The Balloon

By
Our gazes connected as we stared at one another. I stood on the ground, watching the girl balance herself on the railings. I did nothing to stop her, but I knew what she was about to do. The winter air swept through her brown hair as she stood there, as if waiting for something. Finally, her face broke into a smile as she recognized my familiar face. She jumped…


“Nice to see you again,” I said to the girl, holding her hand. “But was that really necessary?” My other hand brushed away several wood chips as I stroked her hair. Fifteen minutes later, the two of us had exited Central Park and were now exploring the extravagant city New York, a big difference from our suburban hometown in New Jersey. This was the site of our first date together. The girl, Claire, answered my question with a small chuckle. As soon as I was done, Claire broke free from me and danced her way through the crowds of people with a delicate finesse. I sighed again and followed her, burying my chin in my coat. I was still amazed at how jaunty, energetic, and cheerful Claire actually was, considering what had happened before. She seemed more of a kid than a teenager. Slowly, light, white snowflakes drifted down and settled in my hair.





*********


Claire hid in the corner of her bedroom. She just wanted everything to stop, and she didn’t want to feel lonely anymore. As the best of her class, she was expected to be perfect in everything, but nobody had ever bothered to talk to her. Everyone thought she was just some freak that knew nearly everything. She had no friends, and her parents kept on pressuring her. Claire had no one to talk to, and her problems continued to build up. With nowhere to go, she resorted to this. Wielding the kitchen knife, she sliced the skin on her arm, one cut after another. It hurt so much, but that only made her cut harder.



*********


Claire peered into a storefront window, attracted by all of its bright, red and green lights. Nutcracker soldiers, large and small, prepared for battle and Rudolph was suspended in mid-air a sleigh chasing behind. The grinning and smiling expression remained on Claire’s face as she looked at the little decorations. Without a word, she stepped back and moved on to the next window. Every one of these decorated, illuminated windows seemed to draw out someone I had never met before.



*********


After ten or eleven cuts, Claire had stopped for a moment. Her clothes were now laced with blood as she still held on to the knife. The deep crimson liquid leaked from each of the cuts, dripping down onto the floor. Her once clear vision had become blurry with tears, and her head was getting more and more dizzy. She began to choke on her own tears; Claire held up the knife again. Suddenly, the door opened. A boy burst in and ran to her. Even though he was aware of the knife, he still ran to her. Without any hesitation, he hugged her, causing her to drop the knife. She knew who this was. He was the boy from that time at the grocery store, that really nice boy… Steven. Claire didn’t know why he was here or how he got in, but all she knew was that he broke through the sorrow.



*********


Claire and I were once again were holding hands. We had no destination in mind; we just wanted to explore this lustrous city. Suddenly, a man dressed as Santa Claus emerged in front of us, holding dozens of balloons. “Free balloons!” he shouted, handing a green one to Claire, then some to other people. Claire looked it over for a while, but she had no intention of keeping it. She released the string and the balloon began to float, carrying snow as it floated up. At first, I was puzzled at this, but then I understood her intentions, what she truly meant. Her facial expressions had changed; it was an expression of relief, as if releasing an enormous burden that has been accumulated over so many years.

Night soon came, but the real show was just about to start. The two of us walked towards the blockade as hundreds of people came behind us. One by one parade floats came into view, rolling down the street. Each of them was heavily decorated with ornate and flamboyant designs. From a gigantic sleigh to a gigantic Frosty, everything was there. However, neither Claire nor I was paying any attention to them. I wrapped my arms around her as she nestled her head on my chest. Through the huge roar of applause and clapping, Claire heard my heart beating, hers as well. Claire turned a bright scarlet and butterflies filled her stomach, but this was a special moment. She felt so secure and warm around my arms, and I felt glad to be here with her. We slowly began to waver as our bodies began to shift as well. The small movements gradually increased as we danced a little dance of our own. Both of us felt happy…this is a memory that will last.



Claire clung on to my back as I began to walk back to the train station. She had fallen deep asleep, but I just chuckled to myself and looked up at the stars. The stars were numerous and all of them shone so brightly. Strangely, a green dot joined them. It seemed so free and unburdened, able to escape the world…





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