by Melissa Chen
Art by Amy Chatterjee
Issue: Ataraxia (Spring 2018)
She has been holding her breath. Now she lets the air pass through her lips and cover the faint beat of icy moth wings across the room. She stands by the door, fixated to the curtains that stir ever so quietly. The moon must be full tonight; the voile glows with a soft white light. A groaning creak across the room. She tenses. He doesn’t like her in the sickroom; doesn’t like her seeing him like this. She indulges him.
She ventures no further than the door, and it seems she’s spent her entire life at the threshold. But tonight her hands are sizzling from having pushed the curtains aside; having touched that freezing pane and unlocked it. He hates the window to be open—the only one in the whole house—but she knows the stuffy air can’t be good for his lungs. He always had weak lungs. She breathes for both of them now.
The moonlit window beckons. She hesitates. A full moon. The drapes whisk her out with a gentle flourish. She dances into the moonlight in a trance. The night brushes a cool bolt of soft breezes, and blows it her way like an airy kiss; a single delicate evening primrose blooming with a sweet sigh. The grass glistens with pale frost. She throws herself down on it, and the cold tingles on her numbed skin. A person could die peaceful like this, in cold reflections of sunlight and never know the difference. Never know the buds as they sprout; their blazing faces turned towards a full sun; their wilting but noble fray against descending winter….. She draws a sharp intake of breath, and her chest lurches as if her heart has just begin to beat.
She raises her arm, watching it with a curious detachment. Her veins are so blue under her skin like milky jello. Her gaze pulls up the ghostly arm, and to her slender fingers like broken crafts fashioned from the frail bones of songbirds. There is something pinched between her rounded crescent nails. Something like wispy glass thread. She traces it upwards—up up up—and, faintly startled, touches the crown of her own head. The flaking scalp and the thin, delicate skull. Suddenly weak, she stands slowly, feeling the weight of her pale flesh on the shaky support of her brittle frame.
Others mourn in darkness, and she has too. But while others lament wearing black, she grieves in white. Black and white. Same, really. Both shades never touched by light.