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Daughter, I Miss You, Come Home -- fiction by Lucy Dillenbeck

Violet Jade was neither a flower nor a gemstone; rather, she was a contradiction.

She was not delicate, she did not sparkle. Her footsteps were heavy, hands gnarled and calloused. She had a low, booming laugh. She was too tall. Her skin was pocked and freckled.

Her mother, flighty though she was, had nonetheless tried to improve her upon many occasions. Violet Jade, your hair is limp and greasy. She swiped a bottle of fancy shampoo from the drugstore and scrubbed for thirty minutes. Violet Jade, when did you get so pale, you look ghostly. She took to pinching her cheeks in the mirror every morning till her face was bruised and achey. Violet Jade, you eat like a pig. She began to eat in only the tiniest of portions and carried a handkerchief wherever she went. Violet Jade, you have this awful hunchback. She balanced a book on her head and walked laps around her room. Violet Jade, your figure is boxy, you cannot wear a dress like that, you’ll look like a man.

Sometimes she felt like a man. Not truly a man, but she felt wrong, oafish, out of place in a role she should have occupied with ease.

She hated her mother, hated her with all her heart. Sometimes even wished her dead. Good girls did not despise their mothers. Good girls did not write letters pretending to be their mother’s distant relatives, asking them why don’t they come out west for a few weeks. Good girls did not steal stamps from their own mothers to mail said letters.

Good girls did not steal at all, and one night after being caught with three tubes of lipstick, a stick of mascara, a pair of panty-hose, and two bottles of nail polish—one violet, the other jade—Violet Jade spends several hours in a small cell at the village police department, watching water drip from a crack in the ceiling, feeling a lot like a bird who cannot fly.

Violet Jade has no job. Women of her age do not work, their boyfriends lend them money.

The only boys that look my way are the broke ones, she told her mother once.

Violet Jade has become something of an actress. She hides her flaws behind make-up and frilly dresses. She paints her nails violet and jade and her girlfriends laugh their hollow little laughs. She knows none of them can see through her visage to the ugliness that lies underneath, the true hideous self that she keeps hidden. She wonders what they would think if they could.

She is a performer, filling her role dutifully, but there are certain things she cannot hide. In truth, even the broke boys never glanced at Violet Jade. No boy wanted a girl who was taller than they were and tripped over her own feet and soiled all her clothes with sweat-stains.

Violet Jade did not look at boys, and she did not care very much whether they looked at her. She had never wanted them, not the ways her girlfriends talked about. The time would come, she was told. It never did. Another way she was made separate, an alien, a strange creature that resembled a woman but was not.

Her mother picks her up from the police station in her tiny, elegant Volkswagen, mint green and glossy.

Violet Jade, what am I going to do with you?

She has no answer.

Violet Jade, you are a vile and sinful person.

She is only what she has been made to be.

Violet Jade, you are useless. You are nothing. You are dead weight. You are a mistake of a girl. What have I done to deserve a daughter like you?

It occurs to her that she is hearing her mother’s voice, but her jelly-red, even lips are not moving.

Violet Jade unlocks the car door with stubby, coarse fingers, the tips polished and gleaming.

“Violet Jade, what are you doing,” says her mother crossly, but the idea has already taken hold and she does not hear.

She opens the door. Biting spring wind rushes in, and frigid rain pelts her face and her mother’s leather car seats.

“Violet Jade,” says her mother, her voice taking on a dangerous edge.

She steps out into the night. Those first steps away from the car are like gaining wings.

“Violet Jade!” screams her mother, head out the window, perfect pinched face growing red. It is now that she decides Violet Jade will not be her name any more. She did not choose it, had never been attached to it, and so it holds no power over her. She is not a flower or a gemstone. She is only a girl.

The girl sheds her flowers, her frills, her dainty handkerchief. She pulls her greasy hair out of its clasp. Raindrops skate down her face, stealing the layers of make-up, baring her to the world. She disappears into the bitter spring night. She has nowhere to go, no destination, yet still she goes.


The woman-with-no-name walks the streets of some foreign city now. Voices whisper in her ears. Most, she ignores; some, she has no choice but to hear. She has always thought she was a little bit crazy. Now she knows it.

She is shapeless. She steals, she charms naive men, she does what she must to get by. Sometimes she does not get by. It is then that she stands, stares at her tattered reflection in some rain-soaked window, and wonders what she has become.

A shapeless woman has no place in this world. A woman must know what she is, thinks the woman desperately. She tries to remember what she is. She finds no answer in the murk that is her memories.

Her eyes are hazy. Her dresses flow and graze the ground, gathering dirt near the hems.

A face swims in her mind—a woman, older than she is, but with her same long thin nose, same freckles, same blue eyes. She cannot place it. And yet, she sees it everywhere.

Sometimes it appears in her dreams. Sometimes, it runs after her on the street, shrieking wildly. “Violet Jade,” it yells. “Violet Jade.”

She runs til it is gone, the face banished from her mind. But it seems she can never get far enough. In windows, in crowded buses, in public bathrooms. The face follows her like a specter.

She receives letters sometimes. The envelopes are heavy and jangle with coins. She needs the money, but the name on the outside is not hers. It has not been for a long time.


 

Lucy Dillenbeck is a 16-year-old writer from Chicago. She loves to explore themes of insanity and the feminine experience in her work, and her favorite pieces are those where she can combine the two. In addition to writing, Lucy is a dancer and musician, although writing will always be her first love. She spends her days gazing wistfully out the window waiting for life to grab her by the shoulders and drag her on some fantastical adventure.

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