Four words

Hello all and welcome to another blog.

Below is a short story that I wrote a while ago about the folly of youth.

Four Words.

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It was a bright sunny day in June. . . .
There was a soft breeze that brushed Natalie’s curls to her temples and waved her dark hair softly in the wind.
She was holding my arm and we were stood on the edge of the plane. From where we stood high up in the heavens the ground below seemed tiny like we were looking down at a minature model. The drop zone stretched out below and as we circled above our destination, you could see flashes of light in which the sun was reflected back at us as if we stared into a looking-glass. On our backs were our parachutes lined with bright red cloth neatly packed.

“Lets go down, Natalie Jones!” I besought her.

“Only this once! I promise you we shall be all fine its perfectly safe.”
But Natalie was afraid. The drop from her view to the bottom seemed to her a terrible, immensely long fall.
Her gusto failed her, and she held her breath as she looked down, I held her hand and she gripped it back tightly when I merely suggested to her that she was capable of doing it together.
What would her nerves be like if she were to risk diving out of the plane on her own! She would die, she would go out of her mind.

“Nat please!” I said. “You mustn’t be afraid! You know it’s foolish, you have trained for this. Don’t let anyone down. You collected the sponsorship money! You’ve done it before, but this time it’s on your own.”

Natalie gave way at last and from her face I saw that she gave way in trepidation.

I edged out with her into the planes doorway, her pale and trembling, put my arm round her and hugged her briefly. Then with a gentle push she flew down and I also threw myself towards the ground.

The air rushed up to greet us and I used it to catch up with Natalie who was dropping like a stone,  flying down like a bullet.

The air cleft by our flight beat in our faces, roared, whistled in our ears, tore at us, nipped us cruelly in its anger, tried to tear our heads off our shoulders.

I motioned to her to remember her training and slow down using her body to halt her descent.  Still terrified she complied.

We had to use all our strength to breathe from the pressure of the wind. It seemed to pull at our chests and cling at us like a demon had caught us in his claws and was dragging us with a roar to its hellish lair.

Clouds and the distant ground with its tiny features melted into one long furiously racing streak, another moment and it seemed we would hit the ground.

“I love you, Natalie!” I said in a deep voice as I held her hands.
The alarm on our altitude meter went off and I pulled the ripcord, which made a whispering sound, Natalie’s first and then mine.

The parachutes blasted out from our packs momentarily lifting us up then we began moving more and more slowly so the roar of the wind was no longer so terrible, and it was easier to breathe and think.

Instincts took over from all the training and I could see the relief etched on Natalie’s face as the parachute did its job. We drifted down guiding our chutes until at last we reached the bottom.

Natalie seemed more dead than alive. She was pale and scarcely breathing and her legs had buckled when she had reached the floor. . . . I helped her to get up.

“Nothing would make me do that again,” she said, looking at me with wide eyes full of horror.

“Nothing in the world! I felt like I almost died!”

A while later after a cup of tea she recovered herself and looked enquiringly into my eyes, wondering had I really uttered those four words or had she fancied them in the roar of the maelstrom on the way down.

And I stood beside blowing on my smoking hot tea and looking attentively at my chute.

Later that day she took my arm and we spent a long while walking around the airground.

The puzzle of it evidently would not let her rest. . . . Had the words been uttered or not? Was her mind playing tricks on her with all the wind . . . Yes or no? Yes or no?

It was a key question in life– a very important question, the most important question in the world that all girls longed to hear.

Natalie’s pondering was quite clearly painted on her face, a somewhat whistful and sorrowful look into my eyes,penetrating.
She asked questions, waiting to hear me speak to size up my voice.
The emotions that were etched on that pretty face! I could see her struggle, doubting herself, the need and want to say something, to ask a question, but the words eluded her; it made her feel awkward and frightened as if a lack of confirmation stifled her joy. . . .

“Mike? Do you know what,” she said without looking at me.

“What?” I asked.

“I think I can do it again . . . Lets go down again.”

I smiled at the game I had started and how easily she had fallen into it.

We rebooked, checked our kit and clambered up into the plane and eventually  up again.
I sat next to Natalie, pale and trembling,her knee knocking mine as she shivered in anticipation. We reached the drop zone and then again we flew out the plane down into the abyss, again the wind roared and our senses whirred, and again when the flight and descent  was at its swiftest and noisiest, I said in a deep voice barely audible over the noise:”I love you, Natalie!”

When the descent ended, and we landed Natalie flung a glance up into the sky in which we had hurtled down,and then bent a long look upon my face, listened to my voice which was relaxed and unconcerned without a hint of passion. The whole of her diminutive figure, every bit of it, helmet amd gloves expressed an intense bewilderment, and on her face was written: “What does it mean? Who said those words? Did Mick say them, or did I only imagine it?”

The uncertainty worried at her and filled her with doubt.

The poor thing did not answer my questions about the jump, she just frowned, and was on the verge of tears.

The joke was going well now.

“We had best be off hadn’t we?”
I asked.

“Its only 3pm and its light still. I . . . I like skydiving, I really do honestly Mike,” she said, flushing.

“Can we go down once more?”

She “liked” the skydiving, and yet her hands trembled as she packed her chute and her knees knocked as we boarded the plane.

Her breathing was shallow and her face pale on the flight she was, hardly able to breathe for terror, but chewing the inside of her lip as she did when she was thinking.We dove for the third time, and I saw she was looking at my face and watching my lips. But I pointed at her cord and when she looked down I said it quickly “I love you, Natalie!”

And so the mystery remained a mystery! Natalie was quiet, stewing on something all the way back. . . . I saw her to her flat home, and walked her to the door. Two hundred paces but  she tried to walk slowly, her pace slackened and she kept waiting to see whether I would say those  four words to her.
I saw how she was torturing herself,suffering, and I could see the sheer effort it took for her not to say

“It wasn’t the wind that said those words! If it was I don’t want it to be!”

Next morning I got a text message

“Morning. Thanks for yesterday.
If you are going skydiving this weekend, can I come please. –Nxx x.”

And from then on I began going every weekend ski diving with Natalie, it taking up our free time. And as we flew down in the earth, every time I said in my deep voice the same words:
“I love you, Natalie!”

Soon Natalie grew so accustomed to hearing that phrase those four words it was if it was a drug.
She needed it she wanted it she couldnt live without it.

The very thought of jumping out of a plane at 10,000 feet still terrified her, but now the danger was linked with her obsession with those words and her relentless pursuit to find the source.

These words were everything to her a tantalising taste of what she longed for, with the usual suspects, the wind and I.. . .

Who was declaring their love for her. After months she did not know, and part of her did not care.

Once I text her that I was going to be late and for her to meet me at the airstrip and arrived just in time to see Natalie go up in the plane alone.

“Natalie!” I called out to her my voice barely audible over the sound of the planes roaring engines.

Even though I don’t think she heard me, She turned to look about for me anyway, then she timidly mounted the steps.
She was frightened of going alone — very frightened!

She was white as the snow, she was trembling as she got on the plane, but on she went, with firm resolution.

She was determined to put it to the test at last: would those enthralling words be heard?

I saw her, pale face after landing, and she embraced me tightly and shut her eyes.

Whether Natalie heard those words I do not know. But her hug made it clear she was glad to see me.

But then the winter months arrived . . 
The sunlight was sparse amd the days overcast with the sky covered in blankets of rain.
Our skydiving was curtailed as the days turned dark, lost their brilliance, and so we gave it up.

Without hearing those words she became withdrawn and we drifted apart. More from my part than hers. The joke was now turning sour.

I waited one particularly windy day behind the huge fir tree near the conifers in her shared garden for Natalie to leave for work. I saw Natalie come out of her flat in a hurry and as she felt the blustery wind on her face she fixed a mournful yearning gaze on the sky.

The winter wind was blowing straight into her pale face.
It reminded her of the wind which roared at us as we dove down and  when she had heard those four words.

The melancholy was evident on her   face and sadness welled up from deep inside her. I meant to step out and tell her it was me. But as I saw her both arms stretched wide her face in the direction of the wind as if imploring it to utter the words again I couldn’t.

Frozen to the spot I found myself  say in a deep voice:

“I love you, Natalie!”

The change that came over her was immense!

She smiled  a huge smile that transformed her face and her whole body emanated happiness and joy.

She looked beautiful.

Coward that I was, I left her there. Why did I leave her there alone.

………………………………………………

As in all things time moves on.

I am an old man now alone and that was long long ago.

Now my Natalie Jones is Natalie Hunter and is married; she is married with two children and a granddaughter.

That she once went skydiving and fought her fears, just so that she could gain joy from hearing four words isn’t forgotten. It is probably one of her treasured achiements.

I cherish her smiles, her fierce resolve and her strength to chase a whisper on the wind.  I treasure her beauty and pureness of soul.

Now that I am older I see the folly of youth but still cannot understand why I thought to uttered those words in jest, why I did not see my truth in them. Why I missed my chance .

About the author

Neil Sehmbhy is a Sci Fi and Fantasy author who has just celebrated his first year of writing. Author of the forthcoming Sunder and Beyond the Gate novels alongside a soon to be published collection of Flash fiction via The Penguins Head Publishing group.

Follow him on twitter @neilsehmbhy.
Or on pinterest http://gb.pinterest.com/neilseh/

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