She had always liked her hands. Long, slender. “Artistic”, her mother had called them. She had been able to play the violin at 6 better than most people twice her age. She had never given a second thought to them before, but then again, no one had ever touched her like that before. No one had any reason to. She was pretty, she was smart, she was kind. No one had ever taken her hand and grimaced; shuddering as though she disgusted them; gripping her fingers so tightly that if they’d been her lungs, she’d be dead. Her smile faltered. She drew her hand back slightly, but Cecile clutched it tighter, long nails nearly digging into her soft skin.
-How old are you?
-Too much. There’s too much here for someone so young. You’re angry.
She stiffened, feeling her friends laugh nervously behind her. She smiled over her shoulder at them, flippant, not bothered. She was a duck, this was just water.
-So angry. This hand…you’ve been through hell and back.
She swallowed then, and this time it was harder to pretend.
-I guess. Maybe. Yeah.
She had only started this job a few weeks ago and this whole compulsory day of fun had been her bosses’ idea; his way of forging new relationships, or something. She had thought it would be funny, going into the tacky booth decorated with moons and stars. She didn’t believe people could tell her anything she didn’t already knew about herself, but now she was regretting ever setting foot in this too-hot tent. She could feel her friends’ eyes boring into her back; her skin started to heat up under their gaze. She liked the girls, but didn’t know them well enough to spill her life story to them. Hers had been a bit too sad at times and it had made her angry in a way that scared her; in a way that made her ball her hands into fists until her nails drew blood. Cecile looked up at her, satisfied.
– I thought so.
At home, she Googled palmistry, wondering whether it was true. If people could really stare into someone’s hand and tell the story of their existence. She read for hours; read the tips from online forums, read Wikipedia entries and translated pages from Chinese to English. She found out that your left hand showed your potential while your right hand depicted your current situation. She stared at her own palm, and after a while she began to see. She saw the islands signifying trauma, the ones Cecile had spoken about. She saw the breaks in the lines, she saw the chains. She looked from her computer to her hand, back and forth, back and forth like some perverted game of tennis; until her eyes become so tired she started seeing spots. She saw the squares that meant protection, and she smiled a little because she thought that maybe that meant her mum was still watching over her, just like she had promised all those years ago in an impersonal hospital room, the goodbyes disrupted by beeping and buzzing and people she didn’t know talking in low voices coming in and out of the room. She saw the stars which stood for crisis spread out over the pinky-white skin like so many constellations, and she started to remember.
She was eleven, and she was at the botanical museum. Her schoolmates milled around her while the exhausted teacher tried to take roll call. She wasn’t interested in roll call however, she wasn’t stupid enough to get lost. She wandered over to the display case nearest her, fingers pressed up against the cool glass. She knew she would leave smudges but she didn’t care today. Today, it was her first day back at school since what everyone kept referring to as ‘the accident’, even though she wished they wouldn’t. She knew what had happened, knew that she wouldn’t see her mum again. She had begged her gran to let her go on the excursion, because she couldn’t ask her dad. Her mum had signed the permission form weeks ago, and she had kept it in her pocket ever since. She kept it next to the lunchbox note from her dad, the one with a smiley face on it, along with a scrawl that said not to trade the sandwich for a packet of chips. Later, when she was older, she would realize that she had kept it as proof; proof that she had been loved; proof that her mum had once been alive, and that her dad had once been whole. Later, she would understand that little girls need an ammo pack to survive and those notes had been hers.
She gazed at the cut tree trunk in front of her, staring for so long at its’ rings that the tree started to grow before her, breaking through the case, through the ceiling and into the sky beyond. She gawked up at the tree it would have been. Do you know, she thought, what you will become? She felt sad suddenly, sad that all things die; that they all end up, one way or another, locked in a box somewhere.
Someone near her giggled and she looked up. A group was gathered around a case near her and she hurried to join them.
They sounded out the word together, cackling when they realized that the lump before them was actually frozen dinosaur poop. Her tiny nose wrinkled and she grinned at her friends as they wondered why anyone would keep something like that in a glass case. One of the boys said that one day their own poop would be in a glass case, and the girls shrieked and ran off, disgusted. She stayed near the case, though, near the boy. He looked at her, and she realized he was completely serious.
Her boyfriend clicked through the websites one by one, disbelieving, reading at the lightning pace she’s always been jealous of. He finished and smiled at her, shaking his head slightly.
-So you believe in this stuff now?
She shrugged, non-committal.
-Is it really so strange?
He sighed, and she knew that she wouldn’t convince him.
-It doesn’t matter.
She kissed him then as he tucked his arm around her, breathing him in. She played idly with his other hand, turning it over in her own, his palm facing hers. She traced his life line, his fate line, his heart line. She knew his story, but she didn’t need to read his palm to find it out. Her mind wandered to the boy from her primary school, his name might have been Kevin, the weird kid that no one really liked. She knew he had been kind of crazy, and hoped desperately that he wasn’t pooping in a backyard somewhere. Bizarrely, she also thought that he may have had a point. Not about the poop, she smiled to herself, but about how maybe we’re not so different from trees and dinosaurs after all. We breathe, we grow, we change, we live, we die. We all have a story, so why shouldn’t it show up in the lines on our hands? It’s a badge of honour, it’s your proof of life, it’s your dental records, it’s the smoking gun, it's the footprint on the moon, it's the tombstone epitaph, it’s the old bones dug up millions of years later. It’s all just notes from her parents in her ammo pack.
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