I watched as the tawny owl landed clumsily in front of him. Its wide wings had knocked over his bowl of hot cereal into his lap and he jumped up, swearing and cursing, much to the amusement of his three friends. I felt a small smile tug at the corners of my lips as he sat back down and scowled at the owl. He reached out his hand and undid the red ribbon that tied the letter to the bird’s leg. My heartbeat sped up and my breath caught in my throat as his hazel eyes glanced over the piece of paper. Maybe this time things would be different.
His eyes got darker and darker as he read further along the neat piece of parchment. When his eyes reached the bottom, he enclosed his large fist around the letter, crushed it into an angry ball before turning to me. The hazel eyes that I knew so well locked onto my own green and I felt his anger and disappointment pierce right into my soul. I turned away from him in shame, not wanting him to see my tears. Alice had long ago suggested that I show them to him, but I knew I never would. I needed to be alone in my misery.
He and his friends left a few moments later. I could feel three pairs of eyes on my back that was racked with sobs. Not one of them was his. I had long ago stopped hoping they would be. Sighing, I stood up from the table and my neglected plate of eggs and sausage. I had no appetite any longer. Nearly all the bleary eyes of my peers stared up at me, some in mockery, some in sympathy, but I wanted none of it anymore. How could things have changed for the worse so quickly?
Stalking out of the Great Hall, I made for the open spring air, the need to feel the warm on my face overpowering. The courtyard was empty, save a few first years hurrying towards the castle as large water droplets pelted their heads and thunder rumbled ominously. It wasn’t the spring breeze I had been craving, but it would do.
I made my way over to the fountain by instinct, setting myself and my bag full of books down unceremoniously on the outer edge. The statue of the great wizard at the center grinned foolishly into the storm, water pouring out of his wand forever, completely unaware of the emptiness of harsh reality that had become my life. Lifting my red, blotchy face towards the sky, I let the rain pelt against my cheeks, their cold splash soothing against their raw surface.
It hadn’t always been like this. The emptiness that had consumed me hadn’t always been there. I had once been told that I was vivacious and lively, smart and quick-witted, beautiful both the inside and out. But he had always been there. As infuriating, obnoxious, egomaniacal, and irresponsible as he was – he was always there. Most of my life had been spent studiously ignoring him, only fighting with him when he got to the end of my patience, which had been wearing thin in later days. I used to scoff at the people who claimed he was madly in love with me. Him, love me? It wasn’t plausible. “He just likes getting a rise out of me,” was always my answer to those people, who would roll their eyes and walk away muttering about my denial.
It was about a year ago when I finally gave in and decided that dating him might not be as bad as I thought. He was tall and handsome, charismatic and charming, and as everyone in the entire school knew, extremely funny. I remembered even thinking that we might have a chance at a long time relationship. Things had all gone downhill from there. Our first few dates had been awkward, our first kiss clumsy, and our last date disastrous. To this day I still can’t remember what exactly we had fought about but I do remember stomping out of the Three Broomsticks and running as hard and fast as I could back to the castle where I collapsed in tears on my bed.
Our rage lasted longer than our relationship had, and grew stronger by the day until our classmates feared to be in the same room when we were together. Summer break came soon after though, and we each used the break to cool off and when school started again this year, it was if nothing had happened. He had taken to bothering me incessantly again, and I had taken to doing my best to control my temper. A sort of friendship had even seemed to form between us. I could talk to him about my problems, and he would listen, offering bits of advice here and there whenever I paused and I helped him with homework and playfully bantered with him.
But suddenly, everything stopped. He ignored me in the hallways, walking past me as if I didn’t exist and never looked back. If I sat next to him at dinner he would reach around me to get food and talked as if I wasn’t there, and couldn’t hear what he was saying. I started leaving him notes, just quick little messages of “Hi” or “How are you doing?”, but I never once got a reply.
It was frustrating to never get a reply, to never be acknowledged with more than a scathing look, for what, I had no idea. I had wracked my brain for hours on end, neglecting my schoolwork and appearance. As my dorm mates well knew I had cried myself to sleep more times than I could count, afraid and ashamed to admit that I had missed him.
Alice had always told me that it wasn’t my fault that he was just being a prat as usual. She said that I couldn’t dwell on it, that it was his problem, not mine. And for a while, I believed her. I became as icy to him as he acted towards me. I ignored him and his friends with every last fiber of my being, even taking a T on a critical Transfiguration lab because I had been paired with him. Sure, it had crossed my mind to turn him into the physical version of the hairy, spineless toad that he was, but he hadn’t made any move to transfigure me, so I wouldn’t either.
I would not show any signs of weakness around him. I carried myself like I had not a care in the world, and hid my tears from him, and everyone else. It hurt too much to think about him, but it hurt even more to not think about him. My every moment was spent being completely focused on blocking out all the memories I had with him and suppressing all the hurt that consumed me. The numbness suited me. Feeling nothing at all was better than feeling the wounds of loss.
I knew I was becoming a shadow of my once vivacious self, becoming more introverted and indifferent to everything around me. I could feel people shy away from me in the halls and whisper behind my back, but I couldn’t stop myself. I was falling faster than anyone could catch me, spiraling downward.
The abyss of depression had become my sanctuary. There alone I was able to weep for my unreturned feelings, for the rejection I was being submitted to without any reason. There was no reason for me to wear the façade of happiness I put on for everyone else. I was able to openly cry over my misfortunes as my heart broke a little bit more every day.
He hadn’t spoken a word to me in nearly three months now. Three months of staring at the many owls that flocked to the Great Hall every morning, hoping that he had finally returned one of my letters. Three months of pretending to read by the fire as I waited for him to come into the Common Room so that I could talk to him. Three months of staring sadly across the classroom at him as he plotted with his friends, hoping he’d feel my stare and turn to look at me.
Three months of having my heart re-broken every time.
At night, all the feelings I had suppressed, all the rage, yearning, and bitter sadness revealed themselves like monsters, ravaging my dreams when I slept. I had woken up screaming and crying this morning; I had been dreaming of the time he and I had spent and evening by the lake, laughing and joking around before he pushed me playfully in the water.
“James!” I shrieked, flailing about in the water. “You bloody prat!”
“Sopping wet suits you, Lily,” he chuckled, reaching a hand out to pull me back onto dry land.
“I don’t need your help,” I said stubbornly, clamoring out and kicking a strand of kelp off of my shoe.
“Aw Lil, don’t be like that.”
“I’ll be however I want, thanks,” I replied coldly, shaking my head of bright red hair like a dog would shake water out of its fur.
“Come on, Lil,” he whined grabbing my wrist. I grinned inwardly as I turned to him, putting on my best glare. I stared into his magical hazel eyes for a moment before replying, “No, you come on James.”
I pushed him backwards so that he stumbled and fell, right into the lake. Unfortunately, I hadn’t thought to let go of his wrist in time and tumbled back in with him. We both came up gasping and spitting, but laughing. We splashed around in the water a bit before I started to shiver and he helped pull me out of the water.
I was crying again. I could feel my tears sting my cheeks as they mixed with the rain and ran mercilessly down my face. I could taste them as they ran over my lips and I licked them away.
I could feel myself starting to shiver as the relentless downpour soaked through my clothes. It felt good. My arms started to tingle with goose bumps and I heard my teeth chatter as the wind blew my drenched robe around me. My toes squelched in my shoes with all the water that had diffused through my socks and my ears drummed with the crashes of thunder. My heart was beating erratically against my ribcage, trying to keep blood flowing through my veins so I wouldn’t freeze to death. I was alive. I was terribly tired and frozen, but I was alive.
I was more alive than I had ever felt in these three months.
Storms had always suited me perfectly. They were a time when I had an excuse to stay indoors and do nothing but read in front of the fire all day and drink about a thousand cups of coffee. They were fierce and torrential in their attack, ravaging the land for hours before slowly petering off and leaving it glistening and refreshed. They were beautiful, yet depressing – they were not the type of weather a normal person would want to go out in, nevertheless that same person could spend all day watching the magnificent patterns the lightning threw across the sky and listening to the deep drum of the thunder penetrate to their very core. Together we were one, inescapable from our own melancholy, but hopeful for the rays of bliss that would come after.
Running my fingers through my stringy ginger hair, I stared down at the cobblestone floor, watching as the rain drops collected in the grooves, forming puddles. Emotions, I decided, were very much like puddles. I would push them, and push them, and push them down deep inside of me until they collected in the pit of my soul, bubbling and churning into a vile concoction before the trigger was pulled, and every last emotion overflowed, and ran.
The thunder crashed again, shaking the ground with its mighty power. The wind whipped my hair violently around my face, stinging my face as it slapped ruthlessly against my cheeks. I knew I should have gone into the castle, sat by the fire, and put on some dry clothes to warm up. My mother had told me numerous times that if I stayed out in the rain too long I would catch my death. I had never believed what she had said though. It wasn’t possible to catch pneumonia from being out in the cold rain too long; I had discovered long ago that pneumonia is caused by fluid in the lungs, and unless I am one of those turkeys that drowns itself in the rain, then I am not going to catch pneumonia.
I pretended I could not hear who I knew was my best friend over the roar of the storm and continued to stare straight ahead at the stone wall ahead of me. I could feel Alice sitting down beside me, yet I still did not turn to look at her, choosing to try to count the number of bricks in the wall.
“Lily, please talk to me.”
I knew she was hurt. I knew she felt sorry that I was in so much pain. But sympathy was not what I needed right now. I needed time. Alone.
“Lily, you’ll catch your death out here.”
“It’s physically impossible to ‘catch one’s death’ out in the rain,” I mumbled quietly, but I knew she heard me.
We sat in silence for a few minutes, neither of us looking at the other. The rain poured on, unaware of the two soaked teenage girls in its midst, but I highly doubted that it would have slowed in its actions if it had known we were there.
“Why are you still here?”
“What?” she asked in surprise, and this time I turned to look at her. Her short pixie hair was plastered to her forehead and her normally light pink lips had turned blue from the cold. Her light brown eyes gazed sadly back at me in pity.
“I asked why you are still here. As you probably know, we’re not sitting in exactly enjoyable conditions.”
“Because I care Lil. I’m your best friend. I before anyone else would know how miserable you’ve been for a while now and I want you to know that you don’t have to face this alone.”
“Alone,” I stated dejectedly, my voice cracking as the urge to cry washed over me again. “That’s exactly the problem Ali. Alone is all I seem to be anymore.”
“But you don’t have to be!” she cried and I could hear her voice crack much like mine. Her small hands enveloped my wrists and she shook me slightly. “You don’t have to face this alone! I’m here for you.”
We stared at each other through tear-clouded eyes, an unspoken explanation passing between us before I threw myself into my friend’s arms, sobbing hysterically. I don’t know how long we stayed like that, hugging and blubbering together, but she did not let me go.
“Thank you,” I whispered after a few long moments, pulling back from Alice and wiping leftover tears from my eyes
“Are you alright?”
“No,” I answered honestly, staring down at the cobblestones before turning to look at her once again, “but I will be.”