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Firefly Waltz

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Shadows. Shadows cast in light cast out of darkness, like grainy charcoal shavings, the sharpenings of pencils as they snapped under the pressure of a hand against paper. Every time a pencil broke, a little bit of Yuri’s resolve broke with it. She wished she could annotate music scores with a pen instead, but that was not Good Practice. Or at least that’s what her music teacher had told her all those years ago, back when Yuri’s fingers danced across her piano, light and easy and cheery.

 

Shadows. Shadows carved in angles, black against white against black against white. They consumed Yuri’s world, ebony and ivory that depressed under her fingers, sprung back when she lifted them. The distinct sound of basswood and sugarpine creaking under her hands, under her feet, to create harmony. The screeching echo of metal and rubber as they spun, round and round and round, to create dissonance.

 

Shadows. Her piano was three different types of shadow-colours, three different shades of grey. She understood it was a different colour once, perhaps a sort of polished mahogany, lacquered until it reflected light off its surface. She understood that a long time ago, she was able to see colour, until her vision was thrust into black and white at the age of seven. The doctors had told her grandmother there was nothing wrong with her eyes, as far as they could tell. Perhaps, they suggested, it was a sort of mental blockage within her that erased colour from her sight, a sort of way of dealing with her loss. Yuri didn’t understand, but her grandmother only nodded.

 

Shadows and light. Piano colours.

 

Now, twelve years later with her head between her knees, Jo Yuri suddenly reminded of the day her grandmother first took her in. She was too afraid of the piano tucked away in a corner of her grandmother’s house, too afraid of its inky-black and blinding-white keys amongst the greys. It was her grandmother who helped her, slowly, accept the shadow-colours, explaining what each shade of grey reflected in the real world. The light greys were bright yellow and baby blue and pastel pink, the darker greys burnt brown and midnight blue and quiet burgundy. Yuri swore that if she strained her eyes, she could start to see specks of colour float into her vision, briefly gracing themselves on the non-coloured objects before winking away. 

 

But now her world was once again grey. No more colours showed themselves to her.

 

Black and white. White, like the tiles of the train station floor, black like the shadow standing vigilant over her.

 

“Yuri?”

 

Yuri glanced up, her eyes brimming with tears. A girl, the lower half of her face covered by a mask, watched her warily from a distance. Her hoodie was a very light grey - yellow, Yuri immediately corrected herself, sunflower yellow. In the girl’s hand was a wet umbrella, and her shoes were drenched in rainwater. The girl held up her phone, typing a message.

 

Yuri’s phone buzzed.

 

From: choi yena

Close ur eyes

 

Following instructions, Yuri felt a thick sweater being draped over her shaking body, the hoodie flung over her head, covering her red-rimmed eyes and blotchy cheeks. “I’m sorry, Yuri,” Yena murmured, her usual loudly excited voice low and soothing as she drew Yuri close to gently pat her head. “I’m sorry.”

 

In her daze, Yuri allowed herself to be led out of the train station, her hand held firmly in Yena’s. Tripping over station steps, she was ushered into a waiting taxi where she cried herself to sleep.

 

#

 

She woke in the morning, white light spilling onto her mid-grey blanket. Shifting in bed, she came face-to-face with a ginormous duck plushie, its beady eyes gazing unblinkingly at her. Shocked, Yuri jolted away and tumbled onto her floor. There she sat, motionless, absorbing her surroundings.

 

Where was she? The last thing she recalled before falling asleep was a warm hoodie, a familiar voice. “Yena,” she murmured. Glancing down, she noted she was still wearing the girl’s sweater, zipped up to her chin. Nuzzling into the hoodie, she breathed in the scent of lemon soaked in rainwater. Citrus and petrichor.

 

Getting to her feet, Yuri looked around blankly. The unfamiliar bedroom held a variety of knick-knacks, most of them ducks in various forms and positions (odd, Yuri thought, but somewhat acceptable) as well as photos and art pieces pinned on a corkboard. Drawing close, she noticed they were all of the same person: a girl in various poses pulling different facial expressions. In all of them her eyes shone brilliantly, a large grin stretched across her face.

 

Was this Yena? Even in the simplest of drawings she looked so full of life, arms extended as if reaching out to Yuri.

 

The bedroom door creaked open. Yuri turned. Her eyes met bright ones behind thick spectacle frames, hair swinging in a ponytail, lips pursed like the small duck plushie swinging from the bag. “Ah, I-”

 

“Yena…?”

 

“You’re crying.” Gentle hands cupped Yuri’s face, thumbs wiping away the tears that had begun to roll down her cheeks. Yena wrapped her arms around Yuri, one hand cradling her head, the other patting her back in soothing strokes. Held in comforting warmth, Yuri finally broke down. Burying her head in the crook of Yena’s neck, she cried, and she cried, and she cried.