I was assigned to write a “How-To” piece for my creative writing class. I have been developing it into a bigger story, but this is the basis for it all.
Make sure that Elizabeth won’t choke on her tears. Push the light blonde hairs out of her face and the tears off of her cheeks. Look back over the balustrade and see if Fernie got caught (hope that Fernie got caught) on something before she fell into the river.
When you realize Fernie isn’t there, tell Elizabeth that you’ll get her a new Fernie. Listen to her hiccups coming back, sobs, screaming. Turn your head away so she doesn’t scream in your ear. Look up at the sky. Blue, blue, blue, white. You remember how wonderful this day had begun, how you held hands the whole way from the park to the bridge. You went for ice cream and when she asked for the Black Cherry ice cream, you got Double Dutch Chocolate for yourself so that when she inevitably hated the cherry, you could switch with her. You regretted putting her in a white blouse that day.
Now, the tears are catching in your hair and you have to act now or else this will just be. You have to tell her to stay here, to not move and hold onto the balustrade. Tell her it’s a game, That her feet are dipped in honey and she wins if she stays until mommy comes back. When you let go of her, don’t touch her again or you won’t leave. Run down the bridge and take a sharp left. Don’t slide down the ravine.
You wore the wrong shoes for this.
Look down the river. The current is too strong today, but you catch sight of Fernie’s big ears bobbing up and down. Elizabeth calls for you. Reassure her. Make a new rule, like the fact that the honey is on her hands. Remember when she would hold your hands at night and never let go until she fell asleep on your chest. Breathe a tight breath.
Scale the bank of the river, pressing yourself up against the underside of the bridge. Your shoes sink down into the dirt and you can almost see yourself rolling down into the water if you aren’t careful enough. Look for hope. Fernie’s lemon ears are caught on a tree that got struck by lightening fell into the river during the last thunderstorm. That was the night Elizabeth’s dad told you he didn’t know how to help you anymore. And you told him you didn’t know how to either. But now you do.
Walk a little further down the bank, touching tree limbs to steady you. See one of Fernie’s ears loosen (that goddamned rabbit). Run now, despite your high heels and despite looking back to see if Elizabeth is still in the same place. See how precariously the tree is resting over the water, teetering over the edge of the bank. It’s not the first time you would have gotten yourself into a situation where the rug was pulled out from under you (one time, it quite literally was). Think better of it.
Break off a split limb on the tree. You probably will get an abrasion on your palm from the bark, but keep going. Keep going. Turn the limb over in your hands. It is heavier than expected. Reach out for Fernie with the extension of yourself, the tree branch. Reach, reach, reaaaach. Not close enough. Put the toes of your shoes in the water. Reach again and catch the ear on the end of your faux fishing rod. Scream out that you caught her. This is more for yourself than for Elizabeth, but let her know you’ve got Fernie and you’re coming back up. Hear her joyous cry and her short steps as she rushes to the other side of the bridge to watch you walk to her a hero.
Wrench the lemon colored bunny to your chest, stroke the divot in her cotton tail that Elizabeth pulled out with her teeth, remember how he handed Fernie to her and said that this was her baby like she was your baby.