This week’s microfiction is really more of a flash fiction–it clocks in at just under 1000 words. But it needed to be told, because magical realism is the best. Shoutout to Jo, the girl with secrets in her hair.
Every family in Pendergrass had their quirks. Everyone knew, for instance, that the Breckenridge family could see in the dark as clearly as if the sun were shining; it was also common knowledge that the Deans had a way with animals, that their soft sleepy drawls could be understood by the cats, dogs, guinea pigs and parrots of Pendergrass as well as the barks, meows and chirps themselves could.
No one, however, could figure out what was special about the Arrington family…except for their hair.
Every Arrington woman (there had been no Arrington men in generations, only the starstruck and stumbling men who loved them) had extraordinary hair. No matter the color, no matter whether their hair was a riotous tumble of curls or a silken waterfall, there was not a single Arrington woman whose hair did not catch the eye and draw murmured, gasping comments.
But there was something else about the glorious hair of the Arrington women. There was something there, some sort of whispering perfume bound into each shimmering strand. It varied from woman to woman; men who got too close to Katrina Arrington, widely considered to be the most beautiful Arrington woman, swore up and down that her hair smelled exactly the way honey straight from the hive tastes.
No such poetry spilled forth about Talia Arrington. Talia had gray-blue eyes instead of green. Her hair was neither straight nor curly, neither blonde nor brunette, but some shadowed wheat color waving in messy ponytails and braids. She was a shadow of her mother, quiet and serious and shy, trailing behind as they traveled the world for Katrina’s work.
That all changed when Talia was sixteen.
“I don’t want a party, Mama,” she said to Katrina.
Katrina slanted a cat-green glance at her as she twisted her hair up into a sleek mass of golden curls. “It’s important you start making friends. You’re sixteen, darling.”
“But why?” Talia said. “I don’t know any of them!”
“That’s why,” Katrina said. “You need to make friends.”
The invitations had gone out. Katrina had bought Talia a dress, a gunmetal shimmer that left her pale shoulders bare. As the time of the party grew near, Katrina pushed Talia into the brocade chair before the old vanity and began fixing her hair.
“Why can’t my hair look like yours,” Talia murmured, looking at her mother’s reflection in the mirror.
“No two Arrington women look alike,” Katrina said.
“You got all the pretty,” Talia said mournfully.
“You have plenty of pretty, Talia,” Katrina said. “You just haven’t figured out the magic yet.”
Katrina laid the brush down and leaned down close, pressing her smooth cheek against Talia’s. “You have to figure it out for yourself,” she whispered. The honey-perfume danced through Talia’s senses, as warm and bright as candlelight. “But I can tell you a secret. I had my first kiss when I was fifteen.”
Talia blinked, and Katrina smiled. She began brushing Talia’s hair again.
The guests arrived, as much out of curiosity about the rambling old Arrington house as the enchanting golden woman who had invited them. McCormacks and Deans, Breckenridges and Lautners, spilled through the polished hallways and perched on the old brocaded sofas and chairs. The rooms were full of light and laughter, quiet speculations and clinking bottles. Talia found herself lurking, a shimmering gray shadow. After some time she fled down the creaking steps to the basement, stopping short at the bottom step–rather than being empty, the dark little basement had an occupant.
“Hey,” the boy said, taking a swig of the Coke he held. It was Brandon Lautner, one of the handsome earthy Lautners who always had the best gardens in Pendergrass. He was a senior, and a head taller than her.
“Hi,” Talia said softly.
“Are you trying to escape too?” he asked.
“Yes,” she admitted. “I never know what to say or do at parties.”
“Neither do I,” he said. “I usually just pick a spot to hang out and then wait to see if someone interesting joins me.”
“I’m not very interesting,” Talia said.
“Why do you say that?” Brandon asked.
Talia lowered her gaze to her pretty silvery shoes. “My mom threw this party for me,” she said at last. “But everyone came to see her. I’m just not very interesting. I like art and books and stuff. I don’t know how to talk to people. And…” she stopped abruptly. She wasn’t going to say that.
“And what?” Brandon prompted after a moment.
“And I’m not pretty like she is,” Talia said.
He gazed at her for a moment. “You’re wrong.” He stood easily, draining his Coke. “You’re definitely pretty, you just haven’t figured it out for yourself yet. Once you do, you’ll be gorgeous.”
“My mom said I had to figure out the magic,” Talia blurted. “But I don’t know what she means. She also said she had her first kiss when she was fifteen. I don’t know why she told me that either. Why is this so complicated?”
“You know everyone in this town has their weird little thing, right?” Brandon said.
“Yeah, what about it?”
“Well, mine is that I can grow anything,” he said. “Everyone knows that. No one knows anything about your family though. So maybe your family thing is about the secrets.”
“But I don’t have any secrets,” Talia said. “I’m not interesting enough for secrets.”
“You need to make some secrets,” Brandon said. “Maybe that’s what your mom meant.”
“I don’t–” Talia started to say, then suddenly Brandon spoke. “I do,” he said softly. “Wanna see?”
“See what?” Talia asked.
He smiled, and then she realized. “Oh,” she said. Then, on a whisper: “Yes.”
Talia’s first secret was that Brandon Lautner’s kisses were as soft as a feather. It tucked itself shyly and sweetly into her hair and left it tousled and shining. “Look at that,” Sara Dean murmured to one of her sisters as Talia passed by later. “She’s got that incredible Arrington hair.”