The Fall Up (The Fall Up #1)


by Aly Martinez

IT WAS RAINING. Isn’t that the way all great love stories start? And also usually end? The midnight air was cool against my skin as I stared off that bridge. My blond wig was secured in place by a headband, and chunky sunglasses covered my whiskey-colored eyes. I didn’t look like myself any more than I felt it. Bruises from the night before painted my legs while fresh scabs covered my knees, but it was the hollowness in my chest that hurt the most.

Yep. Still me.

Which was exactly why I was standing on that bridge, wishing for the mental fortitude to hurl myself off.

A man’s voice interrupted my thoughts. “You finally gonna do it tonight?”

I instinctually smoothed my fake hair down and pressed the bridge of my glasses closer to my face, sealing out any possible glance he could catch. I stared ahead as I snapped, “Excuse me?”

“I’ve seen you here three nights in a row now. I was just wondering if tonight was going to be the night you finally jump.”

My eyes flashed wide, but since they were covered by the dark glasses, my reaction remained hidden. “I just like the view. That’s all.” What a load of shit.

I watched him nod out of the corner of my eye. “Yeah me too. It’s gorgeous up here.”

Shuffling my feet to the side, I attempted to slip away as he pulled a pack of cigarettes from his pocket and offered it my way.

“You want one?”

I shook my head and then crept down a few inches to put distance between us.

“Suit yourself.” He used a hand to shield the lighter from the wind, but the constant sprinkle of rain made his task impossible. “Damn it,” he cursed with the cigarette tucked between his lips. “Little help?” he asked, swinging his gaze to mine.

Arching an eyebrow, I asked, “With what?”

“It’s raining…and windy…and I’m trying to burn one.” He tilted his head, equally as incredulous.

“You want me to call God? We had a bad breakup recently, but he might be willing to do me one last favor.”

He breathed an exaggerated sigh of relief. “That would be fantastic. What’s the big guy’s response time like these days? Last time we spoke, it was”—he paused to look at his watch—“oh, twenty-seven years.”

A soft laugh bubbled from my throat, and one side of his mouth lifted in a gorgeous grin.

“I’m not exactly in the mood to wait that long, so maybe you could just block the wind with your body?” His smile spread as he stepped toward me, forcing my gaze to nervously bounce away.

“Sorry. Can’t help you there. Lung cancer and I broke up too.” After gathering the back of my wig into a ponytail, I pulled it over my shoulder and turned away from him. The chill of the wind blasted my face and roared over my ears as it rushed past me.

I went back to staring out at the dark, choppy water, becoming lost in the idea of how cold it might be.

Is tonight the night?

No.

My feet would more than likely never leave the edge of that bridge, but there was a definite reason why I was imagining ending it all. Exactly zero other people in the world would understand why. I had it all, and I dreamed about losing it all—more often than I would ever admit, even to myself.

After stepping out of my heels, I slipped my foot between the bars on the railing. The wind slammed my bruised leg against the metal. “Shit,” I hissed as pain shot through me.

“You think that hurts? Imagine falling twenty-five stories then crashing into the water, which might as well be concrete, at speeds upward of seventy miles per hour,” the man said, leaning on the metal railing next to me.

“Wow. Someone’s done some research,” I said sarcastically, barely sparing him a glance.

“Daily,” he responded frankly, causing my surprised gaze to swing to his. Simply shrugging at my reaction, he turned his back to the railing and propped himself up on his colorfully tattooed forearms. “You forget I’ve been here the last three nights in a row too.” He smirked, lifting the cigarette up to his lips for a deep inhale.

“Listen, I’m not going to jump if you’re some kind of caped crusader on a mission. I just needed some fresh air.” I pointedly glanced at his cigarette.

A laugh escaped his mouth in a grey puff. “Fresh air is overrated. Especially given the reason you’re standing here.” He knowingly arched a dark-brown eyebrow.

“Riiiiight,” I drawled, rolling my eyes behind my glasses. “Okay, well, I was just heading out anyway.”

“Then my work here is done.” He bowed, and the corner of my mouth lifted in a smile as I stepped back into my shoes and walked away.

I shook my head at the random stranger. Then, a thought struck me, stopping me only a few feet away. Spinning back to face him, I asked, “Wait. Were you reaching out to me as a cry for help?”

“Oh look. Designer Shoes has a conscience!” He dropped his cigarette to the damp ground, stepping on it with the toe of his well-worn, black boots. Bending over, he picked the butt up and tucked it in his pocket.

At least he didn’t litter.

“Oh look. Tattooed Stalker has jokes!” I smarted back.

He smiled, pulling another cigarette from his pocket and then pausing just before guiding it between his lips. “Were you judging me based on my tattoos? I’m offended.” He feigned anguish then laughed while lifting his lighter to once again battle the wind for a nicotine fix.

I wanted to walk away, but he wasn’t wrong. I did have a conscience, and right then, I was worried that it might really be his night to make good on his apparent numerous visits to the bridge.

With a huff, I headed back toward him, praying that I could wrap it up as quickly as possible then head back to my house for a few hours of sleep. Or, more likely, lie awake while staring at the ceiling and crying.

“Are you planning to jump for real?” I asked.

His smile fell as he focused on the water. “Nah. I don’t have the balls to do something like that. Talking to you wasn’t a plea for help or anything. You just look worse than usual tonight.” His gaze slid down to my battered legs.

“Oh!” I exclaimed in understanding. “That’s not at all what you’re thinking. I fell down some stairs.”

He quirked his lips in disbelief.

“I’m serious!”

“I’m sure you are,” he told the wind. “You can go. I’m good.”