Sharon Hood is 27. She is outgoing and quite childish at times. Her biggest asset is her ability to approach and talk to total strangers. Her biggest downfall is drinking one too many in Wetherspoons and doing exactly that. The most important thing in her life is her son, who she has just got back, and the thing she is best at is looking after him.
Beatrice the instructor, 44, took a liking to Pedro on their steady climb to 13,000ft, over landscapes and lakes green and blue. He’d been in the group she’d been training all morning, but only now in the cramped confines of the aircraft did his presence really sink in. His features were soft, his manner softer. He looked at her in a funny way that made her belly itch with butterflies. He wore an expression that seemed to indicate he had some kind of icebreaker to share with her. Like ‘what are you doing tonight?’ for example, or ‘I think you look great for your age’. He was silent, however, except for the obvious concerns most 1st timers have. His heart wasn’t really in it; she knew that today was his birthday and the jump was a present from his family, who were watching from down below.
She did her best to relax him, more so than other clients, because it struck her that he reminded her of her first husband, who had sadly passed away when she was eight months pregnant with her 1st and only son, who had also been tragically lost to sudden death syndrome when only six years old. Beatrice’s 2nd husband had walked out halfway through their third year together and ever since the only chance she ever had time to enjoy male company was in work, when she was jumping in tandem with men in what could only be described, for them, as either very intense or very exhilarating situations. For her it was ace every time.
The 1st timers could be tricky to work out. Bravado on the ground counted for nothing in the air. A lot of them bottled out last minute. Pedro wasn’t a bottler, but she could see that he was infected with fear by the power of the vertigo. She could help him with that.
They jumped. All was good. His face was a giant blissful smile. Then disaster struck. The cord trapped and the parachute failed. They went spiralling out of control, the planet a spinning canvas of blurry colour, the wind a screaming banshee. Given no choice, she had to open the reserve without releasing the first one. The two instantly tangled. And that was it. Game over. Just like that. Bye-bye life. Pedro was very quiet, and she admired that in him, but he clung to her like a baby. She realised the coincidence then that he was the same age to the day as her son would have been, had her son still been alive.
When someone reminds you of a loved one, she thought to herself, you almost want to love them unconditionally too, even though you may not know the slightest thing about them. It was like Gods sending down angels and messengers, and they never came more than once or twice. It was cruel for her to encounter someone special at the very end like this. Cruel. Her life had been sad, overall. She’d spent many months and years in grief. But there had been good times, and those good times flashed through her mind like a stream of rosy photographs.
This was a good time. The freedom of the sky and the clouds. The peace. She would die flying, and flying she loved more than anything else in what was left of her life. No sweat. She had done it a thousand times before. Pedro, though, none. She held him back just as tightly, and they communicated so-so much without saying a word. As one they plunged like a bullet to the earth, Beatrice making sure she was on the bottom underneath him to take the full force of the impact.
Pedro didn’t like this, and tried to stop her, but he was no expert of the heavens like she, and was eased gently into submission. Her back hit the ground first and dead pain exploded throughout every outermost nerve-fibre in her body, but she only felt it for half a second before the whole world and all she knew of it collapsed inwards into a chasm of black pixels, and out she went, like a light.
She awoke a week later, in a wheelchair, wearing a neck-brace. The hospital ward was sunny. Pedro sat opposite her with tears on his cheeks. She felt so overjoyed to exist at all, for the both of them to exist, that her present condition didn’t bother her one bit. She was so happy, she started to tell jokes to cheer him up. Soon enough they were laughing together. She would get better. As author of this story, I guarantee it.
It was in a fit of giggles and laughs that Pedro proposed to her. Beatrice thought that was his idea of a joke. It wasn’t. She had saved his life and he wanted to be with her.
“But I’ve got twenty years on you,” she protested.
“I don’t care,” Pedro replied, “it’s what me and my family want.”
“Yes then,” she said.
© Sharon Hood 2010