The Walk Back
there is something about pain...
it makes life precious
yet also makes death craved.
“Hey, Olive!” a cheery voice yelled from behind me and I sighed, pulling my hoodie closer to my face as I turned to my best friend, Arleen. She stood across the street, waving enthusiastically before looking left and right and shoving her hands deep into the pockets of her pink jacket.
“I told you not to call me that,” I waited until she stood next to me before voicing my displeasure, grumbling halfheartedly when she threw herself on me as retaliation. She tossed her arm across my shoulders and she grinned as though she had eaten a bowl of sunshine. At times I doubted her sanity, smiling so wide on such a gloomy day, but who was I to judge? I was a freak myself.
“Call me Olly.” I let out a soft laugh, already infected by her excitement. I tucked the book in my hand under my arm, lifted her off the ground and spun around as per our normal routine. It didn’t take long for my breathing to get heavy and laboured, my chest already aching from the little exercise. I would have blamed the cold but I knew otherwise. I was weak and I knew it.
She laughed as I set her down again and flicked my nose, somehow noticing that my mood had dimmed. “It’s best you embrace your feminine side.”
I paused, my voice carrying a note of sarcasm as I compared the color of her combat boots to the snow that covered the sidewalk. “You’ll be the first to know when I make that transition.”
“You know,” Arleen shook her head, her warm, dark eyes lighting up as she hooked her arm in mine. “I wouldn’t want you any other way.”
I stared at our intertwined hands, at her caramel and chocolate skin, then at my pale fingers. Like her boots and the snow, the contrast was obvious and we knew it; we loved it that we were so different. But while she didn’t seem to mind the eyes that followed us as we walked together, I did.
I felt their eyes bore through my many layers of clothing, searching. I knew they could see me. The me hidden behind the sea of fabric, the one I wanted no one to realize existed.
A light laugh was shared between us, a moment too late to be able to disperse the awkward atmosphere I had created. I sighed again, not able to stop my fingers from tugging at the end of my well-oversized hoodie in an attempt to make myself less noticeable.
“I’m heading to the library,” I told her quietly, my eyes falling on the few people that littered the street. How I wish I could hide from their gazes. “It’s getting dark. . . I’ll walk you home?”
She hummed in agreement, her eyes trained on the fresh layer of snow that covered the ground. She clung onto me tightly as though if anybody tried to hurt her I would be the one to protect her. We both knew I couldn’t even protect myself and that she was really here for my sake, but it was an illusion we liked to immerse ourselves into. . . and I was thankful for it.
We walked in silence and I took the time to study Arleen’s face, her downcast gaze, chocolate skin and the bundle of curly black, untameable hair that sat atop her beautiful head. She used to wear glasses, if I remembered correctly, but now she wore contacts.
Arleen had become my friend on our first day of highschool, for obvious reasons. She was being bullied by the racist idiots who were of the opinion that force fixed nonexistent problems and I had stepped up to stop them. . . only to be mocked for being too delicate and girly. From then on the stars aligned, we had found each other.
What we had was a perfect friendship with mutual understanding; a relationship that stemmed from comfort; a support system.
It wasn’t love.