Written by Genielysse Reyes
This is a story about two warriors.
One was a queen. The other was a princess. Both wore a long dress with pink and purple sashes, and both owned a pair of glistening feathered wings that graced their backs.
Their kingdom, Estrella, stood on the tip of a mountain that was so tall, the stars were only one leap away.
And below the kingdom, a dark and mysterious jungle lurked, its vines entangled with the base of the mountain.
But nobody really worried about the jungle. The people of Estrella knew how to fly with their wings, how to laugh at danger, and how to dance.
One night, Estrella threw a giant feast, and they filled the neighboring skies with their music. Some danced in the streets while others danced in the air. Feathers floated down to the jungle, never to see the light of Estrella again.
Among those who danced in the air was the queen. She was known to always fly the highest, as high as the moon. She twirled with the clouds and the wind, and as she floated down, she asked her daughter to join her.
But when the princess started to rise so she, too, could dance, the unthinkable happened.
One of her wings fell off.
No one saw how it happened, or even had time to wonder about it for that matter, for they were helplessly watching the princess plunge through the air, down, down, down…into the jungle below.
A second later, there was a swift slap of wind upon the faces of Estrella. They gaped at one another, and wondered what just flew past them.
It was the queen.
She had spread her wings wide and swooped down, down, down to save her daughter.
The princess didn’t cry as she fell, even if her far right side was numb and her wing was no longer there. Soon she would be surrounded by the darkness of the jungle, and she would be alone and flightless.
But the princess did not give up. She reached out and tried to grab a vine, a branch, anything.
And then…she stopped falling. She looked up. The queen was with her. She caught her! They floated down, like a single feather, into the jungle.
Once they were on the ground, the queen checked the princess’s side. The wing was indeed gone. All that was left was a scar that looked like a crescent moon.
“You’re going to be okay,” the queen said. “You’re strong.”
The princess felt her scar, and reminded her mother that even with one wing, she was still alive. She was still breathing. She told the queen, with a smile, “I’m fine.”
The queen just stared up ahead. Her wings began to tremble. As her eyes watered, she whispered to her daughter, “I just wish it was me instead.”
Together, the princess and the queen tread through the dark jungle, toward the base of the mountain. The queen never let go of the princess’s hand, and the princess made sure that they never lost sight of the moon and stars.
The two heard different sounds coming from behind, around, and above them. The bushes rustled. Creatures with long ears and glowing eyes scurried up trees. Colorful snakes slithered across vines.
The princess wanted to tell her mother to fly home first and get help. But the princess knew that her mother would never do that. Only together would they get out of the jungle.
After a long night of walking, the queen and the princess found the side of the mountain. It was jagged, cold, and…covered with feathers?
The queen and princess looked up, and there, above them, were the people of Estrella. They had all climbed down the mountain to help their lost queen and princess.
The princess was carried up to the kingdom, where a new wing was made for her.
But still, behind all of the new feathers, the scar was still there. Whenever the princess and the queen danced together, it became visible: a moon-shaped scar that gleamed. As she took her daughter’s hand and led her to the sky, the queen remembered how the princess, who had once fallen into the mysterious jungle, was strong, brave, a warrior.
And the princess remembered how the queen, who had fallen with her, was strong, brave, a warrior, too.
When I tried to sleep in that bed, with the white sheets and the gray rails, I couldn’t feel the far right side of my chest. That was where the doctors cut for the sake of a collapsed lung. Three distant segments that round out into an uppercase C. A string was braided through my skin, attempting to heal what I went through. The doctors eventually cut that, too.
Mama was the one who first noticed the gurgling in my chest. Her name also starts with a C. Coco. The fun version of ‘Corinne.’ That was my mama, the owner of both those names. The one who loved to hip-hop dance in the middle of convenient stores. The fun one in the family.
My dad was flying home early from his job training. My brother was staying with relatives. Loved ones were frequently visiting to check on me and try to relieve my mama of the chair next to my bed. But she still wished to sit there. She stayed by my side during the chest tube, during the emergency second chest tube, and then before the surgery.
I saw the way she looked at me and the way she didn’t look at me. When she looked at me, she had this smile that she never used in family portraits and stuff like that. This one was smaller. The corners shook. And her eyes were half-closed.
“You’re going to be okay,” she said. “You’re strong.”
I adjusted my sheets and tried to tuck myself in, like how she’d done when I was little, after we’d finished our bedtime story. I reminded her that this was nothing. People could live with one lung. They could still breathe. I was breathing.
I told her, with a smile, “I’m fine.”
Her hands dug into her cheeks. “I just,” she whispered, as she hid her watery eyes from me, “I just wish…it was me instead.”
I don’t know if Mama notices the shape of my scar. How it’s a C, the first letter of her names. Would she mind that? Not that I can control it, but would she mind it?
I don’t talk about the scar with Mama. I try to hide it from her, too. But she saw it when I went to homecoming a month after I came home from the hospital. She saw it when we shopped together. And I’m sure she’ll see it when I wear my high school graduation dress.
It hurt so much when she wished it were her instead. The lung collapse was spontaneous. None of this was her fault. But I knew that she was a mama who never wanted to see her girl in a hospital bed. And I was a girl who never wanted to see her mama cry like that.
Personally, it’s all in the scar.
A scar can be something the brave get when they face their greatest fears because they feel like they have to.
And that wasn’t just me who did that when my lung collapsed. That was also my mama.
I’d like to think that there’s a reason why it’s shaped like a C. And that C on my side will always be with me as I try to be more like her every day.
Genielysse Reyes is very excited to be part of the debut issue of Intersection Stories. She is a UCR alumna with a BA in creative writing and a BA in psychology. Her previously published works include a ten-minute play, short stories in Pomona Valley Review Issues 8 and 9, and the Guardian Princess picture book, Princess Leilani and the Lanu Tree. She will be pursuing a Masters in Fine Arts (MFA) in Writing for Children at Simmons College in Fall 2018