"I'm sorry, Conner." She repeated her last words to him and thought of the body in the ground with his suit on its body and climbing shoes on its feet. Every breath came ragged now, possibly her last, and the thought made her dizzy. She took a step back, and at that moment, she realized that she couldn't do it. Couldn't make herself take the jump and follow Conner. Indy sat down on a rock close to the edge and felt the tears dripping onto her legs now, putting dark spots on her shorts. Wind took up her hair again and dried her face, and Indy imagined Conner's hand on her cheek that day on the playground and again in the woods and on the cliff. "Oh, Conner," she whispered. "You don't have any idea how much it sucks without you." Sunlight poured down and warmed her back and legs, and she sighed and stood, studying the sheer drop in front of her, relieved that she'd been strong enough not to take the plunge.
This had helped her somehow. Maybe it was because standing with her feet almost over the edge had made Indy realize how important living was to her, even without Conner. Or maybe just coming back to the place where he had died gave her peace, seeing the rocks now, empty of his body, and feeling the wind like his hand on her cheek, knowing he was still here.
Whatever the cause, Independence felt less like she was about to choke on her pain and die. Breaths came more easily, and the wind, which was whistling past her ears again, made her feel like doing something great, something Conner would have been proud of. She could feel him here, in their special spot, in the wind and the cliff and the sun. Indy turned to the next step of the plateau and put her hand on the warm stone. In her head, or maybe in the wind, she could hear Conner's encouragements, telling her where to put her hands and where it was going to get hard and how much he knew she could do it.
Independence didn't need the encouragement, though. Conner's death had made her more able to do things herself, without his hands to help her find her way or catch her when she fell.
Indy pulled herself up over rocks, checking her footing and cautiously testing where it was safe to put her hands. People would have said this cliff was impossible to scale, looking at the smoothness and height of the great piece of stone, but Indy knew the rocks better than anyone. She knew how to use her hands and feet and the rest of her body to reach a summit, even when the rock face was almost without niches or handholds. With each small gain on the cliff, Indy felt weight being lifted off her shoulders and dropping off onto the last step. Her feet felt stable and her hands felt strong, expert fingers sliding themselves into tiny slots in the sandstone, feet effortlessly finding holds she didn't even see were there. She felt herself being pieced back together.
At the top, Independence stood and stared out at the horizon with one hand shielding her eyes from the sun and the other on her hip. Conner would have loved this, she thought, smiling a little to herself as a gentle wind entwined itself in her hair and wrapped her in a tight embrace of warm air. He does love this.