Growing Pains: Elena´s Needle

I am playing on the thick woolly carpet that loops tightly onto itself. I roll on it, move my body from side to side, feeling its softness, its itchiness all along my back, entangling my fingers in it, creating a kind of hypnotic dance to myself in time to the music blaring from the television.

My two little brothers are sitting right up close to the screen. 

Fairground Attraction is performing on Top of the Pops. 

I don´t need to look at the telly, the images from the big black box mean nothing, instead, I suck the lyrics into my imagination. I am happy, I am just doing my thing.

Musical interlude: 

Cats are crying, gates are slammin’

The wind is howling ’round the house tonight

I’m as lonely as a boat out on the sea

When the night is black and the tide is high

Oh, on nights like this

I feel like falling….

A bird begins to fly through the song lyrics, the carpet turns into a green lawn that stretches on forever. It flies up high, above the suburban houses, above the city with all its industrial revolutionary architecture. It glides over the glistening river and keeps going until reaching the moors and the forest. It soars through the tall trees and gently lands on the window sill of a small triangle cabin. Peering through the window, it sees a little girl sitting on the floor, lacing her shoes. 

Every night she goes out and chases fireflies across her lawn, beyond the front gate and into the forest, sometimes she dances with them or it looks that way as she leaps into the air, twirls and dives to catch the dancing lights. She never succeeds in catching them, she doesn’t want to, because when she does, their glow dims. It’s the chase she loves. This very night, the wind is howling and the gate is banging. It isn’t a perfect night to find fireflies, but she goes out anyway, at least to shut the gate. She comes back, kicks off her shoes and sits down on a patterned rug in front of a little fire. She picks up an embroidery ring and begins to sew into it with red thread. The bird moves closer to the window to get a better look, accidentally tapping the glass with its beak. The noise disturbs her and she drops her needle onto the rug. The bird backs up and flies back. 

Top of the pops finishes. My brothers are restless. My dad´s girlfriend is upstairs getting ready to go out. Dad´s at work. 

She’s in a hurry. She tells us to turn off the tv and as I stand up and cross the carpet, I feel a terrific shooting pain through my left foot. I scream in agony. I can’t stand up. She rushes down the stairs and examines my fatal injury. She looks at me like I’m being ridiculous and says I´ve just got pins and needles for sitting on the floor too long. She hurriedly puts my shoes on. I just can´t. I cry so hard and plead with her to stop.

“Do you want to go to the hospital? Do you?” I sniffle ”No Lainey”. “There’s nothing wrong with you. Let’s go”. 

Back in the cabin, the little girl is crawling on her hands and knees on the rug, searching every inch of it. Her stepmother will be furious at her for losing it. It was a special needle handed down the generations. However, the needle had not yet been willingly handed to Elena. She still had some time to find it as the dance competition wasn’t for another week. The competition was very important. All the dancers from the surrounding villages were competing. If she won the prize money, she could pay off all her stepmother´s debts. The needle was required to hem Elena´s costume, and secret words would be written inside it ensuring that she would win at all costs. Elena hides the embroidery ring and continues searching for the needle. 

I hobble around the shopping centre, I wobble across the playground, I suck at sports. I lose my balance in ballet class and squint at the pain when I forget and press down on the ball of my foot. My feet turn outwards. I do a mean Charlie Chaplain impression. I eventually give up ballet and learn to sew.

My left foot lies on Lainey´s lap. She presses her nails into my verruca. As she squeezes harder and harder, I pass out. I hear a tapping at the window and I float towards it and hand the bird my needle. Now rusty and covered in pus, the needle lies between its beak and it flies off. 

She’s still there on the carpet. No time has passed at all since the moment she discovered the needle was missing. The bird taps at the pane until she comes up to the window and gasps “Oh what a beautiful little bird, what do you have there for me?” It drops the needle in her little palm and she uses her handkerchief to wipe away the strange mucus, polishing the pointy object until it shines gold. “My needle!” she shrieks quietly, trying not to draw attention to herself. My dear bird, how can I repay you? It sings as if it can’t speak but she listens and understands its request. She disappears out of the room, returns with the embroidery ring, and holds it up to the glass. It’s an intricately embroidered portrait of a young girl with my eyes. 

Photograph taken of sculpture and illustration from my Growing Pains project: Exploring my childhood through fiction and fairytale.

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