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Saturday, October 2, 2010

Whispers From the Edge by Toni Zuma

The roar of the wind and waves fought with the grief screaming in my head as I stood on the edge of the cliff, arms hugging my middle. The purple paisley scarf Jon gave me, wrapped around my neck and head to keep my hair from turning into a Brillo pad, flapped behind me like a loose tether.

Tears wracked my body and I collapsed, my hands in fists pounding the ground and ripping out handfuls of grass and dirt and throwing them over.

“Damn you, Jon! Why?”

I folded my body over my knees and rocked for long, painful moments. Feeling the edge of the cliff with my fingers, I stretched my head over the rim. My eyes were on the jagged rocks below but my focus was on the image of my husband as I last saw him. Broken. Bloody. Dead.

“Maggie!”

I jumped at the hand gripping my shoulder and the voice in my ear and lost my balance. But instead of tumbling over the cliff, I tumbled into a solid chest encased in the thick cords of a sweater.

I looked up into the worried blue eyes of my friend Michael.

“What the hell are you doing?” he yelled, his voice rough with concern. The wind whipped back his thick coffee-colored hair, revealing the structure of his clean-shaven face and the squint lines between his eyebrows.

Annoyance surged through me. I wanted him gone so I could wallow in my grief alone and not have to answer his questions. But I knew he wouldn’t leave, even if I told him to, so I turned my eyes from him to the cragged cliff overlooking the ocean that had once been my sanctuary. Now every blade of grass, every grain of sand, every whisper in the wind held the memory of Jon’s last painful moments on earth and was too much to bear.

“Are you ok?” Michael asked.

“I’m fine.” I turned to head down the path, not wanting to deal with him, his questions, my answers.

He grabbed my arm. “No. You’re not. You were at the edge of that cliff.”

“I wasn’t going to jump!”

The cold look of doubt on his face sent a chill across my shoulders and down my spine and yanked from my heart a sound, something between a moan and a howl, wrapped in pain and accompanied by knee-buckling sobs. I would have crumpled to the ground had he not caught me. He murmured soft sounds against my cheek and held me in his warm, protective arms until I was cried out.

“I’m sorry,” I mumbled, reaching into my skirt pocket for a tissue.

His eyes flickered with moisture. “Maggie, he wouldn’t have wanted you to join him.”

“How could you know that?” I wiped my nose.

“I wouldn’t want the love of my life to do that. Like Jon, I’d want her to go on to live and love again.”

He was right. Jon wouldn’t have wanted that. He’d have been royally ticked and would have spent eternity not speaking to me. I choked out a harsh laugh and nodded, turning my eyes to the cliff Jon had either fallen from or jumped from.

“Have you eaten today?” Michael asked.

I shook my head.

“I passed a tavern on my way here that looked interesting,” he said, laying his arm across my shoulders. “C’mon. I’ll buy you a burger.”

The ‘no’ sat on my tongue, ready to exit, when Jon appeared at the edge of the cliff, that wide smile on his face. I heard his voice whispering in my ear: Say yes to life, Maggie. Say yes. With a little wave, he faded into the wind, my scarf in his hand.

My hands flew to my neck. The scarf was gone.

I blinked my eyes as if waking, and when I looked back at Michael, it was with fresh eyes.

“The Damned Fish.”

His eyes opened wide in bewilderment. “Excuse me?”

“The tavern...it’s The Damned Fish. The owner was the wife of a fisherman whose usual response to the question, how are you, was “Damned fish aren’t biting. How the hell you think I am.”

Michael threw his head back and laughed, and I laughed with him, feeling happiness sprout in the hole in my soul.

I took a last look at the place I had known so much happiness and knew life wasn’t over for me. The feeling brought a smile to my face, a real smile, not one plastered there for the benefit of someone else.

By the time I arrived at the tavern, I had convinced myself that Jon had been smiling his approval at my first step back into life. I walked into The Damned Fish and joined the man who saved my...scarf.

About the Author: More than a dozen of Toni Zuma's tamer romances have appeared in the confessions magazines market, and her alter--ego writes contemporary romances on the sensual side. When she's not writing about passion, she's indulging in it - yoga, hiking, swimming, laughing with friends over hot chile and cold beer, and watching the Sandia Mountains turn the color of ripe watermelon at sunset. Visit Toni Zuma at http://tonizuma.webs.com/

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