A wild wind whipped up a miniature storm atop the 20 storey building that Julia-Blu stood upon. Gusts blew past so violently, she was surprised that that alone didn’t whisk her off her feet and carry her somewhere further away than reality. White clouds had cleared off yesterday afternoon but were back for round two today. Breathing in their fresh musk, she took a step closer to the edge, where the concrete borders of the rooftop were raised at the perfect height that she could comfortably rest her elbows on them and not fear falling over.
“This is nice, eh?” she sighed into the wind, her voice inaudible to anything in any proximity.
The sky was snow coloured, despite the autumn months, but no rain or hail or anything fell from it. It was just a blanket to seal off the disappointing truth that lay behind it.
As for how she ended up retreating to the most unsafe safe haven that was in her grasp was a mystery to all. It had become a polite refuge for her in the past few months leading up to her diagnosis as a ‘sufferer’. It started out with the once-in-a-blue-moon visit as she knew someone here, or rather her mum did. She had gotten used to sneaking in past security and had memorised the code to get up out here the first time she had heard a new-comer recite the 4 digit sequence under his breath. 0704. 0704. 0704. It was ingrained into the darkest corners of her brain and was now simply unforgettable. She laughed as a smile wove its way across her face. Poor sod had no idea.
It was now a retreat from the city, even though she was more in its arms here than anywhere down below. But it was out of the way of the hustle and bustle and busy London streets that drove her insane with consistent routines of boredom. These past two weeks as a ‘victim’ had forced her to spend more and more time away from home, away from the streets and away from people. Which was damn near impossible unless you knew where to look.
Staring at the concrete border, she edged ever closer and finally rested her arms on the hard, chilling surface that was by no means comfortable. Folding them across each other, inhaling even more of the depressing winds, she felt a buzz claw its way into her stomach and rest there. An exhilaration. An excitement that squirmed to be ripped free.
‘Jump’ it said
She began to put one leg up on to the ledge, not to jump, just to embrace the life that consumed her.
But a fear of falling engulfed her.
One day she’d be brave enough to walk along that wall without a care.
“Stop!” a voice said from behind her “don’t jump!”
She smiled, poor sod didn’t know a thing: of course she wouldn’t jump. But her leg remained halfway on to the wall, toying with his fear and relishing in her cunning.
“Please… I’m sure what’s troubling you can be solved- wait there, I’ll call someone!”
A silence, but no movement of the stranger reaching to get his phone. Empty threats…
“Have you…” her voice was carried away in the breeze.
She spoke a little louder, but did not turn round, only lifted her leg back to the floor. Safe.
“Have you ever felt so alive that it’s almost not human?”
“I’m sorry… I…” his voice was lost too. So many unheard words floating about in the air that whipped them off their feet. So many…
Julia turned around slowly with her hands up, as if it were an arrest.
The man’s face dropped in recognition, as did hers, as did her mocking hands.
“Julia…? Is that you?” it was Dave Shaw. An old friend of her mother’s, they hadn’t spoken in months…or was it years? “What are you doing up here?” he made no effort to draw nearer.
“Trying to feel” she mumbled
“Were you trying to…don’t tell me you were gonna throw yourself off of that thing Jules” it had been too long since he’d called her that.
“No Dave, it is Dave right?” Even though they both knew that she knew.
“Then why are you up here, how did you get up here?”
“I’m not really sure”
“Well… you need to come back down with me I’m afraid. Time to go home Jules.” He was always so relaxed with his pale, sharp eyes. They were the eyes of someone friendly, caring, but who could have a fiery temper when struck by the wrong chord. His hair was longer in length and what used to be a fuzzy oak brown was greying into the same colour as the oppressing clouds. She had only ever seen Dave lose it once. He was strong. Always kept his cool. Always so understanding…
She followed him down the fire escape to the lobby of the building and out a back door. Her mum used to work in this office building… for some sort of insurance company, she was always flitting about and ran into Dave, the maintenance team manager who also did some reception work and who had once been a teacher…he had always loved teaching…
No wind too wild hit her face as they departed from the block and joined the profuse rush of traffic that fired past the building in bullet-like fashion.
“I’m taking you back to your mothers. Do you still live at Greenthorpe?” she hadn’t lived in the Greenthorpe area for years… since she was young.
“Oh of course, it’s up Sparrow Hill isn’t it? The block of flats to the left at the top”
“To the right”
“Ahh yes, forgive me, it’s been a while.” He put the car into gear and pulled out of the staff car park and began a slow drive back to Julia’s home. “So how are you Jules?”
“Then why were you almost throwing yourself off a twenty storey building?” he smiled, the quizzical placid smile that had made her childhood bearable without a father. There was a hint of melodrama in his voice, but not hysteria; he cared.
“I’m a teenager, I do reckless things” she grinned
“Not my sweet little Jules! She was a good girl”
“Ew gross! I’m not five anymore Dave. It has been that long, right?” She didn’t really mean it because in spite of her words it was nice to hear Dave treat her normally.
“Ha! Feels that way” he seemed hurt “how’s your mother?”
“We still miss her at the office” ‘you do’ she thought
“God it’s been five years Dave and your top team can’t even find a replacement for a preppy middle-aged woman? Now that’s a shocker.”
“Still at her job in the art gallery?”
“Not so much now”
“Oh?” They’d arrived at her hill and Dave shut off the engine.
“I have leukaemia” the words shot out of her mouth as fast as the bullet-like cars, yet they sounded slow and casual. Dave choked and her throat went dry. As if the buzzing feeling in her stomach had climbed up through her oesophagus and manifested into some dreadful monster. “Sorry” was her response to the silence in the car.
“Bollocks- I’m so sorry Jules! Is that why you were on some crazy death joyride?” Bollocks. He had said that so often that as a kid it had become her favourite phrase. Bollocks. It was only now she was reminded of its old, innocent hilarity. Bollocks.
“No, it’s just a nice place to think. Honestly Dave, I’d never end my life before the cancer did, too much to live for and all that… Seriously though pleased don’t tell mum… she doesn’t need to hear this right now.” They both knew he would.
“How long have you…”
“Well I’ve been diagnosed for just over two weeks… the doctor said it appears I’ve had for a few months now- but they can’t be sure. I’m sorry for springing this all on you so suddenly- Dave please don’t tell mum.”
He was silent.
“Come on Jules”
She was taken up the stairs feeling like a troublesome child who had behavioural issues and had spent the last hour throwing rotten eggs at the neighbour’s houses. But this was all internal, this was not Dave’s style.
“Julia! We’ve spoken about this before! No way are you going back up there! Heavens, I don’t even know how you could sneak past without someone noticing. To think I trusted you to look after yourself for that long! I know you’re nearly an adult but what if you fell? You could have died!”
Listening to her mother ramble on was like tuning in to a million different radio stations all at once, only hearing snippets of half-strung together sentences.
“Thank you so much for bringing her back Dave, I’m sorry for the trouble”
“No Trouble at all Cathy!”
“Well thanks again, see you soon, goodbye…bye!”
The door to the flat clicked shut and Dave’s footsteps could be heard echoing down the flights of stairs. Dave never took the lift.
“Look mum, I know what you’re going to say. Save it. I’m not suicidal and I’m perfectly capable of looking after myself. I just want to be normal for god’s sake so stop worrying about me! It’s pathetic. You need to get your own life and stop infiltrating mine”
“Oh and normal is breaking into my old offices to sit up all cosy on the roof and get told that you looked like you were going to throw yourself off the edge? Is that normal Julia? Is it normal to sit on top of a building alone just waiting for nothing in particular? Normal is long gone! You are not to go up there ever again, do you hear me? No building, especially not one that’s twenty storey’s tall! Never again! Do you understand that?”
“What the hell? That’s so unfair!”
“If you’re going to act like a stroppy teenager and not a young adult then that’s what you’ll get treated like!”
“This is…” she couldn’t find the right word as she stuttered on the same phrase “this is” it came out once more before she knew what she was looking for “this is…”