“You can’t uncross your bridges.”
“I know,” I said.
We sat on the edge of the river, hanging our legs over the edge of the concrete bank. The water glittered a few feet below us.
“So what are you going to do?” Walter asked. He was always so pragmatic.
I looked at him. He’d just found out my deepest secret, the secret that I wasn’t who I said I was, that I had a shady past, and yet he seemed as calm as ever. “Aren’t you even curious?” I asked.
He shrugged and looked at me with those loving brown eyes. When I met him two years ago I had an inkling that we’d become best friends. I was right. “Your past is your past, Emily,” he replied. “If you want to tell me, I’ll listen, but I won’t ask.”
I grinned a little. “It’s Avery. My name’s Avery.” I paused for second. Of course Walter wouldn’t ask about my past, he was too gentlemanly for that, but he still deserved to know. “I witnessed a murder a few years ago. Back when I was a part of a gang.”
He tried to hide his shock, but he’s not that good at pretending.
I chuckled. “Yes, I was part of a gang. I was a newbie, and not comfortable with making hits or really hurting people. I saw something I wasn’t supposed to, they knew that I saw, and I freaked. I ran. I had my name changed. Dyed my hair red – did you know I’m a natural blonde? – and cut my hair short like this. Oh yeah, I got glasses, too. Since I ran I thought it was going to be okay.”
“You never went to the police?”
I shook my head. ” If I did that, I knew the word would get out eventually that I was the snitch, and I didn’t want that. I wanted to live.”
I was silent, and he stared straight ahead, thinking. The whole conversation had started with me telling Walter that my past had caught up with me. My old gang had found me. I saw a couple of them outside my house this morning, and another one while I got my groceries at the General Store. I thought that I was safe here.
He looked at me now. “Back to the original question. What are we going to do?”
“You said ‘we.'”
“I did,” he said, and I managed a tiny grin. “We could go to the police now.”
“But they’d ask why I didn’t go to them before.” All of the accumulated worry from the past couple years swam around in my mind.
“You have nothing to hide.”
“But they’ll be suspicious.”
“Avery, you didn’t do it. You were in the wrong place at the wrong time.” He looked straight into my eyes as he said it. “I’ll go with you to the police station. Tell them what you know, and you can be put in real protective custody, and the real murderers will go away for good.”
I looked out at the river, wishing it would wash away all of my worries. “I thought I’d never have to deal with this. I thought I’d burned my bridges when I ran here.”
“We can’t burn our bridges. Well, we can try, but there are always ashes. There are always the parts and the memories that we can’t hide from. The only thing we can do is acknowledge that bridges cannot be uncrossed and keep walking.”
I nodded. At least I wouldn’t be walking alone.