Parallel: A Short Story

Length: 18 pages

Parallel

           Christian has been my neighbor for two years. That’s approximately seven-hundred sixty-nine and a half days or eighteen-thousand four-hundred sixty-eight hours. We both go to Saint Martin de France private school, ride the same bus, are in the same classes, and play on the same volleyball team together. But we don’t know each other. I’m still new to France, coming from the States it still feels lonely.

           Yesterday, I was reading The Little Prince in my secret tree on a cliff overlooking the French city, Terre Blanche. This is my cliff, nobody comes here. It’s a quiet spot for me to clear my head and take in the gentle breeze. I have no friends, and  I don’t even know if anyone has knowledge of its existence. I heard the crunching of leaves over the crushing of my teeth on Goldfish and turned so abruptly I almost fell out of the tree. Through the swaying overgrown grass, I began to see Christian walking towards to edge. He flung out his arms as if he were going to fly off into the distance and with a shake of his head, he screamed. His voice rumbled in the wind as thunder and I heard him speak for the first time.

           “Écoute Moi!” Listen to me! His voice caught in his throat as he fell to his knees and sobbed. I had no idea what to do and I certainly didn’t want him to know I was watching him. I jumped out of the tree and ran to the dirt road, grabbed my bicycle and rode as fast as I could back to the matchy street of houses I live on.

           I escaped at that moment, but avoiding him the next day would be much harder. Rushing through the gate and up the steps, I flew into our “perfect, white picket fence home” as mother called it. Right away, she scolded me for slamming the door.

           “Natasha! Enough with that.” I pushed past her and grumbled as I made way to my bedroom.

“Yes, madam.” I turned my back and rolled my eyes.

           “Don’t make plans tomorrow after volleyball practice, we’re going to grab a treat at the Young’s Café as a family.” I flopped onto my bed and started my homework.

I saw Christian at volleyball practice, today. He stayed in the back corner and looked at the ground the whole time. His dirty-blonde hair rested perfectly on his head, as still as his body. He probably only plays because extracurricular activities look good on college applications. Volleyball deserves more love and attention than what Christian gives it.

My mother and I walked through the café door and a bell dinged above our heads. I closed my eyes and inhaled the rich scent of espresso and baked goods, instantly feeling lighter. Deep breath. I shook away my nerves of the crowded café. Sliding into the black leather booth I looked across the table at my father. He pushed up his square-framed glasses and straightened his suit before standing.

“Ah, there you are, Tasha.” He nods toward my mother. “LeAnn, take a seat. I already ordered for the both of you.”

“Great. What a wonderful husband you are, Mark.” The sarcasm is woven in her words. I glanced between them, wrinkling my brow in confusion, still not speaking a word.

“    Tash, your mother and I wanted to talk to you about something.” He folded his hands on the table as if the conversation was casual. Both of them stared back at me, asking for some sort of response.

“Okay?” I looked at my mother and back at him. He sighed heavily and sat back down,  unbuttoned his crisp jacket and fumbled for the right words.

“It’s just, um.” He wove a straw wrapper between his fingers, nervously. Nodding towards Mother, he silently pleads for her to help him out. She placed her perfectly manicured fingers on my shoulder.

I glanced around the café to make sure nobody was gawking at us and took a deep breath.

“Sweetie, what your father is trying to say is…we’re getting a divorce.”

You’ve got to be kidding me. I grabbed my bag and walked around her toward the washroom, blinking my eyes slowly to keep from seeing all the people.

“We’re here if you have any questions!” She trailed after me as I calculated how I missed this. When did they decide this? How could they? I ran directly into Christian, knocking myself back a few steps. Different shades of brown liquid swam at our feet along with shards of white ceramic from the mugs.

“Um, uh, sor-” I stumbled over my words and sank to the floor, picking up the ceramic, while hot tears slid down my cheeks. Christian pulled me up and yelled toward the back of the café.

“Serviettes! Towels! Bring me towels! Agh, nobody ever listens!” He alternated between French and English, trying to gain anyone’s attention. I closed my eyes, listened intently, mentally going over everything that just happened. Breathe in, breathe out. Everyone carried on with their business as if he wasn’t even speaking. He huffed and stomped to the towel rack, bringing back a few to clean the mess I made. I got home as fast as I could manage before locking myself in my room for the rest of the day.

The next morning, my father’s stuff was out of the house. There wasn’t a picture in sight with him in it. None of his laundries was in the hamper, and his keys were still hanging next to the door on the copper wire rack. Little did I know, that would be the last time I saw my father.

At the end of the school day, mathématiques class dismissal rang and students around me hurried out of the small room. Our professor stood and watched one by one as everyone left. I was the second to last one out, directly in front Christian. He tugged on the back of my jacket trying to get my attention.

“Christian, wait.” He turned and raised one eyebrow muttering something low. “What? Stop muttering,” He froze, his eyes went wide and his face grew white like he saw a ghost. His eyes alone were ghostly, so white they screamed we’re the windows of the soul. He let go of my jacket abruptly. “Uh, Christian?”

“You can hear me? No.” He kept shaking his head in disbelief. But I certainly heard every syllable. Tears built in his eyes and his smile was wide. Man, he has beautiful teeth.

He pushed the door open. “People can’t hear you?” I paused. He walked toward the buses to go home and I grabbed my bike before turning my head away from him. “Sorry uh- about…” I waved my hand in the air trying to find the words, “café.”

“No worries. Wanna go to the park and talk?” He ran his fingers through his hair.  I felt the blush creep up my cheeks and nodded in agreement to go with him.

I dipped my feet in the fountain and squinted from the sun. I looked at him as he rolled up his jeans.

“I’m sorry for being so baffled by you talking to me.” He seemed as jittery as I was so I didn’t press him. “I spent seventeen years of my life with nobody hearing a word I’ve said. They just buzz on by without even a simple acknowledgment. Any time someone does look at me, they feel sorry for me and go on about how my ‘disability’ shouldn’t hold me back.” I cringed a little knowing I was one of those people who hadn’t noticed him.

“I’ve always heard you muttering, thought you were some quiet, lonely kid who never interacted with people besides yourself. Like me.” I finally said. He folded his hands at the base of his neck and inhaled sharply.

“Pardon me.” He got up from the fountain and put on his shoes.

“Woah, wait.” I followed him on the slabbed path. My feet splashed with each step.

“I’m going crazy.” He chuckled. “Ç’est de la folie.” This is madness. I ran ahead of him and as he greeted a lady on a park bench.

“Hello madam, Can you hear me?” She stared at him before going back to her novel. “Can you hear my friend, here?” Christian looked at me.

“Um, hello madam,” I said and she waved me off.  I pulled him away and ran back to the fountain and made him sit. Anxiety rippled through me, I am the only one who can hear him. That’s a huge responsibility.

“Okay, so that was really weird!” I’m belly deep in a laugh trying to shake off the nerves and he just sat there watching me. I realized a moment too late that this was not something to laugh about. “I’m a science and mathématiques fanatic and right now this ordeal is impossible.”

“So you do speak whole sentences…nobody but you hears me, Natasha.” He rubbed his hands down his face and rested his forearms on his thighs. I felt a sense of a need to help him, maybe, in the long run, it’ll help me be comfortable outside of my shell. He makes me feel a little more confident than most people.

“Please, call me Tash,”

He nodded and said, “Meet me at the cliff overlooking Terre Blanche tomorrow after school.” We both headed home.

I loaded my knapsack with dry-erase-board markers, two notebooks, pens, every science book I own and lots of Goldfish in ziplock baggies right after I got home from Secondary School. I walked to the cliff because I couldn’t carry everything and ride my bicycle at the same time. I reached my destination five minutes early, unfolded my easel and set up my dry-erase-board. I didn’t see him in class so I hoped he would still show up. I checked my small wristwatch as soon as Christian ran into view.

“Here, put up today’s date.” I handed him a marker and sifted through some books. He panted like a dog and I looked up at him, in big red letters it read May 12th, 2018. “Draw a line down the center. We’re going to have a “what we know” side and a “want to know” side.

“Today you’re bossy. You planned this all out, huh?” He chuckled lightly and picked up a green marker to start listing off information. I felt a bit more fortitude with that label.

“Okay, so here’s a notebook. Let’s brainstorm for solutions. I had all night to think about this.” I started writing a few ideas before noticing Christian staring at his blank page. “You okay?” He nodded with a frown. “Don’t worry.” We know I’m the only one that can hear him, but we don’t know why. It’s scientifically impossible for a single person alone to be the only one who can hear him. The question is, what can we do about it? How do we change it?

“For right now, we explore our options and figure out other ways you can communicate with people without using your voice.” His bright eyes looked up towards me from the thick lush grass. I saw the hope sparkling inside of him, begging to hold on a little longer. “Let’s go grab a snack, we can talk about this tomorrow.”

The next day, I rode my bike to school and took in the sweet smell of flowers mixed with fresh cut grass. Mmmm. I locked it into the bike rack directly outside the school doors and walked to the crowd on the sidewalk.

Someone yelled in agony and I tried to see past everyone’s shoulders. I pushed through and saw Christian lying on the ground while two boys kicked him in the ribs. His forehead was bleeding and his face brush burned from the cement. “STOP!” The boys swiftly turned around and laughed mockingly.

“Look here, it’s your stupid quiet girlllfriend, finally speaking up. You two are perfect for each other, Losers.”  Butterflies filled my belly with that single word. Everyone around them started laughing along with him. He spits at me just as I heard shoes clacking on the sidewalk behind me.

“That’s enough! Jack, my office now!” Principal Mike pointed his finger toward the doors. The crowd cleared out except for Principal Mike, Christian, and me.

“Natasha, can you help him to the nurse’s office?” I nodded and bent down to help Christian as the principal walked away. I swiped his hair out of his eyes and his lip turned up.

“He called you my girlfriend,” was the first thing Christian said. I swatted his arm lightly and giggled.

“Come on, get up. I’ll walk you to the nurse.” I wrapped my arm around him to pull him up and his hand slid into mine. I looked away to suppress a smile when the butterflies returned, the warmth radiated straight into my heart. “I think we should consider sign language. I learned in Primary School, I can teach you and get an interpreter for when I’m not around so they can translate.” I said, trying to avoid facing what I just felt.

“Now that I got you talking, you just can’t stop.” He snorted and squeezed my hand. “Tasha talks now, Tasha talks now,” He whistled and sang.

“We should grab dinner sometime, Mr. Cheery-for-a-guy-who-just-got-kicked-in-the-ribs,” I said before closing the nurse’s door. He winked from the other side of the glass pane.

The week after the fight at Secondary School, Christian took me up on that offer. We planned to meet at his parents’ house around seven at night sharp. My mom was adamant about telling him to have me home by ten. She acts like we’re a couple or something, and we live right across the street. Christian picked me up and we went on to have the best Chicken Basquaise I’ve had in my life.  

“This is delicious! Thank you so much.” I smiled warmly at James and Melody. They glanced at each other and Melody, Christian’s mom, choked on her wine.

“Of course it is, we don’t make it cheap like-” She swirled her red wine in the glass. “well, the rest of this neighborhood,” her tone matched the smug look on her face. I swallowed down the dish and excused myself to the washroom.

“We’ll be right back, Christian.” James stood from the large oak table directly after me. I turned my back from them and furrowed my brow as they drew behind me. As I reached the doorknob Mark put his hand on the door firmly, holding it shut.

“Not so fast young lady,” Melody scoffed. I turned slowly toward them and smirked.

“What? You have some rule about guests using your washroom?” Humor glimmered in my eyes.

“We know who you are.” They whispered in unison. I laughed in their faces and pushed through them, to run straight into Christian, again. Hah, they know who I am? I’m just a quiet States girl. They seem so threatened by me. That’s hilarious. He caught me as I started to lose balance and grinned a wide toothy smile. Ugh, why is he so per-? No, stop that. I halted myself before finishing that thought.

“Why are you running?” He smirked.

“Oh, uh, sorry Christian. No reason, Can I go home?” My heart thumped loudly in my chest.

“Yeah, sure.” He shook his head in disappointment. I could see the confusion written in his features. Before Christian walked me home, Melody pulled me into a tight hug.

“Stop encouraging him,” she peeled herself off of me with a disgusted expression. I didn’t say anything on my way back home.

Christian stopped me before my sidewalk, “I really had a great time tonight, thank you, Tasha.” He brushed a strand a hair behind my ear. He’s going to kiss me, eeek!! He dropped his hand from my face and walked across the street, I watched as he waved from his door before shutting it. False alarm. The loneliness in my heart ate away all the butterflies in my belly, taking over once again. I crawled into bed not even acknowledging my mom’s questions about the dinner and stared at the dark ceiling for the rest of the night.

The morning sun greeted me still lying awake, drowsiness had taken over but I didn’t let it defeat me into the abyss of sleep. The day slugged by each hour at a time, trying to teach Christian sign language felt like a losing battle.

“We can start with the alphabet, you have to practice, you won’t learn it instantly,” I reassured him. He slammed the flashcards down on the library table.

“I’m not something you can fix, Natasha!” He shouted and knocked the chair backward.

“Just try for me, Christian.” Tears stung the corners of my eyes, eager to escape.

He shook his head and looked at his shoes, “No.” I sat with my head in my hands crying for half an hour after he walked out before deciding to return home. Rolling up to the letterbox on my bike I grabbed today’s post to bring in for my mother. I noticed a yellow envelope addressed to me, without thinking I ripped it open.

“Nous te regardons, -J & M” We’re watching you was calligraphed across the letter boldly. Noted. I threw it in the wire paper bin placed conveniently at the entrance of my home. My phone vibrated in my pocket when I reached my pink floral bedroom. Christian.

“Sorry for yelling, Need a break.” I sighed and shut my door quietly, leaning my forehead against the smooth wood. A weight felt lifted from my shoulders, a tear cascaded down my face and a smile broke through.   

Later that day, while I was working out, my doorbell rang. I heard my mother speaking to the guest before calling my name up the stairs. I tiptoed down the birch steps and looked around the banister. I was startled when I saw Christian standing in my doorway. They both turned to face me.

“Christian stopped by, although I’m not sure why. He hasn’t said anything, just stood here.” Her uneven breathing told me she was on edge.

“No worries, mother. He’s not much of a talker. Give us a minute?” She smiled lightly and walked into the den. Christian and I walked out onto the patio and I latched the front door.

“Hey,” I said in a barely whisper and took a seat on the swing. He sat next to me and sighed.

“Hey, you.” He leaned forward on his knees. I pulled my feet up onto the red cushion and wrapped my arms around my legs. He rubbed his hands over his eyes and stood up. I glanced up at him, his hair a mess, his eyes red with frustration. He got down on his knees in front of me and looked up, pleadingly. “I’m so sorry. I had to see you, I had to apologize. I’ll try sign language again.” His white eyes glowed beneath his long dark lashes and his brow furrowed, asking for a reply. “Please forgive me for yelling at you. I’ll learn for you.”

“It’s okay, Christian.” I reached for his hand, he hesitated before grabbing mine. I stood up and pulled him with me. He wrapped his arms around my waist and nuzzled his face into my neck.

“I thought I lost you, over something so stupid.” I felt one of his tears run down my throat.

“Christian,” I paused, giving him time to relax. “I have to tell you something.” He pulled away, but still held my hand.

I looked at the connection between his fingers and mine. “I got a letter today…” I let go of his hand and rubbed the sweat on my blue jeans. “It had your parents initials on it.” He backed up into the railing.

“What did they say?” He said through gritted teeth. I reached for him. “What did the letter say, Tasha?” My arm fell back at my side. “Tasha, now. Show me the letter.” He slammed his fist in the wooden banister.

“Um, uh, I threw it in the wastebasket.” He looked at me through his long dark lashes.

“Is this some sick joke?” He spewed. “Did you not even think to tell me when you got the letter? I felt bad for you, with your parents, and you always being so lonely.” It took seconds before angry tears ran down my face. I pushed him down the steps.

“Go home! Don’t even talk to me!” I ran up the oak porch and slammed the door. My mother stood at the den entryway and watched me.

“Everything okay, sweetie?” She smiled. I glared at her and went straight to the shower.

Sometime in the middle of washing my hair, I sank down to the bottom of the tub. My Chemical Romance screamed on the other side of the curtain, drowning out the sound of my sobs. My tears and the water became one, nobody would ever tell the difference.

The next three days crawled by at the pace of a snail. I stayed in my room and missed two days of school. My mom has put out a dish of crêpes and hot chocolate every morning before she left for work at the local library. I made the decision that today will be the last day I mope around. It’s time I start doing something about how I feel. It’s time to confront Christian’s parents and find out what their problem with me. As for Christian, I’m still unsure what to do about him.

I climbed out of my cave of a bed and grabbed all of the dishes to take downstairs. As I reached the last step, there was a knock on the door. Why knock when we have a doorbell? I sat the dishes down on the table by the door. Usually, it’s cluttered with mail and other random things but today it’s clean. I peeped out the door and see nobody standing there. Glancing around, I opened the door wider to get a better look.

“Hello?” I listen for anyone, nothing. I shut the door and made my way to the dishwasher. That’s when I saw it. Another letter taped on the outside of our kitchen window above the sink. It read “Une Fois est un avertissement Deux fois est une menace. -J&M” Once is a warning, Twice is a threat. I loaded the dishwasher and stomped out the door right over to Christians house.

I pounded on their door, infuriated. When Melody opened the door, I didn’t give her a chance to ask questions.

           “What is this?!” I pushed the letters in her face. My heart raced and my blood boiled beneath the surface. Her face stayed blank, unimpressed. “Answer me now, Melody.”

    “It’s Mrs. Young to you, little lady.” She sneered. Without a second thought, I slapped her across the face. She took a step back, tripping over her red Louboutin’s. He cheek turned fire-engine red and she placed her palm on it. “Don’t make me call the law enforcement on you!” She yelled. I walked back to my house with the letters in my grip.

           When my mother came home from work she told me Melody and James wanted to talk to me this evening and I was invited over for dinner.

           “I assume it’s because you and Christian are getting so serious.” Her smile was wide and bright.

           “We aren’t getting serious, we aren’t even talking, mother.” She faded for a moment and smiled again.

“It’s probably to talk about your argument. You’ll work things out, I’m sure of it.” I didn’t respond to that remark because it was simply pointless. I walked over to their house around dinner time and knocked on the door less aggressively than earlier. Both James and Melody answered warmly, when I entered, the warmth quickly turned cold.

           “Who do you think you are, coming to my home, screaming at my wife?” He curled and uncurled his fist, trying to fight the urge to punch me. Christian walked up behind them and stopped mid-stride when he saw my face.

“Why are you here?” He snarled. I started laughing hysterically, the past three days finally catching up to my brain. All three of them looked at me like I was insane.

    “All of you are crazy,” I said, they raised their eyebrows in sync.

           “We’re the crazy ones?” Melody eventually spoke up. “You’re delusional.”

           “But, we still need to have a conversation.” James cut in.

”    You’re right we do!” I spat. He leads out his arm towards the dining room.

“Then, let’s get to it.” Melody sat first, adjusting her black cocktail dress. Christian leaned against the arm of the sofa. James began explaining why I was invited over.

“First things first, we didn’t send the letters. Melody mentioned our initials were signed at the bottom but we did not write them.” For once he actually seemed calm and collected. No more firecracker James? What a shame. “How much did your parents tell you about why they’re divorcing?” Curiosity flickered in his smirk.

“Uh, how? Um.” I looked at Christian and he shifted his eyes quickly away from mine.

“Spit it out,” Melody states boldly. I put my head down.

“How’d you…um.”

“Know about the divorce?” James asked and I nodded, still looking at the carpet. “Your father told me.” His expression was unreadable when I looked up. “So, tell me, how much do you know?” I took a deep breath and a leap of faith. Christian still hasn’t looked back at me.

“They didn’t explain why. They said they were divorcing and they were there if I had questions. I didn’t ask them.” He rubbed his thumb and forefinger on his chin. I never realized how much Christian looks like him. Chiseled jaw, copy-and-paste eyes, prominent cheekbones. He’s an exact replica of James.

“Ah. Would you like to know?” He flashed his white teeth in my direction, yet another thing Christian gets from his father. Perfect teeth.

“Why are you being so kind all of the sudden? You literally were threatening me the other night.” Christian finally looks at me, his stare was intense and his brows furrowed. He didn’t know. He lifted his hands and everyone looked at him. To my amazement, he started forming each letter to the word “When?”

At that moment, my heart felt whole again. “What’d he say?” Melody asked giddy and impatient. Her eyes filled with happy tears.

“He asked when it was, you threatened me.” She nodded, disappointed in herself and her husband.

“The night we had dinner here, that’s why I wanted to go home so early.” He looked down at his volleyball shoes and everything went silent. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Christian so heartbroken.

“Back to what’s going on,” James folded his hands over his knee. “We were misinformed. Your father told us you were ruining Christian, you had some kind of black magic and were destroying him. He told us to keep you away from him. Your mother found out and immediately asked for a divorce. He said your mother is protecting you, but you’re a darkly twisted creature and everyone should stay away from you.” I gasped and felt ill. I ran to the washroom and vomited.

Christian walked to the doorway of their aqua blue bathroom with a glass of water. “Are you okay?” I wiped my mouth and nodded, leaning back on the wall next to a turtle-shaped toilet plunger. The cold tiles against my legs relaxed me a little. He handed me the water and sat down across from me. “Okay enough to hear what else they say?”

“Yeah, I think so.” He got up and grabbed my hand to pull me up. We both walked out into the dining room. The chandeliers lights glimmered across the dark maple stained table and we sat down.

“Alright,” James began again. “We have read every magical creature book you can get your hands on in France. Dark magic is about as impossible as zombies.” I stared at him. “However, light magic can be passed down from skipping generations and for some reason is most common in females. It’s rare to see this in males.” I open my eyes slightly wider. “We searched your family history and went through all of your ancestries.” He paused, asking for permission to continue.

“Go on,” I said blandly. Everyone looked back at James.

“Your father’s mother, your grandmother had light magic. Her grandmother had light magic when she was born but in her 30’s she became obsessed with finding and obtaining black magic. Your great grandmother was killed by her very own son for this reason.” This guy is full of it.

“So you called me over here to tell me some made up story about how my father thinks I’m going to kill your son because I have some oh-so-scary magic,” I say sarcastically.

“I’m not finished. Your grandmother’s mother told her the story, and she then told your father what happened. He thinks you have that darkness inside of you and we’re your target. But that’s not how it is, is it?”

“No. my agenda has nothing to do with darkness or whatever such. Christian makes me feel-” I glance at him and back at his father. “He makes me feel less alone, and I wanted to help him because he helps me, even though he doesn’t know it. I pick at the distress in my jeans.

“That’s what I thought. I apologize for being rude to you in the not so far past. It seems, you’re the only one who can hear Christian,” I felt like someone believed me like they were actually on my side. “There’s one more thing, but I think you should hear it from your mother.”

Christian walked me home and I hugged him tightly. He rubbed his thumb against my cheek and kissed me lightly. It was just enough to show me he was there for me. When I walked inside, my mother was already waiting for me on the den sofa. It was the perfect shade of pink, almost the color of a blush. Her hair was curled loosely and perfectly fallen on her shoulders.

“Sweetie, I have some news to talk to you about.”

“I know, mama.” With the use of the word I used to use as a kid, she knew I trusted her. She explained to me that my father was in an accident. He walked in front of a train because he feared to see his daughter become a monster. She found out, I was a light magic carrier and turned out to be Christians guardian angel. I didn’t have an ounce of dark magic in me. I cried myself to sleep that night and every night after for the week.

A month later, my mother and I were closer than ever. My heart still missed my father but each day became my new normal. Christian is now a fluent user of sign language, and his parents welcomed my mother and me in with open arms.

The night of my eighteenth birthday, Christian asked me to be his girlfriend and I gleefully accepted. He stole my heart the first time I heard him speak. I’m still the only one to hear him use his voice, but he has a way to communicate with everyone now. He can hold full on conversations with deaf people and hearing people with the help of a translator. Nobody frowns upon him or looks at him like they used to. He’s just like everyone else but has a new form of communication. Every worry and problem we had, ceases to exist to this very day.

Ash TheBookworm 

 

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