Wings, Tiaras and Dragons
by Evie Bradley
I had to get her a costume ready.
It was the hopeful look in my younger-sister’s eyes, the toothy grin encompassing her face, that motivates me.
So we spend an afternoon- the sun a watery lemon colour peeking behind the clouds- weaving in and out of stores; knitting a pattern of ideas that I could craft into something tangible.
I know Tori won’t win the competition though.
A pair of boggle-eyes distract me, I look down to see Tori holding them up hopefully, her pudgy fingers imprinting on the plastic wrapping as the black pupils dangle and fixate on me.
“Let’s see then, missy-moo,” but her attention has already wondered to the artificial rainbow of coloured wigs. I glance at the price tag and stuff them behind a clothes rack before Tori remembers them.
I come up to where she’s standing, both our heads tilted as we critically examine the wigs,
“Hmm, I don’t think anything here screams the fairy, dragon-riding princess look we are going for; what do you think?”
And, with the gravity only a 6 year-old could manage, Tori nods her head.
After an unsuccessful trip, we take the longer route home. We escape to the park and take refuge in the solitude that it offers.
We sit on the play equipment, our thoughts nearly in enough motion to propel us into the pendulum the swings we perch on would normally follow.
“Just jog my memory for me Tori, what exactly did you have in mind?”
Tori shoots me an annoyed glance, before pompously stating that, “haven’t you been listening? I have to have wings, made of sunshine, a tiara stolen from the evil queen and my pet dragon named Sapphire.” She concludes with raised eyebrows- emphasising the simplicity behind her ideas.
“Right, right,” I nod seriously, calculating what I can throw together to make her ideas a reality.
“I think we have some cardboard at home, some old poster paint too,” I start, “I’m sure between the two of us we can knock something up by tomorrow.”
Silence is Tori’s only response and I glace across to see her eyebrows furrowed in intense thinking.
I reach across and ruffle Tori’s head, her answering squeal marks a return to her jovial mood and raises my spirits.
We get closer to home, with Tori’s design only gaining complexity.
The front gate to our house is broken; but it doesn’t bother Tori. She deftly shimmies over the leaning gate and rushes ahead to the front door.
I’m glad she does, because she misses the wodge of letters and notices swelling up from our mailbox like an infection.
I don’t need to open any of them, the bad news never differing from the crisp white envelope they are sent in.
So I leave them to the elements. The envelope rotting to a soggy yellow as it’s contents disappear within.
Our door- in no better state than the gate- swings dejectedly from when Tori carelessly left it open, her hyperactive imagination deeming it irrelevant.
I enter the house with trepidation.
Listening cautiously, I make my way up to my room, only feeling relief when I close the door behind me.
I look around, noting with an amused huff the drawings Tori left scattered across my desk and make my way towards them.
But I hear someone.
Cocking my head and narrowing my brows, I stand still and try to gauge who it is. But when the door opens, it’s just Tori.
Or a mound of cardboard, paint and sparkles with a Tori being drowned in them.
She shuffles across to my bed, dropping them onto my blanket before collapsing next to them in an exhausted heap.
“I take it you want to start right now then?” I look at Tori.
She simply raises her thumbs and mutters, “I will just direct from here.”
I roll my eyes and collect the materials, ignoring the heap of homework glaring ominously at me from the corner of my room.
Laying them out across my desk- finally creating an order to the haphazard jumble of ideas- I begin to outline the shape of wings, a dragon and a small tiara from the cardboard.
Tori begins humming gently- a lullaby we are both familiar with- and her gentle tones wash over me like waves from a distant shore as I start to work.
We step back, critically evaluating our work.
Tori, a paint-splattered knuckle resting under her chin and her eyes a slight shade of delighted madness.
What lay before us- a cardboard monstrosity to most- was a pair of wings of ethereal sunshine, a tiara composed of sparkling gems and a dragon made from the deepest hues of the ocean.
In reality, the colours were limited to banana-yellow wings with licks of rusted red, a tiara shinning from copious amounts of glitter and a navy dragon, it’s spots created from spontaneously placed pieces of blu-tak.
I want to apologise to Tori, the failed attempt to create her ideas finally signposting the hopelessness of our situation.
Before the words could escape my lips, she turns and wraps me in a hug; her small arms encompassing my waist like a belt.
“Oh, it’s perfect!” The words escape Tori as she hops around my room.
“Yeah?” I ask nonchalantly, but Tori’s enthusiasm lights up an inner-glow within me.
“C’mon missy-moo, let’s get you to bed.” Tori begins to pout, “after all, you have to be in your best form tomorrow to pull off this costume.” Her pout runs off her face and a delighted grin takes it’s place.
I didn’t get to see Tori in her costume before I left.
I wanted to wait though, but I couldn’t risk it.
The butterflies in my stomach are pounding relentlessly from within and threatening to escape as I walk towards Tori’s school.
The front gates of the school are teeming with children, most of them in a costume of some sort.
But none of them are Tori.
Instead, her teacher waves me over- the false concern etched on her face failing to hide the disgust shining from behind her eyes.
“We’ve had a little issue today involving your sister, Tori,” she begins with her chirpy voice sounding like an incessant bird, “some others in class today made comment on Tori’s costume and she reacted with….volatility.”
My face, stomach and soul drops. I knew this would happen.
Concealing my inner-turmoil, I follow the teacher to Tori’s classroom, her heels echoing sharply on the Laminex floors sound like a heartbeat.
We enter the classroom, finding Tori sitting at a desk.
Her dejected attitude crumbles my composure. I rush up to her and crouch so we are eye level. Her doe eyes look up at me, full of unshed tears.
One of her wings is torn, her tiara is tilting at a dangerous angle and her pet dragon missing it’s tail.
“Hi,” she mutters weakly.
I glace over my shoulder at the teacher, not surprised to find her superiorly checking her nails and tutting with impatience. Seeing my look, she comes up to us- her lips pursed at the thought of being near.
“Now,” her artificial voice is impregnated with tones of gentle severity, “because this is the first time that Tori’s behaviour here has been a concern; we will just let her off with a warning and get her to apologise to the other kids tomorrow morning…have a good evening!”
She walks away before I could say anything.
The silence is heavy, weighing down on us to the point where it becomes difficult to walk.
But I try nonetheless, “did you get a chance to tell people about Sapphire or how you got your tiara?” I try to ask in a tone saturated with false positivity.
“No,” she mutters, “as soon as we showed our costumes they started to laugh. And then they tore my wings and hurt Sapphire.”
Tears fill her eyes.
My heart is fracturing, but I try one last attempt to cheer Tori up.
An idea begins to form, growing wings and beginning to take flight; a flash of inspiration growing into life.
“Well, who needs them Tori,” she finally looks up at me, “I think we should play- just the two of us- at the park.” Her demeanour shifts- hopeful at last.
“I just need a costume for myself.”