The only thing between Deacon and Katie’s veil was a two-hundred foot suspension bridge over a gorge and a profound acrophobia. His pal, Jess, pleaded with him, pointing with his crutch. The veil, caught on a bush, fluttered in the breeze.
“C’mon, Deeks. If I get her veil back, she’ll have to forgive me.”
“She won’t even have to talk to you.” Deeks knuckled his nose, his stomach queasy just standing at the bridge’s foot. “Her mom will take it from you.”
“You don’t know that.” He swayed like a dancing seal, crutches splayed to catch him each way. He always did that when something frustrated him.
“And you don’t know she’ll see you.” She probably would. For that matter, if Jess would just man up and apologize, she’d probably let him back in the club and give his skateboard back. But she did love that veil. Still playing princess at eight years old.
“Come on, man. I’d do it myself, but I’m crutched up.”
“I can’t.” Deeks set his feet and crossed his arms.
“Yes, you can. My dad built that bridge. It’s perfectly safe.”
“You dissing my dad?”
“Don’t be a jerk—you know I’m terrified of heights.”
Jess scooted around on crutches to face him. “And you know I wouldn’t ask you unless it was very important.”
“To you,” said Deeks.
“Yes. To me.”
Deacon forced a swallow. “All right.”
“Yes!” Jess threw his arms up, then scrambled to catch his crutches.
Deeks stepped onto the bridge landing and gripped the cables on each side.
“Any time now.”
“I’m going,” Deeks said through his teeth.
They waited. Jess cajoled him several times, minutes ticking by, until finally he took a step. Several more minutes.
“Another small step, Deeks.”
“I’m going to.”
Another few minutes and he took another. Then another. When he stepped off the landing onto the suspended part, he buckled and stiffened, frozen still until the motion stopped.
“You’re doing great, man. Just keep going, and don’t look down.”
“I have to look down to see where my feet are going.”
“All right. All right. Nice and easy.”
Deeks took a few steps. Then a few more. He panicked when a swallow dive-bombed him, but recovered and ignored it. About half way across, the breeze picked up and the bridge swayed. Deeks flinched, sending jolts into the cables, throwing him into even more flinching. He moaned and remained frozen for a long time, trying but unable to look back, Jess encouraging him until finally he started again.
He was most of the way across when he locked in on the ravine’s opposite side, craggy rocks all the way down to the river, the distance expanding in his belly and twisting his groin. He gripped for his life, entire body shaking and quivering the bridge.
“You’re okay, Deeks. Just a little bit more.”
His terror finally moved him, propelling him toward the opposite landing, stepping quickly, wildly swinging the bridge, feeling like it was going to twist upside down. He reached the landing, then thrust himself past it to land on the ground beyond in a crouch, hands flat on the soil.
“You did it!” yelled Jess.
Deacon stood and found the veil a little closer to the edge than he’d realized, but he stretched for it and managed to work it loose without damaging it. He folded it and put it in his pocket.
“Don’t scrunch it up,” said Jess.
Deeks ignored him and regarded the bridge. The scariest thing he’d ever done. More determined this time, he walked over the landing and gripped the edges, stepping onto the suspension bridge, short, careful steps, but without stopping, only hesitating in the middle when the movement felt like it would throw his feet over his head. Slowing his steps, he continued, picked up speed, then pulled himself onto the landing and walked off. He pulled the veil out of his pocket and shook it out in front of Jess, who clutched the end.
“Nicely done,” said Jess. His dad always said that.
The grind of a dirt bike sounded behind them, and careening toward them on a Yoshimura was Katie’s brother, Will. He slid his back tire toward the gorge, making Deeks clench his whole body, expecting to see him tumble over the side. He pulled off his helmet.
“You found it,” he said. He took it from them and examined it. “Yeah, that’s hers.” He stuffed it in his leather jacket and nodded. “Good on ya.” Then peeled away, racing along the gorge.
They watched him ride away until he turned down a path and disappeared into the trees.
“Wanna get McDonalds?” asked Deeks.
“Sure, that sound good.”