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Holiday

Swim with flaws and you’ll sink. That’s what they told her. But she swam anyway.

The squeeze of a plastic cup made her Diet Coke rise and fall in a rhythmic pulse. Thousands of excited bubbles danced to their music. A year ago, Bonnie Law was the life of a party. Tonight, her shoulders sagged, and she dressed in casual blue ripped jeans with a purple sweater, instead of the glamourous polka dot mini dress of last year. Bonnie was a stranger to her reputation. She’d vowed to rebuild her life today—a new Bonnie, a fresh start. Yet all she’d done was warm her seat. well-wishers had come and gone, attempted chatter, but her guard was up and the door firmly closed.

She’d picked a chair close to a huge speaker, forming a musical barrier between others. Bonnie basked in isolation. The vast, brightly colored walls of this grand house shook to Bruno Mars’ voice as he sang about catching grenades and jumping in front of trains. She appreciated the words. The next few hours would end a deeply upsetting year, but with help, a new year would bring hope.

Bonnie caught the watchful eye of Claudia, whom she’d shared laughter and tears with since Kindergarten. She was standing with a tall, strongly built man. A tattoo of a dragon on his arm yelled power. Bonnie tried to divert her gaze, but Claudia’s hands moved like lightning to gesture her forward. This was not what she wanted. Bonnie adored Claudia but craved for man-free tranquillity. She sighed heavily and stood.

She pushed her way through overeager dancers and conversationalists shouting to be heard above lively music. The room smelt of spilled alcohol, and she grimaced when her sneakers squelched on liquid-laden wooden flooring. Bonnie had to sidestep past a couple who’d lost their tongues in each other’s mouths—she creased her nose at them, but they were far gone into a world of oblivious passion.

When she reached the other side, Claudia rushed and grabbed her hand. With bony fingers pulling firmly, she heaved Bonnie beside her and stuck out an upturned palm. “Bonnie, where’ve you been? I’d like you to meet Tom.” The brawny man instinctively took a step forward and delicately gave his sizeable hand. Bonnie stared vacantly into Tom’s eyes before offering hers. His palm was moist, and she resisted the urge of a post-shake wipe.

The next few minutes were a cocktail of sounds—Claudia’s voice, Tom’s voice, the music—but Bonnie caught none of it. Instead, her eyes were set to the left of Tom’s shoulder. She gazed without blinking and walked away from the pair in silence. Bonnie paused in the middle of the room, tilted her head sideways and studied the oddity with a careful exactness. His baggy t-shirt and jeans gave the impression of someone who didn’t much care for a midnight countdown. Curly, unkempt hair hung at the sides of a gaunt face—his eyes, bloodshot and empty. Bonnie’s heartbeat intensified as she approached. What she saw next made her lips tremble. Cold sweats froze her spine, and weak, jelly-like legs buckled. She regained balance and steadied herself. On the pale wrists of this man were deeply ingrained slash wounds from a blade. Not only did he not want to party, the person sanding before Bonnie did not want to live.

She was no longer the most desperate, depressed individual in the room, and she didn’t know how to take that. Bonnie didn’t even know why she stood in front of this man. Her life was moving downhill at an immense pace, and the one thing she’d always failed at was helping others in need. Her English teacher had once told her she couldn’t teach a fish how to swim. And father—poor father. She’d not been there for him when harrowing cries called out her name.

Bonnie took a deep breath and wiped away sweat from her face. The man was glancing out of a small window that faced the street. He did not see Bonnie as she drew nearer, nor did he hear her petite footsteps in the intense volume. Her long, dark-brown hair was a foot away from his when she spoke just loud enough to be heard. “Are you not sharing the view?”

The man jumped and turned his head towards Bonnie; his hair hindered his vision and he stroked it away awkwardly. “Wha… what d’ ya mean?” His ashen white face had a shade of red now.

“It’s a beautiful sky. Can I see? Or is it for your eyes only?” Bonnie had no idea where she was going with this but continued. “I’d much rather be out there too.”

“Who are ya? What d’ ya want?” His eyes narrowed and he crossed his arms.

Bonnie thought for a while and kept up her defense. She came here for a new start, not to be the heroine. “I just wanted to look outside—and say hi. But that’s fine if you don’t want to—”

“It’s all yours.” The stranger gestured for Bonnie to take his place at the window.

Bonnie moved closer, while he moved away. She looked into his misty eyes for a second before he turned around. Bonnie felt his breath on her face—surprisingly pleasant. She placed her arm on his shoulder. “Wait. Please.” The man swiveled to face her again. “I’m Bonnie.”

The man let out a long sigh and fumbled uneasily with his fingers. “Wade.” He looked back over his shoulder. “I need ta go now.” Wade took a few steps back, still looking at Bonnie, before turning away.

Bonnie’s head fell as she exhaled. She closed her eyes. I’m always going to be Bonnie. The Bonnie who can’t help. The Bonnie who gets in everyone’s way.

She watched Wade walk away. For the first time, she noticed his limp while he navigated the maze of a dancefloor. I wonder what’s happened in your life, Wade. How bad could it be? Two men approached Wade as he reached the other side. Good luck guys, please be more helpful than I was.

Bonnie glanced around the room. Claudia was still with Tom, her seat by the speaker was empty. She smiled and headed towards it. Bonnie glanced sideways to take one more look at Wade. Her eyes bulged and almost shot out of their sockets. She struggled to breathe, and her body shook so violently that nearby dancers stopped and glared. “NO!” Her piercing scream rose above the music and she ran, pushing everyone out of her path.

The men had wrestled Wade to the ground and were pouring drinks on him. They laughed like wild animals. Bonnie saw Wade get to his feet and stumble towards the door, covering his face. When Bonnie reached the men, her venomous stare cut them like a knife. They stopped laughing. She had no time for them and bolted for the exit.

She reached a dimly lit hallway. People stood, drinking and talking. Christmas lights shone through dense cigarette smoke. Bonnie spotted Wade—he was heading towards a staircase. His limp had worsened, and he slowed right down. She caught up with him and held his arm. He looked back in terror before seeing Bonnie. “Just leave me alone, all of ya!”

He tried to free his arm, but Bonnie held on. “Let me help, Wade.” Wade forcefully pulled away and began walking before Bonnie tried once more. She pulled her sleeve up to reveal a thin forearm. “Look. Please, I know what you’re going through. Let me help.” Wade came back down and examined her arm, running his finger along a faint mark on her wrist. “It’s not as deep as yours. Maybe I’m not as brave, but I understand.”

Wade studied his own tarnished limbs. His watery eyes investigated Bonnie’s. He spoke gently, his voice sorrowful. “No one understands. You’ve still gotta chance—take it. Please don’t follow me.” He turned and headed up the stairs and into darkness. 

As Bonnie watched the back of Wade disappear, she sat on the bottom stair with her knees drawn into her body. The world around her spun. She closed her eyes and saw her bedroom. She had headphones on, listening to Lady Gaga. Downstairs, her stricken dad lay on the kitchen floor, calling her name. Ten minutes later, Bonnie went down for a glass of water. She dropped her glass when she saw her father almost lifeless. The red pool of blood around his head sent her darting towards him. She cradled his head as he spoke his last words. “Why didn’t you come, Bonnie? Why didn’t you come?”

The next few months were an empty hole, as Bonnie and mother struggled to put out the long burning fire. But things got worse when a small lump in mum’s breast became life-threatening. And so, a new battle began and continues. This sledgehammer blow saw Bonnie’s life spiraling downwards. She lost friends, put on weight, then lost too much weight. Now, with the help of Claudia, she wanted a new path.

Bonnie wiped her eyes and nose with a tissue. Her make up ran down her cheeks and her face puffed like a balloon. She was back on the stairs gazing at the wall. Bonnie looked at her marked wrist again, delighted she had not gone through with it, then thought of Wade and how lucky he was to be here. There was a nagging fear deep down, which she couldn’t pinpoint. Bonnie creased her brow straining for an answer. She searched for her mum’s face, then her father’s. Her throat went dry and she wanted water. She heard dad’s desperate voice calling her name. Bonnie put her hands over her ears, remembering being too late. That was when it hit her like a speeding train. Her eyes grew large and she let out a piercing cry. “Wade!” The young man had been gone for too long.

Bonnie darted up the stairs like a cheetah, and into a long, black corridor. She opened doors and called his name, but there was no answer. A dreaded terror grew with every step, and when Bonnie opened the fourth door, she stiffened. Her mouth opened to scream but no sound came out. Inside the small room was Wade, swinging from the ceiling, his belt tied around his neck. Bonnie broke down, hysterically sobbing and bashing her fists against the door. Her vision blurred as she watched the rocking body, and Bonnie, instead saw her English teacher hanging and laughing at her latest failure. The hairs on her neck prickled when she heard the voice. “Why didn’t you come, Bonnie?” Her father, but from where? She shook her head wildly and Bonnie was back in darkened silence, looking at Wade.

Then movement. Wade was still writhing, his eyes bulged, and a ghastly blue tinge consumed his face. Bonnie sprinted into the room and to his body. She lifted him upward, but he was too heavy and she too weak. Her eyes dashed across the room and towards a chair. She had to let go of Wade, and he let out an anguished shriek. Bonnie grabbed the chair and pulled it to Wade. Her muscles ached and she was drenched in sweat. She planted his feet on the chair and the noose slackened. Wade coughed and spluttered from his mouth. Bonnie climbed the chair alongside him and untied the belt from around his neck. He fell onto her and they both crashed to the floor in a heap. Wade lay on her chest, breathing heavily. Colour began to come back to his face, and he rested a few minutes. Bonnie stared at the ceiling; the black belt moved slowly back and forth.

When Wade mustered the energy to lift himself, he wasn’t the characterless figure she’d met earlier. His eyes had focus and his posture displayed power. He headed towards a window. Staring in the same direction he did when Bonnie first saw him, Wade pointed outside. “I stopped there earlier.” His voice was calm and assured.

Bonnie got off the floor and joined him by the window. The full moon lit up the town and stars shone brightly from every direction.

“I was going to jump, but something told me not to.”

She followed the trail of his finger and noticed a large bridge. A wave of emotion rose within Bonnie. She felt it in her chest, it climbed up through her neck and when it reached her face, Bonnie’s eyes were the release. Her cheeks soaked in tears. These were tears of relief, tears of sadness, and joy.

Wade turned around to face Bonnie. His gentle hands wiped her face. Without saying a word, Wade walked past her and towards the door. He paused, and without looking back said, “I think things will be ok.” The mysterious stranger then walked out of Bonnie’s life forever.

Bonnie continued to look through the window, contemplating what this all meant. She heard loud shouting from downstairs—the midnight countdown. Bonnie preferred to be with the moon and stars.

Action in the window caught her eye as the familiar limping figure walked down the road. Wade didn’t stop at the bridge this time, and Bonnie hoped he never would. Her lips turned up and she looked to the sky. Bonnie found the brightest star and continued gazing, hoping her father was looking back.


January 03, 2020 22:47

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2 comments

Sasha Senaratne
11:46 Jan 09, 2020

Suzanne – thank you so much for taking the time to read my story and leave feedback, it is hugely appreciated. I am new to writing fiction, so it’s a massive help to hear from others and learn. I fully agree with everything you say and can hopefully use some of these tips next time! Thanks again, and glad you enjoyed it.

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Suzanne Kiraly
21:55 Jan 08, 2020

Thanks, Sasha for this powerful piece. Dark but sensitive, we are connected to the character of Bonnie and sympathise with her ordeal/s that she has/is experiencing. You have used some strong expressions at times. I liked the following: "...tilted her head sideways and studied the oddity with a careful exactness." and "Why didn’t you come, Bonnie? Why didn’t you come?”. But I would lose the cliched expressions: "like a cheetah". I would also work on the secondary character, Wade. A little bit more about him would round out the story, I feel...

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