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Saturday, 28 September 2013

There are Witches in the Cornfields

I had this idea in mind that these twins were witches living in Old America, and the one in white was a good witch, and the one wearing black was a wicked witch. I got the design for the upper half of the bodies from this RUNE sticker I got in the Gothic Lolita Bible 45, and the witch idea stemmed from there. I can't wait for Halloween!

P.S. At the bottom I tried out a new signature. Not quite sure if I like it.

When the Summer Ends Chapter 3

Chapter 3


July 1958

My cold blue eyes were positively glacial enough to cause it to frost over on a summer’s day. They widened, narrowed, then finally darkened. What I was seeing really, really did not please me. My hands balling into fists either side of my body and the lump in my throat were enough to reassure me of that. Heart pounding, adrenaline rushing, I careened over to the group of boys gathered around the old wooden bridge. From where I was standing, and the way they were knitted so closely together, I no doubtedly could have overlooked what was going on. Fortunately I had seen her cross the road, stupid frilly-ass dress swinging as she bopped her way to the other side. Unfortunately, my gang had seen her first… Her long blond hair and heart-shaped face would cause anybody to double take, but sadly, my boys weren’t exactly girlfriend shopping, you see. They had a bone to pick with girly-O - and boy, she’d be getting it!
Not today. They’d been real smart. But not today. I can’t let this happen… Within mere seconds I was in the heat of the situation.
‘Hey, guys! Leave her the fuck alone, you hear!’
In perfect unison, the three boys whipped around to see who their perpetrator was. Ben scoffed when he realised it was just me. With his back turned, I could just about see. There… I squinted into the sunlight and shielded my eyes from the sun. She was too fucking short for anybody on the outside of the circle to see, so it was awful lucky I’d seen her cross the road. If I hadn’t, she’d be a dead girl by now. The trembling wreck inside the tight-knit circle sounded although she was about to start hyperventilating if I hadn’t intervened. Her brown eyes were red-rimmed and wider than saucers. Her skin was bloodless yet blotchy from crying. For a while, everything just stopped. My gang watched me warily - each boy as confused as the next. They studied my stony expression with great apprehension and I was just about to let them have it when I was interrupted.
‘We caught this scrawny little nigger-loving bitch down near our turf. Why so mad, skirt? Don’t cha want to have a go?’ One of the three cronies guffawed dumbly, scratching his greased-back hair.
My lower lip trembled. Not because I was going to cry or anything soft like that, but because I was this close to exploding.
‘She’s real mad with us,’ Ben whispered just audible for me to hear. That was it. Whatever happens next, for the record, is completely not my fault. They provoked me.
‘Of course I’m fuckin’ mad with you!’ I heard myself roar, no longer in control of my anger. Hanging with these guys, I found myself to grow more and more impulsive. ‘What did she fucking do to you? She’s just a little kid! A little kid with a maid. She’s done nothing to you. You have no reason to pick on her, she’s innocent. Let her go.’
They didn’t look like they wanted to stop shoving and pushing her around like a beach ball, so I wrapped my fingers around the metallic cool of my switchblade inside my leather jacket and glowered deeply. ‘Now.’
‘Why should we? You’re just another stupid girl. Not only that, but you’re posing as a boy! Now, why don’t you just-’
I didn’t get to hear what Todd was going to suggest. My fist had already swung into his jaw. Everybody stopped and stared as Todd spat blood onto the wood below. Hardly even aware of this, I gave a fruity-sounding laugh as Todd backhanded the blood off of his face. The little girl’s eyes widened even further and her rosy cheeks flushed, either with embarrassment or fear. The other two boys let out a snarl and threw girly-O out the circle, and luckily, into my arms. She risked an anxious glance up into my face just after her body had came slamming into my own, decided I was trustworthy and burrowed into my chest. Girly-O felt stiff as a board, yet warm in my arms. Glaring ferociously with teeth gritted and wavy strands of dyed hair hanging into my eyes, I pulled the stranger closer as she snivelled into my leather jacket, wrapping my arms around her in a firm embrace, almost like a bear hug. My gang watched me impassively; Todd dabbing the blood off his stubbly chin with his mother’s lacy handkerchief, Ben hawking a fat wad of spit onto the wood and Scottie playing with his blade. All eyes on me.
‘If you want the fucking-A nigger-lover so much, just have her!’ Somebody yelled. I wasn’t quite sure who - I was too busy seeing red. Girly-O trembled like a leaf.
‘Why don’t you fuckin’ make out with ‘er while you’re at it! You look like you reeaaaallly want to!’ Another snickered. The greaser held up his index and middle fingers towards me, creating a V before flicking his tongue between them. The other boys guffawed but my expression remained phlegmatic. Luckily, the girl didn’t see the vulgar gesture, although, I doubted she would know what it meant anyway.
‘Butch! Butch! Butch! Butch!’ Todd chanted, his voice sounding nasally from when I’d punched him.
My cheeks didn’t flame like I’d expected them too, but I felt some shame welling up inside. Moving girly-O aside, I rolled my sleeves up and sashayed closer to my “friends”.
‘Which one of you fuckers wants to die first, hm? Personally, I don’t give a shit, but the decision is all yours.’
The three goons burst out laughing much to my dismay. Why won’t they ever take me seriously?!
‘You’re a girl. You can’t do anything.’ Scottie said slowly, although speaking to a young child.
‘Just you watch.’ I hissed, sounding more confident than I felt.
Imitating the fights my brothers would have, I strutted until I was inches from Scottie’s face. ‘I guess you’re first then, Scottie-boy.’
Ben wolf whistled and Todd crowed with infuriating malice.
‘Ooohoooo! The girl can tough talk! Let’s just see you fight, honey.’
In the background I could see the unknown girl cower in fear. Was she fearing for me? I hope so. They can beat the shit outta me, but if they so much as lay a finger on an innocent like herself, I’ll be onto them before they can draw breath.
‘Just because I’m a female doesn’t mean I can’t kill you.’
‘Girl’s are weak. Girl’s are pussies. Get back to the kitchen, Cherry.’
Honest to God I’d had enough at that point. Grabbing the sleek sheen of Scottie’s jacket, I forcefully brought my forehead down onto his own and shoved him outta my face.
‘Bitch just head-butted me!’ He cried, ‘Fuckin-A! Son of a bitch. Get ‘er!!’
The two goons flanked his side and grew closer. I wasn’t scared. Nope. He held a hand to his temples and rubbed. Whilst his hands were busy, I took the opportunity and arched my foot around and into his crotch. Laughing wildly, the hair in my eyes and my heart dancing a mambo, I took on the other two while the bastard clutched his aching balls and howled in agony an only a boy would feel. Like a bat outta hell (self proclaimed) I narrowly dodged a fist swung in my direction and twisted round, grabbing the outstretched arm and jerked it. Hard. I heard a snap. Then a gasp, presumably from Girly-O’s direction. Todd joined his pathetic friend on the bleached wood and into the mixed sounds of pain. Two down. One to go. Ben. He was tough. Not as tough as me, though!
With an animal-like urge and willpower, he grabbed my hair before I could so much as yell out. Thankfully, I still had my hands free. Long dirty nails sunk into the flesh of his upper arms and penetrated. My face a snarl, his a ghostly mask, I brought him down to his knees and kicked him in the teeth, his paws ripped out of my hair. Needless to say, ol’ Ben lost a few teeth that day.
‘Now fuck off.’
There were grumbles of protest, but as I gave them the most menacing expression I could muster, they fled the scene, leaving girly-O all to myself. Her body twitched towards the left although she was thinking of making a quick getaway. The blond backed away, pressing her back against the bridge with fearful eyes. Alarmed, I felt she thought I was going to hurt her just like those boys did.
‘I’m not going to hurt you. Chill man!’
She said nothing. Mouth opening and closing like a goldfish’s.
‘Cat got your tongue?’
Her expression frantic, petite hands curled up into her heavy skirts, she mumbled something completely inaudible, obviously seeing me as a threat. I had to strain to hear.
‘Huh? What was that?’
‘I-I said, thank you for helping me…’
‘Oh! No need to thank me,’ I paused, striking a pose like Superman, ‘It’s all in a good day’s work, fair maiden!’
The girl snorted a giggle, and clasped her hands over her mouth whilst she did it. She seemed kinda adorable… With neat blond waves a little past her waist, she looked like a princess from Medieval times, off to go bare horseback ride into the village. Her brown eyes were huge, magnified by fear, but still beautiful with long, black eyelashes. Cheeks were flushed a healthy rose colour, and she had a heart-shaped face and fair skin. Girly-O stood around only five foot, giving me a good eight inches above her. She looked weedy too… No wonder those guys thought they could pick on her.
‘You’re such a dope!’ I exclaimed, feigning exasperation, ‘A cute, sweet dope.’
Momentarily, her eyes flickered up to meet mine. She dropped her gaze. Shy again.
I tried a question this time. ‘So, where’d you roll in from then?’
Again, the goldfish gesture. ‘I come from France, but my dad’s American.’
‘I thought so. You got an accent.’
She blushed.
‘That reminds me, I haven’t asked your name, girly-O. How rude of me!’
‘I’m Ai-’
A rock was thrown our way. Luckily it was such a shit aim, nobody got hurt - but “Ai” jumped ten feet in the air.
‘You’re out of the gang, lesbian!’ Came a yell from the right. I ignored them, resisting the urge to throw it back. Harder.
‘Ai?’ I prompted.
‘Aika Rowland.’
My eyebrows must have raised, for she looked hurt. ‘That’s an… unusual name. But pretty. Is it French?’
‘No, not at all,’ Aika giggled, ‘It’s Japanese.’
My eyebrows were lost to my hair.
‘Daddy thought it was edgy, so Aika it was,’ she sighed, crossing her arms across her chest. ‘Mother wanted a traditional French name. Dad wouldn’t buy it though.’ To say she seemed disappointed with her name was like saying boys are stupid.
Trying to be kind to this shy girl, I asked her what it meant. She seemed confused.
‘You know, like how all names have meanings. Sarah means “princess” and uh, Ellie means “light”.’
She looked embarrassed. Mumbled something under her breath again.
‘I’m sorry, I didn’t quite catch that.’
‘… It means “love song”.’ Her face went to beetroot and I chortled.
Aika Rowland didn’t exactly seem like the party animal kind, but, she did seem cute. Real cute. I cleared my throat and asked her if she wanted to perhaps get a shake over at The Hop.
The Hop was a diner just a stones throw away from downtown. This was where all the “cool kids” hung apparently, but all I see is lanky, spotty teenagers sipping milkshakes and smoking tobacco. Need I say it? I have to admit I was the coolest cat around these parts. With the jukebox playing all the latest rock n’ roll hits at full blast - it’s like The Hop and I were meant to be. Mostly I hang there alone just to listen to my idols Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley. Occasionally I’d purchase a strawberry shake or a chocolate banana split, but mostly it’s the music that attracts me to the place. The place is decked out with numerous bar stools and booths, couples sat holding hands and drinking out of the same milkshake (yuck!), teenage girls giggling together about boys (double yuck!) and then there’s me. A regular.


‘So, are you upset that they kicked you out of the gang?’ Aika asked me with innocent eyes. She was currently seated opposite me, her petticoats and pink gingham dress fanned out across the baby blue of the booth. Elvis Presley’s ‘Teddy Bear’ blared out in the background. I bobbed my head to the music and drummed my hands on the table top. His husky voice always gave me the chills. I loved Elvis.
‘Not really,’ I lied.
Truth be told, I was fuming. How dare they just kick me out like that?! I was the life and soul of the group. The leader for Christ’s sake! Being in that group was my one chance to show women were just as good as men - and guess what? - I blew it. Blew it double time… They’ll never accept me back with open arms.
On the bright side, Aika Rowland seemed like a real sweet gal.
‘Are you sure? You seem pretty hurt, Cherry.’
‘Yeah, I ain’t sad. It doesn’t matter. Not to me! Just wait, they’ll be begging for me to come back,’ I snorted, pulling a ridiculous face and rolling my eyes.
‘Well…’ She hesitated and averted her eyes, ‘I’m glad you’re not sad, Cherry. I feel partly responsible for that…’ She appeared melancholy.
I chuckled darkly. ‘Who in their right mind would miss them!’
‘Stupid boys! Stupid boys!’ Aika chanted teasingly, swinging her legs under the table.
‘Fuck, yeah! Who needs em?’
A young and skinny waitress arrived, taking our orders and swiftly departing. A strawberry milkshake for Aika - and a cherry coke float for yours truly. I thanked the lady without so much as glancing her way, my eyes were too busy being trained on Aika’s petite form.
‘It was really cool the way you beat those boys up,’ my new friend piped up, eyes sparkling with the memories. I doubted she’d ever forget that moment. It was pretty badass if I don’t say so myself!
‘Oh, that. They were weaklings anyway, but don’t tell your mom. She’d have a bird if she knew you were hanging with the likes of me.’
‘My mum’s in France.’ That melancholy reappeared on her face, ‘But I do wonder what she’d think of a girl like you!’ How blunt!
‘Heeeeyy… What’s that supposed to mean?’
‘Oh, um, sorry. I don’t mean it in a rude way. I-I just-’
I spluttered - not being able to take this any longer.
‘You’re so goddamn cute!
‘Excuse me?’
‘Oh, Aika! It’s so funny how I make you nervous! Just chill, man!’
‘Don’t be sorry.’
‘Sorry! Oh, um, sorry!’
‘You just did it again.’
‘Sorry! Ah, I did it again.’
My belly was aching by the time the waitress arrived back with our orders. How many times could she say sorry without meaning to?
The cherry coke float tasted just as good as I remembered. Of course I always chose it because of the similarity to my name, but it sure was delicious. The ice-cold condensation on the glass made my mouth feel extra dry, so I downed half of it before Aika had even stirred the contents of her shake. I picked the long silver spoon from out the depths of the coke and started on the melting vanilla ice cream.
Aika was taking a tentative slurp of her milkshake before I interrupted her with a question designed to fluster. I couldn’t help it! It was just too funny to watch her flounder.
‘You’re pretty. Have you ever kissed a boy?’
Her jaw dropped. Almost comically, too.
‘No! Boys are disgusting!’
‘Good girl. You’re too young for that anyway.’
‘What about you?’
‘The last boy I played with, I killed.’
Her eyes widened briefly before realising what I said was meant in jest.
I paused for a moment and came up with my usual gag. Mother always used to roar laughing at this one:
‘I like men… but I couldn’t eat a whole one. Ha!’
The small girl opposite almost choked on her drink. Her eyes bulged but she tried her hardest not to laugh.
‘You should tell my brother that. He’d love it.’
‘You have brothers? Me too. Ugh, they’re such a pain.’
Out of the corner of my eye, I could see two teenage boys seating themselves in the booth adjacent to ours. They eyed Aika suspiciously but soon went back to studying the menus. I narrowed my eyes, mentally preparing myself to protect her if those boys were anything like my gang. I’d had enough for one day.
Little by little, Aika seemed to be getting chattier. Opening up to me. I like this Aika chick, even if she can be… what’s the word? Frivolous. She stirred the contents of her glass, caught my staring eyes, bowed her head and looked down and away. Smiled coyly.
I eyeballed the boys next door one final time before going to take a sip of my coke. My elbow was unfortunately, in front of my drink. Being the clumsy oaf I am, the half full cup went flying off the table; soaking the seat of my jeans, a puddle collecting on the cracked leather of the booth and, much to my complete and utter shame, saturating the adjacent boys. One leapt from his ass with his wet arms spread wide and mouth agape. The other sat stunned in his cherry coke lake, his pants soaking through completely. Aika’s mouth emulated a goldfish once again.
In the hot mess of this pandemonium, I had no a clue what to do or say. Instead, I found myself giving a horrendously loud, horse-like hee-haw and galloped off, leaving the poor girl to sink into humiliation in my wake. In embarrassing situations, laughing it off is the only way to deal with it. Otherwise, I’d just cry… What made it worse was that I left Aika to pay the bill alone. Oh boy… If those guys lay a finger on her because of me I swear-
‘Cherry!’ The bell of the diner chimed as Aika made her way outside. I had to admit, her elegant way of sauntering made me wish I could be graceful like her.
I inspected her coolly.
‘Cherry, what happened? I had to pay the bill alone!’
Averting my eyes, I muttered, ‘I’m sorry.’
She caught my eye. In that moment, I realised she wasn’t mad at me. The grin on her face said it all. Her grin was found to be contagious and spread to my own face. She covered her mouth and we both burst out giggling until we turned red in the face. I felt the shame leave my body, to be replaced with much pleasanter emotions; humour, relief, relaxation, and love.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Aika at Botanic Gardens

The old Victorian greenhouses inside Botanic Gardens are really cute and magical feeling! It has this really forest-y smell and there's waterfalls and wishing wells along with the flora and fauna. These cute little spiders kept floating down on their threads when I was walking past, and one of them attacked my brother!  I took photos of Aika and made a wish in the wishing well. I think Botanic Gardens is one of my favourite parks as it's very Victorian styled.


Thursday, 19 September 2013

When the Summer Ends Chapter 2

Chapter 2


July 1958

To make the most of things in Jubilee, I have decided to go on a kind of exploration of the area. Despite living here for a few weeks, I’ve hardly even left the house since arriving. Save for the garden, and occasionally in the surrounding area of forest, I haven’t been anywhere. I’m more of an indoor type of person, you see. Dad keeps nagging me about getting more exercise, but I don’t think it’s too much of a problem. After all, I need to put a little weight on - Cissy tells me I’m far too skinny for my age.
Only ever seeing the small town area by riding past it in my father’s car, I had to admit I am a tiny bit curious. Jubilee would be where I will no-doubtedly be spending the rest of my childhood and adolescent years, so why not get excited for the place? From what I saw, Vermont was beautiful.
I tied my long blond hair back into braids and added two red silk ribbons for decoration. Looking into the mirror, I smiled back at the reflection I saw. Today was a new day - and I wouldn’t allow myself to feel worried about something so far in the future. Yesterday I had gotten myself into such an anxious state just thinking about school, and the worst thing is, deep down, I know that everything will be just fine. It always is, I told myself as I grabbed a picnic-like bag from my wardrobe. Why do I worry so much? Don’t you know it gives you stomach cramps when you worry so?
The plaits were loosely braided and came down a little past my waist. I’ve lost track of the amount of times I’ve accidentally ended up loosing hair by standing up suddenly when I’ve been sat on it. They swung almost whimsically as I made my way out the front door.
Forest noises are really sweet in my opinion. I can lie in bed in the early mornings when the sun begins to rise just to listen to the birds sing. I’ll have to purchase a bird book some day so I can identify the birds that roost themselves in the nooks and crannies between my window sill and the roof. Sometimes when I sit really, really still, a little deer comes strolling by with his little head held high, fluffy tail aloft to the forest sky. It truly is a magical sight! I know Buddy would love to shoot that poor, darling deer with his gun if hunting was legal in this area, but there is no way I’d allow him to do any such thing! I’m a strong pacifist and I love animals.
It’s odd… Thinking back, I haven’t seen anybody in the forest besides a few odd squirrels and a deer or two. It is so unlike back when I lived in the outskirts of Paris; everyday I would play out with friends in the village and we’d all have such fun. The woodlands are gorgeous, so I don’t understand why I never come across any other kids whilst on my walks.
I stand in my garden, chin sky-wards as I try to spot the red squirrels that play in the pines. I can hear them chattering and squabbling amongst one another, I just can’t see them.
‘Oh!’ I exclaimed as one came scuttling and zig-zagging down the tree trunk. The little rascal leapt like a wildcat into the air and landed on all four paws higher up in the tree where her squirrel companion was waiting. A giggle escaped my lips as they chased each other up and down the bark. If this were a cartoon on the black and white TV, surely little stars would be floating around their heads by now! ‘How cute you are!’
‘Pretty sweet, right?’ Pierre called out from behind me. His voice was soft and gentle, a quality I admired most about my older brother. He could always appear so tranquil and sweet. I’m jealous.
‘They’re just adorable,’ I agreed. Seeing as he was dressed so finely, I added, ‘I’m about to go for a walk down in the forest. Would you like to accompany me?’
He wore a three piece suit from time to time, something which made Buddy snort in scorn - he was more of a casual type of boy. Typical slob if you ask me… Reading my books, I often come across the term ‘dandy’. This is the term I could use to describe Pierre. It suited him to a T! From the terms ‘Cult of Self’ and also his leisurely hobbies; Dandy-ism could be to Pierre what Lolita is to me. Fashion is something I love as trivial as it may sound. Everybody can express their personalities by the clothes they wear. With Pierre, his dressy sense of style reminds me uncannily of a Victorian gentleman out for a stroll on the streets of Paris. He may get embarrassed if I address him as a dandy though. Pierre gets bashful so easily. A complete and utter opposite to his older brother.
‘Well, of course! I’d love to, Ai,’ Pierre beamed, seemingly happy with his only invitation of the month. Since we moved, I can’t help but feel my big brother hardly gets any attention from dad. Buddy gets a lot of dad’s attention seeing as he’s the eldest, but not necessarily in a good way. They mostly argue.
I linked my arm into Pierre’s. ‘Let’s go.’ I smiled up at him, Pierre being a good five inches taller than me, ‘I’ve packed a small picnic for us to share.’
The rich, earthy smell of the forest mixed with sea salt in the air was something I loved about the area we lived in. As we decided our path, the squirrels from before chattered noisily above our heads, presumably unhappy about us making so much fuss. Studying a small, crumpled map that Buddy had drawn out earlier for me, I decided it was hopeless to attempt to decipher his careless scrawl. I folded it up even smaller, tucked it into my bag and sighed, glancing both right and left. Which way would take us downtown? Two different paths glared at me, taunting me with their unfamiliarity. One was barren and sandy, appearing although it had been made by animal rather than by man - the other, whilst being slightly more artificial, looked although it could go on for miles and miles and still get us nowhere… Trust dad to send us to a place in the middle of nowhere!
‘Do you think…’ I pointed to the left, ‘This way?’ Pierre glanced down at me, his red hair flopping into his eyes. I could tell he didn’t trust my decision, being older than me.
‘I’m really not sure, Ai. This place is so strange to me.’
I didn’t blame him.
‘Well…’ I paused, waiting for something supportive to say rather than something negative, ‘It doesn’t matter if we don’t get to downtown. Really. I just want to go on an exploration to be honest.’
Pierre snorted, ‘Lets just blame Buddy if we get lost. His map could have been drawn by a five year old!’
I giggled in return and took the left without waiting for my brother’s approval. Pierre caught up to me and re-linked our arms. The picnic basket swung against my hips as we walked and I didn’t bother to fix it. I was too enthralled by the nature to focus on keeping my bag level. Clusters of red toadstools gathered at the tree’s long roots, reminding me of fairy magic and long summer days as a child. Decaying leaves from the previous Autumn crunched underfoot as we continued to march on our stroll to anywhere and nowhere. Pierre’s slender frame kept up a steady pace, leaving only me to weave my way after him, occasionally grabbing onto his arm for support. For what seemed like hours we walked, at peace with our lives and living in the moment as everybody should. It was relaxing. Peaceful… I felt although this summer would never end. I wish it wouldn’t.
Our walk lasted about half an hour, and as the trees began to reach a clearing, I started to seriously wonder how on earth I was supposed to get to school every morning. It seemed we took the long but scenic route as I could see the path we could have taken didn’t curve round as much. Pierre smiled, but I could tell he was feeling rather smug deep inside. Never mind. I still had fun!
The clearing was another dusty path that lead to some residential neighbourhood that I’d never seen before. Large, typical New England houses towered around us in all their pastel wood glory. Some had huge porches and balconies, whereas others had decorative bells swinging and chiming near the roofs. American flags bellowed and roared in the salty breeze, coloured balloons soared high up in the sky along with the kites of giggling children. Pierre squeezed my hand and I squeezed back. This truly was a beautiful dream.
Two young men were relaxing out on their porch, Little Richard’s Tutti Fruti blaring out at maximum volume. My cheeks flushed as Pierre began to bob up and down to the rhythm of the song, attracting one of the boy’s attention - I spluttered in a fit of the giggles and clamped my hand over my mouth. Pierre burst into a full-on jig, twisting and jiving, his hand still wrapped around my wrist. The boys both grinned sheepishly and turned back to their discussion.
‘What? That was fun. I really dig this American rock n’ roll!’
I couldn’t help but laugh again, ‘That was embarrassing! If you want to dance, please don’t do it in public!’
My brother shook his head teasingly and we went on with our walk.
We passed young women on bikes, their petticoats billowing in the wind with their felted poodle skirts. Greaser boys swaggered around in packs, occasionally tugging on some un-expecting girl’s hair and wrapping their arm around her waist. They reminded me of gangs of wolves somewhat… I hope one won’t try pulling my hair, I don’t know how I’ll act if they do. Couples held hands, swinging their arms and giving one another goofy, adoring glances every once in a while. A little boy held a red balloon in his petite hand, grinning happily as a clown handed him one out of his bouquet of balloons. Another clown on the street corner twisted and manipulated one balloon into the shape of a dog for some applauding girl. Both their faces were coated with layers of deathly white greasepaint. Black crosses covered one clown’s eyes, whereas blue and red circled the others. The pair wore comically big red noses that gave a honking sound when squeezed. Pierre shuddered.
‘I hate clowns,’ he said with a grimace.
‘Why?’I asked, surprised. I thought clowns were awfully funny.
‘Don’t you think they’re so horribly creepy?’
‘Not at all! They’re cute!’
‘You’re an oddball, Aika. A real weirdo if you ask me.’ Pierre smiled, giving me a hint he was teasing.
A stall selling ice cream and Victorian lemonade was heaving with hot, thirsty customers. Each person in line had a sunburn from being out in the sun too long. Children in line each clutched a balloon gifted from the pair of clowns on the street corner. I would have asked to get one, but I know Pierre would refuse to be within five feet of them - and there was no way I was going anywhere alone in this unfamiliar town, even if it was only a little down the road.
I hesitated, glancing longingly at the balloons in all colours before Pierre dragged me away, bristling visibly as he snook past the clowns. I snickered under my breath and he whipped around to give me a slight glare.
‘It’s not funny.’
‘I know, I know. I’m sorry, big brother.’
‘If you really want a balloon… then go get one. Unless you’re afraid they might turn rabid and eat you…’ He smirked slightly, reminding me of Buddy. That smirk was a trait both my brothers gained from my father’s side. I never mastered it.
That put me off. What had he been reading?! ‘Hmm, that’s okay. I’d rather not be eaten alive by a clown, thank you very much,’ I joked, elbowing him gently in the ribcage.
After stumbling about the neighbourhood for a while in the heat, it became apparent we wouldn’t find downtown without a car. What a shame! I really wanted to go clothes shopping too; especially for one of those sailor-collar blouses I see all the local girls wearing. Pierre looked tired, so I suggested we go back. He suggested I be quiet. Reluctantly, I pressed my lips together.
‘Hey, Ai. What’s that over there?’
I glanced over at where Pierre was pointing and narrowed my eyes to see better in the glare of the sun. It was such a bright day that the sun bounced off something metallic and straight into my eyes. I placed a hand above my brow to prevent myself from being blinded. That metallic something was large and seemed to stretch on for miles. Not a soul in sight strayed down that path, so Pierre bravely decided to lead the way to investigate. After all, I did say I wanted to explore, didn’t I? And investigate we shall.
I skipped, following Pierre’s lead, confident that my big brother would protect me if things went bad. I wasn’t very trusting for a young girl, despite how naive my family may think me to be. Recently this foreign soil had turned my distrust into apprehension. I hope it was just a phase. As we got closer, it seemed that glint of silver was actually a railroad. I wondered how we hadn’t figured it out in the first place, however we still followed the dusty track like a magpie in search of all that glistens. Abandoned trains lay either side of the track adjacent to the bushes and trees. A rusty sign promising that all trespassers would be persecuted was dotted with changing shadows and bursts of sunshine from the gently swaying foliage. My gut clenched as I urged Pierre to stray no further. He was seemingly feeling awfully mischevious today, and grinned at me, turning back around to race even further down the path.
‘Pierre, no!’
‘Oh, Ai-baby… You’re such a worry gut! There’s nobody here, we’ll be just fine!’ He yelled over to me.
I stopped dead where I was and resisted the urge to cry. I didn’t want to get hurt or in trouble, but at the same time, I didn’t want my brother to be all alone in this unfamiliar place… Tears threatened to spill, but I blinked them back and followed the leader, walking the old track although it were a tightrope.
‘Please come back, Pierre…’
‘What are you afraid of?’
Everything. ‘Nothing.’
‘Good, well come on then!’
I clutched my straw hat embellished with cherries to my head and sprinted after my brother as fast as I could manage, the salty breeze beating me back and my braids whipping me like knives as I raced. I wanted to beat this fear… I can’t be scared forever can I? Don’t let worry win. Don’t let it beat you down… I can be strong. I will be brave. Despite the nerves welling inside, I caught up to my elder brother and wrapped my arms around his waist tightly. He seemed surprised, but hugged me back, calling me a silly little girl. He was three years older than me, but we got along better than anybody else in the whole household. I buried my face into his dinner jacket and breathed in his musky, strong cologne. He could see that I was feeling blue, so pulled me over to the bushes where somebody kind had planted narcissus and daisies. I watched silently and sniffled into my hankie as Pierre gathered together a pretty little bouquet of flowers and handed them to me. I replaced my embroidered handkerchief with the flowers and smelled them. The narcissus had a delicate scent, but the daisies were strongest of all, causing my brother to burst into a sneezing fit. I cracked a genuine smile, forgetting fully about what had made me panic. I could always rely on my brother Pierre to make everything better.


August 1958

Recently I’ve been noticing things. Small things, but still, things… These little somethings force knots to form in my stomach and a lump in my throat. Call me silly, but it’s the trees. They’re beautiful, I know. There’s nothing like the forests of Vermont. Now that it’s August, I can’t help but feel time flies by so fast that we all get dizzy trying to keep track of it. Am I the only one that can feel my life whizzing by so fast that I’m struggling to keep up? I’ll be old before I know it… But that can’t happen! I want everything to stay the same. The trees; they signify birth, growth, disease and finally death, just like a human does. At the moment, the trees and shrubbery I can see outside my bedroom window are in the midsts of growth and disease. I feel blue just thinking about it. That exact shade of pumpkin orange tells me that the summer is nearly over. Just when I thought it would never end. Or maybe that was wishful thinking? If only time could freeze. That would make me so happy.
I look up from the embroidery hoop I was adjusting. A single pink thread trails from the needle poised in mid air. Was that Cissy just now? There was a period of silence, so I dismissed it as my imagination.
‘Aika?’ There was the voice again, this time a little louder and much more desperate sounding. Instead of going back to my sewing I trailed out my bedroom and leaned over the banister as far as I could go without falling.
‘Yes? Did somebody call?’
‘It’s me, Aika,’ I caught a glimpse of Cissy’s profile from the awkward angle of the staircase. She dropped her eyes from my face and twiddled with her thumbs for a few seconds, before… ‘I don’t want to upset you, but master asked us to go shopping for… school supplies.’ My heart sank at that. Just thinking about school makes my chest go tight.
She puffed out her chest for a second before politely asking for me to come down. My fist reaction would have been to run away back into my room and hide under the covers, so I don’t have to face buying things for school. Cissy could tell I was about to be difficult, so came to me instead. I feel like such a silly little girl when this happens… I don’t know why, but I want to curl up and hibernate whenever I hear the word “school” or “education” or “friends”. It’s scary.
The expression on Cissy’s face seemed stern for a fraction of a second before melting into a maternal smile. She was halfway up the staircase before she spoke to me; ‘I know you’re real scared, baby girl, but I promise ya it won’t always be so bad. You’re a good girl. A pretty girl. A clever girl. You can get through this.’ She rested her hands against each of my shoulders and caught her breath. ‘I know it.’
I appreciated Cissy’s words, but I knew that they were too good to be true. It’s just so frightening, this whole school system. In France I found it hard to make friends, and now we’re in the States, I just know it will be a hundred times harder! Tears burned against my lids, and my hands felt cold against the banister. Gulping back the desire to cry, I said a small and shaky, ‘Thank you, Cissy.’
She ran her strong hand through my blond curls before turning back to face the bottom of the staircase. ‘Lets go, Ai. If you’re a good girl, I promise ya we’ll stop by the ice cream shop before we get back.’
I grabbed onto her arm as we made our way out the house and into the forest. She was taller than me, and much wider, wearing a neatly pressed pastel pink maid uniform. The material was a cheap polystyrene which made me wish she could wear much prettier garments. I couldn’t help but imagine her in one of my yellow gingham dresses and think how beautiful she would look. She wore a peachy, floral perfume that suited her gentle personality perfectly. We were at the downtown area Pierre and I failed to reach the other week, within mere minutes.
The downtown area of the small town was, of course, also small. I don’t now what I expected, but it certainly wasn’t this. This was so much better. Teenagers, elderly people and young couples strolled about their daily business, the two wide streets containing many stores selling high street and boutique clothes, breaking off at adjacent points and leading on to other streets. Each road was lined with the deep orange autumn trees, miniature orbs circling their trunks for when it gets dark. The sky was painted a deep blue and not a single cloud tainted the atmosphere. Children laughed and played in the street. Two boys about my age swaggered about the street like they owned it. To my left, a mixed group of teenagers skulked about, each one as mischievous looking ad the next. The girl looked about fifteen and had long bleached blond hair, frizzy and tangled as mine was smoothly curled into ringlets. She glanced at me longingly and I wondered if it were my imagination. Two greaser boys flanked her sides and played with their switchblades. The sight of the blades alarmed me, so I stopped my gawking and dragged Cissy off and into the nearest store. Cissy seemed surprised - especially seeing as we only just arrived - but compiled to what I wanted without complaint. I could tell she wanted to explore, but I wasn’t taking any chances; if those boys had knives, I wanted to be nowhere in their eye line. Who knows when you meet a psychopath? It could be the old man next door for all you know…
In the shoe store, Cissy turned to me in surprise, ‘What was that about, Ai? Did you get a crush on one of those boys?’ The last sentence she said with a teasing smile.
I shook my head and bit down on the insides of my cheeks. What really happened was that I didn’t want those boys to hurt Cissy… She was a black woman, and everybody knows that innocent black people can get attacked on the street without warning… Just look at the scar on her cheek to know that. I don’t want Cissy to be hurt or even killed. She means an awful lot to me… ‘I just want to look at the shoes. A pair really caught my eye from outside!’
Cissy followed me around the store as I tried to find a pair I really liked. I had to make it believable. ‘ Hey, these are them,’ I grinned, slipping one onto my right foot. Truth be told, they weren’t my favourite kind of shoe, but I didn’t want Cissy to know I told a lie. She hates liars.
My maid glanced at the pair of shoes in my hands and sighed. I could tell by the tone in her voice that she didn’t believe me.
‘What was the real reason ya brought me in here, baby girl?’
‘Well…’ I hesitated slightly, choosing my words carefully. Finally I decided to just come out with it. ‘ There were these boys outside with knives! They looked scary…’ I had to admit it sounded weak and babyish. Even my voice sounded feeble-minded.
Cissy beamed widely before bursting out in the giggles.
‘What’s so funny?’
‘I’m not laughing at ya, Ai! It’s just you’re so sweet. Ya shouldn’t worry so much. Those boys won’t hurt you!’
‘What? They had switchblades though!’
‘Most of those boys carry them around as part of a gang memorabilia. They don’t actually use them to attack people. Okay, I admit greasers have a reputation to be kind of aggressive, but I know for sure they won’t lay a finger on ya.’
‘Are you sure about that?’ I asked doubtfully.
‘I’m positive. Well, if they do, baby girl, you needn’t worry because I’ll bop them on the nose!’
I laughed at this. Cissy can be so funny sometimes! Despite laughing, my mind wandered back to that girl squeezed between the two greaser boys. The look in her blue eyes was just so sad. I wish I could have helped her, but I didn’t know how. Most days, I don’t even know how to say ‘good morning’ to my own family.
‘That girl outside, do you think she is okay?’
Cissy paused, ‘Well, why wouldn’t she be?’
‘She just looked so frightened! No wonder with those two awful boys!’
‘You’re being paranoid now, Aika. I promise you she’s completely fine.’
I risked a glance at Cissy’s face. ‘I hope so… Lets get out and find the stationary store. I want to get some new drawing pencils and some books!’ I prayed my voice sounded more cheerful than I felt.
Outside, the greaser gang were still posing. I narrowed my eyes slightly as I passed them, keeping my face and body pointed firmly away from them. One of them pointed in our direction and snickered. My cheeks flamed. Inside my chest, my heart was pumping so hard and fast, it felt although it wanted to escape my ribcage. Just ignore them. Just ignore them. The girl gave me another desperate, longing side glance. Was she in trouble?
‘Eh, look ‘ere, boys! The dolly girl is with the old nigger hag! What a bunch of freaks!’ One of the boys crowed, elbowing his friend in the side. The other boy laughed whereas the big girl’s face remained phlegmatic. I could see the anger in her eyes though… She was just as infuriated and humiliated as myself and Cissy. If only we could put an end to this hatred and oppression towards different people. The world would be a much happier place if only that could happen.
I felt Cissy stiffen beside me. Her cocoa cheeks were flushed slightly, but the hurt was no longer evident in her gaze. The sad thing was, she was already used to this kind of abuse. My frown deepened and I felt my hands ball into fists either side of my body.
If taunting wasn’t enough, the terrible, jeering, mocking laughter certainly was. My face flushed beetroot red all over and tears burned the backs of my eyes. I wish I could say something to make them stop, I truly do. I wanted to say, “Leave my maid alone you horrible boys!” but something held me back. Something always does.
‘The fat old lady and her freakishly dressed mistress. Where did you get your duds, the circus?’
Before I could cry for both Cissy and myself, the girl came to our rescue.
‘Oi, just you let them alone!’ Her voice was deep for a girl’s and was heavily accented from the area. Her baby blue eyes turned glacial as she snapped at them; her bleached blond hair was messy and fell into her eyes, giving her a dangerous, couldn’t-care-less look. She was very tall and curvy, wearing concealing boy’s clothes and a matching leather jacket to fit in with her crew. When she spoke, it was evident who the leader really was here. The two boys paused from their bullying, their faces each displaying mixed shock and slight fearfulness… She hesitated for a fraction of a second, chewing on her gum and giving each boy a disgusted look, ‘We’re all human. Show a little common decency and let them be.’
I was a little frightened of the big girl, but who wouldn’t be? The look in her eyes was pure danger. She was not to be messed with. Despite being scared, I was completely and utterly in awe. I was totally in her dept. My maid visibly relaxed beside me, her shoulders slumping back down. The gratitude was in her face. Cissy had told me before that those boys were nothing to be worried about, but at this moment in time, anybody could tell she was intensely relieved it didn’t turn ugly. As was I. Everyone could tell who was in control of the situation.
‘L-let’s go, Cissy.’ I stammered, grabbing onto her arm and leading our way back towards where we came. Cissy nodded rapidly and followed me closely, keeping her eyes trained icily on the big boys the whole time, and placing a protective arm around my body.
The fury burned inside, but I couldn’t do anything about it. This must just be a daily part of life for Cissy, I thought sadly. I could feel the big girl’s eyes bore into my back. When I turned back around from the other side of the road, she was still watching me, that expression of dreamy longing back on her face. Her two companions continued to stay by her side, but it didn’t need a psychic to tell there was tension in the air. The two boys left shortly after that, leaving her all on her own. She seemed happier that way - cursing them secretly behind their backs - calling them pig-headed, ignorant bastards. Why hang out with those disgusting boys if it makes you so sad? What I didn’t know was that she actually had a really good reason to. If only I hadn’t found it out earlier… Things could have been a whole lot easier…
I was embarrassed to see her give me a little smile from across the road, obviously not disgruntled at my staring. My face twitched into what I thought was a brief smile in return, but just to be sure, I added a little wave and ducked my head in shyness. Her cherry red lips formed a sentence that I couldn’t quite comprehend. Little did I know, she was actually wondering aloud what the heck I was wearing. Even if I did understand what she uttered, I know I wouldn’t care at all. She was the one wearing boys clothes!
Eyeballing my maid dismally as she lumbered her way back down the road, I floundered my way after her, fully and unpleasantly aware of all the evil eyes boring into my back. Most of them were sent by those greaser boys, but some - oh how this irks me - some were from passers by, their faces contorted with disgust. Cissy held her head high although she just didn’t care, but I knew better. When we were out of earshot from the public, I caught fully up to her and wrapped her in a clingy embrace.
‘Cissy, I’m so sorry about the way those boys treated you… They… they were wrong,’ I paused, moistening my lips nervously, ‘and evil…’
Cissy’s eyes danced for a fraction of a second before filling with tears. It was although she couldn’t quite make up her mind which emotion to display. Her full lips wobbled somewhere between a grimace and a grin; but in the end, she decided to keep her bad feelings inside and attempted a wry smile.
After another painful moment of silence, she began to speak. Even now, I can fully recall what she told me on this day; Cissy was one of those wise women who had seen it all and she is what I aspire to be someday. ‘We’re not that much different you know, Aika.’
I was puzzled.
‘Black, white… It doesn’t matter. We’re all the same. We’re all human. And what I see when I look at you,’ she hesitated, wondering if it were her place to say it, ‘I don’t see a white girl. Neither do I see your wealth or social status handed down to ya by your parents. I see a beautiful girl, both inside and out. Someone who would never judge. A girl who is colour-blind and unprejudiced. And I know you see the same in me… Those boys don’t mean a thing to me. They don’t know me. Sure it hurt, but without even knowing them fully, I can tell they’re real ignorant. Times will change, just you see.’
My eyes must have appeared wide, for she laughed airily, ‘And I hope I’m around to see it! Well, I’m sorry to start preachin’ at ya, baby girl, but that’s just what I believe.’
Mouth agape, I wish I could have told her not to apologise, for that was the most lovely, sweet thing I had ever heard. It made me feel stronger somehow. If Cissy could remain in good spirits after all she’d gone through, then so shall I.
‘Thank you for saying that,’ I whispered, my voice coming out hoarse and mouse-like. There was so much more I could have said. So much more I wanted to say. Cissy understood though, I could see it in her big brown eyes.
Deciding against going back to Main Street (I was feeling panicky over the events from before), we traipsed our way back home through the forest, not caring at all what father would say when we returned. There was a silence settling between the two of us. It wasn’t quite uncomfortable, but it wasn’t exactly reassuring either.
‘You’re bein’ awfully quiet.’
‘E-er,’ I stammered, trying my hardest to shrink back and make myself appear smaller. The back of my skirt skimmed the trees behind me.
Cissy giggled, her eyes crinkling in genuine amusement. I wondered what was so funny. Was she laughing at my discomfort? Her face straightened. ‘Are ya worried ‘bout somethin’?’
My legs twined one another as I considered my options. I decided to come out with it. ‘Cissy… C-can I tell you something?’
‘Well, of course!’
‘I-I’m very worried about s-school in September. I’ve been thinking about it for a while and… I just know I won’t fit in… I find English hard, especially around people I don’t know - a-and I’m very scared I’ll fail school.’ When I’d finished, I was dreading that Cissy would start snickering again; surprisingly, she wrapped one large, beefy arm around my shoulders and squeezed. I recoiled at the touch, but appreciated what she was attempting to convey to me.
‘I understand. I know it’s hard, but don’t worry. You’ll get somewhere, I know it. Even if ya find it difficult, everybody knows you’ll do well. Ya always do because ya try your best and get through.’
Her words made me blush, but somehow, I felt her words to be true. I would try my hardest to get through school, and keep a smile on my face. Cissy’s words had filled me somewhat with a newfound confidence. Maybe I shouldn’t worry so much.
‘Hey, Cissy. If you could wish for anything in the world, what would it be?’
She hesitated a moment and moistened her lips, deciding exactly what to say. ‘Why, I’d wish for more wishes a’ cause!’
I raised my eyebrows. ‘Really.’
‘Okay, what I really, really wished for… was to one day make something of myself. Like your mother, or your father. I want to be a rich old lady living with a cat.’ She tittered, ‘Sounds silly and selfish, but it’s true! I shouldn’t say this, but since I was little, I wanted to be rich and famous when I grew up. That never happened a’ cause, but on the bright side, I got to look after such cute lil’ children like yourself and ya brothers! If I were rich and famous, I never would have had that opportunity to raise a family. Riches can’t make you happy. It makes ya greedy. I’d much rather be happy - and looking after you kids makes me happy! So in a way, I already got my wish!’
I felt Cissy wasn’t being completely honest with me about the whole wish thing, as she seemingly decided I was too young to hear about black rights… I knew that what she really, really wished for was to be treated as an equal, rather than like the chewing gum on the sole of a white person’s shoe.
‘It’s lovely that you chose happiness over money. I wish for just the same, Cissy,’ I beamed in reply.
Clutching my skirt in my hands, we linked arms and waded our way through the clear but ice-cold stream, crunched across the beds of autumn leaves and paraded down the dusty tracks leading into our garden and inside our house.