I've seen your face many times. Sometimes it smiles down at me, others it crumples like paper wet with rain. I've seen it twist into that funny look you get when bewildered, and I've seen you scowl in rage. But mostly, when I see it, your face is calm and beautiful, eyes so focused. You chew your lip in concentration while you read.
I like seeing your face. Sometimes I don't see it for so long, I wonder if you've moved on. But then your eyes trace my words again, and I know you've come back for me. My pages grow ragged and worn witch each time I see you. I know one day, they will simply…fall apart.
You know my story well. I wonder what I look like in your mind's eye. That's the only place you've ever seen me. Does my world intrigue you? I wonder, sometimes, what my story sounds like to you. Whose voice do you imagine reading it? Your father, who left when you were twelve and gave you my story, do you hear him? Or your grandmother, who still reads to you even if you're too old, and she can barely see? Maybe you hear your own voice, soft and warm. I remember the day you read my story aloud, to your little sister. I relished the sound of my name on your tongue. I will never forget the catch in your voice as you read the sad bits, or the red rush in your words, ever indignant.
Today, as you flick through the pages to your favourite part, your eyes hold that same don't-mess-with-me spark. I peer out through an o, taking in your beautiful face. I see your eyes start moving down the lines of letters, just like always. They will calm you, just like always, and I will be glad you came to me. I watch you eagerly, waiting for that moment when the tension slips from your muscles and you let my story, my world, envelop you.
But I don't see it. Not today. Today, your eyes stop moving and fix in one spot. I move under their gaze, pushing my hands against the paper. You're not looking at me, you're staring blankly into space. Your face is set, grim, angry. So angry you let a single tear fall. It splatters above me, not daring seep into my world. I wish I could reach out to you, hold you close and whisper comfort in your ear.
I realize that I have failed. I can no longer comfort you.
I hang my head, dropping it against my papery walls. I let tears fall, too. I am filled with some sort of sadness, but it's not the usual kind, it's heavier, and it hurts.
I push and push against the walls of my prison. I beat my fists on them, pounding, screaming, yelling, but they don't let me through. You are crying now, wiping away tears. You still hold my book open absent-mindedly, but you no longer pay attention. I fall silent, watching you, my desperation draining, replaced by a sickening sense of despair. I will never reach you.
After a moment, you shut the book.
It's months before my book is opened again. I scramble up to the type, hoping to catch a glimpse of you, so happy you've returned at last, you've come back to me, and it's all right. But it is not your face I see. It's the small face of a different girl, eyeing my story with eagerness and distrust, the best way to begin a book.
I know that we could never have been. I am trapped here, in this world of letters and sentences. You are flesh-and-blood, escaping into my world when yours wasn't enough. I'm just a story. But then, that's all anyone ever is. Sometimes they end in the middle of a sentence, sometimes they never end. I hope you make your story spectacular, love.