Friday, May 11, 2012
“How long are we going to just lay here?” Michael asks.
“Just give me a few more seconds,” I say. He really irritates me sometimes.
Michael sighs dramatically, but he doesn’t say anything else.
The grass underneath my bare arms itches my skin. The tickling sensation flickers at my elbows and wrists like a snake’s tongue but I don’t allow myself the pleasure of scratching. Goose bumps crawl over the millions of freckles that stain my entire body, but I like the way it feels. It’s not enough, though. I stare up at the turquoise sky and try to see how long I can go without blinking.
“One-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, three-one-thousand, four-one-thousand,” I count silently.
After fourteen and a half seconds, my screaming eyeballs start to quiver, and my lids close without my permission. I groan and bang my fists into the ground. Something. There’s got to be something I can do to do this on my own.
My entire life I’ve felt different. Strange. Unfocused. But most teenage girls say that, don’t they? The thing is, most girls aren’t distracted by the ever-present yearning to let their wings unfold.
I pull pieces of grass out of the ground and tear them into tiny pieces. I can see Michael watching me in my periphery, but I don’t say anything to him yet.
Just five more seconds. I can do this.
I’m not supposed to shift. My parents say it’s too dangerous a thing until I learn how to control my heart rate and stay shifted, but how am I supposed to learn if they won’t teach me? Michael clears his throat.
Crap. My five seconds are up.
“Are you ready?” Michael asks, as he pushes himself onto his elbows beside me.
I nod and close my eyes.
I feel his fear before I feel his skin touch mine, but I know it’s not a fear of kissing me. It’s a fear of what I’m about to do. He doesn’t want me to shift either, but he supports me anyway. He is my best friend, after all.
His lips hover over mine for a second, like two opposing magnets. He huffs out a breath. “Dammit, Ivy. Are you sure you wanna do this?”
I open my eyes. The feeling of my pupils shrinking to accommodate the bright sun makes my bones curl, but it’s not enough. It’s never enough. The worried wrinkles in Michael’s forehead match the curve of his knitted eyebrows.
“Yes,” I whisper. I reach up and smooth the lines from his brow, then tug sharply on a lock of his hair. He narrows his eyes at me. “Just do it already. I have to know what it feels like, okay? You don’t understand what it’s like to hold yourself together all the time.”
“Okay,” he sighs. But I can tell that he’s hoping my theory is wrong.
Every time I come close to shifting, something has happened to heighten my senses. The sensations that almost drive you up the wall, the ones that are so annoying that they almost feel good—like itching, tickling, shaking, heck, even sneezing—almost make me shift, but not quite.
Michael leans over me again, but this time he doesn’t hesitate. His lips fall against mine in the lightest of touches. Nothing happens; but of course a kiss like that won’t work, and he knows it. He takes a quick, shuddering breath, then tries again.
This time, he presses his lips into mine like he means it. He takes my bottom lip into his mouth as he tucks a piece of hair behind my ear. I knew kissing Michael would be… well, awesome, but I had no idea it would make me feel like this. I can’t breathe. I can’t blink. It’s like all the blood in my body has congealed. Tiny pins are pricking the inside of my skin, and for a split second—for once in my life—I don’t want know what it feels like to shift. I want to stay right here in the grass with Michael, under the sky instead of flying into it. I don’t want to be anything other than what I’ve already learned to be.
But it turns out my theory was right.
It’s like a ripcord has been pulled from my stomach. I’m turned inside out, blooming into something that isn’t me, yet is me at the same time. My skin turns to feathers. My arms turn to wings. The ground is no longer my prison, and I’m hurtling effortlessly towards the sun.
The wind pulls me higher into the sky, and I want to laugh, but this body doesn’t have the ability. This body can’t be caged. This body is free.
I’ve never felt as amazing as I do now. I flap my wings a couple of times to keep up my momentum, but a stream of wind is carrying me along like I weigh nothing. My tiny heart is thrumming wildly in my chest from the exhilaration of the change.
But as I dip in and out of the blue sky, reveling in the feeling of flight, my heart rate starts to slow. The familiar creeping ache of the need to change into something else spreads through me. Panic seeps into my bones and I start to lose control.
The ripcord is pulled again, and I am falling.
The sound of air roaring in my ears deafens me, but I try to focus enough to replicate the feelings I had when Michael kissed me. It doesn’t work—it never works. My human body hits the ground hard.
Michael calls my name frantically as he runs towards me, and I know he’s afraid that I’ve shattered every bone in my body, but I don’t care if I have. I am broken either way.
A tear runs down my cheek and dangles from my earlobe. I finally know what it feels like to shift, but no matter what body I’m trapped in, my bones will always be yearning to be something else.
I will never know what it feels like to be comfortable in my own skin. I will never know what it feels like to be me.