“Maybe that’s what we look for in the people we love, the spark of unhappiness we think we know how to extinguish.”—- Everyone called her Red. I never did know why. I just assumed that it was her favorite color that time.
But after she left that faithful summer, I learned that I never did know her. Even though I thought that I was the only one who can solve the mystery of her existence. She was that kind of girl, Red. I caressed the only picture I saved of the both of us—it was tattered and brown from old age, from the time that red was the only color that I’d like to see. She was standing so stiff next to me, like she never wants another photo taken of her, another proof of her existence.
Her short and wavy hair framed her small face perfectly, and the way her lips formed to make a smile showed warmth and serenity. Red wasn’t someone special. She was as ordinary as anyone could be.
But ten years ago, when I first saw her for the first time, it was her eyes that got me. She had the kind of eyes that felt like it was looking right through you, and not at you. Her deep brown eyes will continue to haunt me for a very long time. Red was the new strange girl in town, the kind that high school kids will make fun of just for existing. I never considered my luck to be bad, but the moment they moved next door, I knew that I was forever cursed. The first time I saw her, she was embracing a blue notebook so tight while looking strangely at the sky—like she’s just seeing it for the first time. The way she stood there like she didn’t care about the people who were staring at her (like me), made me want to stare more.
But the moment she glanced at my direction, my pulse quickened and I ran as fast as I could, almost tripping at everything else I could possibly trip over. I never talked to her on the first few months of their stay. I never had the chance since she’s always in locked away in her room, like a princess caged by a dragon. The next time I saw her though, she was holding her blue notebook again and she was staring at me. The way she stared glued me in place, and I can’t move even though I tried. That was the kind of effect her eyes had on people.
And then she walked towards me, her wavy hair dancing around and being a mess which appeared to be normal after knowing her. She stared at me for a really long time and I stared back. We stared at each other like two weird kids in the middle of the street for a really long time before she broke our staring competition and walked away. It was the weirdest thing that happened to me, ever. But I’d treasure that weird moment for as long as I’ll live.Red was bullied at school like I predicted.
It was because of her weird taste in clothing, and her weird name, and her weird existence that the kids can’t seem to grasp. And I pretended not to notice her or that her creepy wooden house wasn’t five meters away from mine. She was smiling the whole time it happened though, like she’s telling them that they don’t have an effect on her. And they believe her. I almost did too, but her eyes were betraying her smile. It was in her eyes every time.
So I stopped believing her smile and started to look at her eyes instead. They looked like they were begging me for an escape whenever I look, so I try not to stare but it bothered me. She bothered me. The first time I approached her, she was sitting in the old and rusty swing made for children. She was writing at her blue notebook and I noticed how it looked so old and some edges were ripped out. “Red, right? Hi, I’m Luke, we’re neighbors? And we go to the same school together.” I tried to act natural and calm, but nothing about me was calm the moment she just stared.
Again. She just ignored me after that and continued to write. I was standing there beside you, feeling like a fool and just staring at the rusts that were developing on the handle of the swing.
It was cold that time, the dark of the night fast approaching, but she was definitely colder. “Why are you still here? It’s getting dark. Your parents must be looking for you.” I tried to talk to you again like we were close and I thought you would ignore me again. But you didn’t.
Instead, she stopped writing and looked at me as though I was insane for mentioning her parents. “Luke, want to take a picture?” she asked. I must have a weird expression on my face because it made her smile a little. “It’s okay if you don’t want to.” She stood up and scratched her arms that were covered in her long sleeves even though it’s almost summer. But I didn’t pay much attention to it, which I will soon regret. “Do you have a cat at home?” I questioned while looking at her scratched arms. Red stopped for a moment and I saw something passed her eyes.
Sadness? Anger? I’m not so sure. She picked up her things and nodded while looking down at the ground, “My parents don’t like her very much,” she answered quietly. “I don’t like her too, but she’s…” she trailed for a moment before holding on to her blue notebook. “She’s very attached to me. She’s a part of me now.” I never did understand how someone could stay with something you’re not fond of, but I just let it be. “I always see you with that notebook. Is that a diary?” I pried.
I was curious now so I actually want her answer. “It’s something like that, diary of my life?” she joked and smiled. So I smiled at her too.
“It’s been with me for years. But today it’s the last page. I’m kind of sad.” I almost told her that she could buy another one. Start anew.
But I didn’t. I just changed the subject without caring about her notebook at all. “How will we take this picture?” “I know, I’ll just ask someone else.
” I smiled at her and she smiled back, her first genuine smile since I saw her moved in our town. It got me excited and nervous at the same time. After a few strangers, we somehow took a picture with us both standing side by side to each other—our very first picture that will be our last too. The next day became a blur to me.
I woke up with an ambulance and lots of people at the front of your house. The red and blue light was scaring me and my gut was telling me something terrible had happened. And I was right. Red, the not so new strange girl in town, the kind that high school kids will make fun of just for existing, ended her life at the age of sixteen.
She had much more to live, they told us. It was a really a shame, they informed us. But nothing can change the fact that she’s now gone, like her beloved blue notebook that went away with her. And after months of pretending to know her, I never realized that her name wasn’t Red. Her real name was on her tombstone, Jennica.
I will forever want to solve the mystery of Jennica’s existence but I know for a fact she’s the kind of girl who will stay as an unsolved puzzle forever. Her dark brown eyes will continue to haunt me for as long as I’ll live.