Monday, January 21, 2013
1st 5 Pages January Workshop -- Goldstein Rev 2
Name: Lori A. Goldstein
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Fantasy
Title: BECOMING JINN
A chisel, a hammer, a wrench. A sander, a drill, a power saw. A laser, a heat gun, a flaming torch. Nothing cuts through the bangle. Nothing I conjure even makes a scratch.
I had to try, just to be sure. But the silver bangle encircling my wrist can’t be removed. It was smart of my mother to secure it in the middle of the night while I was asleep, unable to protest.
Though my Jinn ancestry means magic has always been inside me, the rules don’t allow me to begin drawing upon it until the day I turn sixteen. The day I receive my silver bangle. The day I officially become a genie. Today.
I slam my newly acquired accessory against my bedroom closet, leaving a rounded indent on the wood door. The pristine, gleaming metal mocks me. For the rest of my life, I’ll go where I’m told, perform on command, and do it all without question.
Barefooted, I can’t kick the pile of tools without impaling myself. I settle for shoving the saw and catch a reflection of myself in the blade. Right, how could I forget? I race to my bathroom and fling open the door. At the mirror, I inspect all the ways my body has been altered while my mind was unable to resist.
Always lanky, my form is now a study in angles. My cheekbones protrude like a shelf, the bones on my hips jut out, and my elbows are sharp like a sword. This is supposed to be attractive? I could double as the skeleton of a svelte supermodel.
I lay a finger on the bangle and push. Watching it spin around my thin wrist, I’m convinced I’m the exception. The bangle stimulates my body to reach full maturity. As an inherently attractive species, this tends to make us, well, hot. I don’t think it’s actually a quid pro quo thing (and if it is, we Jinn must be the most shallow of species), but then again, I’m not privy to the inner workings of the Afrit, the council that rules over our Jinn world.
My birthday falls during the summer, not that I think the HITs (humans in training, aka teenagers) I go to school with would likely question this new and improved Azra Nadira staring back at me. More popular newbie Jinn whose makeovers go beyond what can be explained away by a superior salon or skilled plastic surgeon actually have to change schools. Guess there are benefits to not being popular.
I upend the basket next to the sink. A pair of nail clippers clanks against the marble counter, landing in between dental floss and a barely used compact of blush.
I knew this was coming. Click. I grew up knowing this was coming. Click. But still a part of me believed something would stop it. Click. Maybe my mother would finally realize I was serious. Click. I’ve been begging her to find a way around me having to become a genie since I was old enough to understand what the word “destiny” meant. Click. Maybe the Afrit would decide my well-honed lack of enthusiasm was an insult to the long line of Jinn from which I descend. Click. Maybe they’d take one look at me and realize that, for the first time in Jinn history, powers should skip a generation. Click.
I turn on the faucet and watch with satisfaction as the tips of the long nails that replaced my short ones overnight swirl around the basin and disappear down the drain.
Peeking out from under the overturned basket is the pointy end of a pair of scissors. The spot of blood that rushes to the surface of my finger as I pull them out confirms they’re sharp enough.
Running away was never an option. Snip. I found that out when I was ten, twelve, and fourteen. Snip. My Jinn blood is the equivalent of a permanent tracking device. Snip. And now it’s not just my mother who can find me anywhere, anytime. Snip. The Afrit will be watching. Snip. If I refuse to grant wishes, if I screw up, if I expose our Jinn world to humans, I will be extracted from this human life I’m pretending to live. Snip. I’ll be committed to a life of solitary confinement on the island where the Afrit rub their hands together and cackle as they toy with us Jinn pawns. Snip. It’s not a death penalty. Snip. As much as it may feel like it is. Snip.
A blanket of dark espresso hair surrounds my feet. I’ve sheared off the three inches that are new since yesterday and then some. The color, which morphed from mouse to mink while I slept, is an exact match for my mother’s. That can stay. The sheen helps the chin-length bob I’ve given myself look halfway decent.
They can make me grant wishes, but they can’t dictate what I’m going to look like while doing it.
I splash water on my face and can feel the length of my eyelashes. The gold flecks in my eyes have consumed the hazel. The new color is an exact match not only for the color of my mother’s eyes but for the color of all Jinn’s eyes. And I can’t have that.
Lucky for me, my learning curve with this conjuring thing has been fast. One crooked wrench, one inoperable lighter, and one unrecognizable reciprocating saw preceded the plethora of tools turning my bedroom into a hardware store. And in all fairness, the mangled saw is more because I have no idea what a reciprocating saw actually looks like.
Just as I did when conjuring each tool, I steady my breathing, tune my ears to the beat of my heart, which pumps my Jinn blood at a rate closer to that of hummingbirds than humans, and close my eyes. I picture a pair of transparent contacts tinted dark brown. Having a perfect image of the object is key to conjuring.
An icy tingle snakes through my body. I shiver. My body craves heat. In all the ways I take after my mother — in all the ways I take after all Jinn — an intolerance for cold is the one that bothers me the least.
I concentrate until a bead of sweat forms on my upper lip and the slimy lenses float in a sea of saline in the palm of my hand.
Before I use them to mask my amber eyes, I flutter my long lashes and pucker my full lips, an attempt at being sexy that looks as awkward as it feels. Forget it. I plant my face an inch away from the mirror. With my index finger on my top lid and my thumb on my bottom, I create a larger bullseye for the brown contact. My first attempt sends the lens down the drain. After conjuring another one, I force myself not to blink. I’m successfully affixing the lens to my eyeball when I notice my fingernails are once again long. And red.
My chopped, dark brown hair shoots past my chin, flies down my neck, and leaves my collarbone in the dust. Post bangle, pre haircut, it brushed my shoulders. It now lands mid-boob (the only part of me that seems to have escaped a growth spurt). The gold of my eyes deepens and shimmers until my irises resemble balls of compacted glitter.
Apparently the Afrit can dictate what I look like. I dump the contact lenses in the trash under the sink. I give up.
I dive into my bed and burrow under the soft down of my comforter, grateful for its instant warmth. I ignore the sound of the dog barking somewhere outside and concentrate on the sweet smell of the lilacs in perpetual bloom in our backyard. I will myself to fall back to sleep. Even if I can’t sleep, I can still choose to skip today.
All I have to do is stay in bed. All I have to do is not open my eyes. All I have to do is pretend. Fortunately, being skilled in pretending is another way in which I take after my mother, another way in which I take after all Jinn.
I turn toward the open window and breathe in the lilacs. Along with the fragrance comes the pollen. Along with the pollen comes the coughing. Along with the coughing comes the involuntary opening of my eyes.
Who am I kidding? I can’t skip today. I don’t have that kind of control. The bangle assures that I never will.
I crawl out of bed and shed my pajamas, dropping them on top of the drill. Of course the black tank top I pull over my head and down my newly elongated torso is too short. As I move, the hem plays a game of peekaboo with my belly button, an unintentional homage to the midriff-baring genies of fairy tales and fantasies.
I rummage through the top drawer of my bathroom vanity until I find an elastic and the pair of bug-eyed sunglasses my mother bought for me last year. I gather my hair into a ponytail and hide my gold eyes behind the tinted shades. It’s summer. Well, almost summer. In New England, summer doesn’t debut until July. And only if we’re lucky. June is always a tease. Still, with tenth grade in the rearview mirror, I can camouflage my new look this way until school starts again. By then, no one will remember what I used to look like.
As if that’s a valid concern. I could walk into calculus tomorrow with rainbow-colored dreadlocks and half the class wouldn’t even blink an eye. Being invisible is something I’ve learned all on my own.