It was Joanne’s 20th birthday when we decided to drive up to the coastal cliff with a huge cooler of ice cold beer in the trunk. We were going to celebrate! Matt, the eldest of us cousins, was driving with me in the front seat.
We picked the best spot just right off the edge, which was our usual spot, and settled pretty much quicker than I expected. A throw blanket was spread on the ground with Jake and Shane tipping beer bottles, while Joanne and I was at the back of the car sitting on a blanket too, with Matt leaning close to me.
The night was young. We were having so much fun chatting and drinking. We forgot about work, we forgot about school, we forgot about the stressfulness of the world. Tonight was just us getting together, feeling like kids but a hundred times better ‘cause we got drinks this time.
Joanne joined Jake and Shane’s conversation, while Matt and I talked about Netflix and music — just pretty much about everything.
“Hey,” Jake started. “Remember when we used to come here with Uncle Jack?”
We all laughed and nodded. Uncle Jack was the best uncle there ever was. He brought us to this spot every month when we were kids, and would treat us ice cream tubs. Each.
When my mom passed away, and my father left me, Uncle Jack took me in and raised me as his own. I was three, he said, when that happened.
He never told me how my mom passed away, though. And when he died, the secret died with him too.
“Yeah, and Matt would always bug me to go pee with him ‘cause he’s afraid,” Shane added.
“Oh, shut up.” Matt just laughed and brushed the whole idea of him being a scaredy-cat.
Everyone was having fun chatting and reminiscing when Joanne suddenly stood up from where she was sitting, staring at the edge of the cliff.
Shane grabbed her shoulders, a worried expression drawn across his face. “Hey, what’s wrong?”
“Let’s. Go.” Joanne repeated. But this time, more tensed.
We were all worried, but we didn’t ask further. We picked up the blankets, our empty bottles and cans, and packed them all up.
The ride back home was quiet. We all stopped at my place ‘cause I was living alone. I suggested they all should just sleep in and drive back to their homes the next morning.
Joanne, who looked frozen since the moment we left the coastal cliff, finally spoke.
“You didn’t see her.”
We all turned to face her.
“Saw who?” Matt asked.
Tears welled up Joanne’s eyes and she started to tell the whole story.
“I saw a woman. Her hair was red, she was wearing white. I couldn’t see her face, it was covered by her hair.” Joanne took a pause and closed her eyes. Tears fell.
I sat next to her and held her hand. “You don’t need to continue. We can talk about this tomorrow.”
“No,” she said. “I have to share this.”
We gathered around her, Shane and Jake looking more tensed than Matt who just had a very straight face.
“The woman,” Joanne started. “She was walking towards the cliff. She paused at the edge and flung herself.”
Joanne’s voice broke as she continued to sob. “But that’s not the worst part. I saw her again. This time, there were bruises on her arms and legs. Her dress was wet, so was her hair. Her dress was also stained with blood. She, again, walked to the edge and flung herself once more —“
“Okay, Joanne, I know it’s your birthday. But this creepy shit has to stop.” Jake was the bravest of us all, but Joanne’s story made him feel agitated. He was trembling.
“She’s not making this up,” I said firmly. “Let’s just hear the whole thing out before any of your violent reactions. Please.”
Jake decided to shut up, so Joanne continued.
“That scene repeated four or five times — I don’t know. But she got bloodier and more bruised as she came back up. And the last —“ Joanne broke into heavy tears and found her voice again. “When she got back up this last time, she was looking at me. And she was smiling. I — I was so terrified. She was looking at me the whole time. Then she stopped at the edge and smiled wider before she flung herself.”
“And that’s when you said we had to go?” Shane asked.
Joanne nodded and I felt her shaking. I hugged her and calmed her down as she cried more and more. She was terrified.
“How can we be sure you’re not just seeing stuff? This sounds like —“
“She didn’t make this up!” Matt interrupted Jake this time. “Please just don’t make this worse.”
“I’m not the one being a sissy here,” Jake snapped. “You know what, I’m gonna clean up so I can sleep peacefully on the couch.”
“Let’s all sleep together, please,” Joanne begged.
“We will. All will be sleeping in the living room,” I replied.
Matt and Shane agreed, and so did Jake. Sleeping mats were on the floor and we started to cuddle next to each other.
Joanne was still in tears, I can feel her fear. I moved closer to her hoping she would feel secured and safe.
I waited for her to fall asleep and she did. Checking on the others, they were fast asleep too.
I believed Joanne, even if I didn’t want to. I also felt bad she had to go through this on her birthday.
I closed my eyes, and found myself slowly drifting to sleep. In my dreams, I saw the woman. I was on the cliff with her.
Her face was sad, and she was white as a sheet. She walked to the edge and stopped to face me.
I know this young woman.
She looked like me. I know her from pictures I used to stare at when I was young. Pictures I still have hidden in my closet.
This story is actually inspired by a real one.