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When I fly
Annabelle wasn’t one of the most popular girls at St Augustine High. She knew it herself. But she was happy for the time being with her one close friend, Peggy. And it was difficult for Annabelle to stand up on the stage that day. Only watching Peggy, she felt her eyes sting and almost water over.
But Annabelle walked straight. She held her chin high and pushed up from her feet on every one of the steps.
No one clapped for the short, ginger haired girl who stood before them on the podium. Their hollow seeming eyes, turned upwards, were the only inclination to Annabelle that she had some attention. Her eyes went automatically to the boy in the third from back row. He was looking down at his feet that were by no doubt playing with the chair in front of this. Still, his face wore the grave expression that Annabelle knew was locked up inside of him and only let out on the high most of occasions. Annabelle tore her green bloodshot eyes from the boy, whose own bright blue ones were now up and watching her.
It was her time. She could say anything that she wanted. But she didn’t say much. One hand gripped the microphone and turned it towards her already fading lips.
“Hey everyone,” She tried to smile and reached desperately for some form of even false happiness. That would have to do at least. Her hand lifted in a makeshift wave. No one smiled. No one did anything really, apart from watch her. Annabelle’s eyes were now fixed on her friend, Peggy.
But Peggy, swift and sure, made her hair fall around her face as a curtain; her hands clawing out for serenity.
“Mr Vodauire has asked me to tell my story today. And all of it started only last week. I told my friend, Peggy and I’m not sure if any of you heard after that. But last week when I was sick with the flu, I couldn’t get out of bed. Most of the day I spent sleeping, but when I wasn’t, I just lay there. I didn’t eat too. There was a horrid indescribable pain in my stomach area. It was night time when I fell asleep one day. I can’t remember what day it was then, or for how long I slept. But when my eyes finally fluttered open, it was like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. But I didn’t feel beautiful. I felt… I don’t know how to describe it. But it’s most very likely, nothing that anyone here has ever or will ever experience. There was a lady, dressed all in white, leaning over me. I saw her try to smile at me. But it wasn’t a reassuring smile. It was just a smile. They informed me that I had acute lymphocytic leukaemia. My mother told them that, yes, I had been sick recently. Yes, a lot. They finally revealed to us, that since it was acute, the leukaemia had already become fatal. There was or is nothing that they can do.” Annabelle stroked her wavy hair, knowing that it would all be gone all too soon.
“Now, I have only a fortnight. And don’t come to me being pitiful. That is of no use to me. I know that not everyone here will come to visit me at the St. Peters Hospital. But I do hope to see some of you. Thank you for your time.” She turned and was about to make her decent down the stairs, but stopped and looked over her audience.
“Cherish it.” Her voice was kind and harsh at the same one time, and her eyes found the blonde at the back of the room. Caleb. Her mind echoed. Why can you never seem to look at me? But she was out of the hall and taken away by her mother all too soon.
Usually the words flowed, like a stream that could easily navigate its self around to the ocean. But, this particular time, Annabelle had poised her pen over the page and no words came. She had tried everything. Reading. Watching nature shows on the small television mounted on the white wall across from her white bed. There was a knock on the white door.
“Come in.” Her voice was bland and monotonous.
The door opened and his face was uncertain. It was a nice face to look at before… the day came. But it wasn’t the one that Annabelle had been hoping for. This one had shaggy brown hair and usually sparkling hazel eyes. Cupped in his hands was a huge bouquet of flowers. They were so colourful and beautiful. They were perfect. He smiled brightly when he saw her face light up.
“I’ve been in this hospital for a while before,” he started, while filling up a vase with water from the tap. “I hated how colourless it was, and I thought that you could do with a bit of colour.” He smiled right into her eyes, turning from the tap and arranging the flowers in the vase. This made Annabelle smile.
“Thank you Marc.” Her smile was not the slightest bit practiced, as so many of them had been recently. Marc’s face brightened when he realised that he had gotten just the reaction he was hoping for from the beautiful girl lying in the bed.
He knew that he must leave to get home to his fatherless family. But Marc, then and there, surprised himself.
“I have to go.” He said, but walked towards Annabelle instead. His finger caught on her soft hair, something that he had wanted to do for too long, and he brushed it away from her face and leaned in. Annabelle thought he was going to kiss her then. The very thought shocked her. But he went to the side, towards her ear where he had pushed out of the way, her fiery frizzed hair and whispered,
“Fly well, small bird.” And he turned his back to her, and left.
Marc was the first visitor Annabelle had since the day she had stood up on the stage and addressed her old school. It had been almost a week since then. At least, that’s what the calendar read. Annabelle slept so much that she lost track of all time. Fatigue was her only saviour from the pain.
The pad of paper rested once again, empty on her lap. Derived of words was her brain. But she tried. She pushed at the boundaries and started to write.
“Dear Caleb.” Her thoughts flicked back to Marc’s visit. He was still the only person who had come. “I have to go soon.” It felt strange admitting this, she thought. Much the same as speaking it aloud to a hall full of people. “In five days…” Annabelle looked at the flowers next to her. They were all different shades of orange and the petals that fell looked like feathers.
She wrote and wrote. She didn’t know how much time passed, but she was so consumed by her task that she didn’t take a single notice of her mother, who came to sit beside her daughter. Annabelle finished the letter that day. But it was not sent.
Annabelle reached over for her paper and the pen. She was almost caught by surprise when no hair fell in front of her eyes. She lifted the letter and brought her pen down on it. She scribbled over the now untrue words and rewrote. It now read, “in four days…” She read over the letter again and put it back on the table, before letting the darkness encircle her yet again.
Much like the day before, she changed the letter only slightly. “In three days…”
The blonde haired boy opened the white envelope. He didn’t recognise the handwriting at all. Sat on his bed, he unfolded the thin piece of lined paper and began to read. His blue eyes held no hint of a shine.
I have to go soon. I guess everyone does have to go someday. And sometimes I think of myself lucky. Luckier than some, at least, who don’t know their date. For most people, they never will. For most people it could be today or tomorrow or maybe next week. Or not even for another twenty years, maybe. I have two days from today.
I wonder recently, if it was a good choice to actually send this. You didn’t come to see me. I hoped for it, so hopelessly.
But, in only two days time now, my wings will have grown. I will fly away.
I don’t know when it will be, sooner or later. But someday, we will meet. And I hope that we can fly together.
Ps. I won’t know if you feel the same way. But I just wanted to say… I love you.”
The blonde haired boy put down the letter and he felt he could have smiled, but the wake of a single tear on his cheek conflicted harshly.
Leaving the single trace that he had of the girl in his bedroom, he ran out to the driveway and got in his car. He drove determined, and much faster than he usually would under normal circumstances.
He arrived in the hospital and leaped the stairs to the room that her letter had said she was being kept in. But there was no one there.
The white bed in the middle of the room was bare. The covers had been stripped, but there was something that caught in the light through the window suddenly. A single petal from a flower. It was the exact orange red colour of Annabelle’s hair, the blonde haired boy thought. He lowered his hand and let the petal slide into his open palm. Then he realised that the petal looked like a feather and he knew the meaning of it.
Next to where the petal had been was a tiny note. The handwriting was recognised by the blonde haired boy this time. The note said, Caleb. You are reading this which obviously means that my wings came earlier than expected. Thank you for coming to visit me. Yours truly, Annabelle. I love you.
He lifted the feather to his lips and kissed it softly before placing back down on the bed. And just like that, the girl he loved was gone.