By L.V. Olivera
My mother said the fairies lived in the garden. She said they hid within the lilies she had planted before I was born, thousands of tiny fairy colonies living at the very center of the flowers. They came out all the time, when nobody was looking, and flew towards us to whisper secrets in our ears. I remember sneezing from the pollen, my fingers covered in orange dust as I split the flowers open, trying to get a glimpse of the fairy world. Many a time I swear I almost saw them. But then my mother would come and jerk me away from the broken lilies, shaking with rage as she yelled about the cruelty of murdering plants. She would take me inside the house, straight to the kitchen, where I would have to choose a wooden spoon for her to spank me. I remember my red palms as I tried every spoon on them, attempting to figure out which one hurt the least. I was always wrong. The purple marks would stay on my body for weeks. Sometimes they were shaped like wings.
I did not have any black dresses. The few gowns I owned were full of color and smelled like honey or baking powder. None of them was fit for a funeral. Mrs. Camilo, from next door, loaned me a black dress that felt too heavy on my shoulders, like wearing a garment of lead. She also baked ginger cookies and brought coffee to my house. The warm smell wafted through the living room, all the way to the corpse lying at the center of the place. My mother’s coffin had been rented. The earth had not enough space to bury her, so she’d be cremated by the end of the service. Some people say that you can hear their bones cracking as they burn. Almost like popcorn in the microwave.
“I am so, so sorry, Alexa,” a woman with an ugly haircut said. She placed her hand on my shoulder, and I counted seven rings in total. “It must be awful for you.”
Her voice reminded me of the English records my mother used to play to practice her pronunciation. The tone was mechanical, rehearsed. I stepped back and nodded. On the other side of the room, a priest in black clothes recited verses from the Bible. I had no idea where he had come from. And he better be doing it for free; I was not wasting money on bad literature my mother would’ve hated. The rest of the people in the room seemed like extras to the scene. Most of them said Mom had helped them in some way. I stared at their pale faces and slim frames: she definitely hadn’t done enough.
I had her all over my body. She had given me the bracelet on my left hand right after I graduated high school. She had once fixed the sweater I wore over the black dress. And she had put the scar in my right cheekbone four years ago. Moments later she had kissed me on the forehead. My every atom was attached to her. And with my mother gone, my every atom was now spinning in circles, confused after the impact. It felt like most of them were now lost and drifting away. I stared at the bunch of strangers, their hushed voices and black clothes drowning me. I knew I couldn’t take it for much longer. Then someone whispered in my ear.
I walked away from the crowd and through the back door, straight to the garden. It was windy outside, and the cold stung me like a whip. The place never changed: moist grass and rock walls covered with creepers. A fresh smell of peppermint and sage. And of course, there were the lilies. They danced before me at the very center of the garden, their white petals bathing in the moonlight. I left my shoes at the entrance and went towards them, the grass tickling my feet. I caressed the closest flower, soft under my fingertips. A sob escaped my lips.
And then I ripped the lily apart. My hands acted of their own accord: breaking, and shredding, and slashing. I yanked one flower after the other, sometimes splitting them in half and sometimes tearing them petal by petal. I trembled and growled, elevated by the moment. It was glorious. I felt lighter with every flower that fell to the ground. They were fragile in my hands, and I smashed their little bodies with my fingers. Their scent multiplied by thousands, inundating my lungs, almost intoxicating me. I was ecstatic. My hands were watery with the lilies’ perfume. I continued ripping, cutting every single one of them. They all fell to the ground; I spared them no second look. The place that had once been filled with flowers was now barren, and the moon could not light up the sloppy soil.
“The bitch died on me,” I moaned. By that time I was on the ground. A billion wooden spoons could not have equalled that agony. The scent of the lilies clung to my clothes. The whispers in my ears, which had minutes ago been screams, ceased. After a while, I managed to stand up. I walked to the door, away from the garden. Away from my destruction, and back into the life that felt more like a performance every day. I walked into the house with my chin up. Behind me, a thousand fairies lay dead on the ground, their tiny corpses decorating the garden in an ocean of silver.