Notes: A short story. Setting: random city that rains a lot in America. They’re in highschool so when I say junior year, I mean year 11. I wonder if I’m missing anything else. Ah yes, the time frame isn’t important and… I’m not an expert on diseases so I didn’t mention anything in detail. Have fun!
The sunlight burned. I wondered why it had to be today of all the days for it to be sunny in the rainiest city in the world. It is today that my… friend is to be locked away into the earth. Or rather, less melodramatically, buried.
Yes, there is a funeral procession and a whole bleak circus of relatives and friends. If only he could see us now.
When I met him at age seventeen it was probably the sunniest day this city had seen in years. Of course, when you’re allergic to the sun that is probably one of the worst days to be seen. I doubt you’d want to be seen with a blistering rash all over your face as if you were born with some horrible deformity.
It’s not that I particularly looked horrid that day that really matters though. What matters is Daniel.
Since he was twelve when he first had leukemia. It wasn’t as though he was detrimentally weakened by it. He had a few bouts of it. Always fighting, miraculously getting cured and then falling ill again. Not that I personally knew that though, I had only known him for three months before… well we’ll get there soon enough.
We first caught a glimpse at each other at the hospital. I had gotten a deliciously crispy rash that was killing me and Daniel was leaving the hospital. We were in the same room for about 30 seconds, we didn’t know the other existed and it was perhaps the most unmemorable experience. Yet when we met again at school he had this sense of déjà vu.
I was sitting under the shade; the sun had decided to appear momentarily enough for the first lesson of P.E. of our junior year to be held outside. I thought I was the only one sitting on the damp grass under this massive oak tree, but I heard a sigh. I peeked my head from around the tree and there he was.
“I know you.” He said.
“We’ve met before somewhere… I can’t remember”
If any girl had heard this line I think they would scurry away. Luckily I am not just any girl.
“Ah, just forget it.”
“…Well hopefully you don’t pick up girls with that line otherwise I think they would think you have the plague.”
He looked at me with a pained look and attempted to smile.
“Too close to home?” I asked.
“No no, it’s quite alright. I may as well have the plague, it’s pretty much the same anyways.”
“What’s pretty much the same?”
“Oh… well I don’t believe a person should be characterized by their bodies’ failures. I’m Nikki by the way.”
We sat there for a few minutes in silence.
“You’re not doing P.E. because…?” Daniel asked.
“I’m allergic to the sun.” I looked up towards the sky, cursing at it silently.
“How are you not dead?”
“How aren’t you?”
Finally admitting defeat he sighed out, “Touché”.
I smiled, he smiled and we sat back again in a more comfortable silence.
I guess as friends typically do we became closer and talked more. His friends, with their long lives, made him more aware of his early expiry date. He kept them pretty much at an arms length with his jokes and snide remarks. I, however, was an exception. How on earth did possessing a crackling rash caused by the sun become such a good thing? I have no idea.
Sometimes after school we would meet up at an old record shop affectionately called Tim’s to take cover from the rain. Daniel always visited the shop after school since his girlfriend, Anna, worked there. I wasn’t quite sure why she had a job in the first place. Most teenagers our age don’t, but there she was working away.
It was strange seeing them together. Anna was always bright and cheery whenever Daniel appeared and she reveled in his attention. Daniel on the other hand would look around, slightly bored, and would amuse her occasionally. It took me a while to ask Daniel why he put up such a charade, but when I finally did he sighed and asked me, “Is it really that obvious?”
“Yes. It looks like you’re just leading her on.”
“So what if I am?”
I started to glare at him.
“Okay, okay”, he said, “I just can’t break up with her.”
“And why is that?”
“Because I saved her life.”
I stared at him quizzically.
“We were childhood friends and at the age of 7 she and I were being driven to the pool and…”
He mournfully looked at me and replied softly, “A drunk driver swerved into us and killed her parents. The car was about to explode and she wouldn’t get out of the car. I promised her that if she got out of the car that I would always be there for her. She got out and we ran as far away as we could. The car exploded, and ambulances and some police cars came soon afterword.”
“Yea… she lives with relatives, but they’re not on the best of terms and she’s working so she can have enough money to enroll into college somewhere.”
He smiled sadly, “That’s just how the world works sometimes.”
“What’ll happen though…”
“When I die? Ah, hopefully she’ll be fine. Find someone else.”
“What about you though?”
“What about me?”
“Don’t you ever wish that…”
“I wasn’t dating her?”
“Sometimes, but hey, it doesn’t matter really. I’ll die way before I have a chance of having a serious relationship.”
I stared at him.
“What about living life to the fullest and everything?”
“For her, I’ll sacrifice anything.”
The days went by pretty quickly after that. Hours turned into days and days turned into a few months. Daniel and I would hang out more and more with his friends. As a result I eventually noticed that he had stopped visiting the music store. We were walking past it in the rain, just the two of us one day and I decided to bring it up.
“Why don’t you visit Anna anymore?”
He glanced at me and paused. “I took into consideration what you said the other day. I thought about it for the longest time, and you’re right, I’m going to die. I should be living by my motto. Anyways, it’s more convenient this way, it’ll be less hard on Anna if I do this instead of just dying.”
“Makes sense, but you said you would sacrifice anything for her. Your upcoming death has never changed anything. You still go to school; you’re not at university like most people in your situation. So what really changed your mind?”
“Maybe it has something to do with –“ Daniel stopped suddenly. Anna was looking at us. Her face looked all puffed up as if she had been crying for hours. Her eyes were red.
“So this is why!” The whole street was staring at her. Daniel went up to her and they conversed for a few seconds and she ran off.
“Anna!” He yelled as chased after her, his feet pattering on the soaked concrete. I followed in hot pursuit, sloshing through puddles to gain lost ground.
She had run all the way to the open platform metro station by the time we caught up with her. The train was quickly approaching and I could clearly see what she was to attempt. Suicide.
The train was whistling in warning, the rain was roaring, the people were chattering and suddenly all I could hear was the blood rushing in my ears. What I could see though was crystalline. Daniel had managed to grab Anna’s arm, but she was moving to quickly. He took upon him her momentum and pulled her backwards, slipping on the slick pavement in the process. He had managed to turn to face our direction and I swear I heard him say, “I love you” underneath the sound of rushing blood.
There were dozens of people surrounding, they could have stopped him or helped him. Instead they stood around as bystanders, shocked. I didn’t know what to do. I stood there, not being able to mentally comprehend what I just witnessed. Anna was on the floor, sobbing. By the time the paramedics came they were redundant. He was dead. There was nothing to do. Anna was a mess and I was still not processing the scene in front of me. Of course denial is the first step of the five steps to grief, but I never really made it past that step. Then again, from the beginning I knew that he was going to die.