First days are always special. Anxiety is in the air. First day at University is even more so. Who can help being anxious while surrounded by unknown people in an unknown place where they'll become what they are going to be the rest of their lives.
Heather felt quite uncomfortable while entering the classroom. She sat in the fourth row next to a girl with a white T-shirt. She couldn't help expressing her feelings.
-This is frustrating!,-she exclaimed.
-What's frustrating?,-asked the girl next to her, who had just left her own thoughts to look at Heather.
-I spent almost half an hour trying to decide on what to put on. I wanted to look...you know, somehow elegant but not too formal. I feel so stupid! I got everyone in the class staring at me!
-Don't blame yourself. None of us knew what this would be like.
-You made a better choice. I mean, your clothes don't stand out so much.
-I was as confused about what to put on as I was about everything else today. Then I realised I would go crazy if I let myself worry about everything I couldn't predict, so I decided to just be myself.
-Good decision. I wish I could be that clear about what I am.
-Don't think this is what I am. It's just the clothes I'm wearing. By the way, my name is Gwyneth. What's yours?
-Heather. And please don't try to make rhymes with 'weather'. I've heard plenty of them at school. They've even called me Mistress of Weather.
-That would be an impressive title.
-Yeah. They tagged it on me because one day my friends and I wanted to go out to celebrate the coming of spring, but it was raining heavily, so I told them: 'don't worry, it will stop in time for earth to dry,' and it did.
-Impressive, as I said. And what about other kinds of rhymes? For example... 'Light as a feather'.
-In the water, maybe,-Heather laughed.-No, no one's called me anything like that.
-You must have been very popular at High School.
-I was rather popular. But I was never one of the most popular girls in the class.
-I would never intend to achieve that.
-I guess people always want what they don't have. Many guys where interested in me in first year, but they began to forget me when I refused to date them.
-Why did you reject them?
-I was overwhelmed, I think. Everything was new to me, just as it is now. I didn't know anyone, and these guys didn't know me either and still wanted to go out with me! I mean... they didn't want just a movie and a cup of coffee. I believe they didn't even care about who I really was; they were just attracted by what I looked like.
-That may be so, but you are not sure about that, are you? You didn't give any of them a chance.
-I gave a chance to one of them and I seriously regret it. I had a really bad experience.
-I'm sorry to hear that. But don't think everyone will be like him. I wish someone had asked me for a date.
-Nobody asked you? Why?
-I think I scared them away. I was very shy and that may have made them think I had no feelings. My marks didn't help me either. Studying hard makes you do well at school and even helps you achieve some goals, but it makes boys think you're some kind of freak and only think about you when they need help to pass an exam.
-How could they be so insensitive? And blind too! Didn't they notice you looked like an angel?
-I believe you said the looks are not what matters. Besides, how could you possibly know what an angel looks like?
-Just like you I imagine. Your skin is as white as the foam the sea carries, you have a gentle smile, blond hair...
-Why can't people imagine an angel with dark skin or black hair?
-I don't know. Angels are usually associated to light. But there shouldn't be any reason not to imagine them looking any other way.
-Or having no appearance at all. But a minute ago you seemed to be certain about what an angel should look like.
-Why are we talking about angels? I don't even know if they exist.
-It was you who started. Tell me one thing, Heather. You also fit the description you gave me. My skin and hair may be fairer than yours, but you're still a white-skinned blonde girl with a gentle smile. Would you like to think of yourself as an angel?
-No, I believe I wouldn't. Would you?
-No, I wouldn't either. But it's true I sometimes imagine what living up there would feel like.
-In heaven, you mean?
-Not exactly. Rather in the Sky.
-Oh, I see. You would like to fly and play with the wind and get lost in the middle of a cloud, wouldn't you.
At that moment the professor came in and the introductory class began, leaving Heather no time to analyse Gwyneth's strange reply. The young women returned to their own worries just like the rest of the students. That day was a beginning, they both knew that. But what was it that had begun?
Days went by as did the initial worries (which were replaced by others, more accurate and refined). Soon Heather and Gwyneth became friends. They discovered they had many things in common, apart from the career they had chosen. They both liked open, quiet places, they had kindred tastes in books and films, and both of them enjoyed looking at the clouds. On that subject Gwyneth commented:
-I thought I was the only one who did that. Apart from children, of course.
-You're not, -Heather replied. -I've always wondered how water could reach those heights and take all those different shapes.
-The sky is fascinating. I think it's like a huge piece of art which changes constantly. -It's true! I'd never thought of that.
-Of course not. You only think about water.
-Why do you say that?
-A few days ago you told me your favourite sounds were the ones produced by the river and the see, didn't you?
-I did. I love listening to the sound of flowing water. But...
-Wait. You also said they used to call you "Mistress of Weather" because you knew when it was going to rain. And I recall you once compared my skin to foam. Seafoam, I think.
-Well... I guess you're right. You, on the other hand, seem to be more attracted by the wind and the sky itself.
-You got me. Are you a good swimmer?
-I guess I am. Are you a good flyer?
They both burst into laughter.
One day, while preparing for their first exam, Heather asked Gwyneth:
-Why are you studying Ecology?
-I'm concerned about what's happening to the world, -Gwyneth replied. -I don't know how much longer we'll be able to resist so much pollution, the greenhouse effect, the hole in the ozone layer...
-Acid rain, boundless killing, more pollution...
-Lack of consciousness.
-Right. That's the mother of all problems.
-You know, when I see people doing all those terrible things to themselves I feel so...
-I understand you. I feel exactly the same.
Two boys had been looking at the girls for some time. One day they finally invited them to go to the bar for a cup of coffee. Gwyneth accepted before Heather could say anything. "Cup of coffee," she remarked to her friend.
After spending a few minutes with the boys, Heather had to admit she was having a good time.
-I heard you both did great in the exam, -one of the boys commented. -How did you do it?
-We were interested, -Gwyneth answered. -You learn things easily when you're interested.
-You're lucky, -he said. -Everything seems so boring to me.
-There's always something you can find interesting about most subjects. There should be. Otherwise you'd be studying something else.
-You may be right. Perhaps you can help me make it interesting. Let's say... tomorrow at the park?
-She can't, -Heather interrupted. -She will be busy tomorrow. Besides, the park is not a good place for studying. Especially when it's covered with mud.
-But it isn't. It hasn't rained for weeks!, -he exclaimed.
-But it will pour tonight, -Heather sentenced.
-I'm not so sure about that. But if she'll be busy... then maybe some other day.
After the boys had left, Gwyneth asked Heather:
-What you said about tonight... Was it deduction, premonition or desire?
-I'm not sure. Maybe a bit of all. All I'm certain about is that it's fact.
-Why would you want it to rain tonight?
-I was trying to protect you. I know that you don't like being wanted only for your knowledge.
-I don't know what he actually wanted. And I don't think I know what I want either. Neither do you. You may be able to predict rain, but you can't predict people's feelings or reactions.
-Are you done lecturing me?
-I'm not lecturing you. I'm just giving you a friend's advice.
-How can you give me advice on boys when you haven't had a single date in your life?!
-That's exactly why I want a chance.
-All right. It will rain tonight. I can't change that. But it won't rain during the rest of the week. That much I promise.
-You do sound like a mistress of weather.
-Who says I'm not, "angel"?
It rained heavily that night. The stars were not visible because of the clouds. Gwyneth stared at the great dome thoughtfully. She wondered how such thin and tiny drops of water could block the passing of light. "The light doesn't reach us, so we can't see the stars. But we know they're still there," she reflected. "Clouds are quite an interesting thing. A good thing I dare say. Not just because it's a way of finding air and water together; or because they produce rain, which nurtures and heals the Earth in so many ways. They're also interesting in a metaphorical way: how many of us are surrounded by clouds which stop others, and sometimes even ourselves, from seeing what we truly are? And isn't it wonderful to feel that you know the truth... that you know what hides behind the clouds... to know you can see... the stars!"
Her thoughts started wandering while she gazed into the sky. Surrounded by starlight and sheltered by the wind, she plunged into the deep firmament. Above the clouds, the wind was a bit colder, but it was also softer and gentler. It's voice, which seemed to Gwyneth familiar and friendly, whispered something she could hear but not understand. However, it made her feel warm and comfortable.
"Yes, water lady. I am a good flyer," Gwyneth stated later, while she wrapped herself in her blanket. "And I'm going to prove it to you."
Gwyneth finally met the boy from the bar. His name was Tim. She couldn't believe she had spent hours with him without even asking his name. She did help him with his studies, but they also talked about many other things: "the things that matter," as Gwyneth said. She was practically charmed. Later, when she told Heather the details of the 'meeting', the water lady's first comment was:
-I wish I had your luck, Gwyn.
-You can. Nothing stops you, -She replied. -I heard Tim's friend, Jason, wants to meet you and get to know you. Do you remember him? He's the one who was with Tim at the bar.
-I see. There were two of us for the two of them. How do you think they decided who would keep each of us?
-Don't be so negative, Heather. Can't you accept that someone may actually care for you?
-I do accept it. I wouldn't have friends if I didn't.
-But it's different when love is in the middle, isn't it? Just think of him as a possible friend for now. Time will tell if that changes or remains the same. Risk something for once. There's so much to win. Give him a chance.
-All right. I will meeting. But don't expect much and don't try to force anything.
-I won't. It's a promise.
When Heather met Jason, she still felt a bit frightened. But after spending some minutes with him she realized that he was a very nice person. And when she finally warmed up to him she couldn't deny he was good-looking too. Jason understood her surprise because something similar had happened to him.
-You're very different from what I imagined when I first saw you, -he admitted.
-Really? What did you expect?, -She asked him.
-Well... we usually get wrong impressions about others, you know. I mean... I thought you were... superficial. That you cared too much about clothes and hairstyles like most girls do. I even got to think you might be studying ecology just for fashion as some people do.
-What made you have you such a wrong image of me?
-Ignorance, I guess. That, and the clothes you were wearing.
-Well... that wasn't my best day at all, I assure you.
-Will you forgive me?
-Of course! Everybody makes mistakes and not all of us have the courage to admit we were wrong. Besides, first impressions are not as important as last ones. Will you forgive me for being so shy?
-Done. We are both forgiven.
There was a river near the college. Jason and Heather walked along it's shore until they found a nice to sit down. The site of the date had been, of course, Heather's choice. She had always felt sheltered in presence of water, especially big water formations. However, to her surprise, she didn't feel the need for protection at that moment.
Jason saw an ice-cream parlor right behind them. He was a bit hungry, so he asked Heather if she wanted an ice-cream.
-Sure, -she answered. -Can you go ahead, please? I'll reach you in a moment.
-Would you rather I bought the ice-creams and brought them here?
-Oh, yes, please. If you don't mind.
-What flavors do you want?
-Strawberry and lemon, please. Thanks for going.
Jason left Heather by the river to buy the ice-creams. But when he returned she wasn't there anymore. Worried, he looked for her everywhere, but found no signs of her. She seemed to have disappeared. About 20 minutes later, she came back. The ice-creams had melted long ago.
-How could you go away like that?!, -he yelled. -I was worried. I thought something had happened to you! I looked for you all over the place. You'd just vanished!
-I'm really sorry. I didn't mean to make you worry. How long was I away?, -she asked naively. -Twenty minutes or more! Where on Earth have you been, can you tell me?!
-I'm afraid I can't. You'd never understand me, nor believe me.
-Ok, what would you say if I told you I went swimming?
-I would say you're a liar. And a terrible one. The river's too dirty and besides you're not wet.
-Then I should say I wasn't gone for so long. The ice-creams would have melted after a few minutes. And they haven't.
-You're the most pathetic liar I've ever seen or heard of. They've been pouring down my hand for a long time. Why did I have to wait for you?!
-Normally I wouldn't tolerate being called a liar. But I forgive you because I have no excuse for disappearing as I did. Now check again, Jason. The ice-creams have not melted.
Jason looked at his hands and saw the ice-creams were in perfect conditions.
-Have you exaggerated the length of my absence or have I somehow 'unmelted' the ice-cream? Either way I think you should give me another chance. I've just found you and I don't want to lose you like this. We could meet again some day... somewhere where there's not so much water.
-Is that your way of telling me you're sorry?
-Yes. I'm sorry. I'm honestly profoundly sorry.
-But you still can't tell me where you've been.
-I told you. You just didn't listen. This part of the river's not so dirty. That's where I was and that's where I think I'll return. But first please tell me you'll give me the benefit of doubt. I'll prove I can be trusted.
-You're the strangest person I've ever met, but I'll give you a chance if I get to understand what you're saying.
-Thanks. I won't disappoint you. Keep the ice-creams. I'll meet you tomorrow at school. You'll have the whole night to think about today, especially about what you'll see in a second.
Saying this, Heather dived into the river. Jason stared at the deep water for a long time, but never saw her come out. He almost gave in to despair, but something inside him told him that Heather was all right. He confirmed it the following day at University, when he found her talking to Gwyneth. He stood right in front of Heather and told her:
-I don't know how you did it, but don't even think of doing it again!
-I won't. At least not without warning you first. I didn't want to do it but it was the only way to make you understand.
-I don't think it worked. But we can discuss that this afternoon at the park. It won't rain, right?
-Don't worry,- Gwyneth said with a smile. -Strong winds will blow all the clouds away from you two.
Once Jason had left, Heather told Gwyneth all the details about her date.
-So you had another bad date, -she sighed.
-Not at all. It's true it didn't come out as I expected. But I'd never felt so close to myself as I felt yesterday. I was more sincere than ever and I even got a second chance! Besides, I had a wonderful experience down there in the river. I... I felt I could do anything I wanted. I didn't even have to go up for air. I felt at home under the water. I even heard the voice of the river!
-Really?! What did it say?
-I don't know what I'd do without you, Gwyneth. You're the only one who will ever believe me when I tell the truth. I don't know exactly what it said, but it made me feel safe and clear about what I really wanted.
-And that is...?
-I want to find someone I can trust. I want to find love and I want to trust others. I also want to help save the world and help all the creatures who live on it. Including ourselves.
-Those are wonderful thoughts. Just like the ones I had when the wind talked to me.
-The wind talked to you? When?
-A couple of days ago. I was... Well, I know I can trust you with this. I was flying.
-You were what?! I always thought you were a high flyer, but I never thought you would be that literally!
-What can I tell you? Each of us has her charms.
-You got me.
-What did the wind tell you?
-I didn't actually get the message, but I think I might make out part of it.
-Try to write whatever you make out. I'll do the same with the river's message. The class is about to start. Let's go to the classroom and show each other what we got as soon as we can.
-Yes, Sir... err... Miss!
During the class each of them wrote what she could remember. When the break started, they compared what they had written.
Gwyneth's paper had the following letters on it:
L V Y R L V S, D WH T Y W NT T D ND N V R F RG T WH Y TR LY R .
I E OU I E O A OU A O O, A E E O E O OU U A E.
Each piece of paper was an incomplete message, with no meaning at all. The girls became frustrated for a moment but they soon found out what the true message was. Before the break was over, they were able to but the pieces together and read the result. This is what they read:
"LIVE YOUR LIVES, DO WHAT YOU WANT TO DO, AND NEVER FORGET WHO YOU TRULY ARE."
They both agreed that was a good thing to remember. But they didn't really need the advice. Not anymore.