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Helium Hearts

by Banu Chandran 5 months ago in grief · updated 4 months ago
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a benign masochistic love story

Helium Hearts

There once was a girl who lived in a village on the edge of a mountain. The village, like the mountain, lay on the edge of the world, far from what we would call civilization. The village had survived for thousands of years, learning and adapting with time. However, one tradition had stayed the same since before their history books—the festival of hearts.

The festival of hearts marked the winter solstice, where the white cold would decide to be, well, less cold. But it was the beginning of spring, and like cultures around the world, this would be marked with a celebration of lights, love and hearts.

The little girl, however, did not like the celebration. You see, every year, the lovers of their village would celebrate this day. They would sing, dance and rejoice. Many weddings, birthdays and anniversaries would be celebrated despite it not being the actual date. But the little girl did not feel like celebrating this year.

Her father and mother had been the prime lovers of the village. They were never quarrelling and always full of love and laughter. The village shared in their passion and prospered from it. And although they had only been granted one daughter, they had love to give a thousand. So, you would understand the horror and loss the village felt when the girl’s father had passed in the night, quietly and peacefully. He was not a young man, but nor was he old, and to wake up to the soulless body of a man everyone admired was too much for the village. And perhaps more than too much for his young daughter. The village had mourned for months, but the little girl had not stopped mourning the loss of her beloved father.

That’s why she didn’t feel like celebrating this year, her mother was alone now, and she knew that she too would be left alone soon. Her mother loved her dearly, and she did not ever mean to leave her. But it was the way of the world they knew.

On the day of the festival of hearts, people everywhere rejoiced. But the little girl had sat in her hut, begging her mother not to leave. The mother explained gently, “My love, my dear, the heart of my heart, I am not leaving you, we shall never be apart, but my heart is torn in two, and thus I cannot stay.” Tears filled the little girl’s eyes for the hundredth time that day. And she and her mother sat holding each other for the entirety of the festival.

The festival ended at dusk, with all the people gathering under the sky, which started to fill with stars. As the sunset and the stars came out, the village went quiet. There was no hostility in this silence but rather a happy melancholy feeling. As if your heart was filled with helium, light, complete, but also empty.

The villagers, the mother and the little girl watched the stars, and after a while, saw them slowly glow red. Soon the entire sky was filled with a million red glows, and their light bathed the village in soft pink light. The little girl held on to her mother’s hand tightly, dreading what would come next.

The little girl held her mother’s hand tighter and filled her eyes once again with salty tears. She watched as her mother, face to the sky, started to emit a glow from her chest. Her heart longed to be with the one she loved, even if it meant leaving a loved one behind. On the festival of hearts, adequately named, lovers would reunite with their other half, no longer lonely for the world.

As the glow grew brighter, the mother knelt down to the girl and said: “My heart of my heart, my dear, my love, I will forever love you, and take care of you from above, and know that you’ll have the blessing of us both two.” The glow in her chest had become bright; it shone through the girl as she hugged her mother for the last time. Her heart was aglow; it left her chest and travelled up her left arm into her palm. And there it sprouted, a glowing heart filled with helium, a human heart balloon that would reunite her with her husband in the sky above.

At that moment, watching her mother clutch her heartstrings as her feet lifted off the ground, the girl was happy. She was happy because she knew that her mother was happy and that at least one of them could see her father again. The girl, smiling, squeezed her mother’s hand one last time. And knowing that it was the only tether left holding her to the ground, she let go.

With the rest of the village, she watched the lonely lovers float up to the sky. There were no celebrating, or fireworks or general whoops, only a contented silence. The genuine happiness that is felt when a loved one is happy. As their helium hearts lifted them to the sky, the village surrounded those left behind, bringing the comfort of the community, a silent ‘we are here for you. The girl watched through clear eyes the glow of her mother getting smaller but brighter. Her mother was with her father, and their happiness was enough. It was enough.


About the author

Banu Chandran

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