In my mind I am ten years old. My mother and my father have just had an argument, and I have come up to my room in tears, to get away from them all. That was the last time I was hurting this badly, and that was inside.
“Mai!” says my father, coming to sit by me on my bed with its green and blue quilt cover.
“Mai,” whispers my mother, kneeling on the other side of me.
“Mai, don’t cry,” they both say. Am I crying? I hadn’t realized. I put a slim, childish hand up to my face and touch the salty wetness that is there.
“Why do you have to argue?” I say sadly. “Why?” My mother places her arm around my shoulders; my father places his around my waist.
“We’re sorry, Mai,” says my father, but I can’t accept that. I heard what they were yelling at each other.
“And you expect me to live here with you, when I know all about what you were doing eleven years ago, even though we were married ?” screamed my father.
“Like it wasn’t as much your fault as mine!” my mother shot back.
“I’m not having you here to corrupt our daughter!!!” shouted my father. My mother said something else but I did not hear it. That was enough for me.
A week later, my mother moves out of our house, into her little cottage. She and my father are still friends, but they tell me they don’t want to have another argument, so it is probably better that they see less of each other. I did not understand back then, but I do now. Yes, I do now.
In my head I am now sixteen, and I am talking to my friends. Olivia is debating whether to Change permanently, and I am telling her no.
“I do not want to spend my whole life talking to a SPIDER!” I tell her, and infuriatingly, she laughs.
“You’ve done it often enough,” she points out.
“Yes, but … but …” I cannot find the words to express my disgust. “You would be losing everything – how would we do those things that we only survive because we can Change if things get too close for comfort?” She nods slowly, seeing my point.
“Okay, Mai. You win. For once.” And then her face cracks into a grin. “But I’m getting my hair done.” So I follow her to a specialist shop where they do permanent alterations.
“Black Widow-striped hair, please,” she says boldly, and I watch as her beautiful silver hair is turned black and red. I turn away so that she does not see my sadness.
A year later, I have forgotten what she looked like before. Olivia, in my mind, has always had red and black hair. That is just who she is.