Seven Things That Oughtn’t Cut Me
By Jessi Cole Jackson
They say troll girls appear only in brilliant shades of armored green. Their skin is faceted, unpierceable, and gleams in the sunlight like emeralds. They say we cannot be drab or fragile. They say we cannot bleed.
1. A volleyball, round and hurtling. I jump to smack it down and a jagged edge of the plastic air hole catches the skin of my palm. It tears. I wipe the smeared blood on the spandex of my shorts, already damp from sweat.
2. Rhys, smelling of rum and cheetos. He kisses my sore hand, before moving to my arm, then neck, then mouth. His kisses are sloppy, wet and sticky, but he is a golden fae boy and I am a greenish troll girl, so I let him keep kissing until he blacks out. When he comes to, we emerge from our kissing closet, and no one believes he hasn’t just had me, we were away from the party for so long. He smirks and let them keep their beliefs. I smile at the secret we share.
The next day he ignores me, brushing past in the hall.
3. A perfect score in French. I move to tuck the successful quiz away, before the others see and mock me. Troll girls shouldn’t be so smart, but here I am doing twice as well as my kin. In my haste to hide the quiz, the edge of the paper grazes my wrist. I hiss at the sharp pain of the small cut, then dab away the tiny dots of bubbled blood.
4. Gwendolyn, sharing a secret. She tells her faery sisters that I hide my mother’s locket, embedded with a single onyx stone, in the toe of a crumpled sock in my locker while at practice. The thieves steal the necklace, melt it down, and reset the stone. Gwen wears a 24-karat blob with a tiny onyx bit around her neck, proof of her wealth and nature. She shrugs when I accused her and does not care that she lost me.
5. Pebbles at the zoo. I speed past the zebra enclosure, dodging a happy, shining family of vibrant green trolls. My mind loops at the last time I was at the zoo with my class. We were still children. The others compared me to a crocodile. Dull, olive skin, bumpy and hard.
I veer too close to the edge of the path, trip on a stick, and fall. Gravel tears through my pants, then the skin of my knee, but I jump up and resume running. My leggings soak up the blood.
6. My mother’s note. She left for the airport, booked a flight for the old country. She cannot stand cohabitation with the short-lived mortal any longer, in this world where fae and human and trolls mix. She leaves me behind with my human father, believing I am more like him than her. He is the reason my skin is more moss than emerald. He is the reason I grow too quickly, age too fast. He is the reason I am weak. She cannot stand the thought of watching me die in a short eighty years, so she left before becoming attached.
7. A safety pin. Gripped in my hand, one hard-pressed swipe and Mom disappears from my swirling, ceaseless thoughts. Another, for Gwen. One for Dad, two for Rhys, more for school and maturing and failures. I carve into the flesh of my thigh and hush the chaos inside me. I am nothing but a moment and a small, controlled throb. And I am at peace.
Until I finish. And then I rub my torn flesh with alcohol, cover it with a bandaid and crumple, more broken than ever before.
They say troll girls’ thick, impenetrable skin mirrors our thick, impenetrable souls. They say our hearts cannot be pierced with sorrow or slashed by pain or torn by uncertainty. They say we cannot bleed.
If we cannot bleed, we cannot heal.
But beneath the bandaid I wear proof that I can.
About the Author
About the Narrator
Dagny Paul is a lapsed English teacher, failed artist, and sometimes writer who lives in New Orleans, Louisiana. She has an unhealthy (but entertaining) obsession with comic books and horror movies, which she consumes whenever her six-year-old son will let her (which isn’t often).