Medusa by DewRina Lee
West Coast Eisteddfod Online Short Story Competition 2018
A boy has never felt fear until he was under the spiked heels of Medusa. She was a goddess of sorts with the same charm and beauty as Medusa the mythical monster before she turned beastly. But rather than snakes for hair, she was a snake herself—decked out in a reptilian attire with matching poisonous fangs that left victims crippled with one flash. She rendered boys speechless and immobile with just a side-glance too. She was the “it” girl every boy fell for and every girl grew jealous of. And if a boy was important enough to be given fifteen seconds of glory with her, his heart would shrivel up in ecstasy. If a boy was lucky enough to be her boyfriend, well… let’s just say he’s had his fair share of eating dirt. But she had an invisible grip on him that bound him to her. Call it voodoo magic, but he couldn’t escape it. She was the illustrious angel clad in black. The devil sent from heaven. All sweet talk and death grips. And as he frighteningly and admirably stared up towards her, a halo of sun outlined her in a fiery glow.
“Michael,” she cooed. She took her feet off his chest and bent down. Platinum blond ringlets fell from her shoulders like a waterfall and tickled his cheeks. Her soft, baby blue eyes came into sharp focus. A thick sweep of eyeliner made her eyes glow unnaturally and become even more enchanting.
Contrary to what most people believed, she came from humble beginnings. It wasn’t until her teens that she earned her fitting nickname. It was the day she moved to a different school, and in that very moment, as she stepped into her new school with the brand new pair of kicks tied neatly with a ribbon, she decided to change. She was no longer going to be the pushover or the goody two shoes who sat quietly, looked pretty and nodded in agreement to everything. That day started with her confidently walking up to the biggest bully. It ended with him passed out and his head in the toilet. Later he was fished out with wet rolls of toilet paper all over his hair and a broken nose. No one knows the true story of what happened; he switched schools the very next day and Medusa wouldn’t say a thing. And so, that cloudless day, she marked her status, earned her name, and made sure no one else trumped her.
She clucked her tongue at Michael and shook her head. A hint of a hidden smile betrayed her. “My dearest.”
He lifted himself up onto his elbows, bringing his lips closer to hers. She cocked her head in mild surprise but didn’t back away. Her eyes were swimming in mischief.
The previous year they’d gone to Japan together with their families. They had put on such a theatrical performance to display how vast their love for each other would be and that it could only bring good luck by actually traveling the distance and solidifying the promise of lifelong love that the mothers were easily and willingly swayed to go to Japan. But in all honestly, Michael and Medusa had wanted an excuse to go to the other side of the world. They’d been neighbors since middle school, cramped up in the suburban town where everyone knew everyone, and the thought of living the same day everyday struck like a nightmare. And so, both knowing that their mothers silently wished for them to end up together—neither of the mothers would say it outright, but their eyes and subtle smiles betrayed them—they took it as an opportunity to properly coax them and got together.
At first glance, the two teens were an odd pairing, but it was a precisely fitted dynamic that strangely worked. Medusa, with her overpowering attitude and vibrant personality, would add color to his dull life. Michael, with his down-to-earth attitude and uniquely humorous personality, would add stability to her hectic life. They would eventually convince their mothers and surprisingly themselves how much of a match-made-in-heaven pairing they were. And after working a summer job together at a local ice cream store to pay for their own tickets, they packed their bags and went to Japan, wandering around aimlessly until by happenstance they came to the shoreline in Atami. It was there that she discovered a statue and became instantly and simultaneously enraptured and enflamed. It was of a man stepping on a woman who had already fallen. At that very moment, she made him promise never to do such a thing. She told him to swear it on his life, and he did. It felt so urgent and primitive and just simply necessary; it was a promise he needed to set in stone, caste in iron, and weave into the fabric of time.
The whole day she’d been bothered by it that he’d tried to tame her anger and calm her frantic mind. He ushered her to a comedic show and bought her the creamiest pistachio ice cream she’d always loved, but the simmering anger wouldn’t subside. As a last resort, he fell over onto her path as they were walking back to the hotel and she looked at him funny. She wouldn’t humor him his silly antics and he whined, throwing a minor tantrum by splaying his arms and legs about. Something in her eyes brightened. She placed her feet onto his chest mostly to stop him, but with a sad, yet proud smile, she said, “Not funny.”
Her eyes were now fixed on the dust collecting on his hair. She swept a steady, skilled hand through his hair once, then twice. “Your hair looks a lot better this way,” she commented, laughing at the strands that stuck out at impossible angles.
It took her awhile to get here. The careless laugh at his routine silliness. It’s become a bit like clockwork. When rumors spread and they attack the source, when someone cheats and they find the culprit, when someone bullies and they fight back harder, they do their ceremonial pose: He falls onto the ground in defeat and she places a foot of triumph onto his chest. They were a force to be reckoned with in school. They were the perfect duo, the power couple, the infamous M&M and it’d be nice to say they blazed a trail of justice from day one, but Medusa wasn’t always so brazen and hardcore. In elementary school, she’d been daddy’s little girl with pink-ribbon pigtails and a princess bedroom set. She didn’t like aggression and most definitely didn’t like going against the rules. But when the days became harder for her father, it became difficult for her too. He lost his job in the recession and picked up drinking. Too often, he went back to beg for his job, and it was one of those gloomy November evenings when Medusa had followed him out without his knowledge. His workplace was just a ten-minute walk away and it was an auto shop set up at the side of the road. That day, the snow had just started to fall and the roads were slick with ice. Her father had gone drunk, slipping occasionally, but finally made his way at a steady pace down the road. He knelt at the front door and pleaded for his job back. The manager came out only to swear in his face. He shoved him aside, but her father got back up. He clamped himself onto the manager’s ankle, only to be kicked away.
From a distance, Medusa heard a few words.
“My daughter… wife… where… go? Rent… almost… please!”
She came around the bend and whispered, “Papa?”
Neither of them heard her.
With one last kick, her father let go and lay on the cold ground, sobbing.
After walking drunkenly back home that night, his daughter had come up to him. She patted his hollow cheeks reassuringly and wiped his bloody nose with her soft hands. “It’s okay, Papa. I’m here.”
He engulfed her into his arms and cried like a broken man he was. He vowed to work himself to the bone for his daughter, and he did. The following months, he began to build furniture. He started off by fixing and repainting broken chairs he’d found in the thrift store or dumpster. They sold at a fair price—enough to keep the family fed at least once a day. At a certain point, he saved enough to buy wood and carve out designs from scratch. He’d spend sleepless nights perfecting his techniques and polishing off his designs before selling them off for a decent price. And when the day came that he’d saved enough to move into a bigger house, her father fell ill. He’d pass away a few months into moving into their new house, but not before imparting his life lessons onto his daughter. The day before the move, he’d sat her down around the kitchen table.
“Do you see this table? It’s made out of wood, yes?”
“Yes, Papa. And you made it yourself.” She smiled brightly up at him.
He smiled in response. “Yes, good. And like wood, people can remake themselves too. Mark my word: the world is changing, darling. You can be whatever you put your mind to. You have your mother’s grit and my energy coursing through you that I have high hopes. My beautiful daughter…” He paused then to look at the deep set of innocent blue eyes admirably staring up at him. He bent down to be eye level with her. “I won’t force you to become a certain person… But whoever you become, be someone good, okay?”
“Good?” she questioned.
“Yes,” he said, pondering himself. “Someone who gives opportunities to others. Someone who doesn’t give up on others. Someone who is kind. Someone who is brave. Someone who has a voice. Okay?”
“Yes, Papa.” She nodded obediently.
“That’s my girl.” He patted her curls down lovingly and they sprang back up like coiled snakes striking.
updated by @dewrina: 02/07/19 04:10:39AM