Playing Cards, Ch.20 - More Ways Than Words

{Just a warning that this chapter can be quite confusing in places and may need to be paid a lot of attention to. A link to a picture will be up soon - more info later. Thanks, MJReynolds.}

“My name is Casey Stewart, and this is a story about a girl, thrown together by paintbrush and palette,” my voice echoed. The entire college hall was filled to full capacity for the Art unveiling presentation for the first years’ work… us… me… I was last up.

     “When this project was set, I had no idea what to do at first. However, after a lot of thinking – and tears – I finally came to a conclusion; with a little help from a friendly face.

     “I decided to face up to what I feared and confront it once and for all. I’ve never been the best in the class and found many subjects difficult, which often found me in the lower end of the student league tables, based on progress and intelligence. The subjects I dreaded the most were Maths, for its tricky equations and problems, and History, for its many dates, names and places to remember.

     “But these are not what I fear the most. They merely help in explaining. So, I present this… my piece.”

     I raised my hand shakily, with nerves running through my veins, and grasped hold of the edge of the scarlet, velvet sheet covering the easel supported painting I’d locked myself away for weeks on end completing to perfection. I pulled hard, yet gently, to reveal my work. The hall remained silent.

     A drop of perspiration formed on my forehead, under the blinding glow of the stage lights. I wiped it away with the back of my hand and took a deep breath in and out again.

     My piece was portrait, featuring a scarlet ribbon waving in and around the board it had been painted on, in a downward movement, coming away from the board itself around the edges for a 3-D aspect.

     On the ribbon, dates with no significance to anyone, other than me, were painted along the ribbon as it wound around four playing cards: the Queen of Hearts, the Kind of Spades, an anonymous card facing downwards with gold and red numbers and letters painted delicately on it, and an unusual fourth card that I had created.

     I glanced out into the audience and someone shifted in their seat… in the students’ reserved section… a male. The corners of my mouth raised ever so slightly, big enough for me to acknowledge but too small for anyone else to notice from a short distance.

     “Each item, number and letter I have incorporated in my work had a purpose, of which I will explain: the ribbon represents the time and the number of time my life has changed for drastically, or dates where I had a chance to change the future, or both. Each date is gold to burn through the red, which resembles dishonest, lies, pain and, ultimately… love.

     “July 23rd 2007: although I didn’t know it at the time, this is the day that changed everything. It was the end of one chapter, but the beginning of a new, much more difficult one. If what happened on this day didn’t happen… things would be a lot different today.

     “September 11th 2007: this day is an anniversary of a tragedy mourned by billions across the world, but a day that I spent crying over something much more personal to me… something belonging to me.

     “September 12th 2007: the first opportunity to tell the truth and the first day of lies and goodbyes.

     “March 20th 2008: a day of pain, tears, cries and tartan socks,” I heard sniggers in the audience from a few individuals but ignored it, “but it was also a day that brought along happiness, joy and love.

     “September 12th 2008: the day when all the lies were put into practice and secrecy became the norm to keep my life flowing smoothly; the second opportunity to tell the truth.

     “October 24th 2008: the day of meeting, greeting and semi-introductions; the third opportunity to tell the truth.

     “October 28th 2008: the day of hidden sun, wet sand and cold the cold sea air. Also the day that I found out that seagulls don’t like pie,” more laughter crept up at that point, but not from one still, shadow hidden figure, “the fourth opportunity to tell the truth,” the laughter subsided as my voice became louder and the lump in the back of my throat grew bigger, cracking the ends of my words and summoning tears to my eyes.

     “November 15th 2008: the day things nearly went out of control between two people, if not for the interruption of a mother’s voice and peppermint chewing gum; the fifth opportunity to tell the truth.

     “January 7th 2009: a day of celebration, maturity, aging and showing affection to the one you love, but also of fear, panic, tears and pain. This is the day that a wrong decision changed it all.

     “This day is when the lies came to a halt and the truth had been spilled messily and completely out of proportion, causing more harm than what was intended to more than one person,” tears ran down my cheeks the more I spoke. No one in the audience spoke.

     “This is where the ribbon ends. Cut off and left to linger, spiralling downwards into nothing. Like I said, History is not one of my strongest subjects but these dates have been merged into my mind for eternity and never are never to be forgotten. They are a part of me, and always will be.

     “The playing cards are important because they represent people. A King cannot rule without a Queen to produce an heir for him. Hence, the third playing card,” I pointed to the odd looking card, very different from a normal one found in a pack of fifty-two, “the next card down in a Jack, but a King and Queen are two different people and, together, work as two halves to make one.

     “A half and a half make one. Like in algebra, ‘A’ plus ‘B’ cannot equal ‘A’ or ‘B’, but can only equal ‘A+B’ which is the exact same scenario with the Heart and the Spade: a combination of the two make one,” the gasps and realisation from the audience told me that they had registered my creation of a combined Heart and Spade to make one – one of top of the other… a ‘Spart’.

     “As for the background of the, as I call it, Jack of ‘Sparts’ card it shows the two connections that the Jack has with two of the countries that its parents’ – the King and Queen – rule.

     “Therefore both the English and the Scottish flag share the card as, even though the Jack is English by blood, it has been brought up in a Scottish upbringing,” the dark figures in the audience shifted in confusion, all but one, as they tried to take in what I had just said.

     I’d somewhat confused myself and, by doing that, had more than likely gained myself a fail because if I didn’t understand what I’d said, what were the chances that any examiner would be able to understand? As long as the truth was told, I didn’t care.

     “And finally,” I spoke, “the Maths. Since September 11th 2007, I’ve calculated the amount of time it has taken me to tell the truth: 19 months.

     “566 days.

    “13,584 hours.

     “81,540 minutes.

     “48902400 seconds.

     “They all equal one year and seven months exactly, which leads to this very day.

     “The dates on the King of Spades and the Queen of Hearts are unique to them, just like the date March 20th 2008 – exactly a year ago – is important to the Jack of ‘Sparts’, as is the time 18:42 and the weight 7lb 3oz and, most importantly, the initial ‘J’ which doesn’t stand for Jack, but stands for James… my son.”

     A gasp rang from every mouth in the audience in perfect unison upon hearing my much awaited for explanation. I closed my eyes and tried to block out the alarmed chatter of the thousands of voices circling around the room, commenting on it with the people sat around them, and the laughter that emerged from the mouth of some ungrateful students.

     I turned on my heel and left the stage in a half run half run, tears balling from my eyes. I brushed past Greg in the wings, of who was just as shocked to hear what had come out of my mouth as everyone else. I pushed open the stage doors and ran to the nearest place I thought I would be safe.

     As I turned to corner that lead to the corridor of which the girls’ toilets were, I ran into someone and I was caught in strong hands. I looked up through watery eyes and my heart melted as I gazed up at the familiar deep green that sparkled in the light.

     “I’m sorry,” I whispered, my last word breaking through my tears, “I’m sorry I lied to you. I never meant to hurt you. I love you…”

     “Don’t cry, everything’s going to be fine,” Ben soothed, holding me in his arms, “I love you too.”

The End

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