Lydia

0394 - BrideShe’d told them – the doctor, his wife, the sad creature they’d meant her to marry – she’d told them that she didn’t want this life.

“But we saved you,” they said. “You were in a box, in the ground, and we saved you.”

She remembered that, she thought.

Not the box. But… the before-time.

She remembered drunken nights with eager lovers. She remembered the pricking of the needles as the ink was injected into her skin, making her body into a living scrapbook. She remembered all the times she and her friends had left their dorms to hang out with the townies at the amusement pier.

And she remembered the calliope playing and the carousel spinning.

It hadn’t been an ordinary carousel.

No painted ponies and prancing unicorns. No pretty swan boats for those who weren’t interested in catching the brass ring.

That carousel had been populated by grotesques. Leering goblin faces, twisted features of nightmare horses.

She remembers the night the carousel spun out of control.

She remembers the faces whirling around and the screams that filled her ears.

Her own screams.

And then nothing.

And then a storm.

And then the doctor, and his wife, and that poor miserable creature.

It took her a while to regain herself. A lot of screaming in the mirror. Even more screaming at Them.

Her speech returned slowly, like her faculties.

But she was able, finally, to articulate her feelings.

“You brought me back without consent,” she said. “You gave me a new life I never wanted. But that doesn’t make me yours.”

Her arguments fell on deaf ears, so she resorted to the methods she’d used as a kid. She watched  – learned the codes for the doors, learned the pin for the atm card, learned the floorplan of the castle. (Why did these types always have a fetish for castles?)

And one night – during another storm – she went to the creature’s chamber. She was just going to give him the standard line – It’s not you; it’s me – but he was so lonely, and so sad, and she felt it as viscerally as if she were generating the emotions herself.

She hadn’t realized he was a projectile empath.

She’d slept with worse for less worthy causes.

So she gave him her body for one night, and corrected him when he tried to twist his tongue to shape her name.

“Eve is the name They gave me,” she told him. “My name is Lydia. Like the song.”

A tilt of his head, a stroke of his hand moving her hair back from her face – she’d washed out the fright-wig perm during her first shower, though the white streak remained. Maybe she’d dye it pink – curiosity flooded from his eyes.

She knew he responded to music.

So, she sang the words the calliope was playing the day she… she had to think it, if she couldn’t say it… the day she died.

Lydia, oh! Lydia, say have you met Lydia
Oh! Lydia, the tattooed lady

Then she dressed again. She’d kept the gown they gave her but cut several feet off the bottom, so it skimmed her knees. She’d stolen a pair of boots from Them.

“I have to go,” she told the Creature. “Find your voice. Make them let you go. You’re not as scary as people tell you. And if you need me… find me at the carousel.”

She didn’t tell him which carousel.

She wasn’t even sure if her carousel still existed.

She practically danced out of the castle. She took maximum cash from five ATMs in town before she muffed the PIN intentionally, and let the card be taken.

Then she hopped the train out of town.

Years passed. She’d convinced the authorities it hadn’t been her in that grave. Told them the carousel accident had left her disoriented and she’d gone away with friends. Flashed them cleavage and cash, and presto-change-o, her new life and her old one had been reconnected.

She joined a band, went on tour, stopped at every carousel, checked every newsfeed for word of her Creature. (He’d become Hers, in her head, over the years.)

One rainy night, in a town between here and there, she stood outside the wrought iron gate of a carousel – this one also lacked the painted ponies and genteel swans – and watched the children riding the ostriches and elephants and giraffes, she felt him.

Not the same sadness and loneliness as before.

Contentment. And hope.

His presence loomed behind her.

His voice  – made of gravel, but musical even so – sang her song.

Their song.

Lydia, oh! Lydia, say have you met Lydia
Oh! Lydia, the tattooed lady

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 Lydia by Melissa Bartell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.