I stood outside Imogen’s house, waiting to walk to school with her. As I waited I thought about last night, I thought about the hug that we shared, I thought about her kissing me on the cheek, I thought about the weight that appeared on my chest when she disappeared into her home. I thought about how much I love her. It was overwhelming really, but no matter how hard I tried to get her out of my head it was no use, she was always running through my mind. She really did cloud up my brain, making all thoughts that ran through my head foggy, but to be honest, I really wasn’t complaining. I’d prefer to feel happy when I think about her beautiful face, than feel the all too familiar melancholy feeling rise through my body when I think of my parents.
I quickly blinked and shook my head, only to realise Imogen was stood in front of me, I hadn’t realised she had left her house.
“Oh, hey, sorry I was in my own little world.” I said slightly embarrassed. We began walking down the road like normal.
“Clearly...” She laughed.
“Oooh, look here, somebody’s come out of their shell!” It was my turn to laugh at her now, but she didn’t take it as lightly as me. Her smile dropped and her head fell so she was looking at her feet. Heat started to rise in her cheeks and all shreds of joyfulness disappeared from her blue eyes.
“Hey, Imogen, I was laughing with you, not at you. Don’t look so upset, please, it upsets me.” My voice was soft now and I had also stopped walking. I grabbed Imogen’s wrist as I stopped to make her stop too, but when I grabbed her arm she winced.
“You okay? I mean, is your arm okay?” As I said this panic rose in her face and her eyes looked like they were those of a startled animal. They didn’t look like hers and I didn’t like it.
“Errm yeah I’m fine...”
I moved my hand up to her cheek and she nestled her head into it. She was always so warm.
“Imogen, I really want you to realise that I am not trying to hurt you I’m on your side.” She smiled and moved her hand up to touch mine. As she raised her hand the sleeve of her coat fell down slightly and what was there on her skin made my breath catch in my throat.
I took her hand in mine and with my other I carefully rolled up her sleeve revealing what seemed like hundreds of tiny red cuts across her skin. She kept trying to pull her hand away from mine but I held it firmly in place.
“Why... Imogen Why...” My eyes were still on the crimson slices and it took all my effort to bring my eyes up to meet hers. Fear was intertwined with her features and tears fell from her sad eyes.
“Sorry...” This one word brought tears to my eyes, just the way it fell from her lips in such a depressed tone broke my heart.
“Alex, please don’t cry for me, please don’t...” She started to look panic stricken again.
“Imogen, you don’t need to do this, you don’t need to hurt yourself. I’m crying because I hate to know you’re hurting so much inside that the only way you feel you can escape is by hurting yourself, by letting your worries bleed out onto your bedroom floor... That’s what has made me cry.”
“Oh Alex... I really am sorry; I just saw no way out...”
“No Imogen! There is always a way out! You can’t do this again! You hear me? There has to be something to live for!” Anger bubbled inside me, but I’m not mad at her, I’m mad at whoever made her feel like she was trapped and there was no escape.
Her cheeks where soaked with tears and they didn’t look like they would stop falling from her eyes. This broke my heart and made all my anger melt away. For now, at least. I grabbed her hands gently and pulled her into my chest. As I do so she started sobbing, little strangled cries escaped her mouth and my heart broke even more. I don’t like this; I don’t like this at all.
“Hey,” I put my had underneath her chin to bring her head up so I can look into her eyes “we are not going to school today, you are going to stay off with me, don’t worry your parents won’t find out, we will talk about this, you will tell me why you’re hurting. To be honest I’m not giving you the option to say no here.” She started shaking her head no but her eyes lit up when I mentioned it so knew she wanted to come; she just didn’t want to ditch school.
“I said I wasn’t giving you the option of saying no. Now you’re coming with me; there is no two ways about it. Come on.” I grabbed her hand and started dragging her in the opposite direction of school. She tried to pull back but kept wincing, obviously hurting her wrists as she fought against me.
“Imogen-Hope you are hurting yourself by pulling away from me, so why carry on doing it. Come on, live a little! Rebel against the rules of humanity!” She looked at me like I had told her I was a mass murderer “Okay, so maybe not the rules of humanity, but you know what I mean. I want to make sure you are okay, make sure you are happy. So come on whilst I do that.” She smiled slightly at what I said and finally gave up and started walking next to me. I didn’t let go of her hand though, I kept it firmly intertwined with mine, loving the feeling of her hand in my hand, the feeling of her walking so close to me that I could feel the heat radiating from her. I really did love her.
I said I wanted to talk to her but for a while we walked in silence, it was necessary though, it was necessary for me to come to terms with what I just found out. Seeing those red marks on her arm broke my heart. I can’t let her do that again. I have to make her happy.
Despite the cold weather there was only one place I wanted to take her. It was the place my Grandma was buried. My Grandma was the most amazing person I knew, she is the only person who has ever shown me that she cares for me. The only person that has ever loved me.
Imogen kept snuffling next to me so I turned to her, only to see that she was still crying.
“Hey, what’s the matter?” I asked worry laced in my tone.
“You hate me.” It only took those three words to have my heart breaking all over again.
“I don’t hate you. I just don’t want to lose you. No come on, cheer up! You’re getting out of maths!”
She finally smiled at me so I smiled back, mainly because of the warm feeling inside me that I get when she smiles. We carried on walking, again in silence, but it was only a two minute walk now until we got to our destination so the quiet wouldn’t last much longer.
As we got to the gates of the cemetery Imogen stopped walking and looked at me with horror in her eyes.
“What, are you going to show me a grave and tell me this is where I am going to end up if I carry on? I don’t want to hear it Alex!” She tried to walk away but I still had a hold of her hand so I pulled her back and cupped her face in my hands.
“No, you are wrong. Partly. I am going to show you a grave but I’m not going to tell you that this is where you are going to end up. Now come on and stop being so stubborn for goodness sake!” Annoyance was clear in my tone and I could tell it upset her because her face dropped from a scowl to a frown.
Instead of apologising though I just grabbed her hand and led her into the cemetery. Weaving through the gravestones expertly. Knowing whose grave I was heading to, brought a nostalgic feeling. I pushed all thoughts of my Grandma away for now, I had to hear Imogen speak and I can’t do that if I am crying, can I?
I stopped at the grave and I just looked at the name for a minute trying to convince myself not to cry. I eventually sat down and dragged Imogen down with me by her hand. I turned to sit facing her and I was met with two big beautiful blue eyes staring at me full of wonder and admiration. I really do lover her eyes.
“So Imogen-Hope, you are going to tell me all your troubles and I am going to sit and listen without interrupting at all! Oh, and don’t worry you can trust me.” I smiled at her and she smiled back. Sort of. I mean the corners of her mouth lifted slightly but that was it.
“Where to start!” She giggled and I just smiled at her even more.
“I am about to say the most cliché thing known to mankind, well second if you’re counting the ‘it’s not you it’s me’ crap, but anyway. How about you start from the beginning?” I cringed at my own words. Ugh, I hate that saying.
“Well I guess the beginning was year 7, the beginning of high school. Everyone was making new friends but I was always sat on my own and when I did try and speak to people I was given dirty looks. I never made one friend until year 9. She was new to school, and I am not telling you who it is I don’t think that would be fair, but she tried to befriend me when she first came here. But I guess I was too weird because she didn’t stay friends with me very long. About 2 months later I made another friend at an art class I used to go to on Saturdays but again she left not long after. Then about 8 months ago I made a new friend at the art class. Her name was Jane. I really thought that friendship was going to work out because I felt comfortable around her. I felt like that until I found her snogging the guy I liked behind the community centre in which we did our classes. I was furious with her and shouted at her. She just called me a depressing whore and walked away. That night I went home crying, but as I walked through the door my dad walked out. My mum told me they were getting a divorce because he had cheated on her with some slut from his office. Her name was Janet. People called her Jane. So in one day two Jane’s broke me. Completely broke me. That was the night I started cutting. It was about six months ago. I want to stop, believe me, but it’s so difficult. It’s like a drug, and I am addicted. But because of Jane, my ex friend, I haven’t done anything to do with art for six months because it reminds me of her too much. Reminds me of the person that pushed me down the well. Although the other Jane took away the ladder so they can both equally take the blame. But then again, I should take all the blame; I’m the one that let them ruin my life.”
Tears were streaming down her face so I grabbed her shoulders and pushed her against my chest, letting her tears stain my white shirt.
As I cradled her against me I said-
“No, you cannot blame yourself, this is their fault- it’s their fault you’re feeling like this. But Imogen, I promise you, I am going to try my hardest to make your pain go away. I promise you that.” She gently nodded her head against my shoulder and I held her a little tighter. After a short while of crying she finally stopped and pulled herself away from me.
“I’m sorry about that; whose grave is this anyway?” She turned towards the stone to read the engraving that said
Beloved Wife, Mother and Grandmother.
“Thompson? Is she a relative to you?” Surprise and sympathy was evident in her features.
“Mmhh, my Grandma, the one person who truly loves me. Loved me.” I took a deep breath, concentrating hard on removing the sting of tears in my eyes.
“Oh Alex, I am sorry! How did she die? If you don’t mind me asking?”
“Suicide.” I heard her breathing cut short at the word.
“She had been diagnosed with dementia and she wanted to die whilst remembering everyone, remembering every aspect of her life. So she took her own life whilst she still remembered.” Tears began to flood from my eyes and I could feel a lump in my throat. Before I could think about much more I was enveloped in warmth, also known as Imogen’s arms. I buried my head in her neck and now it was my turn to cry. After crying for 5 minutes straight I pulled away from her embrace and wiped my eyes. I stood up abruptly and dragged Imogen up with me a little bit too violently.
“Sorry, come on, I’ve got an idea!”
“Errm where are we going?” She asked warily which made me smirk knowingly.
“You said every time you do something in an arty fashion you are plagued with memories of Jane.” She nodded her head, obviously confused.
“I told you I was going to try and make you happy again so if art once made you happy I will make sure it does just that. So come on, if I have to comment on your stubbornness one more time Imogen-Hope I will become the unhappy one here!” She rolled her eyes at me but started to walk along with me anyway.
We walked all the way into town, the whole time talking about who is the better character in the programme Criminal Minds I said Derek Morgan because he is the muscles of the team but she said Dr. Spencer Reid because he is the brains. She also added on the fact that he is beautiful but I don’t think she meant to say that because her cheeks turned scarlet right after. Once we got in to town I directed us both over to the small arts and craft store.
Once inside I bought a simple notepad and drawing pencils and handed them to Imogen. She tried to object but this was one argument she wasn’t going to win. She had already won the Criminal Minds disagreement.
After the art store we began to walk again until we reached our destination.
“A butterfly sanctuary?” Imogen asked after reading the sign.
“Yeah, I come here a lot to think about my Grandma. She loved wildlife, especially butterflies. I have become good friends with the owner of this place, and I’m sure he won’t mind you if draw some of the butterflies here.” Her face fell but I just smiled a bit more.
“Oh, and you can’t tell you’re not doing it because this is my plan, to make sure you have loads of happy memories with me whilst you are doing art work instead of thinking of the wicked witch of the west.” She looked at me funny, amused by my nick-name for Jane, “Just go with it, okay?”
“Okay. Let’s get this over with then.” She smiled slightly.
“Imogen! Stop being so negative!” I laughed at her before opening the door for her. As we stepped inside the office we were greeted with warm air and hundreds of pictures of different butterflies. I instantly felt calm upon entry into the office and I could tell Imogen did to because she sighed and smiled whilst she looked around. The door opened o the other side of the room and through it came the manager of the sanctuary with a friendly smile spread across his face.
“Alex! How are you! And who is this beautiful young lady?” He smiled at Imogen but she looked scared. Like a deer caught in headlights.
“Hey Mala. I’m good thank you, and this is my friend Imogen.” I say quickly answering all of his questions.
“Nice to meet you Imogen! Welcome to the butterfly sanctuary, I hope you enjoy your visit!” Mala had a thick African accent but he was easy enough to understand, although when he speaks fast his words can jumble together. I can’t blame him though, English is his second language.
“So, Mala, I was wondering if you would let me and Imogen in to see the butterflies so she can draw them.” I asked already aware of the answer.
“Drawing yes, but remember, no pi-“
“No pictures, I know, I got it.” He gave me a toothy grin and then headed back through the door he came from. I followed him with Imogen trailing behind me. I was excited to see the butterflies again. I loved seeing the multitude of colours and hearing the flapping of the wings. It all seemed mesmerizing.
Mala lead us to large room with glass walls but before Imogen could see anything I covered her eyes with my hands and lead her through the door into the butterfly hall. Once the door closed behind us I removed my hands from over Imogen’s eyes and stepped aside.
Her eyes opened and her jaw dropped. Her lips formed into a huge smile and her eyes widened to take in more of the sight surrounding her.
She spun in a circle astonished at the beauty of it all and then looked down to the notepad in her hands. Without any sort of indication she slowly walked over to a bench and sat down. I followed her watching her every move. Like the way she looked around every couple of seconds at the ever changing environment due to the butterflies wings moving. How she took a deep breath before taking a pencil out of the metal tin in her hands. How she squeezed her eyes shut for a moment as she put the pencil on the paper. How her face lit up as she started to sketch something. The happiness I was feeling was overwhelming! This was the beginning of a new chapter in her life, a happier chapter, and it was because of me. I couldn’t help but feel proud of myself!
I went to sit beside her and watched whilst she drew a butterfly. She didn’t have any colour so it was only an outline, but it was still one of the best drawings I have ever seen!
Once she had finished her smile grew even more, proud of her accomplishment.
“I’m a little bit rusty but here you go.” She ripped out the page and handed it to me. “Thank you Alex, I forgot how happy I am when I am drawing.”
“It’s cool, I’m always happy to help.” As I said this a butterfly landed on her nose making her giggle.
“Here, I’ll get it.” I chuckled; I wish I could draw so I could draw her at the moment. Although I don’t think a drawing would complement the glow emanating from her right now.
As I put my hand near the insect it flew away, but I kept my hand there. I stroked the pad of my thumb across her lips. As if by instinct I brought my head closer to hers, so close that I could feel her breath on my cheeks.
Without realising I dipped my head down so our lips connected. Fireworks exploded throughout my body and hot fire travelled along my skin. I cupped her face in my hands, not breaking the connection between our lips. I couldn’t think of anything else but her. Not that I wanted to, but even if I were try to force myself to it wouldn’t work.
Eventually we pulled our lips away from each other’s but kept our foreheads touching.
“I love you.” I whispered involuntarily.
“I love you too.” Her voice was shy and quiet but I heard it.
And in that moment, looking into her eyes, surrounded by thousands of butterflies, my life was perfect.
And I Hope It Stays Like That.