Swing Out of the Blue: Introduction

A woman’s voice echoed over the tapping of the snare drum. It was haunted, soft but piercing. “Why do I do it?”

Black dissolved into colour. A piano joined the drum. The dancers were young, scarcely more than twenty. He wore brown pleated pants, suspenders, a bow tie, two-tone shoes in brown and white. Her dress was a dark blue, her lipstick a striking red, her hair tied in tight rolls. She spun, her eyes returning to him after each turn, and he tracked her, entranced. A trumpet blasted as his arms found her, and she laughed.

The camera zoomed in on her face. The music had fallen silent. She was frozen in that moment of joy.

Zack was jarred by the sudden silence as Tima paused the video. “Why’d you do that?” Andy asked.

Tima didn’t look at him. She, like Zack, was captivated by the face on the screen. “We shouldn’t watch it without her.”

“Why not?” Andy shifted on the bed, jostling Tima and Zack beside him. Zack was uncomfortably aware of his size, sitting so close to them. “It’s not private,” Andy added. “She shared it with half the club. Zack’s seen it, what, twelve, thirteen times?”

Zack flushed. He hated the others looking at him. “Something like that.”

“It feels wrong.” Tima tucked a loose strand of hair into her headscarf and added, as much to the computer screen as to the others, “It’s like she’s in a zoo.”

“She chose—”

“I know.” Tima’s eyes were far away. “What you choose isn’t always what you want.”

Zack opened his mouth and scowled in frustration when nothing came out. Talk to them, Zack urged himself. Sophia needs her friends to see this. They’re your friends, too … sort of. Andy was intimidating with his easy confidence, good looks and habit of talking as though he knew everything. Tima had never wanted much to do with Zack; everyone said she was shy, but he couldn’t help wondering whether she secretly hated him.

“Tima, you’re her roommate,” Andy pressed. “She’d want you to see it.”

“I don’t think so. What if Sophia walks in on us watching her depression video?” Tima argued. “She’ll go ballistic.”

“She won’t,” Andy said dismissively. “She’ll just do that dignified pretending-not-to-be-upset thing.”

“But that’s the point,” Tima said. “Will she be upset or not?”

“Why don’t you ask her?” said a voice from the doorway.

Sophia slipped into the room, looking nothing like the Sophia on the screen. She was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, and her wavy brown hair fell haphazardly to her shoulder blades. Her face was the real difference, though. Melancholy touched it even behind her smile.

“Where were you today?” Andy asked.

“I wasn’t feeling it.”

Zack recognized the understatement. His eyes flitted back to the Sophia on the screen. She was still laughing.

The real Sophia asked him, “Have you actually watched that a dozen times?”

He had, but he couldn’t admit it. He managed to say, “It’s very good.” Then embarrassment forced him to turn away.

“It’s brave, too,” Tima said. “Sharing it.”

“No. It was a stupid mistake, but you guys are being good about it.” Sophia sighed. “So, don’t let me stop your viewing party.”

“Are you sure?” Tima asked.

“No point making a video if nobody watches it.” Sophia’s face was a perfect mask, and each movement she made was deliberate. Dignified, Andy had said, and something about pretending.

“I don’t need to see it again,” Zack said. “You want to head downstairs, Sophie?”

Sophia gave him a genuine smile, though a hint of sadness still came through in her voice. “That’s sweet, but no, thank you. This is who I am. I’ve got to face it. Play it, Tima.”

“Why do I do it?” Sophia’s voice-over said hauntingly. The dancers whirled, and the camera zoomed in on her laughing, but as the music started again, her features dissolved. The dancers became animations with the brown of his suit and the blue of her dress. “Why do I dance?” The trumpet blared and the saxophone wailed as the figures soared across the screen. Then, the brown one peeled away, and the music slowed, and animated Sophia was sitting alone, shivering, her arms folded around her knees, blue, blue, all blue. In the stillness, Zack caught the real Sophia mouthing the next line along with the video: “To escape.”

Enjoyed the introduction? Find out how to purchase the book, or continue to Chapter One! A portion of the proceeds will support mental health charities.

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