See The Green Lady
I got in trouble with Mommy, and now I’m afraid. I don’t want the green lady to go away. I don’t think Mommy should want her to go away, either, but sometimes I don’t think Mommy thinks about what’s actually good for her. I think she thinks too much about what other people think is good. She gets really worried about it.
Mommy was washing my hair, and she found something. At first she thought it was a vine that got stuck there while I was playing in the garden. “Koé, what’s this?” she asked, as though I could see the top of my head.
“I don’t know,” I said, because I didn’t. Was it not just my hair? I kept splashing the water in the tub. I cupped some in my hands and let it trickle through.
She picked at whatever-it-was, and then she pulled. “Out! Momma! What are you doing?”
“It’s stuck,” she said. “There’s a little piece of plant in your hair. I’m going to pull it out.
This made me very, very nervous. I wasn’t scared about the pain, though. I don’t know why, but I knew, all of a sudden, that this had to do with the green lady. “Momma, no!”
“It’s okay, Koé,” she said. “We can’t just leave it in there. I have to get it for you.”
She pulled, and I screamed. I should have been afraid of the pain. It was not just a little piece of plant in my hair, collected from an adventure in the garden. It was a small vine growing from my head among my hair. I felt a ripping, tearing pain. Momma gasped.
“Koé!” she said. “What… are you okay?”
She held the little vine in her hand. It had leaves along its length. They were the same leaves that make up the green lady’s body. I recognized them right away. There were little roots at the end of the vine. Blood dripped from them. My blood.
“Mommy!” I said, through my sobs. “Mommy, that really hurt.”
“Oh, Koé,” Mommy said. “I’m so sorry! I didn’t know it was… I didn’t… Was it attached to your head?”
Mommy’s hands came again to my skull, rougher this time. She began to sort through my hair. “Koé. There’s more, Koé. By the Angel. Koé, it’s all through your hair. There are vines all through your hair.”
Mommy sound scared, which made me scared, too. I wasn’t scared of the vines, though. I knew they were there because of the green lady. When an entity gives you something, they leave their mark on you. I thought the mark was just my green breath — the breath she gave me that brings plants back to life. It’s not. It’s vines that grow from my head, like hair.
None of that is scary, because I know the green lady is good. Mommy was the one who scared me. How can I not be afraid, when Mommy is afraid? Her fear is infections. I knew, then, that she would find out about the green. She would be afraid of the green lady. She would tell the shaman about the green lady, and he might hurt her. He might hurt her, and he would definitely send her away.
Mommy asked me, but I didn’t want to tell her. I didn’t want to tell her about the green lady, or about how she takes care of our plants, and how she gave me the green breath so that I can do it, too. I didn’t want to tell her, but Mommy is scary when she’s scared and angry. I was afraid of Mommy. I cried, really hard, but I told her about the green lady.
Now I’m in my room, and Mommy is sitting in the common room. She said she needed to think. I know what she’s thinking about. She’s thinking about the shaman, and how to tell him about the green lady. She’s probably worried that he’ll be mad at her. He might think she was hiding the green lady here, like I was. If she tells him… I guess I’ll protect her. I’ll tell him she didn’t know. I might lose the green lady, but I don’t want to lose her and Mommy. I couldn’t take that.
I hope Mommy still loves me. I know I lied to her, but it felt like a good lie. She wouldn’t have liked knowing the green lady was helping her garden. Now she does, but she had all that happy time before, thinking she had done it herself. And she had all those nice vegetables to sell, thanks to the green lady.
Mommy opens my door, interrupting my thoughts. She is alone. I breathe out. I didn’t notice I was holding my breath. I had been afraid that, when Mommy came back to talk to me, the shaman would be with her. He isn’t. That has to be good.
“Koé,” she says, still standing in the door. She looks very unhappy, but at least she doesn’t look angry anymore. “You did something bad.”
“No I didn’t!” I protest.
“Koé! You formed a pact with a monster.” Ah. She is still angry. “That’s bad!”
“The green lady isn’t a monster,” I say. “She’s so nice to me. She gave me a gift. And she helps your plants grow.”
“It’s not a gift, Koé,” Mommy says. Her jaw and her voice are tight. “It’s dangerous. What did you give her in return?”
“Nothing!” I say. “She didn’t want anything. She said all she wanted was for me to help her make the garden grow. She’s not bad.”
“The shaman says all of the entities are bad,” Mommy says. “We’re supposed to listen to him.”
“Maybe he’s wrong,” I say. “I know the green lady. All she ever does is play with me, and make your plants stronger. What’s bad about that?”
She goes quiet. It makes me anxious. I squirm on my bed, waiting for her to answer.
“Nothing,” she says, finally. “Those things aren’t bad. We just don’t know what she’s hiding, or why she’s here. Entities always have a secret, Koé.”
“Everyone has secrets!” I say. “I had a secret about the green lady. Don’t you have secrets, Mommy.
“I guess I do now,” Mommy whispers. “Look, Koé. We can’t tell anyone about her, okay?”
I can’t believe what I’m hearing. “I won’t, Mommy. I would never.”
Mommy crosses her arms across her stomach. She looks like she’s about to be sick. “I can’t… I don’t want to do this, Koé. I don’t want her to be here. But to be honest with you, we need the garden. We need the food from it, and we need the money.”
“So you… You’re not going to tell the shaman?”
“Not yet,” she says. “I still might, if I think your friend is becoming dangerous. But… not yet.”
I jump up from my bed and run across the floor. I hug Mommy hard. “Thank you! Thank you, Mommy!”
I realize I’m crying again, but I’m not sad. It’s the happy sort of crying. Mommy doesn’t return my hug. She reaches down to stroke my head, but then she recoils.
“Those vines…” she says. “I’ll have to pull them out. All of them.”
“What?” I step back, looking up in fear once more.
“We can’t leave them in your hair. They’ll only grow longer. People will notice them.”
I cover my head with my hands. “No! Mommy, that hurt. It really, really hurt. You can’t pull more of them out.”
Mommy ignores me. She puts me in a chair in the common room. I don’t fight, because I know I won’t win. I just sit where she tells me to sit, and I cry, because I know it’s going to hurt. Mommy puts a towel over my shoulders. Then she begins to work her fingers through my hair.
She doesn’t warn me when she finds a vine. She doesn’t talk any more. She just grabs the vines and pulls them free of my scalp. Each one comes with a ripping, burning pain, and the feeling of something sliding free of my skull. I hate it. Blood drips down over my forehead and onto my face, mixing with my tears.
When she’s done, Mommy wraps my head in a cloth and sends me to bed. She does not wish me good night, or tell me to sleep well. Perhaps she knows that I won’t have a good night, and that I can’t sleep well, not with my head existing as a throbbing mass of pain. In the time before I drift off, I hate Mommy, and I hate the green lady. It’s not real hate. It’s just hate born of pain and frustration. I don’t like it. I don’t want it. But I still feel it.