Big, she said. Too big.
The water ran cold over my toe. I watched the dark hair, newly sprouted, on the knuckle of my toe move with it. I was, suddenly, embarrassed that I knew how to speak, that I wasn’t just an ape somewhere, howling alone.
You ask one thousand questions, Miss Babette laughed. Like an old, trained bird.
I held “old,” “trained,” and “bird,” in my head.
You are, Miss Babette said, then paused. Yes, a bird.
I still want a story, I said.
Stories are. Not for. Well, yes, Miss Babette said.
Please, I said. I heard myself child-like. It was a kind of begging that felt rabid and foaming in my mouth.
Yes, of course, Miss Babette balanced her two feet on a rock: statue. Yes, a story. A story is. Yes, let me think. Okay, yes. There is a story I can tell you. It’s about a girl. She lived in. Yes, she lived in a palace. The palace was. Yes, the palace was Versailles, but not Versailles. Just like it. Everywhere there were cushions and pillows. There were ninety rooms. It was a place you could. Yes, you could get lost. The girl had jewels. Jewels were. She had. She was.
A princess? I asked.
Yes, but no, Miss Babette said, not a princess, but rich. Rich with. All of it. Yes. Love, jewels. She had all of it. The girl grew. She became older. Her family, her lovely parents, called her beautiful. She was. Her hair was like. Yes, her hair was like straw. No, not straw. Not like a peasant. No, her hair was like corn. Yes, wheat and corn. She was. She spent every day lying on her cushions and pillows and dreaming. She became. She was bored. So, she wandered out of the
palace. She wandered into fields, yes. She met a boy in the fields. He was. Yes, he was like. He was full of. What do you think, Olga?
I searched for a word. Water, I said.
Yes, he was full of water. He was full. The girl with corn hair, she fell in love. Over her head in love. And the boy was over his head too. They walked. They felt like they shared a mind. Knew each thing that the other was. Yes, the other was thinking.
Miss Babette fingered her cheeks, picked and pulled at her skin.
Yes, they loved each other. Much. The girl’s parents. They were not. No, they were not happy. The father spotted the boy and the girl. He watched. Yes, he was. At night, the father and the mother held the girl and told her she could not see him. He was cursed. Yes, the boy was cursed. They told her. Yes, a boy is cursed, they said. She was too beautiful for. If touched, she could become. You see? But the boy and girl were in love. She snuck out to see him. Only in the nighttime. She never slept. She became tired. But all the girl was required to do was lie back on the cushions. The parents were happy. Their girl was not cursed, yes?
Yes, I said.
Yes, Miss Babette said. Yes, the parents were happy. They were. But the girl. She snuck to see the boy. And they kissed. They. One day, she came back to her palace and lay on her cushions. Suddenly, she was sick. Sick, sick. She threw up her breakfast. The parents came to watch her. The mother was. The father was. The girl threw up everything. She threw up her liver, and then her lungs. She threw up stomach, her kidneys. The girl was wailing. She begged. She threw up each organ, one by one, until her body was empty like a balloon, yes. Yes, an emptied balloon. She was just skin. There was nothing, yes. Inside of her. Finally, the girl threw up her heart. Everything smelled like. Her parents wept. Her father shook his fist. The curse. The girl