Tara climbed the rock face with concentrated ferocity. Her lean and muscular body worked with rote muscle memory, pulling her closer and closer to the ledge on which he waited. Her hands gripped and released, gripped and released, while her legs maintained a steady balance below.
From above, her face could be seen as a mask of concentration. Jason knew that face well. He jokingly called it her Type A face. “Tara,” he’d say, “turn down the intensity, you’re scaring me.” At this moment, however, her death defying climb was terrifying him and the only thing keeping his anxiety in check was her focused look.
He wasn’t like her. Given the choice, he had hiked up the trail, rather than climb the sheer cliff face. He was simultaneously in awe of her fierce courage and terrified by it. In the five months since they had been dating, he’d often wondered if his reserved nature was enough for her bold independence.
He watched as she traversed the final outcropping, her legs dangling dangerously for more moments than his heart could take and the other thought arose-was she too much for him? He was falling in love with this girl and a part of him was sure it would kill him. How many times could his heart leap from his chest before it finally gave out?
This girl… This amazing, intense and possibly certifiable girl was… She mesmerized him and she scared him in the best and worst ways. Why did she always have to cheat death? Couldn’t they just stay in and chill sometimes?
And then it happened… She lost her grip. She dangled for a moment one-handed… Or was it forever? He wasn’t sure. All he knew was his heart stopped beating and the world threatened to implode. His mouth opened to scream but nothing happened. She was already climbing again.
His mouth closed with a click. His heart began to beat again. It beat feverishly, madly but it was beating. He knew in a moment the answer to his puzzle. He couldn’t. He wouldn’t do this anymore. He had to end it before he got in deeper. He would tell her tonight. He would drive her home and drop her off for the last time. It would hurt but… It was the right thing to do.
Tara’s fingers reached the ledge first. Her red and white gloves contrasted the grey rock sharply as she gripped her final handhold of the climb. The rest of her emerged moments later grinning from ear to ear. Her excitement was palpable.
“Did you see that? I nearly lost it. Oh! It was the best climb though! I totally nailed it!”
Jason grinned back in spite of himself. Her excitement was contagious. “You looked great, Babe! I’m so glad I came!”
“Want to climb with me tomorrow? There’s a more technical climb I want to try.”
“Sure,” Jason heard himself say, “I’ll be there!”