Summary: "I gave up on pity a long time ago."
You learned how to walk in the sand. It blew over your face and your arms, between your teeth and into your eyes. There were trees clumped together and close to the ground like old men telling stories by the fire. It would get so hot that the air would waver, and bend, like a dancer. Wind swept in, across Lake Victoria, and rain rolled from the mountains. It would slip in through the cracks in your roof, onto your face at night as you slept. Your mother would sing to you, and push back your hair. You were a lucky child, they said over and over, touching the white locks that fell around your face, even then. Your father was tall and proud, and your mother loved you very much. She made you necklaces of shells and wood, and told you all of her stories. You don’t remember them now, though you wish you did, but you can still hear her voice – the rumbling, tumbling way it rolled through the soft sounds of her language. Your first language, though you remember very little.
You were still so young when you left the village. That day your neighbors waved you all away, and your grandfather cried, without making any noise. You wonder now if he might have known, might have seen what would happen. He’s the one who gave you that knife, and told it to take care of you as he pressed it into your palm. He told you that you might need it, and kissed your father on his cheek before you left. None of the dogs followed the car as it drove away, and it made your mother uneasy. You could tell by the way she held your hands so tightly.
Two weeks later, you learned fear, and the taste of blood. Your mother died with her arms around you, and you screamed for days. The only thing you could see was your father’s foot, sticking out beneath a pile of rubble not a foot away. The rescue workers found you a week after the building collapsed. They gave you a blanket and some stitches, and tried to put you in a bed at the hospital. The room was too small, though, the walls too close together and so you climbed out the window and didn’t come back.
You learned how to pick pockets in the city. There were so many voices there that in the early days it hurt your ears. You wore a veil, and sneakers, and you ran through the bazaar as fast as you could. Your hands were quick and your pockets hidden and deep; you didn’t go hungry half as often as you should have. You learned how to make the most of a convenient shadow – how to disappear into it and sit so still that even the small animals that lived in those crooked alleyways paid you no mind.
You lived that way for three years. You have never told anyone all the things you saw. You never will, but sometimes at night tears leak out of your eyes, unbidden, as you dream of things you’ve lived.
When you were thirteen you called the lightning for the first time. It came to you quickly, filled your body, and flowed through your fingertips. You were so angry, but you can’t remember why. It may have been a thousand reasons. You do remember the look on the policeman’s face as a jagged bolt of white electricity landed a foot away from him. You remember the wind whipping around you, picking up tents and wares, and flinging them at the old mud walls like you’d wanted to do so often. You remember running as they chanted ‘witch’ and followed you, and you remember the rains that fell as you hid. How the earth shook as you did, curled in on yourself. You were so afraid – more afraid of the closed space you found yourself in than the things they would have done if they’d found you.
You thought you were free when you came to New York. You thought you were safe, until you learned their language. Until you could hear the things they said when you walked past on the street, until you could understand what they meant when they called those words. You were sixteen when you lost your control for the first time. You split the road wide open, making the tall buildings around you tremble and in came the wind, just as it had before, pulling and snatching at the bodies of the men who tried to hurt you and Jean. It pushed them backward, kept them away long enough for you to escape. Jean had gasped, and watched you, her eyes wide.
“Someone could have been hurt, ‘Ro,” she said, sounding shocked.
You knew she was right – you knew better than she did what people who hated could do to one another. After all, you had hated before and she never had. You may never have stopped, you know, but it doesn’t matter what you’ve felt. Only what you’ve done, and what you’ve done is your best. You’ve done your best for people who will never love you, who will never trust you, who may never forgive you for being who and what you are. You’ve kept the humans as safe as you can, but not for them. You’ve kept them safe for yourself, and for Jean, and for the professor, and for Scott and the children. You’ve risked your life for them, so that they will not hate you. So that they won’t kill you, and the people you love.
And now Kurt sits before you, and he is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen. Not because of the lines that curl and wave across his skin, not because of his eyes and how they shimmer with gold, or because of the way his face curves when he smiles, though they make you catch your breath. What’s beautiful about him is that he is an innocent, truly. He is kind, and he is good, and he can love simply and with his whole heart. He speaks to you of pity, he tells you that the humans are afraid. He tells you the only way to end this is to love them.
You say nothing. You just smile, and touch his face, his soft, sweet face. He turns into your touch, seeking your hand with his lips. He cups your hand, and whispers your name. Somehow he makes everything sound like a prayer, like a statement of faith, like a benediction. You close your eyes, and you lean toward him. You let him wrap his arms around you briefly, and then you kiss his lips.
You kiss him gently. You kiss him because you have to. You kiss him to stop his words. They make no sense to you.