This story was originally published by The Teacup Trail and republished by
Hypertrophic Literary. Daniela Andrade’s cover of “La Vie en Rose” inspired it.

***

Adelaide saw their year in shades of yellow.

Yellow—like the walls of her living room the day they met. The morning hours played out like a recipe for falling in love: 3 AM and the stars still twinkling; beeswax candles burning low; empty bottles of red wine clustered on the counter; he was picking out chords on an out-of-tune guitar, singing “La Vie en Rose” in a raspy voice; their shining gazes meeting over the coffee table. Adelaide barely recalled meeting him earlier—a friend of a friend?—but in any case, he was at her party and his voice sounded like sandpaper and when he smiled his whole face changed. She wanted to make him smile more.

Yellow—like his faded t-shirt. It made his pale face look sallow. “You look much better in it,” he said the next morning as they tumbled out of bed. It fit her darker skin, and she wore it to breakfast at the café across the street. His name was Prosper. She couldn’t stop staring at him over their omelets.

Yellow—like the bouquet of sunflowers he brought her before their first real date. He showed up on Adelaide’s doorstep in jeans and an ugly sweater and a utility jacket that was too large for him—his calloused fingers barely peeked out from the fraying sleeves. She could feel herself falling more and more in love with him with each passing minute, each second. Everything about him sloped downward—his eyes, his lips, his shoulders—and if she had to describe him, she would call him a sad puppy. But when he smiled, the harvest moon shone out of his eyes.

Yellow—like the sound of his laugh. They were watching a telenovela in her living room and she was translating for him. Often, though, she told him the words that she thought should happen rather than the words that did. She was getting better at startling that laugh out of him. It escaped from his mouth in a golden cloud.

Yellow—like the goldfinches that sang outside her window in the morning. She awoke to see him just staring at her. “You’re so beautiful,” Prosper said. “The most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.” For once, she believed him.

Yellow—like the dress she wore when they went dancing, and the band played “La Vie en Rose.” “Even if you were an octopus,” Adelaide told him, “all of your feet would be left feet.” For a musician, he had a surprising lack of rhythm. “Feel it in your hips,” she said, but he shook his head, smiling that supernova smile, and proceeded to step on her feet. The next day, she caught him practicing by himself in the living room, so when they went again he wouldn’t embarrass her.

Yellow—like the cover of her physics textbook. She barely studied for the final because she was too busy studying the patterns in his freckles. He explained that whether he had given up on school or school had given up on him, he had chosen to pursue music. He thought that Boston was the place for him. She didn’t even care when she couldn’t answer the questions—she just doodled his name over and over—Prosper, Prosper, Prosper.

Yellow—like the stack of lemons that always sat on her kitchen table, in case she needed to make lemon cake. She always said that her mother’s lemon cake was the closest thing she had ever experienced to heaven—but she wasn’t sure if that was true anymore. She couldn’t imagine a better feeling than that of Prosper’s warmth next to her. She would make a lemon cake for when he came over that evening.

Yellow—like the lights roaming over the stage. Adelaide was at his show by herself—she hadn’t spent time with her friends in a while. Prosper stood in the center, guitar hanging in front of him, the breeze from a small fan ruffling his blond hair. He caught her eyes and said, “This one’s for a girl who says I stole her heart.” A smile played across his lips. He strummed the opening chords of “La Vie en Rose.”

Yellow—like the champagne they drank on her front porch to celebrate their first anniversary. “I love you,” Adelaide said. “Forever.”

Yellow—like the cornsilk hair of the girl she saw him holding hands with the next day. The sight hit her like a wave breaking on the beach—like dunking her head into cold water—like breaking a spell.

Breaking a spell.

It had been a full year since Prosper left, and only now she realized what had happened.  She wondered how many girls he had done that to, how many stolen hearts he had tucked into his jacket pockets, how many lives he had walked into and walked out of as sneakily as a shadow. She had been asking herself how she could have let herself fall for him—but really, how couldn’t she? From the first chord he played at that party, what felt like a lifetime ago, she had never had a chance.

She found her friends again; she did extra credit to pass physics; she called her mother and cried. But it seemed like she could never truly get rid of him. Every time she watched telenovelas, every time she ate her mother’s lemon cake, every time she noticed the sunflowers blooming next to the sidewalk on her way to the grocery store, she saw his smile. She had never hated anything as much as she hated that smile.

How horrible to force someone’s happiness, and, in taking it away, force their sadness. Should she have been happy with him at all? Should she be happy he was gone?

Adelaide collected the things he gave her—the t-shirt, the pictures, the tickets from his shows—and set her lighter to them, watched them crackle and shimmer in the heat. She was stronger than him. She had to prove it to herself.

Yellow—like the flames she finally burned him away with.