I broke down when a customer asked me if he could switch his fries from a large to a medium.
I’ve been working for ten days straight, and I’ve only been sleeping 4 hours a night. I am truly dissolving.
I kept asking Chris for a day off, I keep begging for my parents to let me stay home for a day, but neither one will budge.
But when he asked if he could change the large to a medium, even though I had already charged his card and handed him his receipt, and when I said “I’m so sorry, I’ve already charged your card.” He screamed for me to get my manager.
So I started crying.
And he yelled.
So Chris scurried over, refunded his order and charged it again, and sent me home.
I’ve been home for three days now. I got a note from my therapist, sent it into school so I could log on to class instead of walking in, and slept.
It’s my last day before I go back to school and work, and I want to finish Pearl’s chapter before I miss the chance.
The cursor stares at me now, questioning.
And for the first time in weeks, I’ve got it’s answers.
The houses circle around one great big tree, the one my grandmother, Isla, had planted when the island was first discovered.
Almost a century ago, this island was unknown to everyone but the spirits. It ran rampant with demons, sinking their teeth into the sands and sucking out the lives of every living creature that inhabited it.
When my grandmother first set sail, it was to escape the persecution of craft that she faced on the mainland. Everyday, the life of her and those like her were threatened, by stake and by fire, by pitchfork and by rope. All for the inherent magic of creation that she dared to control.
On the boat with her was her husband, Eric, and both their children. Following in rowboats was their combined, extended families, as well as a few friends who were also known to indulge in their talents.
They traveled for two days, only stopping offshore of a small island that was already inhabited by farmers, who agreed to hide them for the night after my grandmother aided in the abundance of their next harvest.
My family honed their talents into specialties, as all great witches do. My grandmother’s sister, Lydia, worked with animals, spending most of her days in the forest or chanting into the waves. Her other sister, Laila, taught spirit and soul-aiding spells to anyone that would listen, shared herbs and words that could change your luck and rid your house of bad energy.
My grandmother worked with plants. Forest and ocean lurkers alike, she had a way with them, a sweetness in her whispers that encouraged them to thrive.
After that night, they sailed straight from shore and toward the sun, where they had prayed to any god that would listen for a safe place to stay.
It was almost dusk when finally, my father saw what looked like a shore of promise.
“It was like the entire island was a shadow, the trees that towered over it, black and shady. Rocks seemed to be all that covered it’s edges, but Grandma thought, ‘So long as whatever in the middle is close to dirt and sand, we’ll be alright.’ The entire fleet erupted in cheers, waking their babies and their sisters and brothers. Everyone exhausted, everyone just wanting to be home, somewhere that offered us the option to live and create in peace. Wherever that meant home would be.”
When they hopped off their boats and onto their island, they discovered that the shadowy look of it wasn’t because of the sun. Every tree was black, every plant nearing death or already there.
“Turkeys stumbled around like one of their legs had been stolen, pigs couldn’t pick up their heads. Our island has never looked less peaceful.”
When Papa tells that part, it almost always makes me want to laugh.
I did once, and everyone turned to look at me, confused as to how I could laugh at something so cruel.
But my father laughed with me.
He cleared his throat to continue.
“Our founder, my mother, looked at them and say ‘This is our new home, and it’s already got a name.’ That is how we came to our island, Paraíso .”
It took years to become what it is. What it was.
The first year they dealt with the demons that failed their crops. My grandmother spent every night and every day reviving what she could, and raising everything else.
Protective spells, bordered fields, liquid repellents. Because of her efforts, they produced enough for themselves, for travelers, and other fleeing witches and their families.
As the island grew, their strength against its malicious and shadowed inhabitors did, too.
The animals multiplied in their pens and throughout the hills thanks to Lydia, Laila’s incantations over our shores kept us hidden from anyone without magic.
For years, we prospered in the peace that we had craved.
Five years ago, when I was 12 and Pear was 9, we were woken by Elias and Milo shaking our shoulders. Their hands were over our mouths, and Penelope was crying softly behind them.
“We have to go, NOW.”
Outside, something was burning purple. The only thing that burned that way was something touched by Laila’s words.
“What’s going on?” Pear was rubbing her eyes with the back of her hands.
“No time, we have to go.” Elias was packing my clothes in a sheet and wrapping them up, Milo was getting Pear into her shoes, and still, Penelope cried rigidly into her hands.
“Where are my parents?” I asked Elias.
He looked up and met my eyes with an answer that I didn’t have time to absorb.
“Okay.” Was all I said back. I helped him pack and I stuffed Pear’s things in with mine.
Pear took to comforting Penelope, whose cries were only getting louder.
Milo kept telling her to shut up, and Pear lunged. It was the quietest scuffle I’d ever seen them get into.
Elias grabbed his brother by the nape of his neck and I grabbed my sister by hers.
We became an overlap of angry whispers and insults, until we noticed that Penelope had gone completely quiet.
In the frame of the door that Elias had left open was a shadow black as the sky.
It held a slow pace that indulged in itself, edging closer to the purple glow of the flames just outside.
Elias and I raced to tackle it, but it threw us both down without a seconds’ hesitation.
The last thing I heard was Pear and Penelope’s scream.
We woke up after the sunrise, on the white beaches of Paraíso.
Elias’s head was on my arm, Pear and Penelope cradled each other in sleep, and Milo had found Arlene, all of them closer to the waves than Elias and I.
I scrambled up and turned toward our homes, all of it still raging in the flames I’d seen hours, days, weeks before?
However long it had been, we were the only ones who were left to see it.
When I jumped up, I’d thrown Elias off, and he was staring at it all in horror too.
He was quicker to peel away than I was.
He ran around, shaking all of them awake, pulling them around shore until they were able to stand themselves up.
Elias left me for last.
“Kitt,” he said it softly, as if anything louder would break me.
“It’s time to go, Kitt.”
I started to cry, and when he picked me up, I kicked.
I punched his chest and called his names, I left him bruised in a million ways.
But he got us to a boat, and rowed us out.
I stayed in the back end, watching Paraíso become again, the Shadow it once was.