I'm Not a Rebel

Image of Long Story Short Award - Fall 2020
Image of Short Fiction
I sit against the gnarled old willow tree staring at the book in my hands but seeing only my priscilla pink nails. The ludicrousness of it has finally hit me. Why spend a few hours making sure all my nails were painted priscilla pink when it was almost the same shade as the nail itself. No one would be able to tell it was there. No one really cared even if they did notice. So rather than ponder the meaning of Northanger Abbey, I sit and look at my nails. “Topaz!!” I hear my sister call out and I feel myself instinctively locate my wallet. Back left jean pocket, sticking out a little. Then she parts the branches like a movie star and looks down at me. “Sissy! Always readin’ aren’t cha? That’s uh Austen isn’t it?” She questions, tilting her head around the spine but her eyes are on my pockets. “She’s the one that movie with Kira Knightly, yeah, I remember that.” The leaves shift as she plops onto the ground, putting an arm around me. “Opal look I’m kinda busy...” Is as far as my protest gets before, she fires off a shocked expression. She’d never make the drama club, not because of a lack of flair, but because of a lack of talent. “My own sister, not having time for me! Where do you get it, I wonder? This bitterness from? Oh, woe is me, rejected by all.” This monologue continues accompanied my large hand motions, but my eyes have fixed upon her nails. They’re purple and blue and green swirled and knowing Opal they probably glow in the dark. No one would miss those nails, but even if they were overlooked you can’t possibly miss Opal. She’s got bubblegum pink hair, wears nothing but black jeans and promotional tee-shirts, and has enough piercings to make airport security a nightmare. “Topie you’ve got to make up this grave error by lending me a few bucks. Just whatever you’ve got on you is fine. Me and Sarah are going for coffee before the protest at the library. You’d be supporting the cause.” There’s no such thing as a free lunch, and no such thing as a free hour. I reach toward my wallet, pulling it out but Opal grabs it. She dips her tie-dyed nails into the main compartment and pulls out a twenty, then flicks the wallet back at me. “You’re a lifesaver!” She sings as she sprints off to yell about an issue she’s never heard of before today. I don’t care about the twenty too much, it’s the cost of quiet around here. I look toward the house but no one else seems to be around. Mom’s probably off talking with her “visionary” friends about raising the dead, she’s into spirits and visions. Dad works as a security guard for some politician, so he’s only home on weekends. My older brother, Daniel, is in jail for doing a poor job of robbing the liquor store down the street. They’re all crazy. I can’t deny it, and anyone who’s not trying to be polite would agree in a heartbeat. But I’ve always wished I had their courage. I don’t go to rallies, or wear ridiculous clothes, wake the dead or finish fights. My pink fingernails flip through the pages of the book, then I press my thumb against the side to skim through it. I like watching the pages turn, in the same way others like watching the ocean. It’s repetitive and soothing. I flip back to the first page to start again, when I notice the first line. “No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy, would have supposed her born to be an heroine.” I’m no hero in a bustling city in England, but then Catherine was no hero in a haunted castle. But still, she was brave. I close the cover and look at my nails once more. Pink. My mother hates pink. I bought the polish myself after I got a job at the used bookstore. My brother would never keep a job that boring and Opal dropped out of school at 15, so she’d never bother reading a book like this. I feel my lips tug to the side, and just a little bit up. I’m not like them in the slightest and I’ve had to fight for that life. For my life. And I love it, in the same way I love old books and pink polish. I’m not rebel, but perhaps I can still be a heroine in my own way.