“I had dinner in Queen Elizabeth’s palace this summer!”
Oohs and aahs rang across the classroom. All eyes were now on the new girl, no longer an inconspicuous figure in the back row shrouded in a hooded lavender raincoat. Daisy stood up from her seat and scanned her prey for the first time. She spotted the deer, wide-eyed, and she sensed suspicion amidst the serpents. The birds grew thrilled and chatty, and the bugs were fazed enough by the news to inch their antlers just a little closer. With a subtle raise of the eyebrows, she lured her game yet closer, and with a flash of her smile, the jungle was under her reign.
The charades continued that afternoon. On the playground, upon her announcement of her distant relation with Taylor Swift, Daisy had gathered an entourage. The girls chased her in clusters like puppies in a litter.
Her band was charmed. She told them about the time she sat third row in the 2016 Olympics. She boasted about the street in New York City that was named after her. She described what summer had looked like in Belgium when she lived there for three months. Each new fairytale drew a new curious face, and by the end of the week, Daisy was forced to implement a recess schedule to meet the desperate requests of her awestruck peers, who yearned to stroke the fur of her newly imported Swedish wool coat.
But after Lucy Hall spotted the Old Navy tag on the inside of the woolly coat on Daisy’s backpack hook, the whispers traveled in ripples. As Daisy passed them by at recess, the students hollered, calling her a phony, a wannabe, a laughing stock.
The girls began to observe Daisy from a distance. They watched her jump out of her seat at the tap of a pencil on a desk and bury her head in her hands when the dismissal bell rang. They heard her mutter to the tiles on the floor as if she could see right through them. They saw her claw and bite at air like it had slipped right out of her.
The girls conjectured. They said her eyes were hollow like lightbulbs, that the blaze inside hardly flickered. But Daisy could see it all. She saw monsters in the trees and shadows in her childhood swing set. She heard voices in her head, voices which told her that her ticket to the school fair was a ticket to Belgium. She couldn’t make out the words on her clothing tags; she could only see fuzzy hazes of unfamiliar script and of a life forgotten. She was no longer Daisy – she was one with the voices.
The voices told her to forget about pills and problems and to kick and scream and pace. They showed her the underworld and took her to Europe overnight. They left her unfazed. They left her renewed. So, she let them consume her.
And she mumbled the truths in her sleep.
Ishita Shah is an aspiring writer from Texas. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, Polyphony Lit, and Positively Positive. In her spare time, she can often be found baking with her family of four or listening to Christmas music (all year round).