Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Faded Paint and Butterfly Wings

// Let's Play Pretend // Just a Little Longer // Dress-ups and Lies

Iunno, you give me a title. And your constructive criticism (: It's unpolished, I know.

I'd been studying "Fly Away Peter" by David Malouf at school prior to writing this, you can see its style reflected in this.

She lifted her arms with the cardboard attached - her wings, smiled, and imagined she was flying. She was a butterfly, and although the crude water colours painted on her face cracked, she smiled all the more, desperate to continue the game. Playing pretend was a lot more fun than real life.


It took me by surprise, as she turned the corner. One moment absent from the scene, the next almost the whole of it. I could not look away, transfixed by the obviousness of it. First, there had been just the two toddlers. Then she had arrived, a young mum; theirs, it would seem, from her protective manner and attentive listening as they babbled, in the way that young children do. All perfectly normal. No, what I could not tear my eyes away from was the woman's belly, her horribly distended belly that burst out from her body, garishly vibrant in the bright red top she wore.

Pregnant. Heavily pregnant, from the looks of it. The sight dragged up an array of half worded fears and a turmoil I was not yet ready, or able, to face; and so I pushed each thought away as it tumbled to the forefront of my mind, swatting it back before I could form the proper words for it, and in doing so, give my demons form. I would hide in denial for a while longer. Reality could wait.

I bent my head, forcing myself to grasp the words on the open page of the book I was holding. I struggled for a few seconds, attempting to force them to take on some meaning, but my mind wandered, and I found my eyes once more on the woman.

It was as though, like a small child playing pretend, she had stuffed a large melon underneath the clothes she wore, proudly pronouncing the baby inside of her. Logic dictated that this could not be the case. She was an adult. Even though I was not yet old enough to legally be seen as one, I was no longer a child, either, and when it come to playing pretend, I played the adults' way - more sophisticated, stylised, even subtle, but still, sometimes, for the same childish purposes, serving darker, sinister ends. To some of us, this game becomes a matter of life or death. It is everything. A pretence we are trapped in, willingly or not. How I wish I had not to play pretend to my own self, but anything truer was frightening. When had we allowed ourselves to grow so weak that we weren't steeled to face the facts? How could we have learned to prefer living in a lie than in the truth, no matter how scary it may be? We ran and we hid and pretended that we were still fighting at the front, daring any to challenge us in our lie.

What is worse is that I know this, and am still too fearful to leave the pretence behind. It is a rare thing to see someone step forward, acknowledge and confront the darkness. Humans, I am convinced, for the most part, are mere cowards convinced that we are brave.

An image from a memory flashed through my contemplation, leaving me wincing, attempting too late to block it out. The remnants of the memory rushed forward once again, as I mentally scrabbled to build defences, or maybe push the fragments away, dangerous as broken glass. Taken unawares, as always. Hiding anything from oneself is damn hard, but when it comes to concealing a memory that refuses to be lost from consciousness; that is simply impossible. If I could consciously repress memory, I'd rid my mind of that one in an instant.

In keeping with the established pattern, a wave of realisation followed the memory. With closed lids I continued to inwardly berate myself.

How could I have done something so stupid???

I'm scared.

The "what-ifs" were rude, taking up all the space in my mind, and even then, shoving and pushing, jabbering noisily, bickering incessantly. How was I supposed to get any peace?

I know, I know.

I could get no real peace of mind till I knew for certain, one way or another. But until I took the necessary steps, I should be able to get some quiet, just occasionally. When the only thing that drowned out the questions was a range of distractions, peace was no option.

If I found out and it was so, what would I do then? All possible options were terrifying.

If I wished hard enough then perhaps it would not be. I wasn't superstitious but this presence, this fear, had me wishing on 11.11 and first stars every night. Just in case. I stifled a wail, feeling its anguish reverberate through me all the same.

What was I going to do???

It wasn't even definite, but I had never been one to live by logic, and in such a time, my emotions were far too prominent for rationale to have much say at all.

Trying not to be obvious, I pressed the palm of one hand against my own stomach, reassuringly flat, particularly in comparison to that of the mother who still stood in my direct line of vision, engrossed in discussion with her children. I tried to imagine a living... thing growing on the other side of those layers of clothes, skin and various other body matter. I had done this before, curiously, in anticipation of some far off day when I may have desired to have my own children. A far off day, and even then, it was not assured; in any case not a day anytime soon. Especially not this soon. Not when I was still in school, in my final year, still not grown up.

I had so much growing up to do yet, and I wasn't in a hurry for it to occur. For every reason I could remotely consider, a child was not something I wanted. It had been a month, and with every day that passed, my regret and fear grew stronger. Even now, cells could be gathering together within my body, creating a new life. I didn't want another life inside of me!

How many more mistakes was I to make before I learned something? I had so many regrets already. It just couldn't be. There was no way.

Paint and wings abandoned, she continued to play pretend all those years later. Pretending she wasn't hurting, pretending she wasn't scared, that it hadn't happened, and that there wasn't even a remote chance of her worst fear coming to pass. It felt safer in the dark. And so she smiled all the more, desperate to continue the game. Playing pretend was a lot more fun than real life.


  1. Leave the title as it is. I like it.
    Also... submit to young writers award/competitiion thingy

  2. you ask me to critique
    but you know how bad I am at that
    I think you could actually make it longer.

    And the part where you're talking about seeing pregnant women is a little confusing too

    does that help??

    love love xx

  3. The thing is, it's already 1,194 words long. So if I wanted to enter it I'd have to cut it down... ^_^
    Although, I don't.

  4. Hmmm. Now? I just deleted that part basically lol.

  5. I like the structure of this, beginning and ending with the winged child. However, I think it needs to be tighter. You are creating a vignette, and so brevity really is "the soul of wit".
    The message is a very powerful one, but I think it would be better if we learnt a little more quickly why the author sees the young mother's belly as "horribly" distended.

    It does make it easy to see why that teacher thought you had copied straight from a book though!

    definitely the one to enter.
    i love it and it's beautiful, and powerful.
    and you are amazing. :)

    love you! xxx