Alone, Asleep, Forever
I didn’t want to let her go; I wanted to hold on forever, but, I had to let go someday.
Who am I? Alice Lewis I would suggest. I stare blankly at the piece of paper intended to be an English essay. I can’t believe it, it is only the first term of year eleven and we have already been given an English essay that is meant to help the teacher see who you are -like they need to know that. I am Alice Lewis, 15 years old. Is that not enough? You know what, I think it’s timetabled – the first lesson back the teachers encourage us to ‘delve into our beings’ and write an essay titled ‘who am I’ on our findings. I don’t get it, surely we are the same person year on year and although it is usually hard to concentrate this year I find it even harder because the sun is glaring through the window obscuring my view of the empty page and sending my brain down a different path. I try to think about who I am, but my brain is not cooperating. All I can do is remember what I was doing this time last week – when I was free from school and all the worries it brings, free from my own thoughts.
A week ago I was relaxing with my sister Lily on the swings at Stanley Park. I love going to Stanley Park, I can unwind and just be myself. I am free to travel to my favourite place, a place where the only passport you need is imagination. The multicoloured swings at Stanley Park have always been my favourite, my Dad used to push me when I was young – I always felt on top of the world, untouchable, invincible. But now I just tend to rock slowly backwards and forwards, gathering my thoughts and taking time off from the hustle and bustle of the real world.
When I started secondary school I started to take Lily with me to the park and I took her with the hope that she would enjoy the park just as much as me. She loves the swings; we can sit next to each other for hours, simply chatting. Stanley Park is close to where we live, as it’s easy to get to the park and, because there is only one road to cross, I am allowed to take Lily by myself.
Anyway – who am I? I don’t know what to put, a little help please? I could put ‘My name is Alice Lewis and I am aged 15, I live with my 7 year old sister called Lily and my parents. In my free time I go to Stanley Park’ but I know that is not what the teacher wants to read. It’s not exactly exciting, I mean – Seriously?
A bell can symbolise many things. A life, a death, love. For me it means freedom. When the school bell rings I push all my books into my bag and pull it off the desk. It’s like a race. A race to get as far away from this environment as possible.
The bell rings. I sigh with relief. I can file this essay into the back of my head – for another year at least. I walk out of the class as fast as I can without making a fool of myself. We have freedom, well, freedom until we are caged up in a hot, stuffy classroom again tomorrow. As I walk towards the school gates my friends Carly and Gemma catch up with me. Just what I need, I just want to get away from this place as quickly as possible. I have known Carly since we were tiny, our mums are best friends. The two of us used to be joined at the hip. Used to be, until Gemma came along. Carly and I were always partners at primary school and I mean always. We never fell out, but then Gemma came along. I was off school for a week, ill with the chicken pox. I couldn’t wait to see Carly when I got back, but is wasn’t me she wanted to share her cookie with or whisper her secrets to, Carly had a new best friend. This new best friend had just moved from America and Carly had become best buddies with her. Buddy, that word came from America too, just like Gemma. Sure, I miss our little conversations, just Carly and me. But I guess I will just have to accept it. Gemma is here now, and she is here to stay.
The sun is blinding on the way home. Carly and Gemma are talking around me, at me, but I don’t hear their voices, they are only sounds lost in the gentle breeze. I only thing I hear is freedom calling; Stanley Park is around the corner. I manage to peel myself away from Carly and Gemma, rushing my goodbyes. Because the schools have just finished the park is full of primary school kids running around and their mums chatting to each other. Ignoring the strange looks I get from the mums wondering what a 15 year old is doing in the park alone at this time of day, I make my way to the multicoloured swings. I sit on the red one, the one closest to the trees. As my feet leave the ground, my mind leaves earth as we know it – I travel to a parallel galaxy where everything I want happens. I can spend ages exploring my mind, letting my imagination take over. Closing my eyes and rocking backwards on the swing I can hear the wind gently licking the trees and I can feel it rustling my hair.
I can feel the presence of someone; suddenly aware of my surroundings I open my eyes. I realise the hairs on the back of my neck are standing up. I look to my side cautiously, not sure if I will like what I see. But I breathe out a breath I didn’t know I was even holding and utter a single symbol. “Oh”. The figure standing beside me just laughs. I can feel myself blushing, my cheeks turning a pale red colour. To regain my composure I begin to rock backwards and forwards on the swing. The eyes of my spectator follow my every move; I wait for him to speak. Then his lips move, saying one of the things I hear day in day out. My name, Alice.
Silence falls, all I can hear is the gentle breeze, until he breaks the silence. The question that leaves his lips is easy to answer, I can only say yes. Would I mind if he joined me? Really, would I say no? Could I say no? This is only the person that occupies my dreams, the person wondering in my thoughts at every opportunity. So, saying no? I don’t think so. I let another syllable leave my lips, only this time my single syllable doesn’t make my skin change colour. I find it strange that one syllable can alter someone’s life, it can make someone ecstatic or extremely sad. I can feel my legs turning into jelly as he sits on the blue swing next to me. I just thank God that I am already sitting down, otherwise something embarrassing could happen.
Before I know it one hour has bleed into the next three and the light blue sky has had a navy blue velvet curtain covered with silver glitter drawn across it. We have been sitting here for ages just talking. The scene is almost identical to my dreams, but I know that I am awake because in reality he is even more perfect, his feature more defined. His touch has the opposite effect of a defibrillator and his eyes hold me in a constant trance. His voice is like a violin playing a perfect melody and not missing a single note. They say ‘Time flies when you are having fun’ but I think it time flies when your heart belongs to another.
I get strange looks when I walk through the front door hours later than usual, I respond to the questions with all the right answers, but I can read Mum’s face like a book and I can tell she don’t believe me. I know at dinner that the glares being thrown at me like daggers from Dad mean that I am in serious trouble. After dinner he questions me on why I am late home and I come out with the same story I told Mum. His response? A snort. Thanks Dad. He thinks I am drunk, I guess I am fairly giggly, but I’m not drunk. I am just intoxicated with a somewhat sudden love.
Waking up pains me, I have to rip myself away from the perfection that the night brought. As my eyes open the truth of reality floods back, well drizzles. The view from my window mirrors my mood exactly. Dull, grey, dreary. I pull my clothes on slowly as even piece of material separates me from the night. I’ll remember last night forever, the dream that flowed through my head last night has visited before, though usually I suffer pain because the morning brings the cruel truth. But today is different, finally. My dream reflects reality.
My imagination sometimes gets the better of me; my ticket to ‘Alice’s World’ is used far too regularly. That’s why I doubt my own memories of yesterday; sometimes I find it hard to differentiate between the fact and the fiction. Did it really happen, did I really spend all that time yesterday with him at the park? I can’t help thinking about it on the way to school. I’m not sure, it feels like the jigsaw pieces fit together bit too easily.
“Alice Lewis in entering the building” – com e on Carly, do you have to be so immature? Is it really normal for a 15 year old girl to announce the entrance of a friend so loudly? My reply to this statement – a sudden, piercing glare thrown in Carly’s direction – soon shuts her up. As usual, just like any other morning I go and sit in my chair in the back corner of the classroom, right next to the window. Looking out of the window soon sets my mind off. I travel; I travel to a faraway place, visiting my faraway friends. It is almost like I write a script for them, they say every line with great conviction; follow every stage direction as if it would be the natural thing to do. It’s only me, Alice Lewis, that knows why they are doing the things I want them to do, say saying the things I want them to say. It’s straightforward really, it’s because my mind says so.
School passes, slowly, but is does pass. I act like a puppet. I go the right places, say the right things and make the right choices, but the thought is not there. No, the thought is someplace else, simply swinging backwards and forwards. I intend to follow my thoughts. I know where they will take me, but where will they take my story? Could a single thought swimming around in a teenager’s –somewhat empty- brain really change the path your life takes? I don’t know, but I want to find out.
I expect the signal any time now. It should ring soon. Really soon. When the signal comes it shocks me even though I am expecting it. The school bell. My signal of freedom.
The walk to Stanley Park isn’t long; it’s only about a 3 minute walk away from school but the anticipation that has been building up inside me makes the walk feel more like 3 hours. Upon arrival at the park I notice it is empty – empty apart from the one figure sitting alone on the multicoloured swings. Waiting. I don’t dwell on why the park is empty for too long. I have more important things to think about. Like that waiting person, the person waiting for me.
The park belongs to us, the only people here. We just sit, swinging backwards and forwards. As we swing we talk, we listen and we play the melody together. He tells me things I thought no one would say to me, things including the words gorgeous, striking, beautiful. Can life be any better? Can it? In return I tell him things that I thought I would never be able to say to hm. The moment is perfect and I want to hold onto it forever, I want to capture it on a camera so I can always remember how brilliant I feel now. Just sitting with the person you dream of, talking to the person that makes you feel relaxed, simply watching time slip by. My idea of perfection. Perfection until the moon comes out and we have to say out goodbyes. Before we leave we both utter three final words.
“See you tomorrow.”
Saturday morning. Yawn. Is there any reason to get out of bed on a Saturday morning? I can’t think of any. Actually, I take that back. I can think of one, I’m meeting him today. Well I am meant to be meeting him. I would definitely be meeting him if it wasn’t for ‘the puppeteers’. The puppeteers called parents that control my life. I got grounded. Grounded for being out late without permission. I mean – I wasn’t out that late and it wasn’t like I was miles away either. 5 minutes away, that’s all. So, now I am grounded and my parents are going out, leaving me to look after Lily all day. All day! Lily! I mean, I do love her and all, but a whole day with your little sister?
The terror starts after breakfast. The terror comes in the form of a moaning 7 year old girl holding my best foundation. The foundation that cost me £16. The foundation being held tightly by my 7 year old sister without a lid on. The foundation being squirted across the carpet. A quick furniture move around does the trick. The evidence is gone, but as for Lily…
Why do 7 year old girls have to have such cute puppy dog eyes? They can turn the waterworks on and off at the speed of light. It takes a while but Lily manages to convince me she is sorry, just. We agree it is best to get out of the house and leave our arguments behind us. But there are more squabbles to come.
Lily wants to go to the park; I am reluctant to go – I don’t want to have to look after my moaning little sister on a Saturday at the park, I refuse to go. I really don’t want to go, until I have a brainwave. He will be there. I can send Lily off to play and I can go and sit on the swings so we can talk till our heart’s content. I get the impression Lily is happy with this new decision, her grin says it all.
Lily skips ahead of me, dancing along the pavement and humming under her breath. My mind is elsewhere, floating away and racing ahead of our movements. My imagination shows pictures of the empty park, pictures of me and him, together. Only a warm hand tapping my shoulder can tear me away from the inside of my head. “Lily, what do you…” I begin to say, before I notice who I am talking to. “Oh, hello” It’s him, the one. I call after Lily, trying to get her to come back to me. He tells me to leave her, that she can look after herself. I have to listen to him; I am drowning in his eyes. The eyes flooded with reassurance and sincerity.
The road stretches, but I don’t care. In fact, I rather it was this way. It gives us a chance to talk. He brings up school; he had one of those stupid essays yesterday. I retell him some of my who am I essay. He laughs at my sarcastic recital, he laughs until. A flash of sheer terror crosses his face and the word “Lily” falls from his lips – and hits the ground. My eyes follow his gaze and I can see a small red car whizz round the corner, bounce over speed bumps and speed along the road at almost 70mph. I see a little girl in a skimpy pink vest and white shorts skip across the road. I see the red car hit the little girl. I see the little girl thrown into the air. I see my sister knocked to the ground.
‘Lily, Lily are you OK?’ I scream as I run towards the scene, there is no sign of the car. A hit and run. Lily’s shorts aren’t white anymore, just stained red – but I know there isn’t any red dye. “Lily please, speak to me, Lily look at me.” I cry desperately, picking up her limp body. “Help, someone. We need an ambulance.” I look around frantically. “Please, someone help!” This time I only manage a whimper. I see the life draining out of Lily. Her pulse is weak and colour is disappearing from her cheeks. I need her to grip her life, to keep fighting. I don’t want to let her go; I want to hold on forever, but, I have to let go someday. To think, earlier I was questioning whether a single though could change a path of life. It does, it can. It did. I changed Lily’s life forever. My vain thoughts took away my little sister’s life. My head spins; I have as good as murdered someone. My thoughts made this happen, my thoughts caused a death.
It takes me a while to realise that people are gazing at me, their eyes don’t leave my body. I just lie there. I know Lily has it worse, much worse. Suddenly aware of the eyes piercing my body, I begin to see movement. I start to take in the picture, mouths are moving but no sound is coming out of them. It takes a long time to adjust, to break out of my bubble. Then it all comes at once. The shock slaps me in the face. After recovering I can make out the words, everyone is saying the same thing. People are standing around me, the world starts to spin. Blackness follows.
I miss Lily. I want her back. I need to talk to her, to be with her and hear her laughter. She has left me in an empty space, I feel as though a part of me has died with her. The funeral was last week. I had never been to a funeral before and my younger sister’s was not one I wished to start with. It’s hard. Harder than you could imagine. She will never sit on the swing again; never feel on top of the world as I did every time I visited the park. I haven’t been back since, I don’t feel able to. The thought that the swing that she always used to sit on will never be used by her again shocks me. I still see him. He gave a witness report for the police as he was one of the only people who saw the car. He managed to see a bit of the number plate, that has helped the police investigations a lot. They haven’t caught the driver yet but there is still time. I hate that American word, but it will be nice to have some ‘closure’ on things. He has supported me all the way and even if I don’t love him the way I do now, I know I will always love him as a friend.
I’ll never forget that day, the day I lost someone special to me. The day it changed, the day I changed. Who am I? I am still Alice Lewis, aged 15. But I am different, I always will be.