Savannah McClendon lounged, long and dark curly hair splayed messily, on the dirty bus to the dirty city. The one she'd fallen in love with. The one she swore she'd end up in no matter the cost. However close she was, however many times she'd gone, there was a feeling of such completion there that she had trouble finding anywhere else.
Her cheap eyeliner left soft black trails down her tear-stained face as she saw all the signs advertising shows and attractions that were available for her entertainment just as she passed through the tunnel. The familiar long tunnel that carried her to her dreams from the outside world. It was one sign in particular; One advertising a revival of Les Miserables, with new, instantly beloved star, Kaeli Samantha Heffner.
There was a part of Savannah that had always known where they'd all end up, even when they were in middle school. There was a part of her that doubted it even now. There was a large sense of pride for her old friend, and a tiny hint of sin-worthy jealousy. And there was something she kept in the back of her mind that wondered if she was bipolar, because at this point it seemed possible.
As the bus invaded Lincoln tunnel, Savannah frowned at the loss of the sight of the familiar face, and mumbled, "Kaeli." To herself in a broken voice, playing with how the old name felt as it rolled off of her tongue. She couldn't help but wonder if the girl would recognize her, or if she even remembered Savannah's name. Or the minutes she'd spent, typing lectures into a phone that were soon forgotten. Or the hours Savannah would break down in her arms, and hate herself for it, the hint of pain in a young Kaeli's eyes as she died every single day.
"You alright there, love?" A rather flamboyant, definitely local man, who sat across from Savannah, asked in a rich and very amusing New York accent. He wore a tight, soft pink shirt, skinny jeans, and an excessive amount of colorful makeup.
The mere sight of him nearly forced the corners of her lips to twitch upward. "The, um… Kaeli Heffner. She's a Broadway star now, but she used to be my best friend." Savannah whispered. "I'm alright, sweetie." She lied, closing the buttons on her long brown coat as the bus emerged from the tunnel and tried to find a place to park.
The man's eyebrows rose in surprise, "She's your friend?" He asked in disbelief, though it came out more as she yo frand? "Girl, you have got to see that girl sing. I saw that revival last week, and I… well, let's just say it was better than any other show you could possibly see right now."
Savannah nodded politely at the man, and directed her eyes back to the streets of New York; Back to the dying and unfortunate below the thriving, colorful and 'illegal' art that you couldn't possibly pay for, and to the designer clothes wearing citizens, who execute you with eyes alone. It was beautiful, and random, and positively breathtaking. And she couldn't imagine wanting to live her life anywhere else.
"Mah name's Daniel." The man said, directing his gaze to the city, as well.
"Savannah." She stated simply, eyelashes fluttering closed for a moment or two as the bus came to a gentle stop. They all seemed to stand up simultaneously, and eagerly. "Don't be a stranger, Daniel. Wherever Kaeli is, I'll be shortly behind, trying to get her attention." The girl explained as she grabbed her bag.
He scribbled down his number on a slip of paper, and handed it to Savannah. "Well, darling, my place is open if you need a place to stay, or someone to stay with. New Yorkers have never exactly been the most friendly a people." He smirked. "I promise my boyfriend won't get jealous." Daniel whispered to her, with a giggle.
She took the number gratefully, and placed it in her pocket. "Thank you," She smiled, moving some curly hair way from her face. Daniel was pretty good at making her do that, even though it seemed like no one really could. She began off of the bus as the line started moving, and her eyes really seemed to light up for the first time in years.
She stepped out into the world, breathing in the smell that was so positively New York, and moving gracefully about in the other direction, as Daniel blew her a kiss in a pose that was the very definition of fabulous. Savannah raised her hands towards the skies, miming catching the kiss, and smudging her red lipstick against her hand to send one back. She kept her hands raised as if she were sacrificing herself to the city, feeling the chilling air bite at her skin.
Honestly, she hadn't thought about what she would do when she got there. But she looked up, and sure enough, there was Kaeli again. Right where she always dreamed she'd be; on a poster, spreading her smile to the biggest populated city in America, the curing smile that Savannah spent her time hiding from, because she was too stubborn to accept that she was depressed and it was affecting her lifestyle, and far from being able to let her best friend help her.
Everyone was that way in middle school, Savannah learned. But to her, there was no way anyone else understood. They didn't understand how it felt to spend every night listening to Coldplay covered in tears in the darkest corner of the darkest room, and watching the world go on in slow motion while no one notices. She couldn't possibly fathom that any of them would know what real, pure, true pain felt like. But then again, she looked back on those days and she wondered if she even knew herself.
And then there was when she told her mom in high school, how she felt, and how it wasn't going away, and that she was scared. Savannah was positively terrified that something would push her over the edge one day, and everyone around her would be hurt. But maybe, finally they'd realize how much their words could sting.
She cut, first plastic knives, then just scratches at her skin until it bled, than dulled down blades, and then real ones. And she learned to love the sting. And even at 22, she stood in the city, a lost and depressed young girl with still- fading scars all up her wrists. Love never dies, after all. Not even if it hurts.
And high school did nothing but hurt her more. As she watched all of her friends move. One by one. They'd tell her, and she'd figure it was only good to stay distant, and then they were gone. Just like that, she was lonely again, listening to Coldplay in the dark.
Come to think of it, she never got better. But the rate at which she was getting worse slowed down. She didn't slip into utter sobbing depression more than she did into a long numbness. But she was here now, and she could feel something other than pain. Something good, definitely. Something that she couldn't quite place her finger on, put god it was there, and god it felt good. Not artificial marijuana high good, but pure, utter, spirit- lifting good.
Savannah chased the sign for a half an hour, finally standing under it. She finally felt the warmth of a friends embrace, and the shiver from the realization that this was all real, completely real, and that girl that she knew, who gave everything she had to make her want to see another day, was right where she was supposed to be; among the stars.
The dark, curly haired girl removed one ticket for Les Miserables from her large, soccer mom-like brown bag, and waited in the long line for them to open the doors so everyone could go get their seats. Her breath hitched with every single step she took as the line finally started moving. She handed him a ticket, they handed most of it back to her, along with a playbill.
Savannah had to stop herself for a few moments, and clapped her hand over her mouth, trying desperately to keep herself from collapsing into sobs, and becoming a broken mess on the nice neat carpet. Just walking into the theater, and reminding herself that it was all true. And Savannah had to remind herself that despite her dreams, Kaeli was the one who chased them, who never let go, when she was there wallowing in her own sadness. And she was happy with everything in the world. Everything was right where she imagined it. And there was no way she could be happier.
Savannah sat in the front row in a red theater sear, which she could not afford, thank you very much. And she watched as all of the moments harmonizing in the basement, all of the days spent sticking a song into their heads, and trying to learn it, all of the tears and the smiles a simple song brought them, finally counted for something. It gave the world a 22 year old star named Kaeli Samantha Heffner, and really, what else did it need?
"I dreamed a dream in time gone by…"