Near-Life Experience

The rain felt like bullets against his skin as Jake raced down the freeway. He had somewhere to be though and nothing would slow him down. He could feel the tires of his ’86 Ducati F1A sliding on the pavement below and did his best to keep the bike steady. He tried to keep his mind on the road, but he couldn’t help but think of her.

Lucy’s laugh was always so contagious. No matter what the problem was, a short encounter with Lucy would help anyone. They first met in third grade. Jake had just moved to Chicago and on his first day of school, she was the only one who made him feel welcome. Since that day, they had been the best of friends and would be until death did them part.

Red lights flashed suddenly in front of Jake and he had nowhere to go. He clutched the brake and held his breath as he waited for the bike to slide. When he let his breath go, he realized his bike had come to a stop and he was still upright and safe on the side of the road. He took a moment to dry off his helmet and resumed breathing normally again. He had near-death experiences before, but each time something like that happened, it brought him closer to life rather than death.

“I dare you to get in this dog cage and roll down the hill.” Jake was 12 when Adam made that dare. Adam was Lucy’s twin brother and since the beginning of that summer, the three had been inseparable. They stood at the top of the hill in Dan Ryan Woods. They found the rusty dog cage off the running trail and like the dumb and bored kids they were, they decided the best option to kill time would be this.

“Okay, but you have to do it after me,” Jake replied. He then climbed into the cage and Lucy latched the door. She and Adam gave the cage a push and it started off slowly down the hill. Jake rolled into the sides of the cage but pretty soon he couldn’t tell up from down. Just as he was getting nauseous, he came down hard on his side and pain coursed through his body. His face smashed against the rusted door and he tasted blood.

When the cage finally came to a stop, he heard Adam and Lucy shouting his name. The last thing he remembered before he blacked out was looking into those beautiful blue eyes that belonged to the person who opened the door and rescued him.

He calmed his nerves on the side of the freeway and dropped the bike into first as he set off to one of the hardest things he would ever attend in his life. Jake hadn’t been back to Chicago in five years, but he still knew the way as if he had driven it every day. The closer he got to his exit, the rain seemed to slow down.

While he had stayed in touch with Lucy, he hadn’t spoken to Adam since he left Chicago. Even when Adam called him a week ago to tell him about Lucy, the conversation was short and emotional. He didn’t know how it would be to look him in the eye after how they left things. Lucy had been hurt the most it seemed, but then she didn’t understand it all. Now, she never would.

It was the summer before they left for college when Lucy told Jake to meet her and Adam at their spot by the hill. When Jake got there, the sun was just setting and Adam was nowhere in sight. It became quite clear that Lucy had every intention of being alone with Jake. To Lucy, it became quite clear that Jake had no intention of being alone with her.

“Is there someone else?” She asked as tears welled in her eyes.

“No,” he responded sympathetically, “it’s just that we are going to college and it would be silly to start something now.” And that was the first and only lie he would ever tell Lucy. He would never get to tell the truth.

The rain let up as Jake pulled on to that familiar street. As he pulled into the driveway, he cut the engine and didn’t take his eyes off the house as he put down his kickstand. He got off the bike and walked up the stairs. As he reached up to knock on the door, he saw the note,

MEET ME AT OUR SPOT

Jake set his helmet on the porch and walked down S. Damen Ave. like he had so many times before. As he reached the hill, the sun was setting. He expected Lucy to be there as he relived a painful moment, but this time it was Adam. His back was turned, but he spoke softly,

“I promised my sister, I was going to start living my life. I told her the truth before she died. She gave me her blessing. This time, I won’t take ‘no’ for an answer from you.” Jake felt his heart in his throat. He was unsure of what to say. Adam turned around and Jake looked into those beautiful blue eyes. This time, Jake knew he wouldn’t give “no” as an answer.

© Autumn Siders 2015
Near-Life Experience

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