Sorry for the late posting, guys! I’ve been back in the States visiting family so my mind and time has been limited. (As you may see when you read this.) But writing is important and I have to keep at it!! My prompt:
The Skin I’m In
I turned the corner and saw myself at four years old. Not a phantom, but the physical me, on the last day I ever danced.
When I was born, my mother wasn’t surprised at my lack of mortality, but she was livid. My hair grew out into pink waves while my eyes took on a sea green color that clashed with my sunset colored skin. Mother tried to use makeup and dyes to hide my appearance, but when my wings sprouted out from between my shoulder blades, there was nothing she could do anymore. “You’re disgusting,” Mother would say to me, her eyes never resting on me for more than a minute. “If ever there was an example of a dangerous one night stand, that’s you.”
I tried not to let it bother me.
When I was one and a half, I knew better than to look out the windows. I was a creature of disgust and needed to act like it. At the same time, I was supposed to act like the other toddlers my age, keeping my talking and observations to myself. Most days, I stayed in my room, dancing to the tunes that spilled out of my radio. I got quite good at matching my steps to the sounds, my body moving on something akin to instinct. It was the only time I ever felt truly happy: when my body became the movements of dance.
At two, I was met at our front door by a man dressed in a purple suit. He had a kind face, but his eyes showed a past of secrets. “You must be Samantha,” he said, kneeling down beside me. “I’m Onon.”
“I’m different,” I found myself telling the man.
“So am I,” he said, pride coating his tone. He reached out and took my chubby, balled up fists into his hands and blew on them, a human-peach color spreading from where he touched until it covered my entire body. “The key is never letting people know you have a secret to hide. You must disguise the skin you wear into something more preferable. Do you feel that, Samantha?”
Assuming he meant the tingle of magic that constantly pricked under my skin only more intensified, I nodded.
“You have to focus on that feeling and keep your form like this,” he said, standing back up. “If you can do that, you will be loved by your mother and get the chance to experience life.” His hand rested against my cheek as a smile warmed his features. I thought he’d say something more, but instead he left me standing on the other side of the door with a new determination on how to live my life.
When I told mother that I would become a human from here on out, she was delighted. I got to go to this thing called preschool. I got to interact with children my age and, even though they were younger in mind than myself, I felt real joy. And then my mother offered me another outlet: dancing.
Dressed in my tights, leotard, dancing shoes, and tutu, I became a part of Belladonna studios. My feet learned the choreographed steps and my heart abounded in happiness. Dancing became my everything and mother never tired of hearing about it. And as much as we talked about it, I never told her the real reason it was so important to me.
When I danced, I wasn’t Samantha, the girl with a secret hidden under a fake identity. I was the wind, dancing on the shaking leaves and playing upwards to the moon. But only in my room did I indulge myself in feeling such pleasure. For in those moments, I lost my focus, my skin no longer concerned about appearances.
And then the moment came when I was chosen to perform with the older class in their production of Swan Lake. I and some of my fellow classmates dressed as forest critters. I was a raccoon. They asked me to be the butterfly, but once I saw the wings, I had no other choice but to politely decline. When the night came to show our talent, I was overwhelmed with the beauty of it all. The lights, the families that lined our auditorium, the booming sounds of the songs that sounded louder than usual… it moved me in a way that filled my soul. Before I knew it, I was lost to the sounds around me, my feet lighter than air.
I didn’t come back down to earth until I heard my mother’s horrified gasp and the whispers that rose from the crowd. My eyes opened to the reality that I had thrown myself into: my feet hovering high above the audience and my wings stretched out behind my back, keeping me airborne. When my feet touched stage, I bolted, leaving the judgmental looks of the humans behind.
“Samantha!” My mother voice filled the hallway. Turning, I watched as her sad gaze looked my odd colored look over. “Let’s go.”
I barely left the house after that and never, ever did I attempt to dance again. I hung up my shoes and made sure to dedicate myself to the sole purpose of becoming human. But in my dreams, I thrived and danced in meadows of purple and gold. In the morning, I woke with longing and a constant state of comfortableness.
Mother homeschooled me up until high school started, claiming that she couldn’t teach me any more than she already had. I was better than I was as a child more controlled and never lost to my desires. I walked the halls of the school with my books clutched to my chest and my wings buried under my disguise. I minded my own business, got good grades, and ignored my peers around me. I did all that until the day I met Peter.
“You’re different,” he said to me in passing one day. I’d seen him staring at me during classes sometimes, but he’d never addressed me personally. I shook my head, words failing me.
I’m normal, were the words that I should have said. But I wasn’t sure I could say them aloud and make them sound real.
“I like different,” he pulled out a sharpie from his pocket and grabbed my arm, the tip of his blue marker inking a butterfly on my skin. “See ya around, Sam.”
I bowed my head and pulled a sleeve down over my arm. “It’s Samantha, actually.”
“Whatever.” He lifted a hand in the air. “Bye.”
And that’s how our conversations went, in passing and never for more than ten minutes. I watched him as we grew in age and grade, his presence never too far from my thoughts. It was embarrassing to admit, but I’d even bought a blue sharpie just to keep tracing the butterfly into my skin.
“You don’t eat meat,” I observed to him one day. I’d passed him in the cafeteria. He had been sitting at what I’d been told was the popular table. One girl huffed and leaned over to her friend, their whispers inaudible. I thought to leave, but the look in Peter’s eyes kept me steady.
He scooted down and tapped the spot next to him. “Neither do you.”
“It makes me sick.” I put the tray on the table but didn’t sit down. “What’s your reason?”
Peter gripped my arm, his hand above the sleeve that covered my butterfly. “I don’t eat things that used to have faces.” He eased me to the seat, and pressed his shoulder against me.
“Peter?” The whispering girl occupied his other shoulder. “She can’t sit here. She’s weird.”
Peter shrugged. “I’ve seen weirder.”
“She’s a witch,” said the other, very rude sounding girl. I tensed, thinking maybe she knew my secret. She tittered and leaned back, her face undeservedly victorious. “I mean, look at her face. It’s sad how stereotypical it looks.”
“Hey,” Peter stood, knocking the girl off his shoulder. “You can’t make fun of her anymore.”
“Why’s that?” Rude Girl asked.
“Because she’s my date to prom.”
I hung my head. “Peter…”
“You can’t say no when you’ve already said yes.”
I’d never said anything and he was fully aware of that.
“I don’t dance,” I said, gathering my tray of food and preparing to leave.
Peter stopped me by taking my hand, the tip of the butterfly’s wing sticking out from under my sleeve. “Then we’ll get dressed up and drink the punch. Deal?”
I never went to prom. I tried, but as I turned the corner in the new dress that I’d bought, a vision caught my eye. I saw myself at four years old. Not a phantom, but the physical me, on the last day I ever danced. In that version of me’s eyes, I saw the warning in them. And as wonderful as Peter had become to me, he wasn’t worth losing everything I’d worked for.
So instead I walked to the park, my long yellow dress trailing behind me in the dirt. Stars hung above my head and wind whistled through the trees, teasing and urging me to do what I could no longer do. “Dance,” the wind seemed to sing. “No,” is what I told it back.
“Dance,” I heard again. Only this time it wasn’t the wind telling me what to do. I turned, my eyes brimming with tears as I recognized the tall young man clothed in a black suit with a dandelion stuck in his lapel standing there under a streetlamp. “I don’t know why you refuse yourself what you really want.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said, hiking up my dress and stomping away from him. My mind was playing tricks on me. I swore I heard the sound of drums playing in the background. My imagination even went as far as conjuring up the sound of a flute, followed by a harp.
“Wait,” he called. I stopped walking. “Please, will you dance with me?”
“Dance by yourself,” I said, throwing my hands in the air.
He stared down at his converse. “I’ve forgotten how.”
I scoffed. “No one forgets how to dance,” I said. Even I hadn’t forgotten how to move my body in time with music. Even when I was standing still with my eyes clothes, I felt the dance inside of me, threatening to break out and reveal me.
“Can you dance and feel the magic?” he said. My heart skipped over a beat and I stared at him. What was he saying?
“Magic?” I tested the word on my tongue, a smirk tugging at my lips. “There’s no such thing.”
“Then how do people like us exist?” He turned and lifted up the back of his shirt, his skin shimmering before revealing green, scarred skin. The scars were right where my wings were and I realized with a sob what he was showing me.
“You ripped them out,” I whispered.
“Not me. My dad.”
“He’s only human.” Peter shrugged. “At least that’s what my mother said when I finally met her after the whole ordeal.” He dug his hands into his pockets. “Not that she stuck around long enough to show she cared. Fey have trouble portraying love to halflings.”
I hugged my arms around myself. Halflings.
Silence took over the park, neither of us knowing where to go from there. Putting aside the image of the sad girl that no longer danced behind, I closed the distance between us. His hands reached around my back and I let my wings unfold in them, his reach smoothing them into shape. “What now?” he asked.
“I met my father once,” I said, recalling the man from many years ago. “I think I’d like to meet him again.”
“Then let’s go. But first,” he held a hand out to me. “I think you owe me a dance.” I dropped my palm to his and he took it, naturally taking the lead from me as he dipped me to the earth.
“You said you forgot how to dance,” I said, raising my eyebrow at him.
In an instant, he whipped me back up. “And you said you didn’t dance.”
“Guess that makes us both liars.”
I covered my laugh with my hand. “But fairies can’t lie!”
“Then I guess we should be happy to have human blood in our systems,” he teased.
“You’re silly,” I said.
“And you’re an amazing dancer,” he replied.
“And we have parents that have some explaining to do.”
He twirled me out from him before spinning me back into his chest. “There’s time for that later. For now, we dance.”
And we did. For hours, we danced until my resolve was firm: I was finally comfortable in the skin I was in.
Monica’s Prompt: This may seem like a very open ended prompt, but since Monica is planning on doing some traveling this summer, I thought this would be a nice fit for her. (Plus, the picture made me giggle.)