I loved you once. A love I thought irrevocable. A love I mistakenly believed could transcend both time and circumstance. Under the influence of my dimwitted, naïve, traitorous heart, I became intoxicated with what I now know was simply a figment of my self-indulgent imagination. So drunk on the feeling, I couldn’t see what was right in front of my face. So foolishly enamored, I blindly followed my heart into the depths of an emotion that would ravage me.
Years later, I know now what I wish I knew then. I am stronger. Smarter. Tougher. I will not allow myself to be broken again.
I loved you.
I raged for you.
I wept for you.
And now, I’m letting you go.
Author’s Note: Under the Influence is the journey of two childhood friends that spans the course of five pivotal years in their lives. It is a story about their discovery of true friendship as it blossoms into first love, their experience of crucial sacrifice and ultimate betrayal, and their endurance of agonizing heartbreak on the way to finding lasting redemption.
All that remains is the orange in the sky and the sweet scent of the angel lying next to me. Nothing else.
We watch in silence as we always do until the sun finally sets, then both breathe out a long sigh before I turn to face her. “I have something for you. It’s not much, but I saw it and thought of you.”
Her eyes widen with excitement as an equally joyful smile spreads across her beautiful features. I reach into my pocket and pull out the item I spied just a couple of days ago, buying it as a gift for her birthday, but it turns out I really suck at surprises. Who knew?
Dangling the long strand of black beads in her face, an unexpected rush of anxiety races through my system. I’ve never given anyone anything. Ever. I find it extremely unnerving.
Her grin widens further as she extends her hand, uncurling her fingers and exposing her palm. I lower the bracelet and watch as it coils into her grasp. My eyes rise to meet hers and I swallow deeply, trying to rid the nerves constricting my throat. “It’s uh … They’re onyx—the beads. I read that they offer protection for the person who wears them. I just…” I clear my throat. “I wanted you to be protected even when I’m not around.”
Her smile is hindered as her teeth graze her bottom lip. I fight the urge to take that pouty lip in between mine, breaking my stare from her mouth and bringing it back to the bracelet before glancing back to her sky blue eyes.
She turns to fully face me, the bracelet still secure in her clenched hand. Her expression timid, she inquires, “Put it on me?”
I nod and slowly uncurl her grip, allowing my touch to linger on the soft pads of her fingers with each one drawn away. She shivers in response and I breathe a light chuckle through my nose, still amazed each time I elicit those involuntary reactions from her. Once the bracelet is pinched between my fingers, she turns her wrist and waits patiently as I hook the ends together. Releasing it, I watch as it slides gracefully along the skin of her arm to land across the bones of her wrist. My hand instinctively rises and my fingers trace its traveled path, raking over the bracelet as I clench her hand in mine and press a soft kiss in the center of her palm.
Her breath shudders before she whispers, “I love it, Dalton. It’s…perfect. Thank you.”
I feel my face warm with her compliment, so break my eyes away from her to focus on the stars. After a couple of moments of peace-filled silence, I inquire, “If you were a color, what color would you be?”
Taking her eyes away from the bracelet, she giggles and twists to look at me. “What color would I be?”
I nod. “Yeah…” I stall, stunned with my need for honesty. “It’s just, sometimes I feel like a chameleon, you know? Forced to change my colors based on where I am in my life.”
I release a weighted breath. “Lately it feels as though I change them so often, I’m nothing more than a fucked-up version of an impressionist painting.”
Glancing to the side, my heart lurches as she crinkles her nose in confusion, my absolute favorite of her expressions. My eyes linger the light scattering of freckles on the bridge of her nose before once again seeking comfort in the obscurity of the night sky. “To those far away, I project a solid, recognizable image. But in reality, I’m comprised of nothing but a series of angry, incoherent brush strokes in every color imaginable. Disjointed.”
I twist my neck and pin her with my stare. “Broken.”
Her mouth dips at the corners before she turns on her side and tucks her hands under her cheek, her blue eyes sincere. “Do you think Renoir and Monet didn’t know what they were doing? That they didn’t purposely place each stroke of their paintbrush in order to create their envisioned masterpiece?”
She tightens her gaze. “You are a work of art, Dalton. Your own masterpiece, regardless if you choose to acknowledge it or not. Every experience that paints your picture is a stroke made just for you. Each one of them is essential in order for you to grow, to learn, and to teach.”
She shrugs her shoulders. “You ask me what color I would be? Well, I would be every single color I could because to me, those colors are emotions. Feelings. And life would mean absolutely nothing without the many colors that surround us. The many … experiences we live through that propel us forward into the people we are meant to become.”
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