Highly Commended Story - Serenity
“Serenity” by Yoshita Menon, India, is the Highly Commended story in the senior category of the second biannual Short Story Contest 2019.
Yoshita Menon is a Grade 8 student at Rustomjee Cambridge International School, Mumbai in India. She is a voracious reader and loves the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling and The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare. She enjoys singing, listening to music, sketching and playing sports, particularly football in her free time, when she isn't reading. She is a vivacious and voluble individual and is a bundle of fun. She believes that every dark cloud has a silver lining and writes about sensitive topics such as illnesses. She brings a rather distinct perspective to her stories.
The demons in her mind, they consumed her. She experienced an indescribable pain in her body, an unintended weight loss. Allyson groaned through gym class. Miss Mary, her coach sent her home, though Allyson disagreed.
“Mom, I’m home.”
She ignorantly dropped her bag and immovably lay down on her waterbed. She was sure she hadn’t made her bed in the morning, and she knew it was her mom. She had become more diplomatic after hearing about her daughter’s metastatic cancer. Allyson hit the hay though she didn’t sleep a wink.
A while later, her eyes flickered and opened to Brian leaning over her. He brushed his dirty blonde hair out of his jellyfish blue eyes that gleamed inquisitively as Allyson flashed a half-hearted smile to assure him that she was alright.
Brian, her best friend suggested, “Let’s ride around the neighbourhood.” Rubbing her eyes till they were red at the corners, Allyson shrugged and said, “I’d rather sleep but it’s not like I have an option. Anyway, my mom thinks I don’t breathe enough ‘fresh’ air and that I’m always cooped up in my bedroom.” Brian mockingly laughed at that, and she punched his slender arm.
Well, maybe what her mom said was true. She didn’t feel like going out anymore, it was onerous to even breathe now.
Brian and Allyson sped away in his dad’s car. The jewel- like stars glistened in the jet-black night sky. The atmosphere was serene and a wave of intense happiness washed over her. She felt content with her life, composed; more than she had ever felt in the past few months. The intrusive thought of taking her own life had crossed her mind several times in the demanding last seven months, but she dismissed it as quickly as it struck her. Her pessimist self reflected on how life had deteriorated. All of those sleepless nights, all of those times when that inexplicable rage coursed through her veins. She was caught up in a whirlwind, her friends had moved on with their lives but hers was stationary.
The next morning, as Allyson paced towards her school, she knew that yet another day of ridiculing was to enfold. Her classmates hadn’t been too supportive of this change, they constantly emphasized on her receding hairline.
“Hey Allyson, even Charlie Brown has more hair than you!”
“Allyson, you should consider brushing your hair, uh-oh they might fall off!”
Brian was aware of what Allyson was going through; he tried to revive the vivacious friend she once was. He recalled the soccer matches they would attend together, hooting for their team from the bleachers. He recalled the squabbles he had with her about the music to play on the way to school, she always wanted to hear ‘Radioactive’. He missed it all. But he didn’t cry when she told him that she had cancer. He fought the tears since he knew that she was resilient, she just wouldn’t give in.
Now to see her flail, and how vulnerable she was, made him want to cry out loud. He knew that he couldn’t stand to see her sob again; he knew he wouldn’t let her melt.
Brian sprinted to Allyson’s locker and caught her quivering shoulders. “Ally, what has happened to you?”
Allyson turned; her eyes were bloodshot and puffy. She had been crying. Her voice shaking, she answered, “You heard what those girls said!”
“I heard it all right, but that doesn’t matter. You shouldn’t care about them, you’re beautiful in and out!”
“I-I don’t know. I feel horrible. I’ll be in the music room, singing. Leave me alone. Bye.”
Brian didn’t know what to do. He didn’t want to bother her. He managed to say, “okay.”
He drove to Allyson’s house in the evening, where he found her reading. “Hey Ally.”
She arose and pulled him into an embrace. She whispered in a grateful tone, “Bri, I can’t thank you enough for being by my side when no one else was. You are such an amazing human being.”
“Ally, I will always be there for you, no matter what. I won’t allow anything to happen to you.”
No one understood them better than one another. Their eyes said it all.
The next few days were absolute bliss. They watched soccer matches and made plans for the summer. They took Allyson’s dog for walks, flipped through old photographs. They drove to school listening to ‘Radioactive’. They did almost everything together like since their childhood.
It was lunch break. The bell rang. Brian waited for Allyson in the cafeteria. 10 minutes. She didn’t turn up. 20 minutes. Still no sign of her. He became agitated. Sweat began trickling down his temples and he was breathing fast. He rushed to the Principal’s office. “Good afternoon Principal Maxwell, I wonder if you know where Allyson is.”
Principal Maxwell nodded his head and declared “Ms. Park has been hospitalized. She isn’t keeping well. She was panting and the right side of her back had begun numbing.”
At this, Brian was speechless. He failed at suppressing the fat tears that rolled down his cheeks. He rose without a word and left for the hospital.
Brian was seated next to Allyson’s bed. The aseptic smell of medicines hung in the air. Allyson was awake and her body wasn’t aching anymore.
“Will you forget me if I die?” a hoarse voice rose from her throat.
“Never. I will remember you every single day of my life.”
Allyson smiled with her eyes. She mumbled, “I will miss you.”
“You won’t go away! I won’t let you leave me! I love you too much.”
Brian reached out for his iPod and played ‘Radioactive’ while Allyson hummed along. She wasn’t ready to leave him. She loved him too much.