young woman stood at the edge of the cliff. It was so dark and the rain was coming down so hard that it was hard to see anything. The occasional flash of lightning only gave me a glimpse of the woman’s appearance. But a glimpse was enough for me to recognize her. We were best friends throughout high school. We talked throughout the previous summer and spent most of our first half of freshman year of college together. Her long brown hair looked black when wet. Her pale skin was prominent against the abyss of the ocean that had no moonlit sky to reflect off of.

It was a cold night, and being next to the ocean where the wind was strong and the rain fell hard, only made it worse. I was shivering violently, the feeling in my fingertips had already gone numb. But Helen was still. The rain, the wind, the cold, they didn’t seem to bother her at all.

“Helen!” I yelled again, this time she looked over her shoulder. She gave me a half smile, that half smile that still had the effect of a full one. To anyone else, it would seem genuine. But I knew it wasn’t, I knew something was wrong. It was curated to show happiness without feeling it. There was a weight in my stomach, a feeling everyone who had a strict parent would be familiar with. The weight of the wrongs you’ve done, compounded and placed inside you. This was much heavier than anything I had ever felt. The weight reflected the wrong that I had just committed. I felt the thump of my rapidly beating heart throughout my entire body. Air violently entered and escaped my lungs as I was on the brink of hyperventilating. I reached out a shaky hand, my palm up, praying that she would turn around and take it so that we could leave.

“Let's go home” I pleaded, she slowly shook her head.

“Home is gone Mike, I lost my dad. And when I needed you, you left me too.” She took a slow steady step forward towards the edge.

“No, no, no, listen I….you’re…. you’re right. I wasn’t there for you like I should’ve been. I didn’t know how, didn’t know what to do. And I know that sounds like an excuse,” I took a shaky breath, “but you have to believe me, Helen. There isn’t anything I want more than for you to be okay.”

I took a tentative step towards her, My hand still outstretched.

Helen turned around, her signature blue and black checkered flannel fluttering in the wind.

“Believe you? Mike, listen to yourself. Do you seriously call what you did trying? You were the one person, the ONE person who could’ve prevented this! But you were either too lazy or too selfish to put in the work. I mean, have you seriously not realized that yet? I might still be alive if you actually cared.”

I had just taken another step towards her, she was now only a few feet away when her last words sank in.

“What?” I said, just as another flash of lighting drowned everything in its light.

Just as quickly as the flash streaked through the sky, Helen appeared right in front of me, changed. Her skin was no longer a pale white but a sickly gray. From this close, I could see her lips cracked and slightly swollen. She had a large gash on the side of her face, between her eyebrow and her hairline. Her eyes which were supposed to be a vibrant autumn brown were now a foggy white. Her sudden appearance startled me and caused me to stumble backward tripping over myself. I landed in the mud, its slickness rubbing off on my hands.

She began to circle me, her arms swinging playfully. Her smile was now cold and devoid of joy, a smile that was both fake and genuine.

“You remember, don't you? This is the day I died. Or maybe you don’t remember, did you mentally block out this day because of the guilt? Or did you simply not care enough to remember someone like me dying?”

“No! I…” I brought my knees up to my body and I clutched my head. “What the hell is happening to me!”

“To you!” Helen grabbed my shoulders and forced my back to the ground. She brought her face close to mine and screamed, “This isn’t about you!” another flash of lighting.

I was standing close to the edge of the cliff again, Helen a few feet in front of me.

“H-Helen?” she looked over her shoulder, everything about her was normal again.

“Home is gone Mike, I lost my dad.” she said as she gave me another smile, this one filled with grief. How could someone’s smile display such a different emotion?

“And I lost you.” This is it, this is what she actually said that night, I was sure of it. After she said that she… “No!” I yelled.

Helen took her final step forward and fell. I ran up to the edge, looking down. But she was already gone. The dark waves had already consumed her.

“No, no, no, no” I began pacing back and forth, gripping the sides of my head with my hands. “This didn’t have to happen.” A familiar voice said behind me. I spun around and saw Helen, the one who already looked dead. The same cold smile on her face. Helen had never expressed a smile like that, not even when she fell into depression.

I pointed an accusing finger at her, at someone who looked like the dead version of my closest friend. “Who are you? What are you!”

She put a hand on her chest and pretended to be hurt. “Is that anyway a bad friend talks to their best friend? I guess it is huh.” she said.

“Why are you doing this to me?” I spat.

“Because you deserve it.” another flash of lightning. It was dark, I felt like I was just about to roll over the edge of the cliff. I reached out to grab something, anything I could find.

I woke up clutching the back cushion of my sofa that I was lying on. I felt a vibration throughout the couch. Feeling around for my phone, I followed the vibration with my fingers. I reached down between the cushions and grabbed my phone with the few fingers that could reach it. Someone was calling me, when I checked the caller's I.D. I felt the weight in my stomach again. I slid my thumb across the screen and held the phone up to my ear.

“Helen?”

“Hey Mike…listen I know we haven’t talked in a while but do you think we could meet up?”

“Yeah,” I replied, still in a daze.

“Our spot, the cliff overlooking the ocean off the highway, you remember it? Can you meet me there?”

“Yeah, I remember it. I can meet you there.”

“Okay, see you tonight” she hung up. I sat up against the couch staring at the blank black screen of the T.V. in my living room. Orange strips of light covered the screen as the sunset shone through the blinds. I checked my phone again, it was six-thirty p.m. I needed to be at the cliff in two hours….where Helen would kill herself.

I have to stop her! I grab the keys from the coffee table and bolt out the door. As I got into the car I noticed storm clouds rolling over the sky. I need to hurry. I drove well past the speed limit but surprisingly no cops stopped me. There was very little traffic on the road and all the lights that I hit were green. I pulled up to her house and jumped out of my car, I didn’t even pull my keys out of the ignition. By this point, the clouds covered the sky and heavy rain had started to fall. I ran to her front door, I can do it this time! I can save her! As soon as I grabbed the doorknob a bright flash of lightning lit everything up in a blinding light.

My arm was still outstretched but the door knob was no longer in my grasp. I felt my feet sink slightly into the mud I was standing on. I looked down and around and realized I was on the cliff again. I looked behind me and felt every bit of despair fill my soul. Helen was standing there at the edge of the cliff looking back at me with the same grief-filled smile.

“And I lost you.” I jumped at her before she finished speaking. My hand was about to grab her wrist as she was falling. I closed my hand and grabbed her wrist….or I was supposed to, but my hand grasped nothing as my fingers went through hers. I could hear her, see her, talk to her. But I couldn’t touch her, I couldn't save her. My eyes burned as tears flowed down.

“NO!” The scene was still heart-wrenching. I looked down and this time saw her body splash into the ocean. I clenched my fist and punched the ground repeatedly as I cried at the top of my lungs.

“Did you think you were going to redeem yourself? You probably would’ve saved her if you went straight to her house after getting that call. She did sound a bit off, depressed, suicidal maybe?”

“I did go to her house!” I screamed as I spun around, the dead Helen was standing there in the rain. Looking at me as if she were looking at some pitiful pet. “I went to her house and YOU brought me here again!”

“But you didn’t go to her house, did you? Not in reality anyway. What really happened was that you waited, you waited months after her dad died, and you waited hours after she wrote her suicide note. You waited until she was emotionally and quite literally at the edge. And at the very last possible moment, you held your hand out to her. Yet, now you're trying to blame me for your mistakes? Let's remind ourselves where this all leads.”

another flash of lighting. I felt the sand under my legs. The flashing red and blue lights from the cop cars and ambulances lit up the beach. The sun was cracking the horizon. Puffy white clouds escaped from my mouth with each breath as I wrapped the towel I was given around me a little tighter. A patrol boat was making its way towards shore. A pair of jet skis detached from it and were carrying a floating litter with a black body bag on top of it. A half dozen police officers waded into the water and grabbed the litter, hoisting it on their shoulders and carrying it back to the beach. A crowd of officers, EMTs, and curious bystanders began to form around the body bag. An officer gently grabbed my shoulder and guided me through the crowd so that I could be in front. By the time I got through, she was already out of the bag and being looked at by EMTs. An investigator came up to me and asked me if it was Helen. I nodded absentmindedly as I knelt beside her. Tears rolled down my face. They were warm compared to the cold morning air. But Tears were all I showed, no screaming, not even a change of facial expression. Grieving was the only thing left that I could do for her, and I couldn’t even do that properly. Another knelt beside her opposite to me, I looked up and saw that it was the dead Helen. She looked down dispassionately at my friend.

“Please, stop this. I don’t want to see her suffer anymore.”

“Is that your excuse? You didn’t want to see her suffer so you chose not to see her at all?”

I gritted my teeth but said nothing. There was nothing I could say.

“Ah, I got you didn’t I? Ready to admit that you killed her now?”

“Is that what you want?”

She stood up and looked down at me with the same cold smile she had shown before.

“I want you to fall into despair. I want you to fall so deep into the dark that the hope of climbing out seems like a fantasy. Then and only then will I be able to collect and be satisfied.”

Despair? Collect? She’s shown me all of this with a purpose. To feel despair, so that I can….

“You want me to commit suicide.” I said. For the first time since all of this started, she smiled with pure, genuine joy.

“Well, now that we’re on the same page.” she snapped her fingers as a flash of lightning lit the sky.

“This place seems appropriate don’t you think?” We were back at the cliff. I immediately looked around. Helen wasn’t here this time.

“This isn’t an illusion anymore. See, you even have your actual clothes on.” I looked down, I was wearing a different pair of jeans and a heavy raincoat. A small cross was sticking up at the side with fresh flowers under it. That's right, this is the anniversary. A year from this day Helen committed suicide. It's just as rainy today as it was a year ago. The dead Helen walked over to the edge and then looked over at me.

“Ready when you are.” she said. I made my way over to her and looked down. The water was pitch black, and even the froth from the waves crashing against the cliffside were barely visible. My heartbeat was high, my breathing ragged. I was shaking. I didn’t want to die.

“Mike,” I looked over at her, her dead eyes looking into mine. Her smile was gone, now only a blank expression was left.

“Remember,” she continued, “you deserve this.”

I swallowed hard as I lifted my foot. I was shaking violently now. Just one step and it’ll all be over. Everything will be done, no more pain, no more despair. No more feeling like you're out of breath. No more feeling like every door is closed. No more feeling worthless. It will all be over after this.

I moved my foot a little further but a particularly loud boom of thunder startled me, causing me to jerk my foot back. I slipped and fell, both feet sliding over the edge. The bottom half of my body slid off the cliff but I managed to grab a rock that was jutting out. I was panicking as I tried to reach over the cliff to pull myself up, but the mud was so slippery that my hands kept sliding back. I felt the rock move slightly out of place and I could feel my heart rate skyrocket. The rock was about to come loose. If I'm not able to get up the cliff on this next attempt I would fall and die. I scrunched myself like a spring and pushed up as much as I could with my legs. I reached out both hands and dug my fingers as deep as they could go into the muddy ground. I bicycle kicked my feet as hard as I could to get as much traction as possible. My hips were over, then my upper thigh. I was now on my back, my eyes closed as I breathed heavily on top of the cliff. I felt my consciousness slip for just a second.

“You alright?” A girl’s voice asked.

I opened my eyes but immediately had to squint as the bright rays of the sun momentarily blinded me.

“Mike?” the girl said again. I slowly opened my eyes and saw her kneeling next to me.

“Helen?” I asked, she looked so different. Her face was more filled out, not chubby, but not skinny like the last time I had seen her. Her hair was short, just above her shoulders, and curly. She had started straightening her hair halfway through high school.

“Why are you staring at me like that?” she asked.

“Uh, it's just…. you're so young,” I replied, still dazed.

“Oh really?” she said as she helped me to my feet.

“I don’t want to hear that from a guy who still hasn't hit his growth spurt.”

I didn’t realize until I stood up completely that Helen was at least half a foot taller than me.

“You were only taller than me our freshman year,” I said, bewildered.

“Yeah, well last time I checked we are still freshmen.”

I noticed the necklace around her neck with a silver cross. I had given it to her for her birthday. That’s right, today is her birthday, we came here to celebrate it.

“I wonder what I should get you for your birthday.” she contemplated as she picked up a small rock and threw it at the ocean. I picked up a rock and did the same.

“Don’t worry about it, I don’t….I don’t deserve anything.”

She stopped mid-swing and looked at me,

“Why would you say that? You’ve helped me out a lot this year, me being the new girl and stuff.”

“It doesn’t matter,” I said as I chucked another rock into the ocean.

“I'm going to mess it all up in the end anyway.”

As I winded up to throw another rock, Helen stepped in front of me. She stared at me as if deciding whether she should say something or not.

“You didn’t have to come you know.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Back here, you didn’t have to come back to our freshmen year to see me.”

I took a cautious step back, “I don’t know what you mean.”

She spun around and looked out at the sea, “You feel guilty Mike. You always had a bad habit of thinking you were responsible for things that weren’t in your control.”

she looked back and gave me a warm smile. “It was both an annoying and admirable character trait of yours.”

I looked down at the ground, “but it was in my control,” I said in a shaky voice, “I could’ve done more sooner, if I had done more sooner then you would still be alive!”

“Maybe,” she said, that singular word made me feel so worthless and small. But her next words were like a lifeline,

“Maybe not”

She had turned around and was giving me a concerned look. “Neither of us knows what could’ve happened. But one thing remains absolutely true.” she walked up to me and pulled me in, hugging me tightly.

“You were a good friend Mike, and my life would’ve been much harder without you in it.” Hot tears started running down my cheeks, I hugged her back as tight as I could. The weight I had been feeling inside me completely disappeared. A warmth filled my chest, it had been so long since I had felt happiness that it was practically foreign.

She pulled me towards the edge and spun me around so my back was now towards the cliff. She used her sleeves to wipe the tears and snot from my face.

“You know, you have a hideous crying face.” she said with a wide smile.

“Shut up,” I said, laughing. Something else that I hadn’t done in a while.

“Do me one last favor Mike” Helen said as she put a hand on my chest.

“Anything” I replied immediately.

“Live,” she pushed me.

I slowly fell backward off the cliff. I fell but it didn’t feel like falling. Just as I was about to hit the water I closed my eyes shut. When I opened them again I was lying on the muddy ground, on top of the cliff. gasped for air, I patted the ground around me to confirm where I was. The sky was still gray and the rain was still coming down hard. I reached up to my neck and felt the familiar metal chain, the necklace I had worn every day since Helen died. I tugged at the chain until the silver cross popped out of my shirt. I smiled as I brought it close to my chest, my eyes burned as tears welled up in my eyes.

“What do you think you’re doing?” The dead Helen was looking down at me with disgust and fury.

“I'm….forgiving myself.” I struggled to say between half sobs and hysterical laughter.

“Excuse me?”

I looked up at her, my vision was blurry. “I might’ve been able to prevent Helen’s death, and that is something I will live with for the rest of my life. But I will never make that mistake again, I'll help myself then I'll help others so that they won’t make that mistake either.”

“Oh, so you really do think you can redeem yourself.”

“I could never redeem myself. That's not how redemption works in the first place, at least not for me. But I can be better.”

“It just looks like you're avoiding blame to me,” she said coldly.

“No,” I turned my head and looked over at the edge of the cliff, “Jumping would be avoiding all of it, killing myself would be me running away from taking responsibility for my inactions. What I want to do is truly repent.”

I turned my head again, this time looking at the cross I had placed in the ground when Helen died. Living, that is how I will honor Helen’s memory. And eventually, when I see her again, I will have hopefully done enough to deserve her forgiveness.

The dead Helen snorted in annoyance, “Yeah sure, go ahead and try. Many people have also tried before you and so very many have failed.” She began to walk away.

“Are you done?” I asked, sincerely hoping that the nightmares would leave along with her.

“I can’t take you as you are now, but you’ll fall again.” she turned around and glared at me, “And when you do, I’ll be there.” A ray of sunlight broke through the clouds and shone on my face, momentarily blinding me. When My sight adjusted she was gone, and the rain had finally stopped.

PsychologicalShort Story
4

About the Creator

Andy ortega

I love writing fantasy and sci-fi but I also write the occasional heartfelt drama. I hope to connect with many writers on this platform and write amazing stories for everyone.

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Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  3. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

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  • Jennifer David3 months ago

    Wow! You're righting is so visual. I went through so many feelings while reading this. And I felt like I was feeling what the main character was feeling: confusion, fear, guilt, pain, grief, uncertainty, understanding, courage, joy, and determination. (probably other emotions as well) I almost couldnt hold back my tears at the end. This is dark and light which is so beautiful. This topic is such an important one. It's heavy. Thank you for sharing! -Jen

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