Cadence sat alone on the floor. Situated in the corner of her room, legs pulled up into her chest, she rested her head on her knees and sobbed. She had no idea how she had gotten there or why she was crying. The only thing she knew in that moment was an overwhelming sense of sadness and that she had been here before. Nothing of any particular significance had happened that day. She woke up, went to school, ate lunch with her friends, answered three questions correctly in class, and stopped to chat with crossing guard on her way home. When she arrived home, she kissed her mother and father, patted her husky on his head and went upstairs to her room. It was only when she closed the door behind her that the weight of the world came crashing down on top of her. It was an unbearable weight that forced her to the ground. That was when she sought solace in the corner.
As she continued to sob, Cadence thought of every happy image that she could muster. She thought of her mother and father. She loved them more than anything in the world. She thought of the day her parents let her pick out Orwell, her husky. She thought of kissing Jessie Hopkins behind the Social Studies portable. She thought of her best friend Kyla. They’d done everything together and had never been in a fight. She thought of rainbows and kittens and warm woollen mittens, but nothing could stop her steady stream of tears. She was convinced that she was broken. She wanted to scream out for help but had no idea how to explain to anyone what was wrong. If she told her parents she was sad, they’d ask her why, and she would have no answer for them. She just was. She couldn’t handle someone telling her to “buck up” or that her life was wonderful. She knew her life was wonderful. That fact made her feel even worse for being sad. She scolded herself between each sob.
There was a knock at her door. Cadence ignored it at first hoping that the person on the other side would take the hint. She didn’t want anyone to see her like this. She had cancelled plans in the past to avoid the inevitable questions people would have if and when she began to cry uncontrollably. Most days she wouldn’t, but the days when she could feel it coming, she just wanted to be alone. There was a second knock and then a third. Cadence couldn’t move and she wasn’t sure she wanted to any way. There wasn’t a fourth knock. Cadence felt a small amount of relief but a larger feeling of regret crept in.
Ten minutes passed when a piece of paper slid beneath Cadence’s door. She looked over at it with an intense curiosity. It seemed as though her body was going to allow her to move just enough to pick it up. She slid herself out of the corner far enough to reach the note. She picked it up and read it.
“Our dearest Cadence,
You are not broken. We are here for you when you are ready to talk. We will ALWAYS be here for you.
Your loving, devoted, ADORING, parents.”
Cadence held the note tight to chest and closed her eyes and breathed. She wasn’t ready yet, but she had hope that she soon would be. The weight of the world was too much to bear for one person. She knew that now.
This is Chapter II, if you haven’t read Chapter I, here is the link: Chapter I: Three Quarters
Through the door, to the elevator and down to the street, she remained tightly hung around his neck. He walked as if on air and as if neither of them weighed an ounce. Outside he walked as if it were perfectly normal to saunter down the street with the love of his life draped around his neck.
He hailed a cab with his free hand and it wasn’t until he struggled to open the door of the cab that she released her grip. Once inside the cab, he slipped the cab driver a piece of paper with instructions of where to go.
“Oh, you tease!” She cried. “Where are you taking me you dastardly man? I demand to know!”
“If I told you that, it would no longer be a surprise, and you’d despise me for it. I certainly could not live with myself if that were to happen.”
“I so hate surprises!” She huffed and slunk in her seat with her arms crossed across her chest.
“I do.” She smiled blindingly bright, lighting the entire cab and exercising all sad or negative energy any previous patrons may have left behind.
The cab continued at a brisk pace. It seemed as though the traffic lights were in on the surprise. Changing to green in perfect unison. He was nervous but had faith that his months and months of planning would allow the evening to go off without a hitch. Tonight was the night, he thought, nothing could possibly go wrong, and he believed it with all his heart to be true.
“You were angry with me before.” She broke what had been a comfortable silence. “Why?”
“I wasn’t,” he replied.
“You were. Don’t be flippant with me.” She was irked by his denial. The mood had shifted slightly towards the uncomfortable sort of silence. The traffic lights, still in on the surprise must have caught wind as they began to hit every red light, giving them time to recover.
“I wasn’t angry, perhaps frustrated or annoyed, but not angry, and it was for the silliest of reasons. I am actually embarrassed by it and you’d just think me a fool.” He promised.
“Oh come on now, you HAVE to tell now! What had I done? Please tell me so that I know whether or not to be frustrated or annoyed with your reasoning.” She shot a look at him that said, ‘do not screw this up.’
But her look had faded and her smile returned. She had been playing with him and saw that she had won.
“Love you.” She kissed his cheek.
“Love you too, jerkface.” He sighed with relief.
The lights once again turned green and they pulled up to their destination. He got out of the cab first and went around to open her door. As she got out of the cab she realized where they were.
“You didn’t!” She screamed.
“I did.” He smiled.
They walked up to a building and entered.
You may roll your eyes at the cliché that I am about to spew, but I assure you that in this instance it is true; Ingrid was not like other girls. She wasn’t just different from other girls, Ingrid was different from all other people. You see, Ingrid wore her heart on her sleeve. I am not speaking figuratively. No, she quite literally wore her heart. Exposed to the world. Truth be told, the location of her heart was on the front of her shirt, directly proportionate to where it should be beneath her chest and not her sleeve, nevertheless, her heart was visible to all and she lived her life unable to hide it and at times, unable to protect it.
Ingrid’s heart first appeared when she was just four years old. She and her mother were out for a walk one spring morning when they happened across a wounded robin. It had struck a storefront window mid-flight and fallen to the ground. A small group of people had surrounded but no one wanted to touch the bird for fear of disease. Ingrid felt an immediate pang in her chest. She did not know what it was but she knew that she had to help this robin. Ingrid’s mother saw this in her daughter’s face and despite her initial worries, edged Ingrid forward granting her permission to do what she felt she needed to. Ingrid nodded and smiled and with that smile and came a faint glow beneath her jacket.
Ingrid ran forward toward the injured bird while the crowd that had gathered murmured. She knelt down beside the robin and gently stroked its wing. What happened next is subject to great debate. Many in the crowd will tell you the bird simply came to after being stunned by the impact of its crash, but Ingrid maintains that she felt a current begin in her chest, carry down through her arm and transfer from her hand to the bird and that the bird awoke, regained its composure and delivered a gratitude-filled, ‘thank you’ chirp and flew off to rejoin its family. Which is true, I cannot say, but what is known for certain is that the glow beneath Ingrid’s jacket grew brighter.
Ingrid’s mother found this glow disconcerting. She took Ingrid home and immediately rang Dr. Stoneway to set an appointment that day. However, by the time they arrived at the Doctor’s office, the glowing had ceased. Dr. Stoneway proceeded with the examination and found Ingrid to be in a perfect state of health. He suggested that perhaps the glowing had been imagined or that it was plausible the sun had simply reflected off the storefront window and hit a button on Ingrid’s jacket which caused the brief appearance of a glow. He tried his best not to sound condescending but Ingrid’s mother was clearly irritated. She picked Ingrid up and left the office in a huff without saying another word.
Ingrid and her mother went about their lives for several years and never discussed the glow until one day when Ingrid was sixteen, it reappeared, and this time, permanently. Ingrid had burst in through the front door. Her mother was home early and had not expected to see her daughter so soon, but knew immediately that something was amiss. Ingrid stopped in front of her mother, she had her hands on her chest. Her mother knew why. Ingrid slowly lowered her hands and there, brighter than before, was her heart.
When asked what had happened, Ingrid simply replied, “he did.” She was in love for the very first time and her heart was on full display showing the world. Being a sixteen year old girl, this mortified her.
“Does it hurt, Ingrid?” Her mother asked.
“With every single breath I take!” She cried with all the passion and dramatics of a daytime soap opera.
“What on Earth happened?!” Ingrid threw herself on the couch and buried her face in the pillow.
“I don’t want to talk about it!”
Ingrid’s mother once again wanted to call Dr. Stoneway to set an appointment, but Ingrid refused to go. She said, in a most dramatic fashion that her pain, while real in a sense, was actually metaphorical and the fact that her heart appeared on her shirt was of no significance. Her mother disagreed wholeheartedly telling Ingrid that one’s heart should never be exposed.
“Then how can we ever love?” Was Ingrid’s retort to which her mother had no response but the feeling of pride in her daughter’s sudden, aged wisdom.
After several hours and litres of tears, Ingrid’s face emerged from its pillowed hiding spot. She had an oddly serene look on her face. Her mother, although relieved to see her daughter no longer crying, thought it a strange one-eighty.
“Ingrid?” She harkened.
“I am all right, Mother. In fact, I am wonderful.”
“I am certainly glad to hear it, but tell me sweetheart, what has changed?”
Ingrid smiled and stood up, hugged her mother and went upstairs to her room. When she emerged her heart was shining brighter than before. She grabbed her coat, kissed her mother and walked out the door.