shadow dolls

… she slipped her anger into something silky and attractive, like she was putting on a lacy nightgown.
—  Martha Schabas, Various Positions
10

patar-fuifui inspired me to do some Sonic Shaming. I felt as though I couldn’t do just one, so I thought of as many Sonic jokes as I could to give you these little oodles of doodles. 

Ok I finished this at 4:09 and i’m going to bed. I’ll edit this later

1.

quiet. pitter patter. footsteps. 

i hide it away. the shirt, far too big for me, goes underneath the mattress, and the dolls come out. 

i set them up, quickly, as if to show i’ve been playing with them. my heart yearns for the cars that my aunt gave me, for my fifth birthday. 

my mother likes it more when i play with my dolls. 

a shadow falls past my room, and it steals my breath away. i cough. “hello, mrs. sparkles,” i say, picking up a doll and smiling at her. my mouth is stretched wide, made of lies and stars threatening to burst. 

“would you like some tea?” i continue, just as the shadow becomes a human, my mother, and steps into the room. she smiles. 

“having fun?”

“yes, amma.”

we both know it’s a lie. 

we smile, mouths wider stretched. they almost break, shattering. but they don’t. the proficiency of hiding our feelings runs through this family. 

i look back at the doll i’m holding. her eyes, glassy blue and dead, judge me, silently. she knows about what’s underneath my mattress. she knows that i’m not what i should be. 

“______?” she calls. my heart twists, my guts turn. “play with your cars.”

my eyes shoot up. “my cars?”

my mother nods. “they make you happy. i like to see you happy.”

a smile breaks out onto my face, one that supernovas could not mimic. the room lights up, sun streaming through the window, and my heart explodes. 

“thank you,” i say, almost reverently. 

my mother looks like she wants to say something, secrets of the stars at the tip of her tongue. she doesn’t. she simply nods and turns away, and says something under her breath. 

at the time, i did not hear it. i am too busy chasing after my cars, too busy unraveling the secrets at the tip of her tongue. i have forgotten about the something underneath my mattress. 

later, i realise what she said. 

“darling, you will change the world.”

2.

i am six years old and my best friend is a boy. 

we have the same haircuts, short cropped black hair, the same laughs, music whistling through the wind, the same passion, ferocity, love. 

we climb on top of the slide and i hang upside down from it. he laughs, trying to get me to sit back up, lest i should fall. i refuse. 

“______?” he asks, and the name still twists my heart, turns my guts. “do you think we can change the world?”

i smile at him, the sunset beginning to fall. “i think we can do whatever we want to.”

silence falls. he ponders my statement. “i think,” he says, “when i grow older, i’ll marry you.”

i laugh so hard, i almost fall off. “is that so?”

“why not?” he says. “you’re like me. you like karate, you like video games and you like cricket, and you’re better than me at all of those.”

“does that make a difference?” i ask. he smiles, and the sun frames his face. 

“amma said i should always marry someone smarter than me.”

i beam. “i wouldn’t mind marrying you.”

he grins. “that’s that settled then. we’ll get married when we’re older!”

the next day, we run around, telling people of our engagement. our mothers laugh and smile, our fathers grin and muss our hair, our friends listen in awe and ask if they can be married to us too. “why not?” we say. “let’s all get married!”

the next day, we are back. my best friend and i, we sit in our respective places. he looks at me, more than usual. 

“what are you doing?” i ask. it’s hard to see him properly, especially when it’s almost dark and i’m upside down. 

“your name,” he says, and cold fear runs down my spine, like a black hole had been melted and made me shiver. “it doesn’t fit you.”

“it doesn’t,” i agree, and the black hole changes into a red hot supernova of relief, finally, someone understands. “what would you call me then?”

he thinks, and looks then at the sky. it is dark, and the stars have come out. the sky is still tinged with pink and red, and it reflects off of his face. 

“sky,” he decides, and it clicks. the stars come into formation. 

“sky,” i repeat, and it fills with me with a strange feeling that i cannot put a name to. 

hope. 

he smiles at me, then jumps off the slide. “well, sky, you coming?" 

i jump off, landing with a whisper of a thud. "race you back home!”

i win. 

3.

i am in a strange place. 

it doesn’t smell like home. home smells like spices, like my best friend spraying his mum’s perfume everywhere, like maggi noodles. 

it doesn’t smell foreign, with no furniture, no love crafted into the air. i set my suitcase down. i look around. it’s bare, but there’s room. it’s more room than the one bedroom apartment we had to live in for two months. 

i close my eyes, firmly shut, and then open them again. if i squint just enough, i can see the drawings that my sister will draw on the wall, and my heart warms with the fire of a thousand suns. 

i can start again. make myself known as sky. make myself known as whatever i like. 

i smile at my family. they smile back, holding the tears in their eyes and breathing in softly. 

we can make this home. 

4.

i do not wear skirts anymore. 

it is summer, and it is hot outside, the sun shining down with ferocity and anger. i refuse to wear my skirt. i fold my hands over my t-shirt and smooth out my trousers. 

my mum and dad have a heated whisper argument in the kitchen. my sister sits on the sofa, chewing her lip nervously. i perch on a chair, right next to the kitchen. 

my dad gives me a thumbs up behind my mum’s back. i nod. he comes over to me. “it’s too warm to wear trousers,” he says, kneeling in front of me. i open my mouth, ready to argue, but he says, “you can wear shorts, though.”

i close my mouth again. i nod, beaming. “thanks, dad.”

“i love you,” he says, pulling me close. my sister and my mother watch. “and that will never change. i will always love you, no matter what.”

it sounds like he’s warning me of something. i don’t quite know what it is. 

5.

at school, i make friends. 

one, a girl with the hair of gold and a soft, sweet voice to go with it. she is kind to the bone, so full of love and affection for me. i am in awe of her, every single day. 

two, a girl with enthusiasm and songs. she is always singing and drawing and dancing, at one with the arts. 

three, a girl with nothing but acceptance to the brim. she is the other indian, the one my parents approve of. she makes sure that i am okay. 

four, a boy with a snarky mouth and a snappy memory to boot. he can recite the times tables almost as fast as me, and smiles at me every day, even if we are academic rivals. 

they make me feel okay. they make me feel sane. one and four wear trousers, like me, two and three wear skirts. they have all seen me cry, they have all seen me smile. 

we are a constellation, holding each other up, making each other feel safe. 

6.

i was getting comfortable. i was dragged away, yet again, this time to a place called germany. 

it’s unfamiliar. i can’t taste the apple pie that one had baked for me once. i can’t see the drawings that two drew for me. i can’t feel the smile that three gave me every day. i can’t hear the sarcastic comments four made every minute. 

i do not like it. my parents look uneasy. my sister looks happy, dancing in the living room that has been stripped clear of any sign of life. 

i breathe. it will be okay. i will make myself known as myself. 

7.

i hate it here. 

the girls whisper about me in their little clusters, angry words in german rattling back and forth. the boys look at me like i am some sort of zoo attraction. 

i try to wear clothes like them, act like them so i will fit in. they crawl up my body and fester in my heart. 

i cry myself to sleep. 

8.

the girl with hair of anger and a temper made of fire sticks up for me. 

she hisses at everyone to include me, that i’m just as good as them, that i can play with them too. 

it has been two years, but the love i have for her has not faded one bit, a raging fire inside my chest. 

9.

they play hockey, and i see a person made of sunshine. 

they are a friend of the girl of anger and fire. they don’t talk much, preferring to keep to their drawings and sketchbook. they remind me of two, but quieter, more reserved. 

i do not mind. i talk about everything under the stars, and whenever i wheedle a response out of them, it is one of the best feelings i have ever experienced. 

slowly, i spend more time with them. i seek them out. they seek me out. they talk more, i listen more. they make me laugh, i make them smile. i stick up for them, make sure nobody talks smack about them around me. 

days blur into weeks, and they keep me afloat. 

somewhere down the line, we become friends. 

10.

the person made of sunshine has a brother. the brother has friends, each a different colour of the rainbow. 

they gravitate towards me, teaching me new things, helping me out. they all tell me about different things, but they have one thing in common: they teach me how to live. 

slowly, i start dressing like myself again. i start speaking up and speaking out, against things i know are wrong. 

the brother takes me under his wing. he glares at everyone who threatens me in any way, he supports me. soon, his friends become mine as well. 

for the first time in my life, i feel at home. 

11.

they talk about gender, and as soon as they mention the word nonbinary, i know. 

12.

i tell them. sunshine smiles and supports me, like always. they ease into my pronouns, my name. 

13.

“my name is - ” i start, unsure how to finish. 

“skylar,” says sunshine for me, and my heart bursts. 

14.

i come back home after a long day of school, placing my backpack down carefully next to my desk. i lay back on my bed. 

stars dance across my ceiling. the constellation i created when i was younger is still there, with my four friends. now, more have been added, and my heart beats for all of them. 

i get up and look under my mattress. nobody is home. the shirt, the same one that i took from my dad’s wardrobe years ago, is still there. 

i hold it tight, i hold it close. it reminds me of my best friend, how he was the first to call me sky. it reminds me of the constellation i made (and still hold dear in my heart) with my four friends. it reminds me of sunshine and my friends now, the ones that helped me live. 

tears join together on the shirt, making a universe. i smile. my dad never realised it was gone. 

i pad out of my room, and place it back in its drawer, amongst the other clothes my father owns. i had made it mine. 

i smile again, then walk back to my room. i take out a pen, i take out my notebook and i start writing.

the shirt lays there, a reminder of all the memories i have collected through the years, all my pain. it has been a constant companion in me realising that who i am is okay, a product of late nights and salty tears. 

15.

i do not need it anymore. 

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A Queen of Shadows by Lenician-Terran-Dolls