Short Story

The Sapphire Sky

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Blades of grass droop somberly under the heavy dew. Daisies pop up here and there in a hopscotch pattern, demanding their place in the patch. On the platform, a mother scolds her child for running too close to the edge. A man occupies the only bench reading the day’s newspaper. Every so often, he peers at the train and then shifts the sleeve of his suit back to check his watch. They start to fade out of view as the train begins to move. Gaining momentum, lush pastures of emerald and bright green rush by. I lose myself in the details of the villages, hills, and streams. The conductor, a tall woman with a pleasing countenance, asks to see my ticket. I show her, stuff it in my coat pocket, and return my attention to the world outside. I rest my head on the pane for a moment, and the window vibrates due to the motion of the train. I glance upwards, and see the clouds unite in an ever expanding embrace, and then after a moment or two, drift apart from each other. The sky is tainted with a hue of saffron. The sun is beginning its farewell spectacle and reflects my bittersweet emotions.

I look around at all the people in my carriage. Each person carries a different weight in their heart and each has their own tale of life. Little do they know mine. Would they even care to know? My thoughts begin to take a secluded path as I ponder. Why is it when one door slams shut, we are so blind to see another one open right next to it? Why in the jigsaw of our lives do we try to slot a piece that is not a fit, yet we delude ourselves that it is the whole jigsaw that is wrong? Why are we too afraid to venture into the unknown, when in fact we are suffocating in the illusionary comfort of our bubbles?

My eyes fall upon my bag sitting rigidly on the seat beside me; its mouth gaping wide open, a part of me wishing it would swallow me whole. The seat facing me is occupied by a lady who is engrossed in what appears to be a crime or thriller novel. She shows no sign of being aware of my existence. With a hefty sigh, I reach over into the bag and take out the envelope. I clutch it in the palm of my hand. A tremor would be detectable to anyone paying close attention. I drop it onto the table in front of me. I feel the havoc the emotions are wreaking in my heart, fear being the alpha of the pack. What if I have failed myself? What if I have failed those who I wish to make proud? Years of my life, my hopes, training, effort and energy amounting to absolutely nothing. In my mind sirens of what if’s blare incessantly; throttling my rationality. I lean back on the seat and close my eyes in an earnest attempt to sleep. To escape from the reality I am in…

Lying outstretched in the world of my imagination. I feel drunk with the heat of the sun. I haul myself up from the ground. The light breeze feels beautiful upon my flushed cheeks, gently sweeping through my locks, caressing me like a lover. I see a butterfly. The way the light reflects off its wings like a prism producing a halo of colours is simply enchanting. So fragile a creature yet so striking in its beauty. Without warning, it flutters its wings and ascends into the air. On sudden impulse I chase after it. My steps quicken until I am running. My eyes are fixated on it. A desire to hold it, to have it rages from within. I look down and realise my hands no longer have fingers but are nets. I can hear each flap of its wings. They sound like the wheels of a train clicking on the tracks. I see how near it is and I am so very close to seizing it. Leaping into the air, I throw the whole weight of my body, my arm extended and ready to capture. In this position I’m suddenly suspended mid-air and as I watch, the butterfly disintegrates crumbling into a thousand tiny pieces. In that instance like an anchor being dropped, I’m falling.

I open my eyes abruptly. Heart racing, palms sweaty, and my mind hazy. It takes me a few seconds to adjust to the surrounding. I must have drifted off. I sit up and rub my face in an attempt to wipe off the slumber. There it was still, exactly where I had left it on the table. A tiny spark of courage rises but is immediately snuffed out. I glance to the window on my left. The sky is now intensifying by the minute into a darker and deeper sapphire. It has swallowed the sun, it is long gone. The shrill voice of the train conductor announcing our impending arrival bursts through the speakers and grabs my attention by the scruff of its neck. I’m almost home. Everyone will be waiting. I picture the smiles of encouragement on their faces as I walk in and the sighs and ‘never minds’ as I tell them I haven’t made it. That I have failed. That I haven’t secured the position I had been long awaiting. The pinnacle of my career. This was it. Make or break. I clutch the envelope and I think I’m about to tear it open. But I falter. I taunt myself. Coward.

I’m distracted. A baby is desperately trying to wrangle out of the arms of his mother who is sat in a table seat diagonally parallel to mine. After several attempts she gives in and puts him down onto the floor of the half empty carriage. He crawls a couple of seats away in one direction and then back to where he was placed. His mother leans forward out of her seat and protectively looks on. I see little chubby hands reach up as he attempts to hold the edge of the seat in order to stand. His weak legs fail him. The mother coos to comfort and encourages with her words. He reaches up to the seat to try again. There seems to be no ‘give up’ mode engaged, failure is not an option. No fear detected. It’s exactly the encouragement I need. His resilience is like an arm around my shoulder and a supportive word in my ear. In that moment whilst my courage is a warrior keeping my fears at bay, I tear open the envelope, unfold the letter and let out the breath that has been suspended in my throat for the last few seconds. The words are a blur. I’m scanning them more quickly than my brain is registering them. I find what I’m looking for. The words ‘pleased to inform you’ and ‘successful’ keep repeating in my head like a jammed CD. Closing my eyes I feel the heavy baggage of fear and anxiety I have been carrying on board this train, slide down from my shoulders and drop off my fingertips.

The train grinds to a steady halt. I step off onto the bustling station. Commuters push past in a race to reach the exit. In the sea of faces traveling in every direction I spot my mother’s. My mouth spreads into a smile. A smile that is screaming I did it, I succeeded. I glance back at the seat in the carriage I was sat in. I stare for just a few seconds in defiance at the emotional baggage which I gladly no longer claim as mine. Above, the sky has been stripped of any colour and is now smothered in a layer of black velvet. It contains the secrets of many a soul and mysteries of the unknown. I pluck out the remnants of fear from the hollows of my heart and scatter them out into the night sky.

Sarah has a lifelong passion for writing and loves to offer glimpses into her universe through stories, memoirs and poetry. Some of her writing intertwines aspects of life and faith through an introspective lens. By profession, Sarah is a primary school teacher which she considers to be a great opportunity in life to inspire and expand young minds. Sarah pursues an active social lifestyle by participating in community and charity work. Through joining MYM, Sarah's vision is to share her writing with the Muslim youth in order to entertain, educate and inspire.

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