Balloons: Yeah Writer’s Prompt
Written in reponse to this prompt: http://yeahwriters.tumblr.com/post/16485166667
Constructive Criticism welcome! Please feel free to leave a comment.
She tossed the balloons in my face the second I walked in the door.
I stepped back, surprised, but her tiny hands grabbed hold of my jacket and pulled me inside. All I could see in front of me were balloons, but I heard the door shut behind me. Then, I felt her slip around in front of me. Damn, she was quick.
I reached up and pushed the balloons to the side. There weren’t as many as I thought there were – she had just piled the four or five of them right in front of the door. When I parted them, I could finally get a good look at her. My Sasha.
She was smiling, but she was always smiling. Everything was a joke to her, and that, combined with her short stature and tiny features had earned her the nickname “The Imp.” She wore the name with pride, but confessed to me one night that she’d rather be called “Pixie.”
“It’s cuter,” she’d said, the starlight catching in her black hair and reflecting in her almost as black eyes. “And Pixies are just as mischievous. Dangerous even, in the old stories.”
“Mhmm,” I’d mumbled, playing with the sleeve of her sweater.
“Tobin! You aren’t even listening!” she’d whispered with a giggle, snatching her arm back from me. But I had been listening. In truth, I could never get tired of listening to her. Her words were like the stars in the black sky – lights that pierced the darkness.
I needed her words tonight. It had been a little past seven when she’d texted me, asking me to come over. It had only taken me ten minutes to get here, but in that time the sun had set. Twilight had taken over, and tonight there was no moon and no starlight.
But there was my pixie, my Sasha. Leaning against the wall and smiling as I detangled myself from a stray balloon.
“Hi,” I said, finally freeing myself from the last bit of string.
“Hello,” she said quickly. She talked a lot, and to make up for it, she always talked as fast as she could. But instead of immediately launching into a thousand-words-a-minute explanation of why she’d texted me so late on a school night, she did something I’d never seen before – she was quiet. She stood there, staring at me, leaning against the wall with her arms crossed in front of her. She was smiling, she was always smiling, but her mouth wasn’t moving.
“So um,” I swallowed the lump in my throat. “What’s up?”
“Not much,” she said evenly, picking a piece of lint off her sweater.
“You, uh, texted?” I had never been as good at speaking as she was.
“I did,” she said. She still didn’t say as much as she usually did, but I saw her smile grow a little wider and I immediately relaxed. It was just another one of her games. I’d learn the rules if I played along.
“So what did you waaant?” I asked, drawing out the last word playfully. Her eyes fell to the floor and her smiled faded ever so slightly. Sensing that I’d broken a “rule,” I switched topics. “What’s with the balloons?’
“It’s a celebration,” she said. Her hair had fallen forward, obscuring her face. Her hair was slightly damp and it reflected the overhead light, creating a shining halo around the top of her head. It was achingly beautiful, the band of white resting against the sheet of shimmering darkness. She looked like an angel, maybe one that had fallen through a cloud and gotten soaked as she plummeted towards Earth.
“What are we celebrating?” I asked, stepping forward and taking her in my arms. I felt the need to touch her, to make sure she was still real. I felt this often. I knew she wasn’t an actual angel, because angels were supposed to be flawless, but in some ways, she was better than an angel. I loved the way her left eye was slightly bigger than her right, the way her fingers were calloused from playing guitar and clammy from typing long into the cold winter nights. I liked that she had dark skin like her dad, instead of taking after her pale, former-beauty-queen mom. I loved that her hair was damp, and that she didn’t wear perfume and instead just smelled like her dog and her mom’s cooking and the candles she lit in her room even though she wasn’t supposed to. She was made perfect by her imperfections.
I leaned forward to kiss her, but she turned her head to the side and squirmed out of my arms. “We should talk,” she murmured, and for once, I had to strain to hear her. She strode over to the balloons, grabbed two, and handed one to me. Then, without a word, she strode into the drawing room.
To my left was her well-lived-in-living room. There, we had spent countless hours. We would usually play Wii – she liked to cheat at Mario Kart so she could win. Sometimes we watched TV or movies. She had an unhealthy obsession with crime shows, but hated the way they showed the actual crime being committed. She’d hide in my shoulder until it was over, so that she had a harder time unraveling the clues. She never backed away from a challenge.
The drawing room, on the other hand, had less memories attached to it, but potent ones. It was the room where, despite its name, pens and pencils were forbidden, and ornate couches and fine china laid out. Her mom held book club meetings in there monthly, and the “serious talk” was given to us on prom night in that room, but otherwise it was empty. The china remained untouched, the couches vacant.
I hesitated at the doorway, fiddling with the string of my balloon. “I thought this was reserved for, uh, special occasions?” I asked, unable to fight the blush away from my cheeks.
She mumbled something I couldn’t hear and sat on one of the couches, facing the window.
“What?” I stepped forward and sat down next to her.
She sighed and turned to me, sweeping her hair back over her shoulder. “I said, it is a special occasion. Maybe.”
“Maybe.” She said, chewing on her thumbnail and not saying anything else.
I suddenly noticed how quiet the rest of the house was. “Where’s your parents?” I asked, leaning back on the couch. A million possibilities ran through my head, and my pulse quickened.
“They went out to dinner with my aunt. For her birthday.” Her voice caught on the last word, and she went back to staring out the window. I followed her gaze, but I couldn’t see anything beyond the blackness that had fallen.
I reached for her hand, but she pulled it away and crossed her arms again. I suddenly felt like the strange game we’d been playing all night was simultaneously over and just beginning.
“Remember the last time we were in here?” She said suddenly, breaking the silence. There was a laugh in her voice, unsounded but still present. It was a dry, ironic laugh that left a bitter taste in my mouth, so unlike her usual sweet giggle.
“I assume you don’t mean Prom Night,” I said, nudging her gently. She turned towards me, but kept her eyes on the balloon string in her hands.
“No, not exactly.” She was smiling again.
“Or that time when we lost track of Bean after her walk and she wound up in the lap of your mom’s book club friend?”
She laughed, not quite her own laugh but closer to it. “No, that’s not what I mean.”
“So…” I felt myself blushing again. “The, uh, very last time?”
“Yeah, that one.” Her voice was suddenly soft, but I was caught up in memories.
“Well it’s kind of hard to forget,” I said, with an awkward cough. At the same time, I felt a tingling sensation rise in my stomach, and slowly spread throughout my body. “It only happens once, right?” I stared at the hardwood floor and tried very hard to wipe the grin off my face.
“Yeah. Just once. One time. It was pretty… a-amazing, right?”
I looked up. “Sasha?” She had drawn her knees up and was hugging them to her chest. She was still holding the balloon, a pink one to my blue, and she wouldn’t look at me. Her head was turned away. All I could see was her hair, and her shoulders – which had begun to shake.
“Sasha? Pixie? Pixie, what’s wrong?” She didn’t say anything, just buried her head in her arms. “Pixie! Talk to me! Are you – are you hurt?” I asked frantically, my pulse quickening again, but for entirely different reasons.
She mumbled something without lifting her head. “I – I don’t know what you just said,” I stammered. I reached for her, and this time, she collapsed into me. When she hit my chest, I realized she was not so much sobbing as screaming. Some words, but mostly guttural sounds that resembled sobbing, and moans.
“Noooo,” she moaned into my chest.
“No what?” I was too confused to follow any of her random trains of thought. All I knew how to do was hold her, tighter and tighter, until I felt like I might snap her in half. And still she only pressed closer to my chest.
“I-I’m not huuuurt,” she choked.
“Okay, okay Pixie,” I said, relief washing over me. I patted her hair, not sure what else to do. “Shh, shh. It’s okay.”
“IT’S NOT OKAY.” She screamed. She took a deep breath, and held it in. Silence fell around us again. And when she exhaled, she finally looked me in the eye for the first time all night.
“It is not okay, Tobin. It is not.” Her eyes were hard, like steel, and ringed with red from earlier crying. She looked dangerous, like an actual Pixie from the old stories. Her lips curled into a smile, the kind of smile that comes before the tears, and she looked at me and said:
Then the steel fell away from her eyes and for a minute all I saw was my Pixie, my Sasha, and her brown eyes looked warm before they dissolved into tears.
My mind mutinied for a minute, and all I could think about was a warm night in September. Holding her close on the porch swing as we looked up at the stars. Her lips soft and sweet against my skin as they whispered to me, telling me about Pixies and the oldest fairytales. The starlight being captured in her eyes and her hair, until we went inside. We didn’t turn on the light, didn’t make a sound as we felt our way into the drawing room and to the white couch by the window. The contrast of her dark skin against the ivory couch, and then, against my own pale skin. From there I only remember how it felt, how the tingling sensation built in my stomach until it was a fire raging through my body. I remembered the curve of her hips, the feeling of her hair in my fingers. It was these awkward moments that had felt magical for months, and had grown only more sentimental and precious in my imagination. But now I remembered them in almost perfect clarity; I remembered the nervousness, the fumbling, the quickness of it all. The feeling afterward of being both proud and a little confused – was that really it? I remembered wanting to ask her, ask her what she thought, ask her if she thought we did something wrong – was that really it?! - but the sight of her, looking up at me made me stop. Instead I whispered “I love you, Pixie,” into her ear, and we crept upstairs to bed. And the thing I would remember most from that night, would be the way she looked afterwards, the way she looked up at me.
She was smiling. She was always smiling.