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23 Things To Do Before You Die

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Chapter One

 

 

 

Life, like any good story, has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The longest part is the middle, so it should follow that the middle is the most important part. For a world that takes place in the middle of everything, you’d think people would be less obsessed with talking about the end. Death takes up so much of the time you’re meant to be living that it’s kind of sad.

 Harry didn’t use to be so cynical, but Senior School brought out the worst bits in everyone. His current view on life is at an all time low, and most of his days are spent wondering where his place in the world is. Since he was young his mum was convinced he’d be an entertainer, and it seemed plausible for how much he loved pleasing people. Year 12 and there was no sign that’d he go anywhere, or do anything with his life, let alone be an entertainer of any sort. Photography wouldn’t make him money. Working in the local bakery would keep him trapped in this small town. Babysitting got him no where.

Waking up this morning is a drag, as all these thoughts linger in the back of his mind. Harry groans and rolls over onto his side, trying to avoid that ray of light he knows is shining directly onto his bed. Eventually he pushes himself up and wanders down the hallway to complete his typical morning bathroom routine. Today is going to be shit. No pun intended.

His sister is already downstairs, as evidenced by the fact that her bedroom door is hanging wide open, a rarity. He pauses, debating skipping breakfast to avoid talking to anyone, but he loves his sister too much to skip over their rousing round of morning small talk.

So he spends his morning chatting with Gemma over tea. Typical Monday, really. They talk about the weather, cute boys around town, and by the time he checks the clock it’s already half seven. Niall will be here soon, but Niall can wait.  

His closet isn’t anything extravagant, and neither is his outfit of choice for the day. A white t-shirt, black skinny jeans, boots, and a cashmere winter coat. Simple, but still probably a better fashion statement than whatever Niall’s thrown on today.

With that thought comes a familiar beep, and that’s his cue to go. Perfect timing that lad’s got.  He’s down the steps and in the parkway in under a minute, and there he sits, his cheeky Irish pal, in that familiar Range Rover of his.

Harry slips into the passenger side, avoiding the look his friend gives him.

“I’m tellin’ ya, you have to take your time in the morning. I really need an excuse to skip out on my first class.” Niall teases, watching the mirror as he backs out of the parkway.

Harry snorts and turns to the window, leaning against it and letting his eyes flutter shut. Maybe he can get a little bit of sleep on the ride there. He knows Niall won’t let that happen though. “You don’t really mean that. You haven’t skipped a day in your life.”

“That’s not true. I have a few times. Actually, once, but it counts.” Niall argues.

“Right, and I dated a girl once. Doesn’t mean anything.” Harry reminds him, to which Niall can’t help but laugh in response.

They spend the rest of the ride there making jokes and light banter. It’s a trademark of their friendship, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.

The two met their first year of Senior School, and they hit it off right away. Niall’s mellow sense of humor clicked perfectly with Harry’s playful demeanor and incessant teasing. They bonded over hamburgers, chick flicks, and their interest in cars. Niall was also one of the first people that Harry came out to, and he’d welcomed every part of him with open arms. If Niall wasn’t straight, Harry might have even went on a date or two with the lad, but then again probably not.

Their friendship was always so laidback and fun, but it started to become monotonous. They’d go out drinking together, stay in and watch movies, or go stand on the edge of Hartford Bridge and people-watch. Never anything new, never anything exciting, and never any new people.

Lately, things between them have been tense, and there's no doubt that Niall can sense the change of attitude in his friend, but he was never one to pry. That’s the one downfall of their friendship. Harry only shares if he’s asked, and Niall never asks.

There at school by the time he's done with that thought. Niall takes his usual parking spot, turning the key, yanking it out of the ignition and tucking it into his pocket before turning to face Harry. “Try not to misbehave young fellow.”

Harry cocked a brow at that.

“It’s a joke. I’m teasing you for how much of a goody-two-shoes ya’ are.” The Irish lad clarified

Right. “Just get to class.” Harry mumbled as he opened his door, feeling the rush of winter’s bitter cold air. Just lovely.

First class. Geography. He tries not think about how utterly sleep-inducing that class is, for fear he might make it even worse by dwelling on it. On the bright side Liam shares that class with him, which makes it a little bit more bearable. Not much though, because, well, Liam is Liam, and you can’t bother him in class without getting a stern talking to later. He’s the aptly-named Daddy figure of their group, but it’s kind of a perverted title to hold if you ask Harry.

There’s no assigned seats, but everyone sits in the same seats everyday anyways. There’s probably some deeper meaning within this fact that can be applied to society, but he’ll save those thoughts for when he’s having trouble falling asleep. His not-assigned, self-proclaimed, seat is near the middle, and right beside the window. It’s just out of the teacher’s line of view, just in case he falls asleep. That hasn’t happened yet, by some stroke of luck.

“Psst. Harry.” It’s Liam, already seated right behind him.

“What?” It comes off a bit rough, but that’s just Harry’s morning voice.

“Next weekend, Perrie wants us to go to her birthday party.”

A party. That could definitely help lighten the gloomy mood he’s been in. “Alright, tell her I’ll go. Text me the details.”

Liam nods, and they both face back to the front.

The rest of the class is wild, completely bonkers, and incredibly fun.

If you consider drawing freehand maps and labelling twenty countries and their capitols fun, that is.

Honestly, nothing about the whole school day stands out to him past the morning. Lunch is more small talk, though there is a bit of chatter about Perrie’s party. Classes are boring. Life is a routine.

 When the day comes to an end, Niall meets him by his locker, so he can give his mate a ride back home, but Harry has something else in mind.

“I think I’m gonna walk home, Niall. I need the fresh air.” Harry tells him.

“Are you sure? It’s like -10 degrees outside.” He’s certain that Niall is giving him that ‘are you insane’ look, but he's facing his locker.

“I’m sure. I’ve got to stop by the grocery store anyways.” It’s a lie. Something inside him hopes that Niall can tell.

But of course he can’t. “Well, alright then.”

He’s left at his locker alone, his backpack hanging over his shoulder, and his head resting on the cold, blue, metal.

For a few minutes he considers leaving a note. That’s common courtesy, right? Then he thinks of his mum and sis finding that note, reading it, and clinging to it. The last thing he wants is to leave behind some memory of what he’s about to do. He decides against it. Then he thinks about the last thing he said to them. He’d told Gemma “See you later.” and his mum “Good night.” They weren’t memorable last words, but they’d do.

The footsteps echoing down the hallway are becoming less and less frequent, and he takes that as his cue to leave.

Niall had been right about the cold. The minute he stepped outside of the school building a shiver ran down his spine. He tucked his elbows in, trying to keep as much warmth as he could, but it felt like the heat was escaping through his breaths. Hartford Bridge was only about a five minute walk from the school building, but he feared he'd be a human ice lolly by the time he got there.

Oddly enough, what he was thinking about as he was getting closer and closer to his destination wasn’t his mum, or his sis, or Niall, or Liam. He was actually feeling guilty about promising to show up to Perrie’s birthday party. In any other situation he might have laughed at himself.

As soon as the bridge comes into his line of sight, any ridiculous thoughts of missed birthdays disappear. He feels fear, and maybe a little bit of excitement, and it put an unevenness into his step.

Hartford Bridge is an ugly shade of blue that will hurt your eyes if you stare at it for too long. In retrospect it's a pretty awful place to spend your last few minutes of life, but it will have to do.

He takes his first step onto the bridge, staying off to the side to avoid cars. That's kind of ironic. It's clear that his survival instinct is still in tact. He keeps walking along the railing. If he does it too close to the edge he'll hit the shore, and probably survive. With that thought in mind he moves closer toward the middle of the bridge.

It's disorienting, he thinks, as he climbs over the railing, his arms hooked around the metal bar. He's stood here before, with Niall, joking around, but the atmosphere is so much different now. Looking down, straight into the abyss, it hits him that it's actually kind of beautiful up here. The monotony of his life had almost made him forget that.

His fingers are numb from the cold, and his nose is red and puffy. If he somehow survives this he'll not only probably be paralyzed, but he'll have the flu as well. Or something like that.

Why is he up here anyways? His life isn't so bad. He isn't depressed. He finds joy in things. He's probably doing too much thinking, but it hits him that, in all honesty, boredom has brought him here. He's tired of falling into the same cycle, over and over. He's tired of feeling pressured to do what will make him successful, rather than what will make him happy. It sounds poetic and cheesy, like something out of a cheap self-help book, but it's true.

His grip on the railing loosens a little. The sound of the wind whipping behind him dulls down, in sync with the hum of a car engine. Harry hadn't even realised how long he'd been standing there, lost in his own head, until he feels thin, warm, fingers curl over his hand, and with that the breeze is back. He turns his head slowly, his eyes meeting a pair of cool blue irises, just below his own eye level. It's a boy. He doesn't take much note of the boy's clothing, but his eyes really stand out...and then he speaks and Harry is captivated.

"What are you doing? Are you mad?" His voice his higher than his own, but it's soft and inviting.

Harry shakes his head furiously and fumbles for some sort of excuse as to why he is out here, in mid-fucking-winter, standing on the edge of a bridge, but no sound came from his lips.

The next line out of his mouth sent Harry backpeddling. “Well, I’m not stupid. I know what you’re doing, and if you’re gonna do it, just do it already.”

“What kind of… what kind of person supports someone jumping to their death?” Harry gapes, slowly turning around to face the boy. He nearly trips, but he regains his balance, the stranger still holding onto his hand.

“The kind of person who appreciates what he’s got.” The boy pauses. “Anyways, I know you’re not going to do it. Otherwise you wouldn’t be standing here talking to me.”

Harry huffs. He has a point.

“That’s because I’m a coward.” Would he do it if he wasn’t so afraid?

“No, it’s because you don’t want to die.”

“You don’t know me.”

“I don’t, but I’m right, aren’t I?”

Harry looked down, watching the swirling water below him and he felt a surge of fear. Death wasn’t looking like a very enjoyable option right now. People died for better reasons than he had right now…

“I just don’t see the point.” Harry admitted, before adding, “I used to.”

He notices a twinkle in the boy’s eyes, and he can’t help but notice all over again just how beautiful he is. He’s small, curvy, he’s got messy brown locks of hair, and cheekbones that could cut diamonds.

“I’ll let you in on a secret. No one knows what the point is. Don’t you want to live to find out?” With that the stranger holds out his other hand. “Let’s get you home. It’s freezing out here.”

Oh. Harry had almost forgotten about the cold, but now that he’d mentioned it his toes were beginning to go numb.

 He took the boy’s other hand and he helped pull Harry over the railing. Why was he listening to a stranger again? With that thought, he collides into said stranger’s chest, his cheeks flushing at the close contact. “Where’s your car then uh...?”

“Harry.” He pauses. “And uh… I walked here.”

“Oh… alright, how about a lift home then?” Harry nods in agreement to that, even though he probably shouldn’t be accepting rides from strangers. It’s only then that he notices that this stranger has parked his car on the side of the bridge and other commuters are swerving around it.

He silently follows behind the boy, a little shaken up after that event, and climbs into the passenger side. He only speaks to give him his address, and  once they reach his house they part without words, his family none-the-wiser of tonight’s event.

One thing stayed in his mind that whole night and into the next morning. A stranger without a name had saved his life, and he hadn’t even thanked him.