By: Brian M. Van Hise
I realized after pulling over at Brooks Bridge that umbrellas would have been useless, so maybe I should scratch that regret off my list. Turns out the evening shower from earlier had now exploded into something approaching a definable monsoon. And besides, I knew Linda didn’t care any longer about her hair and it getting wet. She said we had what they call “more pressing issues” at hand.
From the trunk, Linda and I picked up the girl’s limp body, me at the feet and Linda cradling her head and shoulders. We hoisted her up and out of the trunk, she was heavier than I thought, probably from all that rain having soaked into her hooded sweatshirt. Propping her up on one knee, I lowered the trunk back down and then shut it fully.
I looked Linda in the eye in that moment. The rain was coming down hard on her face. I wanted to believe they were tears, as if an overwhelming sadness had taken over her, not over the dead girl we held between us, but for her recent actions with Jack Drainer. However, I knew they weren’t tears.
We moved away from the car in sync with each other, our steps beginning to clamber down the slope that would lead to the Trent River, now gushing with a mighty force from the rainfall.
“I tried to tell you about Jack,” Linda said, with her elbows bent at ninety-degrees. I looked back and forth between her and the closed eyes of the poor girl. “But you wouldn’t listen. I tried telling you two months ago, when I mentioned seeing other people.”
“But you never said you had met someone new. I thought you were just expressing a fantasy,” I retorted. “You should have told me you wanted to get serious with him. You’re my wife, for Christ’s sake, Lindy.”
“It was wrong,” she said. “But, I really wanted you to listen.”
I could see the Trent River now, still below us as we lowered further and further down the embankment. The earth below my feet was soft and slick. A slippery slope. Something like that.
Linda reached out for the arm of a tree branch that was snaking down in her path. The branch looked strong and rigid, like it could support her. I watched as she gripped it, tearing off a few weak flakes of bark as she let go.
The dead girl’s body was getting heavier and heavier it seemed.
“Do you love him?” I asked. It was really the only question that mattered. The one that could decide our fate, our future.
“I don’t love him,” she said quickly, as if the question a silly one. “That’s a silly question, Les. You’re the man I love. It’s not about love.” She stopped for a second, looking at me carefully. “You were my first love, you know. And I decided to marry you and spend my life with you. But, I never knew what love felt like from another man. Maybe it was foolish to get married as early as we did.”
“Let’s keep walking,” I said. “We’re almost there now.”
The river was in sight and what a magnificent sight it was! We couldn’t even make it to the proper landing at the bottom of the bridge. The river was flooding over now and roaring with life as it streamed eastward.
“I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
I fretted at this.
Remembering how she had made her angry exit from his house earlier, I said: “Why were you yelling at him when you left? I saw you.”
Linda lay the dead girl’s body onto the ground and crossed the girls’ hands over her chest. She tugged on the drawstrings in the hoodie to cover the dead face as much as possible.
“Because we had a fight. He wanted me to leave you. He kept persisting, Les. And I knew I never wanted to leave you. But, he wouldn’t let it go, kept persisting. Talked so much about a future together with me. So, we argued about it. And I hit him. I told him I never wanted to see him again and that it was all just a dumb mistake.”
It was clear what we were to do with the body. Linda was now prepping it for its journey down the river off to some other place we would hopefully never know about. As she adjusted the hoodie, I took time to re-tie the girl’s shoelaces, as they had loosened considerably.
“Anyway, it happened. And I’m sorry,” she stood up, and brushed a bit of hair out of her face. “And it won’t happen ever again. I never want to experience that again. Ever again.”
I stood too and looked at my wife. “Let’s get her in the water.”
We hoisted the body up again together. The burden was almost too much to bear.
“On my count,” I said as we began to sway her limp body from side to side.
I gripped the girl’s ankles as hard as I could with two hands. Ambidextrous.
I looked into the open face of her hoodie and could see only the girl’s lips and a small part of her nose still jutting out. I briefly imagined it was Linda’s face. Linda’s body. Linda’s horrible deed that we were about to cast out into the rushing waters.
We released her.
She splashed into the water and went under, but a moment later she resurfaced and we watched as that poor girl was carried briskly downstream, out beyond what we could see, into the winding darkness of the river that would lead to greater rivers and at some point to the great body of ocean or lake which undoubtedly lay beyond.
And I released her as well.
I cast her out in some personal way. Linda, I mean. What she had done.
There were going to be talks and fights and arguments and mistrust and denial and anger and confusion and hearbreak yet to come. Undoubtedly yet to come. But in this moment, she was still my partner and not caring if it was my left hand or right hand, not giving any thought to bringing further balance to my life, I reached out and grabbed my wife’s hand and began to lead her up the embankment once again.
She gripped my hand tightly and let me pull her.
And behind us, that river kept on rushing by and the rain, it wouldn’t let up until almost morning.