Flying High on Helium

Melanie is an aspiring journalist living in a boring suburban town, whose future in writing is depending on an article about how to live life, but she's stumped. Then a young, gorgeous journalist from the New York Fashion Journal pays her a visit and he shows her that life should be fun and carefree like a pink helium balloon.


1. Eleven pink balloons

When I was little I wanted to be a balloon seller. Before that I wanted to be a balloon; when I was 7, mum took me to the woods for a picnic and at the entrance was this funny man in a pin striped apron holding a cart with balloons tied to it. Little bubbles of rubber that would float in the air, defying the laws of gravity. My favourites were the pink ones. They were pretty and elegant like my mum. I loved inhaling the helium and talking in a high voice, singing various songs in the style of Alvin and the chipmunks; it was my favourite high. Of course, it escalated into experimenting with drugs in my teen years but I’m 22 now and I have no time for balloons or parties and getting high. My life is a never ending circle of boring.

I work for the paper, it’s my dream job. I’ve always wanted to be a journalist. I never expected it to be like this though. We’re more like paparazzi than a newspaper; the only interesting stories I get to write about are gossip and scandal in local politics and schools and anything I can get hold of. There’s nothing else interesting in Witterbrook. We’re a town built on the outside of the woods and the most exciting thing that happens here is when another town is hosting a music festival and half the town travels ten miles to attend. I hope one day I can move to New York or something and write for a fashion magazine. It’s a possible dream to achieve; I sent an article to the New York Fashion Journal about four months ago about the pink balloons. I doubt it was even looked at. My editor says that he’ll promote me to the New York office if I can write an inspiring article on how to live life. It’s a start. I’m sitting here with my laptop staring at a blank document. I literally have no idea what to write. I look outside the window at the typical suburban street, SO boring. It seems like the perfect town, except it’s where time stands still and life stops. How can I write about life if I've barely lived one? I look inside my thrice filled empty coffee cup and drop my head on my laptop keyboard, hoping it will produce a masterpiece. I look up at the screen to find my forehead has typed the profound words:
I roll my eyes and tilt my head trying to brainstorm and I don’t notice a figure walking towards me. I look up when he coughs abruptly and close my laptop screen. A young man, probably about my age, is standing in front of me, hands in pockets, grinning like a Cheshire cat. I can’t help but grin back; it’s one of those infectious smiles that lights up the room. I can see he’s not from around here. For one thing, he’s noticeably gorgeous and all the attractive men around here are gay or taken or both. I know I have to talk to him so I do.
“Hey. I just wanted to know if your head’s okay. I don’t think banging it on a keyboard is good for it.” He laughs and I smile again.
“I’m just kidding,” he says, “I’m actually a journalist from the New York Fashion Journal, are you Melanie Lester?” This takes me by surprise and it shows. I am suddenly aware my mouth is gaping open and I shut it.
“Um, yes, that’s me.”
“Kyle Matthews.” He shakes my hand. “I read that article you sent to us four months ago about your childhood, pink balloons, picnics and the perfect town that’s Witterbrook and I had to come down and see for myself.”
“Wow, I didn't think anyone would read it. I can’t even remember what the title was.”
“Flying High on Helium, I believe. It’s a good title.” He sits himself down on the chair opposite me and we chat for about an hour. I tell him about how I’m stuck on this article about life and it’s my stepping stone to New York. A fire seems to light in his eyes. He grins with his whole face and tells me to meet him in the woods at 3 tomorrow then he rushes out the door.  

So it’s time for me to meet Kyle. I clamber through the woods and see him standing in the clearing. I pat my fringe and brush my skirt and we exchange a hug. He grins and pulls something from behind a tree. Eleven pink balloons. We burst out laughing and spend hours inhaling helium, singing Alvin and the Chipmunk songs and drawing faces on the balloons. He leaves me that afternoon with a free mind and an idea for my article. I open my laptop and write about how life should be fun and carefree, being who you want and wearing what you like. And like a pink helium balloon, flying high, defying the laws of gravity. I print and send my article to my editor and Kyle via e-mail.

It’s been two weeks since my visit from Kyle. I hear the mail slip through my letterbox and I drag my feet to the door. Amongst the bills, one pink envelope stands out from the rest. It’s from Kyle. He’s sent me a copy of his latest article in the New York Fashion Journal on how to live in the clothes that you wear, and featured in the ‘my story’ section is my article. He has pinned a note to the article and I read the pink writing and grin at the badly drawn balloon in the corner. I run into my room and start packing my things. As of next week, I’m leaving Witterbrook and flying to New York; I’m going to be writing alongside Kyle for the New York Fashion Journal. I’m literally flying high on helium. 

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