“I know I can reach it. Just…a…little…further…”
“It’s too far, Josie. We can’t hold you.”
“Yes, you can! It’ll take just another few seconds. Hold me.”
“Don’t drop me! I’m almost there! Don’t drop me!”
“I can’t do it,” Sarah cried, “for God’s sake, Josie, come back! My hands!”
Josie felt the rope shake for only an instant when she realized she had gone too far. Sarah fell to the ground, arms sprawling above her head. “No, Sarah!,” Maya yelled. But it was too late. Maya and Liza slid across the wet grass under Josie’s weight, desperately seeking footholds but they could find none as the edge of the overhang raced toward them.
The countdown had begun. Let the rope go or go over the edge with her. Maya’s mind raced. Maya, Josie, and Liza shrieked and jerked to a halt. “Sorry I took so long,” Sarah said, gritting her teeth under their weight and a straining arm holding on to a climber’s hammer she had jammed underneath the root of a tree. Sarah had managed to grab the very end of their rope and was stretched awkwardly under the strain.
“Hurry, hurry!,” Maya and Liza yelled, gathering some footing but still struggling with the rope. Josie took her cue and began using the face of the rock to climb back to the top. When Josie reached the top, Maya reached out her hand and helped her up. Liza ran from behind Maya and started yelling.
“You’re crazy! Do you know we could’ve died? You could’ve been killed!”
“But you weren’t and neither was I.”
The tension stood thick in the air. Calamity is said to make brothers, but the events of the day would challenge their friendship for many years to come. The ride home was a quiet one, everyone reflecting on their feelings and Josie’s actions. Sarah was a hero but no one said “thank you.” There was implied “thanks” in the hugs that were given as each girl reached her home that evening.
Maya could not sleep. Her hands ached where the rope had bit and tore skin. Her muscles in her arms, shoulders, back and legs had begun to ache. She knew the next few days they would remind her of the work and the tension of their experience. After lying in bed for a while, she sat up and swung her legs over the side of the bed. She had started to let go of the rope. She knew the odds of survival were insurmountable. She would have killed a friend in order to save herself. She sought to do now what she could not quite do in the moment --- reason. 'I had to save Liza too. I could have killed a friend tonight --- holding on or letting go. What would the others have done?'
Liza tossed and turned in bed, cut up pretty good from the dragging. For some reason she had opted to wear shorts that day. ‘Bad decision,’ she said to herself as she looked at the cuts and the bruises beginning to form on her legs. They would be ugly for a long time. “Looks like pants and skirts for a while, girls,” she said shaking her head at her once glorious gams.
She was hungry so she crept down the hall to the kitchen and fixed a bowl of cereal. Dinner had been good but she didn’t have much of an appetite then. As she spooned in the sweet, crunchy cereal, she felt her aching limbs relax.
Sitting at the kitchen counter, she spotted a drying towel hanging off of the edge of the counter top. She found herself righting it before she even thought about it. Would she have been able to let go of the rope to save herself? Angry, she felt like she should have let go to teach Josie a lasting lesson: don’t reach further than your grasp --- especially when you could put other lives in danger. ‘Josie has always been selfish like that,’ she thought to herself. They had gathered enough rock for their paleontology project. But Josie, wanting to be on top, decided to get rocks from the side of the cliff and when she discovered how rare some of the formations were, she wanted to collect some of them. How could she trust Josie? How could she trust Maya?
Josie had lost most of their rocks, but God only knew what they had lost that day.
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