He had known Lanna Niamme since childhood. They had grown up together; they had shared many sunny afternoons out by the lake, many rainy afternoons playing Scrabble by the fireplace, and many chocolate fudge popsicle sticks. If there was one thing Lanna had loved the most, it was the chocolate fudge popsicles.
Roger Bailey had liked chocolate fudge popsicle sticks well enough, but he enjoyed Lanna's company much more than those cold snacks. That was why the tragedy hit him the hardest.
There was a small waterfall that spilled over a rocky cliff and fed the lake with its ever rushing power. This had been their secret place when they were children. Here they had played Pirates, Great Explorers, Adventurers, and other games of the same ilk.
They had named their waterfall the Windy Cliffs, for at the top it was always windy. They had held no idea that it was already named, and, if they had, they would have balked at the very idea of the waterfall being anything other than the Windy Cliffs.
Lanna had always had such a fascination with the Cliffs. She believed that if she had enough speed and pent-up energy that if she went over the Cliffs, she would fly. That was what Lanna wanted most out of life as a child- to fly. Roger was always more sensible, thinking about the future- a career, maybe a family.
The Tragedy at Windy Cliffs, for that was what Roger called it in his mind forever afterwards, had happened a month before they would have graduated from high school. One sunny Friday afternoon, they sat under a tree below the waterfalls. The breeze played with their hair and clothes, and rustled the leaves in the treetops gently.
They had not a care in the world. After all, they had been eating chocolate fudge popsicles- Lanna had never grown out of the childhood favourite, and Roger had not the heart to deny her them. Staring up at the clear sky, he had realized that it really didn't matter if she wanted to eat them or not. They were only chocolate fudge, and one had to indulge one's self if one was to relax every once in a while.
He had also realized, much in accordance with the first realization, the week before that he was hopelessly in love with his best friend. The realization had snuck upon him very quietly. All she had done was smile at him in Math class. But it was enough to make his heart leap into his throat and realize that this childhood friend was the one he wanted to never let go of.
So this Friday afternoon, he was also trying to figure out how to tell her. He was quite sure that she would laugh if he just told her that he loved her. After all, they had been telling each other that for years. But then they had meant it a love of friendship, and not a romantic love.
Lanna had finished her fudge and thrown away the stick in the little garbage container that they had placed there years back. She then stood up and grinned at him.
"What?" he asked, knowing that the particular grin she was grinning never meant anything good for him.
"Nothing. You wait here. I've got a surprise for you," she replied, her grin widening.
He smiled back. "Okay." He would wait for her for eternity.
She began to walk away, up the path that would take her to the top of the Windy Cliffs. Roger settled back and thought while he waited.
College was looming up in front of them; they had been lucky enough to get accepted into Cooney Community College. He could wait until they got settled there to tell her he loved her, couldn't he? But then the thought of some older, college guy hitting on her made him green with jealousy and livid with rage.
His thoughts were interrupted by the realization that she was up at the top and waving at him. Smiling, he waved back, just as enthusiastic as she was. Then she disappeared from view.
Roger's smile faded. The last time she had told him to wait down below while she waved at him from above, she had made a pair of paper wings out of an old kite and decided she was going to fly. He stood, hoping against all hope that she wasn't going to try to fly again.
Lanna had never outgrown the notion; she had tried the stunt with the paper wings a little over two years ago. Then, she had been stopped because she had forgotten to take off an extra string, and it had gotten entangled with a tree branch. Roger had then told her mother, and she was grounded for two weeks. They had thought she would have given up by now, especially after taking a physics class, but the feeling in the pit of Roger's stomach said she hadn't.
He shot off the ground and began to run up the path. Before he could begin to ascend the cliffs, however, she reappeared over the Windy Cliffs.
Lanna was running parallel to the water, approaching the edge with great speed. Her expression was of sheer determination; even if he had made it up the cliffs in time, he wouldn't have been able to stop her. Then she was sailing over the edge, her long hair streaming out behind her, and for a few precious seconds she was indeed flying. It seemed as if the air itself was supporting her in her dream. She seemed to touch the clouds and make them carry her. In those seconds, Roger felt pride for her. She had finally lived out her dream.
But then gravity once again took its hold on her cloud-supported frame, and she began to fall. Roger heard a scream, and realized that it was him, calling her name. She was strangely silent in her free fall.
The splash that sounded when she hit the water rippled through his soul, and he found himself running towards her. When he reached the stream's edge, he jumped in without thought to his own well-being. His thoughts were focused entirely upon Lanna.
He located her limp form and dragged her to shore, where he looked for a sign of life. Nothing. He started CPR, but soon realized it was fruitless because she hadn't drowned. Her neck had broken from the impact of hitting the water.
Cradling her limp body in his arms, he began to sob quietly.
"... she was ripped from us all too soon. Lanna Niamme, you will be missed." The priest finished up his words and closed the book he had been reading from. He then waited patiently for the mass of mourners to say their last goodbyes and leave.
Roger stared dull eyed at the dark hole in the earth. Now he couldn't imagine a future without her. His future was being buried here, in that dark hole. His dream had died. He wanted to die.
His mother came up behind him. "Are you ready to go, Roger?"
He stared at her. His heart, what was left of it, wanted him to shout that no, he wasn't ready to go. He'd never be ready to go again, and that she should just leave him alone, let him die here.
But his mind probed deeper, making him look into her eyes. There was love there, and sorrow, but there was also a dim flame of hope, tucked away in the back for the future. He would get over this, not easily, no, but he would triumph over this. It would take much time and perseverance. Life would go on. And until it did, he'd visit the Windy Cliffs everyday in his mind and allow Lanna to eat her chocolate fudge popsicles and fly through the air in his memories.