You haven’t been answering my calls or texts, I hope you’re alright. I thought this letter might help. Do you remember the day we met? I scratched my knee, I don’t ever remember crying hysterically more than I have that day. All the other kids from the playground stared, nobody did anything to help me, nobody but you.
Your mother called mine as she drove us to your house, she stuck a mickey mouse band aid over the scratch and helped me walk. I meekly sat as I waited for my mom, but you grabbed me by my hand and dragged me to your room to show me your piano. My heart had never beaten so fast, I wanted to play it, I wanted to show you what I can do— the only reasonable thought that goes through my head whenever I’m faced with a piano (and I know you know this, because you do this as well).
I was surprised to say the least, a barrel of giant bricks came crashing down on me as you started to play. My only concept for age used to be height, and I was just as short as you were, yet you played the harder pieces, pieces whom I thought were for tall highschoolers.
As time went by, the piece slowly started to be less and less difficult to play. I didn’t know what was going through my head to be thinking that I wouldn’t be able to play it. Most days I’d settle with the reason that I was a dumb kid, you had no difficulty in mastering it at all, only me.
I kept on improving and was finally able to read notes and play on my own, but you kept improving as well. Improving until your hands hurt, improving until nurses would have you as their favorite patient with how easy it was to find a vein when they were brazenly jut across the entirety of the back of your palm.
It became harder for me to reach the same level of finesse you had, you were surpassing me with each day that went, heck, you were surpassing yourself. It was discouraging to consume so much of myself in something I never excelled at, so I quit, I stopped playing for a long time.
You were oblivious to everything, we always went with what you liked, what you wanted. You took up ballet the summer after, you begged me to go with you, but I didn’t want to. We always did everything together, I wanted to try something new, something you knew nothing about. But that’s the thing, we did everything together, I was bored out of my mind the last few days you’ve been away. I begged my mom to let me join but by the time I have, the class were out of slots to fill me in with.
I joined a journalism class instead, despite having only one person there the same age as me, everybody got along well with each other. I was happy for a time, I knew how to write and you knew how to dance, everything seemed about right. Until we were asked to take photos from around the school for a photojournalism article, everybody huddled around the room you were in, it was hard to tell who they captured in the photo, all the ballerinas looked the same wearing the same tutus. The paper came out the next day, the photojournalism section was filled with photos of you twirling in your poofy, pink skirt. Slowly, the picture became clearer, it was you in it, it’s always been you, I was only your shadow. I never returned to the class the next summer.
I took up swimming instead of journalism the following year, you did too. Do you remember how they segregated the swimmers? Beginner, Intermediate,and Advanced. They made us go in lines and segregate ourselves, advanced swimmers aside. My concept for age never changed, the taller you were, the older you were, the better you were with things. I stood in the line where intermediate swimmers were since they were the same height as me, I was wondering where you went that day.
Most beginners were kids, they’d look up at you and their face would light up. They would ride on your back as if you were their horse in the water. Nobody ever batted an eye at me where I was, I was just as good as the rest of them. You were better than all the children and they knew it, they wanted to be like you. Swimming didn’t seem as fun after.
The day you moved into our neighborhood was my happiest day, we got to go to school together, we got to go to each other’s house everyday. But I wasn’t the only one who was ecstatic to have you around, the whole school was practically at your feet. Everything was about you!
You’d have a new book everyday to bring to school, everybody thought it was cool. Your balck-rimmed glasses and variety of stories, everybody who seemed to have met you must’ve aspired to be like you at one point, even me.
Books were never my thing, but I asked my mom to buy me Rick Riordan’s Throne of Fire, you loved the series, and I wanted to spoil it for you, or maybe even just talk to you about it, so then I’d have some idea what you blabber about most of the time (I didn’t even know what order they went it, let alone what series they belonged to). I never ended up finishing it, I never ended up as little as the fourth chapter even. Every night, the ice cream man plagued my dreams, so I’d stay up. It gave me more time to think, to clear my head. I’d think about how I wasn’t able to do anything good, at least not as good as you did everything.
There was no point in doing anything I did, somehow you’d always find a way to tower over me me. There was no point in blooming when I was planted beside the prettiest flower in the garden, the bees and butterflies always chose you, so I wilted.
I’ve always wanted to be like you, to do the things you have. You do everything in the best possible way, and I can only imagine the pressure you’re in. You’d always look around you and think you want to make the world a better place, you want to be the best possible version of yourself. But you know you won’t be able to do it, not on your own. You won’t be able to do it without me, I’m only half the pressure you’re in, and I decided to quit everything I was good for. I won’t just stand here and see you crumble into tiny pieces like I have, you’ve worked so hard to be here, you can share your stresses with me, I’ll take the rest off of your shoulders.
You’re scared you won’t be able to do the things you want, and that’s alright, I’ll be here with you all the way through. As long as I have a bed or a roof over my head, you’ll have one too. I’ll be there to attend your every recital, every solo. And if you decide to write a book with all the spur that came from the mountains you’ve read, I’ll be there to buy every single one of them (I might even leave five stars, even if it’s horrible). You don’t have to do all this on your own, you have me.
I know you’ll make it someday, and I’ll be there for you every step of the way, just like how you’ve always been there for me, I have to be. Take care, you know I’ll go as far as wasting all my money to sit first row.
Speak to you soon,
It was a dull day, the sky an uneven canvas of white and blue from the thin trail of clouds that swirled within them. In Elodie’s eyes, she saw nothing but a large, yellow bead peeking from the corner of the matte shade of blue that had been littered with clumped spheres that formed to look like an enlarged state of froth. They called them clouds, they looked bouncy enough, but they never did whenever two would meet. Not once did they recoil from each other, they only formed a bigger one. One that looked so much more like balloons, no pointy ends, only curves. From the underside, it held a flat surface. If it weren’t the wrong side up, Elodie was sure she could walk over it, but the shadow it cast upon the ground didn’t look as promising.
Trudging across the pointy grass that protruded from the ground, stepping over their even spikes and serrated ends, she turned around the corner, heading for a place she always seemed to run back to.
A slouched figure sat by the tree, leaning his back against it. His nose buried in a book, Elodie can’t help but stare, mesmerized by the sight. The breeze softly blew the hair hanging from his head like curled tendrils, the book’s pages easily carried with them. His fingers placed on the corners of the folded pages were the only things that stopped them from doing so. He didn’t seem to notice the tip of his hair poking the skin below it or her approaching from how engrossed he was in the story.
“Luke, I didn’t think you’d be here today,” Her voice brought him out of his reverie.
He finally looked up from his book, giving Elodie a glance of his features. An unclear image of him reached her, his hair shaped like two blocks of cheese stacked over the other meshed with simple lines poking out of them acting as strands, two brown dots for eyes, and an upward curve ranging from both corners of his lips.
“I didn’t think you’d last a week without me,” He mirrored her words and gave a cheeky smile, deepening the dimple he had just after the ends of his lips.
She took a seat beside him, resting the palms of her hands on either side of her, combing them over the grass’s tall cut. She sighed, leaning over his shoulder, “It was a dull week. Mundane, boring, tedious..”
“But give it a few more days or weeks, ” She trailed off. “I’ll be having another sugar rush in no time.”
He suppressed a laugh, taking in her unkempt appearance. “You must’ve eaten a lot to have a sugar crash this bad. It’s not normal.”
She bumped her shoulders with him playfully. “Isn’t that what you liked about me?”
A smile made its way into her face, his eyes held a twinkle to them, one that she hadn’t noticed before. She could make out the different shades of brown and black that made up the iris of his eyes, looking like different valleys and plateaus in the surface of a canyon, some parts with speckles of gold matching the color of his hair. An obsidian pool sat in the middle of it all, she could almost see her reflection from how dark they were.
But as their smiles started to dwindle, Elodie failed to hold on to his image. His eyes returning back to their lusterless umber hue. A heavy silence fell within them. They have never had a conversation this solemn, not a conversation they had was this short. Luke laid his head back on the trunk of the tree, scrutinizing Elodie, she didn’t seem to notice as she blankly stared at the book he had read earlier, now placed beside him.
He’d never seen her look like this before, maybe the week he was gone did wear her out this time. The way she talked, the way she walked, even the way she made her hair, they weren’t pulled up to their usual upright position in a bun.
She looked wilt, her demeanor and appearance made it seem so. Her eyes filled with tiresome, the corners of her lips sagged in a frown, her hair curtained over the rest of her features like a mantle dripping down with tears.
“You said you liked reading post-apocalyptic dystopia?” She asked, finally breaking the uneasiness that came with the quiet’s tranquility.
“Watching.” He interjected.
She paid his statement no heed and continued to talk. “Reading, watching; whichever.”
“Say, if somehow some weird zombies managed to storm this place down, would you want to kill them or have them bite you instead?”
Confused with the sudden topic of zombies, he answered anyway, “What’s the fun in an apocalypse if I don’t get to do anything?”
He expected her to scoff, to laugh at him, or just to do something, anything. She was never intrigued by his undaunting fantasies, they’d talk and laugh about the million different ways his stories would diverge into. She always appeared to interest herself in her version of the story more, not caring for what the ending or the story in itself was.
“We’re not that different, you and I, despite my want to shove down my wrist in a zombie’s throat if I had to; surviving an apocalypse seems redundant, going all through that trouble and for what?” She said in a somber voice.
“If there’s one thing I hate doing, it’s prolonging the inevitable,” She left no room for him to talk, not that he knew what to say anyway. “So, tell me, Luke; how long do you think this will last?”
Their conversation took a dark turn, Luke was hoping she’d talk about something more…blitheful, perhaps. Another conversation about a recent movie or book would do.
She wasn’t yelling, far from it, but her tone was condescending, he felt like he was getting scolded for stealing from his mother’s cookie jar. He didn’t know what he did wrong, so in a quiet voice he asked, “How long will what last?”
“I can’t keep on coming back here forever,” Her voice waned, almost as if she didn’t want him to hear what she had to say. “Every day you’re not here is a waste of mine.”
She looked the other way, not wanting to give anything away. She wanted to convince him that the words she said weren’t true, she was having trouble convincing herself.
The world around her began to turn, she wasn’t feeling like herself. Perhaps that’s what people felt whenever they’d get something off their chest, the stories say it made people feel better, Elodie felt the opposite.
She felt dissociated from herself, not the tree she was leaning on could provide her comfort, nor could the grass poking from underneath her fingertips. An uncanny feeling spread throughout her body, as if she was floating over something. Suddenly, the thought to run over the clouds didn’t sound as exciting.
The yellow ring prying from the ether disappeared, so did the clouds...and the rest of the sky. It became harder for her to see, a grey smoke came belching from the crevices beneath her, Luke’s distant cries called for her from afar.
But none of that came close to what was pulling her from underneath, like a thousand melted Laffy Taffies, a black, treacly substance engulfed her body, and fully, if it wasn’t for the warm embrace that reached for her.
From closed eyelids, she felt the heat travelling from her cheek through the rest of her, thawing anything that might’ve gotten in its way, treacle, mist, and all that.
The persistent voice called out, this time, softly. Elodie felt a calloused thumb stroking the skin across her cheek, going higher, and higher, and stopping just below her eyes, almost pleading for them to open.
She didn’t want to, if anything, she pressed them shut tighter. She didn’t want to see what darkness lies beyond her eyelids, or even worse, their tree gone. Their world was a fickle one, she wasn’t.
The voice continued to beckon, it was getting harder to seal them shut.
Holding the wrist connected to the hand stroking her cheek, she brought it close to her, finding enough courage in herself to look at the person who did so.
A bright light blinded her, no darkness, no fog, no anything, it was just him and her.
Everything looked slightly different from when she opened them last. A warm color of pink and orange tinted the sky, no clouds casted shadows over the white tiled ground, now devoid of any grass. It reflected the sky’s color, the ground, and so did the tree and the shed leaves below it.
The tree’s pale, wide trunk matched the horizon, while the leaves’ red color gleamed brighter under the toasted shades that kissed everything under it.
But Luke, she found herself standing up with him. He outshined the entire scenery alone. His hair no longer looked like blocks from badly funded claymotions, every strand held a different color, a different direction. The dust that landed on his eyelashes shone scarlett, paralleling the view’s tinge.
His skin felt like fire on hers, his scent left her wanting more, his voice soothed her ears like a song she could listen to for days on end.
“Addie,” He repeated, this time holding an even stronger emotion to them. “I won’t leave, not anymore.”
She looked back into his eyes, just then, everything seemed fine, perfect even.
It wasn’t long before the truth hit Elodie like a thousand bricks; nothing lasts forever. Not this place, not them.
The black liquid never left, it reached her knee by now. Except this time, as it continued to swallow the place whole, she didn’t let Luke stop it; she let it consume her slowly in a never-ending cadence.