Well, I promised a fanfic about the day the rope broke (a long time ago, I might add) and here it is! Though I wrote it kind of in flashback...anyway. I'm also planning a multi-chapter BtT story...I'm still working on the plot, but hopefully I'll start posting it within a couple weeks.
So obviously, Leslie isn't dead in this story. :) Everything belongs to Katherine Paterson, not me.
Please review (espesially if you want that multi-chapter fanfic! Muhahahah...) and remember anonymous reviews are allowed! So please review, even if you hated it or thought it was incredibly cheesy or whatever...just know that feedback is appreciated a ton :D
But in the meantime...enjoy!!!
"What's the matter, Jess? You're not yourself today."
"I guess I'm just tired."
"Well, you'll never make it across the water if you can't hang on to the rope!" Leslie told him. They were at the creek now.
"Wait," Jess said, as she reached out for the rope. "Don't do it."
"Don't touch the rope."
As he said it he saw something dark and sinister lurking behind one of the oak trees on the other side. Leslie frowned.
"Get away from there!" Jess said desperately. The Dark Master was approaching, waiting, waiting for someone to come…
"Stop being ridiculous." Leslie took hold of the rope said, "You're just scared."
"No!" cried Jess but he could do nothing…his feet were frozen to the ground and he could only watch Leslie run and swing just about halfway across—
SNAP. The Dark Master leaped into the water as Leslie screamed and tumbled into the creek—
Jess woke with a start. His chest was heaving; sweat was moist on his forehead and his sheets were tangled. He felt bile rise in his throat and he hurriedly leaned over and reached for the bucket his mother had put beside his bed. For a few horrible moments he threw up everything in his stomach, then it was over.
Jess sat there panting. He had had the flu for a week and a half now – yet it didn't seem to be letting up. And waking up in the middle of the day didn't help, either.
"Leslie," he gasped before laying back down on his pillow. He wiped his mouth with the tissue box May Belle had put beside his bed and pulled the covers back on him; he was freezing. "Leslie…"
It had been raining that whole week. Jess recalled how he had grown almost scared of Terabithia those few days; he remembered how anticipation would race in his chest as he swung over the old rope, the rope that had always granted him and his queen safe passage over the river.
Remembering that day brought back other memories, too. Back in those days, when they were ten years old, Jess remembered that he had had a huge crush on his music teacher; he remembered Janice Avery, how she would terrorize the younger kids. He remembered the footraces the boys used to have and how he had tried so hard to be the fastest and how Leslie had shown up and beaten them all – including him – and the day they saw each other for the first time and….
And the very moment, the very instant the rope broke.
He remembered their first sighting of the land, how Leslie's beautiful eyes had widened as she told him about what she saw; he remembered how she had taken one glance at the forest and proclaimed the single word—"Terabithia"—that said it all. He remembered how Leslie had declared him king of their land and how she taught him so, so much….
He, six years later, could still hear her scream as the rope snapped and the creek swallowed her in a nanosecond. He could still see the blood on her face and hear her ragged breathing as he yelled, desperately, for help…even as panic was erupting in his mind….
"Earth to Jess!"
Jess jumped in his bed. Leslie was in the doorway, shaking her head at him.
"Honestly, Jess, just because you're sick doesn't mean you can get away with ignoring me," she said, scolding him, but she was beaming. "I brought you your homework."
"Lovely," Jess sighed. Suddenly seeing Leslie there, right in front of him, warmed his body over with comfort and relief. "Any new essays?"
"But of course," Leslie said, sitting down on his bed. She placed a stack of books and folders on his nightstand. "For even kings have their documents to inscribe."
Jess just smiled at her. Leslie looked at him, concerned.
"So…are you feeling any better?" she asked.
"Yeah, kind of," Jess answered.
"Did you eat anything?" asked Leslie. "Because I brought you some of those oyster crackers I found in our pantry. Apparently they're supposed to sit okay on your stomach…"
"…and Judy said that getting dehydrated is the worst thing that could happen when you have the flu, so –"
"Do you still have that scar?"
Leslie blinked at him. "What?"
"The scar," Jess said. He had no idea where the question had come from. "On your shoulder and your collarbone. The one the doctors said would be tough to sew up."
Leslie just looked at him. Then she quickly turned to the door and, seeing no one there, turned back to him and asked, "The one I got when…the rope…?"
Jess nodded, sitting up in his bed. Leslie face seemed to fall.
"You weren't thinking about that day at all…were you?" she asked softly. "That day's passed, Jess! It happened years ago."
"I still get scared," Jess said, admitting it to the one person in the entire world he trusted with the knowledge. "I have dreams, sometimes, like today…."
Leslie sighed and pulled back the sleeve of her shirt. On her shoulder, Jess saw with a leap of his heart, there was indeed a straight, brownish line running along her shoulder. He gently ran his thumb over it; it blended in perfectly – it was as smooth as the rest of her skin.
"They healed it almost instantly, Jess," Leslie told him soothingly. "It didn't hurt."
"Not at all?"
"They numbed me," Leslie said simply. "I couldn't feel anything."
This was a little bit of comfort to Jess, knowing that she hadn't felt any more pain after she had hit her head…she hadn't felt any more pain then she was already in….
It had all been so fast, so, so fast. All in one instant Leslie was swinging over the rope first, like always, then there was an awful snap! then the rope was in two pieces; one was dangling over the tree like a noose, the other was in the river. And Leslie…Jess got chills just thinking about it…. Leslie gave one scream that echoed out of the woods and into Jess's heart, gripping his mind with a terror so great he felt as though his body would explode from the shock. He had heard the one thing in her tone he thought he would never hear in her tone in his life: fear. Before Jess had had time to think she had splashed into the water.
His mind had not quite registered what had happened yet out of nothing else but instinct he was scrambling down to the bank of the creek, shrieking her name, the panic taking over his body to the point where he had leapt into the creek, plunging about in the water.
"Leslie!" he remembered himself screaming, without acknowledging that the sound was coming from his own mouth. "Leslie!"
Leslie shook him, firmly, and Jess looked up at her in confusion. She gently pushed him back so he was lying down.
"You're zoning out on me," she said, looking seriously worried now. "Honestly, Jess, someone would think that that day happened yesterday."
"I can't help it, okay?" Jess snapped out. He was tired, he was hungry, and his throat burned, which was made even worse by the lump rising in his throat. "I'm sorry that I care I almost lost my best friend."
Leslie paused for a second, then she reached down and pulled off her shoes. She lay down next to him and quietly shifted herself so she was lying on her back, moving her hair off of Jess's shoulder. She didn't say anything. Jess sighed heavily.
"You're going to get sick," he said. "I'm contagious. I just threw up."
She snorted. "Like I care. I won't get sick."
Jess sighed again. "I just…had this dream," he said. He felt like he had to explain himself. "Of the rope, and the day it broke. That's why I was so…." He didn't know how to finish, but he knew he didn't have to. Leslie understood. She understood everything. One look, one look was all that was needed, and Jess knew he didn't need to say anything else.
"King Jess," Leslie said now, next to him. "May I inquire as to why you have a hole in your ceiling?"
Jess blinked and looked harder. "Where?"
"There." Leslie pointed.
"I don't see anything."
"Did you know the word gullible is not in the dictionary?"
Jess smiled. Then he coughed. Leslie got up quickly.
"I thought you didn't care that I was contagious," he said in a mock upset tone.
"Yeah, well," Leslie said. "Someone's got to write our book report due tomorrow."
"Don't worry, Jess, I'll do it," Leslie told him. "Lie down and sleep. I'll be back tomorrow before school."
"Thanks, Leslie," Jess said. Leslie pulled the covers up to his chest, then tucked the ends in neatly.
"Get better soon," she said, smiling. "And don't throw up too much more, okay?"
After she was gone and Jess was trying to get to sleep, he wondered dimly if Leslie still dreamed about – or remembered – that fatal day. He wondered if she still knew what had been going on, even when she was unconscious, or if she had just woke up in the hospital wondering how she was there and what had happened.
Jess exhaled and reached for the oyster crackers Leslie put on his nightstand, prayed they would stay down, and popped several of them in his mouth. He wondered what might have happened…if someone hadn't been with her to pull her out….
Sure enough, within a week after Jess was completely cured, Leslie came down with the same flu Jess had had; after a couple of days she was spending her days at home sleeping and – when she wasn't doing that – throwing up everything on her stomach.
Jess came to her house after school after two days of her being absent at school with oyster crackers and carbonated water.
"Hey, Jess," Bill called through the screen door before Jess could even ring the bell. "You know you don't have to knock, buddy, just come on in."
"How's Leslie?" Jess asked guiltily, coming through the door and sitting down at the table with across from Bill. He was working on some sort of essay.
"Well, if she loses any more weight we're taking her to the hospital," Bill answered, shaking his head, and Jess vaguely remembered how his mother had said the same thing when he was sick. "She's too thin as it is, let alone not eating…. But she kept some toast down this morning for about an hour. Not much better then yesterday, but still."
Jess shifted in his seat. "I'm sorry I got her sick."
"Don't be," Bill told him as he put down his pen, smiling. "We were surprised that she was sick after you; we expected you two to be throwing up together."
Jess grinned. Bill chuckled softly.
"Besides, you were sick for what, two weeks?" he asked. "Leslie shouldn't be sick any longer then you were; it's just a flu bug, nothing serious. And Judy's not too worried."
"Is she awake?"
"Last time I checked," answered Bill. "I think you could go up and see her. Just be sure to keep a two feet distance unless you want to get sick again."
"Thanks," Jess said, getting up.
"Judy might be in the office," Bill called after him as he climbed the stairs. "Tell her I said you could see Leslie; she's been a little paranoid lately about the flu spreading."
Jess walked down the hallway and, not seeing Judy, went directly to Leslie's room. "Hey," he said as he opened the door. "It's—"
He stopped, both in motion and in mid-sentence. She was fast asleep, lying on her side with PT curled up against her. Beside her bed were all the accessories Jess had been equipped with during his sickness; tissues, water, a bucket. And books. Lots of books.
"Hey, Mrs. I-Won't-Get-Sick," Jess said softly as he walked over to the bed. PT raised his head slightly and, seeing it was him, laid it back down. "It's Jess."
She looked so unperturbed he knew he couldn't wake her. He put the oyster crackers on the ground and sat down. He gazed at her for a second.
"I had that dream last night, you know," he told her. "The one I had before you came over last week. About the rope."
This time the dream had been about the aftermath. Again Jess relived how he had dragged Leslie to the bank of the creek…he remembered seeing her eyes open once before she went unconscious. Somehow he carried her halfway to his house from the creek before someone heard him.
Then the ambulance had come, screeching and flashing its lights horribly, and after that everything was a blur…a blur of paramedics strapping Leslie in the cot, yelling to get her in the van quickly, Judy sobbing and Bill – tears in his eyes – trying to figure out what had happened, the crowd gathering around both houses and Jess trying to explain to his parents, to Judy and Bill, even to himself….
They had let him see her the next day. There was no brain damage done, though her head was badly bashed, and her porcelain skin was ripped open in places her cheeks, her forehead, her arms and legs, her chest, and the biggest cuts were the gashes on her shoulder and just below her collarbone. Those were the ones they had to put stitches in. Her face was bruised and she had broken her left wrist – but she was alive. That simple statement, made by one of the doctors, had given Jess something more important then anything that day – utter relief.
Leslie stirred a little in her sleep. Jess smiled, remembering how he had sat on her bed like this, six years ago, at the hospital. She had been asleep, somehow managing through all of her bruises and cuts and scratches to look as she did now, so peaceful and relaxed. Jess had sat there with her until his dad told him it was time to go. Now, six years later, it was all coming back.
Jess reached over and gently traced her eyebrow with his thumb. Just above it there was a small, tiny scar that had never quite healed, a scar Leslie had received when the rope had delivered her into the creek.
"But you weren't scared," Jess said suddenly. PT's ears cocked. "You waited about a day after you were out of that hospital before going back down to the creek."
Then he smiled again, remembering seeing the shock on her face when her gaze fell upon the bridge, the bridge that Jess had built to replace the rope, part of which still hung ominously over the creek. He remembered her delight in still being able to get to Terabithia, how she had thrown her arms around him at the foot of the bridge and proclaimed, "Nothing crushes us!"
"Nothing crushes us," Jess repeated now, smoothing back a little piece of Leslie's hair that had fallen across her face.
There were some days Jess caught her looking at the remains of the rope with a different expression – an expression that almost hinted at fear. But whenever Jess asked her if she was afraid, she just shook her head.
"'Awe-struck' is a better word," she told him once. "I just can't believe that it broke and I was so close to death I could almost feel it…then I was just…there. Everything seemed blank until I woke up at the hospital. And here I am – thanks to you."
"How were you not afraid of Terabithia afterward?" Jess had asked in disbelief. "How was I afraid before it happened and you were the one that fell…and you were okay?"
"I wasn't okay," Leslie had answered. "I was terrified when I walked down to Terabithia after the rope broke. But I knew I had to do it – to face what had happened and realize that it wasn't just going to disappear from memory. I had to understand how lucky I was to still be alive."
"You didn't seem scared."
"But I was," Leslie had said quietly. "That's called courage, Jess…being scared but not letting it destroy you. What good would it be if you had saved my life – only so I could live it in fear of everything that crossed my path?"
Jess had not understood then, but he understood it now. What would Terabithia be if Leslie hadn't crossed the bridge after the rope broke? Would it even exist?
PT yawned. Leslie loosened her hold of the dog a little in her sleep.
"Terabithia wouldn't exist," Jess whispered, stroking her cheek now. "How could it, without you?"
Leslie's smooth, even breathing was her only answer. Jess smiled. Then he lay down next to her and PT, like he had done all those years ago at the hospital, to wait patiently until she woke up.
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