Ted is kneeling on the bridge in front of her. Quietly. It’s not like him. The man Hannah knows expands to fill empty spaces. He hates silence. It makes him nervous when he has no reason to be, but now, when he should be nervous, he isn’t. She can tell by his even breath, by his stillness, by the unwavering hand that holds the ring.
She can’t look him in the eyes, so she looks at the water instead. It’s the same color, brownish green and sparkling in the afternoon light. She imagines a life with him, stretching out like the river, further than she can see. She loves him. They’ve been together too long to not love each other.
This was her place before she brought him to it, fifteen long years ago and she still loves it like she did then. She loves the wooden rail with its flaking white paint, the faded boards that bounce beneath her feet, the willow trees, the slow-moving river far below. She loves the fantastic impossibility of standing over water.
“Look straight ahead,” she told him that first time, holding her arms straight out to the sides and opening herself to the summer breeze. “When you look straight ahead from here, it feels like flying. Like you’re a crane gliding over the water. You can almost feel your feet skim the surface. Can you feel it, Ted?”
He couldn’t feel it, but he liked watching her fly, so he spread his arms and pretended to look straight ahead, all the while sneaking glances at the way her cheeks flushed when she was happy.
Their first kiss was here–when her hair was still long and he hadn’t yet grown a beard–and it was like flying too, only less like a crane and more like a hot air balloon. Afterwards, he picked a cattail and presented it to her as if it were a prize. She accepted it with a curtsy, like it was the Medal of Honor.
They fought here too, but only once, when she decided to leave. “Morocco,” she said, “I’ve wanted this ever since I saw Casablanca.” The color in her cheeks made his breath catch. He punched the third post down, the one they were standing beside, with all the force of his anger, but it didn’t sway the bridge any more than it swayed Hannah. “I’ll be back,” she said, with infuriating calm. “It’s only a year.”
She missed this place while she was away, her thinking spot. He picked just the right place. He knows her.
She turns to him and he smiles, ready to take her in his arms, to lift her off her feet and spin her in mad, joyous circles.
She remembers how she used to love the ringlet of hair at the back of his neck, how she used to love the way he held a coffee cup, with one finger curled over the rim. Her mouth is dry, but everything is clear here.
Hannah swallows. “No,” she says. “I’m sorry, but no.”
Jennifer Tatroe is a Seattle-area writer, recently transplanted from northern Colorado. She loves Elvis, hates olives, and is currently ambivalent about pirates.