“Leave me alone, Ian,” she said to the tall figure beside her.
She silently cursed her senses for betraying her; she hadn’t even heard him approach.
“It is true, though,” he said.
“He’s in there somewhere and I must go to him.”
Ian sat down on a pile of rocks and began rolling a cigarette.
“You know what he would say to that?”
She didn’t answer.
“He would say that while the water may contain his body, his soul is definitely elsewhere.” Ian tried to strike a match on a rock. “And if there’s anyone capable of making it to heaven, I firmly believe it’s Grant.”
Mrs. Strong softened at the sound of her husband’s name. She lowered her arms to her side and placed them instead on her hips.
“Confounded wind,” Ian muttered when he was unsuccessful in lighting the match.
“Of course he is in heaven,” she whispered. “Yet the water is so inviting. How am I to live without him?”
“Inviting?” Ian laughed. “Certainly, if you fancy freezing to death, but no, you’d die before you ever touched the water.”
“You’d likely hit your head on one of those jagged rocks first.”
Ian looked up from his useless cigarette, his brown eyes trying to assess what effect, if any, his words had on her.
“I could make a run for it from a few yards back, if I jump as hard as I can I could miss the rocks altogether.”
“Well I don’t really care what happens, I have to go to him,” and with that she spread her arms out again and took a step forward.
“Audra!” Ian jumped up, startling her to a halt. The sound of her name on his lips was enough to cause her to pause; he’d never called her by her first name in all the years she’d known him.
She stared at him for a moment and was surprised at the almost desperate look of concern on his face. She even thought she saw his chest rising and falling faster than it should have.
“What difference does it make to you, Mr. Eldin, you’ve never cared an inch what happens to me.” The foreign look on his face disappeared as quickly as it came.
“And I don’t now, but I know someone who does.”
He again tried striking the match on a rock, then his trousers.
Audra knew he was talking about her mother-in-law. She had been trying to put the kind woman out of her mind when making the decision to jump.
“Ellie would understand my grief, she’s lost a husband.”
Ian tossed the match on the ground and pulled out another.
“And now a son, you would cause her to also suffer the loss of someone she considers a daughter?”
Audra let this thought simmer for a minute before Ian spoke again.
“And then there’s the matter of the promise I made to Grant, to protect you should anything ever happen to him.”
Audra’s heartache became visible in her eyes, but she was careful not to let the tears fall in front of Ian Eldin.
“I can’t fulfill my promise if you make this cowardly choice.”
“Very well then, you win,” she said with a sniff.
Ian moved the match down to his boot where a flame finally ignited. He quickly touched it to the cigarette, just as a fierce gust of wind blew over them.
“Blast!” He cried as the flame was extinguished.
Audra turned on her heels, picked up her skirts and began her journey away from the edge of the cliff.
Ian sat down on the rocks and watched her disappear, just as the clouds above him finally released their threatened raindrops.