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Nocturnal Journal #4
Fiction & Poetry Newsletter by Ecem Yucel
The Ballad of the False Madonna
She worked as a clerk
in a jewellery store,
like a dull, cheap glass
among the brightest diamonds.
Nobody really looked at her,
all eyes were on the jewels,
which she’d select and show
to each day’s customers.
She wasn’t a musician,
an artist or a poet;
she had no boyfriend,
no friends, no family,
always tried to walk inside
the lines of morality,
there never was a day
she gave into ecstasy.
Yet, she desired bigger things
than the life had given;
she’d do anything, even drink
a case of belladonna
to rip her cocoon open,
to shed her underdog persona,
and shine bright to steal the eyes
and hearts, like a madonna.
One day, as she closed the store,
being all alone,
her eyes on the diamonds,
she thought, why shouldn’t I?
I’ve always lived my life
like a consumed star,
why shouldn’t I take them
for myself and fly?
She took them out of their case,
the ring, the tiara, the bracelet,
the earrings shone like a chandelier,
and so did the exquisite necklace.
With admiration, she caressed
and wore all the diamonds,
then watched herself in the mirror:
amazed, liberated, reckless.
This is how it should’ve been,
she thought, with pride and joy,
as she basked in the afternoon sun,
glowing, laughing loudly,
and stood at the edge of a roof,
ignoring the police completely:
For once, I’m higher
and brighter than anybody.
With all eyes on her, she gazed
at the sparkling diamonds,
knowing her time was up,
smiling bravely, she leapt:
as she fell like a stone,
bystanders screamed and wept,
she heard those poor creatures
and laughed with contempt.
The fear of how hard she’d hit
the ground was beyond her;
as she only lived in the moment
and the future was still far.
Now, gliding across the dusk,
she was a real star,
ablaze with diamonds,
in the orange sky.
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
“Is this even necessary?” her best friend Maggie asked Lucy.
“I wanna ask him, that’s all,” said Lucy. “Sarah wants to ask him and she’s giving me an opportunity to ask together, once for all. She thinks it’ll be fair for both of us and he can choose fair and square.”
“I don’t understand this,” said Maggie. “You know, we were supposed to be studying math now. Math, I can understand. But you, competing with Sarah for a boy–”
“At least I’ll know how he feels. Then I can focus on math.”
“Will you also be able to focus on math after he chooses you?”
A stupid smile spread to Lucy’s face. “You think he’ll choose me instead of Sarah?”
“No, I’m just stating a possibility that has a twenty-five percent chance to come true,” said Maggie.
“Twenty-five percent?” asked Lucy with a distressed look on her face. “You think Sarah has seventy-five percent chance?”
“No, she also has twenty-five percent chance. Look, there are four ways this can go down, which all have twenty-five percent chances each: he may choose you, he may choose Sarah, he may already have a girlfriend or may not be looking for any girlfriends right now. It’s simple math, really.”
Lucy rolled her eyes. “Yeah, yeah…” she murmured.
Maggie didn’t seem to care for her facial expression. “Just tell me,” she continued, “if he chooses you, will you be able to focus on our studies? You didn’t lose sight of our space dream, did you?”
“Come on Mags, of course I didn’t,” replied Lucy impatiently. “We’ll still be the greatest astronauts this world will ever see. We’re gonna go out there and discover all the mysteries; we’ll even sacrifice our lives to enter a black hole and see what awaits on the other end. Maybe we’ll discover a new universe, new planets, new stars — things other scientists wouldn’t know about.” Her voice ended up giving her enthusiasm away.
“I’m glad you didn’t forget about our aim,” said Maggie smugly, looking at her over her glasses.
“No, I didn’t, and I’m not gonna,” said Lucy, hastily. “It’s just a boy, Mags, though a very handsome one. And you know becoming an astronaut takes so much work and time — who knows how many years we have ahead to go to space? We’re still thirteen and we’re too young to limit our lives only to our studies and space dream. There are other things.”
“You’re doing that again,” said Maggie with a sour expression on her face.
“Doing what?” asked Lucy.
“Just wait till you meet a boy you like, then you’ll understand.”
“I hope I won’t,” replied Maggie.
Sarah came to meet them at the cafeteria. She had long, naturally blonde wavy hair reaching her waist and baby blue, beautiful eyes. Discouraged at the sight of her, Lucy thought of her own traits: short, dark chestnut hair and hazel eyes. She was shorter than Sarah and didn’t carry the school uniform as elegantly as Sarah did, yet she knew she wasn’t that bad to look at.
“Okay, here he is,” said Sarah, excitedly. Her eyes were stuck on a tall, sandy-haired, handsome boy who was talking and laughing with his friends. “Are we doing this or not?”
“Yeah we are,” murmured Lucy. Her eyes were also on him.
“May the best girl win,” said Sarah. Then, she turned to Lucy. “And no matter what happens, no hard feelings, okay? We’ll still be friends.”
“Of course, don’t be silly,” said Lucy. She knew they both meant it, but she couldn’t resist thinking if it’d really turn out true.
“Just get done with it, will you, our recess is about to end,” said Maggie impatiently over her math book.
Lucy took a deep breath and hurried along with Sarah since she already started toward the person of their mutual attraction. When they arrived at his side, Lucy nervously reached and touched him on the shoulder. Her fingers could feel his warmth over his shirt, which was enough to conjure butterflies to fly around in Lucy’s stomach.
In a split second, Sarah looked at Lucy’s hand on the boy’s shoulder with an annoyed or a jealous expression — Lucy couldn’t decide which. Then she got one step closer to the boy, leaving Lucy in her shadow, and talked quickly as he returned to face them.
“Hi, Jackson, can you spare a minute?”
Jackson looked at the girls with a slightly surprised expression on his face. “Yeah, sure,” he said. “What can I do for you?”
“Can we talk in private?” Sarah added, looking at the other boys who kept talking among each other. Lucy felt stupid not being able to say anything.
“Okay,” said Jackson, keeping his surprised look, and walked toward a respectively quiet corner of the cafeteria with the girls following behind.
“Well, what’s up?” asked Jackson. “Do I know you two?”
“Oh, we forgot to introduce ourselves!” said Sarah, and giggled. Her giggle made Lucy nauseous. She always liked Sarah’s way of laughing, so why was it bothering her so much now?
“Sorry about it,” continued Sarah in a cheerful tone. “My name is Sarah, and this is Lucy.”
“Nice to meet you, Sarah and Lucy,” said Jackson with a smile that melted both girls’ hearts. Lucy forced herself to say something, she couldn’t leave the talking to Sarah and stand there like a mute person. Therefore, before Sarah could say anything else, she gathered her all courage and interfered, “Nice to meet you too. We… we want to ask you something. We were just wondering… that if you were to date one of us… who would it be?”
Jackson looked at them with widened eyes. “Come again? Is that a hypothetical question?”
“No, it’s not actually,” said Sarah quickly, like she wanted to take the control of the conversation back. Lucy clenched her teeth as Sarah continued, “We both like you, and we’re asking you to choose one of us to date.”
“Unless you already have a girlfriend,” added Lucy with a slightly blushed face.
Jackson gaped at them for a few seconds. “No, I don’t have a girlfriend,” he mumbled. Hearing this, the girls shared a tiny triumphant glance.
“So, which one of us you’d choose?” asked Sarah excitedly.
Jackson looked at both girls, one by one, scrutinizing. Both girls smiled at him like they were hoping their smiles would help him choose. Still, Lucy couldn’t help feeling like she was some kind of merchandise, sitting on a shelf, waiting to be chosen over the new, flashy merchandise right next to her. She didn’t like it. Why the hell was she doing this? It was an idiotic thing to do.
The bell rang before Jackson could come to any decision. Lucy felt relieved; she’d realized she didn’t want to get rejected in front of Sarah. Something in her chest — pride, Lucy thought — was now strongly repressing the flutters of the butterfly wings in her stomach.
“Okay, tell me your classrooms,” said Jackson upon hearing the bell. “I’ll think about it during the class, then visit you in your classrooms in the next recess to let you know.”
“What happened?” asked Maggie when Lucy returned to the classroom.
“He’ll let us know during the next recess,” said Lucy, shortly.
“He’s an idiot,” said Maggie.
Lucy didn’t argue with her. She had a hunch Sarah’s irresistible golden hair and baby blue eyes overshadowed her, and Jackson wouldn’t choose her. He just didn’t want to say it to her face.
Nobody came to the classroom to visit Lucy in the next recess. Sitting next to her, Maggie seemed very absorbed in her science book, so Lucy didn’t say a word, thinking this was a good chance to practice hiding her sadness.
“Hey, Lucy!” Sarah ran into her classroom as the bell rang. Her eyes were sparkling and her face was pink. She was glowing. Lucy found her even more beautiful than the previous recess, which felt like a slap on the face.
“So, he picked you, huh?” said Lucy with a dry voice.
“Yeah, but only because he was noticing me too,” Sarah said, showing her full set of white teeth.
“Then I never had a chance,” mumbled Lucy.
“Look, we have no hard feelings, right? You’re one of my closest friends.”
Lucy looked at her face. Sarah’s concern seemed sincere. “No, of course, I’m happy for you,” said Lucy, forcing a wide smile, genuine enough to make Sarah believe. “I’m thrilled, Sarah. The best girl won and who am I kidding, you’re always the best. Also, I don’t think I liked him as much as you do, so it’s fair.”
“Really?” Sarah asked, wanting to believe.
“Really!” said Lucy with her smile still on.
“You better go, Sarah, our teacher is at the door,” interrupted Maggie.
“Oh, yes,” said Sarah glancing at the door. “Thank you, Lucy!” She kissed Lucy’s cheek and ran out. Lucy’s eyes followed her to the door; then she fixed them on her lap to hide her tears behind her eyelashes.
“He’s a coward,” said Maggie suddenly in a low voice, as their teacher walking to his desk. “If he already had feelings for Sarah, he should’ve said it so to your face. He shouldn’t have made you wait for one more hour, hoping he’d come. At least, he should’ve come here to tell you in person. He’s just a stupid, selfish boy, who has no manners. That’s why I prefer losing myself in a black hole, rather than falling in love with stupid boys like him.”
Lucy wiped her tears with the back of her hand.
“Thanks, Mags,” she said. “I needed to hear this.”
Then she pretended to listen to whatever their teacher talked about.
In the middle of the class, Maggie put a drawing in front of Lucy. Her drawing ability had always amazed Lucy, but this was something else. As Lucy looked at her own drawn version, she could feel a genuine smile flickering on her face. Maggie drew her as she was floating in the space elegantly, in a beautiful, light blue, sparkling dress instead of a spacesuit, smiling. Countless, diamond-shaped stars surrounded her. For a moment, Lucy couldn’t understand why Maggie drew the stars in that kind of shape –being inaccurate wasn’t Maggie’s thing.
Then she read the note under the drawing. The name of Lucy’s favourite song.
Lucy in the sky with diamonds.
Lucy turned to smile big to Maggie, both with her face and heart.
Thanks for reading! If you’d like to read more poetry from me, please check out my new poetry book ‘The Anguish of an Oyster’ here.
You can also check my website for more information.