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- 2nd Short Story

2017 'SHORT TAKES'   PROSE COMPETITION

CATEGORY A - Fictional Short Story

Second Prize

The Suicide of Emilia Grey
by Stephinie Williams

The strangest thing I've ever witnessed was the suicide of Emilia Grey. She wasn't serene or angry or peaceful or frustrated, but she was resolved. I almost think she wanted to make some kind of artistic statement. I'm not sure what she wanted to say to her audience, but she did get us talking afterwards. Maybe it wasn't in a good way.
Emilia and I went to high school together. We shared a drama class. She was one of the most reserved girls I've ever met, but that didn't mean we couldn't be friends. We just weren't. She was the type of person who preferred to be alone and had no need for friends, girls or boys. And it's not that no one noticed her, because we did, but like I said - she seemed like the type that would prefer not to be bothered. It's not that everyone knew her, either. She was just another student in our graduating class of five hundred.
The night she jumped, I was out for ice cream instead of coffee, walking under warm streetlamps and the stars. A superstitious part of me thinks that if I'd gotten my ordinary latte, Emilia might still be alive, instead of whatever she is now. Is it considered survivor's guilt, in just watched? I should have called someone who knew how to handle it. I'm not sure if she could really even hear me from up where she was. But when I noticed someone toeing the window of their fifth-floor apartment, my first instinct was to squint over my glasses and call out "hey" instead of yell something useful like, "people care about you" or "you're worth more than this." It was enough to make her cock her head to one side and frown, though. She was fifty feet up, but she didn't look like she was crying. I managed to confuse her long enough for someone else to figure out what was going on. I think they screamed.
Emilia was barefoot and in a pair of bright, diamond-printed shorts. She was a lot skinnier than I remembered, and her hair was a lot longer, too. The top she wore was thin and looked like it could have been an old pyjama shirt. All across her thighs were furious red streaks, asymmetrical and diving in every direction, like that 20th century artist Jackson Pollock had somehow gotten ahold of her. Her arms, meanwhile, were untouched.
She gripped the sides of her apartment window as if they were her last, best hope in the world, and she stared down at the pavement. She swung one leg forward, testing the air, and another scream erupted from someone nearby. By this time, a small crowd gathered to witness Emilia's show, and she was a superb performer. Each time she threatened a move, considered a step forward, someone shouted. She played with this for a while, never speaking, and probably never recognized me. She was on her own little stage, where she was the lead actress and everyone else around her played a supporting role. My ice cream was melting, and I remember licking up the cone to catch every droplet that raced down the waffled edges. Taking her time, she was. Might as well enjoy what I came here for. I wasn't really listening to anyone who was yelling at her, and I don't think she listened, either. All the pleading just faded into the background as white noise, blending in as the score for Emilia's performance.
When she finally did jump, I watched with an open mouthful of ice cream, my cheeks freezing till they ached. She blinked when she let go of her window, her fingers desperately grasping backwards, as if she'd changed her mind. Her expression didn't change, though. Her face was still mostly blank and she looked skywards. With her bare feet pointed to the ground, she curled up as she fell. Then, as the streetlights flickered out, she disappeared. She vanished. There was no thud to accompany the screams and the gasps of her audience. The young starlet was gone before the closing act, with no fanfare, and no outro. Emilia Grey had no finale and no farewell.
I dropped my ice cream, then. A sick part of me had been wondering what a woman looks like after she's fallen to her death. That same part of me was a little disappointed. I wondered if she would have looked the way my two scoops did, splattered on the ground, seeping into the cracks of the moonlit sidewalk.


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