NIGHT VIEW, 2004,
by Sandy Chandler Shelton
 

inspired the following vignette:


ON THE LEDGE
Sophia Riazo

 

Catherine couldn't stop trembling.

She took slow, deep breaths, reminding herself that she and her coworker, Christy, were safe. She tried to communicate to Vincent through the bond that she was all right. But the shivering remained.

"Cathy, that was the insanest thing you ever did!"

Catherine looked up from her position, seated on the floor, to see her boss towering over her. "You're probably right, Joe."

Joe Maxwell leaned against the wall and slid down to sit beside her. "But it was also the bravest thing you ever did. How’d you know Christy was out there?"

Christy Martin, an intern in their office, had climbed out onto a window ledge, determined to kill herself. Catherine had followed her and talked her back inside.

Catherine sighed. "I came by for help on the Franklin case, and I noticed the window was open."

"These windows are supposed to be sealed."

She said, "I figured someone wanted fresh air; the weather's so nice. I leaned out into the sunlight, and there she was, staring down at the street." Catherine struggled to her feet. Joe hopped up and gave her a hand.

"Wow, what a shock!"

"You know that vertigo feeling when you look down from a high balcony? I could hardly breathe." The memory caused a fresh wave of trembling. "She told me to go away and leave her alone."

Pushing aside her fear, Catherine had climbed onto the ledge and spent thirty minutes beside Christy, talking calmly.

"Being such an obliging person, of course you did."

Catherine appreciated Joe’s attempt to lighten her spirits. She punched him and asked, "Where’s Christy?"

After persuading Christy to come inside, Catherine’s adrenaline had evaporated. As others attended to Christy, Catherine sank to the floor, drained, where Joe had found her.

He replied, "Rita’s with her in the conference room until the EMTs come."

"Where will they take her?"

"Probably Bellevue, for a psych evaluation."

"I should go with her."

"Why? Are you hurt?" Joe grabbed her arms and studied her earnestly.

"I’m fine," Catherine said. "Christy needs help."

He rubbed his jaw. "And if I say no?"

"You won’t." She touched Joe’s arm. "Why does an intelligent woman with a bright future step out on a ledge? Why does she feel she can’t go on?"

"That’s for the doctors to say," Joe began, but he raised his hands in surrender. "Okay, go. Jameson can handle the Franklin case until you get back... and I expect you back!"

"Thanks, Joe!"

***

Catherine rode in the ambulance and stayed until Christy was admitted.

Christy revealed that she’d been hit with a devastating sequence of problems: her parents divorced, leaving her feeling isolated; her law school grades slipped; her scholarship was in danger; she broke up with her boyfriend; she waitressed for rent and food money; she rarely got enough sleep; her grades suffered even more.

Catherine knew these problems were temporary and surmountable with the right attitude and support. However, she also understood Christy’s feelings of failure and rejection. She promised to visit the following day.

It was late when Catherine entered her apartment. She’d brought home case files out of habit: she was too wound up and too exhausted to make any progress. A search of the refrigerator turned up enough for a salad and sandwich.

As she ate, she kept checking the balcony, hoping to see Vincent. Finally, while she washed her dishes, she saw movement out there.

She rushed into his arms.

"You’re all right?" he asked, speaking into her hair. "I felt such intense emotions today! Shock, determination, sadness, courage..."

Catherine wanted to remain as she was, with her head tucked under his chin, but Vincent needed the reassurance of watching her face. He leaned away, keeping his arms around her.

She met his gaze. "It’s hard to believe it all really happened!"

"Tell me." He gestured to the corner of the balcony.

They sat nestled in each other’s embrace as Catherine recounted the events of her day. Vincent listened without comment, though he flinched and tightened his arms when she told how she’d climbed out the window.

"I want to help her, Vincent," she said quietly. "Ultimately she must help herself, but I want to show her there’s hope."

"There is always hope," he said, pressing his lips to her hair, "especially with a friend such as you to encourage her. What will happen now?"

"They’ll keep her at Bellevue for now. I persuaded Joe to continue her salary, and I have an appointment with her NYU advisor. I found information about a student support group."

"Perhaps a Helper could assist."

Catherine nodded. "Now we need Christy to take a step in the right direction."

They sat quietly for a while. Catherine’s thoughts returned to the sensations she’d felt on the ledge.

"What are you thinking?"

She smiled. Of course Vincent would sense those feelings! "When I was out on the ledge, I couldn’t look down, up or around; only at Christy. It was frightening, but also exhilarating! Afterward, I thought about how you climb across the top of buildings..."

"And...?"

"And I thought... if I was with you... what it would be like to look across the city like that, without the pit of my stomach turning." She ended on a chuckle.

"You want to climb out on a ledge again?"

"With you." She expected him to flatly refuse. She braced for an explanation of the danger and foolishness of her request.

The longer the silence extended, the worse she imagined the response would be. She was about to withdraw her request when Vincent spoke.

"You would trust me like that?"

"I do trust you like that," she said, turning to face him fully. "I always have."

He was quiet again, and she watched as he considered. Finally his beautiful mouth turned up in a smile. "All right, Catherine. Let’s go."

"Right now?" She sat up as a thrill of excitement tingled her spine.

"There’s no time like the present, as they say," he replied, rising and offering his hand. "The weather is good, and we’ll have a clear view of the city."

***

"Pinch me," Catherine said.

"Wh-what?"

She laughed. "This is like a dream – I can’t believe I’m really here."

"You’re really here." Vincent said.

They sat on a ledge far above the streets; Vincent’s arm was wrapped across her chest, holding her firmly against him. The wind was cool, but Vincent was warm as Catherine snuggled against him. Their legs swung together.

She looked out at the near and distant lights. "I still feel exhilaration, but no fear, because I’m with you. This view... It’s... incredible... amazing."

"I feel your joy," Vincent said. He rested his cheek against hers. "For me, it’s exhilarating as well, to share it with you. However, I wouldn’t mention this to Father."

Catherine laughed again. "He won’t hear about it from me!" She reached up to press Vincent’s cheek, and turned to kiss him.

Vincent didn’t withdraw; instead he pulled Catherine even closer. "Do you need to be home soon?"

"No, let’s stay a while longer, please."

And so they stayed.

 

 


 

 

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