Authors: Francesca Lia Block
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Paranormal, #Love & Romance, #Social Issues, #Adolescence
FRANCESCA LIA BLOCK
For J.K. and for A.L.M.
Table of Contents
t some point in everyone’s life they ask the question, “Who am I?” Four years ago when I turned thirteen I asked the question, “What am I?”
I had changed.
But I didn’t know how or why, or what I had become.
It was my thirteenth birthday. I woke early in my lavender canopy bed, with a tight, painful feeling in my abdomen, and went to the bathroom. There was
a stain on my white cotton, lace-trimmed underwear. My face in the mirror was paler than usual, making my eyes glitter a poison green, and I suddenly felt ashamed of the telling, bright red color of my hair. I had never minded it before. Outside of our three-story Colonial house snow fell over the winter garden, where lilies waited under the earth, and I imagined my blood staining all that whiteness.
I washed and used the pads my mother had given me, got dressed and went downstairs. I smelled the sausages my parents had cooked for breakfast before they went out hunting deer and my stomach cramped again, this time with hunger, but I had vowed to be a vegetarian starting on this day. I’d seen a show about the cruel conditions livestock were exposed to. And I thought maybe if I didn’t eat blood, I’d keep the blood from flowing out of my body. So even though I craved red meat I ate cornflakes and milk instead.
We were going to have a party and a few girls from my school had been invited but none of them could
come. They said it was because they were busy with early holiday parties. But I knew it was because they didn’t like me that much. I mostly kept to myself. I’d never really had any girlfriends, anyway, except for Sadie Nelson. Sadie had suddenly lost a lot of weight and been accepted by a group of girls who thought they were too cool for me. I had been okay with the other girls not coming to my party, but the fact that Sadie wasn’t going to be there made me inconsolable. So my mom tried to cheer me up by serving a special lunch for Mr. and Mrs. McIntyre and their son, Pace. Pace was the only real friend I had then. He had promised to make me a new music mix as a present. We’d sit up in my room, eat cupcakes and talk about boys.
But as it turned out, I didn’t have a party that year at all.
When I saw my mother’s truck coming up the snowy driveway I ran out of the house. I wanted to tell her about my period. She called it “the curse” but
she said it with an almost gleeful smile.
I am usually a mess and my mother is an ex—beauty queen whose hair and makeup are always perfect, even when she’s hunting deer in the woods. You would never know we are mother and daughter. That day she looked perfect as usual with her sleek chestnut brown hair in a high ponytail, her pink lipstick neatly applied and her bright orange down jacket. She was in the truck with my father and her hunting dog, Scoot. My parents had met in high school—he was the quarterback and she was the student body president—but they didn’t have much of a relationship anymore. They rarely went anywhere together or even spoke much to each other except to complain, but that morning they were talking in an animated way. Their voices made me pause. My ears perked and my vision seemed to become more focused.
That was when I saw the wolf bleeding through the bag in the back of the truck.
I was only a thirteen-year-old girl with a temper
but when I saw the bloody wolf in the back of my mother’s truck I seethed with rage.
I could smell blood—it seemed like my sense of smell had suddenly sharpened—and I wasn’t sure if it was my blood or my mother’s or the wolf’s. My head felt light and my knees were weak. I lunged toward the moving truck. My mother slammed the brakes and screamed at me. The silver cross she always wore around her neck glittered harshly in the white winter light.
My body hit the car door and I fell back onto the ground. The impact shook me, woke me up. Scoot was baring his teeth at me through the window.
I was trying to attack my mother. My mother who had taken care of me since I was born. Who had dressed me up like her doll, combed out my waist-length hair and made sure I had the things I needed. She had made photo albums full of pictures of me dressed in the special outfits she got from catalogs or on trips to the city. She was always telling people how
pretty and smart and athletic I was, how well I did in school, how if I learned to control my temper I could have everything I wanted when I grew up.
But now I was acting like a monster.
I backed away as she opened the truck door.
“Liv? What the …”
I turned—it took all my will—and I ran from her then. I ran and ran until I reached my woods, the woods nearby that I had always loved more than my own floral-print bedroom in my own dollhouse-perfect home. I threw my body in among the trees where everything was dark and so much safer. I didn’t understand what happened to me next; I only remember it in fragments, like a dream. My heart pounded in my ears and branches crackled and broke around me. Suddenly I was hot, so hot, I didn’t want my clothes. I pulled off my shirt as I ran. My bare shoulders were lashed, bloodied by winter branches like dark arms bearing knives. I fell to the icy ground, to all fours, panting. I tossed my head. My neck hurt,
my jaw ached. My eyes burned. The sounds in my ears were furious and loud. I could smell the world. It smelled of fear and sickness and hate. Even the forest smelled like death. My hips felt as if they were being torn apart. I crouched down and then I sprang and then I ran and ran trying to get away from myself and my desire to turn back. And find my pretty, cheerful, slender little mother. And kill her.
Why was I so angry? I asked myself later. My mother had killed a wolf, that’s all.
I love animals but that isn’t reason enough to feel such rage. My mother is a hunter, like a lot of people in this town; it’s what people do here. Animals are more important to me than most humans because they don’t judge you and only want your kindness. Now I volunteer one day a week at the pound, cleaning the cages, feeding the dogs. I’d work there more often but I can hardly handle one day; it breaks my heart to see the dogs and I always want to bring them
home but my mom says no dogs except for Scoot.
My mother says she loves animals, too. She says there is nothing more beautiful than the thrill of shooting a deer as it runs through the brush. She says a great hunter almost becomes one with her prey.
I wish I didn’t feel so much anger toward my mother but I can’t help it. I feel less like my mother’s daughter every day of my life since practically the moment I turned thirteen. After that I began to question if she was really my mother at all. And then I began to question myself. Because what kind of daughter feels that way? What kind of freak beast—But I can’t think like that. If I do I will get too angry at myself. I can’t let myself get angry at all. Anger changed me once in a terrible way I do not understand. Who knows what else I could do.
After what happened on my thirteenth birthday, they took me to a psychiatrist named Nieberding who had the head of an elk mounted on his wall. He was a tall,
thin, balding man with a fringe of hair around his ears. He shook my hand and then fell back onto his reclining chair. It made a loud sound as it adjusted to his weight. Nieberding scowled almost petulantly at my hands—maybe he was noticing that my middle fingers are disproportionately long—as he leaned back in his big chair, his legs stretched out in front of him and his fingertips pressed together like pursed lips.
“So, Olivia, do you know why you are here?” he asked me.
“Liv,” I said.
“Liv. All right. Do you know why you’re here?” He paused. “Liv?”
“My mother sent me.”
“There was an incident, she said.”
The doctor made a note on his pad. He continued to ask me questions about my parents, my friends, school. I evaded everything. Finally he asked again,
“What happened the other day, Liv?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “Sorry.” I really was, too. I wanted to tell him something so he would stop asking questions but my mind was a muddle.
“Your mother tells me you were very upset. After she came back with the wolf in the truck you ran off. Do you remember?”
I shook my head.
“You don’t remember anything?” He scowled at me and scratched his chin.
“No,” I said. “I just felt really weird. And so I started running. To the woods. I don’t know what happened after that.” I was afraid to know but I also wished there was someone who could explain it to me. One thing I was sure about—it wasn’t going to be Nieberding.
After that session Dr. Nieberding put me on Lexa-pro and told my mom to get me a journal to write my feelings in. The meds and the diary worked. I rarely got angry anymore. I rarely cried. I was usually quiet
and well behaved. I stopped having to see Nieberding except for general checkups to monitor my medication or if I slipped and had a really bad tantrum at school or with my parents.
Most of the time, except maybe for the small, low-set, slightly pointed ears that I hide behind my hair, my very red lips and long middle fingers, I pass as normal. I can seem like any other relatively healthy seventeen-year-old who goes to school and work, loves animals, loves the woods, loves her boyfriend and never thinks about how lucky she is to have functioning body parts, like eyes or hands.
But, really, I am different from any seventeen-year-old I know because of the thing that happened to me when I was thirteen years old. Whatever it was.
he woods at the edge of the town where we live are thick and dark, and my boyfriend, Corey, and I go there together even though we aren’t supposed to. There have been four murders in those woods—still unsolved by my dad, the chief of police, and his men—and most people don’t go there without a gun, although guns didn’t stop the murders on those full moon nights four years in a row. But the victims of the full moon murders were all hunters, and Corey and I love the woods too much to stay away.
As a little girl I would always go to those woods
alone. I did it because I was much less afraid there than I was everywhere else. Not that it was obvious why I would have been afraid in my parents’ nice house with the flowery rugs and satin pillows and the pretty garden. It seemed like a good life from the outside. But I’d always felt that somehow I was too different to ever really fit in that world. The woods were where I belonged. My parents said it was dangerous there, that I shouldn’t go by myself, even though the murders hadn’t occurred yet. My mom and dad didn’t know that I snuck away every chance I got.
My footsteps were silent on the mulchy ground. The white bark of the aspen was rough, and the yellow, almost heart-shaped leaves were soft. Each tree seemed to have a soul, something deep inside it, just like humans did. I wondered if trees yearned, loved, grieved. I had a favorite oak with a large hollow that I could fit inside. I would tuck my feet under me and sometimes I even slept there.
Once I found a log cabin there in the woods. It
was built among the trees so it looked like not a single tree had been felled to accommodate it and because of this it had an odd, rambling shape. You almost couldn’t see the cabin for all the trees that grew around it. There was a trail of smoke coming from the chimney and nine pairs of boots—two large and seven smaller ones—were by the door. There was a well and a small vegetable patch and a chicken coop filled with shrieking, fluttering birds.
I wanted to knock on the door so badly; I was so drawn to that cabin, as if it contained something or someone I needed. I held my breath for a second, felt my heart rate quicken as I started toward the door. But, no, I couldn’t go there. It wasn’t for me. Not yet.
When I went back to look for it again I could never find it. It was as if someone had put some kind of glamour, some kind of spell, on that ground, and I felt as if I was walking in circles around it again and again, never able to see what was in front of my eyes.
That was also how I felt about what had happened
to me when I was thirteen. I felt as if I was always circling around in my own brain trying to understand.