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  • Arc

February 2022 Contest Winner: I See the Sun in Your Eyes

I imagine the middle of the Pacific ocean would be a peaceful hideaway. Ice cold

waves, pure blue, endless waters stretching over a million miles across the horizon. The

waves would be gentle, but unrelenting, like they’ll wash me away to the shores back to

where I came. I imagine the Moon would watch me float between the saline waves. And

the clouds would shift through the winds high above, hiding away the stars and the silver

orbs of the Moon. And then I’d float forever.


I would float and let the waves carry me somewhere. Warmth would await me deep

down, beneath the dark blue depths, but I’m fine with cold winds. Strong sea winds;

they would comfort me. But the ocean would only swallow me in its depths. Just like

that winter day.


Thick layers of frost covered the frozen lake. I put on my ice skates, and soon I was

light on the ice, gliding through the snow. Declan watched from the shores, warming his

hands every few moments.


“Why did you stop?” he called out, after my movements halted. A crack had formed

under my feet. I looked over to him, but my tongue stayed still, a series of screaming

lodged in my throat. Tears fell onto the ice. The crack grew, and then split.


And then coldness. Paralyzing cold. I floated in between the depths, the ice cold

water turning warm on my skin.


But the memory is so distant now, like it’s someone else’s. Declan helped pull me up

that day, and since then, my skates have been hiding away in the storage room.


Declan knows. He always knows. After he pulled me out of the water, he knew I

would never touch the ice again. He’s not a saint, a savior or an angel. But he pulled me

out of the water, wiped away my tears, and was there when I laid on the hospital bed. He

was there whenever the universe tried to keep him away, when things were hard and

when I would crash into his place after fights with my parents.


He has always done this for me. When he holds my hand in his, a flame sparks,

glowing with shame.


The Pacific ocean is ice cold. In my mind, I float, in between the saline waves, and in

between the depths of a burning sea within me. A sea with glistening waters, filled with

secrecy, tinted with fear. I keep Declan inside. With me.


A spark came. Crackles of light, scattering in different paths. Fireworks. I snapped

out of it and looked at my hands under the lights on my ceiling. They’re bony and cold,

and the spaces between them gaped at me, empty and hollow. Where his fingers should

be.


We agreed to meet at the park tomorrow morning. His voice was softer than usual on

the phone, speaking words to me. I was too busy taking in the tenderness of it that I

didn’t pay attention to what he was telling me. Some words made it through: the park,

my earphones, romance book, I need a friend to read with.


It’s a park in the corner of town. No one really comes. Only us, for years. The place is

hidden away, as if it was a secret base of our own. It’s more of a garden, than a park;

lined with fences and shrubs, honeysuckles, and lush trees, with a pond in the center. We

used to go when we were still in middle school. He’d transferred schools back then, but

we still wanted to hang out. We’d sneak out after school and sprint to the park, sit on the

bench and chat away until dusk painted the sky ember.


Tomorrow came a bit too fast. I looked into the mirror, and there I was, too clean. He

probably doesn’t care, but I do. I straighten my clothes and my collars.


I pull at the hems of the shirt I borrowed from him, and tuck at the collar, breathing

it in. He handed me this shirt last week, but it still smells of his cologne, a hint of ripe

apple and citrus.


But I don’t let it take over me.


He’s already sitting on the bench when I made it to the park. A noticeable figure; tall,

lanky, with a broad back, hair reaching the back of his neck, with a gray beanie. He

memorizes my footsteps, so when he hears them, he’ll turn around. His face will turn

soft and he will offer me a smile. But when I stood behind him on the bench, he’s staring

down at his book, earphones on.


I tap his shoulder.


“Julian,” he called.


He looks up. The stars lined his eyes, and I was pulled in. Almost. I take a seat next to

him on the bench, and take the book from his hands.


“I See the Sun in Your Eyes,” he reads out the title. He glances at me to meet my

eyes. Warmth came in pinpricks from the grass under my shoes, clouding my skin,

leaving mists; I saw sunlight bouncing off his seas of hazel. He was just reading off the

title. Yet there was a hammering in my chest.


“I like the title,” I say, tracing the emboss font with my finger. He leans in and

brushes his hand against mine, uncovering a backdrop of a sunny garden.


“You know Monet? He painted this. It’s amazing.”


The cover backdrop is a painting of a sunny garden with bushes and flowers. A pond

with water lilies, and an abundance of the sun. In my mind, I walk through the gardens,

picking a honeysuckle. I hold it out to him, spilling my heart out, bright red glazing the

flower, dripping off my hand. But my fingers tremble, my hand waiting to pull back. A dose of shame blankets over the crimson nectar in my hands. But he accepts, taking my

hand. His lips are warm on mine.


Except the shrubs are still brimming with honeysuckles next to me, across me, and all

around the garden. My hand is empty, and Declan is looking down at his book.


I pick out a honeysuckle. It twirls in my hand, the crown spinning, releasing light

dusts of pollen. He’s still on the bench, drowning in the pages of his book. There are a

million words I can string together, a thousand ways to tell him, and a hundred

possibilities of how he will answer me.


“For me?”


“Yeah,” I said. But the words stopped. I swallowed them back down, a jumble of

letters steeped in secrecy.


Instead I gaze at him. He twirls the flower and looks back at me, the sun falling on

his face.


“Thanks.”


He tucks it in between the pages at the back, and reads on. I take a deep breath. I

picture gardenias growing from my core, in the speed of sound, the roots pulling at my

skin, the petals blooming into full color. But they’re wilting.


The clouds darkened into a deep, dark gray, merging into thick lumps. A storm is

approaching; in the skies, and in the seas I keep inside. Tears sprinkled from the heights

of the horizon. In between the knives of rain, Declan’s face darkened, and we parted

ways.


And soon I laid on my bed, the rain hard outside.


I remember what mom told me when I was fourteen.


“You like Declan,” she said, with her back on me. It sounded like a question, one I

don’t have an answer to. I offered her silence.


“Well, I hope I’m wrong. You’re both boys. Things shouldn’t be that way.”


I never answered her question, if it was one; she wants to be told she’s wrong. And

that things aren’t that way, because they shouldn’t be.


Things shouldn’t be that way, but a plaintive cry from a corner deep within my mind

keeps echoing, crying, “Don’t let him go.”


Things shouldn’t be that way, but I see the sun in his eyes and the warmth of his

hands and shoulders leaves a mist whenever he’s inches away from me. His hand is warm

in the winter, when it grazes mine, and his fingers fi t in the gaps between mine.


Things shouldn’t be that way, but his hazel pools are filled with stars and his smile is

a photograph I want to put on my bedroom wall so I can look at it again and again.


“Again?”


He giggled, twirling the flower in his hand. He’s sitting next to me, his book in hand,

fresh laundry and tangerines wafting out from his clothes. His beanie is absent today.

The sun ran through his hair, the tips sweeping off the hood of his jacket behind his

neck.


“What’s this for?”


“You. I guess.”


“Does this mean what I think it does?”


“What do you think it means?”


He let out a low hum, poking the stigmas with his finger. He looked back at me, his

dimples deepening.


“Something, I think. Definitely something,” he said, closing his book. A flattened out

honeysuckle peeked from in between the back pages. “Isn’t this what it means?”


He cupped my face and closed our distance. His lips are tender, softer than I

imagined.


I picture a million pollens floating around the garden, where there are only the two

of us, where the sun is warm on our skin and the grass is bright green. A pollen fell onto

his ash black hair.


The edges of my universe grew. I watch as his gaze softens, his lips tucking at the

corners.


“Yeah. That’s what it means,” I say, under my breath. “I like you.”


Deep within, gravity pulled an anchor to the sea floors, sending deep vibrations,

stirring up rogue waves. A heavy weight fell on top of my shoulders, dark fogs of fear.

Seconds faded away, and he’s still. He hummed, his lips curling at the corners.


“That was my line.”


“Really? How was that your line?”


He let out a sunny laugh. Fireworks crackled to the sound of his laughter, and the

shades of the clouds faded away in the presence of sunlight, all throughout the garden.


“Since when?”


“Middle school.”


“Me too,” he said. His giggles died down. I looked at him and my lips curled up

against my will. He continued, “Maybe even longer.”


That day, he smelled of tangerines, apple pie, and citrus cologne.


Even now, he still smells the same. But nowadays the distance between us is smaller

and things are easier. The mornings are brighter and the nights are warmer. We’d sit in

the sun room, in his house, where sunlight is plenty and the words within the pages of

our books are clearer.


I put down the vase on the table. The roofless ceiling is flooded with sunlight. They

will be good for these daisies, intermingled with honeysuckles. I rearrange them, making

sure they fill every gap of the vase. I grab the book from the table and walk up to the

bench.


Declan is sitting, book in hand. He turns his head to look at me. I see the sun in his

eyes, and I feel whole.


 

Arc, the winner of WriterVana's February 2022 writing contest, is a short story and fanfiction writer.

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