I believe there is a time in every person’s life when they find themselves on their back, waiting. Perhaps they will find this time in a shallow brook with small stones digging into the spine and the shoulder blades. I believe there is a time in every person’s life when they find themselves waiting for the final deep breath to let the water rush in; for the release. For me, this is one of those times. Her bare feet swung gently, grazing the water streaming past me.
“Sink or swim,” she told me. Sink or swim.
I dived to the bottom of the proverbial body of water and clawed a shelter in the muck. Myself, I have sunk. She scowled down at my figure as she dazzled her audience, the world, with her fancy maneuvers. Such a vision she was then.
I hated her grace. I hated her charm. I hated her beauty, if only others saw what my best friend harbored behind her manicured exterior, her forked tongue. It wasn’t always this way. There was a time before her swollen face and her crooked neck haunted me; there was a time before I lay down exhausted in the rushing brook.
I, too, was drawn to her hypnotic guise. I, too, craved for Sharvari’s olive eyes to look upon my face, for her curved lips with the delicate freckle below the cupid’s bow to pull back to reveal pearl-white teeth, for her earthy sepia hand to close over my own, lovingly.
All the girls wanted to be Sharvari. They surrounded her like so many moons, hoping that her light would reflect off their faces to make them special, too. They were werewolves in her ethereal light. All the boys wanted to be with Sharvari. They posed around her like stars competing to be the brightest twinkle in her eye. They collapsed into black holes like stars, too. We all orbited her like she was the sun. Our sun. She went through people like water. Sharvari never believed in conservation.
“Excess, Excess, Excess! What else is this life for?”
Even now I can hear her voice in my ear, whispering. Sweet nothings; they say perspective is everything. Brain washing, hindsight is always 20/20, isn’t that what they say?
“Have you lost your mind? You dolt!”
Yes. Yes, Sharvari, I have. Back then, only a few months ago, those people would have done anything to be me. I had the honor of being Sharvari’s anything. No one knew what the price for such a privilege could be. Not even me. The constriction which bound me was suffocating. The buoyancy of water sounds so welcoming.
I first saw Sharvari on an autumn day. I shadowed her the whole walk to school. I was entranced. I had never seen anyone so captivating. Her black hair waved down her back and she her step was so elegant. Her feet hardly touched the ground. I concentrated on the tap-tap-tap of her stilettos to make sure she was real. I lost her in the crowd of the school yard. A panic seized me. Had I imagined her? I found myself searching for those shoes all day. Dark waves obsessed me. Was she real? Could I have imagined her? I explained the fear away. I heard the sound of her stride. She was real. She had to be. Not like back then, when I looked into the shifting shadow and could not see what just a moment ago was there.
The next morning I got up before the sun rose. I dressed carefully. I left the house earlier and kept my eyes wide open for a glimpse of her. As I came near the school, I looked around desperately. She was nowhere. Then I heard it. Tap-tap-tap... I turned just as a hand landed on my shoulder.
“Hello, I am Sharvari, and your name is?”
I practiced this in front of the mirror last night. Hi, I’m Yana, I saw you the other day, you’re new right?
I looked into those eyes rimmed in black, and all the air in my lungs seemed to have been sucked out of the world in a vacuum of want. I just breathed in her scent, malty molasses and toffee, nostalgia overthrew me. My next exhale contained my name.
“Yana, you and I are going to be good friends.”
A tingling traveled from the crown of my head down my spine, making my neck tense and my fingers quaver. I felt like this once when I was younger, but the memory was too faded, the only color lasting was the olive green of someone’s eyes. I felt it again when I was picnicking in the woods when a large black snake stopped nearby to taste the air in front of my bare feet. I hadn’t felt so alive in years.
I feel it now as I take my first deep breath in months. The water is icier than I imagined, but it’s a welcome relief for the burning in my chest as I gaze at those vacant olive eyes, at those long bruised toes skimming the water, that long black hair tugged by the wind which rattles the bare branches from which my sun swings.
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