It was the special edition of Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird that sent her over the edge. A breeze from the window freed the grip of the red calfskin leather cover, slamming it unmercifully onto its back. The shock wave propagated through the aligned literary marvels who had become her most cherished friends over the years. She turned toward the fray with time to discern that her fragile body would serve as the last silver ball in an approaching exemplification of Newton’s Cradle.
A sharp gasp escaped her mouth and floated away weakly. She shut her eyes and braced for the inevitable.
Long ago, before she was displayed on the top shelf of an overly feminine bedroom, she often heard whispers of girls who had shattered. Their blameful actions were judged cruelly and an insufferable life of cracks and scars was harshly underlined. In a world of machine-polished beauty, few things were more horrifying than unmendable pieces.
On placement day, a girl with ripe pink skin lit beneath proper brown curls unwrapped her box and smirked from one corner of her mouth. She was not addressed again until a few hours later when the household matriarch finished washing the dishes and perched her on the topmost floor of a bookshelf, slightly out of reach. The walls of the room she occupied were offensively pink. Two adjacent windows spilled sunlight onto a six-drawer vanity, queen-sized canopy bed and towering oak bookshelf now housing its newest story. Classics lined the ascending shelves and she spent each passing day with Carroll and Wilde and Fitzgerald and Plath.
On most afternoons, she sat quietly on the front-most sliver of space, leaning her back against bumpy spines. Her favorite spot, between Updike and Adiga, offered a panoramic view of the garden, interrupted by a thin column of drywall that teased her eyes with perspective. The garden as her backdrop, she directed daydreams influenced by stories read and conversations overheard. She fantasized about perfect summer days and lying naked on prickly blades of grass watching her canvas-white thighs turn incrementally darker. She would focus her energy on a bloomed rose and inhale deeply and slowly, coaxing the scent to her nostrils.
When the family hosted outdoor soirees, she softened the wrinkles in her dress with her palms and joined them from behind glared glass. She twirled a lock of her hair in her index finger and bat her eyes at young men standing in the foreground. On days when imagination left her mind wanting, curiosity begged her to go outside. She would lean forward seductively until gravity sank her stomach and a phantom of cracked porcelain clasped her shoulders and pulled back.
Today, in the short seconds encompassing her fall, the chronology of made up memories became eclipsed by an intense crescendo of physical sensation. With each millisecond, her chest expanded. The force that plucked her from the isolated tower now cradled her body securely and she watched the bookshelf morph into an endless asphalt highway amidst a sea of pink.
The whoosh of her descent deafened her and in this incredible silence, her eyes welled. An unfamiliar pang traveled from her big toe to her temples and caused her mouth to stretch on either side toward her ears. She felt happiness. Strands of hair burst from her obedient mane and danced around fiery eyes. She felt freedom.
She thought again of the girls who had shattered and a tickle of remorse rose from her shoulder blades. Her name would be added to their roster, no doubt, but she didn’t care. In the years she sat abandoned, her soul crumbled behind immaculate white glass, and only now, in a free fall toward aged hardwood, were the pieces gravitating to one another.
As the ground drew her hollow body closer, the arousal unlocked rusted shackles that had carved fear into her wrists and ankles. She closed her eyes. She was ready.