Part 1. The Taxi.
I remember the weight of her head on my right shoulder as I stared ahead. My mind in a haze, sleepy yet alert and aware, eyes lit up by the orange lights of the cars in the street. It always fascinated me how someone as loud and manic as she could look so peaceful and small when she slept. I couldn’t see her lips but I knew they were parted, soft whimpers escaping from them. We were both worn out after the activities of the day. She dozed off as soon as we entered the taxi, stealing away the last chance I had to persuade her to stay and if I couldn’t persuade her, I could have talked to her about anything. I needed every bit of time I could get to spend with her, no matter how little. I smiled, it was all I could do not to cry because I knew our forever had reached its limit and there was nothing I could do.
Part 2. A Year Before the Taxi
I was new in school. It was my second day there and I was in the bathroom along with other girls from my year. We had just finished P.E and were refreshing before our next class. After my cold shower, I tied a white towel and sat on a bench that was in the bathroom. Students were chitchatting, all still excited about seeing their friends after a long holiday. I just sat there with my head down, waiting for my body to dry.
“Does anyone have an extra tie I can borrow here?” I heard a girl say. I raised my head, that was when I first saw her. She was tall and had very long blue braids. Her skirt was short and her shirt unbuttoned, exposing her bra. No one answered her. I had an extra tie but I wasn’t sure if I should offer it to her.
“Please I have a class now and if I run back to the dorms to get it, I’m going to be late,” she said desperately. I reached for my bag and brought out the tie. She had already given up at that point and was buttoning up her shirt. I walked over quietly to her and handed her the tie “here” I said, extending my hand to give her the tie. She looked up. “Wow, thanks. You’re a lifesaver. I promise to give it back. What is your room number?” She was already tying it around her neck now, clearly in a hurry.
“Uhm…..” I was struggling to remember. I was there for only a day so I kept forgetting things. Before I could remember, she snatched her bag and dashed out of the bathroom, yelling “Thank you” as she left. I was sure I was never going to see my tie again.
I spent my lunch in the cafeteria alone, hoping to see the blue-haired girl again, not really because I wanted my tie back but because I just wanted to see her again. Lunch break ended and there was still no sign of her. I left the cafeteria dejected.
A week passed by before I got to see her again. It was on a Saturday; I was on my bed reading a book but there was too much noise coming from another room on our floor. There was loud music and I couldn’t concentrate so I went out to see what the cause of the hubbub was. Clutching my book to my chest, I followed the sound of the music to find the room it was coming from. I found the room and knocked on the door loudly. A short girl opened the door, frowning. “What do you want?” She said.
“You’re being loud,” I said. She rolled her eyes. “And what about it?” She scowled.
“You’re disturbing people who want to do something important with their night” I retorted.
“Oh, you mean important things like reading a boring book?” She chuckled at her own joke.
“It’s an interesting book” I held the book up to her face.
“Girl it’s Saturday. Have fun and leave us alone” she scoffed. Right before she closed the door, my eyes caught the eyes of the girl with the blue hair. My heart started pounding and I turned on my heels, running to my room. I slammed the door behind me, my back against it trying to catch my breath. Then someone knocked and it startled me. I opened the door. It was the blue girl. “Hey I’ve been looking for you everywhere,” she said. She had a beautiful smile that exposed the gap in her teeth. Her eyes also smiled when her lips did. I was awestruck and couldn’t reply to her.
“Can I come in?” She said as she walked past me to enter the room. It wasn’t even a request because she was already looking around my room at that point. I had girly stickers all over the walls and I was afraid she’d judge me. “Cool stickers” She said. I was relieved. Except maybe she was making fun of them. I couldn’t tell. Girls like her aren’t usually nice. They can be nice to save face but it was usually never genuine. “Thanks”. I mumbled. She stopped looking at the decorations now and turned her attention back to me. She smiled again. “I’ve been carrying your tie everywhere I went hoping to bump into you” she finally said after I broke eye contact. She had a tiny bag slung across her body. She opened it and retrieved the tie, handing it to me. I came forth to collect it but she drew her hand back. “Not so fast,” she said with a blank face. I was confused. What the hell was she going to do? “Tell me your name first,” she said, her eyes gleaming.
“It’s Nina,” I said. She noticed my uneasiness and walked up to me. She stood in front of me, taller than me by one foot. She took my hand and placed the tie in it. “Thank you for the tie, Nina,” she said without breaking eye contact.
“It’s fine….Uhm…” I didn’t know her name.
“Rose. My name is Rose” she shook my hand like we just signed a business contract.
“Nice to meet you Rose” I smiled for the first time.
“Likewise. Well, I should go. I’ve caused enough trouble” she said, her hands placed awkwardly in the skinny jeans that she wore with a denim jacket and crop top. I looked like her maid in a baggy t-shirt that reached my knees. She waved nervously with one hand and left, shutting the door behind her. I stood still in my spot, trying to process what just happened. My room smelled like her, and I wanted to run out and ask her to come back so the scent won’t evanesce. I looked at the tie in my hands. I brought it close to my nose and sniffed. Rose. She was all over it. I let out a tiny chuckle as I tossed the tie in my wardrobe. I’d never wear it again, I wanted it to only smell like her all the time. The smell of roses.
Part 3. The Friendship
It was on a Monday and we were at assembly. I was standing behind when the principal announced a performance by a group of girls. The girls made their way to the stage. Rose was one of them. They started singing and Rose was dancing without a care in the world. She was in her own world where no one was watching. I longed to be that carefree one day. When the performance ended, I found myself applauding and cheering loudly. Probably hoping she’d notice me, she didn’t. I spent my morning in classes thinking about her. I couldn’t get her off my mind. I was enthralled.
During the lunch break, I sat alone as usual. I had no friends. Even my roommate didn’t want anything to do with me, she hardly even slept in our room, I was lonely most of the time. Just me, my books, and my thoughts. “You wanna get out of here?” I heard a voice say. I looked up. It was Rose. My face lit up like a firefly at dusk b Her hair was up in a ponytail. The skirt was longer today, resting just below her knee. She drew the chair opposite me and sat, her hands on the table as she stared at me waiting for an answer.
“I’m waiting for an answer….except maybe you have something to do,” she said after coming to the realization that I probably had other plans.
“I don’t know. I have class in ten minutes” I noticed her disappointment after I said that. I was as disappointed as she was.
“I have class too. We can skip them. I promise I’ll make it worthwhile” she flashed her million-dollar smile. I couldn’t resist. I followed her back to her room and we ate chocolates. She had loads of them. I ate till I couldn’t anymore. She put on music and pulled me up to dance. I tried to resist but she wouldn’t hear it. I told her I was shy and she said she wouldn’t judge. “Just close your eyes and pretend I’m not here. I’ll do it too” I watched her close her eyes and started dancing. I saw how fun it looked and I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try. Next thing I knew I was bobbing my head, throwing my hands everywhere, contorting my body, and jumping up and down. I stopped to catch my breath. Rose was no longer dancing, she was sitting on the bed staring at me. She smiled when I stopped. I felt the shyness return to me. I smiled and recoiled back into my shell. I sat on the other bed, her roommate’s.
“Would you like to join our singing group?” She asked.
“I can’t sing,” I said.
“You can’t sing or you’re afraid to sing in public?”
“I can’t sing. I sound like a frog” I said. She just chuckled and started playing with her hands.
“What club do you want to join then?” Asked Rose.
“Swimming. I love water” I said enthusiastically.
“Don’t join. The instructor is a pervert. I’ll teach you whenever you want” she said.
“You can swim?” I asked. She nodded.
“So do you accept my request to be your teacher?” Rose asked.
“Yes I do,” I said. She clapped her hands.
“Very good”. She came and sat next to me. I turned my body a bit to face her. We stared at each other without blinking. Her eyes looked down now, resting on my neck. She brought her hands to my neck and was about to unbutton my shirt before I stopped her. “What are you doing?” I asked.
“Relax. I want to see your necklace” she laughed.
“Oh,” I said, embarrassed. She unbuttoned the first two buttons and took the locket hanging from the long chain.
“Can I open it?” She asked before proceeding. I nodded. She opened the locket.
“Are these your parents?” She asked.
“Yeah,” I croaked.
“They are beautiful,” she said, still looking at the pictures in the locket.
“Thank you. They’re not together anymore though that’s why I keep them in this necklace, the only place they can be together with me” I said.
One of the things I envied the most about Rose’s life was her relationship with her family. She came from the most loving tight-knit family. I didn’t know if I wanted to be her or if I was jealous of her. Or if I wanted her and everything she had.
Part 4. Days of Heaven
I became Rose’s shadow. Not in a bad way. She wasn’t dimming my light or taking the spotlight away from me. I was no star, she was the star. I just followed her everywhere she went, I saw her more than I saw my own face. Life becomes different when you have someone that makes you excited to wake up in the morning. Before I met Rose, I used to pray for death in my sleep. I thought nothing was worse than waking up in the morning to face yet another bleak uneventful day. How glad I am now that God did not answer my prayers. I thought I was incapable of having a significant female friendship until I met Rose. What we had was meaningful and delicate. When we were together, we tried our best to be the best versions of ourselves we could be. It wasn’t because we didn’t want to show our flawed sides to each other, it was because everything bad in us disappeared in the presence of one another. Only the pure and good rose to the surface. It felt good depending on her because I knew she would never let me down. It was like having a dog and knowing it would never bite you.
We eventually introduced our families to each other. When we went on vacation, we met up several times to hang out and talked on the phone all the time. Rose was everything to me. And she never made me doubt my importance in her life. I saw how happy I made her and that encouraged me to continue making her happy. And as for me, the only thing that made me happy was making Rose happy. So I’d forever be happy as long as she let me made her happy.
Part 5. The Dance
The dance was the first major event we had after the holidays. Almost everyone had dates and I agreed to go with a boy in my class. I didn’t really want to but I hated to be the odd one out. Rose made sure I brought a dress from home by calling my mother to remind me about the dance. I got a blue ball dress that stopped just above my ankles. It was a strapless dress originally but my mom had a tailor sew on sleeves with a similar blue fabric. It looked ugly and Nina ripped them off the minute she saw them in my suitcase. I felt beautiful in the dress. For the first time in my life, I didn’t want to hide myself. I stared in the mirror and liked what was looking back. My braids were in a bun and I wore dangling earrings. I held a clutch that had nothing inside. It was as useless as the monarch of England.
Rose was in ravishing red. Fitted from head to toe with slim straps to hold the dress up. Half of her hair was up and half was down, the braids falling over her eyes so she could brush them away nonchalantly with her hands whenever they irritated her, which made her even more alluring than she already was.
I was bored at the dance and I could sense my date getting impatient with me by the minute. He kept dropping hints for me to join him on the dance floor but I played dumb. He sighed and said, “can we please dance?” I said I didn’t want to. “Well I’ll go find someone else then if you don’t,” he said. “You’re welcome” I answered. “Fuck you,” he said and got up. “Fuck you too!” I yelled back at him. I was frustrated with myself. This wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted to leave because I wasn’t with who I wanted to be with. I saw Nina having the time of her life with her date on the dance floor. Seeing her happy immediately brought a smile to my face. Her hands in the air, every strand of her braid was down now, bouncing up and down occasionally. I envied the boy that made her that happy. I wanted to kill him. Or be him. I didn’t know which one. I stood up and started moving across the hall. The disco lights changing from blue to red to purple to green, the music deafening and the temperature getting higher as each minute passed by. I inched slowly towards them, bobbing my head to the music like a hippie at a rave. I didn’t stop until I was behind Rose. I decided to join in the dance. “Nina, come on dance with us” Rose plopped me in the middle of her and the boy. She was jumping up and down, holding his hands as I was left trying to catch up in the middle. I separated his hands from hers and held hers in mine. It was my turn. “I’m getting tired” she yelled in my ear. It was like the universe was on my side as the DJ changed the up-tempo song to a slow jam. Suddenly the mood in the room dropped from the high energy to a lethargic romantic one.
“I love this song” she smiled.
“I love it too,” I said.
“Where’s your date?” She asked.
“He abandoned me,” I said.
“What an asshole. Well, I’ll dance with you. Fuck boys. You’ll dance with your friend. He can go to hell” she gripped me by the waist. “Thank you” I whispered in her ear as we danced.
“Can I lay my head on your shoulders? I’m tired” Said Rose.
“Yes, you can” you can stay like that till eternity if you want Rose. I’ll be there to hold you and not get fatigued no matter how long. I said with my touch. So we danced the night away. The DJ noticed how everyone was enjoying the slow romantic songs and he played them all night. It was the best night of my life so far.
Back in her room, as we lay in the dark, still in our dresses, she broke the news to me. I was staring at the ceiling, replaying the events of the night in my head. She started tracing her fingers over my eyebrows. “Nina I have something to tell you” she said. “What is it?” I looked over at her. She looked sad. I sensed whatever she had to say wasn’t good. “I’m leaving this school in a month” she said. I quickly sat up. I felt my head roar and my guts churn. “What do you mean?” I asked.
“My father has been posted to a different country, we’re moving and I’m starting a new school,” said Rose.
“Why can’t they just leave you here, you can go to them during the holidays,” I said, with my voice breaking.
“They won’t. They’re already not fans of me being in a boarding school away from them, they can’t ever let me be in a different country from them” she said. I buried my face in my hands. I felt her hands on my shoulders. I brushed them away. “Nina are you okay?” She asked.
“What am I going to do with my life without you?” I asked her. I didn’t expect an answer. I just wanted to guilt her into staying even though I knew that wasn’t her decision to make. “You know I’d stay if I could Nina” she said. I stood up from the bed.
“You would if you knew how much you mean to me but you don’t. I always care about people more than they care about me. See me here, I will do anything for you. Anything. And I hate that I’m like this. But you….you don’t care. You’ll just forget me and move on with your life. I’m just another friend you made along the way. I, on the other hand, will think about you till the day I die. I’ll write about you. I’ll hope I stumble upon you one day but it won’t happen. I’ll just keep holding onto hope. I wish I never knew you. I wish you never talked to me. I wish you never lost your tie and took mine. I wish I never came to this school. I wish I didn’t fall in love way too easily. Goodbye Rose. I wish you the best” I said. Tears clouding my eyes. Rose was crying too. I wanted to leave at that point but I couldn’t leave knowing I made her cry like that.
“Rose?” I whispered. She looked up and extended her arms. “Please hold me. Please” she pleaded. I ran to her and took her in my arms. “I’m so sorry for saying those words. I’m so sorry” I cried in her arms.
I ran as fast as I could, Rose leading the way, my hand in hers. We had escaped from school on a Friday after classes at 12:30 pm. We stopped a taxi and told him to take us into the city. The first thing we did in the city was withdraw some cash from an ATM. Our next stop was the mall, Rose wanted to get new braids. “I want them pink today” she told the hairdresser. “And very large. I don’t have enough time to sit for the tiny ones” she added. Her hair wasn’t braided, it was in its natural short black form.
“No. Blue please. For me. Keep it blue” I said. She smiled and reached her hand out to me, I took it in mine and squeezed, not smiling back. It was our last day and I was finding it difficult to be happy.
After getting her hair done, we bought milkshakes and walked around the mall. “Let’s get bracelets. Matching bracelets. They can remind us of each other” she said clutching my arm enthusiastically. I looked at her stolidly. “I don’t want that” she let go of my arm and I walked away.
We sat in the taxi quietly. I was filled with rage and despair. What was in Nina’s heart? I didn’t know because I couldn’t look into her eyes so I was unable to tell.
“Stop here please “ Said Rose. The car stopped and she paid. We got down. She asked me to follow her and I obeyed. We walked into a karaoke bar. “This will be fun” she dragged me to the stage. She chose a song on the machine. “Remember our dance?” She said. It was the song we danced to at the school dance. I nod. She started singing. I wasn’t into it. She pinched my cheek as she sang, I flicked her hand away and she grabbed me by the waist. “Don’t break my heart Nina. Please. What do you want me to do?” She said. I didn’t answer. Her eyes filled up with tears and she got off the stage. She turned off the song and walked out of the store. I watched her go.
Part 6. Immediately after ”Part 1. The Taxi”
We came back to school and went to the dormitories. “Goodnight,” Rose said to me as we reached my door. I stopped by the door, my back to her. I wanted to apologize, ask her to forgive me and spend our last night together with each other, but I didn’t, I just stood there, tears stinging my eyes. I opened the door and shut it quickly, resting my back on the door as I breathed heavily. I knew she was still out there waiting for me to come to my senses and open the door. I didn’t. I heard her footsteps fade away as she left for her room. I burst into silent tears, my chest on fire. I couldn’t help but resort to loud uncontrollable sobs. My roommate just turned restlessly on her bed and tried to cover her ears with a pillow, indifferent to whatever pain I was going through.
I had a shower. A hot one. I let the water run down my body as I stood still. I immediately went to bed after showering, fatigued from the events of the day. My dreams were permeated with Rose. They didn’t feel like dreams at all, they were like film reels replaying our best moments. Well, every moment with Rose was the best moment, but the dreams chose certain memories to replay. When I ultimately stirred and woke up after the sun hit my eyes, I saw Rose’s face looking down on me. With the light beams bouncing off her face, she looked like a celestial creature and I thought I had died and she was the angel receiving me in heaven. “Hey,” I said. “What are you doing here?”
“I’ve been watching you sleep” said Rose.
“For how long?” I asked.
“Maybe four hours or more” she said.
“I wanted to memorize your face. I don’t want to ever forget it” Rose said. I sat up, lost for words. How do you reply to something like that “But I gave you my pictures…you can look at them anytime” I said.
“I want to remember a real, breathing, and moving face, not a snapshot of a single moment,” Rose said. I smiled and averted my eyes.
“I don’t want you to go” I started tearing up.
“I know. Oh Nina I don’t want to go too” she got on the bed and held my hands. “I wish we could promise to find each other someday but I don’t want to burden you with that,” said Rose. I wanted the same too and it wouldn’t be a burden on me. But I understood what she meant. We make many promises like that in our lives with no real intentions to keep them, and sometimes we do intend to keep them but over time the urgency to slowly disappears and we’re left feeling guilty for at least not even trying to keep the promise.
“I want to say I’ll call you every day when I get back home but I don’t know if I would. I don’t want us to lie to each other” I said.
“We still have some time left, can I just lie here with you?” Said Rose.
“Yes”. A thousand times yes. I moved to create space for her and she lied down next to me. I lied down too and met her eyes, holding the gaze and scared to blink, as if she might disappear if I looked away for a second. Whenever I remembered that moment, I couldn’t exactly pinpoint how long we stared into each other’s eyes before falling asleep. Was it a few seconds or was it forever? I didn’t care to know because all that mattered were those ocean eyes of hers, and every day I go through life with the faintest burning flame of hope in my heart that one day I’ll fall into them and get lost again.
When the time came for her to leave, I held her longer than I’ve ever held anyone in my life. I eventually let go and let her enter the car. I watched their car vanish into the distance and it felt like my life drifted away from me. My lips trembled and my knees began to wobble. I steadied myself and walked back to my room. I lied down on the bed. I felt something under my back. I got up and checked what it was. It was a white envelope. I opened it. A fake blue rose fell out. I picked it up. There was something else in the envelope, a letter. It read :
“the rose is for you so you don’t forget me. And I took something from you. Come find it one day. It’ll be around my neck. By then we’ll both be ready for each other”
I was confused by what the letter meant. What did she take from me? I touched my neck. I didn’t feel a chain around it. I quickly searched for the locket before realizing it was gone. She took it while I was asleep. I started laughing, tears sliding down the corners of my eyes. So I wasn’t crazy all along. She knew what it all meant. Everything we had, felt, shared and didn’t say, she knew what they meant. We weren’t ready then but when we meet again, I’ll never let her go.