They shut down the bridge. Two police cars formed a barricade, barring the curious onlookers from getting too close. Many already had their phones out, either informing loved ones of their whereabouts, or filming the spectacle unfolding on their trek home.
Emery couldn’t care less.
Sitting on the edge, back against the rusted railing, the teenager was more interested in the water below than the crowd gathering in his periphery. Staring into its midnight depths, he wondered how the best day of his life to date had ended up so badly.
“You can’t just hop up on a bridge every time your life doesn’t go as planned, kid.”
Emery didn’t look up. In fact, the only indication he’d heard his judgmental intruder, came in the form of rolling his brown eyes. “Last time it was a high rise, so your argument is already invalid.” His reply was terse, his voice threaded with anger as he sucked his teeth in annoyance. He wasn’t suicidal. His companion, of all people, should have known that. He was a Grim Reaper after all and he’d talked him down from this same spot many times before.
They’d met during Emery’s first year of high school. While staying in a hotel on vacation, Emery had found himself needing a place to think, naturally, he’d sought out the highest place he could reach – the penthouse floor balcony. That’s how he’d always been; he thought more clearly the higher up he went. It had started with trees as a child and progressed from there. Sitting atop the railing of that penthouse is where he’d run into Grim for the first time. Back then, they’d both been younger. Emery had been a baby faced teenager just starting his transition and still going by the name Elizabeth. Grim had been fresh out of the grave, which is the only reason it stopped to watch the forlorn human. As a new Reaper, it hadn’t known much about their code yet – all it instinctively new was that this soul had too big of a number attached to it to be so close to dying.
“It’s not your time, kid.”
“No shit, Sherlock. Why do you think I’m not jumping?”
The figure dressed in a hooded billowing cloak had surprised the hell out of Emery, but he’d learned at a young age that surprised reactions led to long falls and painful injuries. Besides, being face to face with Death wasn’t too bad. As a transgender teeanager, you were probably closer to death than almost anyone anyway. Emery had accepted that a while ago.
The two had been running into each other ever since. When Emery had shut down the bridge the first time – and every subsequent time – Grim had shown up to talk him down. It was never needed, though because Emery had no intention of ending his life. Sure transitioning was hard, and kids his age were assholes; but,despite his father’s anger, his mother was supportive and he had found a helpful, encouraging community. Grim was plus. Even though it was always gruff with him, he could tell the Reaper had taken a liking to him. Why else would he always show up at a time like this?
But today had been bad. It was supposed to be different, another step in his transition to becoming his true self but his father had opened his big fat mouth. He could still hear the yelling, the glass shattering, the front door splintering – all of it still ringing in his ears.
“If you’re not jumping,” Grim started, bringing Emery out of his thoughts, “then what are you thinking about this time?”
“I started hormones today. Mom was cool but dad flipped shit and started yelling. He and mom got into a big fight, he said some real fucked up things and mom made him leave.”
“Finally.” Emery turned to Grim in shock. Today it had taken on the form of a short, stocky Black man dressed in a police uniform. Emery was almost expecting the graying abuela that had talked him down from the empty window pane of the still-under-construction highrise. He should have known better; Grim never showed up in the same form twice. Outside of the black, misty cloak, Emery had no idea what Grim really looked like. “Why are you staring at me like that? That’s what you’re thinking isn’t it?
It had been. When his mom had told his father to leave, Emery had breathed a sigh of relief. Then, afterward, he’d felt like the biggest piece of garbage. How could he feel that way about his dad? How could he stoop so low? “Yeah it is…”
“And you feel like shit about it?” Emery nodded. “Well don’t. He’s been a dick since you told your parents you are a boy, not a girl. You don’t need that. Life is already hard enough as it is without your own father complicating the way you feel.”
Grim was right, but Emery still felt horrible about it. He wanted to be happy but he didn’t want to lose his dad either. “Chin up, kid,” said Grim, chucking him under his neck. “You’re getting closer and closer to who you’re meant to be now. If your dad can’t appreciate it, can’t see how much better this is for you than hating who you are, then it’s his loss.”
Emery could cry. Grim always did this to him. Grim was a surly asshole but it could always make him feel better. It was part of the reason he kept putting himself in “dangerous” situations. It was only when he was doing something that could kill did Grim appear. “Thanks Grim,” he muttered, hugging his friend as best he could without losing his balance.
He and Grim took their time climbing back up the side of the bridge until they were back on solid ground. The crowd cheered and the familiar officers hustled him into the back of squad car so they could take him home. No one seemed to see Grim, no one ever did. Emery wasn’t even sure why he could see him, but he was thankful nonetheless. Grim shook off the disguise and, for a quick second, Emery saw a cloaked figure before it faded into mist.
“C’mon kid,” said the officer gruffly. “Let’s get you home.”
Edited by: Sabrina Loftus