I think you are the most dreary person I have ever met. Being near you means sitting in endless drizzling rain without an umbrella. You are just grey. When Mr. Andrews paired us for the project, my heart sunk. Of course, it was probably too much to hope for him to pair me with Millie, whose literal sunny disposition is the reason she's my best friend. Spending extended periods of time with her is more tolerable than most people. But I would have been happy to work with Alisha, whose wintry demeanour is refreshing in short spurts. Or Damien, who seems relatively calm today, emitting only a steady breeze rather than his usual blustery gale. I think I even would rather have been partnered with Lucas whose torrents of crashing rain are at least exciting.
But no, Mr. Andrews had to pair me with you; so here I am, being continually spattered on as grizzly clouds float around us. I already feel damp and irritable and we haven't even started yet. It's also incredibly awkward. You haven't acknowledged my presence since I moved over to sit next to you. Is it not awkward for you too?
"Soooo….propaganda campaign." I start grudgingly. You just grunt in response. Okaaaayyy, great start. "Should we-"
"You write, I'll draw." You interrupt me rudely.
"Can you even draw?" I ask dubiously; I can't afford to get anything less than an A on this project. A harsh gust of wind causes goosebumps to rise along my arms.
"Yes," you snap irritably. "I can draw." I obviously still don't look convinced because you grab your notebook and snatch my pencil right out of my hand. I move to grab it back, annoyed. But thunder rumbles ominously and I decide not to push it. And then you start sketching with deft, confident strokes. As you draw, the storm now circling around you starts to settle and the dark clouds hovering above us even seem to lighten a little bit. You quickly create a face and start sketching in details. I had no reason to be concerned; you are a masterful artist. As you draw, an expressive mouth materialises, next a large nose and then a pair of exquisitely rendered, strangely familiar eyes.
"It's me," I gasp. You grunt in acknowledgement and continue sketching. "Hey, my nose is not that big!" I exclaim angrily.
And then you laugh. And the glorious sun breaks out through a ceiling of clouds. I audibly gasp as I'm almost blinded by the sudden flare of light. An unexpected warmth spreads from my head to my toes. It overwhelms me for a moment.
"Are you OK?" You ask me, frowning. That tantalising gap in the clouds snaps shut, and I'm left cold and damp again.
"Mmmm?" I murmur distractedly, "oh yes, I'm fine. Carry on." But the spell seems to be broken for you. You push away the notepad, my own half-rendered face staring up at me.
"Do you believe me now?" You snap. I nod, sufficiently chastised.
We spend the rest of the lesson planning our project, brainstorming slogans. I'm keeping a close eye on you now but I'm left disappointed as the bell rings for the end of class and I haven't managed to catch a glimpse of anything more than clouds and rain. I saw it though, that burst of sunshine, brighter than even Millie's. You feel things so strongly; so why are you so grey?
A mixture of morbid curiosity and anxious trepidation fills me as I stand outside your front door, the harsh peel of the doorbell still echoing in my ears. I wonder why you asked me to come here? Generally, you seem very closed off. It seems to go against what I know about you for you to invite me into your home. Suddenly, the door opens forcefully and I jump back. You stand in the hallway, glaring. A gale billows around you. I'm already off balance and it almost knocks me over as it blasts against me.
"Oh, it's you. Come in then," you say shortly. I slide past you, trying to ignore your hostile demeanour. A harsh wind bites at my exposed arms as I start to head towards the stairs. I can hear the sound of the TV running in the living room so I assume we are going to work in your room so we don't disturb your family. But as soon as my foot hits the first step you snap sharply, "no, not up there. In here," and you shepherd me into the living room.
There's a young girl sat on the sofa, legs hooked beneath her. She is focused on a TV show and only glances at me briefly before turning back to it. She emits a soft, golden light. It reminds me of hot spiced drinks and curling up with a good book in front of a roaring fire. The impression I get from her is not of joy exactly, she doesn't give off vibrant, beaming sunshine as Millie does, it's more like contentment.
"This is Lucy," you say. "Lucy we need to work on a project for school. Could you go to your room for a little while." She looks annoyed and a flurry of snow starts to whirl in the air. But you say,
"If you get your homework done now, then later we can play Scrabble."
"Really?" She asks excitedly and you nod, smiling. Her face lights up and she squeals happily. The snowflakes still hanging in the air quickly dissipate as she leaps out of her seat and bounds up the stairs, her short legs leaping to take them two at a time.
"She's obsessed with that game," you chuckle and I get the briefest glimpse of that bright sunlight I saw before, breaking through the murky clouds.
But again its gone too quickly as an abrupt crash comes from upstairs, the opposite direction to where I heard Lucy go. Without a word, you leap to your feet and hurtle up the stairs.
"Mum?" you call, panic in your voice. Concerned, I follow, trailing behind you. You disappear into a bedroom. I hear a strained voice come from inside,
"I'm sorry, I knocked the glass."
"It's OK Mum, here I'll clean it up." There's tenderness in your voice but I can hear the strain as well. You sound like you're barely holding it together. There is the crashing of rain now and the roar of the wind. The currents of air swept past me, circling around you, gaining speed. I'm worried you're going to cause a hurricane. When I turn the corner, I see you first. Torrents of rain lash down around you. I can't make out your face; it's so obscured by the violent downpour. Then I see a woman lying in bed. She looks weak and frail. She lays almost motionless while you grab a towel to mop up the spilt water on the table next to her. Her face is sallow and her arms are thin and brittle, like twigs that would snap with the slightest breeze. Unusually, I get no strong indication of what she is feeling. The last time I saw someone with an aura this weak I was sitting in a hospital room, tears falling from my eyes, watching my grandpa as he slowly passed from pneumonia. I instinctively know that this woman is very, very sick.
Then you see me standing there in the hallway. Guilt floods through me, this feels like something that I shouldn't have seen.
"Sorry-" I mutter, "I'll wait downstairs." I quickly hustle down the stairs and sit awkwardly on the sofa in the living room. Eventually, you come back downstairs. You take a seat on the sofa next to me without saying a word. A cyclone still rages around you.
"Is she sick?" I ask carefully after several minutes of silence.
"Yeah. Cancer." You mutter hoarsely.
"I'm sorry." I don't know what else to say. You make a non-committal grunt. A gush of wind whooshes past me.
"You're worried about her," I state obviously. You nod but your eyes flick upwards to Lucy's room and the wind just blows harder.
"And your sister?" I ask.
"What about her?" A surprised tone in your voice. "She's fine," you state defensively.
"Sorry," I reply. I know I've upset you because the clouds are darkening above you, a storm brewing. "It's just that-" I pause to think about how to phrase my next sentence, "you seem worried about her too," I finish lamely. You frown at me curiously. I know what you're thinking, you're wondering how I know. I just meet your eyes, trying to portray empathy. You obviously decide not to question it because, eventually, you respond,
"I am worried about her. I'm not her dad; I don't want to be her dad. But I have to be." You sigh dejectedly. "I'm basically the only person she's got at the moment. What if I'm messing it up?"
"I don't think so," I reassure you, "she seems happy." I want to tell you what I see, how the warm glow that surrounds her radiates love. But I don't know how so I just smile sincerely. The blustery gale eases slightly but it doesn't stop.
"Is that all?" I ask. You look uncomfortable. "I mean, you don't have to talk about it if you don't want to. But you can trust me." You give me a long, assessing look. Uncertainty hangs around us, tension building in the air. Eventually, you continue in a ragged, trembling voice, barely above a whisper.
"What- what if mum d-dies? And they t-take her away. I'm n-not old enough to be her legal guardian." Rain is crashing around us now, obsidian black clouds loom threateningly. You are fear and despair and desperation. Sympathy cuts through me, a razor-blade twisting into my stomach. Suddenly I understand. It's overwhelming for me just thinking about it. I see now why your default is grey. If you felt all of these emotions all of the time it would be too much to function.
"I understand," I say simply and I put my hand on yours.
"Thanks," you mutter quietly and turn your hand to clasp mine, "it helps to just say this stuff out loud sometimes." The air is finally still, I realise suddenly, for the first time since I entered the house. You feel calmer but also brittle and vulnerable. I realise the amount of courage it must have taken you to tell me all of this and I'm touched that you trust me so much so quickly. A sudden wave of affection washes over me and I feel an intense need to protect you and shield you from everything that hurts. Frustration rises within me that I can't take away all of the pain. But the least I can do is be a friend. I decide right then and there; I'll be there for you, whenever you need me.
I think you are the most complicated person I have ever met. You are a freak hailstorm in summer, a sudden downpour in spring. Your happiness shines as bright as the midday sun, your frustration explodes like lightning. I never know what to expect from you. Right now I think you are worried about something because you're emitting an agitated sort of wind; it reminds me of summer holidays to the coast, a warm breeze ruffling my hair. Is it your mum? Is she OK? Of course, you're also raining as usual, but it's lighter today; it's more like a fine mist than rain, actually. It's cool and fresh against my skin. We are sitting together in companionable silence, me with a novel and you with a sketchpad, as we so often do these days. And, as you begin to draw, the room lights up with scattered sun rays. They bounce off the suspended droplets and refract around the room. I gasp as a rainbow materialises around us. You glance up and give me a concerned look but I just shrug and you return to your sketching; you must be used to my random outbursts by now. I settle back in my chair and gaze in awe at the air around you. Colours swirl and glisten and dance around you. Its the brightest, prettiest, most magical thing I have ever seen. No-one has ever made a rainbow before. How can any one person feel so much? I can't believe I ever thought you were dull.
I lose track of time as I watch you, amazed. You don't notice; you're intent on your work. Eventually, you look up out of the window at the unpredicted downpour and think out loud, "this isn't the first time the weather forecast's been wrong lately." I look at the kaleidoscope of colours pouring from you and I smile inwardly,
"Yeah, I guess sometimes the weather can surprise you."