By Teresa Francis, 25 March 2013
When the dragonflies arrived, we knew it was summer. They would skim lightly over the freshly mown grass and we’d know that finally it was time for beaches and popsicles and the glorious sun. I was, however, never a summer person. I did not enjoy any weather that was happier than my mood, and this resulted in me only being content in the sternest of winters, where the thunder echoed my mind’s thoughts and the cold, biting air felt much like my sarcastic and cynical soul. My friends however, were more than pleased about the onset of dragonflies. They’d (metaphorically) burn their sweaters and stockings and put on cotton tops and denim cutoffs and flip flops, and happily toast outside. It was a time for picnics and lemonade and merriment.
Georgiana’s death put quite a damper on this weather, as one could imagine. Though people carried on as if nothing had ever really happened, her silent shadow followed us to every carnival, beach and park we went to. She was a quiet sort of girl, who never really got along with the rest of us for reasons we realized after she’d passed nobody knew. She had been struck down with a heavy fever one day, and I only knew this because my mother was close friends with her mother’s older sister. One day she was burning with temperature and after a few days it got so bad she was sweating and trembling all at the same time. Nobody could place how exactly a healthy girl had fallen so ill, but on a Wednesday morning when school ended for the rest of us, she took her final breath.
I was not close to George, in fact, nobody ever was. She was the kind of person who seemed to prefer her own company, and she’d always look perfectly happy wrapped up in a book of some sort. She’d look at people as if to say, do not disturb me. I’d tried a couple of times to initiate something with her: I was well known as the black sheep of our grade and I supposed that we would get along, but she would always end the conversation short. After a while, I just stopped trying. Everyone had accepted that she came in peace, so she was never bullied or spoken to abhorrently. She was just George, the quiet thing that nobody knew.
The only people she got along famously with were preschoolers. She’d spend most of her break times helping primary teachers, be it taking the children out to the playground or helping them with their latest crafts project. She’d be there when the secondary had holidays too, I knew because I’d have to pick my little brother up after he was done. He’d tell me all sorts of stories about ‘Georgie’ and I’d be surprised to hear them because she never sounded like the same person in his tales. This girl was funny and kind and had much to say about a lot. When my brother had spoken out of his turn once in the kids’ ‘listening circle’, she’d taken him out of class and very gravely pointed to her ears saying-D’you know why they’re so small? Because I never listened when I was a kid like you. And now I can barely hear anything anyone says to me.
My brother takes after me, and was pretty cynical at first, but apparently she kept up the act of never being able to hear him talk, and now he listens like a lamb before deciding whether or not he wants to interject.
One day we were all sitting on the beach inspecting each other’s tongues (we’d just had popsicles in the most eccentric of colours) when Mark brought it up.
“Her parents, they’re the ones that really kill me,” he said, and I pardoned his double entendre, because he was right. Her parents wandered everywhere like ghosts: their house had the shutters permanently down and their lawn desperately needed mowing. Whenever you walked past it, you’d swear you could feel a chill.
“It shouldn’t have happened that way,” said another girl, Lucy. “Nobody deserves to see their children die”
“I just can’t imagine someone dying so quickly of a fever like that,” I remarked casually, but this statement was taken in a very serious way.
“Do you suspect it was something else then ?”, Mark asked, and suddenly I was aware of several faces turned to me.
I shrugged. The sun was setting, and there was a strange salty breeze in the air.
“It’s possible,” I said.
For a minute we all sat around just pondering the gravity of what I’d just said. We were all thinking one thing- was it suicide? George had never looked unhappy, but nobody really knew what went on under that calm exterior. We could never really know, could we? She’d closed herself off to the world before it seemed like she ever really gave it a chance, she’d flitted through classrooms without being seen or heard. She’d read books by authors like Sylvia Plath and Anais Nin and Margaret Atwood and nobody could tell what she was thinking. Would things have been different if she’d let herself be seen? A young girl, shut off completely, a work of fiction in a world that was so very real.
The dragonflies kept coming back, though summer was never quite the same.