Outside, the endlessly blue sky; inside, fear whispers

I try to claw my way back into dreaming, but it's useless.

Even the lace curtains can't find rest as the wind wrestles them through the open window.

I'm sprawled across the empty bed.

Groggily I pull my eyelids apart. My hand shoots out to feel the sheets beside me.

I'm finding nothing my eyes haven't already told me.

He's gone. I'm not looking for a person, but a note, a scrap of paper: ''Gone to the market, meet you later, sweetheart xx.''

Fear is whispering livid thoughts: ''Maybe he's left you.''

I'm in Greece, I can't speak the language, I'm alone.

I try calling him but the same old monotonous automated message drawls through the speakers.

I try to remember what we'd planned for today.

We'd both agreed the first day would be relaxing, no constant bickering about money, just a day to ourselves.

I force myself to think he meant ''a day to ourselves'' literally, that he'd left me to do my own thing.

I smile.

Outside, the endlessly blue sky is cancelling my negativity.

Red and green leaves hang from the vines that have crawled up from the walls of this quiet cafe.

They droop above the red-clothed tables; a rustling, whispering audience to my thoughts.

I'm wondering if my relationship is less than I think it to be, like a child growing up and losing interest in the Christmas cracker and the joke inside.

I shake off the thought and I sip my orange juice.

Suddenly, there's a vibrating block in my pocket.

Gingerly, I touch it to my ear.

''Why hello, love,'' he says.

I can hear the grin on his face.

''Hello, and what mischief have you been up to today?''

A flood of anger and fear threatens to overwhelm me, but the need to seriously injure this boy is suppressed.

''You'll see. Well, you won't have far to walk.''

Walk where? He instructs me to step outside and look at the green hill rising from behind the hotel.

''To the top of that hill.''

My veins are laced with anxiety.

My hands shake; I'm curious, excited.

Dragons are in my stomach, swimming into my throat and flapping their wings wildly.

On the walk up the hill, the green looms over me like a tidal wave.

My chest is heaving and my throat dry, my legs are burning, but excitement is still running through me.

The first thing I notice is the patchwork blanket - reds contrasting with the green of the grass - and the boy sitting there, with breads and fruits I recognise and meats and spreads I don't.

His grin has a tinge of nervousness.

I'm so happy to see him after the fear of this morning almost consumed me.

His velvet hands encase mine as I sit down; his lips caress my cheek with the sweetest touch.

''I'm sorry I didn't answer my phone today, love.

''I wanted you to have a day to yourself, to make yourself happy without relying on me.''

His eyes flicker over me, but don't meet mine.

What? So this is a break-up picnic?

The dragons I felt earlier are suddenly steaming, their snouts ready to blast a hole up through my heart with relentless flame.

The shock on my face causes him to laugh.

Cruel boy.

''OK,'' he mumbles and fumbles in his pockets.

That's when he brings it out, the little box you'd expect to see at a restaurant.

That little box that requires one of the most important answers you will ever give.

I eye it wildly.

I feel like the thing inside is fighting to get out.

I feel his hands on mine again, the left.

A hard band is resting on the first knuckle of my ring finger.

''What do you say?'' he whispers.


• By Johanna Mthieson, Year 13, Kavanagh

Add a Comment




Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter