Fiction by Bayveen O’Connell
My mood ring’s been stuck on cobalt since I saw you laid out in a grey suit that made you look like an apprentice used-car salesman. Your lips were a Common Blue butterfly pinned taut and can’t have been the same ones that fluttered on mine the summer just gone; when you wrote out the lyrics to Chumbawumba’s Tubthumping for me and we danced around bonfires in the sand dunes shouting: I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down. We fell back onto the dune grass, our bodies splayed like stars, and sprang up again ’cause it prickled. You laced our fingers together, imprinting your palm onto mine. As the Atlantic roared behind us in our little sand hollow, as the flames jumped and the beer bubbled down our throats, we were two gods, immortals in our own open-roofed pantheon.
Then school started back in Autumn, and you wrote out the words to Nathalie Imbruglia’s Torn for some other girl ’cause my folks called you a distraction, made me quench what we had, said my ‘potential’ couldn’t wait for us. I over-did my eyeliner, ripped my uniform skirt, stopped washing my hair, and deliberately tanked at Maths and Geography. My best friend, Viv, purloined her older sister’s infamous break up mix tape for me and I didn’t speak to my parents, I quoted Losing my Religion at them at the dinner table, on the school run. Life is bigger, bigger than you, and you are not me.
You skipped our shared classes and never showed up for plays or presentations. Your friend Jules said you were in the dunes doing tricks on your dirt bike. The next time you were AWOL, I rode the bus to the beach with a folded note in my pocket: Lovesong by the Cure. However far away, I will always love you, However long I stay… From the rocks, I watched you jump and land, flying with the ease of a butterfly, the wind buffeting your jacket into wings as you twisted your handlebars. You sailed over sand mounds and disappeared into dips, and my mood ring blushed pink. It was enough just to see you. I didn’t call or sing to you, though I wished your hands on my face, my waist, I let you be without me.
When I turned from you and your rise and fall in your reign of sand, I didn’t know it would be for the last time. I didn’t know you’d get knocked down on your way home. I didn’t know you’d never get up again.