Palo Alto Weekly 35th Annual Short Story Contest
Teen Honorable Mention

A Messy Stitch

by Anika Nair

Warm. That was the first word that came to mind as Autumn's eyes fluttered open. His nose flared at the scent of sweet mango, and hyacinths, and a small smile danced on his lips as heat from the sun fell on his back. He stayed there face planted on the green grass, listening to the birds chirping and children giggling on a swing set. Beautiful, he thought and dread curled up in his stomach, as he realized he was going to destroy it. With a grunt, Autumn pushed himself up, flexing his legs and fingers. He slowly walked across the gravel road, eyes darting left and right as he marveled at the sight of it. Many things have changed after 9 months in the dark, small bookstores where he remembered spending most of his time closed down, and he observed the change of some houses. Finally he reached his destination, a small apartment on Chatsworth Road. He grimaced at the mess that Summer, his sister, left. He froze at his reflection on the mirror opposite of him. Toffee colored locks were tangled on his head, and olive eyes stared back at him. Circular glasses sat on his pink angular nose freckles painted across it, and as he traced his jawline, stubble pricked his finger. He sighed in contempt, heading to the bathroom to take a shower.

How can someone who looks so harmless cause so much unhappiness?

The street lamps were shining as he stepped out of the apartment, brown trench coat swinging with him. He shivered as he felt a water droplet hit his forehead, dripping down the side of his face looking like tears. Even with the darkening sky, Manchester was still alive, people walking their dogs and going on dates. He glowered in envy at a young couple feeding the pigeons, smiles stretched on their faces and eyes glittering.

Hes never felt that he thought. Pure happiness, it was always darkness, or here, where his job was to tear down the happy world that mortals lived in. He shook his head, and kept a pace blocking all the happy people out. The sky was pitch black now, and he had his hands tucked under his sleeves, whie he stared down the city. Autumn was sitting on a balcony, his brown converse swinging up and down. It's been a week since he had arrived, and already a change was occurring. Winds became icier, clouds darkening, and the bright green leaves that once were perked on the branches of trees drooped down, a faded yellow and orange poisoning them. The drizzle soon started pounding down, as the winds howled like lost wolves, scaring animals and children. Autumn felt a pang of guilt as he heard the grumbles of people finding warmth in the building. He was soaked, chattering in the rain, yet he did not move, eyes closed and water sticking on his lashes. The screech of the backdoor broke him out of his trance, his head whipped to the sound. A silhouette of a man walking towards an abandoned umbrella caught his eye. A flame erupted from a small lighter and Autumn felt his breath hitch. The stranger was young, maybe 23 or 24, with long sable hair, and beautiful hazel eyes. Green crashed with brown, as the stranger met his eyes, cigarete dancing between his fingers.

"May I join you?" he asked, pointing to the soaked ledge next to Autumn.

"Yes' ' Autumn replied with almost a whisper, and he didn't think the stranger heard him, until he plopped down, not caring if he got wet.

"Beautiful isn't it" the stranger said, staring across the lighted city. A snort erupted from Autumn, as he kept his head down.

"What, the ugly trees and dying plants'' He responded sarcastically. Before the stranger responded, Autumn went on, his body eliciting rage.

"All the flowers are dead, there are barely any sweet fruits grown, it's cold, rainy, and gloomy" Autumn mumbled. He was about to continue his rambling, until he remembered he had company, cheeks erupting into flames. The stranger looked at him with… pity? No, disappointment, and for some reason, that look made Autumn's heart drop. The stranger sighed looking up at the grey sky, not a single star in sight.

"No," he responded slowly. "Fall is the messy stitch between summer and winter; the glue. One week the trees are full of lush green, and the next they're on fire! I mean-" The stranger chuckled, shaking his head. "Fall is a place of color. When it's not too hot or cold. A season to just read a book near the fire." The stranger shrugged looking down sheepishly.

Autumn didn't know why he did it, but he took the strangers hand, giving it a comforting squeeze. The stranger looked up a small smile on his face.

"Tariq" the stranger replied.

Autumn smiled playfully. "Morning star," he responded, translating the arabic name. They both sat, hand in hand taking in the city below them. Autumn noticed the big puddles glistening on the ground, and he knew tomorrow he would find people of all ages jumping in them. And the bright red apples which hung low, waiting to be picked by a couple or family. To be shared in an apple pie, or used for bobbing apples.

Yeah he thought. Autumn doesn't need to be loud like summer, cold like winter, or happy like spring. It can be quiet and peaceful. A time for people to connect with families, and relax.

He felt Tariq staring at him and shifted closer. Here on this balcony were just two boys, connecting, and at peace.