There was a wall at the corner of my bedroom that had tainted itself yellow. Small frames burnt their shadow into it so when they were gone, the black shades remained. Through the wall, I could hear the yelling. A woman would scream and a girl would scream back. The dogs barked and growled late into the night.
One night, I remember well, the wall woke me up. It shivered against my bed and when I touched it, it made me shiver. It was a child this time, a boy. He was crying. I heard the voice of the woman, tense with every muffled word that passed through the wall. The boy screamed a high-pitched curse. The dogs joined in with growls and barks. It reminded me of that clashing symphony before the beginning of a concert. It was an orchestra of chaos.
A white light fell through the window. I ran my fingers through my eyes. I didn’t think I would get any sleep that night. I looked through the window. Surely some neighbor left their light on and it was flooding out of their room and into mine.
I scanned the buildings for an open shutter, their windows meters away from mine, but they were all closed. I looked up to the top of the building and I lost my breath.
The moon hung low. It shone bright that night. The moonbeams danced through the closed shutters and painted them white. They touched my skin and I knew it was just light, it couldn’t do anything to me, but I felt something shift. I felt winter snow and summer winds all run through my body as I inhaled and exhaled. I could hear my heartbeat and I thought nothing could be more beautiful than that sound.
I watched the light as it moved through my bed. I didn’t know moonlight could move, but it did. The dogs kept barking and the child kept yelling, but I didn’t mind. I focused on that white light, and when it touched the wall, everything fell silent.
The air smelled like sweat and perfume. The music pierced my ears like daggers. I could feel it running through my skin like black paint, grabbing onto my throat and choking me. Lights flashed on and off with bright colors. I thought it would have been better if they had left them off. In between the colors, silhouettes formed. Bodies smashed against each other. Sweat shone on the bare skin of girls. Hands grabbed on to breasts and hips like claws. Strangers’ hair fell onto my shoulders as their backs pressed against me. I couldn’t move. I could barely breathe. The only thing I could think was “this wasn’t supposed to go like this.”
I was a flapper that night, complete with the long boa and the glittery headpiece. I had fantasized about the night I would wear that dress. Like a flapper, I would break rules, I would have fun, I would redefine myself. It was supposed to be the night I became someone else. It was my first party.
Panic filled me. The dress and the boa and the headpiece fell on me like dead weights. They pulled on me and pinned me to my spot. I felt trapped. I wanted to blend into the dark shadows and pretend I was one of them, but the lights seemed to be always falling on me.
But not only on me.
A hand grab mine, and then another. They pulled me through the shadows and the darkness, to a place where the music couldn’t reach us. I had forgotten for a moment; I hadn’t come alone.
“I don’t like this place.” Isabella screamed.
“Do you guys want to leave?” Zaynab asked.
I hesitated. I looked back at the crowd. They were teenagers like us. They were dancing, screaming, laughing, kissing, all the things that I wished I had. A voice inside me begged me to stay. It would not shut up. The soft begs grew stronger and stronger. They turned into screams that left me without air. I shivered. The voice seemed desperate. I didn’t know how to make it shut up.
Zaynab grabbed me by the arm. I turned around. My eyes fell on them and the voice stopped. Zaynab was covered in fake blood and a ragged, white dress that fell to her feet and seemed to glow. Isabella wore a bright red cape that caught the colored light and reflected it back. I looked down at myself, covered in gold that sparked with every move I made. We didn’t belong with the shadows. We didn’t fit in with them, but we were perfect together.
Warmth ran through my body. “Let’s get out of here.” I nodded. We held hands and pulled each other into the light of the moon.
I hadn’t grown comfortable saying the word “writer” to strangers yet. But I didn’t have to say to her, she just knew. She ran her fingers through the books I had set apart on my nightstand. I watched her closely as she stopped to read the title of each one. I pulled on the pendant of my necklace. She looked up at me and smiled, “You like to tell stories?”
I dug my fingers into the pillow of the couch and nodded, “Yeah, I like writing novels. I want to be a writer.”
She sat on the couch next to me, “I’ve never met anyone who loves writing stories as much as I do before you.”
I laughed. She was a writer too. She pulled out a little notebook and opened it. “Would you like to see?” She asked. I nodded and moved closer.
Life seemed to flow out of that notebook. Every page held a drawing. The lines and the color merged into each other as if they were water. The eyes of the characters appeared to be ready to blink at any moment. Every time she flipped the page, another character seemed to come to life.
“That’s amazing.” I muttered.
“Thanks.” she replied, “If you want, I can draw one of your characters. Just tell me what they are like.”
I stopped for a moment. I wanted to nod right away, but something stopped me. My lips didn’t dare utter the word. No one had ever met my characters before. I hadn’t even said their name to anyone. I could only think of the one million “what ifs” that could happen. They all played in my head at once. I couldn’t make out a single thought. “Only if you want to, that is.” She stated.
I forced the words onto my lips and they slid out like ice, “Yes.”
She grabbed a page and a pencil. She pressed the lead onto the page. The soft sound made me shiver. “So who is this character.”
I pulled on the fabric of the couch, afraid I was going to rip it off. “Her name,” I said, “is Nina.”
“That’s a nice name.” She replied. My hands let go and everything released.