I've been away from this site for a several years. In an effort to reignite my passion for writing I decided to write another Bridge to Terabithia story. I've read the book but my story follows the movie. As always I do not own any rights to Bridge to Terabithia.
Sipping on a latte inside one of the many terminals at Dallas-Fort Worth airport Leslie Burke couldn't deny she was a little apprehensive about returning to Lark Creek. As she stared out across a runway flurries of snow swirled outside. For a fleeting second she considered the advantages of a possible delay. There were rumors of members of her family flying in from all over the country for this Christmas. Leslie couldn't even remember the last time there was such a family gathering. Of course she wanted to see her parents and her brother and there was always something special about being home for Christmas. However, there were a few members of the extended family she could do without. Maybe it was selfish but she preferred a smaller gathering. To be honest she favored staying in California. However, after missing the previous year entirely while studying overseas her family was rather adamant that she come home. Since leaving the east for the west and heading off to college in the golden state several years earlier her visits to Lark Creek became fewer and fewer. Yet, her world only grew larger. Southern California, in and of itself was an experience. The near perfect climate coupled with the hustle and bustle of one of the worlds' major cities opened Leslie's eyes to just how small her life in Lark Creek had been. She found that big city life suited her. Granted she was only a college student but she knew her future rested far from Lark Creek.
Still, home was home. Besides it wasn't just family she was going to see. He would be there. At least she assumed he would. Jess Aarons had been her best friend since the 5th grade. From that first race to their countless adventures in Terabithia the two managed to survive the often difficult transition to middle school and on into high school. They negotiated the obstacles of new friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, restless Friday nights in a small town and all the trials of being a teenager. After graduation they swore they would stay in touch. Leslie headed off to the west coast while Jess stayed near home to attend school. Distance, however, wouldn't be an obstacle. Leslie was notoriously obsessed with texting and Jess didn't seem to mind it though he never understood why they couldn't just talk on the phone. It was a phone after all. To appease him she ensured several "normal" calls not to mention there was always the webcam. It was difficult to get used to not having her best friend right next door anymore but they seemed to make it work; at first anyway.
In time the messages became fewer and fewer. It was the same with her parents. Bill and Judy often informed their daughter that she needed to call home more often. Leslie knew they were right but they were parents. Worrying was part of their job. What really bothered her was how seemingly easy it was for Jess and her to drift apart. They were best friends, the king and queen of Terabithia. They would be friends forever. Her mother often said most people would be lucky if they had one true friend. A friend that would in some way always be part of their life. For Leslie that person was Jess. Yet, she couldn't remember the last time the two actually spoke. Granted, she had been here, there and everywhere but that was hardly an excuse. She still kept in contact with a few people from high school why not Jess? Perhaps she was making too much of it. Friends come and go. It was natural to move on. She had literally made friends across the world. It was unlikely each friendship would last. Life was like a book and her chapter with Jess was over.
"Keep telling yourself that Les" she mumbled. "One of these days you may actually believe it." She finished off her latte, gathered up her backpack and headed to her gate. In a few hours she would be home. Perhaps once she actually got there, saw her family, all the Christmas lights and decorations her mood would change.
Jess Aarons looked at his watch and sighed. He desperately wanted to go home. More precisely he wanted to go home and sleep. The late nights spent stocking the local grocery store robbed him of more than a few hours of needed rest. Yet, to accommodate his class schedule this job made the most sense. Sure, his school offered plenty of night courses just not the ones he needed for his degree. By the time he actually made it home he managed to sleep for a couple of hours then was back up and heading to class. With the semester over, however, Jess looked forward to some time off. To be honest he didn't care that Christmas was just around the corner. If he could he would just stay in his apartment. Not that he didn't love his family but Christmas at the Aarons household was a chaotic affair. After growing up in a house surrounded by four sisters he relished the solitude of his apartment. Small, cramped, cold in the winter, hot in the summer and a shower the size of a phone booth it wasn't much but it was his.
His parent's house never seemed to empty. Maybelle and Joyce Anne were still there of course but his older sister Brenda returned shortly before he graduated from high school with a bundle of joy all her own. He never expected to be an uncle before he was old enough to drink. The real trouble erupted between his father and sister. Jess had never seen his father so angry. The house had seen chaos before but it reached new heights that year. In a way it was a relief. It took the attention off him and for that he was thankful. His father just wouldn't let the issue of college rest. Jack Aarons insisted that if Jess really wanted to go to college he should join the military like his friend Kyle. That way not only would he have a chance to learn a skill but college would be paid for on the Army's dime. Jess never saw the logic in that argument. He had no interest in being in the military. Kyle Travis, his closest friend growing up, outside of Leslie Burke joined the Marine Corps because it was his lifelong dream. He had no doubt Kyle would go to college but he certainly didn't enlist for that purpose. The college benefit was just a by-product. Jess didn't exactly like the idea of taking loans and going into debt but if he wanted to get an education he was prepared to do it and he did.
Still, in spite of the turmoil he did want to see his family. Maybelle, though preoccupied with being a teenager, made an effort to keep in touch with her only brother. She couldn't resist asking him about Leslie. Maybelle idolized Leslie and refused to accept the idea that the friendship between her brother and Leslie ended.
"Just call her Jess" she would often say. It seemed so easy. Why couldn't he just call her? Why did they stop talking in the first place? How did something that was once so easy become seemingly impossible? It was odd that he managed to stay in contact with Kyle who spent nearly a year in a war zone yet not with Leslie. There was always an occasional email or an actual hand written letter from his friend. Ironically, Kyle kept in contact with Leslie as well. Not that it should be odd. After all he had been their friend since junior high. Something of an outcast Kyle Travis caught Leslie's attention in 7th grade with his relentless writing. He was always scribbling in a notebook any chance he had. Tall and lanky, the bookish boy with crew cut hair and an obsession with the Marine Corps often stood out. In the early days of middle school it often caught the wrong kind of attention. Being bullied was something both Jess and Leslie were familiar with. They found a kindred spirit and soon Kyle made them a trio.
After being stationed in San Diego as a newly minted Marine he was only a short drive from Leslie's college. He managed to see her once before going overseas but it was more than Jess had seen of his best friend. He couldn't help but feel a little jealous. He often thought about going out to California and surprising her, a chance to save their friendship. That, however, would cost money; money and time, both of which Jess didn't have. Besides it didn't seem there was a friendship to save anymore. If it wasn't for Kyle he wouldn't know anything about Leslie's life. Kyle acted as something of a bridge between Jess and Leslie. He managed to keep them both updated on how the other was doing. Jess wasn't sure if Kyle was trying to get the two speaking again or if he was just making conversation. It was obvious Kyle was flustered with the behavior of his two friends but he never made an issue of it. The thought of his two friends caused Jess to reach into his pocket for his cell phone. He quickly scrolled through the pictures to one he favored. It was of Kyle and Leslie in California. Taken somewhere in Hollywood Kyle looked every bit the Marine with his close-cropped hair and seemingly added muscle. Leslie…well, she was beautiful. She seemed to get more beautiful if that was possible. Her golden hair was wrapped up and pinned together with what looked like two elaborate chopsticks. He loved it when she wore her hair like that. Though he never could understand how women could get their hair to do that. It was almost like an art form that only girls could learn. Her emerald eyes were matched by that smile. Leslie's smile was infectious even in picture form. There were times when a simple smile from her changed his mood in an instant. He missed that. He missed her.
"Hey, Aarons!" a burly voice jerked Jess out of his daydream. "You working overtime or what?" Jess turned to see his supervisor pointing to his watch. Mr. Simms was a hefty man with a bulging gut. Short, with glasses far too small for his plump face Bill Simms was a stickler for time. He expected shifts to begin and end on time.
"Uh, no sir just finishing up" Jess finished up his last box and hurried to the back room to clock out. At last he could go home, sleep and just forget about everything for a while.