Magpie

February 22, 2009
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She and I were best friends. Completely inseparable, despite our differences. In our sophomore year, she came up to me, in her usual crazy color combinations, and breezily ignored my shocked compatriots. You see, she and I occupied different spheres of the world until this moment. She was bright, bubbly, and many similar girls and boys were attracted to her ebullience. I don't think I had ever seen her before without some girl or boy on her arm that would talk loudly with her and smile and laugh at everybody not privileged enough to be them.

On the other hand, I had and still have no use for other girls. They disliked me. I hated them. A single mother had raised me distrustful of other women and cold towards men. Still, something about me, probably my dark prettiness and calm demeanor pulled the males in to my cadre, and like beasts following the promise of food, the girls came submissively under my reign to follow the boys.

When she walked up, the quiet murmur usual of our table stopped completely, and she smiled sunnily at me, ignoring the shocked looks on the faces of my female groupies and the slightly confused looks on the faces of my male coterie.

"Hey, Dez." She shortened my name with unusual familiarity that I rarely allowed even my boyfriends. "I'm going out to a club tonight. My older brother knew the bouncer, so he could let me in. Problem is, I don't want to go alone. Would you come?" I held her gaze, gold meeting black, and nodded once. We exchanged phone numbers and she called me. When her mother answered the door and took in my sight, I think she almost fainted. A conservative but tight black dress and boots that made me almost six foot over her tiny figure enhanced my natural duskiness. Compared to her bright daughter, I could have been death.

Heather bounced down the stairs moments later, kissed her mother on the cheek and pulled me out to the car. It was late and getting dark, but the tiny golden sequins decorated her shirt created a glow in the car. At first, I regretted coming because talk did not flow between us and silence filled the car, but her natural vivaciousness soon replaced it with our laughter and we became fast friends.

Upon reaching the club, we charmed our way in, and then began to dance. The music was seductively beating its way into our veins, making the dance floor shift in time with my heart. I loved the feeling of losing my self control for the night until the sun barely broke the horizon. She and I did not stay together the whole night, but somehow, when we wanted to see each other, a string between us tugged when we felt that need and we met in the middle again to dance together before running off again, back to whichever males had caught our eye.

The next morning, while the sun filtered in to her room, Sometime in the morning, we returned and slept for much of the day, ignoring the consequences for half a day. I woke slowly to the realization that Heather was watching me. I yawned and rolled over.

"Good morning. What time is it?" She rolled over and looked at the clock.

"Nearing four. You don't actually like people." It was a statement, with no question in her tone. If anybody else had said that, I would have shrugged, but I felt the need to explain myself and make myself right in her golden eyes.

"No, I don't like people at all. It's the way I am. Women tend to stab you in the back and break down. Men break your heart and leave you."

"Not everybody is like that."

"I know. But I don't understand why I have to give them the chance to hurt me."

"It's called trust." I shook my head. "Do you trust me?" She wouldn't let me go without an answer. I knew that we were more to each other than just two girls who had gone out to a club together. I genuinely liked her, as a human being, as a person, as a friend. Twisting my body around, I took her hand.

"I trust you. But you stole that from me, and I doubt anybody else will ever be able to get it from me again."

"There will be somebody who you can trust. Truly trust, not just date and trust with your body."

"The only reason I am still here is that I like to play games, and I like to win. It's not a matter of who I like and don't like. Come on. I'm starving."

I left shortly after breakfast. My mother was concerned about me, and wanted to know why I was home so late, but I told her the truth, that we had been just having so much fun I didn't want to leave.

After that, we only socialized when we wanted to. Neither of us ever felt obligated to get together on a regular basic. There were months when neither of us spoke to each other, and months when every night was spent at one of our houses, and months were we casually got together every so often. While friends often said we would change each other, that one of us would have to give in, the contrast between her luster and my obscurity only made us more shining and more lurid because of our proximity.

Throughout this time, Heather gradually came to the realization that she was bisexual. This did not bother me in the slightest, as she and I were not attracted to each other that way, although after her coming out in our senior year, some rude girls who did not like either of us spread a couple rumors that I shortly put out. This was also the time when both of us got a tiny tattoo. On her neck, behind her ear, a tiny sun stood out from her golden tan skin. On my wrist, I got a tiny crescent moon opening to the right. It made us stand out from the crowd, be a little different, and also seemed to show the crowd that we were going to be friends despite everything.

Right before our graduation, we stayed over at her house one last time, and in the early hours of the morning, when both of us were nonsensical from lack of sleep and our silly jesting, she and I both sobered at the same time to stare out the window up at the moon. Without saying a word to each other, we crawled onto the roof to watch the stars move through the heavens and see if we could hear the singing of the spheres. In this silence, Heather made a prophecy.

"Desirae. You are going to forever walk this world looking for the person who can break your heart and make you fall truly in love. When you find him, you will be totally free." I shook my head at the time.

"Heath. I don't believe that I will ever fall to love. But I know that the love that can break your heart will kill you. It will pain me to no end." At the time, the words were just words, but words spoken to soul mates in the dead of night with the stars as witness will come true with a vengeance.

When we went off to college, we wrote in long looping letters to each other, shunning e-mail for a slower reply. We visited in the summer, and she was as golden as ever, as happy as ever, and I was glad to see her. However, the next letters were the beginning of the end. Her looping handwriting was traded for sharp, angular letters cramped together. She spoke of a girl she claimed she loved. This girl and she were together, but the girl was unhappy with her. Forever looking over Heather's shoulder, as if any moment her prince would appear and save her.

The next letter was short. The girl had left her for a boy, and Heather was inconsolable. There was only one thing for me to do. In order to save my sun, I had to go. Unfortunately, my schooling delayed it for precious days, and when I arrived on campus, Heather was a shell of her former self. A mere firefly against what she had been. I met the girl who did this, and knocked out her front teeth, but it was too late. The damage had been done.

A week after I left, Heather had been driving into town in a rainstorm and the new boyfriend of the girl that had broke Heather crashed into her. Heather died instantly, and her car crashed off the road into a nearby river. The car sank like a stone. I did not find out until I called the school to ask why I had not received a letter from her. The boy, convicted and jailed, languished in prison for ten years. Hardly enough, I thought, for having snuffed out the sun.

I am frozen in time. I am still the angry girl I was then, furious that the sun is dead. The only good thing about Heather's death is that now the moon can shine.

I am that moon.

☼

I have woken in a cold sweat every day, around noon, and screamed. By now, my landlord knew that it was memories from a former life, but I pay him extra each month to not ask questions, and to pick me up when I need it. It's a mutually beneficial relationship, one that I cannot allow to be ruined. The only thing he has ever dared lose my money over was the matter of my age. I had to tell him most of the truth in order to come to this exchange, and that included showing him driver's license, birth certificate, passport, and any other I.D. I had at the time. I told him not to speak of things that he did not understand. The reality was I didn't understand why I couldn't age like others. I didn't understand why I was trapped in time. But then the dreams started. I dreamed of that night when Heather spoke her prophecy, and I mine. I killed her with words, and she caged me with words.

However, this day has a sort of electric feel to the air, and I know it is a night to skip the classes I am taking at the local college and go prowling about the streets. There is a new lover, one that could possibly free me, roaming the town and it is my duty to be prepared to meet him and free the moon from the sun's embrace. I pay my rent and tell the landlord to keep his night open for me. With a little bit of a disgruntled sigh, he says his son will pick me up when I call, and I thank him before returning to my room to ready myself. A tinge of makeup, a tinge of styling, and the rest of the day passes as I try on first one outfit, then another, then another. I just cannot tell who this man will be, nor what he will like, and so I go with a simple black dress, almost the same as the dress I wore so long ago with Heather in that club. To add to the dress, I put on tiny ballet flats and set off, my steps silent on the pavement.

All my usual places do not share that tingling feeling, and so I continue to wander, following the sense in the air. The oxygen in the alleyway heightens that feeling, and despite my apprehension against that sort of thing, I ignore the common sense and walk in. As I reach the middle and can see around the turn, I find a group of two bawdy men, both clearly reeking of drink. They are not it, and their proximity dulls my search. This maddens me, and so I try to step around them. One places his hand on my arm as I flit around them, and stops me. I recoil back, discovering his friend is behind me.

"Where ya goin', hun?" The man calls, his speech slurred with drink. "Iss rude ta 'gnore uz when we're tryin' ta say hey." The other man gets a little closer, and I can feel my pulse start to increase, my skin glowing pale in the night. The moon is not out, but I know I have more power in the night than they do. My pupils dilate, ridding my eyes of iris entirely, and I can see perfectly without light. With a quick movement, I twirl, using my skirt to distract their drunken eyes and run the opposite direction, confusing and illusing the appearance I have vanished entirely by hiding my skin and tucking into a ball. They follow for a ways, before running the wrong way, and then I stand up again and get into the street. The adrenaline pulses under my skin, and I follow the scent in the air like a dog tracking prey. He's close by now, I can taste it on the very tip of my tongue, just beyond reach.

Without thinking, I follow it into the club nearby, listening to the thudding of the music, and I scope it out, swerving my head on my neck like a sinuous snake. Men come and ask to buy me drinks, but I politely decline. I have no time for the ones who are not him. Suddenly, with the speed of thought, I swing around to find him sitting with a buxom blond woman who has only half of his attention. He doesn't look like I had expected him, with a nice shirt and jeans on, as well as a leather wallet that is clearly designer. I smile at him, catching his attention after a couple seconds, and I walk over. Unable to resist the temptation, he excuses himself from the blond who is just past tipsy, and came over to me. I smiled, but I had discovered all I needed. He had a science pass hanging out of his pocket for the same school I was currently attending. Without a word, I blended into the crowd, glancing back to see him standing confused by my chair.

It was a week before I managed to see him. I spent much of my studying time under the trees in the park between the dorms and the science buildings, and went at random times to see if I could find him. The buzzing was gone now, as I had found him, and now it was up to me to remove the curse. When I saw him, it took more effort to capture his attention than it did the first time, but I managed to get him to take a good look at me before moving on. That was all it took. Now, he sought me out.

Our first real conversation was at a nearby pizzeria. I didn't know he was going to be there, and apparently neither did he. We stood in line for a while, my stomach growling, before I spoke.

"Hey. I'm Dez." I felt like it was time to get something out into the empty space between us. His smile was the only encouragement I needed.

"I'm Nico. Have we met before? You look really familiar." I shrugged, not betraying anything. Oh, I was good at lying.

"I don't think I remember you. You may have seen me around town and on campus last semester." He nodded, not recalling, but then a spark clicked in his eyes.

"Were you at a club a week ago? I saw a girl who looked almost exactly like you there, in a black dress." I nodded, smiling. He picked up the nonverbal clues really quickly and had a good memory.

"I was! Oh, I remember you now. I should have gone up to say hello." My smile felt totally natural despite the sense of deja vu of having this same conversation with hundreds of other boys who had all failed to help me lift Heather's remnant. We chatted gaily, and I invited him to sit with me. Turns out, we had a class with the same professor at different times, and he and I studied together for a while before he gave me his number and I went my own way. This was just the beginning, like so many others, filled with hope.

Nico was a foreign exchange student from Italy who had studied English literature there and came to the US in order to meet some of the authors and have a comprehensive education from different backgrounds. He wanted to write and become quad-lingual in Spanish, English, Italian, and German, covering both Germanic and Romantic languages. When he talked, sometimes he would slip in words from other languages, not because he wanted to appear smart and educated, but because sometimes another language had a better word than English did to describe what he said.

I called Nico the very next day in order to plan another casual date. I had fun, like every single time. Dating for me is a game of cat and mouse and riddles and lies. It's thrilling to feel the blood run through your veins a little faster, to feel your heartbeat accelerate a little when you see the smile. I love the romance phase. I love boys, and yet they always manage to disappoint, and Nico would be no different.

When the dates went from the casual to the more formal nice dinners and movies without other friends as chaperons, I knew that I was totally hooked on him. When we were together, he always kissed the tiny moon on my wrist before we kissed, and his long lashes often hid his little jokes made at other's expense for my laughter. His laughter was really beautiful, like a deep booming bell, and I loved his smile that he saved for me. But after half a year, he began to speak of marriage, and Heather's voice resounded in my head.

Not the one, not the one, not the one, her voice would chant, and despite all my hopes of freedom, I knew that I would have to break it off and try to find the man who would break my heart. When I told him that I had to leave, his eyes sparkled with tears, and hurt feelings. Unlike so many others, he did not ask why, and I kissed him one last time to remember the feeling of his lips before leaving him. I cried about it, feeling horrible. If it were not for those damned words, I could have been happy with him for much of my life. As I left him, I took back streets so I could avoid seeing his friends that I had gotten to know. By now, they would hate me for hurting their good friend.

Heather would not shut up. As I glanced at some men walking by and eyeing me before continuing, her voice analyzed each one, finding fault in each. He's too preppy, he's too athletic, he's not smart enough, he's happily dating or married. None of them would do for you. I wanted to yell at her, but I knew she was right.

Can it, Heath. I'll find him. He's got to find me eventually.

Z

Time passes more swiftly when you have plenty of it. I remember plenty of times where I sat on my bed, staring across my small room, wondering when the end would come. I envisioned so many ends. I am not sure whether I die when I am freed. I don't know if I will just continue to age. There are so many possible ends to my story. Maybe I will just stop searching one day, overcoming Heather's curse for a while by sheer willpower, and marry whoever the nice man is that I take a fancy to. Maybe someday I will explain to them and live with them until their death.

But most likely my story ends in tears. I will probably die when I find that man. I miss Heather terribly. She still is the closest one to my heart, and I want to see her again, whether in heaven or in hell or somewhere in between. I'm willing to walk through any test of my strength to risk that.

It's late now. The buzzing is back in the air, and Heather's voice has grown over the years to loud enough to almost feel like she is there, over my shoulder, by my head. Occasionally I feel a phantom of her breath on my cheek as she speaks into my ear. Any other person would feel as if they needed to be treated for schizophrenia, but it felt totally natural to have Heather's spirit so close to me. Either way, I stepped confidently into the humid air. It is my first time out in a new city, and I am ready to find this new buzzing. People walk around me, some ignoring me, some glancing over me, some staring. It's odd to have such a variety of colors and tones and clothing around me. I don't feel so awkward in my dress anymore. Gold is the color for the night, I decide; gold for Heather. Gold shoes, black dress, big golden beads dripping from my neck. I like the feel of the swing of my hair, and my walk is similar to Heather's cocky strides.

Turn left, turn left. Get a drink. Heather whispers, a hint of a giggle on the wind. I do as she says, getting a fruity little drink that I sip at, closing my eyes to savor the taste of the apple-tini and try to sense the buzzing, coming and going like a tiny gnat. I just wanted to swat the gnat, but all good things come with time, and this was no exception. Heather was still for a moment, sensing the air with me. Time slowed for a bit, before speeding up again, and I walked off, leaving a couple dollars for my drink behind.

The sense of walking the streets, looking for this certain person is such a predatory feeling. It's so difficult not to just attack random people because they are between me and my prey. Other people are such a petty annoyance in this situation. I love the slight breeze through the air, and the knowledge of how I look to the rest of the world.

Suddenly, I stop, people still walking around me like water over river rocks. The buzzing has totally disappeared, for some reason, and I look around, trying to find out why it is gone. It cannot be because I have found him, because I don't know who he is yet. It could be because he is too far away now, but I have never failed to track men down before. I forget the strong feeling, and it is replaced with a horrible small feeling. I feel my emotions get the better of me as I return to a young age where tears made everything feel better and your mother came to comfort. Heather's voice is silent, and I feel terribly alone.

I stand in the middle of this sidewalk, disheartened, until I catch the glance of a young man watching me as he sits at a bus stop, slightly tipsy but not enough to be able to ignore me. The strength does not return, but hope returns to my heart as I stare back. His eyes are a fascinating mix of yellow and green, not at all the gold of Heather's nor the green of emerald. The color brings to mind a predatory creature that hunts at night, eyes and claws and teeth glowing in the dark. I can't help myself. I walk over and sit on the bench, as far away from him as I can. He and I do not speak for a couple minutes, but then, irresistibly, his voice sounds. It's such an unattractive voice, rough from use and drink, but for some reason, I am drawn to it.

"Hey. I'm Brent." He's not as attractive, physically, as other men I have had before. He looks as if he makes no effort with his appearance. As I watch him speak, his mouth barely opens and he mumbles. I wonder if that is just a habit or the drink speaking. I hug myself tightly, wondering if I could have been wrong about whom he was.

"I'm Desi." His eyes are so unwavering and give so little away. I thought that I could recognize people by now, but this man is different. He adjusts his seat on the bench to turn slightly towards me.

"Do you work with the magazine?" I don't know what magazine he is talking about, so I shake my head and watch his body. His clothes aren't tailored to him in the slightest, a little tight on the shoulders and baggy in the waist. He's not somebody I would normally have the slightest interest in, but those eyes are driving me crazy. Everything is so veiled. "I would have assumed you did."

"I work out of town with a small company. How about yourself?" I move a tiny bit closer, fascinated by him.

"I'm working with a local sports arena, coaching soccer and refereeing. It's a fun job; I like it a lot." Shivering slightly, I feel Heather come back, a faint sweet breath on my cheek. She likes him, and I feel his unusual attractiveness grow on me. He's so masculine, but so bored with my allure. I have to make more of an effort to make him like me.

"Soccer? I tried to play a long time ago." He raises an eyebrow in disbelief. "It's true! I was terrible at it because for some reason, I always got hit right in the face with the ball. So they put me as goalie because they figured that if any balls came toward me they would just gravitate towards my face." He smiled and I giggled softly.

"I have a kid like that in one of my classes. He just can't help but hit the ball, except with his hands instead of his face." We get on the bus together, and he and I sit next to each other, still swapping stories until I get off. Gently, I scrawl my number on the back of his hand with a borrowed pen and get off, sighing into the night air. I'm exhausted, and elated that I have found another boy to try on for a time. He's probably not the one to cure me, but I can always hope.

It's a week before he calls for a Friday night date. I had begun to worry he would not call at all. Readily, I accept and we go out. The conversation flows so easily with him. Words say everything we need. I feel remarkably comfortable with him, and I'm almost sad that I'm going to have to leave him eventually. Now that he is not drunk, he is quite animated, and it amuses me to see him gesture when I bring up a topic he feels strongly about. His hands flap and flutter around him when he speaks, his entire body involved in the conversation, and it's completely impossible not to lean in and listen to his rough voice.

I go back home and lie on my bed, counting the ticks of the clock until sleep overtakes me. The makeup is gone, the outfit is gone, the emotions are mostly gone, and now the night is for reflection. I remember the feeling of his hand as it glanced off my hand when we both reached for the check, and how his hand closed over mine for a brief moment. I remember how he kissed me gently on the cheek goodnight, promising to call me again.

Again, he made me wait for the call, heightening my interest. This time he took me dancing, something I loved, and we swung around the floor to salsa and mamba and even a bit of formal dancing. The entire time my blood sang through my veins and his eyes watched me as I smiled and spun. That night, I kissed him for real, pressing against him, and he pressed back for a moment, before leaving me standing on my doorstep, wanting more before he left.
I wrote this original lack of attraction off to chivalry. He didn't want to seem too hooked on to me until he knew I wasn't going to run off at the first sign of attachment. He wanted to ease into the unfamiliar waters. I respected that, and didn't push him farther than he wanted to go.

I loved the way that he moved, I loved seeing him work with the children, and most of all, I loved his unusual eyes. It was so interesting to watch the different colors shift among each other, the swirling of gold and green, and the laughter that would hide itself among the color. The most unconventional part of those whorled eyes was how much was hidden. By now, I was adept at reading emotions, and his were so difficult to find. It wasn't even that he tried to keep them cloaked: he was merely abstruse.

We fought for the first time after he found me clubbing without him. I had just gone out to unwind a little bit, and the best way to do that was to lose myself to music and hormones and boys. He walked into the same club, just by sheer happenstance, and saw me just as I allowed this man to draw me in for a modest kiss on the lips followed by a less chaste kiss on the neck. I saw Brent, and pushed this faceless kissing man away, but Brent yelled and I yelled back. Hours later, we lay back on the bed at his apartment, the sweat cooling in the air, and he made me tell him that the other man meant nothing to me over and over as he kissed my neck and face and lips. I knew that I would end up breaking his heart anyways, so the words were merely empty words and nothing more.

I moved in with him after a year. The sinking feeling had begun in my stomach, but I knew that I was going to try and defy Heather's curse, if just for a bit longer. I really liked spending time with him. He was my best friend, and my lover, and my adviser, and my confidante. For some reason, though, I realized he wasn't happy. And I was the source of his unhappiness. He was forever suppressing his feelings, like I couldn't take the brunt of all of his emotions.

For the first time, I felt a small twinge of hope that I could join Heather. Instead of feeling happy about this possibility, I was dejected. It didn't feel like I had a choice, but if I had a choice, I wouldn't have known what to do. I was torn between this boy and my best friend.

I knew what I had to do to make things right in the world.

He invited me to a soccer game at the big stadium. The game played out just like a movie film, with the last goal for the win scored by Brent within a couple seconds of the final bell. The crowd poured onto the field, and while I saw him looking for me, I waited by the gates, wanting to wait for the right moment. He came slowly off the field, sweating but glowing with the glory of having won the game for his team. I pulled him a little ways away from his friend, and I blurted out what I needed to say before I could second guess myself.

"We're breaking up." He looked a little surprised, but merely nodded.

"It's alright. I know you don't love me. I understand." Something about the tone of his veiled voice made me stop and want to question him further.

"Did you ever love me?" He laughed (actually laughed!) at me for my cautious and hopeful tone. Heather's sweet breath gusted across the back of my neck as he answered in a tiny sigh.

"No. You are a wonderful friend, and I really like you, but you and I are not meant to be." Tears formed in my eyes, and I kissed him, happy and sad and delighted and exhilarated and forlorn all at the same time. He kissed back, somehow knowing it would be the last time I would see him. Heather's warmth caressed over my back and my arms as I turned away from him. Behind me, he called a goodbye with the tone of lovers parting for the last time, but I barely heard me. The sun had long since gone down, but I closed my eyes and felt the brightness of the sun through my lids. My body aged, and memories flashed before me, and Heather smiled at me, reaching out a hand for me to join her. Without looking back, without regrets, I took her hand and felt everything in me shift to join her in the sky, her moon to balance the sun.

♥

Brent watched her go, the only person who cared to watch this dark creature meld with the night. With a single flash of brightness, she vanished, and he didn't move, unsurprised, and smiling. Ever since he had first met her, he knew that she wouldn't be permanent to anybody or anywhere. Wherever Desi now was, she was happy to be there for a while. A friend distracted him for a moment, and he turned away from where he had last seen her.

"Come on, Brent. Where's your Desirae?" He turned back to look where she was, and a dark bird, a magpie, with a tiny crescent moon marking on its wing and golden markings around its neck hopped forward, staring with black intelligent eyes. He smiled at it, and it bowed slightly, before gliding off into the night again. His teammate looked at him expectantly before he answered.

"She isn't coming. I'll be right there." Jogging to catch up, Brent returned to his friends, laughing, and he, in the later years of his life, would convince himself that Desi had never really existed, just an angel that chose to visit him for a while.

But you know the truth.





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