calliope, calliope 2016

Different

photo credits here.

by mavis teo

Chloe always knew she was different.

For one, there were the regular trips to the repair shop where big scary repair people fiddled around with her. Chloe never liked those trips but Mummy insisted it was necessary so she kept quiet and didn’t complain.

Whenever Isabel and Mummy and Daddy ate solid food, Chloe was only allowed to consume thin, oily liquid Mummy put into a bottle for her. The bottle was pink and pretty, with pictures of strawberries printed on it, but Chloe wished she could use a knife and a fork, like everyone else did.

Once, Chloe asked Isabel why she was different. Isabel looked strangely at her before whispering, “well, not everyone needs to be plugged into a wall charger when they sleep.” Chloe didn’t understand the whirring that went on around her when she slept, but Mummy said it was necessary and sometimes double-checked that she was indeed securely plugged in.

There was also the fact that other kids never really played with her at the playground, and when they did, their mummies and daddies were always quick to pull them away with guarded expressions and hushed whispers.

Mummy noticed and talked to those parents, but more often than not she ended up looking really angry. Sitting on the swing set, Chloe could almost hear what they were saying.

“I just don’t think it’s safe to have my child near yours.”

“I think we both know that she’s…different. It would be better if my little Jack stayed away.”

“I just want someone my kid can grow up with.”

Mummy slapped the woman for that last one and bought Chloe an ice cream cone. It was a trip to the repair person the next day. Mummy apologised and it was back to the oily liquid again.

And there was that time where they went to the beach and her sister, Isabel, splashed happily in the water, while Mummy prohibited her from even touching it.

“The salt water might rust your-“ Mummy stopped abruptly.

Chloe stroked her shiny backpack that she carried around everywhere, and looked longingly at the water.

“Is it because of my terminal canceo canceo monster?”

Chloe had heard the repair people say it to Mummy, but didn’t quite understand it.

Mummy got very still. “Yes”, she said, and her voice wobbled precariously. “It’s ok, go play with your sister.”

The next day, the first spots of reddish-brown appeared on Chloe’s oxygen canister.

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