Laura Elizabeth Woollett

Posted on November 21, 2011

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Virginia

“Take them, take them,” she laughs and fills my pockets with stones: a laugh that is all nerves, scattered sunlight, the ruffled feathers of sparrows way up in the branches. She laughs and her chignon is coming loose, her eyes shine dark. She fills my pockets faster than I can think, her hands flitting in; slender hands, sparrow-hands.

My friend always wears a chignon. The first day in class I saw her profile and thought it was as clear and cold as a Greek statue’s: straight nose, marble throat, low, Athenian chignon. In my mind, she was Athena, all cold profile and open books. She was Athena until she turned her eyes to me, her restive, dark eyes; until I saw the way her slender hands flitted.

Her speech is a rapid, intelligent patter, like the babbling of the brook she wants to take me to. The brook where the hemlock breeds death, where the white trillium flowers rise up like murdered souls.

She loves to tie her wrists, her tiny bird-wrists, with stray bits of lace and ribbon. She loves to emphasize their fragility, though for whose eyes, I cannot say.

She would have me believe that she is a virgin. She is restive as a teen martyr, as an unbroken filly. By the brook, she slips her hands in my pockets, she darts her quick, fiery tongue into my mouth and breaks away, laughing. She is tainted in ways I will never know: I am weighed down with stones.

I have seen her undress in the communal change rooms. I have let my eyes stray to the pale nubs of her spine, to the worn, grey undergarments. She is tainted in ways I will never know: I admire her ability to keep me guessing.

“Let us arrange the stones,” she tells me, and I set about emptying my pockets, one cool weight after another. She arranges them according to her own order, in a straight line beside the brook, whose waters are tainted with hemlock. I thirst for what I know will kill me.

The bells are tolling from the distant school building; the sisters are calling their truants in. Convent of the Immaculate Conception, Virginia.

We stand back and regard her handiwork. She takes my hand in her own, which is cool, far cooler than her fiery tongue would have me believe. I try to give her my lips again, but she turns her face before I can; eludes me. She plucks a sprig of hemlock, places it in my hair.

“There,” she says, and she laughs; the same laugh of scattered nerves and sunlight, of sparrows scattering from the branches above. Hand-in-hand, we make our way back uphill to class.

***

Laura Elizabeth Woollett was born in Perth, Western Australia. Earlier this year, she completed a Bachelor of Creative Writing at the University of Melbourne. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in various publications, including Cliterature Journal, Contrary, Eternal Haunted Summer, LITnIMAGE, and Page Seventeen.

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