by Tim Elphick

The 2 a.m. news blared from the car radio, jolting me out of my numbness. I looked once again at the house I had been staring at for hours. My mind had shut down after she had shoved me out her front door. I had stumbled into the car by habit. I had nowhere to go, no-one to see. My whole world was behind that door and it had been slammed resolutely in my face.

My frozen hand still held the ring. It had burnt with my warmth earlier, yet now I could not feel it. My carefully practised proposal had died on my tongue with her opening words. I hated the ring now - it held both my love and her rejection. I wanted to throw it away, but couldn't.

Sitting in the car, my thoughts had become darker and darker as the night wore on. A black void swallowed me and numbed the pain. My resolution formed itself around this oblivion, and I started to move.

I walked to her front door and leant hard on her buzzer until a light flicked on. I placed the ring on the doorstep and walked quickly away. My eyes focussed forward, but my ears were still back at the door. Ahead the bridge beckoned and the sound of rushing water rose to block all noise from her house. I reached the bridge at the same time I imagined she would find the ring. I pictured her looking around, bemused, then remorseful, and perhaps turning to follow me.

The dark waters sparkled in the moonlight, splashing and frothing against the rocks, rushing purposefully. I welcomed that purpose. I readied myself to jump, when movement caught my eye. I hoped that she had come to stop me, to admit her mistake... but it was just a sack snagged at the edge of the water.

Over the roaring of the water I heard a plaintive whining. My hurt turned to anger as I realised there was a dog in the sack, thrown into the river like garbage. Another abandoned soul. I looked for a way to climb down, but could not see one. So I jumped.

Ironically, I wanted to survive this jump, to save the dog, when moments ago I had wanted to die. My coldness did not prepare me for the icy cold water, and it knocked the breath from me. I thrashed around in the turbulence, trying to find the surface and air. My first breath was full of froth and spray, and I could hardly swim for coughing.

When I hauled the sack to safety, it was ominously silent and still. My cold hands fumbling on the wet string. I feared I was too late, but the dog whined as I pulled him out. He was an ugly puppy. I liked him immediately. I snuggled him close for warmth, and he feebly licked me. Smiling at my newfound friend, I looked up and wondered how to get us home.

499 words.

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