“Millie, wake up! Come on, it’s your birthday! Today’s a very special day! You’re 18! Mum’s working so you get to spend the whole day with me. Meet me in the living room when you’re ready!” my sister Elena sings cheerfully at me while shaking my mattress.
I get out of bed and stare in my mirror with a disheartening annoyance. My mousy brown hair lays as limp as death and my eyes are so unremarkable that barely anyone knows what color they are. My spindly frame, flat like a boy’s, leaves a lot to be desired.
I’m not the prettiest of girls where I come from, and definitely not as beautiful as Elena. She’s 27 and has been perfect since well before I was born. Every hair and curve perfectly in place. I don’t hate her for it like some sisters would. She’s always been more like a confidante and mother figure to me.
I trudge down the stairs and pour some cereal into a bowl. Elena’s perched on a chair, her eyes brimming with excitement. She starts in before I even sit down. “Okay, Millie, what I’m going to tell you may sound strange, but today your life changes completely.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know,” I interrupt. “Today I’m legally an ‘adult.’ I’m now legally able to be held accountable for all of my decisions. Along with the tidal wave of credit card offers that could suck me into debt.” Elena’s face gets serious and she cuts me off.
“No. Well… I mean, yes, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Now… you know the women in our family have always been a little different, right?” I nod in agreement. It’s true, the lineage of women we come from were all strikingly beautiful, independent and strong-willed. I didn’t see what the subject had to do with my coming of age, though.
She continued. “Well, every Valentine’s Day after our eighteenth birthdays, something called ‘The Blooming’ takes place. It sounds weird, but hear me out. You were born on February 13th, so there’s not much time to teach you everything.”
Once again I interrupt her, it’s a habit of mine. “Elena, what are you talking about? I’m too tired for this right now. Stop being so cryptic and weird.”
“Millie, I’m serious, dammit! Listen to me!” She pounds her fist down on the table in front of me, then smooths out the tablecloth, trying to soften the gesture. “Go out tomorrow and find the right man. If you feel one drawing your spirit near, that’s the one you want.” She went on explaining in spite of my incredulous expression.
“Meet him for a date and let him take you home. Make sure he lives alone, there are several ways to find out without being obvious. Let nature take it’s course and call me the next day. Tell me everything.” I say something to her about my first time being special with someone I loved. Yet by this point she has her hands on my shoulders and is looking into my eyes. So… I did as she told me.
A tall, handsome man caught my eye the next night. I pretended that it was still my birthday. I’m amazed at how easy this is; he seems captivated by everything I say. The lines flow smoothly off of my tongue. My giggles are provocatively placed with perfection. After some slight prodding, I find out that he lives alone, so I let him take me home. Our chemistry continues to build, and as expected, nature took its course. It was 100% new to me, yet my body knew exactly what to do. What I liked and didn’t like, being able to know what his body liked. It was euphoric.
I wake up the next day a bit sore but happy. He’s still lying there beside me peacefully, his back to me. I snuggle him and he feels like cold marble against my skin. I roll him over and uncover him. Eyes open, no pulse. He looks withered, like a grape left in the hot sun. This hulking man from last night was reduced to such frailty, his skin almost dust-like. A slight smile rests on his thin, mummified lips.
Not knowing what else to do, I call Elena in a panic and give her the address. After all, she told me she wanted to hear all about it afterwards. Besides, my sister’s the one who told me to do this in the first place, this is her problem now too. If anyone knows how to help me, it’s her. I can’t go to my mother with this, or call the police. What would I even say? I’d be known as the dead lay girl for the rest of my existence, and that’s if I manage to avoid a murder charge. I’m losing it, I can’t even look at him. What the hell did this?
There’s a knock at the door. After checking the peephole and seeing my sister’s face, I open it. Elena is smiling widely, completely calm. Tears are streaming down my face in horror.
“Elena, help me! What did I do wrong? I did exactly what you told me to do! What’s wrong with me? Why is he dead? My life is over!”
I start clawing at my hair, my voice becoming unrecognizable with hysteria. She gathers me into a hug and starts to chuckle. “Your life is not over, his is. And nothing! You did exactly what you were supposed to do.” I look at her, more confused. I start to yell and scream at her, but this time she’s the one to interrupt me. “Millie, stop… go look in the mirror.”
I go into his bathroom and look at myself. My eyes are blue like the Caribbean, my hair a flowing mane of chestnut curls, and my body curvaceous and beautiful, my skin utterly flawless and perfectly complected. I feel the power of his essence within my breath. Now I understand, I understand everything. I’m getting the hang of it now, and things are going to be so much fun.
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