Out On A Ledge

(Based on the Writer’s Digest Creative Writing prompt Aunt Edna’s Money)

A frigid edge laces the autumn wind, whipping my hair in my face and chilling the tears on my cheeks. The promise of impending winter fits this wretched week with a poetic morbidity fit for a bad country song.

Six days ago I got the phone call from Gary, my aunt’s close friend and legal counsel. “Cassie, thank god, I’ve been trying to reach you. Your aunt’s in bad shape. The doctors don’t think she’s got very long.” His voice continued talking, but the phone slipped from my hands as the shock set in. I rushed to the hospital from the bank where I worked, but I wasn’t quick enough.

She was gone moments before I arrived. I saw it in Gary’s face when I ran in. My stomach tied itself in knots before it dropped, and the gripping pain in my chest stole my breath and strength. Gary managed to catch me when I collapsed under the weight of my grief.

I look down to my feet and slide my toes out to the edge of the bridge as that moment replays over and over in my mind. Two hundred feet below the river roars as it churns over boulders that try to halt its path. Vertigo washes over me and I reach for the railing behind me to steady myself until the dizziness fades.

Aunt Edna’s death was just the start. Gary drove me back to the house—manor more accurately—that Edna and I shared. I had moved back in when she contracted pneumonia last winter and was having a hard time on her own. Her own son, Wilfred, wouldn’t even stop by to check on her or see if there was anything he could help her with. I wasn’t surprised by that….it was typical Wilfred. No one ever accused him of selflessness or generosity.

I walked into the house that was exactly as it was when I left that morning. What would have been just the quiet of an empty house on any other day, was now an eerie reminder that my only family was gone. Without turning on any lights, I sat on the couch and stared at nothing, submerging myself in my mourning. Gary contacted me the next day to see how I was coping, and again the following to discuss my aunt’s will.

“She’s leaving it all to you,” he told me. He insisted on going over the documents in person, so he came over with a stack of papers that looked smaller than I expected. “And if you don’t meet the condition, she’s leaving the entirety of her estate to Wilfred.”

“What condition?”

He took a deep breath and I saw him organizing his thoughts to word it tactfully. “You know she wished to be cremated.” It was a statement that didn’t require any answer so I waited for him to continue. “She wants you to scatter her ashes—or at least some of them—in a very particular way.” I took the paper he handed to me, a note which was penned by my aunt’s hand. The more I read the more my incredulity rose. I couldn’t believe that she asked that of me.

I take a deep breath again as I look over the edge of the bridge, trying to calm myself and tell myself that I can do this. In my hand I grip a small vial containing Aunt Edna’s ashes, her words running through my panicked mind.

“Dear, you never take any risks. You play it safe far too much, and you’ll never really live that way. I will leave you everything, as you were the daughter I always wanted and my best friend…”

I slowly count down, knowing this hell will be over in moments.

“Three… Two… One…”

I spread my arms wide and lean forward, the wind hitting my face as I fall from the bridge’s edge. My scream echoes in the gorge, and I just pray that the bungee cord doesn’t break.

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