Shadows Roasting in the Fire: A Collection of Short Stories
Collection: Story, the second
Author's Notes: This is the second story in my collection. Remember when I said my stories are not going to be romantically inclined? Well, this story kinda walks the very fine line between keeping that and going off the edge. This is full of head-on SUBTEXT. Lots of places for your imagination to work. My imagination certainly did. And I bet, so did all the others who have read this before.
Author's Notes2: I submitted this as a class project. A short narration for my Creative Writing class. It's weird 'coz I know that there's this miniature possibility that one of those people who might read this would recognize it, but I could care less. So, short of actually exposing myself, I bring y'all this little piece. Enjoy!
And to her death, she fell.
Or it was so in Katie's head.
But reality was a very cruel thing and unfortunately – or unfortunately for Katie – the dent on the side of the road was just that. A dent. Not a deep, gigantic, cavernous manhole where falling and survival never went hand in hand, but a small dent that didn't even fluster Regina's stance nor break a toenail.
It annoyed Katie.
But no one had to know that.
So she did what she had been doing best recently. Pretend.
It was all an act. The way she looked at the offending dent with disdain. The way she shook her head, seemingly projecting her annoyance at the mishap that befell her closest friend. The way she walked a little closer to Regina when all she really wanted was to push the other girl away.
It was all an act.
But no one had to know that.
"Where do you want to eat for lunch?" Katie heard Regina ask, but she didn't look Regina's way nor offer any reply. Katie knew what was bound to happen soon and she surely didn't want to have any part in it.
So she waited silently. Waited for the first suggestion, the first spark in an upcoming debate.
She knew this oh so well. It always happened every darn day.
Soon enough, the other girls – girls who actually relished the fact that they were friends with the great Reg – were having a lively discussion in the middle of the crowded hall full of college students. Everyone had a point. Everyone wanted their points noted, the arguments they made on the merits of all their proposed restaurants on campus heard.
When Regina finally spoke up in the middle of the cacophony, Katie could easily say she had been expecting it. When everyone listened to Regina, Katie could say she had been expecting that too. When everyone moved to follow Regina's lead, Katie was expertly aware of what she was expected to do.
So without a second thought, Katie walked by Regina's side, the latter glancing her way.
Katie had her role down pat.
She knew what she had to do.
The first time she saw Regina, Katie was already seated inside the small classroom, at the corner farthest from the door. Music that blared from her headphones separated her from the rest of the world. Her cheap discman sat alone on top of the wooden desk.
It was as it always had been.
When she felt someone take the seat beside hers, Katie opted to not even turn and look. She kept to herself, like she always did. Minding her own business.
Living her life.
So it took her by surprise when she felt the gentle pat. That brief touch to her shoulder. The indication that someone actually saw her. That someone actually noticed.
Noticed before she was gone.
"The prof arrived yet?" Katie heard the question, but what really got her was the expression. Katie looked at the other girl.
She looked at the other girl looking at her.
"Um. No," Katie answered, hastily putting the headphones away.
"Good. I thought I was going to be late, you know? Last class for the day and I really thought I'd have messed up at some point, but so far, all's been going well," there was that giddy grin, Katie saw, and she wondered how anyone would have the courage to show a giddy grin to someone who was basically a mere stranger.
When Katie didn't say anything because she really didn't know what to, the other girl looked briefly at the still playing discman.
"What're you listening to?"
This time, Katie spoke up. She knew exactly what to say. "Nirvana."
"Ooooh! Smells Like Teen Spirit."
"Among others," Katie found herself smiling. The other girl didn't look like the kind who knew of old school rock, let alone listened to it. Katie wondered how someone who looked like the kind of girl you typically see dancing to R&B in late-night parties, all flawless make-up and confident stance, would end up listening to songs from Nirvana.
"I'm not that into rock, but there's this friend who introduced me to their music and surprisingly, I kind of liked the songs."
Katie certainly didn't know how it was that the unspoken question in her head just got answered and she was thankful that the professor's arrival made for a good excuse to stop wondering.
She heard the voice before she turned her attention to the front.
The first time Katie asked was when she stood in front of the mirror and saw nothing.
All her life, she never really asserted herself. She was the follower, the listener, the introvert. She stood at the side and just quietly observed. She blended in and never left a mark.
That was just who she was.
Katie didn't have many friends, but it never really mattered. Truth was, she could never for the life of her figure out what to say whenever she met someone new and at the same time, she never figured out how to keep people interested in anything that involved her.
So it was natural that she didn't get to make new acquaintances, nor keep old ones.
And she knew that. Accepted it even.
It was just who she was.
"Why?" she asked, but the mirror never answered. Never gave any indication that she was even heard.
She stared and stared.
Where was the person Regina saw? Who did Regina see? When did Regina start seeing? What made Regina want to see?
These were all questions that chased each other around inside the recesses of Katie's mind. A game of tag that came to be when Regina dropped her off at the side of the road one ordinary afternoon and Katie realized she had been riding Regina's car every ordinary afternoon just before that.
"Why?" she asked again, for as much as the other questions ran consistently in her head, this was the one question that left tire marks. The one query she could not answer but wanted to.
Katie was nothing like Regina. She knew that. Accepted it.
Regina was beautiful, gorgeous. Regina stood out. Regina could charm her way into and out of anything. Regina had the perfect set of clothes and the perfect bags, the perfect smile and the perfect pout, even the perfect giggle and the perfect squeal.
Katie was nothing like Regina. Never as beautiful. Never as charming. Never as perfect.
And if Regina stood beside her, in front of the mirror, Katie knew she would only see Regina.
But as she stood alone, she stared and stared and waited.
What she saw didn't surprise her.
The last time Katie asked, she was talking on the phone with Regina. She was sitting on the bed cross-legged, phone held by her right hand, a piece of paper on the left.
The perky voice came from the other line, chatting and talking nonstop.
Katie looked at the paper and blinked.
"You are coming to the party tonight, right? Right, Katie?" came the insistent but friendly voice.
Katie blinked, still looking down.
"Katie? You're coming right?"
"The party? Org night? You should come. I'm picking you up!"
Katie's gaze never left the paper. She stopped blinking, but never stopped looking.
"Yeah…yeah. I'll go, Reg."
We are glad to inform you that you have just been accepted as a transfer student to the University of New South Wales for the Spring Semester of…and the rest of the words became a blur.
Katie stopped blinking, but never stopped looking.
"Great!" a lively tone from somewhere else.
Katie didn't ask. And right there and then, she realized she didn't want to look for the answer any longer.
There was no more point.
The last time she saw Regina, Katie was gritting her teeth and looking everywhere but at the person in front of her. Regina's eyes were watery, Katie knew, and she really didn't want to see more of that.
"What are you trying to say?" Katie heard the voice cracking and her jaw hardened in anger.
"Were you not just listening to me a while ago? I hate you, Regina."
Katie sighed. It was one of those hard, rough, irritated sighs that told you, this is not worth my time.
"You know what I hate the most, Reg? How everything is all about you! Your restaurant. Your party. Your vacation trip to Florida. The world doesn't revolve around you, Regina."
"I know that –"
"I have a life. Plans. You can't just buy me a ticket to god knows where and expect me to be on the other side of the world with you for your birthday!"
"Why the hell not?! It's my birthday, Katie. And it's next month! We won't have classes and I'm sorry if I just wanted my best friend with me on my damn birthday!"
"I have plans."
"You don't tell me anything."
"I'm leaving, Regina."
"Care to elaborate on that, Ms. Genius?"
"I'm leaving, Regina. I can't be your friend anymore.
"What?" But Katie had turned around and walked away. "Katie! Kate –"
And to her death, she fell.
Or at least it felt so for Regina.
The sun was warm. The place was gorgeous. The people were accommodating.
But when she fell to the pool in a huge splash of chlorinated water, Regina knew something was lacking. Something was terribly wrong.
And she had known for the past two weeks that something was wrong but what she didn't know was why.
She wanted to ask. She wanted an answer.
But the one person who could give her what she wanted was nowhere near. Won't be anywhere near anymore.
As the coolness of water took over her body, with wide eyes, Regina stared at the seemingly bottomless pit of endless nothing.
She stared and stared and waited.
End of Oblivion. (or is it?)