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By Maeve Florence-Smith
I ran through the streets of downtown Portland. My alarm had gone off late and I had missed my ride. I needed to get to the bus quickly, or I’d get fired.
“Aye, watch where you’re goin’,” a short uptight looking bald man yelled. He reminded me of a wet ferret with an umbrella. I muttered a hasty apology. I was getting soaked. I was going to be late for the second time this week and at least the tenth time this month. I was so going to get fired. Suddenly my head whipped around. I heard a whimpering. It’s not uncommon to see homeless people in New York but, for some reason, she made me stop: a little girl, hugging her knees. I thought that she looked around ten, but it was hard to tell. Maybe she was older. Her faded clothes were ripped; an especially long rip fell right below her left shoulder as if cut by the rainwater or a shard of glass. She had a roundish sort of face with a short nose and short eyelashes, but her curly dark brown hair reminded me of a cascading waterfall. Her eyes were squeezed so tightly shut that I thought that she might burst at any second, and it looked like she was crying. I walked up to her and she did not even seem to notice.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” I asked, trying to make my voice quiet. I still didn’t know why I was drawn to her, and her reply startled me.
“The colors...they hurt.” Her voice was so quiet that I could barely hear her. For a second her eyes flashed open just as quick as the flash of a camera. They locked onto mine, one second that felt like an eternity. Then I noticed the colors. Her eyes were changing color and, with every new color, an old memory surfaced. First, they flashed to a deep forest green with accents of yellow and, with the color, a memory:
“Peter, slow down,” a giggling little girl who looks about five races after me. I’m faster. She has light honey-colored hair that’s pulled up into two pigtails that bounce and swing as she runs after me. She has muddy brown eyes, squeezed shut to avoid the glare of the sun, with long eyelashes that cast shadows along her chubby face. She has a round face with a small button nose. She is wearing overalls and, under them, a white shirt with black stripes. She is covered in dirt. Her feet are almost black they are so dirty. Her hand is out as if she’s reaching out towards me. I stop running to let her catch up.
“Vanna, you have to keep up,” I yell while laughing.
Then, as quickly as the memory started, it ended. The girl’s eyes turned to a light blue accented with orange and, with that change, another memory:
I can hear the crying. It’s been three days since Vanna’s twelfth birthday. That’s when the crying started. She complains about the color and then she screams. I try to help but all I can do is watch. Something weird happened when she blew out the candles, her eyes changed color, and that’s when the screaming started.
Then, the eyes turned to a purple with pale white accents and the last memory surfaced.
Vanna with her honey colored hair pulled back into a fishtail braid. She is wearing long, dark blue jeans, a scarlet shirt with cut out shoulders, and, like usual, no shoes on her feet. It is her sixteenth birthday. She has learned to control the colors and use them to her advantage.
“Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday to Vanna and Peter, happy birthday to you,” everyone sings. Vanna’s eyes, light brown with a gold ring, sparkle and glitter like the water when the sun hits it just right. She smiles at me and says, “Happy birthday, Peter.” I reply, “Happy birthday, Vanna.” Then we lean in to blow out the candles.
Her eyes shut as suddenly as they had opened, and the memories ended. I let out a quiet little gasp.
“You’re her...the girl...the girl with kaleidoscope eyes.”
My mind raced. I was utterly shocked. She was so young, so innocent. How could she be the girl? How was she not? I was abruptly taken from my thoughts by a soft little cry that reminded me that the girl was still there.
“What’s your name,” I asked, trying to speak softly and gently. When she offered no reply, I tried a different tactic. I talked about myself. I’m actually very good at talking about myself. You see, I’ve had a lot of practice.
“Well my name’s Peter, Peter Rose. I like oceans, lakes, rivers, and waterfalls, I’m definitely a dog person, I’m allergic to certain metals and cats, I have brown hair and hazel eyes, and I am…er…was a teaching assistant to a philosopher. I’m pretty sure I’ve just been fired.”
She laughed, a soft raspy little noise that I almost mistook as a sob. The laugh sounded new like it was not used very often.
“My name is Lea,” she said, so softly that I could barely hear her.
“Well Lea, why don’t we go somewhere and you can tell me about the colors.”
She looked hesitant and said, “Why would I go anywhere with you?”
I reply in a quiet calming voice, “Because my twin sister was just like you, and I think I can understand. I don’t see colors like you. But, I mix up times.” She laughed. But, she still wouldn’t go with me. “Time just doesn’t work the same for me. I do understand,” I insist. She still looked hesitant but agreed with a soft, “Okay.”
We are back at my house. I live in a big old light blue house with woods behind it. It’s a quaint little neighborhood with only about ten houses spaced widely apart. Which in this case is perfect, because she won’t have to deal with the colors and the people.
“You have a very nice house,” she said as we sit outside. “Tell me about the colors,” I say. She nodded.
“When I look at people, I see them--”
I can’t help it. I laugh. “I can see them too.”
She looked slightly annoyed, “No, I mean really see them. I see their emotions and sometimes even their potential. I can see their feelings: red for anger, scarlet for rage, blue for sadness, black for sorrow and regret, green for happiness, purple for peaceful and--” She comes to an abrupt stop. So it’s true.
“Tell me about your sister,” she says.
“Her name is Savanna. It’s been eight years since she left. Just like you, she could see the colors. For her, they arrived on our twelfth birthday, but then she learned to control the colors and, by the time she was sixteen, she was in complete control. Then, she died.”
“Hey, I want to show you something,” I say. “It’s in the woods behind my house. It’s kind of faraway.” Lea nodded a little less hesitantly now.
“Peter...PETER...PETER,” a female voice calls.
“What...what I’m awake. I’ve totally been awake this whole time.”
I look up and see a 14-year-old girl with curly brown hair put up in a messy bun wearing leggings and a t-shirt but mainly all I notice is that she is wearing a cross expression on her face. I make eye contact with her eyes, her kaleidoscope eyes. Which are currently flashing red with orange accents, which is rather terrifying.
“Sorry, Lea,” I mumble.
“I have a math test tomorrow and you said you’d help...a great lot of help you’ve been.” I smile sheepishly.
“Sorry,” I state promptly. Suddenly a huge smile lights up her face. I can remember the first time she smiled like that…
“C’mon, C’mon.” I say like an overexcited toddler. After what feels like a century of walking I am desperate to show Lea my surprise. I grab her gently by the arm and whisk her down the path to an old black bridge that looks as if it would suddenly just collapse out of pure exhaustion.
“Look,” I say.
Hesitantly, she opened her eyes, and a huge smile erupts on her face, and a laugh of glee will soon escape her lips. I lift her onto my shoulders so that she can see better, and she looks at this beautiful waterfall with trees surrounding the top in such a way that it looks like a kaleidoscope of color. The water looks like her eyes, time stops, and I can see the future.