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Paper Souls

Paper Souls


It was a dry winter day. The kind that peels your lips and freezes your bare fingers. I walked across the school parking lot. The pavement matched the ashy sky. The colors reminded me of senior year—the grey of lost friendships and broken trust. It was the color of uncertainty and change, and that scared me more than anything. Shivering, I let the cold air swirl down into my lungs and drown out those thoughts. As I shoved my mittened hands deep into the pockets of my jacket, I decided that today would be a good day.

The day blurred together as I awaited my favorite class—Art. Painting always made me calm. As I moved the brushstrokes to the beat of the song I was listening to, I watched the layers of paint change the white canvas.

“People are kind of like canvases.”

I could hear Laurel’s words clear as day in my head.

“Yeah.” I had answered, not really understanding what she meant at the time.

Now I understood. Underneath it all, there’s a blank start, and you can create yourself into whatever masterpiece you like. Glancing across the room, I saw the back of Laurel’s head. I was tired of her layers. She was afraid of people seeing her imperfections, so instead she painted over her old self again and again and again. She hid behind those layers.

I reached into my back pocket, grabbing my phone to change the song. My fingers brushed against something cold and smooth. I closed my fingers around it and took it out. It was a navy blue button, it’s edges curved into the shape of a flower. I stared at it, suddenly remembering the last time I had seen it.

It had been last fall.

The leaves were vibrant and fiery. The hike up the mountain had been longer than I expected, and I wasn’t wearing the right clothes. My jeans kept slipping down and my One-Size-Too-Tight shoes dug into the backs of my heels. Laurel looked effortlessly athletic in her maroon leggings and quarter-zip sweatshirt. Collapsing at the top was the best part, with dry grass tangled through my hair and crisp air enveloping my skin. Just laying there, gasping for breath and smiling uncontrollably, while watching the clouds roll by in the autumn breeze. That’s what I miss.

And then there was the button. It was perched on a rock, and had caught my eye as we were leaving the summit. A button just sitting there, peacefully. So out of place, yet it seemed to belong. I had taken it as a little token of that autumn adventure.

Now, looking at its dull shine, it almost seemed like a piece of a dream. Holding my breath, I walked over to the familiar curve of Laurel’s body hunched over her art. I tapped her shoulder. She turned. Looking into her deep caramel eyes, a wave of emotion washed over me. How strange it is to lose a friendship.

We used to share endless secrets over cups of cocoa and chai latte. Once, words gushed out of me and the conversation never dulled. At one time, this girl had almost known me better than I knew myself.

But she had changed.

I grew tired of her blank stare that constantly curtained her thoughts and her cracked-plaster smile, forced onto her cheekbones. Her eyes never seemed to recognize our old jokes, and her laugh was now a dainty, reserved giggle. What happened to her crunched-over, squinty-eyed, breathless, snorting laughter?

All the sudden I couldn’t think. The words caught in my throat.

I opened my hand, showing her the button. At first she looked at me, scrunching her face up with confusion. Then, I saw a tiny flicker of recognition in her eyes. She stared intently at the little flower and looked up at me. Some of the fog lifted from her eyes.

That pure little button brought back a moment we had completely forgotten about—recovered from an abyss of cobwebbed memories and dusty thoughts. Before, I thought that paper thin souls living on nothing but superficial smiles could never be fixed. I thought our crumpled friendship that burned up long ago could never be rekindled. But the threads of time looped through the buttonholes of our lives and held us together. It stitched the past and the present into one. I held onto that button, because in my hand was a little bit of her.

The Ball

The Ball