True Blue

This is dedicated to my friend Jia Kiat for his birthday, which was like, two weeks ago but it’s only coming out now because I was lazy and I only just finished it. Sorry, bro.

Happy Birthday!

Sarah watched in the dresser mirror as her mother dressed her in a simple black dress with a dark blue ribbon around the middle. Today was Sarah’s fifth birthday, but it also marked the first year without her father. Like her, Sarah’s mother was also in a stylish black dress and, without the blue ribbon, Sarah would have looked exactly like a smaller version of her mum. Brigid finished tying the ribbon around her daughter and kissed the top of her head.

“Happy birthday, sweetheart,” Brigid whispered into Sarah’s hair.

“That tickles!” Sarah squealed and tried to squirm away, but Brigid wrapped her arms around Sarah and swung her off the floor.

As Sarah settled down in Brigid’s embrace, Brigid opened a drawer in the dresser and pulled out a little gift box with a blue ribbon that matched the one around Sarah’s waist.

“Here you go, sweetheart. It’s from your father,” Brigid said as she gave the box to her daughter. Sarah squealed again in delight and opened the box. Inside was a beautiful black strapped choker with a sapphire set in the middle of a silver holder. Engraved on the back of the pendant were the words “For my precious princess“.

“Wow! Thank you, mommy!” Sarah exclaimed delightedly and kissed her mother.

“Do you want to put it on now?” Brigid asked. Sarah nodded enthusiastically and Brigid put her down facing the mirror. She pulled the necklace out of it’s box and unclasped it. Kneeling behind her daughter, Brigid carefully put the choker around Sarah’s neck. It was too loose, even when Brigid fastened the last clasp together, so the sapphire pendant hung just below Sarah’s collarbone, over her dress. Sarah smiled and touched the sparkling blue stone.

“Is it magic?” Sarah asked her mother in wonder. “It looks magic.”

“Maybe,” Brigid answered with a smile of her own. Sarah’s eyes widened.

“What does it do?” Sarah asked curiously.

“You’ll find out when you’re older,” her mother replied and spun Sarah around to face her. “Now, let’s go out and have some cake okay?”

“Okay!” Sarah bubbled happily.

* * * * * *

Seven-year-old Sarah sat by Christmas tree, counting the presents with her name on it. The choker sat around her neck, the sapphire resting in the hollow of it.

“Five!” Sarah finished counting with excitement.

“And Santa will bring you another one tonight, if you go to bed now,” Brigid told Sarah with a smile.

The blue stone at Sarah’s neck vibrated ever so slightly.

Sarah looked up at her mother with a serious expression as she clutched her pendant.

“Santa doesn’t exist, mommy. I’m not a baby anymore,” she pouted. Brigid knelt and smiled gently at her daughter.

“You’re right, he doesn’t exist,” Brigid conceded. “But there will be an extra present waiting for you if you go to bed now,” she said, with a twinkle in her eye.

Sarah fingered her sapphire expectantly, but the stone remained still. After a beat, she brightened.

“Okay! Goodnight mommy,” Sarah kissed her mother on the cheek and raced off.

Brigid sighed as she watched her daughter get ready for bed.

* * * * * *

“Tell me the truth, Sarah,” Brigid commanded. “Did you or did you not cheat on this test?”

“No, I didn’t!” Twelve-year-old Sarah insisted, stamping her feet in frustation.

“Then why are your answers exactly the same as your classmate’s?”

“I don’t know!” Sarah cried. “He cheated from me!”

“Sarah…” Her mother sighed. Sarah screamed in impatience and ran to her room.

Neither of them noticed the two small cracks in the crystal when Sarah took it off at the end of the day.

* * * * * *

“I had fun tonight, thank you,” Sarah smiled at Tony. Tony held her hand and smiled back. They were sitting on the warm bonnet of Tony’s car, just after their first date.

“You know, you’re the first girl I’ve ever kissed,” Tony said. The sapphire buzzed.

“I told you not to lie to me, Tony. I can sense every single lie,” Sarah reminded him. Tony sighed.

“I’m sorry. I just wanted to say something romantic, you know? To make you feel good. It’s not cool to say something like, ‘you’re the third girl I’ve kissed’. It was just a small lie, no harm done,” Tony apologized.

Sarah smiled reluctantly. He was trying to be sweet, not intentionally lie to her.

“Well,” she said. “You could say something like, ‘You’re the most beautiful girl in the world’. Go on, say it!” She nudged him playfully.

“I think you’re the most beautiful girl in the world,” Tony said immediately. The blue stone vibrated. Sarah frowned and pulled away.

“That’s… not true,” Sarah realized.

“What? Yes it is!” Tony sputtered. The stone buzzed yet again. Sarah stood.

“You don’t really like me, do you? You just want to get into my pants!” Sarah accused.

“Oh, come on! I’m just trying to make you happy. Why are you picking on every minuscule lie I tell?”

“Because if you can lie to me about small things like this, it won’t be long before you tell bigger lies,” Sarah rebuffed him firmly. “Goodbye, Tony. Don’t call me.” Sarah gathered up her things.

“You know, you’re really difficult to be around. No wonder you don’t have a boyfriend. You probably never will,” Tony told her. Sarah gave him one last disgusted look and stalked off.

As she trudged home, tears pricked her eyes.

* * * * * *

“He’s lying,” Sarah said. She was observing the interrogation from behind the one-way glass, reading the suspect’s facial expressions and body language. After years of lies, the surface of her sapphire was covered in tiny cracks. She had decided to learn other ways to detect deception and word her sentences carefully.

At 25, she was the youngest female member in the police department. She’d just graduated with a degree in Criminal Psychology and had breezed through the entrance tests. Now, she was a Profiler, but her strength was really in interrogating suspects.

“Very good. And…?” Dalton, her superior and mentor, commended her.

“…I don’t know, sir. I need to be in there questioning him. He might not be lying outright, but he’s definitely hiding something,” Sarah replied. Dalton nodded and knocked on the glass.

Detective Gabriel glanced at the glass, got up and left the room. A few moments later, he entered the room Sarah and Dalton were in.

“Okay kiddo, in you go,” Dalton said to Sarah. Gabriel gave Sarah the case file and took a spot facing the interrogation room as she exited.

“Hello, Christopher,” Sarah greeted him as she entered the room. Christopher lifted his head from his hands to look at her as she sat down.

“I’m Sarah.” She gave him a disarming smile.

“So,” Sarah began. “Why don’t you tell me why you think you’re here?”

“I don’t know,” Christopher replied miserably. Sarah’s sapphire buzzed gently.

“Oh, I think you do. We’re investigating the death of Patricia Oswald. You know something about it. And don’t bother lying to me, I can sniff out every single lie you tell.”

“Then you should know that Mrs Oswald was a nice lady. I loved her like she was my grandmother. I’m sorry she’s gone. But I don’t know how she died.” The stone was silent until he spoke the last sentence.

“Hmm…” Sarah said. “True, true, true, false. I told you I can sniff out every lie you tell. I’m thinking you didn’t have anything to do with her death, but you know someone who wanted to hurt her.” She watched Christopher closely.

He remained silent, but squirmed uncomfortably.

“Look,” Sarah said. “All we want to know is who you’re protecting and why you’re protecting him or her, when you truthfully said you loved Patricia Oswald like she was your grandmother.” She paused. “Okay, fine, you stay silent, I’ll just guess. A friend?”

Christopher said nothing.

“Family member?”

“No,” he denied. The stone quivered against her neck.

“Aha,” Sarah nodded. “You have no siblings, so… Mother?”

“She’s got nothing to do with it.” Christopher insisted adamantly. Sarah’s necklace remained still.

“Mmmhmm. True. It’s the father,” she told the one-way glass and got up from her seat.

“No, it’s not!” Christopher slammed his fist on the table as Sarah left, and the blue stone vibrated against her neck.

* * * * * *

Sarah sat beside her mother at the hospital, holding her hand.

“Mom, how are you feeling?”

“Fine, fine. I’ll be okay,” Brigid coughed out. Sarah’s pendant quivered silently at her neck, mirroring the waning confidence and ever-increasing worry she was feeling inside.

“Sarah?” The doctor called from the door. “May I have a word?”

Sarah nodded. She smiled lovingly at her mother, patted her hand and followed the doctor outside.

“I’m sorry, but there’s nothing more we can do,” he said. “Your mother has only a few months left to live.”

Sarah’s sapphire stayed still.

* * * * * *

“No one can possibly stand to be around you when you nitpick at every single lie they tell, no matter how small, inconsequential or noble they may be! You can’t control everything, you know!” Gerald yelled at her.

He slammed the door and Sarah collapsed on the floor, struggling to breathe through her anguish. She unclasped the choker from around her neck and stared at her fractured sapphire, the flaws in the stone reflecting her own imperfections. It wasn’t the first time she’d considered throwing the gem away, but she couldn’t bear to dispose of the one precious thing she had of her father.

There was a timid knock on her front door. Sarah swallowed the lump in her throat and, in a warbled but hopeful voice, called out, “Gerald?”

“No, it’s Bryan,” her neighbour replied. “Are you alright? I heard someone shouting.” The door opened slightly and Bryan peeked in. He took one look at Sarah’s crumpled form and was at her side immediately, his arms wrapped protectively around her. The moment he hugged her, Sarah broke down.

“What’s wrong with me, Bryan?” she sobbed into his shoulder. Bryan said nothing, just gently rocked her in his embrace.

“That was the twenty-seventh guy I’ve driven away,” Sarah moaned.

“You kept count?” Bryan teased.

Sarah hiccuped, her reluctant laugh getting caught in her throat. She smacked Bryan’s arm, but her tears had stopped.

“You’re just too good at what you do. You’re too good for them,” Bryan told her.

“Then why is it I’m the one who suffers?” Sarah’s voice trembled, her eyes threatening tears again.

Bryan had no answer to that and they both sat in silence for a while.

Sarah pondered over all her failed relationships. Gerald was right: she had been pointing out every single lie she was told, even if it was something harmless. She couldn’t help it; she didn’t have the option of not knowing. Ignorance was not something she tolerated from herself, but no one would always tell her the truth.

“You’re right, Bryan,” she whispered in realization. “I am too good at spotting lies. I’ll always be able to do so. No one will ever be able to lie to me and no guy will ever be able to come to love me enough to always be truthful with me. Nobody will love me, which means I can’t be loved. And if I can’t be loved, I’m not worthy of being loved.”

The sapphire shattered and the shards fell through her fingers.

“Yes,” said Bryan gently, wiping the tears from her face. “Yes, you are.”

-Jace

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