This story is one of the April Writing Challenge entries chosen to be a featured story.
Thoughts racing a million miles an hour, I lost myself in the rhythm of my steps, my surroundings falling away. The argument sat uncomfortably in my mind, stinging and pulsating under my skin. Erin and I had never fought before this; I’d never heard that sharp, twisted tone directed at me. Everything I thought I felt about her, for her, pooled in my stomach like a rancid soup. How could she have said all those things to me? And did she mean them? Had she been secretly thinking them every time she saw me?
Something red and flowing caught my eye, pulling me from my thoughts. Blinking, I slowed to a stop and took in my surroundings. I’d wandered to the old stables that had shut down a couple of years ago. The nearby fields clung to the faint memory of manure. Tied to a gnarled, impossibly huge tree, was a crimson scarf, fluttering slightly in the wind; I hesitated, feeling the tug of curiosity, but with it, vague panic. These fields were quiet and out of the way—anything could happen here. Pushed by a mix of desperation to escape from my persistent thoughts of Erin and a calling to the unknown, I headed past the tree and its scarf.
Numb, I picked my way through unkempt grass. The vegetation grew denser, and the sunlight grew distant; crushed and faded beer cans sat tangled in the edges of my vision, and the occasional burnt patch of ground whispered ghost stories of old campfires. No one had been here in a long time.
Seemingly out of nowhere, grass faded into concrete, and I stood on a broken bridge, with railings looming on either side and the quiet rush of a river below. An inexplicable calm washed over me, and I longed for nothing more than to be nearer to the water. To the side of the bridge, I could see a sloping downward path; my feet took me down it before my brain could respond. It led straight to the water’s edge, but I could see a spot to sit underneath the bridge, hidden from anyone above. Gingerly, I climbed around the railing and settled myself down onto the damp ground.
Pink started to touch the sky, and still I sat, beautifully lost in this alien place.
Watercolour sky. Peace and serenity. But then, rustling footsteps from above. Heart racing, I reached into my pocket for my key and clenched it between my fingers, ready to hit if I needed to. Bile sat in my mouth as a pair of muddy boots dangled into sight. The air stood still.
What do you fall in love with?
I fall in love with the way words carry themselves through the air in sweet melodies, shaping and soothing and pulsing with life. I fall in love with the sighs and the sounds, the perfect imperfections of a song that doesn’t know it is being heard by anyone but its singer.
What humans don’t convey with their words or their actions, they convey through their passions. A writer will pour their soul into written words—all of the things they feel and think hidden between the lines. A dancer invents new worlds through their movement, living and breathing in rhythm and beat. A photographer captures their perception of the universe in the pictures they take, creating fragments of their beings through a lens. We, as people, are so genetically conditioned to abide and obey that many of us only feel comfortable truly expressing ourselves in ways that are riddled with subtlety and conceptuality, both beautiful and tragic in its complexity.
I’m pretty sure I fell in love with her the second her muddy boots dangled into view over the edge of the concrete, and she opened her mouth and let her voice carry and bounce off of every surface until I was breathing it in and drowning in it.
At first, there was fear, of course: “I shouldn’t be here, this is someone’s spot, they’re going to know I’m here and tell me to get lost, and god knows that’s the last thing I need right now.”
Then she sang.