I am standing in a crowded room
screaming as loud as I may,
I know that I'm easily visible
but they all turn the other way.
Like a siren blaring for help in a ghost town
or the last breath of someone lost at sea
I'm surrounded by people adjusting their gold crowns
but not one will choose to hear me.
* * *
The supple white layers of my dress brush my hot skin, just above the knee, glowing in the darkness and twinkling lights. I am numb: the heat, the humidity, the pain of my feet squeezed into high-heels, the back of my neck itching under my hair; its all lost on me. Nothing. Nothing physical, anyways.
Because being replaced? It hurts. A sharp, stabbing, pain every time it happens, but there is always a dull ache, a low burning fire in the pit of my stomach, even when its not the main thing on my mind. Being invisible is miserable.
The dozens of couples, staring dreamily into each other's eyes, swaying to the lacing piano music drifting from the speakers, are like ornaments on a mobile, hanging on the ceiling above a cradle, swirling in and out of vision.
All that is there is the faint sting of tears in the corners of my eyes, and a lightness of my head. All of my focus is on them.
Her twinkling tiara catches the light so perfectly, reflecting in his eyes. I numbly think of my dull flower tiara. It doesn't twinkle. It doesn't catch anybody's eye.
His arms clasped around her delicate waist; so perfect and obviously meant to be that I feel like an intruder just for looking. Just for thinking.
And the way the soft spots of white light gently dissolve the darkness, swirling around the room, making her dress shimmer; well, I remember how much I used to love those certain lights. How whenever those lights came on during a slow song, I'd cross my fingers and smile, feeling like a princess. How I always watched the ceiling, and he always looked at me funny for it, but the lights. Those were my lights.
And she whispers something, he chuckles, and when he smiles, I can just see, with a grim surety, that his smile lives for her. I remember when it was for me. But, that was then and this is now. This, the misery and secrets and bottled-up feelings, THIS is my present. And I hate every moment of it.
The tears are streaming freely now, hot and salty on my cheeks, but it isn't like anybody can see. Everyone is far too distracted in their own happiness and personal thoughts to see something that they really don't want to see, anyways. Thats the problem with people. They only see what they want to see.
The cool, humid air outside kisses my damp face as I step out into the night. The garden behind the school was decorated specifically for tonight; white lilies, glowing in the moonlight and reaching upward like ghostly hands. The stars are misty balls of silver light behind the light fog. Tonight I am even invisible to the stars.
After kicking my heels off, I start off down the dark, empty lane. Street lights flicker eerily, casting lonely, yellow circles on the pavement. I avoid sharp stones, and my eyes dart around at the slightest sound in the woods, or a skipping shadow. But, in a strange sense, I take security in my invisibility. I can blend into the shadows, and become what I'm afraid of.
Its a long walk, and I have no idea where to go. Not home; home is towns away. Maybe a grocery or convenient store, someplace with a phone. I could call home, say I'm not feeling well. Yes, that seems about believable. I could certainly pass for sick. Stress takes its toll on one's appearance.
As I make my way down the dark street, I hear the whisper of rushing water. I realize I'm nearly to the bridge.
Its stretched over the wide, deep river, the black water churning underneath. With a shiver, I step up to the edge and look down over the rail. I love the bridge; so many times have Cally and I walked it, staring into the raging depths and talking about life. With a faint laugh, I remember the time Cally nearly fell over the edge. We had been eating ice-cream cones, sitting on the rail, and she lost her balance when laughing too hard. Of course, I helped her stay steady and keep a grip, but nonetheless, it was scary.
A warm, damp breeze picks up out of nowhere, tossing my hair. It had been curled just for tonight. The air feels refreshing on the back of my neck, but suddenly, my flower chain comes loose from my hair and dangles from the edge of a curl. The wind snatches it, and I throw myself forward, leaning over the rail and extending my arm as far as it can go-
But my momentum is too much. In a silent, fluid movement, I tip forward the slightest bit too much, and for I minute I am hanging in the air, seeing the river and town on the other side from an angle nobody has ever accomplished before. Then, there is the nearly inaudible sound of silk slipping across the metal rail, before I am dropping.
The rushing, humid air is like the silk of my dress, and I am completely enclosed in the cool softness before impact. And impact really is the only way to describe it.
The black water rushes up to meet my face and body, slapping and cutting me with its cold hands. Beating me, rolling me around, crushing me with its grip, slowly pushing me down into the current.
There is no up or down; just the icy blackness, and the silver bubbles rising slowly up to the pale, glowing surface, so far above me.
The silt and sand in the water burns my eyes, and even as I kick and claw, I steadily sink. The only color besides black is the silver bubbles, and my dress, floating around me and glowing ghostly white.
My muscles ache, growing numb and lead heavy from effort, and my heartbeat is a sonic boom in my ears. My head is splitting under the water's pressure, and my lungs feel as though they're so dry and hot that they will erupt into flames. Just one breath, I pray silently. But no relief came.
After a last feeble kick of my foot, my body became too numb to use. I am steadily sinking, watching with an odd, removed feeling as a ribbon from my dress trails above up me.
As my consciousness fades, the pain dulls, and I lose the urge to breathe. It doesn't matter anymore. Reality becomes inseparable from fantasy; is that Cally standing in front of me? She really ought to keep out of the water. Neither of us is a very good swimmer.
No wait, its my imagination. . . Or is it? I can't even tell. My brain is an explosion of memories and imagination. I see him now, and he is walking toward me. How can he walk so easily under water? He should give Cally and I swimming lessons.
I am shutting down, my vision fading to black as I close my eyes. One last image plays in my mind: them. Encircled in each other's arms, a happiness too large for words. Don't they know better than to be so romantic in front of me? Nobody is allowed to be happy while I'm miserable. Don't they have enough manners to pay attention to me just long enough for me to finish drowning?
The last thing I am aware of was my flower tiara, a few feet away from me in the water, stray, floating petals surrounding me.