Ella’s world was grey as she broke into a million pieces. Sobs racked her body as she convulsed on the cabin floor. A book lay open on the rug next to her shuddering form. Ella hadn’t opened the box Luca had given her since he left, and now she wished she had thrown it into the lake. She gathered her composure and rose from the floor, bending down to retrieve the unread clothbound edition of Pride and Prejudice. How could she ever have thought that he was her Mr Darcy? Life is not a Jane Austen novel Ella! It wasn’t the first time she scolded herself. She thought she had turned a corner; she felt she had begun to heal. Opening Luca’s box was a mistake.
Ella splashed her face with cold water, washing away her tears. Her face looked puffy and she could only assume her eyes were red. She remembered the colour, the way it flashed and made her nervous. She remembered the blue of the sky on a summer’s day, its reflection of the shallow lake outside, the deep purples of starry nights, but most of all she remembered the emerald green of her father’s eyes, all now faded to shades of monochrome grey. The doctors could never give her a straight answer on why or how she became colour-blind at the age of twelve, only that her eyesight was still perfectly fine. Ten years of living in a grey world and it had never been as dark as the past month.
I knew it was a mistake coming here, she thought. Ella had not stayed in the cabin for years. It was her father’s favourite place in the world and reminders of him plastered every wall. She closed her eyes as a memory of screeching tires and shattering glass forced its way into her mind. Walking towards the fireplace, Ella examined the photos framed above it. Her father with his broad smile was holding young Ella’s ankles, steadying her as she sat perched on his safe shoulders. Memories of his smile flooded her mind, memories long buried, too painful, too bright. Ella tried to force the memories down but she couldn’t, she was too raw, too open, and they consumed her.
She remembered her father’s voice, deep and reassuring like a cup of hot chocolate, dark and sweet. His rough hands as he pulled her onto the roof to lay under the starlight and gaze upon the wonders of the northern lights. The melodic ring of his whistle as he occupied himself on the drive back to the city. The look on his face as he saw the car speeding towards them, crimson and unavoidable. His deep, piercing green eyes as he glanced at her in the passenger seat. His safe arms turned the wheel to place himself between her and the oncoming vehicle. The last light of his emerald eyes fading away as the world became black and grey around her.
Ella came to her senses long enough to make a cup of hot chocolate, the same her father made for her. Her tears long spent on the wrong man, she wept no more for Luca. Climbing an old ladder up to the roof of the cabin, Ella sipped her hot chocolate and gazed at the stars. Far from the city they shifted and spun with such clarity that she could almost see them dancing just for her. She found a smile as she attributed patterns to the stars, this one a rabbit, that one a fox, another a hound. The smile lingered, and a long broken piece inside of her repaired itself, not entirely, but enough to fill the gaping hole long empty in her chest.
The sky bursts to life in a river of mottled grey and blinding white, the northern lights shone for her as they did all those years ago. Wanting to share the moment with someone, Ella withdrew her long forgotten phone from her pocket. She opened the camera intending to send a picture to her mother when something caught her eye. Green. A flash of green swam in the phones reflection for just a moment. She lowered the device and stared at the sky intently. Still black and white she thought with a sigh.
Raising the phone again she saw another flash of green, but this time Ella did not lower it. She stared at her reflection, black and white under the bright moonlight, and a hint, a speck, a swirl, of grey-green pierced her eyes. The speck grew as she began to cry again, tears mingling and reflecting the grey-green as it grew. The green became brighter and brighter, blending with purples and blues dappled with bright points of starlight. Ella wept tears she did not know she carried, carried not for Luca, not even for her father, but for herself.
She had found the Aurora Borealis in her eyes.
Words by Mark Vawser
Illustration by David Adams