We will never grow up. We used to tell her that, all the time, our little mother in the kitchen with the frowning face and the Marcia Brady hair. Oh, boys, she would say, everyone grows up someday. Not us, we would say back. We would tell her we will never do our own laundry, never take out the trash, never scoop the litter or get jobs or pick up after ourselves.
She is ours; she is green-grass-eyed, fire and pink through her white-icing skin. She is beautiful, our little mother, and though she is not our real mother we never remind her of that. We love her and bring her the best fruit, the brightest flowers, the buzzingest insects dumped in a jar with the lid screwed shut tight.
When the jealous fairy shot her, we cleaned and dressed the wound and built her a little hut with sticks and twigs and vines, and we guarded it day and night. We guard it still. We are eating berries until we are sick, because our little mother cannot tell us to stop. We are vomiting in the under brush, we are leaving our stink outside for the crocodile to find. We are trailing the little fairy and now we are strangling her half to death until she promises us one wish and so now we are letting her go. Everyone says video games, but then our leader steps forward and says we want to be boys forever and never ever grow old.
And we all listen to our leader, so we say okay. We are saying that wish is okay with us, though we are thinking we would have liked video games, too. The littlest ones are crying but our leader puts his light hands to their faces and dries their tears and tells them to sleep. And so we sleep, and we are waiting now, waiting for our little mother to get well. Waiting forever to never grow up.
I’m not their real mother, of course. How could I be? I’m only thirteen. I’ve never even kissed a boy. I’ve never been to a dance, except for the silly little dances they invent for themselves and their imaginary friends. I’ve never made out in a movie theater, never lost my virginity in the backseat of some boy’s car. Never been dumped and cried over it. Never fallen in love. I’ve never had a wedding, never been even proposed to, never developed a tan line on my left hand under a thick wedding band. Never had a love of my own. Just theirs. And now my heart is stuck through and weeping, a little wooden arrow undoing all of my love. All of it escaping through a tiny hole and still no one understands how much I want it back, how it hurts to lose it, how I will wither and die without it in this small and pathetic leaf-shack built by overgrown boys who don’t quite realize how much like men they already are.
I love her. The mother. In ways that aren’t anything like appropriate. I dream about her sometimes, at night, and I wake up wet and panting like one of the dogs after a long swim. I know it’s too late for me; I made that wish for the others. They can always love her for everything pure and good and true that she is, can cry and be comforted by her soft fingers. I think of those fingers, small and graceful and white, and I think of them in places they shouldn’t be, places I shouldn’t even know about but somehow I do, and I think about how we are beautiful, proud things, she and I.
I should not be burdened with all of these feelings, leaden and acid all at once and coming up in my brain like a new kind of bile. I know it will drive us apart, these feelings, will send her so far away from me, from us. These are dangerous times, a dangerous age for us to be always on the brink of, to be rolling over like tanks over land mines. We should be sky-sailors, always. We should be dream-bringers, pain-healers, and yet now she lies in pain and may never fly with me again. I suppose I should think of her and it’s all I can think of, true, but only what she is to me. Only what she is to my world and how small it will shrink down without her.
The Faerie Queen
A door without mystery is just an open door. We are the total histories of wind, of weather, and no one could be hungrier than I for love, always love. But he is in love with her, though he foolishly wishes he weren’t, and so she will vanish in the wake of events like green fields under a wall of water.
I am not of this world. I am not of any world, and I am not bothered by these feelings he speaks of. I am vengeance, I am small but mighty, I am a silver thunderbolt flung down from the gods and I show no mercy. In the age of vending machines I have survived by wrapping myself in massive shadows, in the darkness of a different time. I will not be sorry for one small girl or a pack of wild boys, not when I have seen my own children dead and gone for eons. I live and sometimes I love and when I do, the world must watch its back. It is the only way to live forever.
Notes from Guest Reader Helen Rye
Switching points of view in flash is a risky business, but ‘Never Never’ pulls it off brilliantly: four utterly compelling voices telling aspects of the same story from different angles to form a glowing, holographic whole. I love the way the writer bends language to her own will, repurposing words and phrases like a scavenging fairy herself. She weaves it all up into a hypnotic, lyrical tale of the dark, complex undertones of love and grief and desire in a story whose disturbing strangeness has been forgotten in its familiarity. I could not love this more.