Contrast – Bailey Foster
Annie Petrelli

I still think back to what you told me that night.

We were underneath the cherry tree, when it started to rain. I thought our night was ruined. You told me the rain makes everything so much better. I never had your optimistic outlook on the world. I never understood how you could see the rain and picture the flowers that would grow from it, instead of just seeing the mud that it created in the moment. 

I dreaded the future, dreaded the mud that would inevitably come, no matter how perfect something seemed. You looked at the future with excitement, waiting for the flowers that would sprout up no matter how bad the situation we were in.

I wish I could move on. That I could follow through with the promise I made to you before you left me.

But I keep breaking that promise.

I keep coming back to that cherry tree, trying to remember our last night there. I hope that it will rain, even when the sky above me is cloudless. I want to try to see the flowers that will come, and not just see the mud. 

I want to know how you were always able to see the flowers, how you made the best of something no matter how horrible the situation was.

You were the only one who could get me even close to seeing the flowers. I could see the seeds starting to sprout, little green stalks coming from the ground, so weak that they could be crushed if someone stepped on them.

But now I only see mud.

I wish more than anything you would come back. I constantly look up at the night sky for a shooting star. I close my eyes when I blow out a candle. Then berate myself for how stupid I am acting. I used to tell you that wishing was pointless. I wish I never did that.  

Funny how now all I do is wish. 

But you won’t come back. 

I know you would want me to move on. I know I should try to move on.

But I’m not ready yet. 

The cherry tree was cut down. Someone had said it was because it was too old. Someone else said they plan to build a new house there. More people keep moving here. But no matter the reason, the tree is gone now. 

Maybe I should take that as a sign to move on. The tree is gone, and so are you, but I can’t seem to accept that. 

I still grab out two of everything: two bowls, two plates, two cups. And then remember that I only need one now: one bowl, one plate, one cup.

I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that. 

Some days it doesn’t even seem like you are gone. I think that you’ll come home from work at the end of the day. 

But then I realize you won’t.

It has been awhile. 

They built a new house where the cherry tree once was. I can’t bring myself to walk past there. 

Some days have been better than others. I try not to let the bad days win. Like you told me. 

I try to see the flowers.

I still see mud.

I started to see someone. But that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten  you. I hope you understand. He seems nice. He knows about my past, and understands it. But I feel guilty. I can’t give him the same love that I gave you. 

I know my smile isn’t the same. I feel I put on an act from him. I try to seem happy, that I love him as much as he says he loves me. 

But I can’t. 

I want to be able to move on, to not look at everything and somehow connect it back to you.

How do people do it? How do people have everything crash down around them and not let it show. How do they see the flowers?

I can’t even look at him without thinking of you.

Without thinking of every way he isn’t you.

His smile doesn’t reach his eyes, the way yours always did, even to the end. He doesn’t laugh the same way you did. It’s shallow. Half hearted. Forced. 

Maybe we are both putting on an act.

I try to see the flowers that this could create.

I try not to think of you. I try not to think of the ways he isn’t you.

But that’s all I think about. 

He’s changed.

The way he speaks to me. The way he treats me like I am too fragile. Like I am a flower that will get destroyed if the wind blows too hard.

You never treated me that way. You treated me as an equal. 

He acts like I am a child. Someone who needs to be spoken to softly, and in a simple way. As if I couldn’t understand anything more difficult. 

He claims that he loves me. I think he loves the idea of me. I am just a trophy to him. Something pretty to look at, and nothing more.

Maybe I won’t get another chance of having a love like we had. I was so lucky when I found you.

But he offers me protection. 

Maybe that is the only reason I stay with him. He offers me something I couldn’t give myself no matter how much I wanted to. I couldn’t take care of myself on my own. Even months later I still can’t find a job. They all think I’m too fragile to work.

They all think any girl is too fragile to work. And I can’t seem to prove them wrong.

I needed someone to protect me after you left. 

You would say that there is a difference between surviving and living. I don’t have the luxury to make that distinction now.

I have to do what I must to survive. 

Happiness be damned. 

But can I spend the rest of my life without happiness? 

Maybe I could. If I just focus on surviving and nothing more. People don’t really need happiness in their lives to survive, right?

And when we are reunited I’ll be able to feel happy. I’ll be with the one thing that made me happy. 

I can see the flowers now.