“Held captive,” kept popping up in Luna’s mind as she sat near her living room window in the quiet of the early morning sipping on her coffee. “I know I should be grateful that my eyes opened up and I am able to get out of bed today but I am just not feeling it,” she thought to herself. What an awful way to feel. She constantly blamed herself for how others perceived her and for not measuring up to their standards. Every time she looked in the mirror she frowned at the ugliness she saw. Jon had walked in on her on several occasions and noticed her scowl and asked, “Why are you looking at yourself like that?” “I don’t like what I see,” she said. “Oh,” he said with sadness in his voice. She knew she had hurt him with her words but she couldn’t help how she felt. “Luna, you must think I am a liar,” Jon said as he stood behind her. “Why would you say that?” she asked him. “Because I have told you many times how beautiful you are and yet you stand here and call yourself ugly. Do you think I have bad taste?” he walked out of the room. He didn’t want to hear her answer because he knew right now she would not believe him at least she wouldn’t believe it of herself. These chains that held her were almost a comfort now. She wasn’t sure how she would feel if she were set free from them. Although she knew this negative painful thoughts only hurt her more every day she didn’t know how to be any other way. She had made them a part of who she was and began to believe many years ago that she was meant to be sad and hide from the world. She wasn’t worthy of being happy, loved by other or herself, or worthy of doing things she loved. Somewhere along the way she believed her role was to make sure others were happy and that she had to say, “Yes,” to whatever it is they wanted even though she didn’t want to do it. All this had done was make her feel exhausted, irritated, and used.
As she got ready for her weekly “meeting” with her closest friend, Sarah, she was reminded of a quote by Mahatma Gandhi, “Nobody can hurt me without my permission.” “Had I really given other people permission to hurt me all these years? Did I have that much power over my thoughts and feelings?” It was hard to believe; most days Luna felt completely powerless. She tried to shove the thoughts aside it was too early to deal with this type of emotional introspection.
It’s strange how no matter where she turned she was reminded of this message. The music she listened to and even in the conversation she overheard from the ladies sitting next to her in the restaurant as she sat waiting for Sarah. “You need to stop letting people’s ideas what they think you should do make you feel bad. You are good enough and smart enough to make your own decisions. It’s time for you to be happy and be yourself,” said the lady in the green. Luna about choked on her drink of water when she heard these words. She turned slightly just to make sure the lady wasn’t talking to her. When she turned back around she stared into her coffee cup and wondered if the lady in the grey was ready to make those changes or did she feel like her, ready to bolt out of her chair and run home. She didn’t want to turn around again to look. So instead she told herself, “Breathe, Luna. Sarah will be here soon.” Breathing didn’t always work so she pulled out her phone, stuck her headphones in her ears and turned on her music.
As she waited for Sarah to arrive she thought about the day they met. Today was their twenty second friend-anniversary. They always brought along gifts for each other. One gift to represent their friendship throughout the years and one gift that represented the person giving it. Today. Luna brought a framed copy of her first quiz in her first math class in college. Sarah was the teaching assistant in Luna’s math class that year. “I can’t do this. I really don’t want to be here,” Luna thought as she sat in the back row of the classroom that first day. She never liked math and never seemed to be able to concentrate well enough to understand it. Just before the end of the class the professor introduced his teaching assistant who was also a tutor, Sarah. She was in her third year as a math major. Luna knew she would need tutoring in order to pass this class but she was so afraid to ask. As the students filed out of class Sarah handed each of them a schedule of her available hours to tutor and her contact information. As Luna approached Sarah she noticed she had kind eyes and a genuine smile. Luna was relieved and she felt she would be able to ask for help without feeling like a failure. A couple of weeks later Luna emailed Sarah to set up a tutoring appointment. Almost immediately they became friends. Sarah was easy to talk to and made math just a bit easier for Luna to understand.
Sarah was outgoing and wasn’t afraid to try new things. Luna loved that about her but it also scared her because Sarah was always trying to get Luna out of her shell. Every once in a while it worked. At the end of the semester they made a promise to get together at least once a week to have breakfast at one of their favorite local restaurants.
Sarah strolled in wearing her favorite “October” outfit, an orange blouse and a brown pencil skirt with cute flats. Sarah rarely wore heels because she felt they made her too tall. She always looked put together and professional. Luna looked down at herself. She was wearing her purple “hippie” skirt as Sarah called it and a black V-necked t-shirt. Luna claimed she dressed for comfort but sometimes she wondered if it was just lack of motivation. She loved her flowy skirts but sometimes she felt as if they were too “happy” of an outfit for her to wear. “Hello, my little dark cloud awaiting the light to seep through,” Sarah said with a smile. For the last twenty-two years Sarah had referred to Luna as a “little dark” something or other because the majority of the time she wore black. She always made sure to let Luna know that someday the light would force her to let it out if only she stopped fighting. “Hi, Professor,” Luna said with a smile. After they ordered their food they got to talking about the projects they were working on and about Sarah’s classes. “I am putting together a few photos to print out calendars for next year,” Luna said. “I have so many I just don’t know which ones to choose.” “What is your theme for this one?” Sarah asked. “I am stuck between flowers, country scenes or photos of animals. I am going to make one of each for myself but I am not sure what to do about the other twenty five I am making for the Craft Fair next month. “Luna said. “How are your classes going?” “Oh, well, let me tell you! These freshmen are intense. Half of them are picking everything up quickly and the other half is either having a hard time because they just don’t understand it very well yet or they are just clowns.” Sarah said with a sigh. “I am so happy I will be teaching upper level classes next semester. That is where I shine,” She said with a goofy grin. Lune couldn’t understand how Sarah could love math this much.
Their dishes had been cleared from the table and their coffee mugs and water glasses refilled. It was time for the twenty second anniversary of their friendship gift exchange! This was always exciting and sometimes hilarious. “You go first this time, Sarah,” Luna said. “Okay!” Sarah exclaimed. “Let’s see what is inside this lovely orange bag.” Sarah took out the tissue paper and set it on the table and pulled out the framed quiz. Her eyes about popped out of her head! She was so surprised that after all this time Luna had saved it. She laughed with tears in her eyes. Luna knew why. Sarah would be moving back to New York at the end of the year. She wanted to be closer to her parent’s and had been hired to teach at NYU. “Your first quiz!” Sarah about yelled. “I can’t believe you still have this. I will treasure this for sure.” I remember how much you hated math and how you never thought you would pass that class. But you did.” “I know. It is kind of funny thinking about it now,” Luna said. “I wish I could go back in time and finish college.” “Why didn’t you finish anyway,” Sarah asked. “You always said you enjoyed your classes and were looking forward to finishing.” Luna had kept the story of what forced her to drop out of college three times. The first time was mostly due to lack of motivation and lack of direction. She was young and was unsure if college was for her and if her chosen major was really what she wanted. The last two times were not too long after she met Jon. It was hard keeping her problems from him as well. “Well, I was having a hard time making it to classes. I was having panic attacks and some days couldn’t even leave the apartment. The days I was able to drive to class were hit or miss. Sometimes I couldn’t get out of the car especially if I was late.” Luna’s words just tumbled out of her mouth. She was surprised she told Sarah about this after all these years. “I am so sorry you dealt with that,” Sarah said. “Luna, why didn’t you ever tell me what was going on?” “I wasn’t even sure what was happening.” Luna said looking down at the table. “I thought I was sick, that something was wrong with my heart or mind. I didn’t want anyone to know. I was scared. I didn’t even tell Jon. I just made it out that I didn’t like my major and wanted to change it.” “Luna, I can’t believe I never saw this happening,” Sarah said with a shocked expression. “Sarah, no one knew. I kept on smiling and learned how to pretend everything was okay.” Luna told her. Luna wasn’t going to tell her that she was going through it all again now. The last four years had been so hard. She lost her job and now she was losing the only friend she really had. Thank God she still had Jon. She just hated to burden him with all this. He would want to fix it and make things better and Luna didn’t know if that was even possible. Plus, she knew healing would only come if she allowed it and took the necessary steps to.
The green bag held a new messenger bag for Sarah’s new journey in New York. Luna filled it with some of Sarah’s favorite snacks, pens, lip gloss and a new journal. Sarah wasn’t much of a writer, she would solve math problems. But she had mentioned last time they had breakfast that she wanted to start writing her story and lists of her favorite quotes, things she wanted to share with her daughter. Sarah had a 10 year old daughter who was so much like her. Same color of hair, eyes and the love of math. She was still friends with her ex-boyfriend, Julie’s dad, but they just didn’t work out. However, Sarah was no longer single as she assumed she would be forever. On her last trip to New York she met another professor at NYU, he taught Chemistry. He was new in town and Sarah’s friend Maggie’s husband had met him at the gym. They became friends and the two played a sneaky trick on Sarah to get them together. Pizza and bowling was the start of a lifetime kind of love. It had been 3 years since then and just this July they were married. Luna was so happy for her. Sarah deserved to be loved completely and be in love completely.
Luna opened the purple box that Sarah brought for her. “Wow!” Luna exclaimed. A box filled with pen of all colors, new notebooks, sharpies, and a couple of Luna’s favorite movies and a cd of songs they used to play during their traveling to the country adventures. “This is perfect, Sarah,” Luna said with a smile, “I love it all!! Thank you!” “Open the other box,” Sarah said. Luna picked up the yellow box and opened it to find an NYU sweater, t-shirt, and a messenger bag.” Luna laughed. “Are you hinting at something, Sarah?” She asked. “I know how much you want to go back to school and finish your degree and of course write that novel. This is just a little reminder of where I will be and where I hope you will visit and possible take classes. Getting out of this town might do you some good.” She told Luna.
Luna had always wanted to visit New York and so many other places. It just seemed like time had flown by so fast and here she was turning forty in a week and she was nowhere closer to checking anything off of her bucket list. Sarah and Luna went their separate ways. Sarah to teach her first class of the day and Luna home to do laundry and hopefully get her photos picked out and some more purses made for the craft fair.
Author's Note:Come back to read about Jon and Sarah's bike riding adventure. Will she go or will she let her anxiety and fear hold her back once again?