“A Perfectly Normal, Ordinary Life” by John B. Rosenman
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Jimmy’s wife has a secret.
Please enjoy our Feature Story: “A Perfectly Normal, Ordinary Life” by John B. Rosenman
She was letting down her hair so to speak, just being herself when Jimmy came home unexpectedly from work. She hurried to put things back, but it was too late. He opened the door and stood staring at her. Just staring.
Finally, he closed the door behind him and came toward her. His gaze never left the glistening gold wings that fanned the air of the living room.
“Ariel,” he said, “what are those things on your shoulders?”
Later, she berated herself for not thinking quicker on her feet. She could have said they were wing attachments she’d made for Cassie’s Christmas school play. A stretch since Cassie was only five and the wings were so big. But if she’d told him sincerely enough, Jimmy would have believed her.
But she’d drawn a blank and simply shrugged. “My wings.”
His mouth fell open. “Your wings?”
Perhaps she’d been tired of hiding the truth and wanted someone—especially her spouse—to know it. Jimmy had raised his hand to touch her wings, then stopped.
“They look real.”
Again, she could have denied the truth and fabricated some story. Instead, she said, “They started growing when I was about twelve, when I entered puberty.”
His cheek twitched nervously, and he walked slowly around her. She felt him gingerly touch her wings where they grew from her shoulder blades. “Holy God,” he said in disbelief. “They are real.”
He faced her again, looking completely bewildered. “How is this possible?” he asked. “Are you a freak or what?”
That hurt. She shrugged. “Or what,” she tried to joke.
Jimmy didn’t laugh. “I can’t believe this. You’ve hidden this from me for years. How is it possible? When I hold you, when we make love, you’re completely normal.”
She sighed. Her secret had been such a burden. It was a great relief to tell him.
“If I concentrate,” she said, “close my eyes and imagine my wings growing, then they do. It just takes a minute, and the same time to make them disappear.” She didn’t mention they were too weak for her to fly.
His disbelief changed to something else. Now he looked disgusted. “It’s sickening and wrong. And you had no right to keep this from me.”
Sickening and wrong? Who was he to talk? She looked at his eyes. The right one was brown; the left one, green. Like mismatched marbles, they belonged in different faces.
“I’m sorry,” she said.
He rubbed his brow. Would he shout his disgust and leave her? She’d always been afraid of that. Or perhaps he’d expose her difference to the world. If so, she might learn if there were others like her, though that would involve huge dangers.
“I think it’s a genetic thing,” she said. “I might be a mutation.”
Jimmy didn’t respond. He was staring at the living room drapes.
“That’s why you close them in the daytime, isn’t it?” he asked. “I’ve wondered why you do it.” He turned to gaze at her. “When I’m at work, you draw the drapes so you can spread your wings. And sometimes, you forget to part them again.”
“Jimmy,” she asked hesitantly, “what are we—what are you—going to do?”
“I don’t know yet.” He stared at her. “Does Cassie—?”
“No.” She shook her head. “She has no idea.” And I have no idea if she will grow up to be like me.
“Keep it that way.” He opened the door to leave. “I never want to see those things again. Understand? I don’t want you to do it even when I’m at work.”
She nodded, feeling grateful. “Yes, Jimmy. Whatever you say.”
“And I never want it mentioned again either. All right? I want you to promise we’ll lead a perfectly normal, ordinary life.”
She smiled, her cheeks wet. “I promise.”
He spun on his heels and left, closing the door firmly behind him as if to shut reality in—or out.
Ariel sighed with relief and went into the bedroom where she stood before a mirror. Though her golden wings were lovely, she was no angel, and they carried a deadly danger. She must not take chances again.
As she looked at herself, an eye opened in the middle of her forehead and began to grow. Like her other eyes, it was a soft blue with silver specks, suggesting distant skies and far-off places. Unlike the other eyes, lately it had changed and given her half-glimpsed visions inside herself, a growing insight and knowledge she could not yet put into words.
Remembering her husband’s disgust, Ariel thought for the first time of really letting her hair down and revealing herself to the world. All her years of fearful secrecy could be negated in a moment.
Maybe it was a good thing Jimmy had finally discovered her secret. It could provide the motivation she needed. Lord knows, she was tired of concealing the truth, of hiding her true nature behind the domestic security of a housewife’s smile. It would be such a relief to spread her wings and reveal her essence, to come out of the safe closet and into the light. Who knows; perhaps she could even discover her destiny, what she was ultimately meant to be, and find if there were other sisters like her who shared her secret.
But did she have the courage to break her promise to Jimmy, defy his wishes, and let the world see her as she actually was, to fight back against the tyranny of uniformity? If she did, she would have to risk everything, not only her marriage but her role as a mother. Was it right even to think of taking such an irreversible step?
In the mirror, her third eye gazed back at her, probing her soul. She searched her reflection and waited until at last she had her answer.
John, a retired English professor, has published 300 stories in Whitley Strieber’s Aliens, Galaxy, Weird Tales, The Age of Wonders, etc. He’s published twenty books, including SF novels such as Beyond Those Distant Stars and Speaker of the Shakk (Mundania Press); Alien Dreams and A Senseless Act of Beauty (Crossroad Press); and Books I and II of the Inspector of the Cross series (MuseItUp Publishing). Read more about John on his website, his blog, and his Amazon Author Page. His books are available at Amazon and other vendors.
Tags: john b. rosenman, metro fiction, short stories