The Red String

The Red String

A Story by Shadkim

"Some say that when two people are meant to be, a red string connects them. Wrapped around the middle finger, no normal human can see it. It does not tug, snag, or break. If everyone could see the strings, there would be no mistakes. No heartache. I



The Red String
Ema stood atop a green hill as round as a camel’s back. Her feet and legs were hidden behind large sprigs of grass, tickling her thighs and clinging to the ends of her pink day dress. When she saw me, her lips spread into a delightful smile and her ears turned a shade of rose. She struggled to walk down the hill, and getting her foot caught in an uneven patch of dirt, went sprawling toward the ground.
“Careful there,” I told her, catching her underneath her armpits.
Her cheeks and ears burned tomato red, but she waited until I put her down to shrug off the incident. “I guess I’ll always be clumsy,” she admitted, looking away. Her russet curls framed her face and looked thoroughly tousled in the breeze.
“Is that so bad?” I asked lightly, taking her hand in mine.
“I guess not. Not when you ask like that.”
After the large hill, the rest of the field was flat and speckled with wildflowers. In the middle of all the green and blue, a cluster of rocks stood out like a sore thumb, cradling a waterfall. Where the water came from, no one could tell – nor did it matter – but the water traveled from rock to rock like a lively frog until it all poured into a small pool of cerulean at the base. Misted by the waterfall, Ema and I stretched out on the soft grass.
“I learned something new,” Ema whispered. She leaned on her side and tugged at the grass between us.
I rolled to face her.
“Did you know that when two people are meant to be together, a red string connects them?”
“Apparently, it’s an ancient Chinese belief. The string has many different meanings, but I like this one.” Her eyes met mine and she quickly looked away, biting back a small smile.
I raised an eyebrow, and she giggled.
“The string can bend and get tangled, but it never breaks. And it marks a love that is inevitable; no circumstance can prevent the two people from meeting.”
“You like the idea of destiny?” I asked. “That your love is already planned out?”
She shrugged. “I think I do. It would be nice to believe that were true.”
“Because you want to be loved,” I murmured. Her hair caught the sun and held it, drawing in its luminosity and adapting it to her short, hot-coal hair; I brushed her curls away from her face.
Her brown eyes widened and she caught my hand as it settled on her cheek. “I already am, by you.”
A soft breeze, like the breath of a sleeping giant, cooled our bodies. Ema shifted closer to me and wrapped her arms around my waist. I closed my eyes, enjoying her nearness and the delight it brought me; the embroidered dress tickled my legs like petals and her breath warmed the skin on my neck. “I try,” I whispered into her hair. I pressed a kiss to her forehead to prevent my voice from cracking.
As time stood still in her dream world – only disturbed by her waking mind – my time spent with Ema was much the same. We would sit together and talk; sometimes she would tell me about her day, and other times we spoke of nothing at all. The sun would melt and bleed orange, magenta and yellow across the sky. The water would turn to pink lemonade and sparkle like sequins. She loved the sunset, and so her world changed for her. Whenever she spoke, whenever her body would move – I found myself alert and aware of everything about Ema. Her happiness was the purpose of my existence. I was a figment representing her idea of the perfect man, waiting inside her head when Ema felt like retreating. Daydream or slumber, anytime with her was all I desired.
“I’ll see you,” she’d say. Never using the words “later” or “tomorrow.” There was no need, not when she could simply check out of reality at any time. And I would always trust her. I never anticipated another way of life.
When she would say those words, I always squeezed her hand, and always flashed her the cheeky smile she liked. “I know,” I’d murmur. And then I would watch her go. 
Ema’s high school years came upon us like a black cloud. She started to visit me less, preferring to spend time with her friends. They put dangerous thoughts in her head, ones that endangered my continuance. Why do you always have your head in the clouds, they tittered, come join the real world. Slowly, Ema started to give into their demands. Worst of all, she believed them. No amount of soft smiles, pleading eyes, or gentle touches enabled me to shake their poisoned words from her mind; they stuck like barbs into her brain. Towards the end, we would sit covered by a sky the color of crumbing charcoal; I could not get her to speak. I became frightened. Why imagine love when she should traverse reality to find it? Sluggishly, passively, she let her imagination rust. Then, Ema stopped coming altogether.
Abandoned, our field decayed. The flowers shriveled up like old crones curling up for bed, sinking to the ground in brown rags, never to rise again. The waterfall dried up and the rocks collapsed. The clouds shifted and stretched across the horizon, blocking the sun until the fiery star faded away; the sky became a horrid void of nothing.
Nothing, in such a ghastly form, makes every thought or figment’s skin crawl. Only we know what it is gaze into the end, a termination so different and numbing than ever a human death could be. Dreams do not die. We fade into the nothingness, into the dark recesses of the human mind. Once trapped in the cold embrace of the quiet empty, there was little hope to ever emerge.
As her world disappeared around me, I could do nothing but wait. Sometimes I would look down at my hands and found them flickering away like a broken hologram. I felt weightless and nauseated when this occurred with chunks of my body. My heart – when I felt it still fluttering in my chest – burned with rage. I didn’t want to let go or give up. As nothing sucked away at the earth until only a patch was left to me, I still kept Ema’s face inside my mind. I couldn’t simply fade. I had to see her again.
Something tugged at my finger. I looked down to see a thin, red string tied snuggly around my ring finger. The other end of the string led into the nothingness, connected to something I could not see. On instinct, I knew to follow the string. I started to run, my feet pressing against dead grass until I reached the edge of my patch. After leaping off the last of Ema’s field, I landed in midair and did not fall. I could hear myself gasping for air and feel beads of sweat slide down my face as I pushed against the threatening abyss. The thread turned black against the sudden explosion of light; I squeezed my eyes shut and charged through it.
When I opened my eyes again, I was standing in Ema’s room. In the real world.
The full moon illuminated her room, splashing Ema’s purple walls with its comforting touch. I stepped around discarded clothes to reach the sleeping figure bathed in the night-glow.
Ema was twisted in sheets, her body fighting against the chilly night. Her short hair looked like a halo as the curls rested against the pillows; I reached out with a shaking hand. Her soft hair felt solid against my fingers. I could scarcely breathe as my hand found her bare shoulder in the moonlight. “It’s me,” I whispered fiercely. I shook her. “Wake up and see me.”
Her eyes fluttered open, the dark brown of a grandfather oak, and she absently licked her dry lips. Her eyes traveled to the alarm clock and then to the window. Both shoulders slipped out of her cocoon as she looked at me – no, through me – and grumbled. She pressed her face into her pillow and snuggled back into sleep.
“Ema,” I hissed, but she would not wake. I shook her again and she swatted at my hand.  
Dread slithered down my spine. I realized that she couldn’t see me. I was invisible.
I backed away from the bed and collapsed into the pile of clothes decorating the floor. The red string stared back at me; I felt like it was laughing at me as it tugged my finger again. There it was – black in the darkness – catching light and shimmering as it led into the trap of sheets. Then I knew: I knew that the end of the thread’s path led to Ema’s finger. The heart in my chest pumped furiously, trying to shoot blood through my veins before I froze them shut with my surprise. “I know what this is,” I told her bedroom. “But how could it be?”
Hope gentled me with its whispery promise as I curled up amongst smelly socks and dirty shirts. I fell asleep with her name on my lips.
The days after my arrival seemed like a blur. I was right about one thing: Ema could not see me. I would watch her every morning as she crawled out of bed, groggy and stumbling blindly for her clothes. I would tuck her in at night, long after she fell asleep. I would smile whenever she grumbled and growled through her homework.
For a while, I spent all my time in her room; there was no need for me to go anywhere else. I discovered that I didn’t need to eat or bathe, and I would only sleep because I wanted to. I guess I was still very much a dream. Ema’s textbooks, picture albums and cluttered closet helped me reconnect with Ema. I memorized every face, studied her curvy handwriting and worked at filling in the blanks that her desertion had given me. Life, if you could call it that, was peaceful enough for me. I lived with the comfortable hope that Ema would see me soon. She had to. The string was proof of that.
One day, I heard a new voice downstairs. I knew Ema’s voice better than my own, and Sue – her mother – had become familiar. That extra, blaringly male tone brought me downstairs for the first time.
Ema was standing just inside the kitchen, gripping the arm of a boy I didn’t know. He was tanned and strong next to her tiny frame, muscles bulging from under his shirt. He had a proud smirk on his face that I didn’t like, but Ema seemed oblivious to it. Her very brown eyes stared up at him adoringly, and her pink lips seemed permanently molded into a smile. Cherry was the color of her cheeks and ears.
Holding back a buildup of bile in my throat, I took a seat on an empty chair and watched.
“Mom, I’d like you to meet someone special.”
Her mother, a slender brunette, looked up from the stack of wet dishes. She smiled thoughtfully, her eyes on where Ema hugged the boy. “Who might you be?”
The boy jumped forward, dislodging himself from Ema in one swift movement. She stumbled a bit, not expecting that to happen. I felt the creases in my forehead deepen. “My name is Jake,” he announced, holding out his hand for a shake. His tiny eyes glittered with practiced charm. “Jake Milton. Nice to meet you.”
Sue’s hands were still soapy from the dishes, so she paused before his hand, deciding what to do. Finally she shrugged, engaging him in a loose shake. She let go quickly. “Nice to meet you too, Jake.” She looked at Ema, “Will he be staying for dinner?”
He wiped his hands on his pant leg.
“No,” Ema replied. “He was nice enough to drive me home before going to practice.”
“Really, it was no problem.”
“Alright, then,” Sue replied, grabbing a towel. “Well, thank you for driving my daughter home.”
“I’ll go walk him out,” Ema volunteered.
The couple left the kitchen and I could hear Ema’s rich laughter as she walked out the door. A car started, and I heard Sue let out a heavy sigh. She wiped a plate idly, staring out at nothing. Her lips formed a surprised smile, and she whispered, “They grow up so fast.”
Yes, I thought, nodding sadly. I felt like she was talking to me.
After dinner that night, Ema climbed into bed with a cordless phone in her lap. The lamp next to her bed provided her light enough to dial the number of her two good friends, initiating what I have come to know as a “three-way call.” Ashley’s whiny voice and Samantha’s monotone one filled up the room. Ema picked lint off her flannel pajamas as the girls helped her list every accomplishment in Jake Milton’s life.
He’s so cute, right Ema?” Ashley squealed. “You can’t beat that he’s on the baseball team; he’ll always be in shape.”
“Yeah,” Ema blushed, biting her lip.
“What do you like most about him?”
Ashley groaned. “Not you, Samantha.”
I sat in Ema’s desk chair, digging my fingers into my knees with each passing moment.  I didn’t like her small smiles, blushes and giggles – all reactions to Jake. I tried to plug my ears against the steady flow of compliments; every word that dripped from her friends’ mouths was soaked with sugar, and I found these compliments hard to believe. Then again, I didn’t want Ema taken away from me. I didn’t want to like Jake.
Samantha asked, “So, are you going to go out with him?”
My inner monologue stilled.
Ema stared at her feet, brows knitted together. She took a deep breath and smiled. “Yeah. If he asks me, I think I’ll give it a try.”
I heard a strangled cry; a few seconds went by before I realized it came from my mouth.
“Don’t play it down,” Ashley snorted. “You’re head over heels for the guy!”
Ema laughed shyly and adjusted the phone in her lap.
“Alright, alright! I really like him!”
A giant, coldly indifferent needle twisted itself into my heart. I stumbled out of the chair – earning a puzzled glance from Ema – and blindly groped my way down the dark hallway. I found the bathroom and fumbled for the light switch with shaking fingers. What’s wrong with me? When did I lose her? A sob hitched in my throat and I gripped the counter. Was I ugly? Worthless? Stupid? How could I answer these questions – find my own self-worth – when I was made in Ema’s image?
The light above the mirror hummed to life, and I saw my face for the first time. I squinted at my reflection, examining myself like a scientist studies results. My face was oval-shaped, smooth and lean with healthy, tanned skin. Ema had called my hair ‘surfer-ish,’ which I guess was the name for my dirty blond hair that waved to the base of my neck. My eyes were as deep and dark a blue as the bottom of the waterfall, set underneath dark eyebrows. I knew my body was fit; smaller muscles than Jake’s rippled under my skin, enough to life Ema’s heavy textbooks with ease. Wasn’t I what she always dreamed of?
Besides my shaking hands, the neutral assessment of my person kept the stronger, darker feelings at bay. I watched the shadows of the lights dance on my face until I could find nothing more to remark upon. I found that I could not judge for myself what my worth was. Tear dribbled down by face and I slumped to the floor. I let them fall. These were the tears I never shed since she left me.
Now that I had proof that she moved on, the hurt returned.
She found someone real and tangible, someone who had the potential to make her happy. And what was I? A broken toy? My shoulders ached from shaking and I heaved another cry into the bathroom air. In the back of my head, I was thankful no one could hear my pitiful moans. I was a wounded animal, along in my suffering and perversely enjoying my dead-end fate. The nothing nibbled at the edges of consciousness. I fought it back, only because the emptiness made me feel faint. I looked down at my hand – half intending to see it flicker away – and I saw the string.
The wire glimmered crimson in the mirror’s light. I felt my mind disconnect from my body as my legs wobbled; I stood with my eyes glued to the red. Like a zombie, I followed it back down the hall and back into Ema’s room, entranced by its color unaffected by the dulling night. Her room was dark and draped with moonlight. I stood at the edge of her bed, staring at the fist glowing pale in the silver light. The other end of the string tied around her finger. “Not fair,” I mumbled, “get it away.” I took her hand and pulled at the tie, struggling to undo the string and set her – us – free. But no matter how I pulled, tugged and bit at the tie and line of red, the string would not budge.
Ema pulled her hand free of mine and buried it inside her sheets. She pressed her left cheek into her pillow.  
I held back a keening moan and pulled my fingers through my hair.
The string pulled at my finger and I had to watch it twist tauntingly in front of me. I knew my relationship with her was not meant to be. We may have shared the red string, but for us, it didn’t mean anything. What chance did I have to make her happy again? To brighten her eyes and draw smiles from her lips for as long as time allowed. The string was not enough.
I brushed my knuckle against her soft cheek, and Ema smiled in her sleep. She whispered Jake’s name, and my heart lurched.
"Not enough,” I echoed, understanding that she could not hear me. I knew, with a leaden heart, that she would not meet her true love in the real world. If this string had anything to do with it. Perhaps she would find someone close, but that lucky man would never be on the other end of the wire.
I lost my hope, and with it, I felt a new purpose. I wanted to watch over her, be there for her. Like a guardian angel. I smiled to myself; she would be happy if I could help it. To finalize my resolve, I brushed my lips against her cool forehead. She sighed and snuggled closer into her sheets.
I looked after Ema for almost five months. I followed her to school, went to Jake’s baseball games, and stayed near her whenever it was appropriate. The string was a sad reminder, but I learned to ignore it.
I also learned to ignore my drift into nothing. The emptiness gnawed at me relentlessly as the days passed, and I tried to calm my fluttering heart when the nausea spells took over. Disappearing limbs, however, still scared me when it happened.
Besides it all, I was intensely aware of Ema. As always. I was around when her friends surprised her one night, dressing her up and sending her to the school dance. Jake was waiting for her and the spent the night dancing in each other’s arms. He surprised her by riding his bike to her part-time job, buying the most expensive ice cream cone and flirting with her as she made change. Jake asked her out the night of their church’s party, under the fireworks. She didn’t hesitate to say ‘yes’.
I was with them when she and Jake went on their first date to the movie theatre. I looked away when they shared their first kiss. As each day weaved into the next, I became more distant. I watched as if behind a thick, glass window.
Ema searched for the perfect Christmas present, shouting with glee when she discovered a fancy dark chocolate bar – his favorite. Her smile faded when he thanked her, awkwardly hugging her with his arm. He went on vacation, promised to send her his gift. Even more so, because there was no gift. She grew quiet around him and he didn’t seem to care. They continued to date, but their kisses sunk to pecks. Her friends noticed she was unhappy. Ema’s cries could not be hidden by the pounding water of the shower.
The day came when Jake and Ema broke up. Ema did the deed and it had been quick, like pulling off a band-aid. She had been prepared for conflict. He surprised her by simply agreeing to separate. Jake left school in his car, seemingly undisturbed by the change in his love life, while Ema got caught in the rain walking home. Without the ride from her boyfriend and her mother still at work, Ema had pulled her hoodie over her head and tried to ignore the stinging droplets that soaked through her only layer of protection. I followed her as she trudged through giant puddles; the wind quickly ripped off her hood and the water flattened her hair in minutes.
I struggled to keep my eye on her dark form since the clouds created an early night. The nausea kept my head spinning, and my eyes blurred from time to time as I stumbled along. The violent wind merely breathed against me. Only sweat rolled down my face. I felt more detached than usual, could almost see the darkness in the corners of my eyes as I fought to concentrate on Ema. I tried not to notice my hand flicker like a static television screen. I was leaving this world, back into the pitch black – it was only a matter of time. But I would watch her until I left.
Inspired by the dip of a gutter, the deep puddle was no match for Ema; she had fallen face-first into the icy pool. Ema did not get up. Instead, her head dropped in her lap and she cried. In the midst of the storm, her tears were indistinguishable. The noises that spewed from her mouth were miserable. Instinctively, I reached out a hand to comfort her. But I couldn’t. She wouldn’t even feel the sensation of being touched – I was too far gone to help. I let my hand drop.
A soft mew caught her attention. Ema looked up to find a pair of yellow eyes staring back at her. The kitten was no bigger than the palm of my hand. Shivering in the icy rain with coiling fur, the creature looked like a water rat. The kitten’s pink nose twitched as it inched closer, trying to decide what to make of Ema.
Ema watched the kitten with equal curiosity. She wiped her nose on the back of her sleeve and slowly held her arms out. Her puffy eyes blinked back salty tears and she offered the kitten a bitter-laced smile. I felt my heart, however far away, tremble in my wavering chest. “C’mere,” Ema cooed softly. “I won’t hurt you.”  
The wet thing leaped into the safe haven of Ema’s moist arms, protected from the blasts of rain by her larger frame. The kitten purred and rubbed against her stomach.
Ema laughed softly, holding the kitten to her chest as she stood. “You’re friendly, aren’t you?” she whispered, stroking its nose with a gentle finger. She spotted the bus stop with a glass over hang just a few feet away; Ema carefully sloshed through puddles until she sat on the dry bench protected underneath.
I placed leaned against the glass exterior, unruffled by the storm. I could faintly hear the rain hit the glass – kind of like a million pins dropping – but I strained to keep Ema’s whispers in my aching head. The glass wouldn’t let me feel its chill on my forehead, and I moaned my disgust. I felt like sliding to the pavement, closing my eyes for good. Luckily, Ema spoke again.   
“You know,” she mused, while watching for the rain to slow, “one day I am going to look back on this and laugh. My first relationship: a disaster.” She shivered and hugged herself closer. “I don’t regret break up. It’s just that I’m lonely.”
The kitten mewed in what could have been sympathy.
“I always dreamed of meeting that special someone; it was something I always thought about. Even from when I was a little kid. The prince on the white horse was my goal. I wanted something I could never have, and then I thought my expectations were too high. There is no such thing as fairy tale princes.”
Yes, there is, I thought, the voice in my head echoing against the nothing. I wish I could have been yours.
“When we were still dating, I convinced myself that there was nothing wrong with crying, with being so insecure. Such feelings were normal, and I just wasn’t adjusting to reality.” She paused and sighed, her breath a cloud of fog. “I stayed with him too long. I was in denial. I thought there was something wrong with me.”
No, I insisted, you are perfect.
She breathed in deeply, her eyebrows furrowed in concentration. She was searching for something. My forehead throbbed once more and the pain was gone. Her eyes opened, and there was strange recognition there. That, and laughter. She looked down at the kitten, a genuine smile on her face. “I just remembered something.”
The creature looked at her.
“It was silly,” she started, blushing beneath her rain-roughed cheeks. She stroked the kitten’s back, twirling her finger in it’s scraggily curls. “When I was a kid, I always daydreamed about, well, everything. These dreams felt so real to me that, even as I got older, I could not let them go. There was a guy I made up. He was everything to me. Every second of the day I could scrap together, I would imagine him in my field, with the shining waterfall.
Her laughter met my ears and warmed them. I closed my eyes and let that sound fill me, wrap about my sputtering heart. Her laughter… she was remembering me. Slowly, but surely. What did that mean? I felt a few drops on my heated skin. The stronger wind rustled my hair.
Ema didn’t look up. Her eyes held a glassy, distant look, and her smile stayed frozen on her lips. “It’s coming back to me now. We used to talk for hours at night, when I could see him the most. And during the day – in those brief moments – I would lie in his arms with the grass to cushion us, under the warm sun.” She shivered when she said the word “sun.” Her mouth dropped a bit as she seemed to recall something else. “His name,” she struggled, “his name was…”
What was my name? Did I ever have one?
“Ah, I know! I called him Liam.” Her eyes grew warm. “That’s what it was.”
When she said my name – Liam – it was like a vault opened inside of me, spilling hot blood through my veins. The darkness hissed but unhooked its claws. The rain fell so heavy on me that my clothes stuck to my body, molding me. The wind burned by eyes, tugged at my hair, and tossed fizzing rain at my face. I felt more alive than I did in months, maybe more than when I was dreamed. My breathing came in hurried gasps, yet no louder than the smacking of the rain against concrete. I shivered inside my skin; I didn’t blink, I could not tear my eyes from her face.
“That was a long time ago,” she frowned. “I can’t believe I remember him. So long ago, when did it all stop?” 
I waited, letting the storm have me.
“I remember that too. I stopped when they caught me – my friends, teachers – though mother never seemed bothered. Well, they told me to stop. I would never find love if I hid in my mind.” A soft cry broke through her lips. “I wished I could find someone like him, but now, I think, Liam was better than anyone. I could never find someone like him.” Tears trailed down her abused cheeks and dripped onto the kitten. This was a different cry, no longer connected to Jake. Ema, I realized, was crying for me.
I stepped under the glass covering, leaning on my knees before the bench. Scarcely breathing, I brushed a hand against her shoulder. She shivered, but would not move from her position. I frowned, wondering if there really was no magic. Was I still invisible to her?
Her middle finger twitched. She lifted her hands away from her face, sniffing as she studied them. She tried to blink back her tears to see clearly, and stared in wonder. “A string,” Ema murmured, “since when?” Her eyes left the crimson string, her lap, the kitten. She raised her head, and then she finally saw me.
Her eyes didn’t pass through me. They widened, dark and beautiful, and searched my face in awe. She tried to speak but her tongue was stuck in her throat. Ema’s cheeks and ears turned tomato red, and her hands shook as they reached out.
The kitten let out a disgruntled hiss and jumped from Ema’s lap, taking refuge under the bench.
I only watched her, memorizing the charming expression she wore as her eyes drank me in. I stayed still as she brushed a shaky finger down my cheek; it traveled across my nose and down my jaw line, and her other fingers joined in. I held her hand and pressed it against my cheek, feeling the thin chord on her finger, and sighed softly.
She blushed, her eyes moist, and a subtle whisper of a word broke the silence: Liam. My name on her lips sounded like melting sugar. I guessed that for Ema, seeing me was like seeing an old friend. One you never expected to see again. We shared everything over those years, and I could see that recognition light her features. The best of friends, all secrets shared.
I knew her better than anyone.
I loved her.
“It’s been a long time. I was beginning to wonder if you abandoned me.”
“No,” she whispered, shaking her head furiously. Her hair curled around her delicate face. “I didn’t mean – “
I put a finger to her lips, softened by her response.
She took a deep breath, determined to say something. “I’m sorry,” she stated, searching my eyes. “I should have taken better care of you. I created you, and you made me happy.” She gulped. “I don’t know how this has happened, but I’m not going to take it for granted. I loved you first, Liam, and I love you now.” She slipped off the bench and into my arms; her hands cupped the sides of my face. Ema waited until I looked down at her, sitting in my lap, before she captured my lips with hers.
Somewhere, in my foggy memory, I had always assumed that our first kiss would be slow and gentle. Instead, we pressed together like space was a disease. My hands wrapped around her waist, massaging her back through her drenched sweatshirt. One of her hands slipped into my hair, and the other kept leading my lips back to hers. We made noises as we touched, most hidden by the rush of rain; what I heard made me feel delighted. My tongue warmed her trembling lips, touching own so tenderly that we both shuddered in response.
A frustrated mewl broke the moment, and we reluctantly parted. Ema looked over at the kitten and laughed. “I think he wants to go somewhere warm.”
“I think you’re right.” After helping Ema to her feet, I reached under the bench and scooped up the kitten. I held the wet creature gingerly and poked my head out the covering; a drop or rain splashed my eye. “It’s still bad, but we’ll all get colds if we don’t get home.”
Ema sneezed.
I raised an eyebrow.
“Too late,” she mumbled, covering her nose.
I put my arm around her, and we held the kitten between us. Some time passed before we reached Ema’s home – with all the sneezing and puddles – but when we did, Sue met us at the door. She had not expected me, of course, but decided to help Ema before interrogating me. I dried off the kitten and smiled when it puffed out like a ball of wool. The creature’s fur was colored orange and brown. Round eyes blinked up at me. Then, as the kitchen counter turned a distinctive yellow, I realized the kitten was a boy.
Ema’s mother found a change of clothes I could borrow, and we sat in the living room and warmed ourselves by the fireplace. The dancing flames were mesmerizing as they twirled and twitched against the logs. I marveled at my renewed senses, breathing in the cinnamon air freshener I never smelt before, and feeling the waves of warmth wash over me.  As Ema and Sue took turns asking me questions, Ema sat curled against me on the couch, snuggling into my shoulder. She held a cup of hot water and sipped it occasionally; I had to hold it steady whenever she sneezed. And every time, she would look up apologetically with her red nose. She warmed my heart.
“How did you know it was meant to be?” Sue asked. She watched me – fascinated – with a steady hand petting the kitten. She had stars in her eyes: the realization of magic. She looked happy for Ema, not bothering to hide her smiles each time she saw our eyes met. “What kept you going?”
“The string?” Ema whispered, glancing up at me. She lips spread into a knowing grin.
I nodded.
“What’s that?” Her mother asked, curious. The kitten purred in her lap.
“Well,” I started, watching Ema fondly, “some say that when two people are meant to be, a red string connects them.”




© 2009 Shadkim

Author's Note

I've read the reviews and look over everyone's opinions - so, here is a new and improved version of The Red String! I hope you guys like this better than the first!

My Review

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Featured Review

Oh my goodness! I am so glad Pauline decided to share this with me. I loved it, once I started to read I couldn't stop. I usually hate stories like this, all hearts and flowers, but this had me entranced. It was such an enchanting, beautiful story! I loved the whole thing, so new and fresh, and a wonderfully different storyline than anything I have read before.

When he was disappearing I thought I would cry, it was so sad to think that she had created him and that beautiful world for him and then forgotten all about any of it. The red string that connescted them was such a different concept to anything before. I loved the whole thing.

I agree with the other reviewers, this should be published. It's such a modern day fairy tale that people would love it, and it would make a great movie, extended a little of course, but still beautiful. I cannot praise this story enough and it is going on my profile for everyone else to read. XX

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 13 Years Ago

10 of 10 people found this review constructive.


I tend to write long, encompassing reviews, so here it goes. Overall, it was well written; it was above average, but it wasn't stellar. Your beginning was very strong, and your virtue lies in your ability to create imagery, to craft concrete and sensible metaphors, and to discern word choice. Your focus on verbs instead of adjectives and adverbs caught my attention as well. (Reference: Her cheeks and ears burned tomato red...) You can almost feel your own cheeks flush with Ema's.

You made a wise decision with the point of view, and I'm not sure if you struggled when deciding to write it through Liam's voice or if it was natural to do so. Through Ema's eyes, many themes of the story would have been lost; although, the readers would have gained a unique perspective. I am curious whether you wrote a draft in her POV.

I loved the way you conveyed Ema through Liam's eyes, especially when he entered her world. You can almost feel the desperation he feels when he tries to get her to see him, and the immediacy he initially endures when he begins to disappear. The story idea vaguely resembles Audrey Niffenegger's "The Time Traveler's Wife," and I like the unique perspective you took - instead of time traveling, you chose living in her imagination.

The characters' development was good, and you could feel Liam's hope disappear with the passing of time. The ending, however, in my opinion, was weak, and I thought you could do a lot more with it. The dialogue they shared was shallow at best, and if I were Ema, I wouldn't have just accepted the human form of my childhood dreams at first glance.

Some minor corrections:
*"He went on vacation, promised to send her his gift. Even more so, because there was no gift." (I would reverse the order of these two sentences. It flows better, and makes more sense.)

*"For a while, I spent all my time in her room; there was no need for me to go anywhere else." (Later, you say they are connected, and he goes wherever she goes. They are connected. Minor inconsistency.)

*“Alright, alright! I really like him!” (Alright --> All right.)

*"...enough to life Ema’s heavy textbooks with ease." (life --> lift)

*"Tear dribbled down by face and I slumped to the floor." (Tear --> Tears)

*"To brighten her eyes and draw smiles from her lips for as long as time allowed." (I'm not sure if you meant this to be a question or a statement.)

*"I struggled to keep my eye on her dark form..." (Change "my eye" to either "my eyes" or "an eye".)

*"I placed leaned against the glass exterior..." (Just 'leaned' is necessary.)

*"“I don’t regret break up." ("I don't regret *the* break-up." or "I don't regret *breaking* up.")

Ending on a good note, I thought it was very creative to type it in red typeface. :)

Posted 8 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

really awesome work you are super talented
great story

Posted 9 Years Ago

no i love this one. its brilliant and so romantic it made me want to cry,
good job

Posted 11 Years Ago

Aww... I made it through the entire thing without crying, but i think I might give up now...
This was wonderful. It's been a long time since I've read something as good as this, if I ever have.

Posted 11 Years Ago

This was amazing! Just, wow. I really loved this story. The ending was perfect! The romance is the kind I think every young girl dreams of having when they get older. It's amazing how many people actually find this kind of love when they get older. Great job!

Posted 11 Years Ago

I don't believe it. Fantasy, story book, fairytale, whatever it is, I don't believe it. Why? Because I don't believe the dream or ideal. Maybe better said, I don't feel for this dream as being real, like flesh and blood. Yes, yes, I know, it's not flesh and blood, it's a dream or vision; however, as a reader, I need to feel for this thing as though it could be killed, or cry, or whatever emotion. So, why don't I believe it? Heartless? Not. I think it is because I know nothing about it. I'm not connected to this dream. Maybe if I knew more about these particular entities and how they come about, and how they stay alive, or maybe how his friends died -- like he knew other dreams that perished when they were forgotten by their inventors. I don't know... I would have to think about it more, but hopefully you get my drift. I like the red string idea. This is great. And how the dream comes to life, this is confusing as well. Since I don't accept him in the beginning, I naturally don't accept the transition at the end. Your style is nice, and your voice is good, but I need more detail to make me believe that this is 'real'.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 11 Years Ago

Oh this is wonderful! The concept is amazingly sweet - I love sentimental stories like this, especially because I'm just like Ema in the sense that I fantasize about a perfect guy all the time. It really strikes a chord! There are a few things that are a little strange, though. The part where Ema is talking to the kitten, telling him about Liam and everything, it seems a little forced. The words don't seem quite as natural as they could. The laughing is also a little suspect - even though she's thinking about something happy after the breakup, would she really be laughing? It's also a little weird that she's staying in the rain with a drenched kitten and not at least walking or looking for some kind of shelter. It might be better if she at least goes to be under a tree or something - that's a long time to be staying out in the rain, and personally if I just went through heart-wrenching breakup I'd want to be comfortable as soon as possible! That could just be a personal preference thing, though :-) The introduction of the kitten was great, too - a wonderful confidant. Actually, you might be able to make Ema's monologue a little less forced if she decides to name the kitten Liam and then explains to him why.

Usually short stories are really daunting to me since I'm so used to poetry, but this was totally worth the read! I can't wait to read more of your writing - send me a request anytime :-)!

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 12 Years Ago

Lets start with my impressions first. I also like this story, especially with the heartache. Also, the idea of the red string that binds two people. It is a fairy tale, one which most people never experience in life. I found the story to be touching, aside from some of the sentence fragments, stylistic justification makes those accepted.
I think you have a typo here, in: " Relived but shocked, she stayed at school until the building was empty and clouds deposited rain upon the earth." It should be 'relieved' (I believe that is what you meant).

You've done extremely well here. Bravo. : )

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 12 Years Ago

You're story is so touching. I love the idea of the red string connecting two lovers meant for each other and you're imagery through out the story is... awesome. good job XD

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 12 Years Ago

wow, that was beautiful. so creative and realistic. you wrote it in a way that makes me believe that something like that could actually happen. it was very wonderful! major props!

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 13 Years Ago

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49 Reviews
Shelved in 2 Libraries
Added on March 5, 2008
Last Updated on March 10, 2009
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Tampa, FL

I'm 21, and I am a senior English Major at FSC. I don't usually write poetry - my passion is prose, specifcially things like fantasy, adventure, romance and mystery. However, I like to try out all dif.. more..

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