the sun and i

By: Arielle Li

She was the epitome of fragile beauty: lips slightly parted, rosy flush tinting the apples of her cheeks, raven hair framing her face. I knelt there, holding her wrist, touching the papery skin that shielded her blue-green veins. A ball of unshakeable guilt weighed down my chest. It was my fault. I had sat there and watched as she overworked herself to shine as brightly as the sun; now, I was sitting and watching her sink in a sea of stars. 

Himari was always loved by everyone. People were drawn in by the way she carried herself with confident assurance. She was too kind and worked too hard to be hated, and she was too talented for her own sake. Himari was overcommitted; time trickled through her fingers, and I always felt frustrated that she never had any left for me. 

We became friends in eighth grade. It was the end-of-year school talent show, and I had watched, starstruck, by her shimmering performance. She wore a golden dress with a sparkling skirt that rivaled the sun. She was poised. She was flawless. 

The richness of her playing was addictive. Enchanted, I admired her fiery, captivating movements as if she were dancing. Her final cadenza erupted through the air as she lifted her bow and tore a grandiose sound from her violin that stole my breath. Dazed, I closed my eyes and surrendered to the haunting passage, feeling the desperate notes fill my lungs and listening to the urgent melody that twirled faster and faster. Too soon, it was over, and Himari’s last note lingered in the air. A penetrating silence filled the auditorium, and we sat there, frozen in time by the spell she had cast. The only movement was her vibrato, ongoing until the applause had nearly died down. 

I remember clapping the loudest. I remember feeling irritation towards people who didn’t seem as impressed as I was. I remember feeling strange, almost like I’d fallen in love. 


The meaning of the name Himari is “sun.” I’d always seen her as one: invincible, undefeatable, marvelous in her radiant glory. I viewed myself as a planet orbiting her, pulled in by her gravitational force. When I found out she was in the hospital, my mind went blank. 

The doctors said it was a prolonged seizure from low blood sugar. They said she was in a medically induced coma. 

My initial thoughts were that I was wrong, that I’d falsely embedded the belief of her unconquerable nature into my mind. Now, I realized she still was the sun. She had burned too brightly to do what she was good at and was sputtering out. 


We were juniors the first time she invited me to her house. Excitedly, she sat me down in front of her vanity, gathering makeup products I didn’t know the names of. “Stay still,” she instructed. Our faces were inches apart, and I could only hear our intermingled breaths as she used one hand for eyeshadow and the other to cup my chin. The soft brush tickled my face, but I didn’t notice. I was too busy staring at the freckle below her left eye. 

She artfully constructed winged eyeliner on my uneven monolids. I wanted this moment to last forever. The delicate care in her actions felt meaningful in a way I couldn’t ignore. Our eyes locked as she slid the lip gloss applicator over my lips, and for a second, it felt as though she wanted to say something. Our bodies inched closer until our foreheads nearly touched, and I felt her cool breath touch my cheek. I searched her face, admiring the light’s reflection in her brown eyes. My stomach felt strange as if I were experiencing a new emotion. 

We broke eye contact, and she spun my chair towards the mirror. “Look how pretty,” she whispered. Staring back at me was a girl I didn’t recognize. The parts of my face I’d come to hate were subtly emphasized as if Himari found them to be the most beautiful aspects. She had found a way to enhance my natural features unconventionally. “I’ve been imagining how I’d do your makeup for months,” she added. I wondered if this meant she had thought of my face regularly. “Let’s find something to wear.” 

She rummaged through her closet. Dresses of all lengths and patterns were strewn across the floor. Feeling self-conscious of her undivided attention, I interrupted her search. “Wait,” I said. “We should find one for you.” Before she could complain, I grabbed a satin navy dress from the floor and pushed her into the bathroom. 

I heard the rustle of clothes and then an empty minute-long silence. When I knocked on the door and asked her to come out, Himari refused to show me. She emerged wearing her previous clothes and a disconcerted expression. Her hands pressed anxiously at her collarbones. 

Afterward, I left her house without thinking much about it. 


One night, Himari and I sat on the bed of my room. She looked different from when I’d first seen her at the talent show. Her face was sallow, and there were purple hollows beneath her eyes. She looked tired, and her left fingers were constantly drumming, every so often falling into a complex rhythm that I assumed was the new piece she was preparing. Her collarbones jutted out, starkly contrasting with her ghostly skin. Anxiety clawed at my throat from her appearance. It was our first time alone together after a month, and even though I wanted to treasure the precious moment she had managed to spare, I only felt sick with worry. The agitated movement of her hands distracted me, and I took them and placed them on my lap, forcing them to be still. They were cold and clammy, but I didn’t let go. I let my warmth flow into her until I felt numb with endless cold. Our hands fit together like they were meant to be. 

"This isn’t healthy,” I quietly said. “I know,” she replied. I offered her an apple slice, and she halfheartedly took a bite. She set the slice back into the plate, almost untouched. “I’m not hungry,” she whispered. I opened my mouth to speak, but she looked pleadingly at me, silently telling me she didn’t want to talk about it. 

That was the first warning that I should’ve stepped in. But I didn’t. Even with all the time I had on my hands, I didn’t do anything. 


Stupidly, I thought she was superhuman. I nodded every time she told me she was completely in control. And when I heard her play, I believed her. 

I couldn’t see the small cracks appearing on her exterior, the minuscule mistakes becoming increasingly frequent in her art. I didn’t notice her fingers slipping when she performed or how she began to only wear oversized clothes. 

I loved her in a way I didn’t love anyone else. I couldn’t look past her carefully built facade, and I didn’t realize it was crumbling. By the time I did, it was too late. 


The last time I saw Himari before her seizure was at school. She was smiling, and she looked healthier. She was with her other friends, and one of them gave her a chocolate chip cookie. I watched her hesitate for a split second before she ate the entire cookie, and I felt pure joy fill my heart. Relieved, I thought Himari had been right all along – she could handle everything she took on and still thrive. 


In the hospital, I sat with Himari for as long as possible. My tears dripped onto the blankets, each droplet blossoming into a star. Memories flitted through my mind, and I was overwhelmed with frightening regret. There were too many things I had left unsaid. I kissed her forehead and ran my fingers through her hair. “I love you,” I whispered, and I promised ourselves that I would repeat this after she woke up. It was an understanding I finally reached after almost losing everything – to stop hiding my emotions because life is too short to have regrets.