"Today was kind of...I don't know. Brown-gray, I guess."
Roya was sitting on the other couch next to Melanie's, taking a small sip of the apple juice she had poured. She raised an eyebrow at her friend from over her plastic cup. Wiping her lip with the back of her hand, she clicked her tongue. "They're that boring, huh?" Melanie nodded her head, staring at the dark T.V screen in front of her. She wondered what was playing at that moment, though she doubted anything could lift her spirits as high as Roya could.
"Yep," Melanie replied, popping the 'P' for emphasis. "They're just not my type, ya know?" Roya nodded her head in response. Sometimes Melanie wasn't completely sure whether Roya actually understood her or not, as she's never been to her house before- never met her parents, or even seen her room. Which was odd, considering how close they were. Melanie guessed it was just a nonverbal thing that they'd always go her house. Not that it really bothered her, anyways.
"Yeah, I know what you mean. Family can be pretty brown-orange," Roya replied, and Melanie turned curious, but she stayed silent, instead pondering over the last couple of hours. Another stupid family reunion. Her mom always dragged her to those, though Melanie was pretty sure that her mom knew that she was just going to lock herself in a room and start drawing or something. One time she'd gotten in trouble for running out of sketch paper and decided to draw on the walls. That didn't end well. Roya thought Melanie was red-pink, and they'd laughed about it the whole night, despite how utterly stupid it was. Melanie had thought she had done her cousin a favor, though. Her walls were too blank, anyways. And Melanie hated blankness.
But Melanie always had Roya to look forward to after the family gatherings. Her dad would always leave early cause he had late work, and Melanie was glad to come with so her dad could drop her off back home. So, she always had the house to herself, and that meant that Roya could come over and they had hours alone with each other until her mom and siblings came back.
Melanie frowned and took a deep breath at the thought of Roya having to leave once her family returned. They've never really...accepted Roya. They thought something that seemingly everyone else did as well. But Melanie knew Roya better than anyone else did. She knew the truth.
Unless you don't, a small voice whispered in her head, a weird voice of a spark of flames and crackling electricity.
She shook that voice from her odd mind. Melanie knew the truth. She liked when people told the truth, and she liked it in general. How could she possibly be hiding from something she liked?
Roya took another small sip from her apple juice. Melanie liked how she was always so careful and precise with everything- eating and drinking, art, writing, even the steps she took and the words she spoke. It was kind of mesmerizing, and it was hard to not look at her when she was doing something. It was all just so green-red. Maybe it was just Melanie, but she definitely got a different vibe from Roya compared to everyone else. And a good type of different vibe. That was one of the many reasons why they were so close. They both felt that good-different, green-red and pink-white vibe from each other.
Roya froze with her cup to her lips. She slightly squinted her bright, sky-blue eyes and they flickered to the front door of Melanie's house. She stood up and rushed to the kitchen, her thick auburn hair whipping behind her like a fan was blowing it. Kind of like in a Disney Princess movie when the main character- this perfect, pink-green girl standing on a glittering gold platform, her voice cotton candy and light sugar.
But Roya wasn't a Disney Princess, and she didn't like to be called pink-green. She liked being called yellow and green. Melanie felt more like the princess, and Roya her knight in shining armor. Her savior, sort of. Her savior from the blue-black world she used to live in.
Roya ran back into the living room, and her cup was gone. Melanie could then hear a car pulling into the driveway outside.
"My mom's here?" Melanie guessed, her voice filled with blue. Roya nodded her head, her eyes closely resembling how Melanie felt, but lighter.
"I'll see you tomorrow. Our regular spot, after school," Roya told Melanie, who nodded her head in response. She didn't even have to lead Roya out. She knew where to go; out the back door and into a short-cut through the woods back to her house a half hour away. They've done it so many times, it was hard to keep track.
Roya sped out the back of the house, flashing Melanie one last bright smile before running out into the forest. The front door swung open just as Roya closed the back door, and in ran Melanie's two little siblings- Ava and Wilson Woods- into the house like a mini white-red storm.
Melanie's mom- Margot- immediately told them to go upstairs to bed and, being the little pink-white angels they were, they rushed upstairs to get ready for bed. Margot turned towards Melanie, and her small smile quickly faded into a green-red-orange frown.
"Who were you talking to?" she asked Melanie, her lips pursed and her voice slightly purple-orange. Melanie didn't respond. She knew what her mom was going to say if she answered with 'Roya'.
But she did it anyways. Who cared what other people thought, after all?
"Roya," Melanie answered, completely gray. She focused her dark brown eyes on one thing in the room- on the blank, empty T.V screen in front of her. She heard her mom sigh, closing the front door behind her. Melanie knew what she was going to say, and she hated it with every cell in her body. It made her feel something- something so red-black she was afraid that it would overcome her soon and lead to something destructive.
"Melanie, we talked about this. Roya isn't real, remember?"
Melanie shook her head, her dark, wood-like eyes glazed over, turning slightly red-black. She was wrong. She knew that her mother was wrong. Everyone except her and Roya were wrong. They had to be wrong. They just had to be.
"Yes she is," Melanie whispered, shutting her eyes and laying her head back on the couch pillow behind her. "She is real." Her mom was silent, and Melanie was grateful she was. She didn't want to hear anymore words about Roya. She didn't think she could deal with it, anyways.
A few more moments of awkward silence passed until her mom spoke up again, and her words- although completely different from the others- were just as bad.
"You have another meeting with Dr. Codey tomorrow after school." She said it like it was the best thing in the world. Like it was green-red and pink-white. But Melanie knew it was the exact opposite. It was gray and purple-black and gray-brown. She hated meetings with Dr. Codey. And having one the next day when she was supposed to meet Roya after school? She could just picture Roya sitting in their treehouse in the woods, waiting for Melanie to arrive. Just waiting.
Maybe feeling blue-black.
Melanie quickly tore that purple-black thought from her mind. Roya can't feel blue-black. Well, it was obviously possible, but the thought of Roya feeling blue-black again, after Melanie had helped lift her from that hell-hole after Roya had helped her was like a weakness in Melanie's heart. It made her sick. She couldn't stand the thought, and she knew that Roya couldn't, either.
It's just one day. Roya will understand after she finds out about the meeting with Dr. Codey, Melanie thought hopefully.
But the thought of Roya being alone sat on her mind for the rest of the night.
Sometimes Melanie wished she wasn't so imaginative.
School that day was gray, as usual. The same gray-brown classes with the same six gray-brown teachers and purple-black teenage peers Melanie had been forced to live with for the past three years. Then Junior year came along, and so did Driver's ED, SAT, ACT, and even more purple-black peers whom she hated just as much as the others. The only thing that really kept Melanie going was the thought of Roya. No one at her school (thankfully) knew about her since she attended a different school, but the thought of seeing Roya was just enough to keep her going throughout her days.
And then the end of the school day came, and Melanie felt more blue-gray than ever.
Her mom was waiting for her outside of the school, patiently waiting for Melanie in the car line. Melanie sighed, thinking about the meeting with Dr. Codey. If she could just sneak back into the school, she could walk home from out the back and into the forest to her and Roya's treehouse. She could just skip the whole meeting and avoid it for another day.
But she continued forward to her mom's car anyways, hoping that the meeting wouldn't be as brown and awkward as the last one.
Right when she walked through the office door, she knew it was going to be just as bad as the last one.
Dr. Codey looked...tired- Melanie was pretty sure that was the word for it. The bags under his eyes had grown darker and he was slumping forward, a notebook and pencil in his lap as usual, but he was still trying to look warm, welcoming, trustworthy, and pink. But Melanie liked the truth. She yearned for it.
"Hello, Melanie. How was your week so far?" Dr. Codey asked as she walked in and she sat down in the chair across from his. She shrugged her shoulders and bit her tongue to stop herself from responding with 'yellow-brown'. Only Roya understood her when she spoke with colors. That was how they communicated and expressed their thoughts and feelings to one other- colors, and only colors. They didn't like to use regular, 'real' words. They were gray-brown, and Melanie felt like they were useless and just a bunch of lies.
"Okay," she replied with instead. Dr. Codey nodded his head and wrote a single word into his notebook. Melanie guessed it was 'Okay'.
"Have you been thinking again?" the therapist asked her, examining her eyes like they were a gateway to her soul. She slowly nodded her head. She was always thinking. Sometimes she wished she wasn't such a deep thinker.
"About what?" Dr. Codey asked, his eyes shining with white-red and green-red as he got his pencil and notebook ready.
"Well, I was just thinking about how there's a different you living in everyone's mind."
Dr. Codey freezed for a second, his thin, graying eyebrows furrowed together. Melanie decided he was obviously green-red-orange, so she dived deeper into her three-am-thought.
"Like, the person you think of as 'yourself' only exists in you, and even you don't really know who that is. Every person you meet, have a relationship with, or even make eye contact with on the street, creates a completely new version of 'you' in their heads. You're not the same person to your mom, your, dad, or your siblings then you are to your neighbors, your coworkers, or your friends. There are a thousand different versions of yourself out there, in a thousand different people's minds. A 'you' exists in each person, and yet your 'you' isn't really a 'someone' at all. And the scary thing is that you'll never truly know what everyone's 'you' in their minds actually, really look like, no matter what they say to you about yourself."
Dr. Codey just nodded his head the whole time Melanie spoke, quickly scribbling down every single word she said into his notebook. He looked slightly impressed and definitely green-red. It was a pretty green thing to think about, anyways.
"That is...very deep, Melanie. I like it," Dr. Codey told her after he finished his writing. Melanie didn't respond, instead just staring out the window at the sparkling sunlight gleaming outside, its bright gold rays hitting the small town around them like a natural spotlight. She could've been in the forest with Roya at that moment, not sitting there with a man who claimed to be her friend, talking about some bull she thought of at three in the morning when she couldn't sleep.
"And...Roya? Anything happen with her lately?" Dr. Codey asked, and Melanie's ears perked up at the sound of Roya's name being spoken. Melanie had to tell the truth. She always had to tell the truth.
Well, most of the time. Once, Melanie almost spilled about her and Roya's treehouse to the therapist sitting in front of her, but she just barely managed to hold back. The treehouse to anyone who knew about Roya was completely purple, and Melanie and Roya liked it that way.
But Melanie liked the truth. So, she just continued staring out the window- at the bright sun shining overhead, silently daydreaming of the treehouse in the woods with Roya, her best and only friend.
"She just came over a couple times and we talked," she answered, completely gray-brown.
"About?" Dr. Codey inquired, and Melanie simply shrugged again.
Thankfully, Dr. Codey didn't press on. He just nodded his head and lowered his pencil into his notebook again.
"How many times did you talk to her? And where?" Dr. Codey questioned. Melanie answered without even having to think about it. She always remembered her and Roya's meetings. Every single one of them.
"Twice." Her voice was blunt and brown, as it usually was when she talked to Dr. Codey, or anyone besides Roya in that case. "Both at my house."
Dr. Codey hesitated for a moment after writing Melanie's words down into his notebook, like he was deciding whether or not to ask Melanie something else. Melanie wanted him to- she wanted him to ask her questions to see just how deep he would go.
"And your mother? Do you still care that she thinks the same thing I do?"
That she's fake, that same voice whispered in Melanie's head, a little louder than before. It was still weird. It was static and the crackling of fire. It was blue and red and black. Separately, but also at the same time.
Did she care? Of course she did before. Roya was her best and only friend, and there was her mother- the one person who was supposed to understand her- telling her that she wasn't even real. That she was just a figment of Melanie's imagination.
"No," Melanie answered finally, and at that moment, she truly didn't care.