Guest Post: The Path to the Lovers Bridge, a Short Story by Corinne Rae
Thank you to everyone who submitted work for the January Short Story Contest. The 2nd selected featured entry is:
The Path to the Lovers Bridge by Corinne Rae
Corinne Rae is an avid runner, writer and reader. She continues to share her short stories with the Storytelling Project and various story slam competitions. Her work has been published in magazines and in short story zines. Corinne continues to share her short stories on Wattpad, and all social media platforms, at Storytelling With Corinne Rae.
Corinne’s entry was based on this writing prompt:
The Path to the Lovers Bridge
The snow crunches under Jamie’s boots as she steps out onto the snow-covered deck. The sun is slowly rising for the day, but there is enough sunshine for Jamie to not need a flashlight. Jamie’s ears and the back of her neck are hit with cold air, causing her to cover her braided long blog hair with her bright yellow beanie. Jamie tightens the blue scarf wrapped around her neck to retain her body heat from the crisp morning air.
Jamie places a single red rose on the glass table that is coated with fresh snow, in order to quickly pull on her dark purple mittens. She zips up her waterproof grey jacket, completing her efforts to bundle up for her annual trek to the Lovers Bridge. She picks up the single red rose by its long stem, attempting to not damage the bright red rose petals before reaching the Lovers Bridge.
Jamie’s breaths are visible puffs of air, as she carefully walks down the deck stairs, leaving boot sized footprints in her wake. At the bottom of the stairs, her journey begins by following the dirt trail. The dirt trail in Jamie’s backyard weaves through the lawn, with medium sized rocks outlining the sides of the trail. The intentional formation of the rocks end before the woods, but the dirt trail stretches out through the trees.
The strange dirt trail came with the house, according to Jamie’s parents. Jamie’s parents did question their realtor about the trail, but she apparently claimed that the dirt trail was built years ago. Every family the realtor has seen live in the house prior to Jamie’s parents, have not removed or paved over the mysterious dirt trail. Oddly enough, Jamie’s father habitually rakes the dead leaves off the dirt trail in their backyard in the fall, and also sprinkles salt to keep snow off the dirt trail in the winter.
Beth, Jamie’s best friend since preschool, claimed that the dirt trail must have been forged by magic. “It must be, as it leads directly to the Lovers Bridge,” is an argument Beth always made. The Lovers Bridge is, in Jamie’s opinion, an overrated hometown attraction. ‘A Bridge Where Lovers Reunite’, was annoyingly quoted in a pamphlet about their hometown that Jamie found in her father’s home office.
The Lovers Bridge is beloved among the locals. It is rumored that the single car bridge was built in the 19th century by Horace the Great. Apparently, Horace fell in love with a fair maiden living in the local town, but could not marry her because of her lower-class status. Horace’s passion was architecture, and he built famous bridges around the world. He was a respectable bridge builder, expected to marry royalty, and raise decent heirs. Horace built The Lovers Bridge as a secret meeting place, where Horace and his fair maiden supposedly met at to be together.
Beth loved the Lovers Bridge, and all the lore about the magic within the bridge.
Beth believed the bridge is enchanted with true love, despite Jamie believing that the bridge was just a bridge. At the beginning of every new year, Beth and Jamie hiked to the Lovers Bridge. It was a ritual for them.
Jamie’s parents built an iron gate to fence in their backyard before Jamie was born. The iron gate door screeches loudly as Jamie pulls it open to continue to follow the dirt trail through the dense woods. The woods behind Jamie’s house are comforting for her, and where she spent her time while growing up. It is the most peaceful place when Jamie wants time to herself. The tall oak trees have a network of thick branches to provide shade for Jamie on hot summer days, and the branches capture the snow, leaving none on the forest floor on cold days.
Jamie recalls the many afternoon tea parties with her teddy bears and dollies, sitting on a checkered picnic blanket, and eating the peanut butter sandwiches Jamie’s mother packed for her. When she grew older, Jamie carried that same checkered picnic blanket and several books to read in the woods. Her favorite thing about the woods happened when she sat still, waiting patiently until the woods came alive around her.
Packs of deer silently walked around. All types of birds flew from tree to tree. She once witnessed a small orange fox scurrying through the trees a few feet from her. Jamie shared the woods and her checkered blanket with Beth, after they became best friends when Beth shared her pink fuzzy blanket with Jamie during naptime. They would spend hours reading side by side, or gossiping about whatever or whomever, or telling stories about the animals they watched while lounging on their backs.
The woods are where Jamie is able to write her poetry. The compact woods are a silent backdrop against the scratching sounds of her pen on the notebook paper in her worn out leather journal. The woods generally spike inspiration for Jamie. Her poems are usually odes to nature, to the oak trees, to the critters, and to the small rays of sunshine that peak through the trees.
Beth’s favorite request was for Jamie to read her poems aloud. During those times on the checkered picnic blanket, Jamie would read out her poems, as Beth listened with her head resting in Jamie’s lap. Jamie would often find herself subconsciously running her fingers through Beth’s curly red hair, unsure how much time had passed.
The dirt trail remains barren from the fresh snow the further Jamie follows it through the woods. Beth proposed the farfetched belief that the branches were specifically tasked to trap the snow, ensuring that the dirt trail in the woods is clear for all those seeking the Lovers Bridge. Jamie countered with her belief that the trees just naturally and conveniently grew close to each other.
Beth and Jamie would have graduated in six months from Valley High School together, but Jamie will be graduating alone. Beth’s family moved away during the winter break, because Beth’s dad was offered a better job in a few towns over.
Jamie will finish her senior year solo, a time when Beth and Jamie used to spend hours talking about. Both were excited to graduate, and possibly attend the same college out of their hometown. Now all plans have been altered, and both are unsure what the future holds.
Jamie feels she is carrying a heavy heart through the serene woods to the Lovers Bridge.
She is panting from hiking the uneven terrain as cold sweat slides down her back. She knows she is close once the oak trees are further apart.
She steps out of the woods, only to shield her eyes from the bright rays of sunshine reflecting off of the fresh snow powder. After blinking a few times to allow her eyes to adjust, she begins to carefully make her way down the icy hillside towards the Lovers Bridge. Jamie is thankful she is wearing her snow boots, as the trip down the snow-covered hillside tends to be slippery.
After stopping at the bottom of the hillside, she glances both ways before stepping out onto the paved street that cuts through the Lovers Bridge. This street leads to downtown, and can be busy at times.
There are rusting rail lines outlining the street on both sides of the bridge. On Jamie’s left side of the bridge there is a concrete wall, and on her right, there is a makeshift rail. ‘Lovers Bridge’ is inscribed in colorful graffiti art on the thick concrete wall. ‘Frank + Cindy’ and ‘Samantha + Jake’ and many more pairs of names, have been written in black sharpie, circling the Lovers Bridge words.
Those who learn about the Lovers Bridge, stop at this bridge to profess their love, by writing their name and their partner’s name on the concrete wall. Many believe that the magic that lies within the Lovers Bridge was created by the love between Horace and his fair maiden. They empowered the bridge with the true love they shared, and for every pair of names written in black sharpie, are blessed with good luck.
Jamie walks up to the railing on the right side of the bridge, overlooking the rushing water below. The bridge cuts through a large pond. The larger part of the pond partly freezes every winter season, and when the snow starts to melt, the overfilled pond will cause the water to rush under the Lovers Bridge.
Jamie places her forearms on the wet rail, and looks down at the rushing water. The single red rose rests lazily in her hand, until she raises the flower to her nose. She breathes deeply to fill her nose with the calming flowery smell.
The red rose signifies Jamie’s mourning of not having Beth at her side. Every year since the 4th grade, Beth convinced Jamie for them to each write the name of their crush on a piece of paper, and toss it into the rushing water below the Lovers Bridge. Beth argued that the magic believed to be within the bridge would tie Jamie and her crush together. Jamie rolled her eyes each time Beth claimed that the Lovers Bridge is capable of bringing future lovers together.
Jamie did not believe in all these tall tales about the Lovers Bridge, but Beth did.
Jamie crushes the single red rose in her hand, watching the petals flutter into the rushing water, leaving the stem barren. She then tosses the stem into the water. Red petals float away from the Lovers Bridge, out past the rushing water. Jamie reaches into her coat pocket, and pulls out a piece of notebook paper. She unfolds the piece of paper, and rereads the name of her crush. While writing the name of her crush, Jamie’s hand was shaking, causing the letters to blend together. Jamie finally wrote down the name of a person she has been crushing on for some time.
Never before did Jamie write a name down when she did this with Beth, as she simply threw in a blank piece of paper, with the intention to only humor Beth.
Jamie knows that no one other than her will know the name of her crush, but she has been too afraid to accept it. It is this acceptance of her romantic feelings towards this person that really terrifies her. Once she throws the notebook paper into the rushing water, Jamie is casting the name of her crush out into the world, finally making it real for her.
She refolds the notebook paper, raises it to her lips to kiss it, and tosses the piece of paper into the rushing water. Jamie watches the notebook paper drift away by the current. A gust of wind suddenly hits Jamie, causing her to shiver, but not entirely due to the chilly breeze. She feels as if a weight has been lifted off her shoulders. Jamie smiles and lifts her head for a second to bask in the warm sunshine.
Jamie still feels lonely without Beth. Standing on the Lovers Bridge, aware of all the loving couples that have visited this bridge together, causes Jamie to feel as if she is an interloper. It is time for her to leave.
Jamie turns to hike back up the icy hillside, and make her trek back home. She walks a few steps on the paved road, passing the concrete wall, only to come to a sudden halt. There are two names written in black sharpie in the upper left-hand corner that catch her eye.
Beth + Jamie is written on the concrete wall. Jamie walks closer, bends down on her knees, and traces her name. Jamie’s name is written in Beth’s bubbly handwriting. A wide smile breaks out on Jamie’s face, as she comes to realize two things simultaneously. One being that the magic within the Lovers Bridge finally made an appearance for Jamie, meaning that the magic within the bridge must be real.Two being that by writing Beth’s name on the notebook paper Jamie casted over the Lovers bridge, there is still hope for Beth and Jamie after all.
A new optimism towards her future after high school grows in Jamie’s heart. She monetarily rests her open palm on the plus sign between her name and Beth’s. She rises to her feet, her boots squeaking on the wet pavement, as she starts her journey up the hillside back home.
Enter the Contest
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