Lionheart Magazine, Shapes issue, 2013. Original article.
My knight and I
At night I curl up in the bed and twist my arms around my legs, one hand grabbing an ankle with a knee hiked to my forehead. The city is my nightlight, slipping past the curtain to make shapes on the floor. I listen to the rustle of distant traffic with closed eyes, and within moments I’m asleep. I’m a big girl now, even tangled up in the foetal position, and I no longer have wolves at the door.
When I was a kid, monsters would come when I turned the light off to sleep. Playful cartoon creatures would grow dark and menacing at night, looming in the corners. Fairytales my grandma told me, over the smell of familiar dishes in her warm kitchen, would turn on me at night. In the stories, trolls living under bridges were pushed into the water, and wicked fairy godmothers were split in halves by brave knights. But at night they came back to life, turning my blood to ice.
During the day the imaginary monsters slept. I would walk home from school, glancing over my shoulder in case the mean boys were around. They didn’t hit me very often. Mostly they would shout, but I could barely hear a word for the thud-thud-thud of my heart pounding inside my chest. I don’t remember much anymore, but if I close my eyes I can put myself in those little shoes and let the feeling rush in all over again.
Putting one small foot in front of the other I used to walk home, locking myself in the house until my parents came home from work. They would make dinner, and the three of us would eat together at the old, wooden kitchen table. Then later they would read me stories, where knights in shining armour made sure the witches met with their deserved end. But at night the creatures roamed free. I left the bedside light on and pulled the covers over my head, and lay there stiff and scared to breathe until sleep came.
This is a very long time ago now, and I hardly ever think about it anymore. Remembering used to make me feel helpless, but as I’ve grown up the sentiment has changed. When I dive into the memory now it’s less often as the girl – instead I’m the knight, having stepped out of the fairytale to put the world right. In my armour I slay the evil goblins and toss them into the river, watching as they thrash against the rocks, whispering: ‘Who’s ugly now?’
The birthmark I’ve always had on my thigh used to be exactly in the middle, but now it’s sitting three-quarters of the way up. I’m still in the same skin, but my bones have grown. For each thing that changes, it seems, there’s something that stays the same. The skin around my eyes shows my age, but I peer down at my feet and they look exactly the same as they always did: stubby toes, puffy on top. The little girl has found her knight in shining armour, and it turns out it was me all along.