It has taken me so long to get here, but I have finally made it. I am standing on a small ledge jutting out of the rocky face of the mountain. The clouds, instead of floating above me, swirl in the wind below my feet. There are no trees, no plants just me, the clouds, the mountain and the doll.
It is floating away from me, releasing its own bright white light, shining out against the white clouds and pale blue sky. It is dancing in the wind, taunting me, teasing me, making me need it even more than I know I do. The wind tugs at my hair, gently pulling it out through the breeze.
It looks too far to jump to get the doll, but I need it, my life almost depends on my getting that doll, grabbing its bright white form in my hand.
I close my eyes and breathe in the fresh mountain air, my heart beating hard and fast in my ears. Opening them again, I frown in determination, focusing on nothing but the glowing white doll. The clouds, the wind, the sky, they all leave my vision so that only the doll remains.
I lean back on the ledge and lunge myself into the air, stretching as far as my arms will let me. The wind takes hold of me, pulling me from the doll. I stretch harder, pushing myself to the doll, but I can’t get a finger on it. I slowly begin to fall away from it, plunging through the wind, down to the clouds far below me. The wind streaks through my hair, sliding over my skin and playing with my clothes. I’m falling, falling…
Natasha awoke with a start, jerking in her bed as though she had just fallen. She groaned and looked over at her clock, the time again showing six forty three. She was beginning to get used to the dreams, but what she could not come to grips with were the jewels. Again, her fingers slid to her waist to run over the solid lumps of crystal.
She groaned again when she felt a new lump, a larger one, right below her belly button. She crawled out of bed and stared at the new jewel in the mirror. This one was a teardrop shape, and like the others, Natasha could see white winds and clouds swirling around inside it. Eleven crystals, filled with their own wind, shone out from the olive skin at her waist.
It was almost too much for her. Her almond eyes fogged up again with tears of fear and a sob jerked her stomach, making the crystals twinkle. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. It’s real, Tash, she told herself, No matter how freakish it seems, the jewels are real. Get over it and get ready for school.
She dragged on her blue school dress, pulled on her brown socks and slid her feet into her shoes. Now, for the hair. Try but don’t make it look like you’ve tried, that was how everyone did it, wasn’t it? She pulled her silky black hair back into a loose ponytail, tied at the base of her neck, and pulled a few strands free to let them flop over her shoulders. It was tempting to hook the strands behind her ears to keep it out of her eyes, but nobody did that.
Again she fingered the jewels at her waist, namely the newest of the eleven, the teardrop below her belly button. She sighed and made her way to the kitchen, had breakfast and slung her school bag over her right shoulder and headed off for another lonely day at school.
Natasha had been a loner since year eight, when her three friends she’d had since she first changed schools in year five dumped her. She still had no idea why. Before then, she had been a happy, perky girl, but now, she was shy and reclusive, barely ever saying anything. Whatever she did say, the other girls in the class always gave her the feeling as though she’d just told them she had a pet snail called Puss. She figured it was probably best to just keep her mouth shut. She was always thought of as being a Square, though she had no idea why. After all, her marks were nothing special. She always wished she could make friends, but she could never bring herself to start a conversation.
All through the bus ride to school she thought about the jewels and the dream, her fingers constantly at her waist. There was no doubt in her mind that the two were somehow connected.
The English lesson just floated by. Natasha had no real interest in Shakespeare, the language was too confusing and even if she had never read the play before, she knew the ending. This was a tragedy play—everyone was going to die, whether they liked it or not. Natasha almost smiled at the irony. She had now died three times over in pursuit of a glowing white doll.
“You okay?” came a voice behind her at the end of the lesson. She turned around to see the concerned blue eyes of Elly, one of her classmates. “You’ve been rubbing your stomach all lesson, you don’t want to go to the sick bay do you?”
Natasha smiled reassuringly. “Nah, I’m fine, just been having bad dreams. Woken me up three nights in a row now.” Okay Tash, you can stop talking now, she doesn’t care about your nightmares. She stood up and picked up her books, ready to move onto Geography.
“You sure you’re okay?” asked Elly’s friend, Charlotte. Natasha missed the glance the two friends exchanged at the mention of her dreams.
“Yeah, I’m fine, just tired.”
She wished she could say more, she wished she could tell them everything, absolutely everything, but she knew she couldn’t. They wouldn’t believe her, they’d think she was even more of a freak than they would have thought before.
She took her seat, ready to learn about tropical cyclones and was shocked to find that Charlotte and Elly took their seats next to her. And there were still seats left in the room too. People were actually sitting next to her out of choice. The only reason anyone had sat next to her in the past three years was because there were no other seats left, or because the teacher made them switch seats to make them stop talking, never out of choice.
“So what was your dream about?” Elly queried, opening her pencil case.
Natasha debated whether or not to tell them. Could they seriously be interested in it? Eventually she gave a basic rundown of it, keeping it down to two or three sentences so as not to bore them. If this was going to be her opportunity to make friends, she wasn’t going to let it slip by simply because they thought she was boring.
When she’d finished, she looked up, surprised to find that her two companions were far from bored. They were really paying attention, as if urging her to continue. This must be a trick, Natasha thought, they’re playing a trick on you, making you feel as though you’re wanted. Then they’ll laugh about it behind your back.
Elly took out a pen and opened her Geography book. The hesitated a moment, then drew a teardrop shape with two arcs of three circles coming out of the top. It was the same pattern as the crystals made on Natasha’s stomach.
“Does that mean anything to you?” Elly asked, her hand shaking slightly.
A shiver ran up Natasha’s spine. “Um, yeah, sorta,” she stammered. How could she possibly know? Just at that moment the Geography teacher walked in, telling everyone to get out their books and to hand in their assignments.
Elly sighed, as though she was thinking. “Meet us in the toilets at the beginning of lunch time, before you get changed from PE.” She hesitated again. “We’ve got something to show you.”
All through Geography, recess and PE, Natasha could think of nothing but what Elly had told her, even more so what she had shown her. Had Elly been woken up by the same dream? Did she have the jewels too? She definitely knew something, and from the way Charlotte was watching her as she told of her dream, she must know something too.
The need to understand what was happening to her was like an itch on her back that she couldn’t reach. Her PE lesson seemed to go on forever, glancing at her watch every five minutes, annoyed to realise it hadn’t been twenty as it had felt. Finally the lesson disassembled and the girls were told to leave their tennis racquets in the PE shed and head off to lunch. Natasha almost ran to the toilets in her eagerness to know.
Elly and Charlotte were already there, talking intently about something. They both smiled at Natasha, but their smiles didn’t reach their eyes. Charlotte ushered Natasha into the larger disabled toilet, then walked in herself, followed by Elly. After locking the door, they both lifted their PE shirts.
Natasha’s eyes filled with tears and she launched forward to hug the two girls. She wasn’t alone.