An Animal’s Instinct

Marla walked into school wearing a daring long black dress. The slit was so high her mother barely let her out of the house, but Marla lived through her mother’s hassling and she arrived at school on time. 7:16 am as she always did. Walking down the halls her legs took long strides, and her left leg was exposed from pointed toes to upper thigh. Yet there were no admiring glances, no shocked stares either. Marla finally reached her locker, throwing in her puffy dark blue coat, and a bag of gym clothes.

She passed his locker on the walk. He wasn’t there.

She went to the bathroom. Beauty time. Marla unpacked her bulging handbag, which contained only makeup. She felt that she needed to be beautiful; it was an odd drive for her. So she put on layer upon layer of makeup; she was going for that fresh, natural look. As she had begun putting on just a touch of blue to her eyelids, Candy walked in.

Candy was not quite her friend, but still not quite an enemy. They had a truce, well sort of.

"Hey girl," Marla said with false brightness. Candy just smiled and sighed breathily.

Candy was a nature girl who everyone loved. She spoke in soft whispers, and smiled trying to look sweet. Marla didn’t understand why everyone loved her so much. In her opinion, Candy was just another girl. She had her own personality, sure, but it was incredibly fake, just like everyone’s was. She was cruel, like everyone else was. She backstabbed, like everyone else did. She was normal. She put up a front that she wanted people to see. That’s normal.

Marla thought everyone was pretty normal, no matter how unique he or she tried to be. Even herself.

So Candy went into a bathroom stall, and Marla finished her makeup and walked out. She went back to her locker, and passed his, but he still wasn’t there.

She reached her locker and took out a binder, classes started in a few minutes. Knowing she had time to spare, Marla sat down in front of her locker. She had carefully arranged her skirt to keep what of her body was seen, only what she wanted people to be able to see.

Busses arrived at the school and dropped off students. They drifted up the many stairs and filled the halls like a buzzing horde of insects. That was just how Marla’s mind worked. Every person she saw she could reduce to an animal or insect. Some she even considered plants. As her classmates passed her, she would see a slowly lumbering bear, shuffling to class with no rush. Or she would see a girl who slinked close to the wall, that girl could have been ivy. She looks as if climbing up and away were a good escape route. But Marla was no one to see just the good. In the lumbering bear she could see him filling with anger, rage, and angst, and then pawing another to death. And the ivy girl, so sweet and sad, could easily wrap around another, squeezing and suffocating them.

Marla knew about life, she knew that you had to take the good with the bad. So bears, ivy plants, insects, mice, lions, and all sorts of creatures passed by her. As Marla stood to walk to her class, a raven’s wing extended to help her rise. A raven, she knew, was beautiful, mysterious, dangerous, and hard to tame.

He was here, and he smiled at Marla, who promptly lost her cool.

"Hi, thanks," Marla said softly, femininely. She wanted him to say something back, even though she knew he wouldn’t. It was hard for Marla, trying to be beautiful, and she still always wound up as the sidekick, man’s best friend, another one of the guys.

Rather than getting into a conversation they just walked side by side to class. He never said a word to Marla as they walked. She walked with her head down, making sure not to look too sad. She knew boys hated that, or ignored it, and that was just another reason to feel sorry for herself. She felt sorry for herself because no one noticed. They didn’t notice even when she cried to herself walking through the school.

Where the hallways parted she said good-bye, and Marla turned to see him one last moment. When he left her he gave only a little smile. And as he winged away, she watched him. He glided past other students, bobbing and weaving, he made the journey untouched.

He was mysterious; she was normal. Marla knew that she would see him later, but later on, her makeup would be faded. But she might be even more beautiful. She might be full of grace; she might step on surer ground. She might be herself again. And he might care.

~Elizabeth H