Harshita Malik, Grade 11
The mere sight of June could've stopped her in her tracks; something about the cascading light always did. The way it would sink into the cobblestoned lanes, revealing their hidden flaws; overgrown crevices, and wild clusters of clover.
But Alice was glued to the patent leather of her heels. She'd spent hours circling back and forth across the canal, ignoring her summer allergies. A dull ache clambered up her bones like ivy against brick. And try as she might, she couldn't unravel its source.
Part of her wished Nola were here. They'd traverse the museums together, snickering at the pretentious old ladies in fur coats.
At least now, she could confess (to vacant air) that she'd secretly held a soft spot for them.
Her hometown was still star-struck, still set on promising her that she'd have a 'grand ole time'. The onslaught of enthusiasm became so unbearable she'd stopped answering her phone. She knew they meant well, anyone else in her position would feel the same way. But their flowery expressions dimmed her reality all the more.
Alice glanced up momentarily, almost tripping over a stray pebble. June had finally caught her eye. A single ray of sunlight floated gracefully along the canal like a melted mirrorball. She followed its trail with her gaze and, to her horror, felt the prickly sensation of mascara crashing down her cheek. Frantically, she rushed to wipe away the tears, but a droplet was enough to water the ache, its hollowness dispersing throughout her entire frame. Alice fought the urge to laugh.
But it was true.
With all the fortes you could accomplish in a city like Milan, she'd taken it upon herself to act like a bereaved widow.
She sighed, edging her feet out of her shoes. If anything, she felt immune to the opulent charm of her college. It'd seemed so pristine until she'd stepped inside the halls. Even the shininess of her colleagues was starting to wear off now.
With the number of nights, she'd spent in her dorm, contemplating the walls, Alice had concluded that her novelty was digging its grave.
If it weren't for the consistent sunlight, she wouldn't have had the energy to go to her lectures or buy a pair of patent leather heels in the wrong size. She felt as if she were mourning the girl she'd once been, before the excitement of life left her aching for something familiar.
Alice slipped back into her heels, wincing as they squeezed against her toes; Returning them would be first on her agenda. But for now, she'd be content just watching the sun pass by.