She woke up with a start. Drenched in sweat, she looked around her room. Her hand clenched a crumbled sheet of paper. Her tears had washed the ink off it. But what had been written on it was etched on her heart forever. She couldn’t take her mind off it. She looked at the watch- ticking methodically. It was 4 in the morning. Counting each second, she lay down again, crying. She did not have the strength to go on anymore. The heavy curtains were drawn tightly, but a ray of fresh sunlight managed to escape through it, into her room. She put her fingers through it, waving them, creating a rippling shadow. She looked at the paper again. She tried to read it but her tears made it impossible. She touched it with her hands, caressing it, as if to coax it into life. She touched every word written on it. The phone rang- Once- Twice- Thrice. But Breeze was too tired to walk up to her receiver. She was broken from within. She wanted to end her life then and there…
Breeze had met Jennifer six months back in their photography classes. Breeze began her classes in June, just a week late to join. She entered the class, wet from the gushing rain outside. She ran into the class and slipped and landed exactly in front of Jennifer. Embarrassed, she quickly got herself up and slipped into the seat beside Jennie.
And that was when they first spoke. Breeze, like her name was free spirited. But Jennie was more reserved, quiet and accepting. Jennie’s laughter drew Breeze towards her. Their differences were what got them closer…
Jennie’s photographs were of people-Their lives, aspirations. She captured moments from their life and created a story out of it. Like a thread of memories… She was a photo journalist for the Times Daily, Manchester. She liked being a part of their life, however brief it all was. She felt a deep sense of joy when she brought a smile onto anyone’s face. She looked at Breeze, purely out of habit to look at people, with her paraphernalia. Dressed in a body hugging white top and khakhi trousers, complete with bangles, bracelets, anklets, necklaces and slip-ons, Breeze could draw anyone’s attention. Jennie then looked down at herself and smiled. Simple and subdued, in a summer dress, she liked the way she was different from Breeze.
Breeze was brought up by her father, for the fact sheets, but in reality it was her grandma who had made her who she was. She had moved all over the world with her dad but it was her Mamaw who gave her the stability she wanted. And her photographs epitomised her nature of being what she was. She focussed more on the things others overlooked. A bird perched atop a pole, the cloudy patterns on rippling water and the sudden bursts of light during the dusk.
Jennie was from a catholic family. Mature and in her mid twenties, she had seen a lot more of life than Breeze, who was just eighteen. But that did not hinder their friendship. Jennie and Bree gradually came closer. Every Wednesday, both of them waited for the classes to start. They shared their talent, their passion and dreams. Chloe (there had to be a Chloe) was Jennie’s little sister. All of fourteen years of age-she was Breeze’s best buddy! Jennie had lost both her parents when she was thirteen and had stayed with her Uncle Jerry. Loneliness had made her take up photography. And Chloe was her first muse. She learnt to cope with her feelings by venting them out in her pictures.
Chloe was a beautiful girl. Her cheeks were rosy red and she had the blue of the ocean encased in her eyes. Her brunette hair tied up in two pony tails looked adorable. Her lisp, her soft round hands, her pink shoes and abound amazement and curiosity of the world was something Bree admired.
Bree stayed in an uptown apartment, financed by her Daddy and Jennie lived with Chloe in a shared flat with her boyfriend, Drake. Drake and Jennie had been going steady since college. Both of them were Philosophy Majors from the University of Manchester.
Bree and Jennie shared their projects and dreams over coffee. Their favourite hang out was at Junc-T, where they would discuss their problems and ideas. Bree looked up to Jennie for every little thing and gradually their lives intertwined. Drake and Jennie broke up and patched up again. Bree was always there for Jennie and Chloe.
The photography classes ended in two months and there meetings became sparse, their life got dis-entangled.
Bree did met Chloe at her recitals and plays but the friendship that Jennie and Bree had nourished so lovingly began falling out of place. Theirs was ultimately just a passing friendship, right? Something that happens once in a lifetime-where two people come close to each other, share some of the best moments together and then time engulfs them along with their presence, leaving them to simmer, all alone, just with memories of those times.
Jennie had to go to Kenya to clear out some unfinished photography. And that was just a week after the classes, so Bree did not even get to say a goodbye to her. Her work often took her to places where she wouldn’t want to go. But, it was work alright. So, Chloe too was dragged along with Jennie to far off places- Kenya this time.
Bree got several post cards from her friend but over time that reduced to just an ‘I am alright, see you soooooon’ and then it stopped all together. Bree too had college to go to. New people to meet and newer things to be around kept her mind off the absence of her once-best-friend. Christopher was her new boyfriend and she couldn’t wait for Jennie and Chloe to meet him! But as life is what it is, she moved on and so did Jennie. After returning from Kenya, Jennie tried reaching Breeze, but she couldn’t. Bree had shifted in with Christopher. Like the wind, she couldn’t be caught up with anything for too long. Jennie tried communicating with her at college but Bree was on her photography internship and not reachable for quite some time. Somehow, Jennie managed to gather Christopher’s residence address and sent her a letter.
This letter was the one Breeze held, clenched in her fists…
I’ve had a crazy, crazy time. I simply couldn’t seem to reach you. A lot has happened with me, with us. Drake and I got engaged and he moved in to Kenya with me. I got posted there as the manager of the Time Magazine. I couldn’t even pack all my stuff properly. Chloe too had to shift with us.
I’m terribly sorry. I know I should have written to you before. But things happened. Wrong things. I took a long time to cope up with it. And now, it is time that you know it too. Chloe is no more. My little sister died. I know I should have told you earlier, but I was too shocked to have spoken about it to anyone, and out of all people YOU. You had been Chloe’s best friend. Just the thought of you tearing down dithered me from telling this to you. I knew you had started off with a fresh life. And I wanted to thank you for caring about Chloe like she was your own, when I was away. I have no one other than Drake and you now. Breeze, we need to meet and talk it out. I’ll tell you how and when. It is too painful to write about it. I hope you understand. I will call you in three or four day’s time. I still don’t have your number because the officials wouldn’t let out any other information about you. Please stay calm. I now it is difficult for you sweetheart. I’ve been there for you, always, have I not?
My number is- 077 23422969. Give me a call if you can.
Breeze read the phone number again. 0-7-7-2-3-2-2-9-6-9. She willed herself to walk on, but she could not.
But, Chloe? She was just a child. Why did anyone want her to die? Why would anyone harm such a girl? Breeze couldn’t think straight. The sunlight still poured into her room. She looked at the shadow it casted on the floor and wondered why she had never been able to click a photograph of a shadow. Her head muddled up. And then, the phone rang. It was Christopher. He hung up. Then the phone rang again. Once-Twice-Thrice…
And then Bree knew. It was Jennie.
‘Yes. Thank God! How are you Breeze?’
‘Chloe? Why? Jennie… I don’t understand.’
‘Meet at the usual place, okay? There’s a lot to be said’
And half an hour later Chloe’s death wasn’t a puzzle anymore. Even in this day, Kenya is a place littered with land mines. Chloe, had stepped on one. It was as utterly harsh and simple as that. Thousands of children lose their lives over the hatred countries bear for each other. Even worse, some of them lose a part of their body, a limb, an eye and have to live with it…
Breeze had lived a sheltered life but this enraged her. Why is it that, innocence is lost along the way, always? Why couldn’t Chloe have been careful? What right did these people have to play with Lives? She wondered whether they could sleep peacefully at night. All she wanted was to end this war AGAINST life in the name of peace.
And that is what I beg out of everyone. Peace lives longer. Stop this violence. Too many lives have been lost over the pretext of Peace-in the hoax of peace.
(Inspiration: Karen Davies)