Lacey lived in fear of falling, in every sense of the word. Heights took her breath away, and not in the thrilling, more pleasure than fear way the rest of us felt. Cliffs, they left us awestruck. Lacey they struck down, sent her fleeing into herself and closing the door behind her eyes so none of us could reach her. Her every step was measured, her every action controlled – a little stumble, she’d relive for days. It would have been funny, except it wasn’t. We saw, and understood; who better than we?
Colin’s demons all lived in the dark. They whispered to him in dry voices, sandpaper-rough and holding all the seductiveness of any certain destruction. His keychain bore a tiny flashlight, and he checked the battery religiously, heart pounding in anticipation of the day it would fail.
Rachel couldn’t bear silence. Of us all, she had the most reason for her fear. Her beautiful green eyes had never seen the sun rise on the day of her birth, nor on any day since, and neither the doctors’ efforts nor her parents’ money could give her the one thing she wanted. Her world was sound and touch, and silence, to her, was living death.
And I? I was most crippled of all, though it was harder to tell. I flung myself headlong into feats that made me seem fearless, that made Colin’s whimpering and Lacey’s slow tight control seem pathetic, but which only covered the dry horror inside. They were my friends because they knew me better than anyone, and because it was Lacey, one grey day, who had put her finger on my heart, put a name to my flaw.
And so we went, we the broken, until the summer I turned twelve; that summer. We played, we talked, we plotted of adulthood. We swam at the lake, noted curiously the changes in each other’s bodies, and were by turns unbearably mature and suddenly childish. We played at jumping ropes – Lacey and Rachel could be counted upon to turn them steadily, and Colin would sometimes jump in, though most often I jumped alone, while they chanted the rhymes around me. I can still almost hear Rachel’s glad soprano, with Colin’s light tenor winding around it, and Lacey’s voice, surprisingly deep, supporting them both. That was our childhood’s anthem, the pattern of our days, until it found us, or we it, and everything changed.