“Justin!” I screamed at the top of my lungs as I heard the sound of a loud splash. I picked up my cell phone off the ground and punched in ‘911’. I raced along the side of the bridge and down towards the river as fast as my legs would take me as I held the phone up to my ear.
“Hello, 911 emergency.” the female dispatcher answered.
“Hi, my um, my friend was just attacked and pushed into the river.”
“Alright,” she said calmly. “Where are you?”
“I’m down the walking path on main street, where the bridge crosses the river.”
“Can your friend swim?”
“Yes,” I nodded. “But I don’t see him anywhere. The water’s flowing too fast.” I began to sob as I squinted helplessly into the darkness.
“Sweetheart, just stay calm, I‘m sending the paramedics now. Can you tell me what your name is?”
“Caitlin. Caitlin Beadles.” I wailed.
“Okay, Caitlin, just stay where you are. Don’t try to go into the river, alright?”
I sniffed, “Okay.”
After what felt like a century, I finally heard the sound of sirens.
Everything seemed like a blur as they set to work shining flashlights everywhere and taking my statement.
Officer Meri Sanchez, the same officer who’d primarily been helping tackle my case against Seth, wrapped me in a blanket and began to lead me towards her squad car.
“No,” I pulled away. “I want to stay. I need to know that he’s okay.”
“There doing their absolute best to find him, Caitlin. It’s not safe for you to stay here with Seth so close by.”
I reluctantly gave in as she led me towards the car. Tears streamed down my face as I climbed inside and was carted away from the scene.
Meri took me home and I reluctantly climbed out of the car and followed her into the house. I could feel my parents’ eyes on me as I trudged past them and up the stairs without a single glance.
I could hear the sound of Meri’s voice explaining what had happened as I laid on my bed and sobbed uncontrollably.
Everything that had happened ran through my head. All of the abuse, all of the pain, everything. Through it all, my only hope—the beacon in the night had been Justin.
Somewhere in the back of my head, whether I’d admitted it or not, I’d always allowed myself to believe that there was a possibility that Justin and I would be together again.
Now, the thought that he could permanently be gone, that I may never see him again was too much—way too much.
I felt more tears fall until I’d cried myself to sleep.
I awoke with a terrible headache as the sound of my mother’s voice pulled me back to complete consciousness.
I rubbed my eyes as I glanced up at her.
“He’s okay,” she spoke softly.
“What?” I asked groggily.
“Justin. They just found him and they’re taking him to the hospital, but they expect for him to be fine.”
My mother sucked in a breath as she shook her head, “The river was so rocky, that Justin’s lucky he survived. They think there’s a possibility that Seth could’ve died upon impact and his body floated down stream with the heavy current, but they don’t know. They’re still searching.”
I nodded slowly as I bit my lip.
“Caitlin,” my mother began. “When Meri told us how you handled the whole situation with Justin and everything, it made me realize exactly how grown up you really are. I always knew you were bright and capable, that’s why your father and I have always given you the wheel and played the back-seat parenting role, but when we learned about what had happened with Seth, I was so hurt and scared. I felt like I’d failed you—like I needed to be there for you and I hadn’t—I wanted the very best for you. I now know that being controlling and supportive are two very different things, but I just didn’t want you to make a decision you’d regret later.”
I smiled softly as tears filled my eyes. “So much has happened, sometimes I don’t know what way is up and what way is down. I know it might sound crazy, but I just feel like this baby is a little gift out of all of this—like it makes all of the pain and heartache worth it. You know?”
My mom nodded, “Your father and I discussed things and we decided that we will support you in whatever you choose.”
“Thanks mom.” I gave her a big hug.
“Now, what do you say we go visit Justin?” she asked and I nodded.
I lay inside of the hospital bed and listened to the beeping noises of the machines around me. My head ached and my fingers tingled as they slowly regained circulation and blood flow.
I heard the sound of a knock on the door.
“Come in,” I croaked.
The door slowly opened to reveal none other than Kayla Allen.
She smiled slightly, “Hi.”
“Hi,” I said.
Kayla and I hadn’t actually had a private conversation since the morning after I’d allowed my emotions to run wild and kissed her.
“How you feeling?” she questioned.
“Alright, I guess. My whole body’s kind of numb and tingly, but the doctor says it should subside soon.”
“What are you doing here?” I asked.
“Your mom called my uncle and asked for prayer and support. So, we came.”
“You’re my first visitor,” I told her. “Well, except for my mom.” I chuckled slightly.
She nodded slowly.
“Kayla,” I spoke after a long awkward silence. “I believe I owe you an apology. I didn’t mean to play games with you or lead you on, I was just going through a tough time with Caitlin missing and, I dunno, when I kissed you, I wasn’t thinking. I’m sorry.”
Kayla lifted her eyes to meet mine, “So that kiss didn’t mean anything to you?”
“I’m sorry,” I bit my lip.
“No,” Kayla shook her head. “Don’t apologize. I think you’re very nice Justin and I want us to be friends, but no more then that. I went through a pretty tough break-up back in Wisconsin, and I just don’t feel like I’m ready for another relationship at this point in my life. I was worried that I was leading you on, but I’m glad that that’s not the case. Friends?”
“Friends,” I grinned. “I don’t know what I’d do without your wise counsel.”
“Or what I’d do without your tell-it-like-it-is demeanor and jokes.”
“Well,” Kayla said. “I’m not going to keep you, I think you have someone who would like to see you, and trust me, she’s a keeper.” she grinned before disappearing.
Kayla’s presence was replaced by Caitlin’s. Her eyes were red and puffy and she looked stressed.
“Come here,” I said as I opened my arms towards her.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
“I am now,” I smiled as she climbed into my arms.
She smiled back for a moment before her face fell into a frown, “What happened to Seth after he tackled you?”
I shrugged, “I don’t know. I had a minor concussion, so, I can’t exactly remember everything, why?”
“Because the police can’t seem to find him—it’s almost like he disappeared into thin air.”
“Maybe it’s better like that,” I said.
“What do you mean?” Caitlin asked, confused. “Didn’t you want him to go to jail?”
“Of course I did, but chances are, with him being a minor, they weren’t going to lock him up forever. Now that he’s run away, he’ll never come back—and if he does, he’ll certainly be severely punished since he broke out of jail—he’s an official criminal.” I explained.
“I didn’t think of it that way.”
We both sat quietly for a few minutes, just enjoying each other’s presence before I broke the silence.
“You’re beautiful, Caity, you know that?” I asked.
Her gorgeous brown eyes locked with mine as a look of surprise plastered her pretty face.
“You think so?” she bit her lip, absentmindedly teasing me.
“I know so.” I stated confidently, my eyes never leaving her plump, pink mouth.
Slowly, I found myself leaning towards her. My heart pounded in my chest as my lips gently touched hers for the first time in over a year. As cliche as it sounds, I could’ve sworn I heard bells ringing and angels singing. As we pulled away, her eyes held a warm look that had an almost bitter-sweetness to it. Bitter, because we were both well aware of all of the time we’d wasted. Sweet, because we had a second chance—a chance that neither of us was willing to risk.