A Similar Difference

September 14, 2008
By Pharyne Stephney, Indianapolis, IN

Only once did she try to hide her peculiarity, and that had been years before she had ever met Luc Adrian, though not before she had dreamed about him considering that for always and forever visions of her one true love floated through her head. On the day of her attempted cover up she had tried with all her might to come up with some excuse that would justify such a ‘self-degrading’ act as her mother had referred to it as. She had not been able to compose her defense, but Jelena had still left her house with layers upon layers of sweaters. But her efforts were futile. Her glowing heart still glimmered through the heavy fabrics and the people still stared at her and ridiculed her.

“Don’t pay any attention to them,” Jelena’s mother barked in her habitual petulant voice, “They just can’t handle someone that’s different.”

If the words had been said to sooth young Jelena they had not done their job, for she was as dismal and self-conscious as ever.

But over the years she had taught herself blindness to the awkward, questioning stares and deafness the whispers of mockery. And as she grew into a young lady, her beauty grew with her until she was like a delicate flower, soft and fair. Her hair was dark and curled precisely, her eyelashes long, her lips rosy and full, her body petite and lengthy, and her heart shining bright and fading with every perpetual beat. She was the one and only girl with a glowing heart, and even on that one day when she had worn all the layers of clothes, its luminosity could not be dampened. There was nothing wrong with her heart—it was as functional as anybody else’s, or so the doctor had said—it just glowed.

As a teenager, Jelena had yet to find another human being who truly cared for her, other than her single mother. There were people who felt sorry for her, pitied her even, and so in guilt took up her company, but never out of true fondness did they stay, and Jelena never quite understood why.

She was normal.

Except for her glowing heart, but what in that was so terrible?

It was a bit bizarre, no doubt about it, but she just wished that people could see beyond that abnormality, and make out who she really was as a person, as an emotional person with thoughts and feelings just like everyone else.

The first time she saw Luc Adrian, Jelena didn’t experience anything especially grand. She saw how devastatingly dark and beautiful he was, but there had been no fireworks, no blasting horns, or heart palpitations. He was gorgeous, a bit tragic looking, but it was much later that Jelena realized the weight that his first glance at her had bore. It was much later that Luc began tormenting her mind, and her desire for him began to bubble inside of her body.

Soon Jelena began to yearn for their mutual glance that they shared everyday. It became her reason for waking up in the morning and venturing off into her personal hell more commonly referred to as high school. He was her reason for going; and he barely knew her.

They had never spoken to each other. Even after months of staring at each other from across the classroom everyday for three months, they still had never even heard each other speak. Often Jelena fantasized about what Luc Adrian’s voice sounded like.

Deep and rich one day, the next light and melodic.

It passed the time, and for that Jelena was grateful. Time lingered, barely passing when you were a freak like she was. Staring and fantasizing about Luc was enough to sustain her sanity, and for the first time she didn’t mind going through day to day life.

Luc was indescribable to Jelena. She had tried to explain to her mother only once and had failed miserably. Nothing that she could say or write down did him justice, so she kept to describing his clothes. Those, at least, were ordinary. Dark jeans usually, sometimes, rarely though, they would be a lighter, washed-out color. He always wore a black leather jacket, worn from constant wear, and dark laced shoes.

“That doesn’t sound extraordinary to me,” Jelena’s mother had grunted. Jelena’s sudden boy crazy mood had become more than a little irritating.

After that Jelena refused to speak to her mother about Luc. She would never understand the impact that his fleeting glance once a day had on her life. How his eyes would burn into her, analyzing with meticulous laxity, an oxymoronic stare in that he would burrow into her mind with restricted abandon.

It took Jelena months to realize that he never seemed faltered by her glowing heart, just curious sometimes. Usually his eyes never fell to her chest where the light swelled and faded with each rhythmic pulse. That was the strangest thing of all, Jelena thought. Nobody had ever discarded her defect like that before. Nobody.

Why was Luc so different? Why was his stare so scrupulously engrossed, giving just enough to keep Jelena hooked? Why did his stare have such a chokehold on her, his eyes scorching her insides, yet numbing her pain?

It was after several months that Jelena first approached Luc. They weren’t in school, but rather on the street where he apparently lived. He had been surrounded by a group of his friends when she had walked up to him. Silence fell immediately, followed by whispers. Jelena was used to this. Where she went silence, then whispers, followed like a shadow.

It had been a death blow when Luc had disregarded her. His eyes were forlorn and weary, and he turned his back on Jelena, for the first time completely uninterested. The mockery was next, and this Jelena was used to as well, but never in her life had it ripped through her body in such a way.

Was this was murder felt like?

That same night was when she took the knife to her chest. The blade hurt no doubt, but it was nothing like the pain she had felt when Luc had snubbed her with casual indifference. The blade was easy compared to that pain.

She took her heart out of her chest and let it rest in her hands, still beating, still glowing, and as she gazed down at it, fierce resentment rose throughout her. There it was, nestled in her hands, the source of all her problems. How small it looked; she would have thought it would have been bigger. The light that it produced however was almost blinding.

She ran as quickly as she could towards Luc’s street, though she found him about halfway out in the deserted arid land that separated the city from the countryside. Why he was out there alone, Jelena didn’t know, but she was glad.

Life without a heart was becoming difficult to maintain and she could felt herself crawling more and more towards entropy.

Jelena called out his name in a voice that was foreign to her; how different she sounded now, like she was an entirely knew person. Luc tilted his head up towards her and immediately his brow furrowed. Again there was sadness in his eyes, and Jelena took a moment to soak in his beauty. Then his face twisted in horror as he gazed upon the gaping whole in Jelena’s chest and the shining heart pounding in her hand.

Jelena was so mesmerized by the strange and stunning look in Luc’s face that she didn’t see the dead tree root raised above the cracked ground, and she stumbled over it. Falling seemed like an eternity, and she watched, time stalling, as her heart fell from her hands and busted onto the ground. Next her body smacked against the land, and she felt herself break. She saw her heart splatter into a puddle of liquid luminosity, and felt herself growing dimmer.

Luc was running towards her, horrified, yet still beautiful, and Jelena took her last moments to gaze upon him in all his glory. She felt Luc’s burning hands against her face and then watched as they shifted towards his zipped up black leather jacket. Jelena wasn’t sure what he was doing at first, she was so completely disoriented, but when she saw the light she understood.

She was staring at his bare, glowing chest now. How it pounded just like hers had. The light was brilliantly perfect, and Jelena watched it illuminate and darken as she slipped off into the obscurity, understanding for the first time that she was not alone.

Nobody in this world is truly alone; there is always somebody out there with the same shimmering heart as you, though there whereabouts so often remain the best kept secret until the end.

The author's comments:
This was a story that I wrote for a competition last school year. The theme was "Secrets."

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