In the Wings

My skin tingles.
Laughter, a little bubble, rises in my throat.
It’s not haha laughter.
It’s the laughter of babies
Who giggle when they’re delighted,
Chuckle when they’re amazed,
And gurgle when they’re enchanted.

The Fairy Queen,
Foremost Conjuror of the Land,
has finished her performance.
She bows to thunderous applause,
Roars of appreciation.

The Fairy Queen,
my mother,
is magnificent.


“Come on!” I mutter. “Come on, come on, come on!”

The curtains draw closer, still closer, even closer.
But I wait.
I know –
And yes.
They fly open to delight the audience with one last
glimpse of the Fairy Queen.
She blows kisses to the crowd.
“Thank you!” she calls out. “Thank you!”
My heart swells.

How does she know?
How does she know what will please the audience?
Sparkly lights, a billowing cape, black velvet gloves . . .
(Uff! In the heat of Yuvnagar?)
She holds them
– and me –
In the palm of her hand.

And finally,
the curtains fly shut.

The show is over.


I run on to the stage.
“That was . . . Mom, you’re spectacular!”
She drops a curtsey,
Even though she’s dressed in slacks and a cape.
I want to learn those tricks! All of them. I –

Wait. You’re not going to teach me, are you?
You’re not going to teach me the best one,
where you spin and come back as someone else?
Like some sort of shapeshifter?”

I look at her face
And I know her answer.
I’ll tell you when you’re older.
I scowl.
I’m twelve.
Not six.

“GAHH!” I stamp my foot.

I know.
Sometimes, I behave like I’m six,
Not twelve.
But that’s my mother’s fault.
She and her secrets.

Excerpted with permission from Uncontrollable, Varsha Seshan, Duckbill.