Layla by Julia Hernandez
If you are reading this, that means I have faded…
Hold up. Before I get to the letter, I should probably give you some details. None of this would’ve happened if it weren’t for the scientist. Several years ago, the scientist altered your world to create what we live in now. Everything is basically the same except for two things. In our world, people earn wings when they show courage or some act of kindness or something remotely cool. Wings are a sign of growing up or whatever. Most people earn their wings in their late teens or early twenties. I earned my wings at a young age, 12 to be exact. If you don’t earn your wings, you fade.
That’s the second thing. If your life is being wasted or not being lived to its full extent you begin to fade. Everybody’s started to fade at some point but most people can make it out. Earning your wings makes it easier to stop from fading, but it didn’t stop me. And this is where our story begins.
The night air was cool and while I should have been outside enjoying it, I was locked up in my room fiddling with my guitar. This used to be a treat for me but now, it’s kind of become a burden. I couldn’t come up with any ideas for my new song and it was driving me crazy! I was just messing around with the guitar playing random notes when I decided to play my favorite Beatles song to calm myself down.
I started to play the intro to In My Life by The Beatles, when all of a sudden sound stopped coming out of my guitar. I tried again with more force and still, no sound. I tried playing another song, Rhiannon by Fleetwood Mac and still no sound. I thought it might be my guitar, so I sat in front of my piano and attempted the intro to Imagine by John Lennon. When the sound didn’t come out, I started to freak out. I was about to reach for my violin to see if I had any luck with that instrument when I glanced down at my hand. It was still resting on the strings of my guitar, yet I could see the strings through my hand. Crap, I was fading.
This was too much for me to handle. I ran out of my room and headed for the backyard. When I remembered that my family was out there, I decided to exit through the front door. I didn’t want them to worry about me. By the time I made it to the corner of my street I had slowed down to a walk. How could this happen to me? I walked around as I tried to process everything. I didn’t know where I was heading, I just had to get away. I was so focused that it wasn’t until I heard the familiar sound of cars honking and zooming by that I realized where I was, the overpass
The freeway overpass wasn’t anything special but I sure was a great way to relax. I loved everything about the overpass, from the dim lighting to the ivy leaves that grew at the sides of the netting. It was perfect. At first, it’s really scary walking across but once you get used to it it’s really peaceful.
I sat at the top of the netting that surrounded the bridge and remembered I still had my guitar slung over my shoulder. I decided to try again and began playing Wonderful tonight by Eric Clapton. At first the sound wouldn’t come out but after a few tries, I finally managed to play the song. I was nearing the end of the song when I heard a soft voice echoing mine.
“ I say, ‘My darling, you were wonderful tonight… oh my darling, you were wonderful tonight.”
The voice was soft and sweet like the one in the original recording.
As soon as I finished the song I said “Hello? Is anyone here?”
“Hi!” replied the cheerful voice
“Who are you?” I was startled. I didn’t expect anyone else to be here with me
“I’m Layla!” She said, stepping into the light. I got a good look at her. She had shoulder length hair that couldn’t decide whether it wanted to be red or brown, resulting in a beautiful auburn color. She had pretty brown eyes that somehow managed to look cheerful even though they were filled with tears.
“Like the song?” I shouted from my perch as I started to play the opening riff from Layla.
“Yeah!… What’ll you do if you get lonely and nobody’s waiting by your side” she replied singing along
“You’ve been running and hiding much too long”
“You know it’s just your foolish pride”
“Layla!!” we shouted together
After giggling for a while I decide to come down onto the bridge and greet her. As I flew down, she looked mesmerized by my wings. The song seemed to help ease my fading. I stood across from Layla and noticed she was almost a head taller than me.
Before I even got to ask her if she was alright she pointed to my face which was also streaked with tears and asked “Are you okay?”
It was a simple question, but those three words made me feel better than I had been feeling all evening. Nobody had asked me that question in ages. Being famous means you’re no longer human. Layla didn’t say anything about my career and I was glad.
“I’m… alright. Are y-”
“Wait!” Layla exclaimed, cutting me off “What’s your name? I can’t believe I haven’t given you a chance to introduce yourself”
I smiled. “ My name is Lucy”
“ That’s a pretty name! So, what are you doing here?”
“I just wanted somewhere to relax so I came here.”
“Same! I thought I was the only one who came up here. It’s so peaceful! I think that’s why this place doesn’t scare me.”
Layla smiled sadly as she said that. The more she spoke the more she interested me. We kept visiting the overpass and learning more about each other. Layla was surprised when she found out about who I was. She had no idea about my music career, which didn’t surprise me since the most ‘modern’ song she’s heard was from a Disney movie.
One day, Layla explained why she had been crying that day. She hadn’t earned her wings yet and if she didn’t earn them soon, she’d fade. When she told me that, I promised myself that I’d do what I could to stop her from fading.
“Layla!,” I exclaimed, “ I’m going to help you earn your wings!”
“Really? You’re going to help me? Thanks!”
“Oh course! That’s what friends are for!”
“Lucy? How did you earn your wings?”
I sighed, “I earned them when I was 12. That was when I performed for the first time. I hate my wings, though.”
“What?! Why?! They’re so pretty, they look like they’re made of diamonds!”
“That’s why I hate them. They’re very pretty but they’re pointless. They’re so fragile I can’t use them very often. What’s the point of having wings just for looks?”
“Oh. Well, I still think they’re pretty. Maybe I can teach you to fly when I earn mine!”
I smiled, “ Hahaha. If that’s going to happen, you’re going to have to earn your wings first. Do you have any hobbies?”
“I read a lot!” said Layla, trying to think of her hobbies.
“Cool! Anything else?”
“Nope. I spend most of my time studying, any free time I have I spend reading.”
“Okay, I think I can work this. What’s your favorite subject? What kind of stories do you like?”
“I like classics! My favorite subject is English” said Layla.
“Hmmmm have you ever considered writing”
“You should try it! If we find your passion, we might be able to help you earn your wings!”
As I said this, I tugged at the sleeves of my jacket. I still hadn’t told Layla about my fading. Layla and I went on trying to figure out what could help her earn her wings. After a while, I figured out what was stopping her. She was scared. That’s why she just stuck to doing what she was good at. I constantly reminded her to take risks and to try new things. We tried several different things but nothing seemed to work. I figured she needed a break so I invited her to dinner.
Layla arrived at dinner on time. She wore a black and white striped dress that looked like it came right out of the 60’s.
“Hi Lucy! This is for you!” she said, handing me a gift bag.
When she handed me the gift I noticed something strange. I could see the gift through her hand.
I freaked out and yelled “Layla! You’re fading!”
Layla was speechless for a while as she examined her hands. What she did next surprised me.
“So what? You knew it would happen someday! What’s the big deal?”
This irritated me. Layla had been working so hard to earn her wings but now, it was like she was a different person. Her kind brown eyes were now angry, an emotion I had never seen in them before. I had to help her see that she had to keep going. Layla had to keep going. She could still make it, she just needed a bit of courage. I didn’t know how to explain this to her.
“ What’s the big deal?? Layla, you’re fading. If you fade, that’s it. You can’t just brush it off! We have to do something.”
“You’re one to talk!! You don’t think I haven’t noticed your fading yet?” As Layla said this, she tugged the collar of my coat, exposing my shoulder, which was almost completely faded. “Who cares about fading, we’re all gonna fade one day. We might as well get it over with now. Besides, why do you care if I fade? We hardly know each other. Why do you care, you’re just ?”
Layla slammed the door behind her and left. I just sat on the other side of the door and cried. I shouldn’t have yelled but I had no idea what to do. I had never seen her like this before. After crying for a good 5 minutes, I decided to open the present she left for me. I opened the bag and pulled out a canvas. On the canvas, there was a painting of me sitting on the net of the freeway overpass with my guitar. The painting was beautiful, it looked almost identical to the night we met, with one exception.. Layla added a small blue butterfly circling me, leaving a small trail of blue light around my diamond wings. The more I looked at the painting, the more it seemed to glow. It looked so life-like. I could almost hear Layla’s soft voice singing along to Wonderful tonight. After I finished observing the painting, I flipped the painting over and read the title. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Just like the song. As I read the title I knew what I had to do. I got up to leave but, as I moved something fell from the bag. It was a necklace with a butterfly charm that matched the one in the painting. I smiled as I scooped up the necklace and walked away. I was going to save Layla.
The next day I took off early in the morning to visit the Scientist. If anyone could help her, he could. When I arrived, it took a while to persuade him to let me in, but he did after I told him I’d be quick. I told him everything. I told him about how we met and how I wanted to save her.
“Please Mr. Scientist, give Layla her wings. She has earned them. When she gave me this painting, she earned her wings.” I begged him
“I’m sorry but, I cannot give Layla her wings. While she has done something to earn her wings, she hasn’t realized it. Once she realizes it, I see no reason why she shouldn’t earn them.”
“That won’t work. Layla’s given up. I don’t want her to fade.”
“I’m sorry but there is nothing I can do. I’d like to help you but that’s just how the system works.”
As he said this, I got an idea. It was a risk, and I knew what I was getting into but, it was my only option. This plan would need perfect timing and cooperation from The scientist, but I believed that it would be the last push Layla needed to earn her wings.
After the scientist and I came to an agreement, I headed over to the overpass. I was almost a hundred percent sure that Layla would be there. I was right. She was sitting at the center of the bridge looking at the cars passing by. I walked up to her quietly and handed her the note I hoped could say more.
“Just read it” I said gently as she gave me a confused look.
I saw her open it carefully and begin reading the letter. The words were still fresh in my mind.
If you are reading this, that means I have faded, but I’m okay with it. I visited the scientist this morning and after some debating we came to an agreement. As you know, earning your wings can help ease fading. To stop you from fading, I had the scientist transfer my wings to you. As long as you promise to live life to its full extent, the wings will be yours forever. I saw the painting you left for me. It was beautiful. Keep painting and discovering other sparks and hidden talents. Never be afraid to try. I’ll miss you Layla.
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
I knew that by the time she finished reading my letter all that would be left of me would be the blue butterfly necklace. I was almost completely faded, but with my last bit of strength I took a glance at Layla. That was when I saw something magical happen. Layla earned my diamond wings, but as they appeared they began cracking. The diamonds shattered revealing beautiful blue butterfly wings. These were true wings that could be used. There was something strangely beautiful about Layla sitting on the floor surrounded by the crushed diamonds. Layla had earned her wings, and so did I.