Spring Begins

Written by Miriam Fernandez
Art by Taryn Elliott

Spring is always such a wonderful time, where all the flowers seem to bloom once more and butterflies decorate the air in different colors. There is a little breeze, and it is quite peaceful, as winter slowly fades away. The sun appears more frequently, bringing warmth and happiness to everyone. The trees are now filled with leaves, brilliant colors filling its branches and dancing with the soft wind.

There is rain at times but, even so, the earth seems to be content with the passing of the seasons. The way winter disappears and spring enters the world, painting the petals of the roses, lilies, and so many more flowers. The sky is clear, blue and endless as chirping birds soar through the world and then into trees, to their homes. 

Hope is what spring brings; beauty and wonder present in the smiles of people walking on the streets—busy but happy. Children laugh as they blow bubbles that float gently and later vanish, and go on adventures with their friends. Music fills the air, notes gracefully played and people dancing, forgetting about the future and any worries. 

Spring always leaves too quickly for anyone to notice and when they do, it is too late. But, even then, it isn’t easy to forget about spring and the joy it brings, especially when it begins.

When Fall Arrives

Written by Miriam Fernandez
Art by Rikka Ameboshi

I love the sound of rustling leaves, the way they dance in the air before finally descending onto the ground. The way the wind carries each leaf in the fall: a whirlwind of crimson, orange, and yellow, circling through cities and places and people that will someday meet. And through it all, the leaves that seem to write themselves into the stories of the people passing by; it’s the magic of fall. 

I love the way the wind murmurs–sings a little, too–when the afternoon sun dies. As it retires and time trickles into the evening, the trees sway to the music of the wind. Calm and quiet at times, then loud and tempestuous as the wind zooms past colorful houses and, once in a while, briefly tickles the faces of those who walk by.  

Wonder is everywhere when the world is illuminated by the sunsets, the brilliant colors that merge with each other endlessly. A kaleidoscope of colors in the sky causes everyone, no matter where they are, to look up, even for just a second. The sky connects everyone and holds the gaze of people because these moments are finite. Sunsets can appear over and over again, but they will never appear exactly as before. And yet, everyone will always be able to enjoy the beauty of sunsets. 

And then twilight. The light fades and night slowly envelops the world in temporary darkness before street lights illuminate sidewalks with thousands of people coming home after long hours and stressful days. Starry skies are what most people look forward to; stars sprinkled in the sky like sugar, white specks that brighten the night and hold the gaze of people looking up at them from their windows. Stars that watch people make wishes, as they believe in shooting stars and pixie dust and fairy tales. Nighttime is serene, a time for people to dream and soar far beyond what they imagine possible and hope for the next day. And the next. And the next.

And Winter Follows

Written by Miriam Fernandez
Art by Olya Kobruseva

Many people dislike the cold winter evenings, where time seems to disappear into the unknown and the day is plunged into darkness. When the night arrives faster than usual and the sun runs away. The freezing temperatures and the frosty winds and the morning frost on cars that keep them cold. Or the way the roses seem to hide, remaining frozen for what seems like forever. But winter is so much more than this. 

It’s hot chocolates being sipped on a cold afternoon, where a good book and the warmth from this drink brings immense joy to your heart. The way children sit in a circle, surrounding the person telling a story: marvelous adventures where all someone needed was a little bit of bravery and compassion. The music playing from the radio, the holiday songs that everyone knows by heart and sings along; some singing in harmony and others out of tune. 

The freshly baked cookies and the gift wrapping that somehow makes everyone feel home. The way family is not just a concept but has a real presence and brings to mind all the wonderful memories one would wish to relive. Watching movies together, wrapped in warm blankets, and playing board games. 

The little smiles and designs one draws on the frost of cars or the thousands of pictures taken to capture the sweet moments, here and there. The piano echoing in the distance along with the voices of violins and other instruments, reminding everyone of the season and the holidays. The warm jackets, the scarves full of patterns and colors, and the boots that keep your feet warm. 

And the snow that only exists in some places, a blanket that envelops the ground in pure white and invites people to build snowmen and have snowball fights and make snow angels. And it’s like everyone has forgotten that fall was ever there, that the trees that are now leafless were once filled with red and orange and yellow leaves. Winter is all anyone thinks of, what gracefully follows fall.

Baking Adventures

Written by Miriam Fernandez
Art by M. Catalin Cardei

“Can we bake some cookies?” Melody asked her older sister, Violet, who had come home for the holidays. She attended a university four hours away, and for Melody who loved her older sister, that meant she lived worlds away. Violet was studying to become a teacher and it couldn’t be more fitting; in Melody’s eyes, Violet was the perfect teacher already. Kindness and compassion were never far when Violet was around, and she always enjoyed hearing Violet teach her something new. 

“Of course, Mel,” her sister replied, smiling. “What kind do you want to bake?”

“Chocolate chip cookies!” Melody exclaimed, rushing to hug her sister. Violet hugged her back, knowing that Melody’s favorite cookies were always the same. 

“Okay, well, come on. We should hurry if we want to have them done by tonight,” Violet told her, urging her to get the ingredients. 

“Okay,” Melody agreed, nodding, and then went to find the ingredients. Flour and chocolate chips were the first on the list, followed by the sugar and vanilla. Melody knew that Violet was getting the rest of the ingredients out on the kitchen island, and preheating the oven to 350 degrees. Melody walked over to the kitchen island, placing all the ingredients she got and sitting on one of the stools. Baking with her sister was one of her favorite things to do, especially during the holidays. Her mother and father were out shopping for gifts while her other sister was out ice skating with her friends. But Violet was always there for her and this was just one of those special moments that she shared with her. Just last week, Melody had needed someone to help her with her homework and when she called Violet, she answered on the first ring. She had helped Melody finish her homework, despite the time and distance. 

“Have you gotten the pans out yet, Mel?” Violet asked, mixing the ingredients. She had her apron on, the one that said ‘Best Older Sister’.

“Oh, not yet. I forgot about them! I’ll go get them,” Melody answered, running back to the cupboard to get the pans. 

If we bake the cookies and have them done by tonight, we’ll get to surprise Mom and Dad! Melody thought, grinning as she imagined their faces. Violet was almost done mixing the ingredients when Melody got to the kitchen island with the pans. 

“Here they are,” Melody said, placing them down on the island.

“Great! I’m almost done. Want to finish mixing for me?” 

“Sure!” Melody stirred the flour while Violet dropped in the chocolate chips, each falling like a raindrop into the bowl. 

“Okay, I think it’s ready. Let’s place them on the pans,” Violet said, grabbing two spoons: one for her and the other for Melody. They each grabbed large spoonfuls of the dough and placed them onto the pans, leaving enough room for 30 cookies. At last, they finished placing all the dough onto the pans and put it in the oven. 

“It’ll be done in no time,” Violet affirmed as she washed her hands. Once she dried her hands, she glanced at her watch and let Melody set the timer. But of course, after baking cookies always came cleaning up the big mess in the kitchen. Ingredients scattered around the kitchen, flour all around, a few chocolate chips fell on the ground, and all the bowls and pans that were used had to be washed. Melody set out to clean the kitchen island, wiping the flour off of the surface of the island and picking up the fallen chocolate chips. Meanwhile, Violet washed all the bowls and pans that were used and together, they made the kitchen look spotless again. 

About an hour later, the cookies were done. A delicious aroma arose from the oven and quickly filled every part of the house. Melody and Violet had just finished placing the cookies on several plates when their parents arrived. 

“Mom, Dad, you’re home!” Melody exclaimed, running to give them a hug. 

“We’ve made cookies,” Violet said, pointing to the plates. 

“Was this another of your baking adventures?” her mother asked, smiling as she set the shopping bags down and gave Violet and Melody a hug. Her father was hanging up his coat and gave them both a hug. 

“It smells great in here,” he said, breathing deeply. And they all sat down with a glass of milk to eat the delicious cookies that Melody and Violet had baked that afternoon.

The Key to Somewhere

Written by Miriam Fernandez
Art by Kristina Paukshtite

Now, what could this key be for? Amira thought, frowning as she inspected the key. It was just a key—brown and tarnished. But instead of the regular design, this key had a small crown attached to the middle and two small letters: M.A.

Amira had never seen nor used this key before, which was strange as she knew all the keys to the castle. After all, the castle was her home. She had grown up there and spent her childhood discovering what was behind each door. A memory resurfaces and Amira recalls her sister and her running through corridors, escaping from their parents and hiding behind curtains. Amira smiles, fondly thinking back to simpler times. She opens her palm again and focuses on the key again, hoping to recognize anything familiar from it but fails. Sighing, she calls the one person who can help her. 

“Hey, Mia! Come take a look at this!” she yelled, urging her younger sister to come. Mia was only a year younger, but she was far wiser than Amira could ever be. Mia comes running in, her brown hair cascading past her shoulders. She wears a gold necklace around her neck, just like Amira does. The one her parents bought them years ago, back when they were little girls playing with dolls and racing through fields. They never take them off. 

“What’s wrong?” Mia asks, slowing down as she approaches Amira.

“Take a look at this. Tell me, have you seen this before?” Amira hands the key over to Mia, hoping Mia will know more about this key. Mia squints as she carefully looks at the key, turning it over in her hands. It is early morning and the castle is unusually buzzing with noise. The king and queen have decided to throw a banquet in celebration of their anniversary, something that makes Amira question her unexpected discovery of this key. She found it on the floor, hidden by dozens of chairs and camouflaged with the wooden ground.

“I’ve never seen it, Amira,” Mia finally responds, shaking her head as she looks up to Amira’s eyes. 

“Are you sure?”

“Definitely. I would have known it by now. You know we both know every inch of this castle,” Mia argues, handing the key back to Amira.

“Well then, I guess I will go search for a door that this key unlocks,” Amira says, turning slowly. I know Mia won’t say no to this, she thinks. One… two…

“Wait. Can I come too?”

Knew it.

“I was hoping you’d say that,” Amira says, smiling, and grabs her sister’s hand. They start on the first floor, trying every door while steering away from the decorations being placed on the walls and tables for the upcoming banquet. 

“If our parents find us, they’ll scold us,” Mia whispers as they run to the second floor.

“Girls, you’re wasting time -” Amira starts in her mother’s voice.

“-On trivial things rather than helping with decorating,” Mia finishes, laughing. They search the entire second floor with no luck. Then the third. And the fourth. Amira knows that she didn’t find this key coincidentally; she still believes in magic and destiny. 

“I guess it leads to nowhere,” Mia says, as they near the end of the corridor of the fourth floor. 

“Don’t say that, Mia. It has to lead somewhere,” Amira insists, looking once more at the key. They’re both tired from racing up and down so many stairs, but Amira won’t stop looking for the door that unlocks with this key. 

“Somewhere?” Mia asks, “We’ve looked everywhere.” She frowns and stops walking, crossing her arms. 

“I know it does,” Amira continues, trying her best to believe in her own words.

“Somewhere.” And all of sudden, the wall behind them slowly transforms into a door with elaborate designs on it, spirals and patterns that intertwine. Amira and Mia are speechless, their eyes wide open as they take it all in. The door continues transforming, every piece of it delicate yet strong. At last, it finishes with the door handle that is just a few inches away from Amira. 

“Wha-what just happened?” Mia asks, dumbfounded. 

“I don’t know,” Amira admits, “But whatever that was, it was amazing.”

“Should we open it?”

“Are you serious? You know the banquet is in less than two hours and we need to get ready,” Mia replies. Then, they hear their mother’s voice, loud and clear, calling for them.

“Come on, Mia,” Amira pleads, opening her hand to reveal the key. “Let’s find out what this door leads to.”

“Mia, Amira, come and get ready!”

Mia turns to the sound of her mother’s voice, frowning as she ponders over the issue. Sighing, she turns back to Amira and smiles.


Amira smiles and gives Mia the key, anxious to see what this key will unlock behind this door and hoping they’ll find an adventure waiting for them. 

Mia pushes the key inside the lock and turns the handle. The lock clicks and the door swings open. Mia and Amira both go in, their hearts hopeful as they go on a grand adventure.

Life is an Adventure

Written by Miriam Fernandez
Art by Yaroslav Shuraev

It was a Tuesday when Lyra discovered the magic of the forest. 

She had been playing in the gardens, skipping joyfully as she passed by all of her mother’s plants. Roses, daisies, and marigolds grew abundantly there, but lilies were her favorites. She believed they were the most beautiful flowers; they were bright, they blossomed under the sunlight, and they captivated her attention. Lyra’s mother believed 

Lyra knew that she was not allowed to go past the gardens, but the allure of the forest was too great to be ignored. Her long, golden hair flew as she raced to the end of the gardens, her heart beating fast. The morning was yet to disappear, the sun still high up in the sky with the clouds drifting by. She knew her mother would scold her if she found out, but she loved to explore. To learn more, to venture further and discover something new. 

Adventures are for children, Lyra,” her mother often said, shaking her head at her. Lyra was always determined to prove her wrong; she believed that life itself was an adventure few understood and had the courage to truly recognize. Now, as she stood at the gates of the gardens, Lyra looked back to the wonderful arrays of flowers and the ease of knowing that there was nothing more than this. Knowing that there would  always be flowers. 

I can either stay here and watch the flowers bloom or I can go on a grand adventure and live, Lyra debated with herself, taking a deep breath. In her heart, she knew there was only one option–one option that would make her smile. Gathering up all her courage, she pushed the gates of the gardens open and runs. 

Lyra ran out into the open fields, the meadows that stretch out for miles and miles. She ran with her hands outstretched, reaching out to touch the wildflowers and grass. The thrill of running was exhilarating, causing her to laugh with joy and do a few cartwheels before lying down for a few minutes. 

If only Mother could see me now, she thought, smirking. Her brown eyes sparkled in the light of the day, full of curiosity. It’s then that she stared ahead and took a sharp inhale. The forest lay right ahead. 

Slowly getting up, she pushed a strand of her hair behind her ear and walked curiously over to the beginning of the forest. She walked with her hands behind her back as she thought of what the forest may be like. 

Well, here I go, Lyra thought. As she went in, her eyes captured everything from the brilliant green of the hundreds of trees to the smell of the earth underneath her feet. Birds flew right above her, chirping as they headed home while leaves swirled all around Lyra as if embracing her. Lyra twirled and danced, feeling braver than ever. Gossamer floated in the wind, a few butterflies encircling Lyra as she took in this secret fairyland.This is Life, she realized, smiling. My adventure has only begun. Her face was radiant with every beam of the sun that shined on her, but her heart was far more beautiful, full of wonder and magic.

Life After Death

Written by Miriam Fernandez
Art by Jackson Jorvan

The soft, incandescent glow of the sun is mesmerizing and fills in every void. I take a deep breath, the air warm and the grassland around me moving to the whispers of the wind.  There’s no place like this, no space so alive and mystifying. I find myself comforted by the allure of sporadic trees and plains that stretch out for miles, past the horizon and past my view of the world. Whenever my spirits are down or I simply need time for myself, I wander off into the distance and follow a rocky trail to this grassland where I’m free. 

There’s no need to pretend here, to put on a mask and adjust to the energy of people who come and go. This is my own little place, free of any judgement and pressure. I can never feign any emotion nor erase any thought that comes to mind, for I am at peace with myself here. That’s why I try to come here as much as possible.

Usually, I come in the early mornings when the glow of the sky is perpetual and the murmurs of the breeze hover over silent abodes like repressed memories. Today, I chose to come in the evening, in the dying breaths of the sun and the gradual climb of the moon. It’s one of the last times I’ll ever be able to come here and the time I have remaining needs to be stretched as far as possible. 

My mother died a couple of weeks ago and my father claims that this town has no place for him anymore. But I know that it’s because this town lost its spark when my mother departed from this world and left us. A part of him died that day, and I guess a part of me died too. 

The first couple of days after her funeral, he tried his best to keep me moving forward. He kept waking me up on time to go to school, kept encouraging me to hang out with my friends, and cooked in the afternoons. But it all fell apart in a matter of days. 

He withered slowly like a rose, petals falling down as a drought settled over the land and terminated any hope. He succumbed to grief, to the rage he withheld from me but unearthed every night in his nightmares. I would try to console him, try my best to get him to move anywhere. 

“Please,” I would whisper, a sob caught in my throat. 

“No, no, I can’t!” he would yell, frustrated. “Your mother is dead! Do you hear me? And so, I’m dead too!” His eyes no longer shined like they used to. They were dull, lifeless mirrors that depicted a heart in a million little pieces. I knew his heart was tired. Mine was too. 

We were both tired of trying to survive in a desert where our pleas went unheard and yet, I was the one looking for an oasis. I kept looking, kept fighting to stay alive in a barren land.

For Dad. 

For Mom. 

For myself. 

I kept putting on a facade at school, lying to my friends about how I really felt on the inside. I knew they were all curious to know how I was coping, but I also knew they didn’t really care. As long as I was “the girl in mourning,” they would continue to talk to me as I was the most popular person in the world. It was a small town and rumours spread like wildfire here, burning everything in its way. It was only a matter of time before people started talking about my father and I. 

He noticed it before me. 

He had decided to get out of bed and sit on the front porch swing, wearing a grim smile as I waved goodbye and walked to school. Right after I passed the neighbor’s house, he noticed the blinds open subtly, two pairs of eyes watching me go down the road. And when he went back inside, from the window, he caught a group of ladies talking in hushed voices, but he still managed to hear them.

Poor child,” they murmured. “What a shame her mother left her all alone.”

But she’s got her father.”

What? The old man in her house? He’s good for nothing,” one remarked. 

Yeah, he hasn’t come out since his wife passed away,” another agreed. 

It was then that he knew it was time to go. 

And now, here I am. My heart weeps for this place that my mother loved dearly, the same place I must leave to start a new life in the city. 

I’m wearing the black satin blouse my mother adored on me. It’s got a tie neckline and loose sleeves that I can fold with a single button on the ends. I’ve been wearing it for the past two days. 

The sun is low, the sky infinite and cloudless. I wonder what my mother would think of me, what she would say of me as I sit here in the grassland instead of packing my belongings. I wonder if she’s here, if she’ll ever send a sign of her presence. But mostly, I wonder if she’s happy wherever she is. 

The sunset appears in splashes of crimson, primrose, and lavender, a painting in the sky.

Her favorite colors. 

She’s okay, I think to myself. 

And so, I tilt my head a little to the right, my dazed eyes illuminated by this fading daylight as I reminisce of the melancholic past and dream of the ever-present future.


Written by Miriam Fernandez
Art by Madison Inouye

“Will you still hold my hand when we’re older?” I ask my sister, laughing as we cross the street and pass by the bustling crowds. 

“Only if you hold mine,” she chortles, her hazel eyes gleaming in the sunlight, two mirrors that only reveal grace and tranquility. Once we step foot again on the sidewalk, she lets go, but I know she’d never let go of me. Not today. Not tomorrow.  

There are only a couple of hours left until the day is over and yet, I am in no hurry for it to end. The summer air is calm, breezing through trees draped in green.  

We pass the second to last lamppost before home, the one near Betty’s Bakery and a couple of clothing stores. The smell of baked goods fills the air with a wonderful aroma, one that envelops everything in its way like a gentle embrace. 

“It always smells good, doesn’t it?” my sister says, breathing the air as if it were her last. 

“Always,” I murmur with my eyes closed as I inhale the scent of freshly baked bread. A wave of melancholy hits me unexpectedly and forces me to open my eyes once more. 

Smells like home, doesn’t it darling?

“Are you okay?”

My sister’s voice brings me back to reality and for a moment, I wish she hadn’t. 

“I’m fine, just wondering if you’re thinking what I’m thinking,” I say, raising my eyebrows as I face the bakery. 

“Mantecadas!” we both effuse, smiling. She beats me by the second, her youth present as she arrives there with no difficulty breathing after a sprint. I, on the other hand, cannot breathe properly and bend down to catch my breath as she chuckles at my “old age”. 

“Next time,” I wheeze, “I’ll beat you.”

“You wish,” she replies, laughing. There it is again. That look in her face that makes all my memories come flooding back. 

You will never be alone, darling. 

For a brief moment, I freeze, my mind rewinding to simpler times. But I won’t ruin this just because I think too much about the past. 

“Go on,” I tell my sister, “Pick the one you want.” She gives me a quick smile and goes to pick up a tray.  The smell of bread penetrates everything, heightening the memories in my head into reality.

My mother’s words, her heartbeat pounding. It’s like I can see her again. Alive and well. Her memory, hands full of bread and our little hands, waits by the front door of the bakery like she did when we were younger. She’d always tell us that sisterhood was something she always wanted to experience but never could. That’s why she was adamant in us getting along, for she wanted us to realize that we had a bond she could never have. 

Her dark hair flowing down her back, her gentle eyes and unwavering spirit. She fought to live, always did. She wanted us to live. 

“Are you ready? I picked one out for you.”

My sister stands at the cash register, her face a replica of my mother’s. She doesn’t remember her as much as I do, but she is a memory of the lives we’ve led, the times we’ve known and forgotten. 

I nod quickly, wiping a few tears that have sprung. I head to the cash register, appearing by my sister’s side as I pay for the bread she’s selected. 

Always four pieces, always the same four pieces. 

We head out of the bakery and silently walk. 

Past the lamppost that highlights the end of this block.

Past the clothing stores my mother used to shop at. 

Past the aging trees, the ones that guarded the neighborhood from danger. 

We walk until it is dark and the night is cool. We walk home and fall asleep, our hands intertwined for the briefest of seconds, humming the lullaby our mother used to sing.

I Got On A Train And Left

Written by Miriam Fernandez
Art by Kelly Lacy

At 11:59 p.m, I got on a train and left. 

For the last seven months, the constant battle to keep up and be “perfect” has been weighing down on me like an endless burden. The past kept trapping me—day in and day out—and I could no longer control the demons that lived inside my chest. The fantasy of living a grand life had been the dream of an innocent child, a spring flower that blossomed only to find the rays of sunlight far too rough and piercing.

All I ever wanted was to be enough. Dancing ballet as soon as I was able to walk, learning to play guitar right after and the million other instruments that followed. I was proclaimed a ‘star’ at an early age—a brilliant mind in the midst of ordinary people. They wanted me to be better, smarter, and above all, extraordinary. 

They sculpted me to appear perfect, not a single crack visible under the layers of a facade I maintained for years. I was the epitome of a broken heart trying to fix itself over and over, piece by piece. I was holding on by a mere thread, the same thread that could snap in an instant if I chose to let go. But I had no option. 

This thread unraveled in numerous directions, tying me down in places I had no love for. Endless turns and folds—a mirage of being admirable when, deep down, I was nobody. Every night, I would turn to the moon and cry silently, knowing she would hear my tears flowing like a river down my body. Her incandescent glow was like an embrace, soft to the touch and warm to the spirit. The air was magical and yet, I was frozen to the core in this paralyzing room. Trapped, recklessly caged in this prison. 

The air is cold on this train, my breath appearing in front of me. I’m seated next to the window and there’s no one next to me. My breath fogs up the glass and my finger trails down the window, carefully writing each letter before pausing. 

G O O D B Y E 

I know what they’ll think of me once they discover I’m gone. I know what they’ll say as soon as they find my closet empty, my buried dreams unearthed, and the room heartachingly empty. I know the absence of a farewell letter will terrify them. 

They’ll begin by screaming, their rage limited as they find anything or anyone to blame for my disappearance. They’ll start tearing through the house, knocking down priceless porcelain, and slamming their fists into walls. They’ll turn against each other—two loveless souls pitted against one another from the start, battling to win the title of ‘less guilty’. 

Remorse will be their next step. Their anger will soon start to fade and memories of guilt will build up in their conscience, wrecking their minds with the truth they didn’t see. Or better yet, the truth they didn’t want to see. They’ll settle down in one of the many fine leather couches they own, running their hands through their hair as they contemplate all they missed when living with me.

And of course, pain will be the final blow. Their sobs will echo loudly throughout the lavish abode, my ghost present as it hears their tears streaming and seeping into the floor. I know they’ll turn to the arms of sorrow once they’ve realized who they lost. Not a valuable asset, not an extravagant gift, but their only daughter. 

For once, loneliness is the only thing that comforts me. I lay back in my seat, watching as the scenery starts to fade and the trees become a blur. The world is a mess, but at least I won’t be the one leading it. 

At 11:59 p.m, I got on a train and never came back.

I Don’t Believe in Forever

Written by Miriam Fernandez
Art by Griffin Wooldridge

I don’t believe in ‘forever’. I used to, but not anymore. 

The smell of heartbreak always lingers, close enough for me to detect and regret everything I’ve ever done. It was my fault, really, for trusting people. I could never tell liars apart from those who told the truth. They all wore deceit plainly on their faces like smudged ink, but all I saw were happy accidents, art to transform and a story to fill in. 

Best friends forever,” one claimed.

I’ll never leave you alone,” another sang.

You are the most important person in my life and I will never break your trust. You can count on me to be there always,” the last one murmured. 

And they all flew away, vanished the instant I needed them. I still remember them, fragments of them scattered throughout my life. I cannot forget their birthdays, my mind retracing their faces and replaying our last conversations on those days. A nightmare, a dream, maybe both. I’ll find myself looking too fondly at old movie tickets taped in notebooks, marking the days I was happy or, at least, convinced myself I was happy. And then there’s the old photographs, mostly the blurry ones, like the one where we dressed up as ghosts for halloween, and I’ll wonder what could have been of us if we hadn’t become strangers.

I pretended I wasn’t scared that day the picture was taken, that I didn’t believe in ghosts or spirits, but I do. I see them now wherever I go. 

Standing in line at the supermarket, their shadows fall behind me,murmuring old lines. During my afternoon jog, I hear ghosts crying invisible tears and whispering the phrases I most liked to hear when we were happy. And if I put the radio on, and one of our special songs plays, the ghosts sit right beside me on my truck, singing along. Ghosts never haunt places; they haunt people and stick around indefinitely like bad sores and stubborn itches.

It was a full moon the last time I believed somebody, right by the river where the trees wore crimson and amber blankets. I was careful—thought I was careful—by remaining silent when they repeated the phrases the ghosts from my past had said before. But I was too blind to see the monster in front of me, too kind to care about me and instead, embraced that monster as if they were my family. Despite how long it’s been since that embrace, I’ve still got their hug tattooed on my skin. Their fingertips are inked on top of my veins, cursing me to the end of my days. 

It’ll never be easy to trust someone again, especially since all I’ve ever gained from trust is pain.