Short Story: The Woman on the Bridge

A man on a grey horse launched himself off a bridge. She had not seen what had transpired, neither the event that had sparked a city wide chase, nor an apparently miraculous escape that resulted in a man and his horse crashing into river rapids. The woman on the bridge, in her extravagant light pink dress and clutching a matching umbrella, had turned just in time to see the creature burst through a crowd of people and gallop straight at the water. Cops on steeds followed, nearly flinging themselves into the water after them. Yet common sense prevailed and they were left watching the raging water.

“Oh dear,” the woman’s gentleman friend exclaimed.

His eyes huge and mouth gaping, the man stared at the river along with the cops, his knuckles white from clutching the metal barricade. Poor fellow never had the stomach for this kind of thing. Quite often, he had to excuse himself whenever she would practise her swordsmanship skills, the sight of a blade left him pale and tense.

“Do you believe he washed up down stream?” She asked.

“Perhaps, but I advise you against…”

“Never mind etiquette,“ she cut him off, “I want to see if he survived the impact.”

“Please, I beg you,” the man followed a few steps behind, “for once, just leave it for the authorities to handle. Pursuing it yourself may result in trouble.”

But she did not listen, she never did. Along the river, down the hill stood a chapel. Had it been a few decades ago, the entire local population would have been gathered within for early morning service. Now, it stood abandoned. Nothing more than a relic of another time. The building itself stood on a raised hill, and one was forced to climb down a staircase chiselled out of stone in order to reach the water below.

She wove her way down, carefully holding her skirts out of the way. Such a heavy thing this dress was, and rather uncomfortable. Any kind of outing in the city required proper attire, that being long skirts, a hat and umbrella, no matter what weather was forecast. A small bag was also usually worn with the ensemble, where a woman stashed her phone and fan.

Upon reaching the final step, her eyes immediately sought the damp form dragging himself out of the river. The man, the strange fellow who had chosen potential death over a fine, had survived the jump and washed up down stream, just as she had expected. Beside him stood his horse, waiting patiently for his rider.

Her wore a fine suit, which he did not bother to straighten before addressing her.

“Good morning,” he brushed past her.

Unpresentable, no manners, this man was quite something. Something of interest for the young lady that is. Despite her gentlemen friend’s incessant complaints, she had to follow, there was too much at stake. Where had this stranger come from? Certainly not the proper society she had been brought up in, his earlier escapade was evidence enough of that.

“Excuse me sir,” she caught up to him at the chapel door. Back door to be precise.

“Ah, do you mind opening this for me?”

Oh, he was one of those who, as they say, ‘was born in a tent.’ Perhaps he was simply confused, seeking someone to guide him to his destination.

“Who are you?” She followed him inside and gently shut the door after he did not.

“I am a stranger, a traveller. And you, my dear, are quite the curious one,” he gave her an approving grin, “I like that.”

She blinked once, twice, thrice, “pardon?”

“You followed me down here, and clearly not to arrest me,” he flashed her a quick grin, “so what else could a young woman be seeking? Perhaps she zeroed in on a stranger, realising he does not belong in her society. And now she is curious, she wants to know where he comes from, and where he is going.”

Heat went straight to her cheeks, escalating the slight pink tint from her powders to a full blush. How dare he make such accusations. Even though he was more or less correct, saying it out loud was surely not proper. But he had essentially admitted to not being from around here, which meant that she really could not hold his actions against him. For all she knew, people from his homeland were blunt and voiced their thoughts.

She turned her attention back to the stranger, who for the past few minutes had been pacing along the walls, opening every door and promptly shutting it. So, he did know how to operate doors, how interesting. After slamming doors with what she assumed was frustration, he paused in front of the only door left, and to her surprise, gave a brisk nod. He had been searching for a cupboard?

Apparently so, as he turned to her with a newly lit fire in his eyes.

“Perhaps you wish to join me?”

Why could she not speak? It was as though she was an infant, understanding him but unable to communicate back. To him, it was a dismissal.

He knocked against the cupboard door while clucking his tongue in an elaborate pattern. Which on its own was a strange action, yet considering he was doing it in an old chapel, the man looked like a complete lunatic. It was ridiculous, and she was prepared to be done with him and simply leave as her gentlemen friend had kept suggesting. That was until the stranger opened the cupboard door. Within was a gateway to a forest. Thick, moss like grass covered the ground, with various flowers and shrubs growing out it. Right beside the entrance appeared to be a tree, or perhaps the entrance was a tree. She got but a glimpse of the forest beyond the door before the man stepped in, turned to give her a wink and grin, then shut the door.

It took her a moment, but soon her lips could formulate words, and sound filtered into the chapel from the outside world. She could actually hear it, like swimming to the surface of a lake and gradually making out noise that the water had muted. The frantic calling of her gentlemen friend accompanied by many other unfamiliar voices too, calling her name, she could hear them all. Yet, her unruly feet carried her to the cupboard door, and her rebellious hand pulled it open.

A broom, a bucket, an old towel. Nothing more.

Louder and louder, the world was invading the little scrap of magic she tried so desperately to clutch onto.  But who was she kidding? The stranger was gone, his pathway was blocked, and no one would ever believe her. Doors slammed, voices carried, and regret flooded her.

Why had she not followed?

I hope you enjoyed reading that, because I had lots of fun writing it 🙂

It started with writers block, I just got to a scene in my book that I didn’t want to write. Basically because it involves the first confrontation between two main characters, and I just wasn’t in the right mindset to write it for a while. So I tried to just skip it and write other scenes, and, I tried writing something completely different. That’s how this short story came to be. And, it worked. I guess I just needed to get my mind off my book for a couple days.