This story is one of the September Writing Challenge entries chosen to be a featured story.
If it weren’t for the paintbrushes scattered carelessly on the floor, I wouldn’t have remembered the day Freya vowed to disappear.
The space next to mine on the bed is empty, unsettlingly empty. My legs stretch out and hit cold air, the lonely expanse of space chilling where there should have been warmth. It’s entirely void of everything, of everything you. I miss the feeling of my ankles entangling with yours.
Did you mean for me to notice, when you left those paintbrushes lying on the floor? Scattered like little breadcrumbs to pick up the pieces you hastily left, almost like a hidden memoir, a note?
I remember the way they were arranged, or rather, thrown on the floor. Still wet with paint, crimson and pale marigold staining the cream of your carpet. What a strange thing to see at two o’clock in the afternoon.
Were you working on your masterpiece? Your rite of passage?
The way your eyes glowed when you spoke of it was unlike anything I’d seen. Me, a closeted girl starting to become exposed to the wonders of art and freedom and creativity. It was entrancing, and you were sunshine, peeking through my closed blinds and forcing me to see.
I still think of you, Freya. I see blonde hair and feel my heart racing and my eyes widening, then falling. I don’t know why I expect it. You’ve always said your hair was spun gold, and it was. But to me, it was sunshine. Warmth.
You crafted words of beauty and let me dream in those months together. I remember waking in the early morning, feeling your fingers resting in mine, and looking up at the ceiling. Early morning rose. Sea-foam walls. Peaches and cream.
So maybe, I should have noticed even earlier. The night before, maybe, when you got up from bed that night, detaching my limbs from yours.
I remember blinking, exhausted, and then, your last words to me.
“I’m getting water, Becca.”
And that was all I heard, as I watched your head peep back from behind the door, and then the click of the latch as you shut it, separating yourself from me. Of course, I didn’t know it then. But maybe I should’ve.
Was all this a map, the pieces of the puzzle being laid out from the very beginning?
They said you stole a boat, urged it out to the middle of the lake. Then disappeared.
Where’d you go, Freya?
They found your masterpiece. We all found your masterpiece. We saw the canvas in the center of the ship, ripped apart and torn, canvas fiber fraying at the edges. You’d spread acrylic across the walls of the boat, every little space painted shades of tangerine and carmine and little spots of white that looked like clouds across a sunset.
Your masterpiece was so much more than what we thought.
It was a memoir, wasn’t it?
You always said you never wanted to be forgotten. But at what expense?
I’m scared, Freya. I don’t know where you went. Part of me keeps thinking I’ll see you one day, peeping your head back through the door. Part of me keeps hoping I’ll feel the brush of your hair against my cheek, the warmth of your lips against the nape of my neck. Maybe in some parallel universe you come back through the door with your glass of water, coming back to bed. Maybe in one parallel universe you never left your paint brushes lying on the floor, like forsaken artifacts. And maybe in one universe I’m able to uncover the map of silver stones and elusive wisps you left scattered across my life, and find you.