Sorted

Aside

“I just thought, dude I have to get this girl something, man.”

At the sight of the now plain steel of the pendant, and the hole where there once had been a glittering stone, her lips twisted into a grin. With a laugh that was half a scoff, she tossed the old chain into the ever-expanding ‘junk’ pile and spared it only a passing glance more.

Natasha continued sorting through her vastly engorged closet, occasionally adding an old or outgrown piece of clothing or a now-useless trinket to the junk pile. Soon- very soon- the junk pile had grown much larger than the ‘keep’ pile, and what had once been a neat (subjectively speaking) room now resembled a field of battle that had but recently seen terrible carnage.

With a despondent huff, she flopped down, not particularly caring where she sat. Therefore, it was only to be expected that such carelessness would be punished.

“Ow!!”

She jumped, messily trying to manoeuvre into a position that did not involve something small and hard digging into the tender part of her ankle. Finally successful, she groped around under her for the offending object.

When she had successfully disentangled it from the trailing ends of an old stole, she wished she could safely throw it hard into some corner of the room. Inadvisable, since the cheeky little bugger was likely to find some other more painful way of gaining her attention though what else an innocuous chain with an equally innocuous pendant could do, she could not imagine. Still, better safe than sorry, as the old adage went.

“Stupid Arnav.” She grumbled. “Still annoying me after god knows how long… still manages to find a way to piss me off…” In a lacklustre sort of way, she held the little chain around her neck and looked in the mirror.

A real grin bloomed on her lips. “Such a cheap piece of shit he is.” She murmured fondly, nostalgically. She turned this way and that, as though admiring the way the cheap steel piece looked on her dark skin.

A quiet laugh escaped her lips as she pulled it away. Then her expression became thoughtful as she studied the necklace in her hand.

“I’ve got something for you.” His perennially amused face appeared beside her. The expression, as always, made her long to smack him for no particular reason, but she restrained herself. 

For me? Why on earth would you have anything for me?” She asked, tilting her head and looking at him in utter confusion. They weren’t anything special to one another, after all, even as friends.

“No dude, it’s like, I have to give you something, just like that.” Well. Weird all right, but who was she to decline gifts? Although she remained a little wary.

“It better not be a bath in Slime Pond or something like that, or I will kill you.” She threatened, only half-joking. His grin widened. “No, come on man, it’s nothing like that. Don’t you trust me?”

Nope, not at all.” She replied cheerfully. “But jaldiiii, I have to goooo.” She tapped her watch emphatically. He only gave her that very-very annoying grin in return, which she returned with an unimpressed look, and reached into his pocket to extract, with great flourish

“A necklace?” She stated the obvious with a raised eyebrow, looking from Arnav to the object in question. Jewellery, however inexpensive, is not Arnav’s area of expertise. 

He dropped the grin, looking slightly sheepish. “My bhabi (sister in law) helped me choose it and all- I didn’t know what you’d like- and I thought, like, she might like a knife but then she might stab me with it-“

That surprised a laugh out of her. “Both true, how well you know me, Arnie.” She held out her hand and he dropped the necklace into it. “That’s so sweet of you, and I do like it. I like red.”

He cocked his head to the side, scrutinising her. “You’re not just saying that to make me feel good, na? Like, you actually like it, right?”

She snorted. “I wouldn’t spare your feelings. Trust me, I do like it. Now I really have to go to class, so… move.” She sidestepped him before he could, anyway, and walked off. “Thanks for the chain, dude!”

She wore it after about a month, winking at him over the dinner table when he noticed. It was a cheap necklace, and its crimson colour would, over time, wear off, but that would still take a while. For now, she appreciated the thought. ‘It’s the thought that counts.’ She told herself , even when she saw the silver shine of the steel begin to poke through the fading red.

She sat there for a few seconds, remembering. She was still kind of-sort of in touch with him, and he’d hardly changed in essentials since their school days. Apart from the thinning hair and the slight bulge in the middle- a common object for her jibes- the six years seemed to have passed him by.

Her fingers closed around the now-completely faded, forlorn-looking metal pendant. An amused quirk rising to her lips, she put it carefully into her ‘keep’ trinkets pile. After all, she didn’t want to lose the damn thing again, did she?

 

Cutting Losses

Aside

Like a cool hand slinking around your waist, soothing, for a moment, the heat that lies thick and dormant on your skin. Only for a moment, and then it becomes another dropped anchor, another weight holding you back, pulling you down, pulling you back suddenly and sharply, so that your fingertips only just graze that which you wanted, were reaching out for; they flail, desperate, make a final grab, and close around nothing- holding blindly onto empty air.

It’s gone, and so is the weight around your waist, and you wonder if it was ever there. You stare around, and you can recognize nothing around you. There is nothing but you and the feeling that you’ve lost.

What you’ve lost, you can’t remember. Like a dream that a dream of you dreamt, or a dream within a dream, some half-remembered fantasy, some child’s world where you can step onto the stars, and the froth of seawater is stardust in your hands. Something that fades as you grow, and has faded into the loss that presses in around you now, from all sides.

You reach out again- a trembling hand, nothing like that mad rush and that impassioned last lunge and that desperate final snatch that came away with nothing. Your arm feels heavier than the heart that weighs down upon your lungs- even heavier than the sodden air that claws its way into your nose, down your trachea and into your chest, swelling it- as heavy as the loss that weighs down upon it, closing in around it, obscuring your arm, almost detaching it so that you almost feel detached and begin to wander, unmindful of how the heavy arm and the limp, shaking fingers continue to weakly grope for that which this faded imprint of you has forgotten…

The fog- mist- loss- numbness clothes your nakedness, and though your bare skin is visible for all who deign to see, you merely wander on. Nakedness does not matter to those who have lost. For yourself, you would rather walk naked in the free sun than be shielded from the body’s shame by the loss and the fog.

Something stops you, and you blink. A boundary. You turn, and walk back the way you came, though even this imprint of you loathes turning away, despises turning one’s back on the obstacle and walking away. Even now there is a dim memory of crushing boulders with bare, bleeding fists and shuddering from the cold of the torrent just crossed. And then you remember your arm.

You run. It is an odd thing to do, and you can tell that the mist and the loss are oozing along, trying to keep pace with you. It registers dimly that you must keep running, and you do.

You find your arm, almost dead on your shoulder, the pressing heaviness too much for it to keep reaching for that which is once more your heart’s desire. You are no longer detached; both arm and desire are yours once more, and you keep running.

At any moment, you expect to hit that boundary again, and there is still no fear in you. It seems to have been left behind  with the sodden air and the loss and heaviness, and though it is still grey all around, you run naked, visible to all the world, uncovered even by the mist.

Suddenly, your eyes are blinded. Sunlight thrusts its way into your eyeballs and your cold-deadened brain, causing you to let out a cry akin to when you were first lifted out of the womb. You reel, and stumble, and slow down, but you stagger on, warm and naked, undetached, light and whole.

You stutter to a halt as the first travelers come upon your path.

They stare and turn away, and mutter to each other. Their cheeks are bright red, and you blush of your own volition.

Still blushing, you creep away, trembling, still clutching the concrete idea of your heart’s desire in your hand, and wish fervently that you were clothed.

********