I was new: fresher dew on the curve of the earth than even most five-year-old girls. I’m sure it was clear to the others that I was an apparition; I had my navy blue, facultative logoed clothes and my little French braids, one which said, ‘my first day of school’, and the other, ‘my first day here’.
I cried once lost, in those strange halls from the same city as those that I preferred— knowing well that my ghost self wouldn’t be acknowledged unless she wailed. In due time I was rescued, plucked up and made to rest in my assigned classroom.
Girl, I thought whole-heartedly when I spotted the dark pigtails across from my desk. Boy, I scowled of the head adjoining. The year prior, I had lost my swimming pool privileges for stuffing drawings of fairies into the boys’ cubbies (except that of the one I loved; for him, a truck). I didn’t know that this particular head of brown hair—named Patrick—would enjoy being a bother just as much as I did. Nor did I know that we would prefer all the same things: spy movies, rollercoasters, ballet class (that he’d so often lift me up while we were in the grass).
I didn’t know—until I definitely knew—that though unrelated to me, Patrick would become my twin brother. He even had the similar name, the birthday a day before mine: cherries atop the roof of our metaphorical home. Years before our classmates started to ask if he was gay, they even accused us of romance.
(They should have known better, having seen the way I sprinted the moment the bottle stopped spinning.)
My latest and true obsession, though, had been our other classmate, Jerôme-Jean Kilter. A soft-spoken and soft-boned child, he was my fantasy ball date and that of every other girl in our class.
“I love you this much,” he’d said to me one afternoon, stretching his thin arms as wide as he could. “And I love Paola the size of the school.”
By then, Patrick and I were spending our recesses building plans to make Jerôme prefer me over her (the former would then ask him for the status of his feelings, in order to gauge our progress). We went as far as to run to Paola and to slap ourselves in the face, trying with a trick of perspective to make it look as if she’d done it. In that way, we happily convinced Jerôme that she was rude, which leveled the two of us to equal tides in his blue eyes.
As I’d been when he’d told me it was my wild hair that held me back from his affection—that it wasn’t my personality—I was satisfied.
“Don’t tell my parents,” Patrick told me one day that he and I were left alone, and he showed me what he’d been doing on his computer. It looked like a video game, and within it seemed he was punching a blonde celebrity, widely disliked at the time. He was turning her purple.
On another day, he’d made a search that also came up purple; it was the single word, painful. He laughed looking at the results, but I coiled in the corner after seeing a video of a man being beaten bloody with a stick.
“It has to be fake,” I’d said. I convinced myself of it.
During our time in the playgrounds, it was the spy-pretend-type thing we had been taking more seriously. Considering everything, perhaps his motivations had been similar to mine.
“Which one should it be today?” he’d ask.
“Ms. Clermont,” I might say, referring to the music teacher.
“And will she eat you, or just kill you?”
The next step would be for me to lay on my side, to put my hands behind my back as if tied.
I had once gained deep, red marks on my wrists from wearing my hair ties around them, at home—imagining an arch-nemesis with a desperation to kill me. My mother, upon seeing them, had made the same face as the babysitter who’d found me victim of flying plastic toys. “There are people out there who enjoy hurting themselves,” she’d explained. “They’re very, very sick people.”
In the playground, I lay in the grass, enjoying the thought of being the one student whom Ms. Clermont wished to consume. There, I waited for Patrick’s rescue, feigning a princess’s sleep and ready to be stricken awake.
Palaces is Editor-in-Chief of Wrongdoing Magazine. She is the author of EROTECAY (LUPERCALIA Press, 2021) and Folktales for the Diseased Individual (2021) and has work featured in Eclectica Magazine, Juked Magazine, BlazeVOX, Maudlin House, and many others. She has a BAH from Queen’s University. You can find her at pascalepotvin.com or @pascalepalaces on Twitter.
Artwork: Sarah Ann Loreth