Burnt Child Fears The Fire
Helena can pinpoint the exact moment when the news about Kajsa Gran’s suicide becomes public . It’s Tuesday, three days after her little conversation with the barrowman regarding the worst emotion. It’s late afternoon, and they’re having a committee-meeting to prepare for the Bonfire Ball.
People stop talking. They look at their cell-phones. Someone sobs- a broken sound that echoes in the silence. The uncontested queen of Ochre is dead. Long live the queen, Helena thinks to herself. She tries to define her emotions, tries to put a label on them. Kajsa is dead because of her. She orchestrated it- might as well had held the smoking gun. And Kajsa deserved it, deserved it for her disloyalty, her infidelity, her great betrayal. But at one point they were friends. Not best friends, but good friends. Slumber-party friends.
She looks out through a window, staring at the dark waters surrounding Ochre, and she thinks of that fated first meeting, nine years ago.
She is ten, and her bathsuit won’t fit. She tries to get her right arm aligned, has tried for ten minutes straight, but nothing works. Eventually she sits down on a bench that smells like chlorine, and tries not to cry. The blue-tinted walls of the bathouse seems to mock her, taunt her in her self-made hell.
Frustrated, she gets up and tries to make it fit, once more. A hand seizes her shoulder. “Hold still.” Someone stretches the right part of the suit, and just like that, it’s done. She turns around with curious eyes.
Two girls, both the same age as herself, but looking much more confident are standing in front of her. One has the kind of dark skin that she has never seen beyond a television drama, with ornate dreadlocks and soft brown eyes.
The other girl is pale, with red hair coming down to her shoulders, and light-brown eyes that smiles at her. “Thanks”, Helena says. The girl with the red hair makes an amused shooing motion. “I think 4C has already started swimming”, she says.
Helena realizes that she is really, really late and runs for the door. One of her feet has crossed the rubbery threshold before she realizes that she didn’t even ask them their names. She runs back–
— only to spot the paler one of the two girls putting a hand on other one’s shoulder, but not like she did with Helena. It feels like has witnessed something she shouldn’t have, something intimate. Like dad or mom, making out. The two girls break apart. “Yes?”, the redheaded asks, irritated. “I forgot to ask you your names. I am Helena. Helena Gravsten.”
“I’m Sihle Nabkei”, the girl with the dreads say. “And my name is Kajsa Gran”, the pale one says with a pointed glance at the door. “Right”, Helena says. “I’ll be going now. Nice to see you!”
That was the first time they met. If Helena had known what she knows now, she would have burned the bathouse down.
The committe meeting is adjourned, because nobody has the presence of mind to work anymore.Pussies. Helena checks the feedback she is receiving from what she’d like to think of her minions.
Corvus is working his way through some grapes, content and satisfied. Cordelia…. what is Cordelia to her? A fling? A could-have-been? At this point it doesn’t matter. Her mind is shorn. Deconstructed and rebuilt in unnatural ways.
I was too harsh on her. For a moment she feels regret. Guilt, the emotion of which spoke, it wasn’t just refering to Kajsa Gran. It was something she herself felt. She drifts down to the cafeteria. She buys a sandwhich and seats herself at an table, a bit forlorn, unsure of herself.
But then she thinks of why she is doing it. She puts her hands behind her head. For vengeance’s sake, lead us across the Rubicon, Caesar.
She, Sihle and Kajsa are at Kajsa’s place. Or well, place. More of a outhouse that has been renovated, but it’s still a luxury for a now eleven-year old girl. They’re watching some American movie featuring alot of pink, a couple of mean girls, and a social hierarchy that would have made Darwin proud.
Theirs is an strange relation. When Helena thinks about it, it’s more of a relationship between sisters. Sihle and Kajsa are friends. But she is more like their sister, or maybe even pet. Kajsa has reclined her head in Sihle’s lap, and Sihle is stroking her hair, and as Helena watches the two of them, she experiences the final nail in her coffin of doubt regarding boys.
It’s not like she reached the conclusion over a night. It was always there. The lack of attraction. The cute Swedish teacher, who her eyes were always drawn to. Her non-interest, when the other girls are talking about stupid slobbering boys.
And so she has carried this secret in heart. Not sharing it with her mother, or siblings or anyone. But it needs to be told. She has to tell anyone, or risk exploding. Sink or swim, here I go.
“Ilikegirls”, she leaks, like a faulty facet. Sihle pauses the movie. “What? Could you repeat that?” “I… like… girls…”, Helena says, with her heart in her throat, and her hands bared for the world to burn.
Kajsa turns her head around in Sihle’s lap. After thinking about it for a second or two, she simply nods. That silent gesture of acceptance, which seems so large when they’re all sitting still, breaks Helena’s composure. She starts to cry.
Hot tears run down her face and she can feel snot form in her nose. Sihle and Kajsa gets up from the couch, and hug her. “It’s okay if you like girls. We don’t care. We’re your friends.” She cries even harder.
Naive. I was so young. And stupid. And trusting. Ah well, she thinks to herself. They’re dead, I am alive and kicking, so I guess we’re square now.