Nicole’s new relationship has her sister concerned, but no one else seems to want to get involved.
To read this story and 20 more, look for Consider An Abortion by Shielding C – on sale now for $2.99 on Amazon!
Nicole’s new relationship has her sister concerned, but no one else seems to want to get involved.
To read this story and 20 more, look for Consider An Abortion by Shielding C – on sale now for $2.99 on Amazon!
Sixth grade was the first time I was sorted.
They were two groups we were sorted into – Groups “A” and “S”. The rating decided your class for both Math and English; you couldn’t be “S” for one and “A” for the other. They didn’t tell us what those letters meant. We just knew “A” was better.
I, having a B- in Math and a solid A in English from last year, was sorted “S”.
This was horrifying. Forget Math – English was my turf. Kids would call me Jane Eyrehead for reading Bronte during recess. I entered and won writing competitions every chance I had – school-wide, state-wide, one even regional. I bested higher-graders as a matter of course. No one tried to tell me before that English wasn’t mine.
In a class of 27, there were ten of us. Three were boys, and seven girls. “S” doesn’t seem to mean “standard” in a room that small. Still, I wasn’t hopeless. There were two boys in “S” group who were only there (we were told) on account of being transfers. Our little Catholic school regarded the A’s and B’s of other institutions as suspect, so the two new guys would have to prove their salt if they wanted to advance. I saw no reason I couldn’t work, like them, to prove myself. I’d make them move me up.
Our first class began with a question.
“What’s the biggest number you can imagine?”
My hand shot up. “A googol!”
This was the highest number I knew with a name attached – a one followed by one hundred zeroes.
“Really?” Mr. Math asked me. “You can actually imagine, say, a googol of apples?”
I thought again. No, I couldn’t visualize that many of anything. I could picture, maybe, five apples at a time. I could push the apples in my head into rows of three or four, and see more of them that way. But not as many as a googol.
“Think in terms of decimals,” Mr. Math continued. “Hundreds, thousands – what do you think is the easiest type of number for people to manage?”
There was no way I could picture more than 15 apples. But I knew my mind would be judged by my answer, so I kept it safely vague and offered, “Tens.”
“Tens!” Mr. Math gave a little laugh.
“I meant high tens!” I protested quickly. “Like, 99 apples!”
“Hmm, ok,” he said, leaving the issue be.
One of the new kids raised his hand. “Billions,” he said, without a sliver of doubt – and I knew right away that he had it. Our teacher toyed around for more answers before conceding that New Kid was right. Billions were, in fact, the highest sort of number that people could imagine.
“Because there’s something we do visualize in the billions – money. Beyond billions, we all lose count.”
The rest of the class passed uneventfully. Conversation turned to sports, and I waited. Mr. Math was laid back, cracking easy jokes. No assignments were issued, no other questions asked. We went to lunch, and when we returned to our homeroom we were informed that New Kid had been promoted. He acted all surprised.
“Whatever you said in class today, New Kid, you must have really impressed!” Our everything-but-math-and-science teacher cooed. New Kid was her favorite already. (I was not. Prior to a church assembly where a handful of students were chosen to represent virtues, she once informed the class that I had been selected to represent Humility because to be humble meant considering the possibility that you could be wrong, and that was something I should work on. She then explained that New Kid was assigned Valiance because it meant being able to stand up for what you believe in, regardless of what other people think, and that was something he represented well.)
For years, I’ve thought on Mr. Math’s first question, and wondered. Was that just so much bull?
Was he asking about some secret mathematical concept I still don’t get, or did New Kid just guess right what he was thinking? Was is it even about math, or had he ripped the query from some Economist-type article illuminating the changing relationship of people to decimal places? It didn’t seem fair, even at the time.
But I wasn’t frail. I didn’t give up. I approached His Mathiness a few weeks later and asked how I could earn a promotion. The work in his class wasn’t hard, and the year was young. What would it take to get me into “A”?
He said the division was mainly due to English.
“That’s not what Mrs. English said.” She’d told us it was due to Math, and that there’d be no difference in what “S” and “A” studied in her room (a lie – by year’s end we’d have read three fewer books, and she’d tell us it was because “A” kids settled down more quickly when they came in from lunch).
He repeated, “It’s mainly due to English.”
I stood a second more at Mr. Math’s desk, trying to read his face. Behind his mustache and his glasses he seemed securely unperturbed. His eyes fixed on thin air beside me. Mr. Math would not be moved. I went back to my seat, aware of the other kids staring, and got to work looking for a bright side.
The class was easy; I could do all the homework in school during a five-minute snack break. I had more free time to think, and to write. I didn’t need “A” English, either. I’d started composing a novel on my Dad’s computer. I typed away my weekends. I asked for books at every holiday – anything Shakespeare, Moby Dick, Crime and Punishment (whatever I heard an adult mention as important) – and would cry and huff if anybody tried to buy me a crap abridged-specifically-for-kids version. So the year went on. I maintained A’s and B’s.
At the start of 7th grade, I learned that the other two boys had been advanced. “S” was now composed of girls. I didn’t believe in sexism back then, but I was aware of stereotypes. You hear tell in the land of anything Shakespeare, Moby Dick, or Crime and Punishment that women have the lesser minds, for doing lesser things. Looking around the all-girl S class, I knew I’d done nothing to contradict the notion and was filled with shame. How embarrassed the A-group girls must be at our existing.
Good old Mr. Math addressed our group’s changed composition right away. “It can be a positive thing,” he said. “To have a small class. As I learned last year with the 4 boys in my algebra group. You can literally go through an entire textbook.”
My opportunist ears were ringing. Yes! Take us through a textbook, Mr. Math. Let us start here, small in number and swaddled with shame. Let the A-groupers snicker while walking past our room. We could hit that book so hard, just the few of us, we’ll be even with those jerks in no time. By year’s end, we’ll overtake them. It’ll be too late to stop us when they realize we’re the underdogs. Soon we’ll be A, and they’ll be S.
I was not humble; I wouldn’t give up.
Of course, it wasn’t up to me to set our pace. Classes went the same as always – lecture, worksheets, tests every once in awhile. Mr. Math cracking jokes and reminiscing about old Catholic school. The A-groupers didn’t even use the same textbook. When they took back assignments with scores of 30%, they’d laugh. Their work was so advanced, they were getting used to it. I did homework on the bus and used the extra time to write.
It was somewhere in the middle of the year that one of our group – a nice, polite girl, who unlike me did not try to bond with our teacher by making fun of his bald spot – finished a test ten minutes early.
“Obviously someone’s not being challenged, here,” Mr. Math told us quietly. He left the room and came back minutes later, instructing our sister-S to join the A-kids in English.
I didn’t know before that you could advance in the middle of the year. Now I did. I pulled out all the stops; every worksheet was an Olympic-tier race. When I succeeded days later in completing an assignment far ahead of the rest of the class, and had sat looking at our teacher significantly for awhile, and not being acknowledged, I began loudly explaining the shortcut I’d discovered to the girls around me. “See, you don’t need to write out all this crap. You can do the whole thing in two steps.”
“Yes,” said our teacher when everyone was finished and were asking whether I was right. “I’m actually surprised more people didn’t figure out that shortcut.”
I may have glared. It didn’t matter; Mr. Math never looked straight at me.
But I still saw chances; I couldn’t give up. Mrs. 7th-grade English adored my writing and didn’t understand why I wasn’t in A-group. I told her that I didn’t know, either. She vowed to speak to Mr. Math on my behalf. During a break that day, a sister “S” passed the room where Mrs. English was making her appeal. She told me she saw English speaking, and Mr. Math sitting in his chair, saying nothing back. The only thing I learned, when I asked about that conversation, was that Mr. Math said no.
Lady English promised me that, in her class, anyway, I would do the work they did in “A”. My turf. Subjective, fickle Math wouldn’t let you make a case for your own advance. In English – only in English – I could create what matched my ambition.
Mr. Math retired and was replaced in eighth grade by a Mrs. Math.
Mrs. Math was bad at teaching. By which I mean, two weeks into the academic year she’d stopped lecturing, issuing assignments, or conducting tests. Not in both groups. Just in ours. Instead of math, she discussed such issues with us as the physical, sexual and emotional abuse she’d suffered at the hands of her first boyfriend. And the pain of losing one’s virginity. And the saving hope of true love. She also talked about her baby.
She once remarked that after looking at the grade-logs she’d inherited, it astounded her there weren’t more kids in “S”. She didn’t, as far as I know, petition to restructure the division.
I liked her class, in a guilty pleasure way. When there was no dire conversation, I sat there writing poetry. I’d let her read it after. She always called it beautiful. During the times when she talked about life with her voice tender and confessional, I would listen with my chin in my hands. So did the other girls. We understood these stories were for us; she never would have shared them if boys were in the room.
But I knew, at the same time, that there were whole horizons kept outside my reach. A-group did real math. I would hear their casual talk of homework and tests and take it in my gut, tenuous and lurching. The feeling of falling behind.
During a break one day, I shouldered my way into a group of “A” kids comparing answers. They laughed together when I asked them to give me a problem. One girl obliged, copying a question from her text book onto a piece of lined paper, and handing it to me. She warned the other A-kids with her eyes not to share the joke they had going. This wasn’t part of their homework. It was algebra.
I knew from the giggles it was a problem none of them could solve. It took it anyway. Looked at it hard, and folded it away, like I was stealing. I studied it all morning behind my other books – simple, gripping thing, with its two x’s and a y to solve. I knew that I could figure it out, if only I had time. But when Math class rolled around, I couldn’t contain my secret. I showed Mrs. Math what I’d been working on. She wrote the question out on the blackboard, and answered it, muttering the hows to herself. She shrugged at me, as though asking if I were humored, then turned her attention away.
I didn’t expect it. But that was the day that I quit.
I had exposed hopes that were, after all, frail and humble and without a chance. I was embarrassed and I couldn’t fight it anymore. Math was not my turf.
I felt relief, not fear, when at Freshman Orientation the next year my vice-principal explained that, given this and that about our credit-system, “You only have enough to fail one class.” I was bad at math. So math would be my freebie. I failed accordingly. And I nearly failed a few other subjects that year. I was rude, and not in the good, imma-take-this-education-and-mess-you-up-with-it kind of way. Rude in a buck-the-system, look-at-me, I-can-make-everybody-laugh kind of way. I’d learned from prior years that I didn’t need and wouldn’t find a mentor. When I craved stimulation, I made it myself – in the middle of class if I had to, behind a notebook or out in the hallway, spinning around, then dashing back to capture that spirit in fleeter words. There was nothing for me in those classrooms, and there’d be nothing for me in the real world. Somewhere buried in the woods there was a cottage I could scribble in unheard of until the day I died, leaving castles as my legacy and torture as my glory.
Bowing to what was expected of me, I went to college anyway. I straightened out my grades enough by senior year to gain admittance to a four-year liberal arts school. It helped that I’d dominated the literary portions of the SAT’s. I came out exactly average on the math. (Massachusetts standards are apparently high enough that even a failing student at a failing school can cram her way to an eleventh-hour national average.) Not that it mattered; I knew the feeling of failure as an untold constant. Careers in all fields STEM were out of the question.
If you’re a woman, you can read a story like this and think sexism has nothing to do with it. I won’t blame you. I don’t blame you for saying that a girl who wants to get math done doesn’t give up just because no one believes in her. I get it. I write. I told never-ending stories just as soon as I could speak and asked my mother everyday when I would learn how to read. I kept a notebook by my bed and wrote by nightlight’s glow, using the letter “c” in place of “k” and “s” because I was in kindergarten and hadn’t learned all of the alphabet. If you told me that sexism took your writing away, I surely wouldn’t listen.
When you are ambitious and a female there are things you can’t afford to hear. They might sort you, and tell you no. Laugh at you, while you take on that problem no one else knows how to solve. You won’t hear it. You won’t listen when they tell you that failing is allowed. Or when they remind you to work on humility while praising the valiance of that New Guy in the room. They’ll snort when they ask you, oh really, you sure now, you can imagine a googol? You won’t listen then, and you won’t when they tell you – over and over – that it’s dangerous to be a woman, you’ll cry and bleed the first time you have sex, you wont sleep a wink after you have a baby, and all of that is more important today than your stupid little problem-with-two-Xs-and-a-Y.
When you’re the underdog, sometimes you don’t want to know. And if that’s where you’re at, sister – go ahead. Tell everyone I’m wrong and sexism’s a ghost. Don’t listen to my story. One too many warnings that you move against the grain, and anyone with sense would quit. Maybe that’s what I lack, and why I write. Maybe I can just afford, today, to name the force you’re up against.
It’s a funny kind of privilege that we get by giving up.
I used to live on an island that had a village in the middle, and a high rocky bluff on one side. You could never tell, from one day to the next, whether the wind was going to blow against the bluff or with it, and since it was always a strong wind we tended to avoid the cliffs altogether. There were woods, too, all around the village and blocking the beaches. I liked to go exploring those alone.
One morning while I was out looking for firewood, I came across the most badass-looking creature I’d ever seen. He was covered all over with scales and spikes, and his long, twisting body sported a pair of blood-red wings. His whole body, from the horn of his nose to the tip of his tale, shone where the light speckled down like a ruby. He choked on the little fireball he’d been working on, then tried to swallow the smoke. A little leaked out of his nose anyway.
“Ohh!” I cooed. “A baby dragon!”
He made a purry noise at me and the base of his throat started glowing like he’d swallowed lava. The light went out when he coughed again, sounding like a car engine trying to turn over.
“Hey, that’s ok,” I said, flopping down in the soft moss next to him. “My mother always said, nothing great comes easy. Of course, she’s always been ordinary, so who knows, right?” My parents were the sort who were happy just sitting on the front porch, staring out to sea. I sighed. “My name’s Candace. Want some fish?”
I sat with the dragon until the sun went down, and when I started walking home he followed me like a puppy. My parents didn’t want him inside, so he stood guard outside my window all night. When I left for work he followed me again, snarling at the pigeons who stepped too close to me.
“That’s my dragon,” I told everyone.
“Good for you,” most people said. The legends say there’s one dragon for every human in the world, and magic flows through both the instant that they meet.
The one person who didn’t say, “Good for you,” was my best friend Leilani.
“Eww,” she whispered to me the first time she caught sight of him in my yard. “Why is that dirty lizard staring at you?”
“He’s NOT a lizard!” I gasped. “That’s my dragon! He’s going to be beautiful and enchanting when he’s grown. He’s just a baby, but he’s pretty close to mastering fire-breathing already. He can make sparks come out of his nose.”
She just made a face.
He was pretty dirty, to be fair – after all the fire-breathing practice his scales were caked in ash, and were more the color of rust than rubies. After Leilani was gone, I invited him inside for a bath, and that night I managed to sneak him into bed with me. He laid on my chest and purred until his body was glowing warm, his tail wrapped protectively around me. My ribs were bruised in the morning, but I laughed it off.
“You sure were holding on tight – what, were you afraid I’d sneak away?”
He made a happy sound and I fed him some fish.
After that he always came inside my house at night. I usually woke up with scratches or a bruise where my skin brushed his scales, but I felt so lucky to have a dragon live with me I didn’t mind. I invested in some turtle-necks with long sleeves and wore them all the time.
At least once every day, he flew into the woods and came back with jewels in his mouth, or gold and silk draped over his claws as presents for me. He made me so rich I quit my stuffy office job and moved out of my parents’ house. We bought the island’s oldest stone cathedral and used it as our castle. We needed the space, anyway – as the weeks went on he grew too big to go through ordinary doors. He was looking more and more like a real dragon, and I was prouder than ever, even though he struggled still with flight and fire-breathing. He’d roar in fury at himself if he smacked his head on the ceiling or stubbed his tail on the walls, and all night the runaway ashes from his snoring rained down on both of us. I’d wake, choking, from nightmares of volcanoes to find my sheets ruined and my hair a dirty mess.
“Do you have to smoke inside?” I snapped one day, after spending three hours scouring soot from every surface to find by the time I’d finished that the portion of the room I’d started with was dirty all over again. His tail lashed the ground angrily, and the great walls shook so hard, the last of my good dinner plates shuddered out of their cupboard and smashed against the floor. I just sighed, and started sweeping. I never had friends over anymore; I was too embarrassed of how dirty the castle was and full of broken things.
You could see it in his eyes that he felt bad whenever he wrecked something, but it seemed like he just couldn’t help it – if he lost his temper long enough to stomp a foot, that was the end of another dish, if not a piece of furniture. On days when he was really, really, mad, he’d roar like thunder till the stonework shook, stained glass windows cracked, and the bell in its tower would shudder out one roiling rejoinder after another. I was never afraid. I knew just what to do to calm him down – I would wait until his echoes in the walls were waning – that lilting moment just before there isn’t any sound – and I would sing to him soft ballads of glory and love.
I knew what it was to care for a dragon, but no one else seemed to understand. When I went into town, I started to get the feeling people were feeling sorry for me, or like they thought I needed help. Leilani one day pulled me aside when she saw me in the market. “If things are getting difficult for you, don’t ask about staying with me – you know my door’s always open.”
“What are you talking about?” I laughed as hard as I could, willing her to stop looking so damned afraid for me.
Leilani’s hand tightened around mine. “Quit playing stupid, Candace! I’ve heard him roaring at you through the night – raises hairs on the back of my neck. I get that you love him, but he’s a monster, and one of these days he’s gonna want to eat you.”
“He would never do that!” I gasped. “He’s a dragon! He has feelings.”
“He’s not a real dragon,” Leilani muttered under her breath – but she saw that I heard the comment and raised her chin, speaking louder. “He’s a wild animal. If you don’t get away from him sooner or later you’re going to get hurt.” She eyed the edge of my turtleneck pointedly. I put a hand to my throat, and hurried off.
The dragon had been living with me about a month when a bunch of my friends decided to have a party on one of the beaches beyond the woods. My dragon was too busy practicing his fire-breathing to notice that I left. I wasn’t worried – if he wanted to find me I was sure he’d catch up.
I found my friends among the huge group that had gathered to dance around a bonfire. A few guys brought drums and guitars, and it looked like everyone was having fun.
“I haven’t seen you in awhile!” I greeted my old classmate, Tommy, who was a teacher now.
“I know,” he laughed. “It’s great to see you!”
He was giving me a hug when a shadow fell on us and I looked up. There was my dragon, snorting a livid-white cloud of smoke and lowering his head to roar full-blast in Tommy’s face.
“Stop it!” I cried, running out in front of Tommy. “He’s a friend!” I could tell by the light of his eyes that my dragon was afraid, and trying to protect me. Maybe the big fire made him think about other dragons. He roared a column of smoke and sparks at the sky when I stood in front of Tommy and grabbed my hair with his foreclaws. He tried to lift me off the ground, but couldn’t get high enough to stop my legs dragging through the sand as he propelled himself back to the treeline. I lost one sandal, then another as my calves scraped through the dunes, then my toes were turning sideways over stems and oak-hard roots.
I didn’t see the first tree as it hit, but the force of the blow to my shoulder made my body twist so I was staring at the ground again.
The next tree came at me from the left, bashing into my temple first, then my jaw.
SLAM! CRACK!! BOOM!!
My dragon beat his fevered way through trees and thorns and insect mounds, dragging me all the while. By the time we got to our castle, my clothes were ripped to shreds and every inch of skin was puffy with welts, or bleeding. Whole clumps of my hair were gone, ripped out at the roots, and my eyes were swollen shut. I couldn’t hide the bruises, even under five layers of makeup.
For two weeks after that I was too embarrassed to show my face in town. My dragon caught mountains of fish with his tail and smoked them for my breakfast, lunch, and dinner. He made timid, sorry sounds each time our eyes met, and if I looked at him for longer than a second he’d take off into the woods and come back with nicer treasures to lay at my feet.
I was more pissed off at him for the way he’d acted at the beach than anything. When I remembered all those horrified, pitying looks my friends had cast on me as I was being dragged backward, I gave him a glare that sent him scurrying off for even bigger jewels.
Still, when I allowed myself to be completely objective, I could admit it was my fault as much as his. If I’d been more devoted, more courageous, I would have gone with him all those times he’d practiced flying, and learned a long time ago how to ride him. Then I could have glided off serenely on his back that night, instead of all this mess.
When my face had lost its puffiness and the bruises were all a faded yellow, I decided to face the village again. I was dying for a bite of anything other than fish, and when I tried on some of my new silks and jewels I felt pretty enough to hold my head high. I decided on a purple satin dress, golden slippers and a golden parasol for the excursion, and wove gemstones through my hair to hide the patches missing locks. Some of my wounds still showed through the makeup, but in the little umbrella’s shade I felt safe from judging eyes.
I headed straight to the bakery, hoping they’d have my favorite apricot jellyrolls, and nearly ran into Leilani as she came out with a rye loaf under her arm. I tried to turn before she recognized me, but wasn’t quick enough.
“Candace,” she gasped, and put a hand on my shoulder. “Oh my God! Did he do this to you? Let me call animal control!”
“Leilani,” I spoke through gritted teeth. “I do NOT need animal control. I know exactly what I’m doing. Just leave me alone.”
“Candy, we all know he’s been hurting you! All our friends saw him drag you away from that party by your hair.”
“That wasn’t what it looked like,” I protested. “He was just trying to protect me – like what mother dragons do with their young. He was looking for a neck-flap to carry me.”
“I think you’re confusing dragons with cats.”
“Look, just let me handle this,” I snapped. “I’m a big girl. I’ll be fine.” I jerked away from her when she tried to argue her point, and went home without so much as a chocolate sprinkle.
She would see. They would all see. Once he was a real dragon, they’d regret giving up on him. He’d learn how to control his fire, then, and how to fly higher than the highest trees. They’d forget they ever felt sorry for me when they saw us riding together against the stars – me, the dragon’s true heart, the only one who’d had the courage to love him while he was young and flawed. I would be his princess, and magic would forever keep us young.
When I stormed into our castle, I grabbed one of my dragon’s headspikes and climbed onto his back. “Let’s fly!” I said. “Fly me up to the sky, so no one can look down on us.” I wanted to go with my dragon on an adventure, to be there when he found my next treasure. He carried me into the yard and flapped his wings wildly; his plates bruised the places between my legs something awful as he lifted us foot by foot into the air. It didn’t matter – those marks wouldn’t show.
I watched intently as we struggled, foot by foot, to rise above the treeline – feeing by turns exhilarated and afraid. When a strong wind made him wobble, I got so freaked out I started screaming.
“Put me down!” I cried. “I want to go down, now!”
My dragon kept beating his wings, like he didn’t hear me – but I could tell by the way his tail was twitching that he was irritated. In a panic, I leaned sideways, and lost my balance – I rolled backwards along his iron spine and plunged head-first toward the earth, then lost my breath, “Ooph!” as his tail caught me by the abdomen. My dragon snorted, severely disappointed in my clumsiness. He tried to lift his tail high enough for me to climb back onto him, but I couldn’t reach. He roared his displeasure at me, then abruptly tilted his wings, making us glide along the top layer of trees, over the beach and towards the ocean. He lowered his tail when the saltwater was sparkling beneath us. I barely had time to notice a squishy-looking sea-monster – something like a giant squid with a colossal pair of pillow lips – before his tail plunged me into the sea.
The water was freezing as it hit, knocking the wind out of me again. And then I saw the wide-open lips of the squishy sea-monster coming at me in the dark, and I realized that my dragon was using me, to fish. The sea-monster’s lips closed over me, and a horrible sucking sensation pulled out the last of my oxygen along with the light of my consciousness.
When I came to, it was because of a painful jarring and a rush of cold air – colder than the sea had been. The dragon had banged the sea-monster against a tree until her puckered lips went slack, and now she fell from me and lay limp in the sand. The dragon was so excited to fill his mouth with her that he didn’t notice me falling from his tail, dazed and also limp. I sat there a minute, shaking, staring at the creature I had nurtured so long. Now one thing after another that people had said about him filled my mind and wouldn’t go away. He was a monster. He was an animal. He was not a dragon. He was going to eat me.
I stood, and started running – not into town, but around it, through the woods. I ran until I came to the base of the bluff, the great precipice piercing the wind. Then I kept running.
If there was a dragon out there anywhere – a great, majestic, truly real dragon with the spirit of magic within – if there was just one, surely now he would catch me if I jumped, and carry me off into the sunset. And if there wasn’t any such thing – well, then, at least I’d never have to face those pitying villagers again.
I took a great, flying leap off the point of the bluff, with my arms spread out, and looked down to watch my fate crash into me. And then screamed. My human arms had sprouted flaps – scaly wings, with a bluish fuzz like feathers on the end. I wavered my arms, knowing the wind under me as it fought to push me aside.
“But I can’t fly,” I gasped. “I’m just a girl.” The sound was lost amid the crackling of a great blue plume of flame, more glorious than any I had seen as it scorched up sea-foam into cloud.
It was a sweet and surreal moment, hanging there, reveling in fire I never knew I had. But the wind came at me and didn’t stop, pressing me back toward the bluff. I flapped against it for what felt like hours, until the wind shifted abruptly and I found myself borne three miles out to sea. I knew beyond a doubt now that nobody else could save me. That was hard to know, because I was so tired, and the shore so far. But I sighed, and struggled on – just a wingbeat at a time. What else could I do? I was a dragon, now; it was beneath my dignity to drown.
Since I’ve become strong in my dragonhood, I’ve found that though it’s always hard work, it’s also always worth it. Whether it’s rescuing stupid princesses or eating significantly more stupid princes, diving after ocean stones or plucking stars from the night for my growing treasure horde, I do what the fuck I want. Dragons – real dragons – never have to hide, or quit, or lose, or die. And if we do, it’s always in an awesome way that people write songs about. I mean, we’re hot shit.
Sometimes I go back to the island where I used to live, to visit Leilani and my old gang. Not much has changed there. The rusty lizard who used to live with me still smokes too much and can’t stay up for more than two minutes in the air. When I have to take a dump I fly low over the woods and look for his spark trails. He’s finally progressed to the point where he can get his flame to show outside his body; it’s exactly as big as a tea-light. Go figure.
My mother keeps telling me I should find a soulful king to keep me company, but I’ve figured out that castles really aren’t my thing. One of these days I’ll start looking for a good underground lair, with – you know – lakes of molten silver, diamond stalagmites – the works; but if I can’t find one of those I’ll settle for any bright-colored mountain and do what I can with filigree once I’ve hollowed it out. Then if I find a nice spelunker maybe I’ll think about having a companion.
Maybe. The truth is, I’m not so sure I want to settle down. I live in the wind, and I’m magic enough all by myself.