by Laura Madeline Wiseman
Though it was difficult, Cinder was etching out her individuality by distinguishing herself from her family, classmates, and the world. She did this in subtle ways: by wearing blue nail polish when everyone else was wearing teal and by loving cats when everyone else loved television. Cinder loved her cat Clyde, who was completed black with just the last inch of his tail perfectly white, like he’d been dipped in a bucket of paint. Today, Clyde had a purple tail complete with silver sparkles. It was important to Cinder for Clyde to be different from other cats, but not too much.
Late that night, Cinder snuck out and took a walk. The night was dry and warm. The air was laced with dust which drifted and stuck to her clothes like magnets. Cinder was fortified with body spray filled with tiny purple sparkles and smelled of lilacs. The sparkles angled the light away and she glowed. Clyde the cat followed close behind. The purple tail radiated a beacon in the halogen light and switched sides with each trot.
A car pulled up; it was orange with green floor lights. “Cinder, are you heading to the party?” a voice said, lush with delight.
Cinder’s eyes met GM’s as the enchantment spread between them like a galaxy of stars, twinkling and full, black and empty. GM was Cinder’s best friend and had been since summer camp. “Yeah.” Cinder jumped into the car, her lengthy body like a minx slipping into the back seat as she slid across the vinyl seats in her acrylic pants.
The driver’s arm curled GM next to him. Swathed in shadows, he yanked the car back onto the road and drove too fast, rounded corners too sharply, but pulled the car to a delicate stop before red lights. “This is Ecnirp. He’s in college,” said GM.
Cinder rolled her eyes as she swum her fingers through her hair, “Does he roll, GM, or is it just me and you again tonight.” Cinder lay on the back seat, walking her feet across the ceiling. It made the ride more exciting, if she couldn’t see where they were going. The road was a carriage, the destination just a stopping point before going again.
“Hey, aren’t you related to the ugly step-sisters?” asked Ecnirp, eyeing Cinder’s ankles through the rearview mirror. He was an ankle man and hers were slender as starter logs.
“Hey, college boy, did mommy and daddy pay for this green and pumpkin car, or did you?”
“Hush you two. I want to grant you a wish, Cinder. What do you think? Now or later,” said GM, knowing the answer and fishing through a bag for a bottle of pills. The bottle was covered with stars and looked like pocket sized magic.
“Shit, GM, we should wait,” said Ecnirp. Uncoiling his arm from GM, he shoved GM across the car sending the contents of the bag along the seat and onto the floor of the car. Hands rolling back and forth over the steering wheel, Ecnirp refused to acknowledge GM’s grunts or nudging while GM searched and collected all the items from the bag.
“Fine, you wait” GM said, climbing over the backseat next to Cinder and pushing a tablet into Cinder’s hand. GM winked, rubbing the sparkles along Cinder’s arm to place the transferred sparkles on GM’s own cheek. “Do you want a drink of my pop,” GM asked, slipping a pill onto the tongue.
“Thanks. I’m dying.”
Ecnirp coughed from the front seat. “What are you both doing back there?”
“Talking about you,” said Cinder, rubbing the fairy dust along her arms to see it twinkle.
“Let’s go to the party,” GM said, crawling back into the front seat.
For a moment, Ecnirp eyed GM silently, then gassed the car and swung out into the night. As Cinder lay along the seat, sliding back and forth along the vinyl, she thought of her life. In everyway possible, Cinder wanted fantasy and make believe in the now.
Pulling onto a side street, Ecnirp stopped the car and ordered everyone out. The three stepped out and made their way along the sidewalk following the sound of music. Paths of keg cups lead them to the front door.
The party thumped. Ecnirp, Cinder, and GM melted into the mob on the floor, the gaggle around the bar, and the couples cloistered in corners. Ecnirp inched his arm around both their waists and then down their sides. Cinder let this happen for a second and then stepped out of his embrace, annoyed and looked for someone else to rub against.
A keg sat in a garbage can full of ice as a lengthy male doled out cups at four dollars a piece. Those who had cups filled and emptied them as quickly as possible. In the backyard, smokers stood in half circles of glowing amber. Their exhales wafting the heat like signals, calling out in mere gasps, like cries. In the dark undergrowth, a tail flickered. A purple light tapped the grass in anticipation, while whiskers tested the air.
Cinder orbited GM and Ecnirp. She rolled and rustled, throbbed and burned. On the dance floor in the basement, bodies bumped and grinded to techno mixes. One song merged into the next, the baseline the same tempo over and over again. It was a song that wouldn’t end, a high that wouldn’t come down, and a pitched scream overlooked and unheard.
Slippery were the bodies. Cinder danced. GM and Ecnirp parted and returned. Easing up to Ecnirp, Cinder leaned her sweaty body against his. He smelled of musk and cheap beer. His lips moved as his eyes darted over her body like snake tongues. She threaded her fingers through his skin, pressing and loosening as she fell into the rhythm. Light splayed along their bodies. Catches of arm, leg, hair, and face were slices of the song of the night. Images rolled into one another. It was not individuals dancing alone. It was a frenzy along the same consciousness.
When the night stopped, Cinder found herself in her backyard staring up into the stars. She was cold and damp. For a long time she lay there, a river of sparkles flowing from her eyes. She did not know why she was crying and was not sure she cared. She noticed her shirt was gone and her shoe. Where had they gone? she thought, as she searched her arms for sparkles and pixie dust. Most of them had disappeared too, into the night.
Climbing through her window and flinging herself on her bed, Cinder set the alarm for a few short hours later. She couldn’t sleep and fell out of bed with cotton in her mouth when the alarm hummed. With a haze in her eyes, she swam into the shower and rinsed off.
School was a yawn and GM the only bright light. Sitting on the front school steps, they shared a soda and drew doodles in the dirt of the unswept concrete.
“Some party, Cinder,” said GM.
“Whatever,” Cinder muttered while tapping the twig in the dust.
“I thought you were dancing with someone you liked?”
Cinder didn’t answer but drew messages instead.
“I thought for a moment there, you were about to live happily ever after.”
Cinder felt cloudy, low, and wanting the next party now. She didn’t care about the future. She didn’t care about danger or complications. She didn’t care about her missing shirt and shoe. Even GM was starting to lose that all powerful glow. With her twig, Cinder wrote Ecnirp over and over, leaving out letters, rearranging the order, and writing it backwards. Nip. Rip. Nice. Pine. Ripe. Cin. Pie. Nicer. Price. Prince.
In her room, Clyde made a nest out of Cinder’s belly and purred there while Cinder waiting until the right moment to leave. With the house in silence, Cinder swung out her window glowing with sparkles and lilacs and Clyde a purple light treading just behind her into the night. He meowed and it echoed in the heat. Cinder headed along the dusty street looking beyond the road, the sky, and the stars rolling above. When a car pulled up, she knew it was Ecnirp or Prince because that was the next line in the story.
“Hey Cinder, get in,” Ecnirp said, patting the seat where one shirt lay in a crumpled pile and one shoe, dirty and damp, was wedged next to the seat belt.
Cinder looked at him with twinkles in her eyes. “I don’t want to live happily ever after,” she said, “I just...”
Ecnirp cracked a smile like a can of oil. “I know. I understand. Here,” he said tossing a small bottle of pills towards her. One pill rattled in the plastic like a banshee muted. “I’ll be back soon,” he said, spinning the tires in the dust and u-turning away. Cinder walked on, a purple light behind her eyes. Taking the pill, she threw it into the sky. And it all fell, reflecting the stars, catching the sparkles and rolling away.
Laura Madeline Wiseman is an award winning writer currently teaching in the southwest. Her works have appeared in Long Short Story, 13th Moon, The Comstock Review, Fiction International, Poetry Motel, Driftwood, Familiar, Spire Magazine, Colere, Clare, Flyway Literature Review, Nebula, and other publications. She writes for Empowerment4Women and is the Literary Editor for IntheFray.
Laura Madeline Wiseman, M.A.
Fact is, the invention of women under siege has been to sharpen love in the service of myth.
~Rita Dove “Canary,” Grace Notes