It was a strange weekend, it was always going to be but I hadn’t realized just how tense we would all be. The last weekend of the summer holidays and the last days that we would all spend together. We had done all the usual stuff of course, pledged undying friendship, expressed our love, said silly things, All for One and One for All. We knew though if we were being brutally honest, the separation of university or work or travel changed things irrevocably. There would be the first holiday and times now and again when we would probably all get together and go to the pub and then the meetings would become less and less frequent, one or other of the group of five would be committed somewhere else or in the middle of exams or, in the case of Dan, on a course with the bank and so this was it.
There was no discussion about where we would go, it had to be the cliff. Since we had first gone to senior school and been given that tiny bit more freedom it had always been the cliff. The farmer let us camp there for free providing we left it tidy and we all sort of knew that actually he kept an eye on us. Whether our parents paid him for his trouble was never clear but it was the place of all our adventures, all our dreams and now with Alex and Tanya probably something even more “special”. I did wonder what would happen with them most of all, they were going to the same college but would their relationship stand up to the buffeting of all the novelty and the expansion of their world, hmm, we would see.
I loved the place, the trees in the spring newly gilded, the shades in the summer deeply damp and the crisp bronzing of the autumn, it didn’t matter I loved it all. All except for the pool. The others had no problem with it, it was part and parcel of the time we spent there and the great dive from the top of the cliff into the deep green water was just another thing that they did, over and over. For me though it was a torment, I was terrified of it, I couldn’t bear to even peer over the edge. The tiny, deep swimming pond was okay, cold of course and weedy but pleasant in the high summer and even in the spring but the dive from the cliff from whence the place had its name was never pleasant, not for me. My head spun as I trod the springy grass towards the precipice and by the time that I could chance a glance down to the unbelievably small landing point below I felt physically sick.
My friends were kind, they tried to cajole me, to encourage me, to dare me even and Tanya once came up with a hare-brained double flight blindfold suggestion which thankfully was vetoed pretty damned quickly but I never did it, I never made the leap from the cliff to the pond.
This weekend was special, it had been talked about over and over, there was to be the last great leap, the jump into our future they were calling it, it had grown and grown until it was a big deal. I had blanked it until now but I watched them psyching each other up, pushing and slapping at each other and I knew. I had to do it, if I didn’t do this now, with my friends then it would set the tone for the rest of my life, when it’s too hard, too scary don’t do it. Let others take the leap, sit on your butt on the grass and watch.
I almost left it too late, they were standing shoulder to shoulder on the edge, drawing in deep gulps of air to sustain them on the way down and in the water below. “Wait, wait for me.”
They turned as one as I ran towards them. Dan grinned and held out his hand and I snatched at it and then before I had time to think about it any more we went, over the edge, “Oh God please don’t let me die” The thought shot through my brain as my feet left the edge of the cliff and then, oh then. I soared out into space and all the days I didn’t and all the times I couldn’t and all the days I walked home with a drag in my step and a nub of regret in my soul were obliterated in that one brief brittle moment, in that glorious hitch in time when I flew, when I broke the grip of the earth and flew like a great sweeping gull soaring over the sparkling water, one with the air, free, a magician defying gravity. My one tiny moment when I was more than I am and more than I ever believed I could be.
For the others it was just another jump from the cliff to the pool for me it truly was a leap into my future.