Audrey and Jonathan leaned on the railing of the Westminster Bridge, hands clasped and fingers intertwined. He cast a glance over his shoulder to the clock tower. 6:40. In just a few hours, the area would be packed with millions of revelers eager to ring in a new year. He untangled his fingers from hers and wiped his sweaty palms on his jeans. He took her hands in his again.
“A-Audrey…” Her brown eyes glistened beneath the full moon and street lamps, leaving him distracted.
She tilted her head. “What?”
“Um, well… these two weeks I’ve spent with you have been the most amazing days of my life.” He drew a nervous breath. “Will you marry me?” He dropped to his knee and slipped a velvet box from his coat pocket.
She pulled her hands back. “Oh! This is so sudden. I mean, I have to go home the day after tomorrow.”
“I can come with you.”
“Your home is London. I can’t imagine you’d be happy in Milan.”
“Milan is gorgeous- though it is eclipsed by your beauty.”
“I’m afraid you misunderstood. I live in Milan, New Mexico- in the United States. A yawn on the interstate and you’d miss it. There’s no art scene, no culture.”
“You share my adventurous heart, Audrey. I could be happy anywhere with you.” He glanced at Big Ben. “Hey, we could BASE jump the tower after our vows!”
Audrey gasped. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.” She fought tears. “I love you, but our love couldn’t thrive anywhere but here.” She pressed her lips to his cool cheek, and then blended into the passing crowd before he could see her cry.
Commotion broke out behind her. She turned and saw a man standing on the bridge railing. When she recognized Jonathan’s gray wool coat, her constricted throat stifled a scream, and then he fell toward the River Thames. His coat billowed in the breeze and for a moment, she’d hoped it would parachute him to safety. She closed her eyes. The harsh splash and the crowd’s reaction several seconds later dissolved any illusions she’d had.
Audrey leaned her elbows on the bridge railing. She checked the Elizabeth Tower clock. 6:40. This was her eleventh New Year’s Eve visit since Jonathan jumped without her. Friends and family insisted that in time, she’d move on, and in a sense, she did. She cast a sideways glance at her husband, Robert. They’d married eight years ago, but she could no longer deny that her heart never left Jonathan or the River Thames.
“Thank you, Robert.”
She shrugged. “Everything. Being you… coming here every year because you didn’t want me to go alone… giving me more than you ever got in return.”
“What do you mean?”
She focused on the rippling water below. “Wait here. There’s something I have to do.”
Unable to bear the thought of crushing him, or another year of guilt and regret followed by another anniversary visit, Audrey pushed through the crowd until she found a clearing. She climbed onto the railing just as Jonathan had. Her husband’s pleas to reconsider rose above the rumble of the mass.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered. Before anyone could grab her, she leaned forward and allowed gravity to reunite her with her soul’s mate.
Robert rested his elbows on the bridge railing. His gaze fell on the rippling reflection of lights below. The River Thames had been Audrey’s fixation, but in the two years he visited alone, he found it ran through his heart as well.
On the third anniversary of Audrey’s leap, Robert brought his new bride to Westminster Bridge, so she too, might be touched by the river.
“You okay?” Catherine asked as she rubbed her husband’s back.
He straightened and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “Couldn’t be better.” He kissed her forehead.
For several minutes, they embraced.
“Robert, I don’t want to lose you.”
He turned her to face him. “What do you mean?” He tried to keep the alarm from his voice.
“When we married eight months ago, you made it clear you didn’t want kids. I’m pregnant.” She covered her face with her hands and wept.
“W-what? I don’t… I can’t believe… I love you!” He wrapped his arms around his wife. “I love you.”
Through tears that threatened to overflow his eyelids, he felt the blessing of the Thames.
The river that once carried his sorrow now shared his joy.
This is my response to the Speakeasy weekly prompt, which is to write a piece in 750 words or less (1) using the sentence, “I don’t think that’s a good idea.” anywhere in the piece, and (2) with some kind of reference to the photo prompt (a full moon photo of Big Ben.)
The challenge is open to anyone, so if you’d like to write your own response, you can link it up on Tuesday when the grid opens for submissions.
Thanks so much for reading!