"The color of my bra is called Flirt," the girl says, popping a bubble in Amelia's face and winking. The sickly sweet scent of chemicals and sugar mixes with the chemicals and the sugar of the bar, hags low and heavy about their faces. The girl slides closer, beaming, her eyelids low. She's wearing too much mascara. Amelia grips her drink tighter and pulls her elbows in collapsing, she fills less space than she did before. Volume stays the same, the number of atoms composing her stays constant, but she appears to be smaller. Could this be expressed mathematically, or with a computer simulation, she wonders, and sips at her drink. She says nothing.
"See here." The girl tugs down her shirt sleeve and shows Amelia the thin bra strap pressing into the moon pale skin of her shoulder. The orange lighting makes her seem healthier than she is. "Flirt." She wiggles her eyebrows in a way that would be suggestive, if her makeup wasn't so dark that it made her look like a domestic abuse victim, and if the scent of a fruity cocktail, served with a brightly colored umbrella, didn't make her breath reek.
Amelia doesn't see a color that could be described as Flirt. The bra strap and the corner of the bra she sees, clinging to the girl's breasts under a thin cami, is more pink, tinged with purple. They have a name for that, but it is not Flirt. It is like how they have a name for the girl pressing herself up against Amelia, even though she shrinks away the girl with the Flirt colored bra is not bisexual; maybe bicurious, and very drunk. Amelia can hear the clicking of cameras, and knows there will be hysterical phone calls to parents, denials to bosses and the breaking up of friendships, maybe even a relationship. Mistakes are something you might make once, but the embarrassment is something which lasts an eternity, the more cynical half of her whispers to the part that wants to believe in the beauty of people.
"Excuse me." Amelia pushes away the girl with the Flirt colored bra and grabs her bag. She drops a crumpled ten on the streaky counter and leaves her glass, the ice melting slowly into the whisky. She is confident in her flats, pushing through the crowd, ignoring the wails of the girl with the Flirt colored bra behind her as she steps out of the bar with the sickly sweet stench of alcohol and desperation and into the glittering neon of the city at night.
Amelia shoves a hat topped with a bright red pompom over her short, short blonde hair, wraps her gray coat around her, and begins to walk home, streetlights casting shadows over the high arches of her face as she slips from one puddle of light to another.
II. (Dim the lights)
She read a book when she was a kid, in which Rapunzel is given another name by her loving parents, before the witch steals her away and locks her up into a tower. A name only her parents know, that they shout joyfully upon meeting their long lost daughter, years and years later, but she has never been called that name and does not recognize it. In some way, it is still familiar to her, and she gives it to her youngest daughter, who later becomes queen and bans all witchcraft from the land.
The book did not have the true name of Rapunzel, and Amelia small, too thin, with hair that split easily and yet she could not bear to cut it pondered the mystery for ages. She had a list (still has, truly; it's buried in the bottom of her closet, underneath the pair of heels she hasn't worn since her disastrous prom, years back) about potential names, names fit for a princess.
Evangeline, Katarina, Guinevere, Rosanna, Lydia, Camilla.
The blocky handwriting of children, printed in a green marker she had snitched from the junk drawer in the kitchen. The paper by now has long since gone yellow, and torn. Cross marks and slashes litter the page when she decided a name that she had once written is no longer suitably royal Carys, Brynna, Anna and in the corner, scrawled in blue pen, then slashed over viciously with black ink, Amelia.
And then she grew up, and the book with the mystery of Rapunzel's true name ended up in the box Amelia took to the used bookstore, one rainy day in April, and left right outside the door, and the list on the bottom of her closet, under a pair of shoes she does not wear.
III. (The orchestra warms up)
She lives in an apartment complex near downtown close enough that the reflection of the streetlights bounces off the mirrored windows and into her eyes when she tries to sleep with the curtains open. Her apartment is three floors down from the top (now, if she had the one highest, overlooking the squalid city full of rotten people and broken hearts, this story would be a bit too obvious, don't you think?) and the neighbor next to hers has a small dog that whines and barks in the middle of the night.
Her birth parents pay for the apartment rich people, carefully coiffed and preserved and who go to the gym four times a week to be sweated into a sort of artificial perfection. Her birth mom told her, once upon a time days after finding them, just a week after Amelia had turned twenty that Amelia was a mistake. Her birth mom is named Gertrude and beautiful, in a cold, calculating way, with steel gray eyes and dyed blonde hair that looks terrified to move an inch. She is about as loving as an icicle, so Amelia tries to not take her words personally as she sits on the stiff, unforgiving couch with pillows that feel like they have been stuffed with pebbles and drinks flavorless tea.
(A mistake how? Amelia had wondered, but then she had glanced at her birth father and had seen nothing of herself in him, and understanding, shimmering and bitter, broke through the clouds of confusion.)
They, her birth mom and not-birth-father-who-pretends-he-is, Gertrude and James, feel guilty, or some resemblance to guilt, when Amelia tells them of her childhood. Of books, bought second hand and borrowed for weeks at a time from the run down city library, and of glasses, since contacts and surgery were beyond her reach and money should be saved for better things. Of applying to scholarships, and scouring the Internet for a better bargain on a Spanish textbook.
She wonders why they should feel guilt, for Amelia had a good childhood. Her mother's name is Rosie and she works as a physics teacher in the local high school she's a single mom to Amelia, and although Amelia did not have contacts or new Spanish textbooks, they would drive down to Florida during the breaks, go to Disney World for two or three days and the way Rosie would write on the windows and Amelia's bedroom mirror late at night, sketching out physics problems and their solutions in a bright red Expo marker.
But then Amelia looks around the living room of Gertrude and James, at the wispy lace curtain shifting over the high windows, and the rug that feels like a cloud underneath Amelia's feet, encased as they are in bright green and black striped socks, and she understands just like she understands how she is a mistake, she understands their guilt.
(Shouldn't have done that now, should you have, Gertrude.)
((It is masochistic, but for a moment, Amelia is tempted to ask what they would have named her, should they have kept her, all those years ago))
(((Oh sweet courage, why abandon her now?)))
They, her birth mom and not-birth-father-who-pretends-he-is, pay for surgery to fix her eyes, and for her apartment. Amelia writes them once or twice a month, says nothing of import at all, and carefully solves problems on relativity and the passing of time in bright red Expo marker on the window that overlooks the street on the nights when she cannot sleep.
IV. (Take your seats, ladies and gentlemen)
Rosie had told Amelia she was adopted when she was thirteen. It explains why Rosie is dark haired and why Amelia is blonde, why Rosie burns easily and Amelia freckles, her skin blotchy. There was shouting that night, and Rosie brought home miniature lemon cakes, sweet as an angel's kiss, every day for a week.
Amelia wonders what the wicked witch had thought when the prince started to climb Rapunzel-who-actually-wasn't's hair. What did rebellion feel like, when you were on the side of squashing it? How does it feel, to try to protect someone you care so desperately for, and have them throw that back in your face.
Rosie has no love for the witch-mother. When Amelia visits during school breaks, they sit on the couch with a book of the fairy tales Amelia had loved as a child, sipping the hot chocolate Rosie always makes with too much milk and not near enough cocoa powder. Rosie always gets a triumphant smirk that twists her thin mouth when they read the story of Rapunzel, for in the book of Amelia's childhood, the witch dies at the end, alone and unloved.
"She deserves it," Rosie says when Amelia is twenty one and newly back from visiting the frosty, preserved couple of Gertrude and James. She wipes at her chocolate mustache with the back of her hand and turns the page, stroking the painting of a little golden haired Rapunzel, staring out the window of her tower.
"Stealing a child away from her family you can't buy time back, kiddo, and no matter what, she'll never consider those poor folks her real parents."
"Is that so bad?" Amelia asks, and wants to point out that she is stolen, yes, and she has a mother who really actually isn't, and she cannot consider her real parents to be hers, because they never wiped her runny nose or learned how to cook her favorite recipe of lasagna.
But it flies over Rosie's head, and she is oblivious to the sad hilarity of the situation.
"Yes," she declares with finality, and gets up to dump the mugs in the overfilling sink. Amelia sinks back into the squishy, broken back couch, with the pizza stain on it from that time when she was nine years old, home with the flu, and she flips the page.
V. (Do you have your programs ready?)
There have been so many books published on the themes behind fairytales, the true morals and the meanings. Growing up, falling in love, rebellion, reconciliation, hatred, death.
Who am I.
The motivation behind everything.
She wonders if Rapunzel knows who she is, if she torn between being Rapunzel, the witch's daughter, and the nameless child of the couple who lost her. Or if being the bride of the prince and a mother adds another layer, another card to the game, and if she is one day going to be forced to choice what role she will stick to and play out until death do we part.
She wonders why Rapunzel doesn't just say, "To hell with it all," chop off her lustrous locks and lead a coup against some corrupt monarch, for the fairy tale worlds must always have at least one of those.
Or maybe that is just Amelia.
VI. (No whispering during the show, now here comes the MC.)
"You should find a boyfriend," Regina says, snatching enough of Amelia's fries that Amelia just sighs and pushes the tray towards her. "Oh no I can't possibly; I'm on a diet." It slides back. Amelia gives up and squirts ketchup onto the side of the plate. Regina snatches a few more fries.
"I don't want one," Amelia says, shifting her bun to the right and scraping off the mustard with the back of her plastic fork. The fork proclaims to be biodegradable. Amelia doesn't believe that for an instant.
"Then find an old guy with a few million in the bank, seduce him with your chest, and wait until he flatlines," Regina replies, tossing dark hair, curled to perfection, over a slender shoulder. Her brown eyes that she insists look more like honey catch the light. Amelia can hear the gasps and mutters from the table of college aged boys sitting a few feet behind her, and she can picture them, baseball caps swung backwards with ratty, stained tee shirts on, nudging each other and talking dirty about Regina.
Amelia's lips thin. "I don't think I could do that," she says, pulling a withered looking pickle from her burger. It's salty and delicious when she chews on it. Regina snorts, prodding at her salad with a fork.
"It's easy, believe me," she says, and for Regina, it was. Her husband is eighty, with a sagging gut and liver spots. He's got five and three quarters of a million dollars stashed in the bank and a private yacht down in Florida. He dotes on Regina, gives her everything she wants, and Amelia has to wonder if he allows her indiscretions or if he is merely blind to them.
She can't imagine marrying someone with the knowledge that she was going to cheat on them. Call her naïve, call her childish, but Amelia, deep down, wishes to marry Prince Charming like Rapunzel's, a man that would go blind for her, or Cinderella's, a man who would never stop searching.
(Prince Charmings are hard to come by in the theoretical physics department of the university where she studies. Most men there aspire to be Han Solo, and she isn't sure if they will ever accomplish it.)
She asks about it, how Regina manages her affairs, as she puts her hamburger back together.
"He goes to bed early," Regina tells her around the small, red cherry tomato, "And I'm left alone for long hours of the day when he goes off to golf." She smiles, slow and seductive not for Amelia's benefit, no, for the boys behind her. There's a tomato seed stuck to her tooth, clinging like a barnacle.
Amelia takes a bite of her hamburger and watches Regina wave at the boys five years younger than her. "What will you do when he dies?"
"Find another one." No concern; Regina's future is certain. Men, falling over for her, for the mystery, for the smiles, and for the way she disappears at just the right moment, only to sneak up behind you in all her glory. She's got a flair for the dramatic.
(Even though Regina, Regina Maria Kakalio, is not a real person, no, not at all. Regina Maria Kakalio is from the lower end of town, and is in fact Sarah McCrum, whose family owns a record shop and whose dad never completed college, and whom Rosie taught at the same high school as Amelia. Sarah McCrum was not going to have a life of living month to month like her parents, so she slid into a cocktail dress she bought off EBay and slipped into a gala, using her looks and tosses of her hair. New name, fake smiles, and a chest that cost several thousand. Amelia wonders if anything of Sarah McCrum is left at all, under Regina Maria Kakalio, and doubts it.)
VII. (Pull on the curtains, now! Pull!)
The tale of Rapunzel is not a question of letting down her hair slang, as Amelia understands it, for getting utterly smashed and shoving your tongue down someone's throat. It's not even a tale of true love, or rebellion not really. She read it with those ideas in mind when she was a child, and now reads it as something else entirely.
Fragile as hair shattering, splintering, fraying at the ends. Like a curl held over a flickering candle, it takes a mere instant to be destroyed, stunning in its death. Strong too, maybe. If you let it be, take care of it correctly.
Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your long hair. Trust me enough not to hurt you, to turn your only family against you, lead you out into this brave new world where people call you by a name that isn't yours. Let me define you, with you becoming my bride.
(She wants to grab Rapunzel and shake her good and hard, tell her that in real life, princes have mistresses and illegitimate children, and history is just one endless tale of adultery and betrayal after another but
hey, this is a fairytale.)
VIII. (The orchestra's first, gentle notes)
Years from now, she will marry a man named Robert Waid a TA for a core class that she had been required to take. He's a social sciences major and wants to write books, and he blushes the first time he tells her she is completely brilliant. He is a good man a little too short to be Prince Charming, and his hair already going, but his eyes are a soft green and he always remembers to buy milk when they run out.
It will be a pleasant ceremony, at the end of May. Rosie cries a lot, and Regina is there, clutching the arm of her seventy year old new beau, dabbing her eyes with a gold embroidered handkerchief her husband, the eighty year old with the sagging gut, flatlined eight months and two weeks previous. He was cold in the ground by three days when Regina threw her black clothes in the back of the closet and went to a gala in a sparkling blue dress, already on the prowl.
It's not a fairy tale wedding, for the flower girl trips in the aisle and Robert stumbles on his lines. Yet he kisses her gently, and there is no shaking of his hands when he slips the ring onto her finger.
Gertrude and James, her birth mom and not-birth-father-who-pretends-he-is, do not come, although they are invited. They are on a cruise to somewhere down in South America, as cold as ice in the tropical heat.
Two years later, Amelia will have a child, who will be born with a golden, peach fuzz of hair on her red scalp and bright green eyes. She'll wail and wave her fat little fists at the ceilings. Rosie will coo and stick her finger into the baby's weak grip, grinning so hard that Amelia has to warn her that her cheeks will hurt if she keeps it up.
"I can't stop," Rosie will say, "Because your daughter is just too cute." And she will coo again, pulling out a pair of knitted booties from her bag not Rosie's knitting, thank heavens; it's a gift from a friend.
Gertrude and James, her birth mom and not-birth-father-who-pretends-he-is, will call while Amelia is in the hospital. They do not visit they are enjoying gelato in Venice, basking in the golden sunlight, all the while cooling the temperature of the air around them until people shiver and shake as they walk by.
"What are you calling her?" Gertrude will ask, her tone clipped and almost businesslike. Amelia adjusts the baby where she is suckling at her chest and takes another bite of the chocolate bar Robert bought for her in the hospital gift shop.
"I'm thinking Cassandra," she will say, and Gertrude will pause there. Thousands of miles away, a pair of thin, wrinkled lips will purse, if ever so slightly.
"If I had kept you," she will say, slowly, teasing out each word like it is poisonous, "I would have named you Cassandra."
Amelia does not say anything in reply. She just sucks on the square of chocolate in her mouth and tries to think of herself as a Cassandra it doesn't fit, not really, like it's a size too big, and she's lift swimming in the excess of the name. It fits her daughter, with her bright eyes and peach fuzz hair, but not her. She is Amelia.
(Rapunzel is Rapunzel. Not Evangeline or Guinevere. She is Rapunzel, the girl in the tower who fell in love with the boy who asked her to trust in him in a world filled with people that she couldn't quite bring herself to believe in.)
"I see," Amelia will say in reply, and bid her mother-who-isn't goodbye.
(And the show begins.)
my opinion? grab it and run with it. do it as much as you can. I love it.
I found a few errors:
"if she torn between being Rapunzel", you left out 'is'; "forced to choice what", should be "forced to choose"; and another which I'm having trouble finding again
Also, you say they are on a cruise in South America then say they are in Venice.
Gathered all my bones,
Tied them in a silken scarf,
Laid them beneath the juniper tree,
Oh, what a beautiful bird am I."
I loved this. It was just...perfect. One of the best stories I've ever read on DA. I've been reading Grimm's Fairy Tales lately (I got the full collection for only $8, wooo!), and I love the old versions of the fairy tales. <3 Going to browse your gallery now!
Wow... is all I can say. Absolutely beautiful... This strikes a chord with me because it reminds me so much of my mother's upbringing, and that this story is told as a backstory, a horrible, brave backstory, so that it is obvious that Amelia and Cassandra's lives are just beginning, a life that has nothing to do with her not-parents and her pseudo-friends. Wonderful job!
Uh, apparently, I found something to say other than wow... Haha~
So is Amelia, and a good daughter, too. Life gets awfully complicated. You do what you can and try not to worry overmuch about the rest.
- Congrats on the DD!
Have a nice day!
I understand this "set up" completely. It's easy to follow each character and see the possible motives each one has.
Repetition works well here, and description even more so. (You might want to catch the typo in the second line. You'll see it).
Plus: Congratulations on the DD!