Knocking on the door, I enter without waiting, my clammy hand slipping on the cool brass doorknob. As I look around the room, I realise that she isn’t here. But her artwork is. She’s an artist, you see; she’s always drawing her surroundings, drinking them in like a butterfly to its sweet, sweet nectar. I tease her, suggesting she draw a chip in the grain of an antique table edge. Or a hospital bed, like that one time when we’d gone to visit her aunt. But then she simply ridicules me back by drawing that exact thing until it almost looks real, jumping out at you from the page.
“Annie!” I call, just in case she’s in the toilet. Even though we’re just friends on a holiday together, she insists upon having her own room in the hotel. Well, as long as I’m not by myself for the rest of the trip. I call again, closing the door behind me. As it clicks into place, I realise she’s not here. Shoving my hands into my pockets and blowing my fringe out of my eyes frustratedly, I drag my feet around the room, admiring her work. She’s really too modest sometimes; she thinks she can’t draw. Of course you can, Annie. You’re just too shy to try and look at it from our perspective.
There’s one of a Lotus flower, its delicate paper-thin petals blowing in the harsh, unforgiving breeze. It almost seems to sigh as the wind tickles its leaves, ruffling its feathery complexion. Another one jumps out at me, and I recognise the face immediately. Smiling, I brush my fingers against the corner of the portrait, noting how she’s managed to capture the curving flow of the cheekbones, the teasing laugh. It’s me.
As I scan the rest of them briefly, another catches my eye. Frowning, my curiosity taking the better of me, I sidle towards it, leaving my own picture to pursue another. As I approach, I realise it is the nearby waterfall, cascading coolly down into the plunge pool below it. Why is it called a plunge pool? I tilt my head as I notice a figure at the top of the waterfall, seemingly standing right at the top, ready to jump. I shiver. Squinting, I lean in to examine the person’s features.
Annie never misses a detail in her pictures; not even tiny details, like the face in this picture. A cold shiver runs down my spine as I realise who it is. I step away from the picture, deeply disturbed. I don’t know if it plays any significance in anything. All I know is that I’m scared. I desperately hope it doesn’t mean anything; that it’s just another one of the pictures she draws to mess with my head. But, all the same, my heat starts to flutter quickly, like the dying butterfly in another of the pictures on the table.
Turning to the door, breathing in short, shallow breaths, I halt suddenly. There is a note taped to it that I hadn’t noticed when I came it. I rip it down quickly. Calm down, I tell myself. Get a grip. If you stay calm, you have more of a chance of preventing a dilemma. I take a deep breath and start to read.
I know you love my artwork. I know that when you get here to get me for something at some point, I won’t be here. I know that you’ll walk around the room and look at my pictures. If you don’t, you probably wouldn’t have found this note so quickly. Or even never have found it.
I know the picture of the waterfall will confuse you, frighten you. I know you’ll panic. And you have every right to.
You know where to meet me. Love, Annie.’
I’m out of the hotel before the paper even hits the floor, leaving the door wide open. The manager shouts after me. I ignore him, trying to pick up speed, trying to get there in time. My heart thuds in time with my worn trainers on the ground, hurrying my breathing.
The heavens open, and the rain falls in pearly drops, each one running down my face, becoming one with my frustrated tears. Why is time passing so quickly? There isn’t enough time, I’m not going to make it. I’ve already run a few blocks, yet it seems like there’s hours to go. My hair bounces up and down, glistening wet in the rain.
As I round the corner to the waterfall, my heart skips a beat. Annie is standing right at the top, just like in the picture. “Annie!” I shout, still running towards her. I stop at the river edge racing towards the waterfall, the treacherous current swelling as the rain falls. She’s standing on a rock in the middle of the fall. It’s not too late, I can still save her.
As I call her name, she turns around, smiling sadly. “I thought you’d never make it.” But she stays where she is. The sky is a threatening grey colour, and the storm clouds are on their way. The ground is slippery with puddles, spreading quickly. She could slip at any moment.
“It’s ok, Annie, I’m going to call for help,” I call loudly across the river. My words are drowned out by a loud clap of thunder and lightning, followed by torrents of rain. I start to shiver, tugging my thin jacket around myself. I’m soaked through, and it’s getting colder. But I don’t care, not really. She turns back to face the drop over the waterfall.
“You don’t get it, do you,” she murmurs, in a break in the storm’s chaotic noise. “I want this. I don’t want to live. I don’t want your help.” She stands still, completely composed. She doesn’t shiver, doesn’t appear to be crying.
“Why?” I cry, stepping away from the river edge as it bursts its banks and starts to spread across the land towards me. “Why do you want to die?” She flinches slightly at the mention of death. Turning back to me, she nearly slips.
“I’ve got cancer, Jackie,” she sobs, holding out her arms. “What’s the point in living if I’m going to die all the same?” She’s definitely crying now. So am I. Annie has cancer. Cancer. She can’t. Anyone but Annie. She doesn’t deserve this. I stand still in the rain, staring at her. Frozen with shock. Or the cold. Both.
“How – how long have you known?” I stammer, trying to stall her. Hoping that someone will come and help. But, deep down, I know they won’t. I know this is the end.
“I knew when we left. I hid it from you. But I couldn’t cope, Jackie. This is the only way for me now.” She tilts her head towards the ever-darkening skies. “Over the edge.”
The world stops. Raising her arms above her head in a last dive, she pushes off the edge of the rock, her loose hair flying behind her, gracefully gliding the hundreds of feet down to the bottom. My mouth opens in a choked scream, no sound escaping my lips. The thunder claps again, and the cracks of lighting ignite the sky in the background.
I try to run to the barrier at the edge of the waterfall, but my legs have turned to lead. I reach it after what seems like hours of running, throwing my head over the side, craning out my neck to look. Her broken body lies at the edge of the water, the small waves lapping gently at her waist. Her eyes are open, her mouth eternally open in shock. Shock as she hit the water. Shock as it enveloped her body, taking her breath away. Shock as she hit the rock at the bottom.
I always wondered why it was called a plunge pool. I guess I know now.