The Valley of Lilies


It is the transience of beautiful things that makes them so beautiful. How the beauty you see and the beauty you feel is so fragile, so impermanent… and seeing or feeling beauty is always bittersweet because it is also in part a feeling of loss. A numb sense of loss, at knowing that it will someday fade, and be gone forever; and a poignant feeling of loss, at knowing that it would have changed you and you’d never be the same.

 

 

Chapter 1

 

There was a beautiful cloth doll propped up against a cardboard box of rubbish outside a run-down set of flats; she had hair of red yarn, and a little snub nose, and her voice when I heard it in my head was a pleasant, young voice, with the optimistic innocence of untainted youth- innocence of eighteen once, innocence of fifteen now, but without the lightly ringing, raucous aftertone of a real voice; but then again it was only in my head after all. She didn’t say anything- she saw me and read my mind, and blushed, and laughed, and sighed, and didn’t say a word. I looked at her with wonder because dolls didn’t talk, or so I thought; and because it’s always easier to think back to forgotten pills than to open your eyes to magic, even though I believed in magic.

I was walking home, through a series of old apartments, rusty railings and grimy walls and drying, dripping clothes on indoor lines visible through the dirty, cement-specked panes of glass; and among a pile of rubbish left out by a doorstep, alongside tied-up black bags of waste food and a row of dark beer skittles in a group like a pile of bottles, using a cardboard box full of tiny broken toys and old dirty rags and drawn-on papers as a pillow and a sofa, was a beautiful red-haired rag-doll with rounded hands and long lanky legs ending in little oval feet wrapped in soft felt shoes; her skirt ending where her knees would be if she had had knees, shoulder-length hair of red woolly yarn, unblinking, wide-open gray eyes.

I felt so sad looking at her. The throwing out of dolls always made me sad. It reminds one of the temporary nature of love. As a child you love something so much, so completely, with all your heart- as a best friend, a mock-baby, a playmate, an eternal visitor to every tea-party, and you know it loves you back as unequivocally, and with more permanence- for as you get older you get bored of her, and then embarrassed of her, and then hate her for no fault of hers. You throw her out because you change, and morph into age, and loath to give all your heart freely… but she always stays the same, and waits hopelessly as she collects dust in a corner and is thrown out to become a nest for the rats and a home for the birds, still waiting for a reciprocated love again.

I knelt down in front of the beautiful little thing, and touched her cheek lightly with the curved inside tips of my fingers and sighed at her beauty and how lonely she would be; and how horrible the world was, a world where losing the ability to love wholly with all your heart is seen as the marker of transition from childhood to maturity, and I sighed, and she blushed, and giggled, and sighed.

I jumped, startled, and checked myself and looked at her again. She tilted her head up and looked at me and spoke to me in a laughing voice.

‘Yes, I’m magic,’ she said. ‘Is it that unbelievable?’

I looked at her, at her eyes, her nose, the slight upturn of her left lip in a half-smile in such a human expression, the pale rosy flush of her pale fuzzy cloth face.

‘You’re not going to leave me here to be thrown away.’ She said it as a statement. ‘The disposal here is straight to an incinerator.’

‘Do you mind if I pick you up?’, I asked carefully.

‘Well, I can’t exactly walk down the street with you’, she said. ‘Other people can’t see me move. Other people can’t hear me speak.’

I reached out a hand to her waist gingerly, and she shifted slightly and stood up a little straighter. I put my other hand on her waist and tried gently lifting her up a few inches first, and her head lolled backwards and she half-screamed. I quickly put her back down.

‘Lift me up like you would a child’, she said through almost-clenched teeth. ‘One hand between my shoulder blades.’

I moved my hand, the palm of my forearm supporting her back, holding her, and I could sense her discomfort by the stiff way she was in my arms, arching her back so that only my hands and the base of my arm near the elbow touched her. She seemed to hate the indignity of being carried like a child; her face was flushed, her mouth set. I gingerly held her in a way that my body didn’t touch hers, but when I extended my arms she sighed and laid her head across my shoulder and I heard her say ‘I’m so tired’ inside my head.

 

 

Chapter 2

 

The walk home was silent and awkward. As the doors to the elevator of my apartment closed, her back straightened again; her face regained the expression it had lacked when other people could see, she became alive again and tilted up her head to look at my face.

I pressed the button for the thirteenth floor. The elevator creaked, dropped a millisecond, and started rising ponderously upwards.

‘What’s your name?’, I asked.

‘Ann’, she said.

‘Like the one from Green Gables?’

She smirked. “She had auburn hair. Mine is red.’

I laughed.

‘Ann, like the doll. From the cartoon’, she elaborated. ‘I’m not an Ann, I just got the name because of the obvious similarities.’

The elevator laboured to a stop, overshooting a few inches before suddenly dropping back to the correct level. The doors clanged open. I moved her to one arm, wrapping it around her waist, and fumbled in my pocket for my keys. She let out a snort of laughter. I took out the keys, opened the door, and looked at her.

‘You act like you’re a teenager’. I was asking a question.

‘I am a teenager’, she said. ‘I’m eighteen.’

I was curious. ‘You mean as in it’s been eighteen- you’ve been here for eighteen years?’

‘No, do I look that old and worn-out to you?’. She sounded slightly affronted. ‘I’m eighteen in my head. My soul is eighteen.’

‘Do you have a soul?’, I asked.

She looked up, and her eyes looked hollow all of a sudden, sad and dead and unsure. ‘I should’, she said. ‘God isn’t that cruel.’

There was an awkward silence for a few moments as we both stood up at the doorstep, me with guilt, her looking stricken, lost, confused.

‘Come in’, I said, breaking the silence. ‘Oh wait, yeah, stupid of me’- I was holding her at the time. I carried her inside and gently put her down on the sofa, and went back to close the door.

‘Do you live alone?’, she asked.

I turned around.  ‘Yeah, doesn’t a good look around tell you?’. I gestured at the living room. It was small, and a mess. One of the walls was covered by an old-fashioned wooden bookshelf. The TV opposite the beat-up, overstuffed sofa was old, and a fine layer of dust, unaffected by the perfunctory weekly wipe with a rag, had settled inside the grooves of the speakers at the sides of the screen. There was a low coffee-table in front of the sofa, with a half-closed laptop accompanying, of course, an empty coffee mug, with a dark ring of condensation formed around the base forming a broken circle on the smudged, fingerprints-stained black glass off the table-top.

She straightened herself up on the sofa, propping herself up on her palms, and raised her eyebrows slightly, looking pointedly at the table in front of her; then she shrugged and let out a loud sigh in the infuriating way which seemed to be universal female lament for the sorry state of men.

‘What, I wouldn’t keep a house where I live alone all spick and span and sparkling, would I?’

‘Yes, yes, of course you wouldn’t’, she said, still in an exasperated voice, in what was a very exasperating tone. She shook her head to herself a few times, and then spoke up a bit more brightly. ‘So what do you usually do now at this time of the day?’

‘I, uh… eat dinner’, I replied.

‘Great, I’m starving’, she said, closing her eyes and leaning back against the sofa. ‘What’re you having?’

‘I’m gonna go microwave some pizza.’

She rolled her eyes, and after a moment looked slightly guilty and forced a light laugh. Then, speaking carefully, in a measured tone, ‘Can you bring a plate for me too?’, she asked.

I nodded.

She slid off the sofa and stood up. As she made her first steps, I looked at her in surprise.

‘You can walk?’

‘When nobody else is around, yeah…’ She walked over to me. Standing up, she barely reached up to my chest. She must have been only just above four feet high. She looked up at me.

‘I’m sorry for seeming rude’, she said, earnestly. ‘I’m not too good with people. I don’t really know too much how to act. I’m clueless, and I was covering for it with silliness.’

I smiled. ‘I’m only twenty-one, you know. I meet tons of girls who act that way and who’re your age. No big deal, really. I’m cool with it. I’ll go put the pizza in.’

 

I took two slices of pepperoni off the carton and plopped them down onto my plate, the molten cheese stringing over my fingers. I was eating at the table for the first time in days- I was more used to having my meals in front of the television watching the evening football. She was seated facing me. I had taken some spare cushions that were too hard for me to use for their intended purpose, and used them as a stable way to prop up her seat at the table.

‘Want some pizza?’, I asked.

‘Yeah’.

I took a fork and spoon this time, and attempted to manoeuvre a slice of pizza into a position where I could harpoon it with the fork and lift it over to her plate. As I reached out to fumble with the pizza, she butted in. ‘No, no, I don’t eat real food, remember?’

I looked at her stupidly. ‘But you said you wanted some pizza.’

She sighed, and began patiently. ‘Remember how any little girls you’ve known feed their dolls at tea parties? Sadly, that’s only how I can eat. You need to do that, put some food on my plate, and I’ll eat.’

I raised my eyebrows at her, then proceeded to try and spear an imaginary slice of pizza on my spoon and fork- a much easier task to negotiate than a real slice- and act out plopping down a slice on her plate. She primly sat up straight and started eating with also invisible cutlery, cutting off small pieces of the pizza and gingerly putting it in her mouth, before chewing slowly and swallowing cautiously.

A minute or so passed in silence.

‘’Hey, how come you talk anyway?’, I eventually asked.

She smiled mysteriously. ‘Our life finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, good in everything; and maybe a companion, a friend, in a me?’

‘Since when did dolls read Shakespeare? Let alone quote him in completely the wrong context?’, I questioned, laughing.

‘Since when did dolls talk?’, she responded instantly. ‘Not too great a leap of the imagination, is it?’

I thought it over for a few seconds.

‘So which one is your favourite?’

‘Antony and Cleopatra’, she replied. ‘Yours?’

‘Macbeth.’

‘Yeah, I liked that one too.’

‘I also liked Romeo and Juliet. The poetry.’

‘The language? The great declarations of love?’ She grinned. ‘Should’ve known you were a hopeless romantic at heart from the minute I walked into your apartment, what with a shelf full of books.’

I ate my last mouthful of pizza and stood up. She also stood after eating one last piece. ‘Thanks for the pizza’, she said. ‘It was really delicious.’

‘You’re welcome’, I said blandly.

She waited there, standing at the table and looking at me as if she wanted to say something. I looked at her and raised my eyebrows questioningly.

‘Do I… So, do I stay here? There’s nothing I can do outside… I mean I can’t move or talk anywhere else, and I’d probably get thrown away if you just left me outside…’

I gaped at her. I hadn’t thought of that angle of things. And as I looked at her in surprise she tapped her feet on the floor and swayed a little from side to side, looking up at me with a hopeful expression.

‘Umm… well, yeah I guess so’, I said.

She smiled. Outside, the low red rays of the setting sun slanted in through the closed window, creeping slowly across the floor, resting for now just touching the sides of her feet.

‘So… will you be sleeping in the bedroom?’, I asked.

‘No;, she said. ‘The whole bed would be too big for me anyway. The sofa is very comfortable.’

‘Are you sure?’, I asked, for politeness sake.

‘Yeah, I’m sure’, she said patiently. ‘Alright, it’s still early, what do you usually do from now until you sleep?’

‘I don’t know’, I said. ‘Different things different days? But tonight I’ll probably watch TV. There’s a footie game on at 7.30, in like ten minutes or so… Would you like to watch?’

She smirked slightly. ‘Twenty-two guys chasing a ball. What’s not to like? I think I’ll just read tonight. Do you have any good books for me to read right now?’

I pulled a book of the shelf with a dramatic flourish. ‘How about… a courtroom thriller?’

She took the book from me.

‘The Case of the Velvet Claws?’. She arched her eyebrows over the thin paperback, then suddenly grinned. ‘Haha, I get it, velvet claws!’

I grinned back. ‘I never noticed that before, you know. But that’s kinda like… One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.’

‘How so?’, she enquired.

‘Cuckoos don’t have nests. Get it?’

‘Oh yeah…’ She turned the book over. ‘Perry Mason, attorney-sleuth extraordinaire, and his faithful secretary the demure Della Street… Sounds simply sensational.’ She sounded sceptical.

‘No, Perry Mason is actually totally awesome’, I said. ‘I wanted to be a lawyer when I was in high school after I read these books… Until I figured out that your average lawyer wasn’t as high-minded and honourable as Mister Perry Mason.’ I grinned. ‘Figuring out that all lawyers didn’t have a gorgeous secretary with a perfect personality also helped.’

‘Hmm…’ She said thoughtfully, ‘alright, I’ll take your word on it.’ Holding the book tightly between both hands, she disappeared into my room. I fell into the sofa and turned the TV on.

 

 

Chapter 3

 

I stepped out of bed and went outside to check on Ann from where she was sleeping on my sofa. It was easily big enough for her, and she was curled up under a thin mattress, her face buried into a pillow that was over half her size. She moved groggily as I peeked my head out of the bedroom door, and lifted herself up on her elbows.

‘Hello’, she said sleepily. I stepped out and waved at her, then went to the bathroom to freshen up before work.

I brushed my teeth and washed my face with cold water. After lathering my face with shaving cream, I realized the blade was blunt, and opened the cabinet by the mirror to take out a new one. There, right next to the bottle of minty-green Listerine on the second shelf was a little bottle with red and white capsules with ‘One every morning’ written with a black marker on it.

I looked at it ponderingly, distrustfully. It really was quite unnecessary to follow it now. There was really no danger involved. I hadn’t taken one for the past five days, unable to bear the nausea that would set in by dark when I did. Side effects. The world takes too much medicine. Maybe that’s why everyone on earth seems crazy. I ignored the little cylinder of dark glass, and picked out a new blade from a packet in the bottom corner.

I shaved, took a shower, and went back outside after changing into a clean T-shirt and office trousers. She sat up sleepily as I stepped out into the living room.

‘Hey.’

‘Hey.’

She cocked her head and looked at me hesitatingly for a few seconds.

‘How long before you go to work?’, she asked.

‘Another hour or so’, I replied.

‘Are you gonna be busy for that hour or so?’

‘No’, I replied. ‘Why?’

‘Umm… My hair is all tangled up, and I can’t hold a brush…’ She paused and looked up at me. I motioned for her to continue.

‘Can you brush out my hair for me?’

I looked at her in surprise.

‘My old owner used to brush out my hair every morning’, she said. She sounded almost apologetic.

I said nothing.

‘As a friend?’, she said hopefully.

‘Yeah’, I said. ‘Sure’.

She sat up, and patted the seat next to her on the sofa.

‘Let me go get a hairbrush’, I said, and went to get one from the bathroom. When I came back she had bunched up the sheet under which she had slept and cast it to one side, and was sitting with her body sideways, facing away from where I was going to be sitting.

 

Of course, some things were strange at first with our little arrangement.

I’d gotten used to the comforts of living alone- being able to put off having to clean up, being able to open any door any time, or have any door open any time, eating junk food when I felt too lazy to whip up anything and was too broke to order.

Also, having a girl around was a bit awkward, even if she wasn’t a human girl, technically.

Her age was especially awkward. Eighteen was still young enough for me to not really get her sort of girlish enthusiasm and energy about things I found silly… like when she kept on monopolizing the remote to watch MTV; but it was also old enough for the sort of awkwardness that two people of different sexes living together can produce, especially when she was as dependent as she was on me for certain things, like brushing her hair.

I don’t know how she changed or showered, all I know is that she’d ask for the room to shower and get dressed, and then she’d take ages and ages and come out all fresh. But then again, since when did magic ever make sense?

It was strange, and shy, and awkward. I was had been too shy to even talk to girls before. Now here was one living with me, living in my house. But she wasn’t really a girl, but she was.

It was awkward, and strange, and shy.

 

 

Chapter 5

 

I woke up one night for a glass of water, and opened the door to see the sofa and the back of her head silhouetted against the flickering bluish light coming from the television in the living room. The screen cast a flickering blue-white shadow. I walked over groggily to the fridge and got a glass of water. Ann-silhouette turned her head around at the click of the door.

I walked over to her. ‘Hi’, I said sleepily.

‘Hi’, she said, sniffing.

‘Why are you crying?’ I asked.

She glared at me. ‘What, is your heart made out of stone?’

I looked at the screen. ‘A Walk to Remember?’

‘Yes’.

‘It is sad’, I said, trying to sound a little more consoling, or a little more understanding. ‘But it’s just a movie, you know. I mean, of course you know that. But it’s not real.’

‘It’s as real as I am’, she snapped.

‘But you are real. Really, actually real.’

‘And so are they’, she said. ‘In some world. Did you know that all stories, every single story that has been ever written or drawn or filmed or told, is actually real? And they happen when you write them down, but in some other dimension, some other frame of existence. That’s the infinite universes of physics- the infinite number of stories in the history of the world… It’s why fairy tales have happy endings, happily ever afters, and why sad stories break my heart. And if you ever tell anyone a story, if you ever tell anyone our story, even, you have to give it a happy ending, in a valley of lilies, riding off into the sunset… even if that doesn’t happen, even if it’s not true…so that in some other world, those people, you and I and anyone else, would be happy.’

 

 

Chapter 6

 

‘I want to go to that’, Ann told me suddenly.

We were watching television. Advertisements, actually. Of movies.

‘Why?’ I asked her.

‘I’m bored out of my brain’, she said sulkily. ‘Well what do you expect a teenage girl to be doing stuck all day and night in a very male house with nothing to do, and nobody to talk to except when you get home from work at like, seven?’

‘But aren’t you having fun here?’ I said.

She rolled her eyes. ‘Oh yes. Most girls in the world have that kind of social life, I never knew. Go out approximately zero times in an entire lifetime. Big whoop.’

‘That’s different…’

Her eyes flashed. ‘And pray tell me, how exactly is it different? Every other girl in the world is somehow better than me cos they were born with flesh and blood, and beautiful? With this-‘ she pointed angrily at the rough woolly peach cloth of her arm, ‘and looking like some ridiculous mass-produced thing, I should be even further punished somehow by being hidden away locked up inside somewhere cos I’m so ridiculous?’

‘No!’, I said vehemently. ‘Look, its just, sort of, a delicate situation to go out together, okay? I mean-‘

Her expression changed suddenly. ‘Wait. Are you ashamed to be seen with me? You’re ashamed of me, aren’t you?’

‘No!’, I said loudly. ‘Look, I just mean that people don’t go out with, you know…‘

‘So you are just ashamed to be seen in public with me’, she said icily. ‘Okay fine then. I won’t force it on you. But I’m going to my room now and don’t you dare disturb me while I’m there. Oh, and to while the time, just do this, okay? Go on the internet and google the name Lee Jin-Gyu. And Uwe Mitzscherlich.’

‘Who are they?’ I asked her, as she got off the sofa and walked stiffly towards the room.

‘Men with more guts than you’ll ever have’, she said coldly. Then she reached the bedroom, with the door closed, and stopped in front of it.

‘Can you come and open the door?’ she said, still trying to be icy, but her voice cracked.

I went over and silently opened the door for her and she walked in stiffly, shaking. I suddenly felt weak at the knees, devastated, struck with sudden sorrow at her hurt and her frustration at not being able to make an exit, to need me even when she didn’t want to, when she wanted not to, for the little things, like opening doors… And quickly, as she entered, I quietly closed the door behind her to spare her the pain of asking me again.

 

 

Chapter 7

 

I went over to my laptop, as she had asked me to, and searched for those names… and reading about them I was struck with both a sense of guilt, and a sudden realization. Both the names she had told me about were people who had been in love with something they’d been close with, something that wasn’t human to the outside world either… both stories were about people who had decided to spend their lives with those loves, publicly marry those loves.

And in the parallel that Ann drew between us and them instead of a hundred other stories, I felt a little dazed, a little shocked. Because what I realized was that, in all the time we’d spent together, all the time we’d lived together, she felt a certain way, and she wanted those feelings to be reciprocated. And I realized that, in all the time we’d lived together, all the time we’d talked and joked and played games, I did feel the same, like I’d found someone perfect, someone who I’d have thought couldn’t be true, was just a figment of my imagination, if I didn’t undeniably just know in my heart that she was real, she was magic. And that I wanted to go out with her. Even if people would stare, and even if we had to act one way or the other so that people wouldn’t suspect anything.

So I went over to the bedroom and knocked lightly on the door.

‘It’s open, of course’, she yelled sarcastically from inside the room. ‘It’s not like my hands can lock it anyway, is it? Cos I’m not a real girl, or at least a real girl the way you call it?’

I walked in. ‘I’m sorry, okay? That’s not how I meant it. Really.’

She glared at me from the bed. ‘So how did you mean it?’

‘I read about those people you told me about’, I told her seriously.

She looked at me, a flashing look of sudden understanding, of the same sudden realization that I’d known what she’d said- revealed?- in that moment, and then we looked away from each other.

I looked at her. ‘Let’s go out. Today. Now.’

Her eyes lit up, a bit in relief, but also at the unsaid implication that flowed between us now, that I knew, she knew, she knew I knew, and that we were still fine, we were still going on with it… that we were implicitly going on with it.

‘Now?’, she said, the token doubt rendered unconvincing by the thrilled tone in her voice. ‘Isn’t it too late?’

‘No. It’s seven. It’s not like you have anyone who’s gonna ground you even if you get home late, do you? Come on, let’s be a little impulsive!’

She grinned. ‘It’s so unlike you to be impulsive.

‘Oh well’, I looked at her steadily. ‘I do act unlike myself sometimes. With you.’

‘Haha.’ She smiled. ‘Now get outta the room. I gotta change.’

 

 

Chapter 8

 

So we went out. People stared at us, but neither of us noticed.

The strange proximity that outings like these forced upon us had made this day, this outing, awkward for the both of us. She couldn’t walk or move when anyone else but me was there, and when she spoke she made no sound, but I just heard her voice in my head… So I had to carry her as we walked, as we got our tickets in a row where there’d be empty seats to either side of us, so that she could have her own seat, as we walked into the cinema. When you’re a twenty-year-old guy, holding an 18-year-old girl is always… especially when there are romantic feelings between you, especially when those feelings are manifest but still unspoken, and hanging in the air, making it thick, making it hard to think, so you feel tense, and nervous… And when you’re an 18-year-old girl, or when you’re anyone, being at the complete mercy of someone else is always uncomfortable, as is feeling like a burden, or a weight… especially when there’s still-unspoken romantic feelings between you, and you’re already tense, and thrilled, and nervous.

She wanted to get a happy movie, so we went to a romantic comedy- because you know how all of them end, so you knew it’d end happy. And it did.

After that, she wanted to go to a nice restaurant to eat. ‘A nice date restaurant type of place’, she said. ‘We always get takeout or fast food at home. It’d be a nice change from pizza and Chinese. Gourmet food, you know, for a change. Something class.’ So we did. Something classy. A server showed us to a table and I gently put her on the chair opposite mine, and smiled at her.

She smiled back, her eyes still thrilled, her smile shy and nervous.

A waiter walked over to us.

‘What’ll you have, sir?’, he asked, his tone more insulting than polite, his lip curled up slightly as he stared at Ann, and then back at me.

‘He can’t hear me’, she whispered urgently, and I could feel that she wanted to wave, or gesticulate, and that being still when anyone else was around was infuriating her. ‘He can’t see me move, say something!’

I looked around, and beckoned at the man to lean down.

‘My little girl, she demands that this doll is real, and that I treat it like a real person’, I said lightly, smiling knowingly at the waiter. ‘She’s four… You know how kids are.’

The waiter smiled, the kind of overly large smile people make when they are trying to overcompensate for past rudeness. ‘Oh yes, of course’, he said. ‘And, pardon me for asking, but where is your daughter at the moment?’

I smiled that knowing smile again. ‘Oh, she’s out shopping for clothes with my wife, but they might be coming in here anytime, so you know, I gotta do this… wouldn’t want my little Ann throwing a tantrum, would I, right?’

He nodded vigorously.

‘So, what will your order be, sir?’

‘I’ll have a chicken wrap with fries… and a cheese sandwich for her’, I said.

The waiter looked at me a little strangely, then smiled and went off. I looked at Ann, expecting to see a shared conspiratorial triumph at how I’d pulled the lie off, but her expression was cold and hard-set, her lips pursed together; it seemed like she was barely holding back anger, and I was confused, because why would she be angry?

‘So?’ I questioned.

She gave me a hard-eyed glare. ‘You bastard’.

I opened my mouth to speak, but she interrupted me. ‘You bastard. You really couldn’t come up with any other name? Was that a sly dig at me, or something, that’s what you think of me, like some little kid who lives in your house who has to be treated like a little kid, like some little daughter or something?’

I looked at her in shock for a moment, then spoke. ‘No! I swear I didn’t mean anything like that, honest to God, I didn’t.’

‘Then why’d you say my name?’

‘That was just the first name that came into my head! You were there so it was just the first name that popped into my head so that’s why I said it. Happy?’

‘No I’m not!’

‘Well, what’d-‘, I suddenly realized my voice was rising to match her loud high angry silent voice in my head, and quickly lowered my tone.

‘Well, what’d you want then? What’s the problem?’ I whispered at her.

‘Stop being ashamed of me!’, she snapped.

‘I’m not! Stop thinking like that, okay? I like you enough, okay, so stop acting like you think I don’t, or like I’m just putting up with you. A world  like this you have to hide things sometimes, you know? People would think I’m crazy. They’d take me away. They’d take you away from me, too. I like you enough so I don’t want that to happen. So I gotta fake for now, alright?’

She gave me a hurt, dead-eyed look. ‘But why? I hate what’s like, keeping all this in a closet, all this time. I hate it. Maybe if people came out and admitted things they were afraid of admitting because people would think they were crazy, maybe if people did that, then it wouldn’t be such a big deal? Is not taking that risk now taking the moral low road? Keeping our… friendship on the down low, sacrificing something as nice as being able to be open and free, over what people think? I want to be open now. I want to have fun. Maybe then other people will also be there who understand. Maybe people will decide  to understand. Maybe people will think and realize maybe it’s just that you see something they don’t and that it’s not cos you’re crazy, it’s not like they can prove what you see isn’t still real but just something they can’t see, is it? Maybe people will realize that, and we’ll get a Nobel prize for making people realize that and people they just say are crazy can be free and open too. Maybe I’m being silly and unrealistic now, okay I am, but being realistic… maybe there’ll be other 18 year old girls who’ll actually be willing to believe I’m real? To be friends with me? Who won’t just be cruel, but who’ll be willing to open to their minds to that? Even if there’s someone who’ll talk to be cos they think it’s a possibility  that I can hear them and love them, even that, I want that. I want that so, so much.’

I looked at her helplessly. ‘I don’t know. I’d love to be idealistic, but I don’t know… but even if we do, it won’t be right here, all of a sudden, is it? We have to wait…’

‘Why?’ she asked vehemently, then slumped, looking defeated. ‘No need to answer that, I know why… it’s a seductive idea though, isn’t it? The possibility?’

‘Yeah’ I said, not whispering now.

She smiled at me, this time genuinely. ‘I’m sorry. I don’t know. I feel awful for accusing you. I feel awful a lot of the time. I hate being so out of place, I wish I could just be completely normal.’

‘Chill a little.’ I smiled at her. ‘You let all this get to you too much. Have a little fun. Also, next time, just always assume whenever you think there’s a matter of doubt that I meant it the nicer possible way.’

She laughed. ‘Okay… today I’ll just not think about any of those things and just have fun. How’s that?’

‘Just forget it all.’

‘Yeah, I’ll just forget it all’, she smiled back.

 

 

Chapter 9

 

And so we decided to just forget it all. We had our classy dinner at our gourmet restaurant, and we went around the shopping mall, her taking in the sights with a delight that was almost childlike in its intensity, me feeling a sort of rush, a feeling of liberation, seeing people staring and laughing at it, not caring one bit what people thought.

She told me where to go, so we walked around on every floor and every avenue, starting from the ground floor and going up. We stepped into stores with designer clothes, and when she saw that all of them were too big for her, tonight she just laughed and didn’t feel sad, and we’d go on to the next window. And we went on and up, and it was wonderful. We stopped at a customized T-shirt store and she made me buy customized rock T-shirts for the both of us. A Marilyn Manson one for me, she said, screeching with laughter. ‘Your taste in music sucks, you listen to all these soft songs’, she’d said. ‘It’s like you’re fifty, not twenty’, so she’d get me the most outrageously rock shirt she could think of. She wanted to get shirts for Paramore and My Chemical Romance, and one of the Beatles just cos everyone loved the Beatles, and a whole bunch of button-up pins of all her favourite bands, so I asked for them at the counter. The salesgirl, with piercings on her ears and nose and a shock of jet-black hair, looked at me like I was out of my mind as she packed a bunch of girls’ rock shirts and band pins into a bag and handed it to me over the counter. I just smiled at her awkwardly.

She’d always wear those from then on, long T-shirts that reached up to her knees, with bold stripes of black and purple or red or blue, and band logos, with five or six pins on the chest. For all that she called me old-fashioned and boring, I kinda liked her in those, sitting curled up on the side of the sofa, with tousled hair and colourful array of rock-band pins. It seemed to evoke having a feeling of being young and exciting again, going out and falling for girls and following current music… things I hadn’t done in forever.

We walked on through the mall, her excitement contagious, joking with each other, me in whispers, her out loud, but only I could hear her, walking by the shop windows and looking inside them, one at a time, and then suddenly she stopped. I said something, but she didn’t reply, and then suddenly I noticed what was inside the shop window of the Toys R’ Us we’d been walking in front of, and why she was-

I put her down, gently so that she wouldn’t notice.

She was silent, staring through the glass at the box with the brand-new doll with bright red wool for hair and a little snub nose, and rosy woollen cheeks in a little plaid dress.

‘Ann?’, I called softly, after a while.

She didn’t turn around, but answered a little hoarsely.

‘Yes. Can you please give me some time alone right now?’

‘Can she ta-‘

She cut me off, but with a sudden sharp pain in her voice. ‘Please.’

I stopped, and was silent for a moment. She kept on staring at the unspeaking, unmoving face that was identical to her own, except that it had a fixed smile to her wavering vitality, and plastic eyes to her stricken, shining ones.

After a few long moments, I spoke again. ‘But… how can I leave? Won’t you fall if I leave you there?’

She didn’t say anything, but sunk a little bit lower against the glass in my arms. I felt a sudden burst of concern, and pity, somewhat, but I knew how she felt, somewhat, to some degree, I guess… if lost was what she felt, and confused, alone, like she didn’t know what she was for, and what was real, then I did. Sometimes I felt like I was staring across the glass at someone who was like me, but different.

I squeezed her shoulder lightly. ‘Come on away, Ann’.

She did. Suddenly, everything we’d decided to forget had come rushing back… I tried walking around a little more, trying to cheer her up by showing her funny adverts and signs on the stores, but she was blank and silent and lost, so we just went home.

 

 

Chapter 10

 

A conversation.

‘You told me you weren’t a girl. A teenage girl. Remember the first time we met when you laughed off the idea that you were a silly human?’

Her face contorted a little. ‘That was just cos I was just beginning…’

‘But you’d seen all these shows and read all those books and stuff even when we first met!’

She grimaced. ‘Look, stop asking so many questions, okay? Don’t be nosy. Magic works in strange ways, just live with that. Maybe I didn’t think so then cos I hadn’t had the time to form an identity. Or think about it too much. I mean, you may know what you’re called from the start, but what you are is something you have to figure out. You know?’

‘Why?’ I asked her.

‘Because everything is ambiguous. You may start off knowing that what you are is what is called a human, and that what the toys in your house or the cat that you keep as a pet are called such and such, but then over time and for some time, they become people. Playmates or companions or family. And they seem to become anthropomorphized. Your dolls answer and play games with you, your pets understand and comforts you when you’re down, though science and common sense say they can’t and shouldn’t.

And isolated, they can’t. But your thoughts and your emotions and your feelings give things life and souls. Your feelings is the soul of your toys that talk to you and your pets that console you and art or music that speak to you and movies or books that seem meant for you. Nothing is really real. Everything around you is this amalgam of ideas and memories and experiences and dreams and consciousness, and everything you pass by is affected for the moment by your thoughts and your feelings. You can never see the true character of anything because to see is to pass through and affect it. And to see a photograph or a movie, would be doing the same, because what you see in it or what it means to you is all affected as it passes through you and by you.

And then when your feeling changes, and you move on, those toys are no longer playmates, and those pets are no longer people. And when everything is really the same thing, the only way you know what you are is with your thoughts, what you think, how you feel. Not what you’re made of, or what you look like. If this were all a dream, what intrinsic difference would be there between me and a real girl except what we look like? And if in your dreams somehow those real girls turned into looking like dolls, you’d call them real girls, wouldn’t you? And that’s the same here. All life is a dream, and I’m a person because I think and feel like one, but you can never really think of me as one, because somehow for you me having cloth instead of flesh in this dream makes me unreal, some life stuck inside a lifeless receptacle, not the way you can see a whole human girl and think of her as alive, her body and her mind and her thoughts as alive, not as some spirit in a lifeless body. So that’s what I am in the end. And that’s what will always keep us apart.’

She looked at me. Her eyes seemed full of sadness.

‘Do you know? When we were little girls ourselves. Little doll-girls, our first years, being a kid, not in my teens like now. We have best friends, little girls our age, human-by-birth girls, who talk to us and play with us and dress-up and feed and complain to us. Then they grow up, and they go for boys or school or other things. Cool things. And they stop liking us. That’s the only human experience I’ve had before, so do you blame me for worrying that someday you’ll find other people, and cooler things, some object of your desire, and just leave me? Convince yourself that you were just imagining things and hide me in some attic so that you wouldn’t have to see me or think about me, so you could live guiltlessly with someone, a friend or a lover, in this apartment, blocking me out in your memory?’

 

 

Chapter 11

 

Maria, of course, demanded I go see my doctor. For someone who is ostensibly my sister, she’s a pretty horrible one sometimes. Sisters are supposed to believe you, and believe in you, not just assume things.

‘But look, dear, we both know you’ve been sick.’, she said. ‘Don’t you think it’s a real possibility that this could be just the same thing? Considering?’

‘No’, I said irately. ‘First, stop acting like I’m some kind of freak. I was ‘sick’ a while ago. I’m pretty sure I don’t even need the pills any more. No difference between when I take them or when I don’t, anyway. And even then I wasn’t really that sick. And I never saw things before, did I? Not even like, just visions, as opposed to an entire living person?’

She sighed, opened her mouth to speak, then stayed silent. To her probably every possible form of any such problems were probably one and the same. She probably thought that just because of what I’d had, there’d be possibility of not only me somehow imagining whole new things but maybe even having multiple personalities and running after her with a knife thinking aliens were out to get me. Stupid people with stupid pop culture views on things.

Maria had called Dr Jacobsen before we went over, so he knew what the situation apparently was.

‘Look, Doc’, I said, as I entered the room. ‘Isn’t this kinda too dreadfully logical for it to be just a hallucination? I mean, look. Wouldn’t she be walking and talking when other people are around if I really was crazy?’

I could sense him open his mouth to say something, but I cut him off. I knew that without a doubt he was going to tell me that no, he wouldn’t use the word ‘crazy’, that’s not what he meant at all, and more drivel. ‘Why only when nobody else is around? Doesn’t that make a lot of sense?’

I looked at him defiantly. He sighed, took his glasses off and wiped the lenses with his shirt, and looked up at me wearily in a patient way.

I could tell he was feeling really self-righteous at the moment, like the master of wisdom teaching a wayward child who is too stubborn to accept the truth about himself. And I can bet that if you had asked him that exact moment if he was feeling self-righteous he would have denied it. You could read the sanctimonious idiot with his silly little beard and useless degree like a goddamn book. I would probably be better at being his psychiatrist than him mine.

And sure enough, he spouted some pretentious, pandering lines at me like I was a little child, and sent me out of the office and called Maria in.

I waited outside while they talked for half an hour, and then I went home.

 

 

Chapter 12

 

I turned the key and walked into my apartment. To my surprise, it was dark. Ann was nowhere to be seen.

She’d usually be watching television, or in the living room reading, with band pins colourful across her chest, eating popcorn or chips from an empty bowl on the sofa seat next to her, knees folded up against her, the pages almost touching her nose. Twisting a woolly strand of red hair through a folded fingerless hand, folding her hands to grasp the lock of hair, moving her forearm slightly since she couldn’t move her wrist in a full circle.

It was an affected gesture; it didn’t come naturally to her- you couldn’t, not without fingers- but she still always held a long strand of red in the cleave of her folded palm, always turned her hand in that little circle. It broke my heart every time I saw it. She was not a teenage girl, and she never forgot it, light-hearted as she seemed, and every time I saw, my eyes would rest on that continuous circling motion, then blur over with a sort of helpless pity as I would suddenly realize, once again, the depth of her desire to just be a girl… and I’d go to my room before stepping back out to go talk to her. But today she wasn’t there, and it was dark.

I switched on the light and immediately noticed a thick paperback textbook on the coffee-table, lying open face-down, its spine arched, the glossy pages just slightly sticking onto the tabletop as I picked it up, like a lover’s lingering caress. It was a biology textbook, from the shelf, and it was open to the chapter on human body systems. I felt a rush of sadness and pity as I looked at the pages, at the diagrams of a four-chambered heart, the Mandelbrot tree of the lungs, a folded, grey, brain, sparkling with electricity; a womb, cross-section inside a smiling picture of a pregnant woman- a picture, a drawing, less a human than a rag doll, but she had a womb, and a red, curled-up little baby, and she was smiling and happy, and why wouldn’t she be?

She must be in the room.

A glistening tear fell onto the page, on to the face of the happy, smiling, swelled-up woman- I tilted the book to let the drop fall, and it ran down, from her eyes through her foetus to the bottom of the page, and for a second it was like she, too, felt the sadness and sorrow that both the sad and sorrowful occupants of this house felt. I thought I should stay in the living room for a while and give her some time alone before I walked into my bedroom. I turned on the television set, and made my way through fifteen minutes of a talk show- the host had invited her beautiful blond wife to the set- before I switched the set off, stood up, stretched, and walked over to the bedroom.

The door was closed. I rapped on it lightly.

‘Come in! The door isn’t locked. I can’t lock the doors myself, remember?’

Her voice sounded bitter and laced with irony. I turned the doorknob and entered the room. She was sitting in the bed, resting her head against my headrest. There was a box of Kleenex beside her, and half a dozen or so crumpled up tissues littered around her knees. The tissues were all dry, all clean.

‘I’ve been crying, but I have no tears’, she stated, in a forcedly matter-of-fact tone.

She stuck out her arms, palms-up, straight out at me, and I saw the cruel slashes of the light pink cloth, the fuzzy strands of cotton peeking out from between the ripped skin. I looked at her in shock, at her wrists, then at her blank, expressionless face.

‘I’ve been cut, but I have no blood’, she said, casually, a dull monotone. ‘Razors to my wrists, but I can’t bleed. I have no blood, no heart…’

She looked at me, a long gaze, her features worked, her lips turned down in a grimace, her eyes full of loss.

‘All I want is for you to love me, but I’m just a doll’, she whispered, her voice wavering. ‘All I want is for you to hold my hands, but I have no fingers, all I want is for you to kiss me, but I have no mouth…’

‘Don’t say that’, I said.

‘Why shouldn’t I?’ she replied anguishedly. ‘It’s true!’

‘But it doesn’t matter’, I told her. I leant across and kissed her softly on the mouth, lightly, just pressing my lips against hers. She was static, silent, a statue, and I pulled away after a long, searching moment, to look at her.

She was looking at me blankly.

‘I’m sorry’, she said. ‘You see my lips. They can’t move, my mouth. I can’t yell, or shout, or kiss, or make a sound.’

‘But you can talk to me.’

She sighed. ‘All that you hear me say is me speaking inside your head.’

I looked into her eyes. ‘But you can also eat, and drink, and talk. All you need to do is imagine it. Magic works in strange ways. We’ve got to remember that.’

She smiled. ‘Okay… Kiss me.’

I leant in and kissed her again, and this time she closed her eyes, and the kiss lasted forever.

‘This love will never last’, she said morosely, later, perched up at the end of the bed.

I reached over and kissed her lightly on the lips. ‘Don’t be silly. Why wouldn’t it?’

She sighed.

‘Everything in this world is pulling us apart.’

‘What do you mean?’

She put out her hands. ‘Time… I’m a girl with a body that will grow old and worn in a few years. You’ve seen… little girls keep them and play with them and it’s only a few years, and they’re old and worn… but you’re still just beginning the bloom of your health. And soon everything will change. And humanity, not what’s in your soul but what’s in your blood. That part of being human which we don’t share. You may love me now, but will it ever last? With me, this way? I don’t know… I wish I had a voice, a real voice. One that made a sound. I wish I had real eyes, with colours, eyes that can dance and sparkle, that you can look into. I wish I had real skin, real nerves, so I could feel your touch not just in my head, but physically, in my stomach, and in my knees. I wish I had real legs, beautiful long legs, so I could walk away from you and towards  I wish I had real legs, beautiful long legs, so I could walk away from you and towards you, and you could see them and not only love me but want me. But for now everything is pulling us apart, and it’s only a matter of time, so let’s make them wonderful.’

 

 

Chapter 13

 

I thought that was it. I thought that was the beginning of a time when we’d be together, and we’d be happy, but it wasn’t. In a way, it was like things coming out in the open, expectations being reset. Before, when things were unspoken, just being with each other seemed enough; the thrill of it hung in the air, it was something exciting and breathless and new and surprising, and because nothing was spoken, no promises made or implied, that was all we wanted, that was enough.

Everything went downhill, rushed downhill.

Everything seemed to be falling apart; the fury of feeling between us seemed something angry and bitter, the wrong kind of depth of feeling.

Perhaps that’s what happens, when a relationship is finally crystallized, named, labelled. Suddenly each of you has a right over the other. Suddenly there is expectation, and the burden of trust. Suddenly things are meant to be a certain way. Perhaps jealousy and bitterness was inevitable… And in a way I understood, and I wanted so badly to tell her that I understood. But how difficult is it to tell someone that you understand things that they’ve never expressly said, and possibly don’t even realize is what they feel?

So I could never tell her, and she could never know. At first things were fine, but then she’d get snappy and irritable whenever I went out anywhere, spend long stretches of the day sulkily, moodily, reply sarcastically whenever I asked a question… She got more and more distant, and she’d pull away whenever I leaned in for a kiss, or ignore me if I sat on the sofa for all the hours she spent watching MTV until after I’d gone to bed.

She hated not being a girl with flesh and blood, that she couldn’t live life, that she didn’t have friends; she hated that I could go out, that I might meet other people, that I would see other people; she hated the television she watched, and the full-blooded, partying, tanned, healthy girls her age she saw there; and strangely, the more she longed to be human, the more she’d make disparaging remarks about those human girls, or these human people, or me. And she hated me for the capability of my body to produce hormones, and she felt bitter and angry, cuttingly, so often, telling me that I should just go out and be with someone who I could physically be with, cos that’s what I wanted, wasn’t it… And being together wasn’t wonderful anymore. It wasn’t thrilling and exciting and awkward and unbelievable, like it was before. At times it felt like we couldn’t stand each other, and that our life at home was just a routine- I’d get home from work, put her imaginary pizza on a plastic plate on the coffee table by the TV where she’d be, eat silently, and go to bed after exchanging heartless good-nights…

And the worst part was that I did  understand. That I also did feel lonely and out-of-place in this world full of people. I could have told her that. I could have also told her that to me, she was the most human thing in my life, if humanity was personality and soul that hers was the only one I felt close to, the only one that I could really open up to. That if she was jealous of flesh and blood, she shouldn’t be, because with her there what appeal did everyone else have to me? They were all things I could have said, that I probably should have said. But I didn’t, because it’s uncomfortable, and we always tend to put off things that are soul-baring, honest, uncomfortable for afterwards, even until it’s too late; and because it’s hard to tell someone you understand things they’ve never expressly said, and don’t even realize is exactly what they feel, and why they’re feeling what they think they’re feeling.

And because each time, when everything seems about to pile up, then there’s one day or one moment that’s loving, or tender, one night where everything seems all right, or one conversation where we could talk and bare our souls and tell each other that we did miss each other, and decide to make things better from then on. But then again the next day things would be back, but the memory of those good moments are enough to be a hope that they’d come back, enough to show that beneath all of the now what really was that we were still very much in love… So for all those reasons we put it off, and let tensions grow.

And the tension near to breaking, every day.

 

On this day I got home from work a bit late. I came home with good intentions. I was feeling cheerful. I’d brought pizza and her favourite chocolate muffins, and I was determined to be effusively romantic, really make things up, close the chapter on bitterness and go back to how things were.

I rang the bell.

‘Come in’, her voice rang, sarcastically.

I walked in and smiled at her, gesturing at the bags I was holding in my hand. She didn’t look at me.

‘Where were you?’

‘I was a bit late at work today’, I told her.

‘Really?’. Her voice was cold.

‘Yes, really!’, I answered heatedly.

‘I’m not stupid’, she said icily. ‘I’ve seen stuff like this before in the movies, it’s not like I was born yesterday. Late night at work, huh? With who? Some human girl in your office?’ Her lips curled up disparagingly as she said ‘human’, as they did so much lately.

‘Oh, get over yourself’, I snapped. ‘What’d you think, that somehow having you in my house nowadays was gonna do such things to my libido that I’d have to do it with some girl at work only now after years of going to work?’

‘But-‘, she began, and then stopped. ‘That’s not how I meant it.’ Her voice didn’t sound angry anymore, but a little pitiful, and for some reason the sudden change in her voice, how it had sounded weak and almost pathetic, made me get even angrier somehow, some anger at how she could accuse me of things and then just change her tack and it was okay each time, cos I never said anything, but mostly misdirected, confused anger at a sort of sick feeling at how she seemed hurt, faded, anger at how we weren’t what we could have been, for all those so many silly stupid pointless meaningless reasons…

‘Why do I even bother what you have to say?’ I retorted, flaring up. I was really angry, and I could be intentionally cruel when I was angry. ‘Since when did your opinion matter? You’re just a doll. You’re not a person.’

She looked stricken as I said it, as if I’d slapped her.

I felt a pang of horror at her expression. But sometimes anger isn’t red-hot but ice-cold, and makes you cold and cruel and heartless, so that you feel a sort of grim satisfaction in hurting the other person as much as you possibly can. And all the while it hurts you back.

The words you say are deliberate, meant to cut and hurt, and speaking those words hurts you so much more than whatever it was that first made you angry. But even as a dull horror rose up in me and I fought back the urge of tears of sorrow, I continued, deliberately, coldly, sneeringly.

‘You keep acting like you somehow believe that you’re one of us, when you’ll never be, and you try to treat me like you’re an actual girl, like you have a right over me, when I’m the one keeping you in this house when you know you’ll get thrown away if I wasn’t keeping you here.’

Her face looked pale, bloodless. She opened her mouth, closed it, her lips trembling. She opened her mouth again, and gaped for a second, and closed- she closed her eyes, and finally managed to say in a trembling voice, barely a whisper- ‘Alright, kick me out if you have the guts to. Let’s see if you have the guts to leave me to die.’ And from the blankness of her eyes I could tell she was shocked at my coldness

She looked up at me defiantly, her chin trembling. I turned away from her. I felt sick with guilt and a dull sense of horror, but I was still seething.

‘Okay, fine’, she said defiantly, then her voice cracked, ‘I’m not sleeping here. I’m not living under a roof with someone who doesn’t want me here.’

I suddenly felt nauseous, flooded with guilt and a desire to make up, but somehow I didn’t say a word.

She turned around and went into my room.

 

 

Chapter 14

 

I rang the doorbell.

Maria opened the door. Her dark brown hair was tousled and she looked sleepy as she swung the door open, but her expression changed to concern as she saw me.

‘What happened?’

I didn’t answer the question directly. ‘Can I sleep here tonight?’

‘Sure’, she said, gesturing at me to come in. ‘But why?’

I hesitated for a moment, then answered. ‘I had a huge fight with my girlfriend.’ It is strange how when you’ve hurt someone you care about, when you’re too angry and too stubborn to apologize or to make things up, is when you’re most fierily loyal to them on the outside…

At the moment I was still wracked with guilt. Putting myself out there, deciding to look like I was crazy to stand up for her like those names she had told me about, even if she wouldn’t see this and couldn’t hear it, felt like something wonderful. It was the realization that everything would be all right tomorrow, and better than ever… the realization that every pair of lovers come to after their first cutting, hurtful fight, when they realize what is important; and at that moment it felt like something I had to say, something I had to put out there-

‘Your girlfriend?’, she asked, sitting down at the dining table by a mug of coffee she had evidently been drinking.

‘Ann’, I said defiantly, but with a sudden rush of liberation, of happiness, at finally-

‘Ann?’, Maria repeated quizzically.

‘Yes, Ann. The redhead you saw in my apartment.’

She stared at me with a confused expression, then suddenly her face turned to one of concern.

Oh.’ She sunk a little into her chair. ‘You mean the doll…’

‘She’s not a doll’, I said.

Maria sighed.

‘She isn’t’, I repeated forcefully.

‘If you say so…’ She stood up and went into the kitchen. ‘You want them scrambled?’ she yelled over the crackling of the stove.

‘Yeah’, I yelled back, and a couple minutes later Maria walked in and set a plate in front of me, sitting down at the table across mine. She watched me eat with a sort of detached but caring expression, with a funny look in her eyes, and when I was done she came over and tousled my hair gently.

‘Look, you go to sleep here now, okay?’, she said tenderly. ‘Just sleep everything off. You can take my room. I’ll sleep over at your place. Make sure nobody robs it or anything.’ She chuckled. ‘Just give me the keys and go to bed, yeah?’

I looked at her gratefully. ‘Thanks’, I said. ‘They’ll be in my coat pocket.’

She slung a handbag over her shoulder as she rummaged for the keys, and opening the door, she turned and yelled at me as I was walking towards the bedroom. ‘Love you! Good night!’

‘Love you too’, I answered, and she stepped out.

 

 

Chapter 15

 

I knocked cheerfully at the door.

‘Come on in!’ came Maria’s voice from within the house. I opened the door and stepped inside.

‘Hey!’ I greeted her cheerfully. She was fully dressed sitting on the couch. She’d probably woken up much earlier and had just been waiting for me to get home to leave.

Her reply wasn’t very enthusiastic. I grinned at her and stepped into the living room, then noticed the door to my bedroom was open.

‘How come that door is open?’ I asked. ‘I thought Ann was sleeping there. She was supposed to be…’ A sudden rush of excitement flared in me. ‘Maria. Did you see her? Did you somehow talk to her? Did she talk to you, I mean? Is she angry with me?’

Maria’s face was impassive, defiant; her lips set.

‘Say something already!’ I said impatiently. I was feeling a sudden rising apprehension. I’d known Maria long enough to know when things were a bad sign.

‘Sit down’, she finally said. I did.

‘Look, you’re sick, okay? You’re imagining things. You know that’s true, you know if you really think about it this isn’t real, okay? And the longer that doll stays here the more you’re gonna be believing it. You can’t have feelings for a doll! I’m your sister, I can’t let you be like this!’

‘What did you do?’ I interrupted icily. ‘You’re making me nervous, cut to the point, what the hell did you do?’

She edged away a little bit further. ‘I gave her away’, she finally said in a steely, composed voice. ‘I had to. The longer she was here the more it was going to reinforce your hallucinations and I couldn’t do that. Not as a sister. I couldn’t.’

Wait.’ I said. ‘Gave her away? What?’

‘I gave her away to an orphanage. Last night.’

‘What is wrong with you?’ I yelled. ‘Why would you do that? How could you do that to someone?-‘

She interrupted me. ‘It’s not a someone-‘

I’m a someone!’, I almost screamed. ‘And so is she! But even to me, how could you do that to me? When I’d told you we’d had a fight only yesterday? What kind of a sadist are you, to not just do this but to pick your timing like this?’

Maria looked terrified, but her face composed. She was blinking away tears. ‘I did what I had to do’, she said monotonously.

Get out.’ I said. ‘Now. Tell me which orphanage you dropped it off at and then leave, and never talk to me again. Never.’

She picked up her bag and walked away towards the door. ‘I don’t know which orphanage. I called one of those charity collection trucks…’

I swore loudly. ‘Get out of my house. Now. And my life. For good. Leave!’ I told Maria coldly, and as she left, closing the door behind her, I collapsed onto the sofa.

 

 

Chapter 16

 

I looked for her everywhere. I looked for weeks, and I couldn’t find her.

 

By now, months later, I had almost given up hope. Every day I still walked past the spot when I came home from work that I had that one day, and every weekend night I drove off to institutions or homes to look for her. If only just to say sorry, if only because I loved her.

One morning, there was a knock on the door.

I walked over, almost fully dressed for work, but with my tie still loose around my neck, my shirt still untucked. ‘Who is it?’, I said loudly.

There was no reply, except for another knock.

I turned the key and swung the door open, and in front of me was a girl. A human girl, tall, my height, with long wavy auburn hair that reached up to beyond her shoulder blades, with light, flushed skin and a little snub nose, and blue eyes, eyes that danced and sparkled. She was wearing a red dress that reached up to her knees, and had legs that seemed to go on forever. And she looked at me with an expression that was incredulous and incredulously happy, and didn’t speak for a while; then she smiled, and spoke.

‘Hi’, she said, simply, but her voice full of joy, almost playing with the words. ‘Oh my God, I have a voice! A real voice, and I can hear myself, like a sound. It’s me!’

I looked at her, staggered as it sank in. ‘I’m so sorry for what I said then’, I told her.

She smiled. ‘I know. I could see from where I was. I forgive you. How could I not? It’s part of being human, for us to have had fights, to have hated and loved and torn, maybe… I’m sorry too. I felt so jealous, I felt so bitter feeling that you couldn’t want me, that you’d forget me just like every little girl did and move on, and I’d have nobody again. And I wanted so badly to be human, after so long where I’d been fine with what I was, I was almost fooling myself that I was, but then each time I’d see you, or every time I’d see girls on TV or the like, I’d look down at myself and see what my arms and legs looked like, it’d hit me in the gut again, and I didn’t want to be anymore, and you can only keep fooling yourself for so long…’

Our eyes met, longingly, despairingly, hopefully.

‘I wish I’d told you then, that I understood. That you didn’t have to worry. That you were as human as anything in my life. But we’re stupid that way, aren’t we? Stupid humans, the both of us, keeping what we felt to ourselves.’ She smiled at the words, as the human, at the us, as I continued, earnestly. ‘Knowing that we might lose someone forever at any moment, but still not telling them what you would just because it’s hard, or difficult. Being jealous, or bitter, or sad, or alone.’

We were silent, and we looked at each other, just looking, me amazed at her, her amazed at herself.

‘So… you came back?’ I asked.

She smiled again, each smile a little dazed, like the thrill of being able to smile as a human was still something new, still something wonderful each time.

‘I came home’, she said. ‘So… can I come in?’

‘Come on in’, I said, and she swept inside the door and into my arms.

After what seemed like eternity, we pulled away. ‘Wow’, she said breathlessly. ‘This is everything I’ve ever wanted. I can kiss you back, and I can feel it in my stomach, and in my knees… and I can feel that you love me, and that you want me, and it’s wonderful…’

I swept a lock of hair away from her eyes. ‘I missed you’, I told her softly. ‘I felt… the worst I’ve ever felt. Worse than I knew I could feel. I looked for you everywhere. Maria told me she gave you away, and I looked everywhere I could for you, but I couldn’t find you, and now I can’t believe you’re back.’

‘You hurt me a lot’, she said.

‘I know.’

‘But… let’s talk about the future now, not the past…’, she said, her voice a little vulnerable, a little hesitant. ‘I came back. It’s magic and I don’t know how it works, but I came back. And now this story, will have a happy ending, and we’ll live happily ever after, won’t we?’

‘Yes’, I told her, earnestly. And I meant it.

This story I’m telling you now, this story, it had a happy ending… It has a happy ending. We live happily ever after.

 

 

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Filed under Fairy Tale, Novel/Novella, Romance, Supernatural

Fenlight – A *Sparkling* Tale


EDIT 11:20pm 20/12/2010

I just found out this story has a fan page! Hahaha. Whoever made this page, the profile picture is hilarious.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Fenlight-a-sparkling-tale/185949391419007

And another FB page calling for a movie… well, considering Disaster Movie got the greenlight and considering that staring at a blank screen would have been better than watching that monstrosity, guess it wouldn’t be entirely impossible for our beloved Mollywood to pick this up…

http://www.facebook.com/pages/We-Want-a-Fenlight-Movie/137417472987102


And our inaugural story- and yes, the author’s name below is a pseudonym


Fenlight – A *Sparkling* Tale of Absurd Obsession

By BóʞʞiŁőxx QųƮȉȩ ɃȧpɦȦfΨiε ĐϵvıLϰж ǦаḺ


Chapter 1

My mother walked with me to the ferry terminal. It was a cool, windy day. The sandy roads were covered with sand; yellow, light-colored sand that consisted largely of sand. The sky was blue, except for the parts with clouds, which were white. The sunlight spilled out everywhere, the way sunlight does, shining the light of the sun on everyone, and also on my face.

I loved Mirashudhoo. I loved the sandy roads and the blue and yellow buildings and the sun and the ocean. When I was a little girl I had lived in Male’, but then when my parents had gotten divorced and my mother had come with me to Mirashudhoo. I know what you’re thinking- this is Maldives, what are the odds of people getting divorced, right? Well, it did happen, and ever since then I have lived in this little island. I hated Male’.  I hated everything about Male’. Every Eid holiday I used to visit my dad in Male’, until I was fourteen- that was when I said, Dad, screw it, if you want to see me you come to visit me cos I ain’t going to Male’.

But now my mom was getting married to Ammadey, a famous Baibalaa player, and since she was happy I decided that I was sick of seeing my mom being lovey-dovey while I didn’t even have a boyfriend. I mean, yuck. Ugh. Bleh. Spank. Don’t ask.

‘Fathuma’, my mother said, for the thousandth time. ‘Are you really sure you want to do this?’

‘Yes, mom’, I lied.

‘Okay, sure hon’, she said. ‘Make sure you don’t fall into the water while getting on the ferry, sweetie. We all know how clumsy you are!’

She laughed. I didn’t. It wasn’t funny. I am actually really clumsy, but it still wasn’t funny. I mean, come on, unsupportive much? ‘I’m not going to fall into the water, mom’, I said stolidly.

‘Okay, bye’, she said as she dropped me off at the terminal.

‘Bye, mom’, I waved at her.

‘Oh, I’ll miss you’, she said distractedly, pressing some numbers on her mobile phone. ‘Oh, you are such a bad, bad man, Ammadey, keep this up and I might have to punish you. Yeah, I’m going’, she giggled. ‘No, you hang up! No, you! No, you!’

I sighed and turned around as she walked away.

 

Chapter 2

I was sitting on the ferry by the window, looking out, hoping for the wind to dry me by the time I got home.

I was dripping wet from head to toe. Don’t ask.

I was looking out of the window, and I thought I glimpsed something that looked like a big, thick tail in the water. Like the tail of a fish.

It seemed to be flapping in the water by the boat.

Also, it sparkled. Like a disco ball, a fish-tail shaped disco ball, in the sunlight.

Don’t think I’m foreshadowing future events of the story here. This sighting, this incident, is completely unrelated to future events in the story; I merely mention it because it was interesting.

 

Chapter 3

The ferry stopped at the terminal at Male’. The beachfront was full of various tall buildings, and also some not very tall buildings. There were businessmen waiting outside the bank, some really thui girls (though they were probably too delusional to realize how thui they were… thank God I’m not one of those!) eating ice-cream by the beach, and some guy painting a yellow-colored building blue.

My dad was waiting for me at the terminal. I waved at him and walked towards the fore of the ferry.

He waved back. ‘Don’t fall, hon!’, he yelled at me, waving.

I felt like wishing the ground would open and swallow me up out of humiliation. And anger. I mean, so I fell once, I’m not that much of a klutz to fall twice, right?

I looked up, and saw a couple of dreamy, handsome, drop-dead sexy guys standing there, looking calmly and nonchalantly in a weirded-out sort of way at my dad.

They were so hot. Long, matted hair; three or four days worth of beard; a cigarette dangling from their mouths, like a baton of coolness dangling from the mouth of a very cool man… even the clouds of grey smoke swirling around their faces only seemed to enhance their mystery.

Just as I was walking, ogling, drooling, and trying to multitask all three at the same time-  ‘Be careful!’, Dad yelled again, waving even more vigorously.

‘Oh my God, I honestly wish the ground would just swallow me up’, I prayed vehemently, closing my eyes and I walked towards land.

Suddenly I felt a falling sensation.

I’ll cut to a part of the story that is less embarrassing, which is the road home on my dad’s motorbike. I was dripping wet. Dad kept on asking me how it happened. I just stayed silent and cursed him under my breath. This was all his fault.

I hate Male’.

 

Chapter 4

I was done with school, so I spent most of the time hanging out with my friends. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. What friends? Yes, I know I only came here recently, and that I am a klutz. However, I also happen to be tremendously hot.

Okay, maybe not tremendously. But I’m as pale as milk, and this is the Maldives. Duh. I’m hot. Smoking, baby.

Me and my friends would do all sorts of fun things. We’d go to cafes in the inner city, and drink coffee at nights… we’d go to cafes in the afternoon, and drink coffee- completely different things, trust me- and we’d go to cafes by the beach, and drink coffee, which as everyone knows is about as different from having coffee in the inner city as apples and bananas… And that’s not all. Sometimes we went to ice-cream places, and had ice-cream; sometimes we went to places that weren’t actually ice-cream places but still sold ice-cream, and had ice-cream; sometimes, when we wanted to mix things up, we went to ice-cream places, and bought a cone and had it while walking around outside… Sometimes, boys would walk up to us and make these hilariously amusing pick-up lines that just turned my knees to jelly.

‘Ey haadha salhi ey’, one said to me, once. Can you believe it? He thought I was salhi! Like how people find food or television sets salhi! O. M. G.

One time, me and my friends were walking down a street, and this one guy five feet away walking past us loudly said- listen to me- ‘ey, haadha bodu buri ekey!’

Swoon.

At least, I would have, but all I did was giggle flirtatiously, pretend to be angry, and walk away swinging my hips.

Then, at a safe distance, tear up at the romance and the sweetness.

Oh, boy.

Well, I guess I’ve been getting slightly distracted from the story… but you get the point now, though. This is an important part of the story. Okay, it’s not, but I like my readers knowing that I am insanely desirable. I’m sure no other girl in this whole city has gotten the sort of compliments I have. So just to reiterate, before we move on with the story- I’m hot, okay? I’m salhi. Do you ever hear that about a girl? Play Stations maybe, football teams maybe, Aioli dinner main courses maybe, but a girl? No? Yeah, that’s how special I am. Keep that in mind.

 

Chapter 5

Well, now to move on with the story. Well, so I was hanging out with my friends. We were at the Artificial Beach this particular day. My friends were hanging back a little, giggling among themselves. I was looking out at the ocean. The waves crashed on the beach. A little to the side, a dozen or so couples were making out on the beach. I didn’t really understand it. Sand in the butt was usually very uncomfortable. Making out might seem worth it now, I thought, but when you get home, you’ll feel remorse and regret. Ah, sand… don’t ask.

There was a boy sitting there on his own. Words cannot describe how handsome he was. He had a week-old beard and long curly locks of hair that reached up to his shoulder blades. He was wearing a shirt and tight jeans that were way, way too low… not that I’m complaining, his back hair only magnified the turn-on I felt due to his amazing dress sense. He wasn’t smoking, but his mouth had the same sexy, slightly darkened tone that was the sexy stamp of a sexy, sexy, smoker. I noticed that even though it was night-time, he was wearing his sunglasses… how hot could this boy get? His sunglasses seemed like a message to the universe, like they were saying, look I know that sunglasses are for wearing in the sun, but I don’t care. The devil-may-care, laugh-at-the-universe bad-boy overtones those shades had just made me…

So. Hot.

I stood up and walked over to the beach, wiggling my hips in a sexy way, a very immaculately calculated, sexy way- just enough oomph to be ka-boomph, but not enough to make it seem unnatural or make it seem like I was doing it on purpose. I walked over in front of him, but he seemed to be only interested in the crashing waves, so I walked around, in as natural a way as I could, another five or six rounds near the surf, but to no avail.

Finally, I decided that maybe in the dark he just didn’t see me. I set off to walk over to near him, to narrow in the orbital diameter a little, exaggerating the sensuous sway of my hips a little further as I walked by.

One of the entwined couples twisted and morphed into two concerned-looking teenagers… or, in hindsight at least, a teenage girl and a guy who was probably twenty-five or so, but for the purposes of this story let us refer to them as teenagers. ‘Are you okay?’ the female one asked.

I drew myself up to my full height gracefully. The concern on her face seemed to grow, surely because she was now regretting having disturbed me after seeing my height and majesty.

‘Why would I not be okay?’ I asked icily.

‘Well, umm… you were walking weird’ she said.

My cheeks colored. ‘For God’s sake, you don’t have to be jealous and bitch about that, I’m sure your boyfriend was too busy to have been looking and lusting for me.’

She looked confused. Looks like my brilliantly cutting reply had struck a nerve. ‘Okay…’ she said.

‘Yeah!’, I told her.

She went back to the kissing. I went back to the walking. Slowly, naturally, I walked by to near the oh-so-handsome boy at the beach. As I got closer, he looked up at me with revulsion in his eyes. Revulsion, the sort of revulsion you see in the eyes of people who are repulsed at something. I was so shocked, and trying to walk and keep on swinging my hips even though I was too angry to care because if I stopped now people would know I had been faking and trying to stop myself from being angry, that I tripped over a rock and fell onto the sandy ground of the beach. He looked at me and for a moment seemed to be full of pity, but then he stood up, the revulsion back in his eyes, and ran away.

Towards the water, funnily enough, though.

I heard a splash.

Confused, I stood up, and brushing the sand off my clothes, looked around. He was gone.

 

Chapter 7

I am not much of a writer, and thus I prefer to cut out the bullshit. Let me just summarize and say that between the mysterious events of the previous chapter and the beginning of this chapter, nothing much happened. I mean, come on. This is Male’. I stayed home, went on MSN, drank coffee, drank ice-cream, drank coffee, chatted on MSN, drank coffee, yada yada… A couple of times when I went out wearing a blue dress, a campaign official would casually come up to me and slather yellow paint all over it, which was a little annoying. And then we drank some more coffee, and some more ice-cream, and some more coffee… You really don’t want to read about all that again, do you? Bleh. So in this chapter we cut right to the important incident.

I had been on the ferry on the way to Hulhumale’ when I had decided to look out of the window out at the ocean.

And then we take another little cut to the next important incident.

I was in the water, in the ocean, the dark blue open ocean.

Don’t ask.

There was a ferry a couple hundred yards ahead of me, going as if it did not know that it’s palest and most beautiful passenger was no longer in it, going fast churning through the water like a motorized ferry would, on its way to Hulhumale’. I was not on it at the moment. I was pretty pissed. I mean, the sun was out, and I wasn’t wearing any sun-block- what if I got a tan? The horror! Oh, and like, sharks! They have big teeth, you know, they might totally ruin my dress!

(I use exclamation marks as the literary method to try to convey the true horror of the moment. I feel that I have been successful.)

Suddenly, I saw a launch cutting through the water. It appeared to be coming right at me. Right towards me. Cutting a path through the water the trajectory of which intersected with my head.

So I did the most logical thing I could think of- I waved my arms and screamed. The launch got closer and closer, and I screamed harder, closing my eyes to peacefully await my impending death as I screamed even harder. Suddenly, there was silence, then a massive splash.

I opened my eyes. Several feet away from me, the launch was in the water, a massive dent in its side. In front of me was a boy. A distractingly handsome boy. It was the boy I had seen on the beach the other day, the one who had been impervious to my charms and sensuality. The one whose eyes had been full of revulsion.

‘How did you get here?’ I asked him.

‘What do you mean?’ he said sexily, in a very sexy voice. His breath had the enchanting, captivating aroma of fish that made me want to swoon.

‘I mean, how’d you get here to save me? I was in the middle of the ocean.’

He looked uncomfortable. ‘Oh, uh, I was on, uh… I jumped.’ He was also hot when he was uncomfortable. Would you believe it?

‘From what?’

‘Uh…’ he said, in a very hot way.

‘That launch?’

He looked relieved. ‘Yeah, yeah.’

I would have asked more questions, seeing as that was probably the stupidest explanation I have ever heard ever since that one time mom and Ammadey explained that one time that… ah, screw it. I mean, you really think I was going to cross-examine and analyze and dissect the guy? He was hot. Cross-examination is only for guys that are not of the hottie persuasion.

‘Okay’, I said perkily. ‘So how do we go from here to safety?’

He grimaced. ‘I’ll take you and swim you to shore’, he said. He held me and we started moving slowly but steadily through the water.

‘Look, you manly, manly man’, I asked him suggestively as he swam across the water holding me. ‘How did you save me? You weren’t even there a minute ago.’

‘Uh’, he said.

‘How’d you do that? Are you like, not human or something?’

‘What do you think?’

‘All the explanations I can think of so far involve radioactive fish’, I told him. ‘And radioactive sharks. Or radioactive crabs. Or radioactive turtles. Or radioactive-‘

He cut me off. ‘Oh for God sakes do you ever shut up? I saved your life for crying out loud.’

‘Oh yes’, I said in my sexiest voice. But then I remembered that figuring out what he was was an important issue. It wouldn’t be cool to be dating like, Fish-Man or Crab-Man you know. But Shark-Man is okay. Sea Snake Man is also okay. I told him so, and continued. ‘Eel Man would be no fun to date either. Just imagine telling my friends I’m dating Eel Man. Yuck. Moray Man is okay though. Plankton? Was it radioactive plankton? Cos I mean honestly, not to be discriminating or anything, but plankton are kinda tiny, and I don’t want that, cos if they’re tiny then their-‘

‘Oh shut up!’ he interrupted me. In a sexy, sexy voice though, kinda like what cold granite marble sparkling in the sun would sound like if it were a sound. ‘Or I’ll just leave you in the ocean and go off.’

Now that’s what sex appeal is. A man who can take control.

And is really, really hot, too. Hot, like cold hard marble would be if you heated it up and poured chili all over it.

Swoon.

 

Chapter 8

So when I got home I went on the Internet. The Internet is this place where you can ask anything and see an answer. Also, you can hack into governments and banks and stuff with it. Or so I hear from movies and stuff. So I went to the home page and typed in ‘what the hell is up with that really hot guy who is cold like marble and stuff’. Of course, as is wont to happen in real life, the answer popped up instantly a few sites into the search results.

http://www.wtfisupwiththatsexysexyboy.com.

I clicked the page. It loaded slowly, with a lot of green and black colored loading bars and numbers running down the screen, the way all websites load in the internet. When it fully loaded, the page was empty save for the words in block letters in the middle of the page.

‘GOD, YOU RETARD, HE’S NOT SHARK-MAN. HE’S A MERMAID’.

The internet had done its job. With that, I closed the browser and went off to read the Maldivian translation of Wuthering Heights, Vatharehge Usmineh, just for fun. Not cos I was a nerd or anything.

 

Chapter 10

We were in a café, drinking coffee together.

‘So you can read people’s minds?’, I asked him.

‘Yeah’, he said.

‘Except mine?’

‘Well…’ he looked at me thoughtfully. ‘Well, I’m not too sure you ever think, so I don’t really know, but yeah I think I can’t read your mind at all.’

‘Oh cool’, I said. ‘Okay, tell me what the people here are thinking.’

He motioned at a group of older men at a table. ‘Anni… Maumoon… Anni… Anni… Maumoon…’

He gestured towards the table behind us. ‘And those guys? Clothes… hair… hair… your butt… clothes… smoking…’

‘Wow’, I said. ‘So tell me more about being a mermaid.’

‘Not maid, man’, he corrected me. ‘I thought I told you everything already tonight, before I showed you how I could read minds.’

‘Oh yeah’, I said. ‘Wait, but you didn’t tell me how you make people into mermaids!’

He looked a little exasperated. ‘Not mer- ah never mind. Okay see, all of us supernatural beings have a way to turn humans into one of us, you know. Vampires and werewolves bite. For weremermen to make a human one of us, we have to hit them with our tail three times.’ His voice sounded like beautiful butterflies flying in the icy-cold sunshine, with sparkling wings. His skin sparkled like a disco ball, a handsome, chiseled, beautiful disco ball.

‘Oh, that’s so hot’, I said, swooning just thinking about it, and seeing his icy-cold incandescent marble-like tufts of chest hair.

 

Chapter 11

‘So where are we going today?’ I asked.

He smiled at me enchantingly and beguilingly, like a marble statue of a very hot guy, only one that was so realistic it looked more like a guy than a statue, and also not the color of marble, but other than that just like a really, really sexy statue carved by someone who was like really good at carving statues of very hot guys. It was very, very sexy. Even his teeth sparkled in the sunlight. He couldn’t smile too long when he talked to me cos his teeth were so shiny that the reflected light tended to burn nearby things, most commonly my neck, and while at first the sheer sexy sexiness of his sexy smile made the pain okay at first, after some time it wasn’t all that great.

‘We’re going to visit my family’, he said.

‘Your family?’

‘Under the sea. My dad is Neptune. He’s the Bodu Katheeb of the sea.’

‘Oh cool’, I said, licking my lips. ‘So you’re like super handsome and you’re also the son of a Bodu Katheeb? Hot damn!’

‘Thank you, thank you’, he said. ‘So do you have your scuba diving gear ready?’

I didn’t. ‘Can we go without the scuba stuff? It’s gonna ruin my hair, and you know, I spent like two hours getting my hair like this and I don’t want to get it all- but wait, if I just jump in the water like you do then the water will ruin my make-up! And salt water will ruin my hair even more! And my dress!’

He looked at me with an expression that looked like revulsion. But I didn’t mind, cos he had explained to me why he had been so hostile and rude that first time we met already. Didn’t I mention it before? I didn’t? Oh I guess I was just probably caught up in describing the important part of the story, which is how hot he was- which is very, very hot, like a sparkly oven or a cup of glittery boiling water, I’m mentioning it again just in case you forgot he was so hot- that I must have forgot that bit.

Well, I’ll just put it in here then. Basically, mermaids usually eat fish, but Mode and his family were such nice people that they were ‘vegetarians’, which I read in Twilight was a word that means ‘only eat animals and not people’ but which, from what Mode told me, I’m pretty sure is actually a word that means people who only eat dead fish and like, seaweed and stuff. Anyway. But on that day on the beach when he saw me, he said that I smelled so strongly of fish that he just really wanted to eat me up. But he didn’t eat people, so that’s why he was looking all repulsed, it was just cos he was trying so hard to hold in his desire for me. Well okay so it was desire to eat me, not to jump my bones, but well still a carnal desire is a carnal desire and its close enough for me to still find it flattering. Anyway, I’m pretty sure he looked so repulsed after my explanation as to why I couldn’t go, that I’m pretty sure that the logic and clarity of my reasoning just turned him on so much he got hungry. Which, of course, is a good thing.

‘Well, so I guess I can’t go meet your family then!’, I said brightly.

He looked a bit down. ‘That sucks. I was gonna take you to this awesome coral reef, and then put you on my back and jump from coral to coral. It’d have been really romantic.’

‘Oh well, too bad’ I told him. ‘Let’s just go make out in a lift somewhere instead. And then afterwards we can go watch this really awesome Dhivehi movie in Olympus.’

His face lit up. ‘Okay’, he said.

 

Chapter 12

I was supposed to meet Mode by the harbor at 11am today. We were supposed to go play bashi with his brothers. He only had brothers, apparently, because there were no female mermen, only males. Don’t ask me why, it’s a stupid rule, I mean there are like female vampires and female Frankensteins and female ninja turtles and stuff, right, you know! Anyway apparently they could only play bashi during a thunderstorm cos they were so loud or something. It was raining heavily. There was also thunder. Thunder scared me, I always kept on getting this feeling that a lightning bolt would come and hit the ruffle on top of my head. That would suck. I spent an hour setting my hair up like that whenever I went out. Pull, ruffle, bunch it up over the top of my head and clip it so that I looked like a cassowary. Cassowaries were very stylish birds. They were dangerous. Dangerous is sexy. Rawr. But for now I was having more serious issues. Mode was standing me up. It was already 11.30am. I didn’t know why he wasn’t here. And the rain was ruining my beautiful cassowary hair, my resplendent crest of beauty.

Then a taxi pulled up by the sidewalk and out came Mode, ducking quickly into the sheltered area with the bench. He looked majestic and magisterial, simply magnificent, in his parrot-green shirt and pink skinny jeans. My, did he know how to dress to make a woman just burn up with desire. The pink and green- like in the natural kingdom, where Amazon tree frogs and salamanders displayed their bright colors to turn on girl tree frogs and girl salamanders- just created a raw animal desire in any woman that would look at him. And those pants. Tight, pink, hugging the stick-like contours of his legs like a leathery pink second skin that was over the first skin. They were so manly. It just sent off a message of warmth and comfort to any woman who saw a guy wearing it- it was like a sign that said, ‘don’t worry; I’m tiny enough down there to get into these, and you can feel reassurance knowing my junk is small enough to not cause any discomfort- or any feeling- if we ever get it on’- and that just reassured me knowing that he was small enough to fit in those. It just added to his sex appeal, which with the bright colors was already overwhelming.

I pretended to not be turned on and swallowed the drool that had formed in my mouth before looking up at him with my patented ‘sad and hurt’ expression. It always worked on guys, they just couldn’t resist it. And sure enough, he looked concerned.

‘Are you sick? You look a little sick’, he said.

‘No!’ I sobbed, shaking my head and looking down dramatically. ‘You stood me up, Mode. You made me wait half an hour in the rain. I might have gotten pneumonia, or like a cold or, hepatitis, or something. Even worse, my eyeliner is all over my face now. And this rain may be bad for my skin. You know it’s polluted from like the factories and the… trees or whatever… and the mas market smell and stuff, that stuff, the air pollution and the rain pollution and everything, what if I get a zit or something?’

‘You already have a zit’, he said, pointing at my face.

‘OH. MY. GOD! MODE! Look what you’ve done!’ I screamed. He looked a bit shocked and horrified for some reason, dunno what. ‘A zit? A ZIT? Are you kidding? You’re kidding right?’

‘Oh yeah, sure. Sure, I was kidding’ he said in a slightly scared sounding tone. Maybe he was also scared of the thunder.

‘So why did you come in a taxi anyway?’ I asked him.

‘Oh, I didn’t want to get any rain on my hair’, he said.

I pouted again. ‘So why did you stand me up?’

‘Oh I’m sorry. It took me like an hour to do my hair, you know. Ruffle it right. Curl all of it into nice curls and make it a bit like an afro, but also a bit like spiked hair, and really big. Gel and all. Hair is very important to me. A real man has perfectly done hair, and all us men here in Maldives are real men, and especially me. Even though I’m a weremerman. I’m still very, very manly.’

‘Aww, of course you are’, I said sweetly, in my sweet tone of voice which sounds like beautiful birds speaking cos they just saw a cute little kitten coming towards them, and can melt the hearts of any man. ‘What’s a weremerman? I thought you were a merman?’

‘Oh it means I only become a merman sometimes. I don’t have a tail all the time right? Like werewolves are only human part of the time. I’m only a merman part of the time. I thought you knew that, you’ve mostly seen me with legs before.’

‘Yeah’, I said.

‘Okay so let’s jump into the water now’ he said. ‘My brothers will be waiting there.’

‘Oh, but our hair!’, I wailed, and we jumped.

 

Chapter 14

We had just finished playing underwater bashi with Mode and his equally sexy, sexy brothers and we were climbing up from the water into the harbor when we heard a drawling, drugged-toned question.

‘Kihinehtha?’, a handsome, sexy guy with handsome, sexy clothes and handsome, sexy facial hair said in a handsome, sexy drawl through his hot (literally AND metaphorically? Clever huh? The wordplay stuns you!) cigarette. It was the pickup line everyone in Male’ used it seems. He was staring at my chest in a very sexily perverted way as I stepped out onto the harbor, dripping wet. This was also a pickup move everyone in Male’ seemed to use.

Mode and his brothers stepped out into the harbor after me. When they saw the parteys they snarled and bared their beautiful teeth at the parteys.

‘Dhen mihaaru kon biteh govain thi ulhenee?’ a partey said to Mode and his guys.

‘She is with us’, Mode said through clenched teeth, grimacing at them in what was I think supposed to be a scary expression. ‘You cannot take her. We keep her safe. Go!’

‘Oh okay’, the partey ringleader said. ‘Hey look, behind you!’, he suddenly yelled.

Mode and all his brothers turned, and suddenly  the partey grabbed me and put me on his motorbike and drove away.

 

Chapter 15

I have never given a lot of thought to how I will die. I haven’t ever given a lot of thought to anything in fact. Except maybe my hair and clothes. And walking. But I had also never given a lot of thought to how I will die. But dying in place of someone I love seems like a good way to die. I don’t know specifically in whose place I am dying actually, so well anyway if I were to die getting killed by a very hot guy seems to be a good way. And the parteys who had kidnapped me were very hot. They all looked identical, just like every partey in Male’ did, but that only increased their hotness. Facial hair, gel on their bleached hair that was set in amorphous but very specific designs, the bright and animalistic plumage of mating colors, the chest hair and huge sunglasses and macho pose with a pout. It was like they had somehow evolved to be so appealing and so dangerous.

The parteys kidnapped me and took me to some place. I have no idea where. They were keeping me in a chair. For now they were getting high and playing PlayStation but I suspected they were going to do something evil and dangerous when they finished their game and came back.

Suddenly Mode broke in through a window.

‘I came to rescue you!’, he declared.

‘You could have come in through the door’, I pointed out.

‘You’re just sitting on a frickin chair, you could’ve walked out’, he pointed out in reply.

‘Oh.’

There was an awkward pause. I broke the silence.

‘You came to rescue me Mode! My hero!’, I said dramatically, and swooned.

He held me up from falling like the handsome marble ice-cold gentleman of hotness he was. The parteys were high and too busy with the game to notice. We walked out, and we stepped out onto the sunlight and he started sparkling like the embroidery on every one of my tops, I swooned and fell into his arms. The only thing I remember through the blackness of my swoon was the sound of crashing and a thud, and him saying, in that ever-so-beautiful like angels-made-of-marble voice, ‘I just fell you idiot, you’re so heavy!’

Of course I’m sure he meant idiot as a term of endearment, and I was happy, because that signaled a new stage in our relationship, the stage where we could insult each other and that would show our undying love, or some other crap like that I don’t really know the details, but either way it was a good thing, or something like that. So I swooned again.

 

Chapter 16

After he rescued me from the clutches of the handsome parteys, and I had awoken from my swoon, swooned again, and awoken from that swoon, Mode set me down on a chair and we talked.

‘There has always been a long fight between the weremermen and the parteys’, he told me, his breath smelling like beautiful cold marble and glitter. ‘The parteys ruin our home, dropping their cigarette butts into the ocean all the time. And we got all the hot girls instead of them, because since we lived in the sea sometimes it was like we actually showered more than once a month. There has been long enmity between us throughout the ages.’

‘Oh, like werewolves and vampires are in America!’, I said excitedly, to demonstrate how knowledgeable I was of current affairs and the world.

He rolled his eyes, which was for all I know a weremerman sign of desire or something. Most probably was. I rolled my eyes back at him flirtatiously and licked my lips slurpily in a very sexy and sexual way. He looked revulsed.

‘Well so now that you’re safe’, he said. ‘Do you want to go to the prom with me?’

‘What prom?’ I asked.

‘Oh it’s a party we’re having on my friend’s terrace. There’s gonna be like five hundred people. A disco. We can like make out in a corner or something, it’ll be really romantic.’

I nearly swooned there and then.

‘Aww!’ I said in one of my most effective voices, the cho chute voice. Guys just rolled up like fihunu masfathafolhi when they heard by chute voice. It was really cute and adorable if I may say so myself. ‘Of course I’ll go!’

 

Chapter 17

We were at the ‘prom’, in a terrace. It was night-time and so packed with people that we were stuck in the corner we had gone to and couldn’t move out at all. The disco ball threw green light and also purple light and some yellow colored light and some blue light out in bursts of light into the night so that there were green light and purple light and some yellow colored light and some blue light out in bursts of light on the people dancing and also people outside could see some green light and also purple light and some yellow colored light and some blue light out in bursts of light outside. Beautiful and world-famous songs like Yaa Yaa Yippee Yippee and On the Beach In the Rain were playing in the background.

We had eaten some hedhikaa and then made out. I purposely ate bajiyaa and masroshi to make my breath smell like fish, knowing it would arouse the carnal hunger of hunger in him. Each time as our heads drew closer I blew out very quickly at his face, sending whiffs of fish smell towards him. Sometimes I accidentally blew spit too, but he lived underwater anyway so a little bit of water shouldn’t bother him, right? Anyway yeah we were in the corner involved in an awesomely sexy fishy-smelling make-out session. Eventually we stopped and he looked at me very seriously. He sparkled where the disco light hit him, so he had little sparkling patches of green and purple and yellow and blue all over him. Sparkling like a beautiful pair of ballerina tutus, like a handsome, sexy ballerina tutu. His incandescent chest and beautiful face glowed like the moon in the dark.

‘Are you sure about this?’ he asked me.

‘About becoming one of you? Of course I am’, I told him.

‘You’re willing to leave your family and friends and humanity and everything behind for a guy you’ve only known a couple weeks?’

‘I’ve known enough!’ I said sultrily and dramatically and also sexily and melodramatically, in a very sensual way. ‘I’m willing and ready! Take me, Mode, take me! Take me away and hit me with your tail thrice, thrice!’

‘Okay’, he said. ‘But one more thing. I told you how there are only weremermen, right? There are no female weremermen. Are you really sure you want to become a weremerman? Leave your femaleness behind for a guy you met only a couple weeks ago?’

I thought it over. ‘Would I still get to keep my hair?’ I asked. ‘This baby cassowary ain’t taking off its feathers, baby.’

‘Cassowary? Feathers? Does that even make sense?’, he said in a puzzled tone, but in a very sexy puzzled tone, in an incandescent, marble-like puzzled tone. ‘Anyway yeah, your hair will stay.’

‘Okay, then!’, I announced. ‘Come on! I want to spend the rest of my immortal life with you!’

He smiled at me shyly, and I closed my eyes quickly to the bright light reflecting from his teeth, the beautiful and sexy bright light. ‘Well’, he said shyly, but in a very hot shy tone, ‘I have always had this secret fantasy about being with a guy… but then again I guess that was always obvious right, I mean, I wear pink skinny jeans. I frickin sparkle. I’m just like Edward, you know, from the Twilight books? I love those books, by the way, oh my God, they are like, so amazing, and Edward is like, so per-fect, I could relate with him so much, you know? And also with Bella? I just wanted him to come to my bed at night and watch over me while I slept, and to hold me and-‘

I cut him off. ‘What? You’ve been keeping it in the closet all this time and you’re-‘

‘Why’d you think I was attracted to you?’, he said. ‘You were so manly, you were the closest I could get while being with a girl, and now you’re going to be one for me! A weremerman I can spend the rest of eternity with! But wait. Do you still want to spend the rest of your life with me? Even after this?’

I looked at him, at his striking beauty, at his magnificent, extralongitudinal insolubility.

‘Yes!’, I said.

He swooned.

Don’t ask.

 

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Filed under Humor, Novel/Novella, Satire