Sally and Cordelia: In the Key of Lana Del Rey

Juliana Worden
I was naive at the beginning, at the gala in my freshman year of high school, Sally’s sophomore year. She wore black, and I was draped in a sea of emerald fabric. Her hazelnut hair flowed down her back, covering the pale skin exposed by her dress. We talked, laughed, and drank mint juleps and I could easily have been suspended with her there forever. However, time bends to no one, certainly not to two girls who concealed their love for each other as we did. 

I’d follow you down, down, down; anywhere, anywhere.

The leaves crunched beneath my black boots in the woods by Sally’s house. Her manicured fingers entwined with my cut-covered one as she pulled me through the trees. We walked along a path that only truly existed in our minds. The rickety wooden bridge had always been the most nerve-wracking part of the walk; I often found myself terrified of falling into the creek below despite the water not being deep nor the current fast. Sally’s hand clutched mine a little tighter as we crossed it, knowing (without me having to say a word) that it made me nervous. When we arrived at the other side she turned to me, her amber eyes staring into my hazel ones before she leaned forward and her lips met mine. It was an unspoken ritual to kiss during our favorite lines of Lana’s songs. 

It’s better than I even knew, they say that the world was built for two. 

The spinning sensation I felt when Sally kissed me is a controlled one, not to be compared with the one I felt when first pledging my allegiance to the Crooked Path which was one of discomfort and scorching headaches. I tapped her forearm with my index finger---our unspoken “I love you”---and she tapped back with a bright, painted smile.

Do you think we’ll be in love forever?

That morning I had finally answered her request from months before: “Maybe someday you’ll tell me what you’re escaping, Cordelia.” I had answered rather simply: “Pain-filled love.” She had been content with my answer, squeezing my upper thigh where her hand rested. Wind blew my bleached blond hair into my eyes. For the first time I didn’t pay it any mind; I decided to focus instead on the candles and herbs Sally was gifting me so I could further my practice. She had also handed me a notebook with a note proceeding the spells it contained:

Dearest Cordelia,
In this bound book lay text only suited to eyes belonging to a witch. Let no one with an unlit flame gaze upon this book and do not share its many secrets. As I depart on the solitary journey of occultist study, the magician’s life if you will, I leave to you what I have learned during my time on the Crooked Path.
I wish you the best in your journey and remember those who walk a crooked walk and talk a crooked talk.

Yours Forever,
Sally xx

I looked upon it once I had returned home, Sally no longer by my side. I think back on the times we roamed around the city. We made ourselves common on those days, a contrast to days we spent in the forever-fall woods. On days like that, Lana flooded our minds and sage candles burned with her melodies.

What cruel world is this?

Much to my dismay, in the spring Ivy returned. She had long ago tainted my view of contacting spirits, having put Sally and I in near life-ending danger at my dinner table lined with white tea candles. Her hyper-fixation of the month, a scrawny white boy from Mississippi with a god-complex, angered the ancient spirits of the land he lived on. Because we all practiced together, they came after us as well. When we contacted them that night, Ivy let her guard down and they got to her, causing her to collapse on my table, her pulse to cease momentarily, and the candles to go out. Darkness and fear consumed Sally and I as we dragged Ivy to the bathroom, surrounding her in a white light that awakened her and dismissed the spirits. Ivy defended the boy and Sally let her. I didn’t let her get away with just brushing past it, which is why she and I came to a divide. Ivy resented me for her mistakes, creating a situation I was certain I wouldn’t have to face. Sally and I had to let each other go. One tear-filled phone call later, we sat in our respective same-shade-of-blue-rooms.

Kiss me hard before you go.

Months of near silence passed before I requested her presence again, when I was to be on the same campus as her. It was only for a day, but a day is all I longed for. Sally’s reply radiated excitement, placing the kind of smile on my face that only she can put there. 

We don’t look for Heaven and we put love first.

I’d spent the day drinking on the Upstate New York campus and was perched on the stone steps in front of the student center. The Secret Garden had nothing on the school's old brick buildings and flowering hedges. I leapt up as I saw Sally approaching. We ran into a tight, long-lasting hug to make up for the months of time when we lost each other. Without thought or effort, our hands intertwined as she led me to see if she’d received the package that was supposed to arrive that day. I no longer questioned my steps as I had been doing all day, finally feeling like I’d found my place in this new location and, once again, it was beside Sally. Her new friends were far more welcoming and kind than Ivy, who could not seem to find enough stability within herself to share Sally with anyone else, while insisting on having other friends herself. 

What sweet world is this?

We headed into town for Sally to show me the new places that brought her comfort---her replacements for the long-forgotten woods. We bought overpriced pens at the paper store because, well, we’re writers and we simply insist we cannot live without “the perfect felt-tipped pens.” We stumbled into her favorite restaurant in Bronxville, a little hole-in-the-wall dumpling and noodle restaurant named “Dumpling and Noodle.” The stuck-up girls who sat at the table adjacent to ours were the main topic of dinner conversation. They spoke of skipping school for trips to Italy and claimed fluency in very poor French. Sally and I were far from discreet, but the girls were too absorbed with the bubble they had created for themselves to notice those on the outside of it. After dinner we rushed into Sally’s favorite coffee shop and while we grabbed ridiculously large vanilla iced lattes with almond milk (our orders continued to mirror each other despite the changes in them over the years), we paused as Lana flooded our minds once again. I like to tell myself that this is a stroke of fate, a pure and honest demonstration of my love for Sally and hers for me. 

What you don’t tell no one, you can tell me.

Something clicked in us and it was as if no time at all had passed. She grabbed my hand again and I swear I saw her eyes water ever so slightly, or maybe that was just my own cloudy sadness willingly blinding me to her lack of needing me. As we walked out of the shop, rain began to pour down on us. We both came from a place where rain is almost a daily occurrence, and so we laughed at the panicky people around us who could not bear to deal with walking during a storm.