She is a marionette. They call her Nova, the Puppetmaster’s precious doll. With her painted green-and-blue eyes, heart-shaped lips, and the fuchsia bow perched in her honey-gold hair, Nova is a beauty to behold.
No one but the Puppetmaster had ever shown her anything remotely close to affection. What could she do but fall in love?
The Puppetmaster controls her every whim, pulling on a string here and there to bend his little puppet to his will. She used to resist. Now she understands. There’s no point in resisting if it will only make her bleed.
They appear as the perfect couple—a graceful dancer adorned with gold bangles and a frilled dress that flows like melted chocolate, following the wishes of her darkly handsome prince. Her master. But if one were to lean in an ear, they will find cracks in this carefully painted facade.
Why isn’t my dinner ready? You said it would be ready by now.
Sorry isn’t good enough. You have to learn a lesson.
There’s a resounding smack, and then a shattering vase that splinters into pieces that bury themselves into skin. Torturous screams wrench out of the marionette’s mouth, and the sound grates on ears. And no matter how hard anyone can try to block the pained shrieks out, they worm into consciences and dig their claws in deep.
I’m sorry, Nova. I don’t like hurting you, but you have to learn your place.
I love you.
I love you, too.
Her blood coats the floor, sticky and warm and reminding her of anything and everything she doesn't want to be reminded of. If she closes her eyes and ignores the smell, she could imagine it as maple syrup, which was her favorite guilty pleasure as a child. Pain stabs up her sides where she collided with broken glass. But then he picks her broken body up and cradles it in his arms, pressing a warm kiss to her bloodied lips.
He’s sorry. She knows he’s sorry. He gives her flowers as an apology—he wouldn’t have gotten flowers if he wasn’t truly sorry. He won’t do it again; he promised.
Each time, she resolves to do better. She hates disappointing him. And yet, no matter how hard she tried, it seems the Puppetmaster was never satisfied.
At night, as she lies in bed next to him, she sings a little song, distracting herself from the aching stings and throbs and were plaguing her every thought.
There’s a long way to go, but I know I’ll get there.
The sky’s more gray than blue, but it’s healing.
And soon, soon, so will I.
When the sun—
Then the Puppetmaster rolls over and tells her to shut up and let him sleep, and what choice does she have but to obey? She could cut the strings tying her to his wrist, but then he would come back with wires. No matter where she went, she couldn’t escape him.
She tugs on the strings, fingering them with hands that have been cut and scarred too many times. The thin threads seem so easy to break, and yet they had chained her better than any shackles ever could. Ironic, how life sometimes works like that. And she couldn't help but wonder if it really worth it to live like this—nothing but a toy for another? She lives as a trinket for the Puppetmaster, like a ring someone would show off.
No, she decides. Nova decides. Not a marionette, not a dancer, but Nova. The girl who loves singing and dresses and dogs. The girl who has a mind of her own and knows how to use it. And that mind said that it isn't worth it.
She loves the Puppetmaster—no matter how hard she much she may despise the fact—but not more than she loves herself. She may be broken, but, as the song goes, when the sun rises, healing can begin. She loves herself enough to know that she deserves better than someone who treats her as little more than a concubine.
And maybe the Puppetmaster will come after her when she’s gone. No, he will. But she will run. She will run from him because the little girl who used dashed through sunflower fields and cupped butterflies in her hands and chirped back at songbirds—that little girl loved being free, more than anything else.
So with shaking hands, she cuts the strings that tied her to a life of abuse and forced her to dance a song of submission.
And then they weren’t the Puppetmaster and his marionette, twirling along in each other's spindly arms to a deadly tarantella, but just a girl and a boy. Nova and Sam. Two people that knew each other once upon a time, in a world of nightmares where creatures of shadows and fangs and claws ruled. And now the veil of that illusion has been drawn back to reveal a universe of choice, of independence.
And Nova, Nova, is going to take a flying leap into that place. To truly decide for herself, to chase her dreams.
The marionette cut her strings and is going to live free.