Sophia had gone to school and Chris desperately needed to do her laundry, only being informed that morning that she didn’t have any more clean uniform skirts. He threw her clothes, socks and skirts and white Oxford shirts haphazardly into the black laundry basket when he came across it innocently. It was on her desk and how can he not have spotted it? A piece of paper, her girlish and bubbly script across it in pink ink.
Chris glanced at it long enough to identify it as a poem. Then, he sat down with it in his hands and begun to read.
She wanted dolls
Pink, pink, pink everything
Two doting fathers
No care ever
“love you, darling
“sweetest little girl
Titles that morphed overnight
Like the little girl
Straddling hope and
Panic all at the same time
Girl of five-teen
With grown up decisions and
Boys attention replaced that of her fathers’
Lipstick and nail polish and foundation and blusher
Gossip and the
Sharp side of
The tongues of her peers.
She felt too much, cared more than needed
She was a little girl with
A big girl bra
And big girl clothes and
Ideals who dreamed of
Silly little thing who didn’t realize that Hope
Was just a phase.
She would only
Grow out of it soon.
She floated on the wings of her dreams long enough
To feel them fail her
And then she was falling deeper and deeper
Into a pile of Devastation that looked an awful lot like
“er, er, er
And the powerful thought of
YOU ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH.
Unconditional love, they claimed
Nothing is unconditional.
He stared at it for a long moment before he even realized how empty he was feeling, deep within the pit of his heart. Chris set the paper down exactly where it was before, but that didn’t change the fact that the words were now engraved on the inside of his mind. A little girl, his little girl, the same one who had wedged herself between he and Seth in bed when a nightmare terrified her. The exact one that begged him to read her another story every night. Who dreamed about being a princess.
It was impossible to think that little girl could have those thoughts.
And then, Chris realized suddenly, she wasn’t a little girl anymore. She had grown up, started wearing makeup and contact lenses. She moved with a sway in her hips now and blushed when she noticed boys looking at her. Sophia had reached that point where Chris was no longer her hero but the lamest person on the face of the earth.
What had happened to his life?
It was right after Seth got his letter of acceptance into Harvard medical school. A cool Friday night, Chris remembered, that they went out to celebrate at a fancy restaurant in D.C. which was a stretch for two college students. He should’ve been studying for finals, but between Seth’s upcoming graduation plans and his new job, where was the time?
“To the future Doctor Seth Grafton.” Chris grinned, raising his champagne. Seth smiled back, ducking, yet following suit.
“Not yet.” He concluded. “To Massachusetts.” Seth added as their glasses touched.
“UVA graduate in a month. Medical school student in the fall.” Chris mused. “I can’t even tell you how excited I am for you, Seth. Congratulations. You should be really proud of yourself.”
“I wouldn’t be here without you.”
“Oh, don’t.” Chris laughed. “I didn’t do anything.”
Seth reached across the table to Chris’s hand. “You’ve supported me through all of this. You’re the most amazing person I know.” He murmured.
Chris was floating the whole night. He had just gotten a new job that previous week, so he wasn’t spending his nights taking orders of arrogant people, plus with Seth’s news, nothing could get them down.
When they had left about an hour and a half later, it had started to pour. Only right after they got about ten feet away from the restaurant. Seth began to laugh as he grabbed Chris’s hand. They ran through the downpour at nine at night to the nearest awning that displayed the name of a coffee shop. Soaked and shivering, they both stood close to each other, laughing and watching everyone else outside run for cover as well. The sound of the rain beating down on the tarp was soothing.
Seth reached out to touch Chris’s cheek. “Christian Harvey, I love you more than I can say,” he whispered. Chris bit his lip and felt his heart flutter against his ribcage. After all this time, Seth still made butterflies erupt. He felt himself blush, yet Seth stepped closer to him so they were touching. Then, “Will you marry me?”
Startled, Chris blinked into Seth’s eyes. A blue so pale they were nearly silver with flecks of dark and light trapped inside. His black, inky hair dripped. He was grinning sheepishly, hands holding Chris’s firmly. For a second, he couldn’t speak. “Are…are you serious?” he breathed, fearing it wasn’t real.
“Dead serious, Chris. Marry me.”
After Seth had fallen asleep, Chris laid awake, drawing invisible designs with his fingertips across his back. When they got back from D.C, shirts couldn’t have come off fast enough. Pants were undone and tossed haphazardly around the apartment. In fact, now, the sheets were nearly ripped off the bed in a state of disarray.
He laid there in the shocking silence, staring at Seth’s sleeping body, unable to sleep. He gazed serenely at the freckles splashed across his tanned back, at his messy hair. All the while, he kept thinking about Seth’s warm Southern accented voice saying, “Marry me.” Two words was all it took for his life to change and for his heart to melt.
Engaged. The word hung in the air all around them.
Chris kissed Seth’s shoulder blade and wrapped an arm around his torso, curling closer, hardly able to believe that this man was now his fiancé.
Sophia sat in her English class but her mind was far away. The entire time Mr. McClure was lecturing about Brave New World, she was doodling on her paper, writing random lines of poetry that looked more like thoughts. She had never really called herself a poet before and never cared much to read it, but she had been writing it a lot lately.
Mr. McClure began to pass back last week’s test, signifying the end of the block. Sophia was brought back to earth when hers made its way to her desk. Her heart sank as she looked at the red grade circled at the top. A 56%. Failing. And a note that simply read: Please see me after class.
She pretended to take a lot of time packing her things away to let everyone else leave the room and save herself some embarrassment. Then, finally, when the room was empty except for Mr. McClure sitting at his desk, reading something, she walked forward.
“You… wanted to see me?” She asked timidly. He glanced up at her and nodded, unfolding his legs and leaning forward. His hands were a steeple in front of him and he blinked at her. Sophia had always liked Mr. McClure and thought he was pretty cool. Literally fresh out of college and brilliant, she loved to listen to him talk about whatever novel they were reading. It was like he deeply connected to everything they read.
“Yes, I did.”
Sophia waited for him to say something, but he didn’t. Not until she sat down.
“Is everything okay, Sophia?” he asked her quietly.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean is home okay? Is there anything going on that’s…troubling you?”
She swallowed hard. She wanted to tell him the truth. That, no, everything was not okay at home. That her dads fought with each other constantly, that her boyfriend’s temper was hard to manage. That she thinks what had happened to her constituted as “rape” and that she wanted help. But instead she pursed her lips together and shifted in the seat. “Yeah, everything is fine.” And she forced a smile so he would believe her.
Mr. McClure didn’t look swayed. He sat back in the chair, propped his ankle on his knee and stared at her intently. “There’s nothing you want to tell me about?”
Sophia thought for a long time, trying to avoid his brown eyes. “Nothing.”
“Okay, then.” He muttered. “Let me know if you need some tutoring to avoid tests like that again, alright?”
She nodded and stood. Just when her hand touched the doorknob, she heard it.
“I’m sorry?” she asked, turning back around to face him. He wasn’t looking at her, instead, staring down at whatever he was reading on his desk.
“Your name. It means wise.” That, she knew. Not knowing what to say, she simply stood there, staring like an idiot. “Live up to your name, Sophia.”