He left me in the morning. I was alone, I was lost in the haze of my own mind, which was exactly how I wanted it to be. I went down the stairs of his house, opened the door, and walked into the world. The world was not the same place it had been yesterday, and it would never be that way again. Something had been stolen from me, but I was not certain what. Something valuable, I thought, something beautiful.
Lucie was seventeen, and she was attractive in a surprising way. Men, who at first thought her eyes too big, would later be drowning in them. Girls, who made fun of her crooked nose, secretly wished theirs were less straight. Her hair was too long, women said, but they now regretted cutting the fairy-tale locks of their youth. Old women clucked their tongues at her thinness, but when they were alone they frowned at their broadened hips and drooping bosoms.
Lucie worked at a tea-shop near her home. She pinned her hair in a thin braid around her head, tucking flowers in it when summer came along. She dressed in black jeans and black t-shirts, and around her hips she wore a studded belt. The studs jutted out, dangerous-looking. Customers noticed that Lucie's hands shook when she carried over trays. When she placed the cups of tea on their tables, she would carefully lower them down, then snatch her hands away in a blur. If anyone accidentally brushed fingers with her, a shiver went down their spine. They felt her defense, a shield within her that stung anyone too close.
High school was rough on Lucie, but she never showed it. She strode down the long halls, chin up and hair streaming behind her, looking half-fairy, half-rebel. She painted wings on the backs of her shirts and wore tiny tiaras in her hair on Fridays. She smiled warmly at people who were kind, but the bullies feared her. They didn't know why, but Lucie seemed dangerous. When she looked at them, the bullies felt their blood inside of their veins, moving faster than usual. She reminded them that they were alive and had a lot to lose.
He broke my nose one day, and it bled for hours. I thought I would die. He told me to stop being a child and he reached inside me, stealing more and more each day. I lied. I told him I was a princess, and when he was caught he would be executed. He laughed. When I was with him, I was a fairy, I was a princess, I was a mermaid. It wasn't he that lay on top of me, forcing out my breath, it was a handsome prince who rescued me and forced air back into my lungs. I wasn't trapped inside a dark room, I was living in a black and dangerous forest that protected me alone. When he went away, I remembered what I really was: a bitch, a child, a nothing.
Lucie's friends walked home from school, but Lucie made her mother, Alex, pick her up, as close as possible to the school's entrance. Her mother had ceased to be angry with Lucie, the way she had been three years ago. She had learned to trust her daughter again, slowly. Lucie was not the same girl she had been. She was more fierce now, more sure of herself, but she was not the girl she was at fourteen, the year everything had went so wrong.
They drove home one day close to the end of term, and Alex turned to her daughter. It was a Friday, and Lucie was wearing one of her many tiaras atop her head, the wings painted on her black shirt sticking out like neon-green lights.
"Why do you do this?" Alex asked, surprising herself. She had meant to ask what Lucie wanted for supper.
"What? Do what?"
Lucie's big eyes always looked bigger when she was curious, and they were saucers now. Alex sighed heavily and Lucie started to unpin her hair.
"Do what, mom?"
She carefully unbraided her hair, then pinned her tiara back on her head. Alex narrowed her eyes.
"The tiaras on Fridays. Why do you do that?"
"Does it bother you?"
Lucie sounded genuinely startled. She wasn't used to her mother questioning her not anymore. Mother-daughter therapy sessions had gone a long way, and now her mother seemed to trust her every action. Or at least pretend to. Lucie thought about it.
"Friday is a special day."
"I didn't know that."
Alex smiled; she loved the child still in her teenage daughter's soul. Beneath the fierce layer of self-protection lay a guileless, innocent little girl.
"Yeah. Not good special, though."
Lucie looked pale.
"Is there a bad special?"
"Well sure. Special just means note-worthy, right? Well, that's what Fridays are."
"I'm not telling."
Lucie shrugged. Ever since she had been a child, everyone around Lucie knew when she was finished speaking. Sometimes she would be in the middle of a long and energetic chatter, then suddenly her eyes would grow wide and she would stop. Or you would be talking to her, and mid-sentence she would turn her eyes away and look far, far into the distance, whether she was looking out an open window or at a white wall.
"So, what do you want for dinner?"
"You don't want to really know, right? Is that it? Well, it's ok. I thought so anyway."
Alex turned into their street.
"You don't want to know why Fridays are special; that's why you changed the subject."
Lucie sounded amused and insulted and angry all at the same time. Her shoulder blades stuck out from her shirt, making the painted wings look like they were growing.
"No, Lucie, it's just that well, you didn't seem to want to answer. I know when you're done speaking. I'm your mother."
"Yeah, thanks for reminding me."
They both laughed a little, and Alex sighed in relief. She pulled into the driveway and parked.
"Spaghetti," Lucie announced, her pointed chin lifted like a noblewoman.
"You asked me. That's what I'd like for supper, if it's not too much trouble."
"You make the salad?"
I found out I was pregnant on a Friday. I never told him, because he would have beaten me until I lost the baby. I don't even know how I found out, but suddenly I knew. And I was a princess who was going to give birth to the future queen. I knew that. That's when my fight began in earnest. But I wasn't resisting him anymore. That would be my fight: acceptance. It infuriated and confused him. I told him I enjoyed it. I told him I was starting to feel good about it. I wanted it, him. That made him frustrated. He stopped coming to my room as often, but I was still in there, locked in my primal forest, a lost princess waiting to be rescued. I felt sick in the mornings, but I never showed it.
I became a wonderful actress. I could be feeling like hell and still I would smile when he unlocked the door. He trusted me now. He might be able to let me wander the house a bit now. I loved him, I told him, looking right into his eyes. So one day, while I was sitting at the foot of the steps, pretending to read, he said it. "Goin' out to get eggs," he said. "Be back in fifteen." He kissed me. I kissed back. I could feel the weight of the crown on my head, and the swell of the child inside me. "Be back soon," I whispered, and he left. The car drove away. I wondered if it was a trap, but I took my chances. It wasn't. I fled. When I came home my mother cried. Then she hit me. When I told her I was pregnant, she stopped talking to me for a week. I was fourteen. And, for some reason, I couldn't bring myself to tell her what had really happened.
Lucie and Alex stood at the counter, Alex chopping onions and Lucie mixing a pot of sauce. Lucie's step-father came downstairs, with Deena, Lucie's step-sister. Deena thought Lucie was a loser and a whore, but she still admired her. She wanted to paint wings on her shirts and wear weird clothing to work. Deena was seventeen, as well, but she was too religious and never read books, two things that Lucie deemed inappropriate for a good friendship.
Alex shed a few tears for the onions. She laughed, and Lucie laughed, too. Robert, Lucie's step-dad, loved to hear them laughing together. It showed progress. It showed some sort of healing. He had never been affected the way Alex had, when Lucie came home pregnant and cynical, after five weeks of being missing. He was glad to have his daughter, no matter what sins she might have indulged in. After a couple years of therapy, Alex had learned to trust her daughter again. Laughter was always a good sign that this was working, that Alex and Lucie were healing.
"The sauce smells lovely," Robert said, kissing Alex on the cheek and roughly patting Lucie's back. Lucie cringed.
"Sorry," Robert said.
He always forgot that Lucie wasn't the open, affectionate girl she had been as a child. She hated being touched, by anyone, and she jumped when she thought someone might be touching her even if it turned out to be the wind, or the fabric of a dress catching her skin.
"That's ok, " Lucie said brightly, because she knew it was her problem, not his.
She stopped stirring the sauce and let Robert take over. She watched her mother and the man who had raised her work together, in-synch, beautiful.
"How was school?" she asked Deena, who went to a Christian school that Lucie would have no part of.
"Fine," Deena replied, "but long."
Both girls smiled.
"How was your day?"
"Oh, you know," Lucie replied. She paused. "Long," she said, and they both laughed.
"I guess it doesn't matter where you study, school is school," Lucie said, and lifted her shirt over her head to reveal her black bra. It was summer, it was hot, Lucie was uninhibited. She might have hated to be touched, but she could care less about anyone looking at her. Lucie was thinner than Deena, but Deena had firmer breasts. She stared at Lucie, who stretched her arms and adjusted her belt.
Deena always stared at Lucie's stomach when Lucie revealed it. She didn't know why it fascinated her so much, but she liked to think of the baby that used to be inside of her sister, how that flat belly had once held a child, how Lucie was such a sinner but so, so beautiful that sometimes it made Deena cry. Lucie looked up.
"Are you crying?"
"It's the onions."
Lucie ran upstairs to get a tank top. The scent of garlic and rosemary swirled after her.
To be continued