Well, aren’t you a pretty little thing. Don’t be modest, Daphne, there’s no denying it. Hair black as night, skin pale as snow, lips red as any flower of your choice–why, you’re the fairest little maid this side of the Thames. And your choice of flower is the rose? Oh, how cute. How very appropriate. Practically prophetic, and prophecy is a curious gift to hide. Especially with eyes like yours. The stories never talk about the maiden’s eyes. Why is that, do you think? The hair, the skin, the lips–why not the eyes? But put your mind at ease, dear. Your eyes matter, too, they are the colour of sea glass, at once sharp and clean, but dirty, encrusted with sand. Sea glass, after all, is not really of the sea. It came from somewhere else. It was part of something else. A beer bottle, say. Only years later will it wash up on the beach, only to be plucked up by some tourist on holiday for a collection that will never grow beyond a little jar in the kitchen, that will never be more than a reminder of pleasanter days past. That is what your eyes are. Alien. Filthy. Relics of some other time, place, life.
So by extension, isn’t that what you are? A relic of a life centuries and universes away? For certainly, there are not girls that look like you around here anymore. No indeed. You are a treasure that will drift here and there on the currents of social nicety, and then some bland, dashing beachcomber will stumble upon you and pick you up, as if it is he who has discovered you–you would not dare pretend it will be anyone other than a man, a powerful one if not a handsome or kind one, would you?–and it is he who will take you home and put you in his kitchen to remind him of the days when he commanded the attention of girls just like you, or like you used to be.
But you, dear, you’re too lovely for the kitchen. The grease and oil and the mess of that place is too much for your delicate sensibilities. You deserve a better place. The drawing room, perhaps. Perched upon the mantle like a pretty little birdie, with claws sharpened against the bars of your cage. Because God, with eyes like yours, it would be folly to guess that you would not plot your revenge. You really are an alien, you know. The girls here do not fight their fate. You, though, Daphne. You are a bit of a wildcard, aren’t you? You bank on your loveliness to hook them–men, evidently, though you would never turn down the friendship of powerful ladies, not when it could get you so very much–and when they threaten to take you away, you accede, but not without bucking at the reins every step of the way. When finally that lucky boy gets you to the altar and showers the binding sparks of silver on your head, and when he leans in for his kiss, you will move to him and you will bite his lower lip, and not in that mischievous way boys like of their girls. You will draw blood. And when you draw away, he will know what he has done.
The question is, will you?
The problem with girls like you–there are many, of course, but the chief one, the first one, the one that is most worrisome–is that you think you are special. You think, as long as you are going to go down–and you know you will, because even you would never go so far as to imagine a world outside of this one–it is better to bring as many as you can with you. You will lure them in, men and women both, and you will make them love you, and they will, you are sure. They don’t know any better. How could they? There are no forces that can match a Greengrass at her loveliest. Not even the wisp of a girl that trails after you like a pet deer, all doe eyes and nervous innocence, that little sister of yours, could hold a candle to you. There are no girls who could dream of competing with you.
You will make them love you, and they will, for there is nothing that can match a Greengrass like you at your peak, and then when they realize what they have done, you will pull away and you will have their blood and love written across your forehead and smeared like lipstick on your mouth. Or perhaps like gloss, because blood shines like gloss, in certain slants of light. You believe desperately, or as close to desperately as you can admit, that as long as you’re going down, you will bring as many as you can with you. But you, dear one, are still going down. Perhaps you think there is a particular kind of honour associated with bringing a society down from within. In destroying as much as possible as long as your own destruction is guaranteed.
There is not.
God, no, there is nothing like honour here. To even dream of being the fifth column of this world, first you have to become part of it. And it does not matter how many boys you kiss and how many girls you lure. You think you have outsmarted everyone, but it is quite the contrary. When you die, whose name will be on your headstone? Next to whom will you be buried? Who will come to lay your flowers, your roses, on your grave? You have already sold your life. What you do with it after your contract has been signed with your blood and honour is of no concern to anyone. You can lure as many as you like in the folds of your skirts, all clamouring like children to get a taste of mother’s milk, or you can create your branches of addicts, like those pitiful little things on the side of the road, fumbling in the dark for another hit of whatever drug you think is the most dangerous and tragic. But that is a responsibility, dear one. It is one to which you will devote your whole life. And it is nothing, nothing, compared to the simple fact that you would so very much like to escape: your destiny rests in your hands. Make of it what you will, but it is your choice. Your fault that your life has come to this, this… farce, this sabotage, whatever glittering, lovely words you feel like drawing over the truth like linen over furniture you want to give away but instead hide in your attic, abandoned and filthy and, no matter how you try to hide it, still very much here. Practically alive, wouldn’t you say?
It’s all true, you know. There are a million other girls who look just like you. They want the same things you do. They don’t know how to express those desires either. They put on their silks and their satins, and they fasten their jewelry, and they pin up their hair–although what you’ve done with yours is so pretty, truly, the waves undulating over your shoulders like, well, waves against a gently sloping warped wooden boardwalk holidaying tourists stray from in order to root their grubby, sunscreen-slathered hands around in the sand for a keepsake, a memento, a broken piece of kelly green or dark blue sea glass with jagged edges and grime and God knows what else engraved or ingrained in its surface–ahem, they do their hair like you do, and they paint their cheeks and line their eyes and plump their lips like you do, and when they take the floor, their heels make the same seductive clicks that yours do, and their laughs are as lilting as yours, and their smiles are as easy and valuable as yours, and their kisses, when they give those up, taste like yours and feel like yours to their whisper shadow lovers. And those lovers, they look the same as yours, the hunger of youth and the dazed disbelief of young infatuation. They act like yours do, and they say the same things. Like yours whisper in your ear refined sweet talk that smacks of poison and corruption, so do those boys. When you offer yours an apple representing temptation, original sin, et cetera, those other boys accept it as readily, and devour it as if it is their girls’ hearts that have been delivered to them, that they and they alone have discovered.
But you see now, don’t you? Your heart is in your lover’s hands. You have served it to him on a silver platter. You have not lost everything: you have given it away. And you might find morbid pleasure in showing him the dark side of this blissful world you believe so strongly that you cannot escape, but you too, dear one, are forbidden from entering Eden again. You are fallen. You fancy yourself a serpent, don’t you? Those rose red lips of yours, whispering all of your coy little temptations. Do you think you are the first? Heavens, no. You make the mistake of assuming, perhaps hoping, that this system has never met anyone quite like you, with your hair like whorls of ink and your skin the texture and colour of new parchment and your lips like owl order catalog lipstick and your eyes like broken beer bottles.
You could be an Eve, but there is only one Eve, and she is only a story anyway, isn’t she? A story we tell ourselves, a relic of lives and universes far removed from our own. And if she’s only a story, if she’s a construct of collective imagination and religion and fear, well then, what in God’s name are you?
Author's Note This is the first vaguely stylized one-shot I've written in about a year, and the first second-person fic in an even longer time, mostly to persuade myself that I still can write both, hehe. And procrastinate, because I am nothing if not dedicated to perfecting that student art. It actually kind of feels weird putting something up after so long, but I hope you enjoyed this random little thing, would love to hear your thoughts about it, and all of those other lovely little sign-offs that go in author notes.
Write a Review She is only a story anyway: isn't she?