Author’s Note: This short story was written during my MA. It was inspired by a writing prompt challenging me to write a story with the first line of your favourite song as the title. So, in this case, it’s Dark Waltz by Hayley Westenra.
I’d rate this story at PG12 as, though there’s no graphic violence, there is references to dying children and PTSD so I’m putting a warning up here before you read it.
We are the lucky ones. We can finally call ourselves adults, leave our homes and make our fortune in the world with degrees and jobs in hand. We still keep in touch online and in pub meetings, long after we left primary school. Our bond hasn’t wavered.
Half of the class are not lucky. Half of Year 3, Class A, gave up the race to the finish line. All had been done to keep them on track but, well, they couldn’t be forced. Thirteen years in a row, we sat together in silence on the same day they gave up, hoping they would come back and resume pursuing adulthood again. Sometimes, I visit them. They haven’t moved at all. How could they just stay there out of sight without wanting to move on? Just lie there under six feet of earth and not budge for over a decade. Surely, they must have bedsores all over their backs and be bored out of their minds by now. They are the unlucky ones.
We are the lucky ones. When the lorry hit our bus, we had been sitting on the opposite side. I had not been singing. I had been looking over my photos, seeing not the castle behind us but the lucky and unlucky combined in the photograph. I remember the pain in my arm and the flash of flame. I thought for my last moment of consciousness before the hospital that a dragon had collided with us. It’s this flash of flame that still burns in my memory and makes me unable to attend the fireworks displays my boyfriend loves.
The first ones to get hit gave up at that moment. A split second decision that had saved them a terrible struggle. The others dithered between going on and giving up. They struggled with the work. It was harder for them than it was for the rest of us. We are lucky, we got the easy exam and we all passed. They got the hardest exam of all. They are the unlucky ones.
We are the lucky ones. I have gone through two boyfriends and lost my virginity with the second. All of us have been in a relationship at some point, all of us had known love and most had known loss. I am the luckier one. I have a boyfriend who doesn’t complain when I scream in my sleep or when he has to drive me twenty miles to my therapist. My boyfriend is not just in my own head. He is tangible, touchable, kissable, hold-able. My lover is a real human, not alcohol or heroin-dreamed.
The families still cry over the unlucky ones. I see the sister of the brainy girl in the class. I see a lot of her. Really, I do. I think she forgets to get completely dressed some days. My family cries over me too when I’m not in the room. I’m not quite sure why. They ought to be happy that I’m alive, I passed life’s tests and have a boyfriend to boot. I’m happy. Very happy. The dead can’t be happy. They certainly weren’t happy when they were struggling through their final exam. Their screams of pain while I was taking my exam told me as much. They were the unlucky ones.
We are the unlucky ones. We still cannot talk to each other. We sit in a circle, waiting for the right words to come. My boyfriend is seeing someone undamaged behind my back. I can’t get a job and I still have to live at home. My therapist dictates that I cannot work with my condition. My degree is worth nothing. My fortune is nothing.
The rest of Year 3, Class A, stay where they are. I don’t know if they’re happy but no one’s complaining. They’re still children under that earth. Some knew pain, some didn’t have time to, but all never knew the agonies of surviving to adulthood. They are the lucky ones.