The first night Kirsta and I ever went out on the cliffs, we were both ten years old. We both had a sense of adventure that gripped us like no other child our age. When the other kids would stop because they were scared, Kirsta and I would push further. It wasn’t long before most of the other kids just wouldn’t play with us for fear of either getting hurt or getting the scolding of their lives when their parents found out what they had done.
Neither Kirsta or I feared pain or our parents. Of course, Kirsta’s parents greatly encouraged her to have a sense of individuality and rarely scolded her for being so adventurous. My parents were not so leanient with me, but I soon learned through that a skill that would get me through many years afterwards: how to lie straightfaced.
Back to that first night of playing out on the cliffs. We had a three-day weekend and after school on Friday, we decided to take a different route for the walk home. We always delayed along our walk home to see what new and interesting things we could find. That day, Kirsta had her mind set on watching the sunset over the cliffs where no birds flew. She said that even though it was a little creepy that no birds flew there, it gave the whole area a calming silence. Even at that age, she was very in tune with something deeper than childhood innocence and frivilous dreaming. She was far more mature than any of the rest of our class, myself included.
We went out there, beyond the ridge to where the rocks grew no moss and the only other living things we saw were the rock beetles. Even those were sparse.
We found a spot to sit and we waited. It was calm and quiet there. Silence except for our breathing. I remember thinking it was actually pretty peaceful without the constant chatter from the sea birds that were everywhere elsewhere along the cliffs.
As the sun started to go down beyond the waves, it started to get colder. We sat close together and watched and waited. The last light faded from the horizon and the silence was broken. Something moved near us and it sounded far larger than any beetle. In the darkness, we could only stumble away from the cliffs and back towards the one street light that we could still see from where we were. I remember hearing noises around me the whole time and how it seemed like even the ground beneath our feet didn’t want us to get back up the hill. It felt as if it were shifting with our every step and trying to pull us towards the ocean. Kirsta and I started to laugh and race towards the light. It became a game and the small amount of panic I had a moment before faded with the noises behind us.
We started doing that every day from then on. It was always a rush. Every night we would watch until the last spark of flame from the sun dropped below the ocean waves and then we would race towards the streetlight. Kirsta won every time. She had always been faster than I was. One thing I remember is that as she got further ahead of me, the ground seemed to pull harder at my feet. As if it were helping her to win the race. I told her about that and she simply said I was making excuses for being slow.
As the years rolled by and we started high school, I became faster and the race became more even. I would almost win on occasion.
Perhaps all that running as a child was what led me to being the star of the track and field team, leading us to state finals nearly every year. The sad thing was, with all the time I spent at practice, I started to miss my nightly excursion with Kirsta. I was practicing late or simply too worn out to want to run up another hill. Our friendship took even more of a turn for the worse when I got a girlfriend. I suppose a lot of people always just assumed that Kirsta and I would start dating once we got older. We remained friends, but never had romantic feelings for each other.
My girlfriend and Kirsta did not get along and that put a strain on both my relationship with Jennifer and my friendship with Kirsta. It ended up being an ultimatum from Jennifer who said I had to choose between dating her or being friends with Kirsta. I chose Kirsta. That was when I realized that I did have more than a friendly attachment to Kirsta. I actually had romantic feelings for her and truly wanted to be with her more than anyone else.
I decided to tell Kirsta that I felt something for her and I said I’d meet her out at “Sunset Rock” that night. It was that same rock we sat and watched so many sunsets on in the past. I drove my car out to the road above the cliff and parked under the light we’d raced to so many times. The sun was just starting to set and as I walked down the hill, I saw her standing near our rock, facing out towards the ocean. I came up behind her and just quietly stood next to her. I leaned just far enough forward so that I could see her face. She had her eyes closed and was just smiling in the light sea breeze. She looked radiant in that magic light of sunset.
“I decided something today” she said, still keeping her eyes closed and smiling. “I decided that I’m going to live forever, right here on these cliffs.” She then opened he eyes and looked at me. I smiled and told her how wonderful that would be. I think she could sense that something was up, just in my manner. She poked me in the arm and asked what was on my mind. My mind raced with an incredible amount of thoughts and things I could say and things I wanted to say and things that were impossible to put into words. So I just leaned in and kissed her. She didn’t recoil from me, but she didn’t kiss me back. She just kind of stared at me while I tried to form some words. “I’m sorry.” was all I could muster. She blinked. It seemed like a million years passed until she blinked again, though I know it was seconds at most.
I turned to walk away and as I started to go, I felt her hand on my shoulder. I don’t know how long we stood there with my back to her and her hand on my shoulder. I knew it was the only thing keeping me from running away. I think she knew that too. I wanted to turn around and I wanted to tell her everything.
Before I could start, she spoke. She told me that she had started seeing Derrick Michaels a couple of days ago and that she was really actually very happy with him. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t move. She let go of my shoulder at some point and asked me to face her. I tried to turn around. I tried but couldn’t manage to even shift my weight.
The last bits of sunset faded away and for the first time in all those years, I actually noticed the earth beneath my feet shift. We had always been running at sunset and I always remembered it being difficult, like running in sand or loose gravel, but I never before realized the ground was actually moving. I turned around to face Kirsta and she wasn’t right behind me. She was almost at the edge of the cliff, her back to me and her arms stretched out in the sudden breeze. I shouted to her just before she disappeared from my sight.
Something hard hit me in the back of the head and I fell to the ground. When I woke, the sun was rising. There was just enough light for me to see around me. I was very near the edge of the cliff, with a lot of rubble piled up against my back. Almost as if the ground had slowly been pushing me towards the edge all night. My head throbbed intensly as I struggled to my feet.
I shouted out Kirsta’s name and leaned over the edge to look down. The sea and the jagged rocks below were all I saw. With my head still spinning, I backed away from the edge so I wouldn’t fall as well. I turned to head to my car and was quite startled to see Kirsta sitting on our rock, right there in front of me. I ran to her. I tripped and fell and when I stood up again, she wasn’t there anymore. I looked all around and shouted her name again. It hurt my head to shout, but I shouted again and again. I nearly collapsed on the rock when I got to it. I sort of fell to the side of the rock and fell asleep. I had terrible nightmares of Kirsta falling to the rocks below. I was shaken awake by Derrick. He and about ten others had been out all morning looking for both Kirsta and I and he had just remembered what she had told him about the cliffs.
“You look terrible, man,” he said as he helped me up. “Have you seen Kirsta?” I looked towards the cliff and I started to cry. All I could say was a quiet, “I couldn’t get to her in time.” Derrick nearly dropped me and ran to the edge. He looked down and shouted her name. The other people around started to panic and ask me questions. Derrick ran back to me and grabbed me and asked me what had happened. I told him what happened as best I could through my tears and nausea. I was in a haze for the rest of the week. I sat in the hospital and had minimal contact with anyone except for my parents, Kirsta’s parents and the police. Derrick came in once, but didn’t talk to me. He just stood there and looked at me. I think he thought I was asleep.