One, Two, Three -- fiction by Flore Alexandre
A couple of days before we left to go skiing at your father’s chalet, you casually told me he thought I was shallow. As your giggle echoed inside my head, I grew bewildered by the little importance you seemed to grant his insult. My heart bounced in my chest. In the corner of my mind, I saw myself shrink until I was reduced to a miniscule speck unable to answer or even face The Question casting a shadow over my being: What had I done wrong? Afraid you’d catch on to the measureless disappointment drowning my body, I asked in a falsely detached tone why he thought that of me. You explained to me that, for your father, a symbol of another social class who went to public school where girls didn’t swear by StellaMcCartney handbags, private school students were, from the outset, brats. Never before had I worried about my friend’s parents liking me; our relationship already felt like a love story. I identified with the nervous boyfriend wondering why the parents, too, weren’t falling under his charm. Why couldn’t I seize my place in his heart as easily as I did in yours?
As I discovered your safe haven in the mountains, I felt like I was walking through a time capsule of your life. This ski station was a place where your parents went together before they got divorced, where you have gone forever and where it feels like love lives on anyway. Though we had only befriended each other a few months earlier, I had suddenly become the front row spectator of a movie showcasing your life.
Throughout the weekend you were the version of yourself that I prefer. It is the version of you that opens up and sings her joy out loud over the roofs. It is your ability to effortlessly soothe my crippling anxiety with your smile. Moments when your friendship is such that I momentarily cease to worry whether I am loved because it seems like we are the only ones who matter in the world. Moments when your mischievous brown eyes widen, endearing to me, your loyal spectator, as you burst into laughter, speaking nonsense, and quoting random movies, “ Cut the crap Mikey...”. On this snowy day, we were in a coat of fog, sluggishness and the kind of happiness that slowly sinks into you and heats your insides. Is it selfish to label our friendship’s peaks to moments when you made me feel good?
Looking back at the countless hours we’ve spent together ever since, I realise we barely knew each other then. Maybe that’s what made it so special, the first of many ski lift rides, board games and pillow talk to come. The slight awkwardness that lingers in the air of nascent friendships. The beginning of every relationship when you don’t know what is to come but also feel like you can only love every possible course of action as long as you are together. Today, I wonder whether this appealing sample of us blinding me was what made me so enamoured with you in the first place.
Although nothing seemed more riveting than the movie of your life already playing before me, we had made plans to go to the cinema on Saturday night. We were in a rush and thought we’d miss the beginning. You were always late though so I couldn’t say I was surprised. You delivered your plea by saying it didn’t matter if we missed the trailers because they revealed all of a movie’s highlights and would only set us up for disappointment from then on. Like in many of our conversations, I would always nod, though secretly taking guilty pleasure in liking what you hate and hating what you like. Why such delight in opposition?
Once the weekend has stretched over time to its maximal capacity, on the daunting Sunday afternoon, we stepped into the rattling gondola to reach the train station and return home. To our right, the mountains gave way to one another. Progressively, they seemed more and more barren as they were stripped of their immaculate white cover. Similarly, this unwelcomed departure made me feel bare and fragile. Reality was settling back in far too quickly and I had been forced to pause the movie of your life with a heavy heart. Amidst the vast sky, we were constricted to a small metallic structure which seemed to be bottling up any past impressions of lightheartedness. As the gondola trembled beneath every cable tower, its jerky rhythm reminded me of the fragility of our incipient love.
Before you could question me, I muttered my idea while aimlessly trying to escape your gaze. I was surprised by the minimal amount of convincing this took in hindsight to lengthy disagreements we’ve had over issues we barely know anything about. Maybe, you agreed because you knew how much I needed this. Maybe, you needed it too.
We counted down in hushed voices. It wasn’t like the new year’s hectic countdown or the jubilant one on the eve of a birthday. We slowly articulated in steady voices these words that had lost most of their meaning from having been used in too many contexts.
One. Two. Three. Before even saying “Go!”, we began to scream together. Slowly, then all at once, our lungs filled with the mountain’s burning air. All of sudden, my usual composure was trampled and I swear I wouldn’t have cared if your father heard us in the next gondola. Afraid, we had seeked comfort in the unintelligible. Finally, the screen separating me from the movie of your life shattered. Suddenly, whether I was shallow in your father’s eyes didn’t matter to me because I wasn’t a mere spectator anymore; I had become an actor in the movie, your movie. Whenever our voices started to quiver, our eyes locked, fuelling the inexplicable sound escaping our throats. Screaming isn’t something that can be taught or mastered, it is in essence unruly . For once, I wasn’t off pitch and that was enough.
Maybe this weekend was our equivalent of a movie trailer. I dearly hope not.
Flore Alexandre is in twelfth grade and has lived in New York and Paris. This dual culture has fueled her inspiration in different creative endeavors, such as writing and drawing. She has written poems for her school’s literary journal, articles for her school’s yearbook and a short story for elementary school children to illustrate during quarantine. Currently, she is working on different short stories and tries to improve her writing by stepping out of her comfort zone, both literally and figuratively. She plans to study visual arts once she graduates from high school. She is very determined and set on improving her artistic work in general.