The Boy With The Pink Balloons

It had been exactly one year.

One year since the scars traced their way across Chloe's face.

One year since Ana disappeared for good.

One year since everything changed.


1. The Boy With The Pink Balloons

The girl picked her way between the trees toward the verge by the road. Her shoes, so inappropriate for the grass, sank into the soft ground. Long blonde hair hung around her downturned face, shielding her from the world…or, perhaps, the world from her.

She hadn’t seen him, the boy with the balloons.

 “Chloe.” Her name tumbled from his lips before he could stop it.  

Her head shot up. The movement displaced her fringe, exposing the scars he knew it was supposed to hide.

“Oh.” She froze. Her honeyed eyes locked on his, swimming with unshed tears. A car zoomed past, she didn’t move until the sound faded completely. “I…I’m sorry. I’ll go.”

 “No,” he said, too quickly. The defeat in her voice was a vise around his heart. “Stay.

Her eyes darted every which way, searching for an escape route. “I can’t.”

“You can.” He released the balloons and took a step forward. The weight at the end of the ribbons dragged them to the ground even as the heium tugged them skyward. “You really can.”

Chloe opened her mouth, but couldn’t find the words. A single tear ran over, and she let it. She didn’t wipe it away. Without saying anything she spun to leave, but he was too fast. He caught her before she’d taken more than three steps, wrapping his arm around her waist, hauling her back against his chest.

“Please,” she tugged against him, “let me go.”

“No. You’re not going anywhere.” His voice fractured. “You came here for a reason. Why would you leave without doing what you came for?”

She fought a moment more before she sagged against him. A sob escaped, then another and another until they racked her thin body. He let her cry, holding her close. She’d always been slim, like Ana, but now she felt brittle in his hands.

When her shoulders stilled, and her gasps quieted, he turned her in the circle of his arms. Her cheek pressed against his chest. Last year she would have left streaks of mascara across his shirts, but she hadn’t worn make-up since it’d happened. He’d noticed. 

 “Have you been here, since then?” He asked, his chin propped on top of her head.

For a moment she didn’t move, but then she shook her head.

“Why not?”

“I don’t deserve to be here.” Her voice was barely a whisper, almost drowned out by a passing motorbike. “I shouldn’t be here now.”

“You don’t deserve to grieve?”


His fingers stroked the small of her back. “Why not?”

“If it wasn’t for me, Ana would still be here.” Her voice hitched on the name.

“You couldn’t have known.”

“It’s still my fault.”

He made a little space between them, just enough that he could look her in the face. She refused to meet his eyes so he lifted his hand to cup her chin and made her.

“How were you to know?” He didn’t let her lower her gaze. “It had never happened before. What warning could you possibly have had?”

“I don’t know.” She shoved her hand away, her voice rising. “But I was driving. I lost control. I killed my sister.”

“You had an epileptic fit. You can’t blame yourself for that.”

She levelled a glare at him. “Why not? Everyone else does.”

“No they don’t.” His brows twitched together, puzzled. “Who the hell told you that?”

“They don’t have to. I can see the accusations on their faces. I’m the spaz that killed Ana. If I hadn’t been driving, she’d still be here.”

He didn’t know what to say. There was no way Chloe would believe him. Her guilt was so ingrained in her own mind there was no way he could get rid of it, no matter how misplaced it was. 

He smoothed her fringe away from her face. Her whole body tensed. With his fingertips he traced the scars that framed her face, a cruel reminder of her perceived crime every time she looked in the mirror.

“She didn’t have these,” he murmured, unable to look away.

Chloe shook her head in agreement and shivered. “The blow was enough…”

“Whatever those people think, and I guarantee they aren’t thinking what you think they are, they’re wrong.” He ran his hands up and down her arms to ward off the cool breeze. “It was an accident, everybody knows that. And it would never have been an issue if Ana had been wearing a seatbelt.”

“I should have made her. I didn’t even notice she wasn't until they told me.”

“Ana was old enough to know better. You can’t shoulder the blame for her actions.”

“Stop this. Just stop it! You of all people, how can you even stand to look at me?” Chloe demanded, wrenching herself free. “You loved her, she was your girlfriend.”

“I love her,” he corrected softly. “There will always be a part of me that does. But I know the truth, even if you can’t see it yet.”

“How could you?”

“Because I’m far enough removed to look at things objectively.”

Chloe wrapped her arms around her middle and worried her bottom lip with her teeth.

The boy sighed and held out his hand. “Come on. Come and say goodbye.”

“I said goodbye at the funeral.”

“Well then you don’t have to say anything, but at least do what you intended when you came here.”

Chloe studied his palm for a minute, before placing hers into it. The warmth of his sin spread through her hand. He curled his fingers between hers. He caught up the balloons and hand in hand they crossed the remaining distance to the battered tree with the small white cross nailed to it. He set the balloons in front of it and knelt.

“Balloons?” she asked, lowering herself to his side.

“I always got her one for her birthday…your birthday.”


He peeled one away from the others and tied it around Chloe’s wrist. “Happy birthday.”






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