“Shall I tell you a story? A new and terrible one? A ghost story? Are you ready? Shall I begin? Once upon a time there were four girls. One was pretty. One was clever. One charming, and one… one was mysterious. But they were all damaged, you see. Something not right about the lot of them. Bad blood. Big dreams. Oh, I left that part out. Sorry, that should have come before. They were all dreamers, these girls. One by one, night after night, the girls came together. And they sinned. Do you know what that sin was? No one? Pippa? Ann? Their sin was that they believed. Believed they could be different. Special. They believed they could change what they were–damaged, unloved. Cast-off things. They would be alive, adored, needed. Necessary. But it wasn’t true. This is a ghost story remember? A tragedy. They were misled. Betrayed by their own stupid hopes. Things couldn’t be different for them, because they weren’t special after all. So life took them, led them, and they went along, you see? They faded before their own eyes, till they were nothing more than living ghosts, haunting each other with what could be. With what can’t be. There, now. Isn’t that the scariest story you’ve ever heard?”
Come awake, Tom. Fathers can willfully hurt their children. They can be addicts too weak to give up their vices, no matter the pain it causes. Mothers can turn you invisible with neglect. They can erase you with a denial, a refusal to see. Friends can deceive you. People lie. It is a cold, hard world. I do not blame Nell Hawkins for retreating from it into a madness of her own choosing.
We create the illusions we need to go on. And one day, when they no longer dazzle or comfort, we tear them down, brick by glittering brick, until we are left with nothing but the bright light of honesty. The light is liberating. Necessary. Terrifying. We stand naked and emptied before it. And when it is too much for our eyes to take, we build a new illusion to shield us from its relentless truth.
No one asks how or what I am doing. They could not care less. We’re all looking glasses, we girls, existing only to reflect their images back to them as they’d like to be seen. Hollow vessels of girls to be rinsed of our own ambitions, wants, and opinions, just waiting to be filled with the cool, tepid water of gracious compliance.