Learning To Lie
“Wow! That’s fabulous, Sarah,” Mrs. Beale said to me many moons ago, “well done, you.”
My eyes lingered on the page, wondering what she could see in it that I could not.
Praise and criticism still amount to the same with me.
The latter: a mason’s chisel hewing roughly at my heart.
The former: a mere nanosecond of hope that I know, without fail, will fade away on my next out-breath.
“Thank you, miss,” I replied, (politeness being an attribute I must have picked up from somewhere) “it’s not quite finished, I think I just need to…” But Mrs. Beale had already moved on to look at another’s work by then.
I never finished that drawing.
I know that batteries have both a positive and a negative charge. But only when connected to something else do they come to life. I think that we are all like batteries.
That year, Lydia, the girl from across the hall, said she wanted an expensive Cindy doll from Santa. The only thing I wanted that Christmas could come for free, if I believed in ghosts, that is.
No, that’s a lie. The only thing I ever wanted was that she was still around… to love me, and be loved back.
And anyway, I did not believe in ghosts back then. And neither do I now.
That same year, father suddenly grew skin like a dragon’s: scaly, cold and impenetrable. Flames would spew forth from his lips. His eyes became nothing but angry slits. I would stay far away from his lair.
Once in a science lesson Mrs. Beale told us that – just like us – every single cell in our body breathes and eats and works and dies.
I quickly threw my hand up, and asked:
“Does that mean that each of us could be one of a zillion tiny cells, all inside the body of another single being?”
The whole class laughed out loud. Mrs. Beale’s face reddened and puffed up. She banged the table with her fist and looked motherly at me until the din had died down.
I decided that from then on it would be for the best to keep any thoughts I had to myself.
That same day, I remember Lydia in her haughtiest tone came up to me and said,
“That’s what God is, you know.”
I stared her straight in the eyes, and told her that of course I knew what God is,
“What do you take me for?” I asked, adding that I was simply trying to be funny, and reminded her that it sure looked like they all enjoyed my joke enormously.
She hushed her mouth and chewed her bottom lip.
But I didn’t really know that about God. And I wasn’t trying to be funny.
I doubted God’s existence as much as I did ghosts.
She had believed me though; every single word, and that made something inside me feel good.
But I wasn’t even with her yet. So when Lydia left her expensive Cindy doll on the landing, I cut off her hair, snipped at her clothes, set her in a bed of scrunched up newspaper, struck a match, and watched it melt.
Lydia soon came crying like a newborn, banging at our door. In her hand, a contorted blackened mess of spite.
“No, I didn’t see or hear anyone,’ I said, ‘I’ve been in my room all afternoon.”
I smiled as she spun sharply on her heels and went off sobbing to her mother.
Lee is a short fiction writer. He has also had stories published with: F(r)iction online, Flash Fiction Magazine, Sick Lit Magazine, Platform For Prose, STORGY, The Red Line, The Londonist, and was shortlisted for the BBC’s 2015 Opening Lines competition. Originally from London, he now lives in Greece.
He can be found here: https://hamblin1.wordpress.com / @kali_thea