The first time I saw her, I didn’t see her at all.
She always showed up at school dressed like the world is out to get her secret. She always wore those overalls that covered her legs and arms, a hoodie that hid her head. You can’t even see her eyes as she always wore dark sunglasses, even during noon time when the sun was at its peak. All you can really see of hers was the stark red lips when they move the few times or so a day she speaks, all against the backdrop of pearly white skin.
She mostly kept to herself for some reason. I figured it was because the other kids already found her strange. I once asked myself if she dressed that way because the kids excluded her, or was it the other way around? Whatever it was, I didn’t have a choice. I was the class president for that quarter and one of our adviser’s strict instructions was to befriend her.
“Hi Luna! How are you doing today?” She didn’t look up from the book she was reading. I cleared my throat and tried again. “My name is Soleil. I don’t think we met personally, but I want to make sure that you are adjusting well so far here in our school. I know it’s different from transferees.”
She closed her book and stood up, then extended her right hand covered with a silk glove. It looked out of place compared to her more casual outfit, but they were beautiful, nonetheless.
“Hello. It is nice to meet you.”
“Your gloves are so beautiful!” I complimented, to which she responded with a tiny smile.
I started bringing Luna with me to all class activities, even including her on lunch breaks. But she still preferred to keep quiet to herself even when she was with other people. In the end, nothing really changed; she doesn’t take any initiative in including herself with the other students when I don’t ask her to.
“Who is the foreigner, your mom or your dad?” I asked offhandedly one day. It was just the two of us reading in the library. Luna seemed shocked until I followed up my question. “Oh, I just figured because you seem much fairer than average.”
“I don’t have any foreign blood.” She deadpanned. She excused herself after that, but she refused to come back when I asked her if I said anything wrong. Judging from her reaction, I knew I offended her in some way.
Luna did not come to school the next day, and the day after that. I became worried and asked our instructor for her address. I needed to see her and find out why she reacted that way.
That night after classes, I started walking to Luna’s house. It wasn’t exactly near, but we lived in the province and people are used to walking distances anyway, even in the evenings because there is no crime. I arrived at dusk at my destination, the dying sun painting the indigo sky with a faint amber glow.
I knocked at Luna’s front door, but there was no answer. Still, I knew there were people there since the porch light was turned on. It was really the only source of illumination left when the sun finally decided to set. I knew waiting for somebody to answer the door was the polite thing to do, but with the mosquitoes starting to snack on me and my mere childish impatience, I decided to survey the property.
It was a simple bungalow with a garden. There was a path leading to the backyard, and curiosity got to me. I walked the narrow dirt to the backyard to find myself not alone anymore. My heart skipped a bit.
What looked like a ghost was…dancing in the dark. Her lithe body was glowing light under the starry sky; her dress was almost as white as her. Her hair was a pale yellow like freshly dried rice husks. I watched, transfixed, as her naked feet caressed the grass. Gracefully, like a diwata, she moved daintily from place to place. She only stopped when she saw me watching her quietly.
“Luna?” I asked, knowing the answer. She screamed like someone whose innocence was violated. “What are you doing here? Get out of here?”
“Sorry! I did not mean to intrude. It’s just that you have been absent for a few days and we were worried about you,” I half-lied. I noticed that I was staring at her eyes the entire time, two rubies sparkling under the moonlight. She noticed it too, as she immediately turned her back from me and covered her face.
“Get out! Leave me alone please!”
I acquiesced, running as far as my feet would take me. When I made it to my house, I puked on the ground and cried, trying to make sense of what I saw. What was she? Was she magical? She didn’t look like me. She was beautiful.
The next day was a weekend, so I decided to return to Luna’s place to apologize for my behaviour. It was nightfall when I finally arrived, and like the previous day, the place was quiet. The cicadas were out in full raucous cacophony. Unlike before, however, I skipped the front door and made it straight to the backyard instead.
“Luna?” I called out. She was lying this time on the grass, her eyes closed in peace or hidden ecstasy, whatever it is. She did not answer. I laid beside her without permission.
“Why did you come back?” she finally whispered after a few moments of silence.
“To say sorry,” I replied. Looking up made me feel like drowning in the sheer enormity of the sky. “And to tell you that you don’t need to be afraid.”
“What makes you think that I am afraid?” she challenged.
“You hide away in layers of clothes. You don’t talk to anyone. Don’t you think I wouldn’t notice that you want to be invisible?” I looked to my side to observe her open her eyes.
“I’m not afraid. I’m ashamed.”
“Look at me!” She sat up. “I’m a monster!”
“You’re not a monster!” I shouted back. “Your condition is not as uncommon as you think!”
“Who cares? The only thing that matters is what’s inside, right?” I heard her chuckle derisively.
“Easy for you to say! You are normal. You can go out and bask in the sun and enjoy yourself without people staring at you. I can’t do that! The sun hurts my skin. Do you know how it feels to only be able to bathe in moonlight? Do you?”
“No Luna, I do not.” I answered honestly, also sitting up to meet her at eye level. “If you have to cover yourself up to protect yourself from the sun, then do so. But don’t make it an excuse to hide yourself. Because you can never be invisible. I see you. Always. Don’t hide under your condition.”
I don’t know what made me say it, but I knew that there was no going back from here. I excused myself and walked home, bathing in the same moonlight that Luna was at that very moment.
The weekend ended and soon it was Monday again. I dreaded coming back to school, knowing Luna may or may not be there. Both options were not satisfactory for me, and I did not know what to expect either way.
When I made it to school, I was surprised by the group of people huddled in a small semicircle. I heard hush tones intermingled with small gasps as I walked towards them. In the center of the crowd stood a girl whose long yellow hair flowed down to her back.
Luna was wearing a navy blue dress that made her pale skin, now free from the clothes that usually enveloped them, look even paler. Her lips were still as red as ever; she still wore the sunglasses, but aside from that, she looked like a completely different person.
“Soleil,” she said, acknowledging my presence. I walked towards her. The sun was searing hot that morning, and I knew she was more uncomfortable under it than the rest of us. I produced a black umbrella that cast a shadow on us, protecting us from the sun’s rays. She smiled.
“Thank you,” she said. I didn’t know what for exactly, but something told me it was not for the umbrella. She reached for her bag and pulled her silk gloves. “Here, take them. I know how much you like them.”
“Are you sure? I asked.” She nodded and smiled a knowing smile.
“Yes,” she answered simply. “I’m not afraid of the sun anymore.”
Jay-ar G. Paloma
Jay-ar G. Paloma is an HR executive by day and a frustrated artist by night. Jay-ar likes to read and write fiction and opinion pieces relating to LGBTQ, social media, and culture. When not engrossed in a book, he is probably playing a tune on his guitar or keyboard. Leave your love notes to Jay-ar here: firstname.lastname@example.org.