"I fell in love the way you fall asleep. Slowly, and then all at once."

Entry for Movellas 2013 John Green competition. Based off of the quote "I fell in love the way you fall asleep. Slowly, and then all at once." from The Fault in Our Stars.

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1. My Imperfect Metaphor

 

“Okay, everyone gets something, right?”

            “Huh?” I answer, looking up from my book. Felicity and I spend most of the lessons we have free together by the school’s courtyard, sitting on the bank by the river as the surface glistens in the sunlight. She enjoys sketching while I read; sitting back-to-back despite the fact that the cotton of our shirts are pressed against each other, making the skin between our shoulder blades turn pink – like a secret sunburn beneath the layers.

            Felicity just cocks her head in my direction slightly and smiles. Her lips are a faint shade of peach, her hair a dull ash blonde that falls in front of her eyes when she forgets to put bobby pins in, her eyes a golden haze that glimmer so brightly you wonder how a diamond could compare.  “My dear Elizabeth,” She mocks in a casual tone, each syllable like a note of music that falls from the fingers of the finest pianist. “Have I lost you in your world of fiction once again?” As she turns her head away, I roll my eyes while she returns to sketching in her notepad. “Everyone gets a thing of some sort. Everyone gets a talent or an object that makes him or her special.”

            “I guess so.”

            “But there has to be more than one musician to make an orchestra, correct? And more than one footballer player to make a team. And –”

            I interrupt her, adding in my own thoughts to show that I’m listening: “ – More than one author to make a library?”

            “Exactly,” She says. I can imagine her grinning as she continues to press her 2B pencil against a fresh piece of crisp paper, even though I can’t see it. “Exactly! So there needs to be more than one kind of enthusiast, y’know? Some people only like reading; others feel out of place without a book in their hands. Like you, for example. You’ve got your books, your Gatsby hunting cap –“

            “Wrong book.” I mumble under my breath. “Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye has a red hunting cap. The Great Gatsby is the one I made you read last January - the one with the green light.”

            There’s a pause where the only sound in the air is from the river. I listen to the water trickle down and pretend it’s trying to be a tsunami. Maybe the truth is that it is just this little stream of water that wants to be bigger, wants to mean more and be noticed. I wonder if the river longs to be a sea, to make waves that engulf you and pull you under until there is nothing but salt water and lime green seaweed and the lost secrets of the ocean. I’m dragged out of my thoughts and back onto the shore of reality when Felicity speaks again. “I’ll rephrase: you have your pretentious yet adorably cute omniscient knowledge of literature. Better?”

            “Much. Continue?”

            “Well… I don’t have that.” Her voice has lost its heart, and now I can hear the disappointment. The anger underneath it. The lost, the unknown, the unfathomable. How long have you felt like this, I wonder. Why didn’t you tell me before? “Nothing makes me individual. I’m not worth anything; I don’t have some deep intelligence that Universities are itching to get hold of.  No one thinks I’m perfect. And the worse part is that I don’t think anyone ever will.”

            I do, I think. I do I do I do.

            There is this moment where I look over my shoulder to stare at her, my eyes squinting to see her against the vibrant light of the world's backdrop that the summer has crafted. And my stomach swoops, my mouth goes dry and I feel like I’m falling. For the first time I can see her, Felicity Mays, all of the worries and fears and lost hopes.

            I want to say that of course she’s perfect. Because perfection is not measured by ones flaws, but rather, how many they are prepared to show. This moment, these seconds, are important because these are when she is everything she is. She is not just some girl who draws while I read. Felicity is someone who gets famous titles mixed up, who will interrupt you when you reach the best part of a book, who forgets to put bobby pins in her hair. I want to tell her all this, that she has a lot of flaws (she folds the corners of pages in books; she drinks milk out of the jug; she never looks both ways when crossing the street…) but that it doesn’t matter. That it is possible to be both simultaneously perfect and imperfect: that she can mean the world to me but still annoy me every time she quotes an author wrong.

            But I don’t tell her any of this. I don’t, because I have only just realised that I love her. And I am not prepared to say it now because my feelings have caught me off guard, because I am terrified that this is the wrong time. I am terrified that this is not the response she wants, or the one she needs, no matter how desperate I am to blurt all these words at her.

            “Felicity,” I breathe out when I return to staring blankly at the copy of Pride and Prejudice that lies open on my lap.

            “Yes, Elizabeth?”

            Again, I find myself unable to say all the thoughts in my mind. What is stuck in my throat is: I am not perfect either. I prefer to get lost in a world of fiction because it is easier to love a character there than in reality. The metaphors in my books aren’t the same symbols I find myself seeing every day – my red hunting cap is not a sign of being comfortable or finding my own identity. It’s something I hide behind. Something I wear when I can’t be bothered to straighten my hair. My green light is not across the bay. She is right next to me, she is the heat against my back, the joy of my summer days… but I’ve only just seen how radiant she is, and I don’t know if I deserve the happiness she would bring me. I am trapped by all the metaphors my books bring me, and I have let them take over so much of myself that I have no space left to write my own.

            Instead of saying anything, I hold my hand out to her. Almost instantly her fingers intertwine with mine, the touch like an electric shock that makes all of the butterflies in my stomach beat the way rain will hammer down on a window. Felicity leans her head back, letting it fall onto my shoulder while my eyes linger on our clasped hands. Her hand is marked with pencil smudges, the tips of her fingers black and her nails bitten down to the skin.

            “We may not be perfect,” I whisper into her hair. “But sometimes, if we’re lucky, we experience moments where everything else is.”

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