The story of Vivian has surely come a long way since the first post. I did quite a bit of research and character development that I never intended to when I started out. For this installment, I’m combining two prompts – one is Friday Fiction with Ronovan Writes Prompt Challenge #10 and the new one is Time to Write: Stranger by Rachel Poli.
I celebrated a festival called ‘Sankranti’ last week. Almost every calendar month has two or three festivals in my country and it’s a great time to come together as a community. The following piece is loosely based on this.
The Perfect Illusion – Part 3
A Celebration in the Sand
The mild July sun warmed the tips of Vivian’s fingers as she held them out in front of her, inspecting them for wounds. The boy who had knocked her over was mumbling an apology, but it was lost on her. The sand had done little damage to her. She turned to face the stranger at her side.
His skin was a light shade of brown, most of which was hidden away under a bright yellow shirt and tan pants. He stared at her with distress written all over his hazel eyes. He stood slightly shorter than her, so she had to lower her gaze. Vivian estimated he was twelve years old.
“It’s quite alright,” she managed and followed it with an awkward smile. He didn’t look convinced, but stomped away with his brows in less of a knot. She sighed, dusted herself and made her way through the sparse crowd to where her family stood.
Her thoughts shifted as she reached the fence that ran around the track. Her mother opened her mouth to ask her about the state of her clothes. Vivian shook her head and moved away. The sight of camels being lined up at the starting line distracted them both. She felt a rush of excitement as the first race of the day began.
She remembered attending the Camel Cup ever since she turned four. It was a huge deal for the people of Alice Springs. July was a busy month for the town as tourists flocked to witness this spectacle. It was also a time when the inhabitants mingled and celebrated, though the tradition was only a few decades old.
As the camels rounded the last corner and thundered down the last stretch, her eyes wandered over to the crowd on the other side. She spotted a group of her friends, cheering loudly and exchanging high fives as the race ended. Anger coursed through her veins at being lied to and left out. Her hands gripped the fence so hard that they were beginning to hurt. She took deep breaths and told herself to calm down. This was a day of celebration, she reminded herself. She welcomed the roar of the spectators and focussed on letting her annoyance fade as the noise overwhelmed her.
She felt her mother’s hand on her shoulder, drawing away her attention. Next to her stood a pleasant-faced woman, flanked by two boys. Vivian recognised the younger one. He was looking at anything but her. She was seized by a sudden urge to laugh at his obvious embarrassment. The older boy resembled his brother, except that his skin was a shade darker. Introductions were made and her mother immersed herself in catching up with her long-lost college friend, leaving the kids in an uncomfortable silence.
Abigail whispered an idea into her ear, to which she nodded. “Would you like to come with us and have some cotton candy?” she offered, more out of politeness than interest. They both nodded. Wirrin went ahead with her sisters while Darel matched his pace with hers.
“I’ve heard of you, you know,” he began. “There was an article about you in the local paper.”
Vivian blushed and looked down at her toes. That was a couple of years ago and hardly an article. A snippet would be a more appropriate word.
“It’s nice of you to remember,” she replied, keeping a watchful eye over Abigail and Leslie.
“Is your school really as good as it’s rumoured to be?” he probed.
The ice was broken. Vivian overcame her inhibition and ranted about it for a good ten minutes. He was a patient listener and seemed genuinely interested in what she had to say. The conversation drifted into more personal things. She found herself laughing with an ease she hadn’t felt in ages. With him, she didn’t have to be the Vivian who was feeling excluded from her group of friends or the Vivian who always topped her class or the Vivian who never let her parents down. It seemed as if the shackles that her routine life imposed on her had melted away.
The day drew to a close all too soon. As she bade him goodbye, she was certain that she’d never see him again, but she didn’t mind. A part of why she had been so forthcoming was based on that fact. Her memory would preserve this unexpectedly wonderful meeting untainted, a near-perfect day that was a rare occurrence in her convoluted life.
I’ve decided on calling the series ‘The Perfect Illusion’. ‘Melancholy Through a Looking Glass’ will now be a chapter under this. Any thoughts on the new chapter, the change in title, or the series as a whole will be appreciated.