“This is insane,” I mutter as we approach the glistening water. My friend strolls casually beside me, oblivious to my chattering teeth. I shake my head, wondering why I even suggested such a foolish idea in the first place. When my boots come into contact with the ground, tiny pieces of dry earth slip away. And still, we press on.
Intent on reaching the ice without slipping, I almost don’t notice the impending edge. That was close, I nearly kept walking. I look up, and become instantly entranced by the river ’s beauty. The wind sweeps animated particles of crystal across the river, creating swirls that travel above the ice. Below the sheet of frozen water, the river transforms into an uncontrollable stream of motion.
My friend didn’t notice the edge, or if she had she ignored it. “Kaley, come over quick! Who do I look like?” My friend laughs her beautifully magical laugh and I am left powerless, a puppet controlled by her voiced commands. Come over. Look at me. As the sun blindly reflects off the ice and around her outline, I mindlessly gaze at her silhouette.
“Are you sure this is safe?”
“Of course it is, I did this a few days ago. I bet there are five feet of ice below me. Stop being such a skeptic.”
But what if there aren’t five feet of ice, I silently ask myself. What if the next step she takes is her last? There would be a slight creak, followed by another. Then suddenly, we would hear the deafening sound of a thousand tiny pieces of ice all spitting at once. The ice would break, and I would be the only one who would hear her scream. I imagine this scream to be filled with resounding terror. The scream of someone who is going to die. When the body seizes up, and the only thing they have left is their mind, filling them with panic and despair. The only hope: a scream. And once she slips under the sheet of surrounding ice, that’s it. C’est la vie. Maybe in few weeks the body will resurface and someone might see it and shake their head sadly. Or it would float along unnoticed until it sinks to the bottom of the water and decays into nothing but dust.
My friend was a girl whose body pulsated with the joy of living. Her voice could be heard down the halls belting her favorite song, much to the irritation of listeners. She never bothered to brush her wild hair, and wore the same beat-up red boots to school every day. She was the first person to talk to me on the first day of school. She offered me her bag of chips and told me that food was the best way to make friends. The only
thing she understood more than people was clay; her talents had gotten the attention of numerous art scholars. I asked her once what her secret was. She responded, “Most people are scared of ruining their pieces, so take it out of the kiln too early. I’m not afraid.” And she told me she loved me. She looked me head on and told me she loved me. And I told her I loved her too. She said later that when she looked into my eyes she could see the world. Her name in Indian means the Sky of Hearts. I saw love when I looked into her eyes. It was the sky. And I never told her.
But the ice never cracked. Sky of Hearts still had her life and the surface of the river was still intact. I stood silent until she passed me. She took my hand and told me I was stupid to worry as she ran up the hill. I followed. And still, we press on.