[Image description: pencil drawing of two girls kissing. They are both holding LGBTQ+ rainbow flags.]
Short story by Emily Bourne.
I didn’t realise that I was slumped over and staring into the horizon until a girl tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I was okay. She put her arm around me. I leant in. When I could finally breathe again, I answered, wiping my tears.
“Okay? Why do people ask that? Being okay is not enough. I don’t want to be okay. Okay isn’t a good thing, it’s actually really worrying, and I think it’s stupid we settle for the answer ‘okay’.” It all came out as a sort of exhale, like I breathed the words out with the wind. I didn’t even care if she heard; I just said it before I burst into tears at her awful question.
I met her eyes and was startled when she wasn’t running away from this weirdo rambling on the top of a hill. Her face didn’t look judgemental at all, she looked interested.
“Why is that, then?” escaped her lips as she bent down to sit beside me.
My heart jumped a little bit inside of my ribcage. “Well... heh, okay.” I started, nervous because now I had to explain myself, instead of spilling a bunch of barely articulated words from my mouth. But, to her they seemed to make some kind of sense. I continued, “Okay is when you lay in your bed, unsure on what to do next. You are not the candle or the melted wax; you are just the flame –constantly going but not burning anything of your own. ‘Okay’ is the days in-between Christmas and New Year. Okay is the settling after heavy heartache, implying it’s temporary, and it will get better-“, cutting myself off, “sorry. You don’t need this. I’m just... a flood of emotions, spilling out of a non-existent cup.” I’ve revealed all of this to her without giving her a single glance in between. I could not sense any alarm from her.
I tried to read her face when words tumbled out of her, “I’m Mira and I’m okay, and I’m okay with that.” She looked away for a moment and then turned back to me. “I’m the silence after the storm. I’m the light rain patting on your window in the middle of the night that you can’t appreciate because you’re asleep. Nevertheless, I’m always there. Burning away: never the candle, never the wax. I’m okay with that, because I have hope one day this will change. I cannot predict if or when that day will come, so until it does, I’ll be here, as I am. And I’m okay with that.”
Mesmerised, I watched and listened. Her words filled the whole world and made everything seem distant. I was not this weak girl, sat here on this hill - I was so much more than these emotions.
And, so, I invited her to join me in the Cafe. There we talked about what happened, and talking to her made me realise that I am not the person I want to be. I brought this bad karma on myself.
Before I knew it, it was dark outside and I needed to head back at some point. But when I lifted my head to ask when I’ll see her again, I noticed her picking her nail polish. A light shade of blue. She gazed somberly at each discarded piece of nail polish like it was a part of her fading away.
She noticed me looking at her hands and said “I’ll paint them again tomorrow” with a smile that hinted something deeper. I looked at her face, round with soft, feathery hair framing it - and every time I blinked, I felt like she might just disappear. This made me sad because I had a feeling that she knew this, and that was why every single breath she took, she tried to do it boldly. I promise to always make her feel there and validated.
Her eyes and mouth smiled in sync, and she spoke softly. “I mostly come here every day – for a little while, at least. I will keep coming here until I am no longer okay,” (note the pause) “but, if you ever want to contact me...” - She stopped and wrote down her number and passed it to me.
I took the little slip of paper from her delicate hands and glanced down at it. We smiled at each other, and I walked away too overcome with giddiness to turn back.