Lavenia

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By Lauren Nagy, Literary Editor

“You’re looking glum, boy.” 

Funny, that word. I was hardly a boy. I wasn’t even sure I was human. Well, they told me I was. They could have fooled me. I could have been a plant. I remember quite distinctly how they snatched me out of my mother’s grasp like some unknown flytrap that had grown out of control, my roots mercilessly severed from the warm soil of home. 

They shut me in a cold, very gray greenhouse – no sun and hardly enough water to sustain a life. My only sympathizer? A raggedy cot that was more mold than feathers.

When I first came, the only thing I felt I could do was scream and cry for all the things I’d never have – it didn’t matter anyway. When they came up to check on all of us they only nodded their heads after seeing me – they were right, this place was where I belonged. 

The others in the cells around me didn’t complain, didn’t cry, didn’t even say a word. They could only watch me, that knowing look in their eyes of the pain I was going through – that they’d all been through before. By the end of that first day I had joined them. Just another one of the birds whose wings flapped sideways, censored by the status quo.

“Boy? Oh, not another daydream!” The man in the cell next to mine had his hands woven through the bars, leaning against the barrier. We all have our caricatures, as a bunch of loonies would, and I’m known as “the dreamer”. I could never tell what was so wrong with dreaming. Would they rather me be “the screamer”?

“I’ve told you time and time again, that head of yours won’t get you anywhere!”

“Wouldn’t get me anywhere anyway,” I grumbled, rubbing my eyes.

“Look around at us, fool. They all think we’re insane. They all think we can’t handle ourselves. You can’t be waltzing off into your mind all the time, they’ll never let you out of their sight! Someone with a head like yours is a threat to them.”

“I would rather die here than to give up my mind,” I contradicted. He scoffed.

“Foolish, if you ask me.”

“I have a good reason to keep dreaming, sir!”

He turned to face me. “And what is that?”

I led him to the windows on the back wall of our joining cells. Though the opening was lined with more bars, one could get a decent view of the world through them. The grass was a generous green, the sky a gorgeous blue. But the only thing I could see was the same thing I always dreamed of.

The girl walked with purpose and yet seemed to wander with no purpose at all. The hem of her skirt danced about her ankles as she kicked merrily through the dandelion seeds. Her dress, a simple cornflower blue, framed a fine figure with graceful posture. Her auburn hair was tied up atop her head, the stubborn pieces around her crown swooshing around in the breeze. She’d worn it like that ever since she first arrived in the town – it certainly felt as though she’d been here forever, but from word of the others in this place, she’d come for the summer. 

The sun had rouged her cheeks and freckled her nose, but she never carried a parasol. It was a preference of hers to explicitly contrast what everyone else was doing, which is what made her stand out. She didn’t do anything for anyone but herself. Not in a selfish way, but more one of self-fulfillment. It was her at the eye of the storm when the raging ocean of monotony faded away.

At least, that’s what I liked to think from what I could observe in my cell. Whether that was actually the truth or just what I needed to be the truth, I couldn’t be sure of. 

Sometimes she’d go out to the field next to this place and sit for a while singing to herself. That couldn’t be something everyone else did, I knew that. Not everyone in our world seemed happy enough to sing. 

You’d think they would, though. After we were shoved up in prison cells, they could forget about us. Just the mistakes, the inconveniences to them. They were, in their words, “safe” when we were separated behind the metal bars.

He cleared his throat. “And what is that? What’s your stupid reason?”

“Lavenia.”

He was quick to scoff. “That’s not her name, you fool- it’s Patricia or Martha or something respectable and not so-“

“It’s Lavenia!” I shook my fist at him. “Her name is Lavenia.” 

He was taken aback, his eyes alight with a newfound concern. Perhaps he envied my ability to dream or something; yes, that was definitely his problem. 

“There’s something stopping me, though,” I said when he remained silent. “I am here, and she is there.”

“Well done stating the obvious.” He rolled his eyes at me, folding his arms and turning away from the window. 

“I can’t hold her, can’t touch her, can’t even take her hand,” I continued, paying no attention to his petty wisecracks. 

“She’s still there to look at,” he grumbled. Was he speaking? I couldn’t tell. Maybe it was Lavenia whispering to me. That happened often. She never warned me, her whispers would just come to me. Always louder. Always.

“The feathers on that hat she wears over her shoulders wouldn’t be so droopy if it was my hand she was holding instead of her books.” 

My face suddenly became rather itchy, and I scratched.

“The feathers can’t tell the difference. And besides, you’re never getting out of here. Good thing, too. You’re scaring me.” He retreated into the quiet back corner of his cell, leaving me there at the window.

My fingernails came back red. 

I squashed my nose firmly against the cold stone walls until my skin went numb. But that didn’t matter. If I was at the window, I was close to Lavenia. And she was close to me. She’d turned to face me from her perch in the field; perhaps she’d heard me. 

Yes, she had. She had definitely heard me. She’d heard me. She was hearing me. She knew what I was thinking. She knew I was thinking about her. She’d heard what I thought. She’d heard me. She’d heard me. 

“Boy.” 

I didn’t move.

“What are you- boy!”

I rammed my fists into the metal bars flanking the window with all the energy I had, but for some reason it only seemed to make my knuckles bleed more. The blood dripped away, and so did my vision. 

Everything was going blurry. And dark. Blurry and dark. Blurry and dark. Dark and blurry. No, not dark and blurry. Blurry and dark. Yes, Blurry and dark.

Lavenia didn’t turn around to look at me, though I was sure she knew I was longing for her. It would all be all right in the end, she knew I was coming. She knew I cared. She knew I was here. She knew everything about me. She knew I was coming. She’d never known me before, but she knew me now. She was waiting for me, I knew it. She knew I was coming.

Then for some strange reason, she left.