Sometimes death is the only option.
Brad Gaynes stood on the precipice overlooking Wah-kella Falls, in the Columbia River Gorge. He jammed his clenched hands deep into his pockets, willing himself to calm down. Anger wasn’t going to solve anything. How many times had his dad said that?
Brad thought about his girlfriend’s comment again – about death being the only option. Why would Jessica say something like that? She could be weird at times. What had she meant? Had she been talking about herself and how life was no longer worth living if they couldn’t be together? Was she thinking about a suicide pact?
“Nah.” Brad watched his warm breath turn white as it hit the cold November air. Jessica didn’t seem like the suicidal type. More likely, she made the comment to manipulate him. She did that often and well. He probably should have stayed with her and talked things out, but he couldn’t stand it anymore. He needed to get away before he did or said something they’d both regret.
He breathed in the fresh, earthy smell of rotting leaves, rain and rich, woodsy soil. He’d stopped at the top of the falls to catch his breath after practically running up the mile-long trail. As he stood tall, face into the wind, he let his gaze roam across the Columbia River and up the cliffs and hills on the Washington State side. Even now, with fog and rain, the spot offered one of the most spectacular views in Oregon, made even more beautiful by the gold and red maple leaves and the setting sun. The clouds had just opened up for the persistent rain. The climb and the view calmed his anger and helped him to think through his dilemma. He knew now what he needed to do to make things right. Still, something about Jessica just didn’t sit well with him.
Brad emerged from his deep thoughts and heard an odd guttural sound along with the rustling of brush in the woods behind him. Had Jessica followed him? Or maybe that trucker had come back to make good on his threat. Brad had been in a fighting mood when the trucker tried to intervene in his and Jessica’s argument. She’d assured the trucker she was okay and he’d gone back to his truck, but not without promising to get even.
The thrashing grew louder.
“Who’s there?” Brad’s heart accelerated again, and this time it wasn’t from exertion. He called out again, “Jess? Is that you?”
No one answered.
It had to be Jessica. “Come on. What are you doing? Quit playing games.”
Something told him to get out of there – to hit the trail running and not look back. But Brad’s curiosity overcame his intuition. He drew back from the edge of the falls and headed into the woods to investigate.