Where does one begin such a long story as mine? From my childhood? Perhaps, my days of suffering as a so-called freak (meaning—my teenage misery)? Or should I pick the day I died? You’re probably wondering—what on earth is she talking about? I guess I shall begin, by introducing myself. My name is Raven Jada Mercucio. I’m the adopted daughter of Luigi and Jada Maria Mercucio. Neither my real parents nor my adopted parents knew what would become of me (at least, that was the impression that I got) and both sets of parents loved me very much.
I learned I was adopted, when I was seven years old. Before I found out I was adopted, I had always wondered how an Italian family had a daughter with pale skin, ice-blue eyes and copper hair. As Fate would have it, I was always tormented by my fellow classmates because I didn’t “look” like my adopted mother and father. It was on a day that I was beaten up by Sophia Cicci, a girl from an extremely wealthy Italian family, that I was told part of the story of my life. Sophia claimed I wasn’t worthy of having an Italian name.
I cried all the way home. When I got there, Mama gathered me into her arms and asked me what had happened. After I told her about my horrible experience, I begged Mama to tell me why I didn’t look like her or Papa. She held onto me like I was dying. Little did she know that I truly was dying! (Not because of some disease or perhaps it is some kind of disease that most ignorant people think to be just a tale.)
“Raven, my child, the reason why you don’t look like either your Papa or me is because you’re not our ‘real’ daughter. We adopted you.”
I was considered a genius—a trait, I would later learn, I’d inherited from my father. And it was because I was so smart—that I somewhat understood what was going on. I also knew in my heart, even though I loved Mama and Papa dearly, that they weren’t my real parents. When Mama confessed that I wasn’t her flesh and blood, I had already figured out that I was adopted. I just needed to hear, for myself, the truth. So, when Mama told me, I felt relieved—yet, very unhappy.
“Where are my real mother and father?” I asked immediately. I was sorry that I asked when I saw the tears begin to form in Mama’s eyes—tears of pain and sorrow.
“Before you were born, your real mother, Raven,” she began and smiled to herself as she remembered the days before I came along, “worked as a waitress for our restaurant. She rented the apartment above the restaurant from us shortly after she moved to the city. Your papa and I were unable to have children and your mother was an orphan. We treated her like she was our own daughter. We helped her get an education and even helped her so she could live out on her own. Before she came to work and live with us, she lived in a homeless shelter. It was just a few months before she graduated from trade school that she had waited on this young man traveling through the city. He fell instantly in love with your mother and even moved here so he could date her. He even went to the trouble of buying a mansion on the outskirts of the city. We thought nothing of it, him, or the situation. We were actually very happy that she’d met someone. Soon their dating became serious and their love grew stronger until…” Mama paused and wiped away the few tears that fell onto her cheeks. I was afraid to hear anymore, but to prove that I was old enough to understand, I urged her on.
“Until…well, Papa and I became suspicious of this man. We didn’t know anything about his background and noticed he had very strange habits. When he’d come to the restaurant to eat, he’d only come at night. He’d only visit your mother at night, always using the same excuse that he was a night owl and couldn’t sleep well during the night because he suffered from weird anxiety attacks. When he came to the restaurant to wait for your mother’s shift to end, he always ordered food but never touched it, unless it was a rare steak, which he’d ordered once or twice a month. He always seemed to have money, yet no source of a job. Your mother told us that he was extremely wealthy and didn’t need a job to support himself. He came from a wealthy family and inherited a fortune from his father when his father passed away. The creepiest thing about him was he always kept to himself. Your mother, God Rest her soul, saw a bright future with him,” she said and shook her head.
“He had lived here for almost a year before he asked for your mother’s hand in marriage. Two or three days later, she came running to me in tears. At first, I thought he had broken off the engagement or she discovered he was having an affair. That would have been easier to accept. But of course, it was worse than that. Your mother was pregnant with his child. That child was you. She cried to me, blabbing all this silly nonsense that your father was some kind of…” Mama looked frightened, all of a sudden. I could tell she didn’t want to continue telling me about my parents. I tugged at her dress and pleaded her to go on.
“Well, my dear, I really can’t tell you anything more, other than your mother loved you very much. During the months that she was pregnant with you, she changed. She hardly ate a thing, which made both your papa and me worried. I noticed that when she did eat, it was things like rare steak. She also drank nothing but black coffee and red wine. No matter how often she went to the doctor’s, he proclaimed that her strange eating and drinking habits were normal. I never believed him, but then again, I’ve heard that some women ate stuff like clay while they were pregnant. We noticed that she looked paler than normal, and began wearing turtlenecks and thick sweaters, claiming she was so cold. I should have seen it coming. I should have put my foot down when it came to your father, but she always said to us that she couldn’t live without him. Who was I to tell her what she could or couldn’t do? After all, she truly wasn’t my daughter.
“During the last month of her pregnancy, your father deserted her. She became very reclusive. It was so hard for us to talk to her. She’d get angry at the littlest of things. I can’t tell you how many times we’d hear her screaming while she slept. I wanted to know what she was dreaming about. She’d kept to herself and refused to seek counseling. Then the night came when she went into labor. So, it was up to us to take her to the hospital. She died that very same night you were born.”
I gasped. I felt like a murderer because I was the cause of her death.
“What happened to her?” I asked Mama.
“She wasn’t able to give birth to you the natural way, so the doctor was forced to do an emergency Cesarean. There was so much blood. I knew she was dying and I’m sure she thought she was dying too. I was with her when she spoke her final words and held her hand as she took her last breath. Before she died, she said, ‘Name her after you and me. You’ve been like a real mother to me. The only mother that I had, I should say.’ We were both crying. I held her in my arms as best as I could while the nurses cleaned you up. Then they brought you over so she could hold you in her arms. She held you and kissed your tiny face. The she looked up at me and said, ‘You must promise me something.’ I could only nod my head, because I was losing her so fast. She then said to me, ‘Never let him come for her. He’ll come back! I know he will. He’ll come back and try to take her!’ I leaned over the both of you and kissed both of your foreheads. She smiled one last time, gave you a kiss…and…and then she just stopped breathing. The doctors and nurses tried everything they could to save her, but in the end, they failed. I went into shock and just slowly walked out of the operating room like I was in some kind of a trance and went to your papa. He knew, by the look on my face, that we lost her. You spent a week in the hospital and after all the documents were signed, sealed, and delivered, we were able to adopt you.”
“I’m glad you did, Mama,” I told her and hugged her.
She sniffled and used the back of the sleeve of her dress to wipe away her tears. “Her name was also Raven,” she said with a warm smile on her face. “You know, you look just like her.” Mama said hugging me closer to her plump body. Then she released me and stared down into my eyes. I could see she seemed scared about something else. Then she spoke. “You look just like her, except you have his eyes.”
I wanted to know more about my mother and, especially now, my father. I was sure he was the reason why I was developing these strange and interesting powers.
“Mama, what was my father’s name?”
Her eyes grew big and serious, then she turned and looked away from me, as if looking into my eyes would force her to say his name. “I won’t speak it, Raven. I absolutely refuse to say his name, so please don’t ever ask me to.”
I hugged her and told her I wouldn’t ask her again.
Eleven years passed since I was told the tale of my beautiful mother, Raven, and my mysterious father with ice-blue eyes. I was eighteen now, a senior in high school and planning to attend college to pursue a career in music. One of my best friends, Chella Jenkins, worked for our restaurant so she could save money for college. I too worked for Mama and Papa, just so I could save every penny to use towards school.
Chella and I were very different from the rest of the teenagers that went to JFK High School. We had mysterious qualities that some kids actually were scared to confront us. It made me feel powerful to know that I could give off a presence that kept the very same kids who picked on me when I was a little girl to keep away from me. Once I hit high school, they never picked on me again. I had matured into a very beautiful young woman, with certain gifts. I could read minds sometimes. I was stronger than the average teenage male. So no one fucked with me. Sure, I heard what they called me, but it didn’t bother me. I actually enjoyed hearing what names they called me. I was called almost everything but human. I was a witch, one day; then a psychotic killer another day. I was pure evil. And my favorite, I was the daughter of Satan himself! As if!? Not all my so-called gifts prepared me for the pain I would have to suffer. The pain of losing the people I loved the most.
Everything changed for me the day Darrien entered my life. And I mean everything.
It was October when I met Darrien. Mama was scared half to death when she laid eyes on him the first time he showed up at the restaurant. He was, of course, perfect in my eyes and I soon became obsessed with him. I wanted him more than I had ever wanted any man. It only took one look from him to make my blood boil with desire and lust. Chella always teased me because of how I drooled over him. She called him the “Goth Prince looking for his Goth Princess.” How true, I thought. And perhaps I was that “Goth Princess” he sought out. I looked and dressed like a “Goth Princess of Darkness.” My skin was so pale it almost looked translucent and my ice-blue eyes seemed to glow with a cold fire. My hair was below my waist and layered with thick crimson curls. The girls in my school were extremely jealous of me. I had grown to be very beautiful and so they feared me. As for the guys I went to school with, they wanted me even though I seemed untouchable. I always had to face challenges with guys who asked me out. Most of the time, the guys who drooled over me had girlfriends already, so I made a ton of enemies. Despite all that, I’d smile to myself, as I walked through the hallways of the school like I owned everything and everyone. Teachers were even intimidated by me. I was smarter than all of them and I did what I wanted to do—so no one argued with me. The only two kids at my school, that I ever allowed to get close to me, were Chella and another outcast kid named Michael Xanders.
Michael was an absolute sweetheart—and a harmless kid that I adored with all my heart. We were more like brother and sister than just friends. Chella, too, was like my sister. The three of us were inseparable. We always did everything together. We even went out of our way to get identical tattoos (except for one tattoo, a raven holding a bleeding black rose located on my right shoulder blade) and body piercings. Mama and Papa didn’t approve of my tattoos or my tongue, nose, and eyebrow piercings; but, they accepted them. They knew how much I wanted them’ and Mama even went behind Papa’s back to fill out the permission slips for me to give to the tattoo and body piercing shop. She just shook her head from side to side and signed all the papers that I gave her to have my body art done. When Papa took one look at me after I had “mutilated” myself, as he likes to say, he just threw his arms up in the air and didn’t even bother to ask me ‘Why?’. At first, he wouldn’t allow Chella and I to expose our body piercings and tattoos at work; but, eventually, he gave in. Most of our customers asked us if it had hurt to get tattooed or pierced in the locations we had chosen; and, as always, our reply was that the tattooing hurt more than the piercing. At least, what we had done was tasteful and not like some of the weirdoes out there.
For the month of October, we went all out and decorated the entire restaurant for Halloween. I dressed up like a vampire and Chella dressed up like a faerie. The other waitresses and busboys dressed up in various costumes, from pirates to French maids. The customers loved our costumes and even gave bigger tips. For some odd reason or another, this specific October brought in more customers. Papa was absolutely tickled pink over the profits. I asked Mama and Papa if we could host a Halloween costume party and have our band play on Halloween night. I had a horrible feeling that Papa wouldn’t hear of it. Needless to say, he shocked me by giving us permission to go through with our plans. Three weeks before Halloween, we made our announcement that ‘Luigi’s Fine Italian Dining’ was throwing a special party for Halloween night—for anyone who wanted to enjoy good food and great entertainment. The entertainment was to be provided by a DJ, with a special guest appearance by our band.
Promptly, at nine, the Halloween party began. Most of the people who attended were around my age; but, some of our regular customers showed up; and several people, who were just “passing by”, decided to stop in and see what all the fuss was about. It was fantastic! Every imaginable costume glittered and gleamed throughout the restaurant—turning it into a world of the supernatural and fantasy.
Michael, Chella, and I sneaked upstairs to the office and smoked a joint, before attending the party. Michael dressed up like a Victorian vampire. He looked so hot that I kept telling him I needed to suck on his neck to taste his sweet blood. He laughed and gently shoved me away when I tried to bite his neck. The look in his eyes, though, said something else. Chella stood in silence as she watched how the two of us flirted with one another.
“Okay, you two, either go get a room or get ready to perform. Fredrick and the others are waiting for us so, I think we should…”
“I know, I know…I was just havin’ some fun before stage fright takes over.” I giggled.
“Is your cello tuned?” Michael asked me. I played the cello and sang for our band. Michael played lead guitar and Chella played the keyboards and her violin and viola. The other members of the band, Fredrick Cowder, Marcus Donovan, and Simone Harper (who preferred to be called “Sissi” and nothing else) were waiting patiently for us, when we went into the apartment that I rented from my adopted parents. I didn’t really live there; it was more like my home away from home. A place where we could write, record, and practice our songs—and hang out and do “bad things.”
“Yep, ‘Romania’ is tuned and all shined up.” I replied. I named my cello “Romania”, after my obsession with the gypsies that originated from—Romania . I named my computer, Transylvania, or Sylvia for short, after my “Vampire” obsessions.
“Well, we better go meet up with everyone else. I hope your parents will like us.” Chella said.
“Chella, my darling, my parents will love us no matter what! You know it, as well as I do. Hell, even Michael knows that. We’re all talented musicians; and, personally, I think we even have a chance to make it big out there in the world. We’re just as good as, if not better than, some of the famous bands playing today.” I always wanted to be a famous musician. I started the band because of my ambition to succeed as a musician. Our band recorded some of our favorite songs onto my computer; and then, later, we burnt our own CD’s, to sell at some of our performances—to bring in some extra cash. Michael’s father worked with graphics. He made our liner notes; and even designed some t-shirts for us to sell at our performances. Most of the time, because of school and our ages, we had to play at select bars or clubs—on the weekends. Gradually, we were booking our band for gigs all around the city. I truly loved life! All the dedication, work, hours, “smoke breaks” for inspiration and just being together—was what I lived for.
Fredrick was tuning his bass when we entered the apartment. Sissi was drumming out beats, with her drumsticks, on one of the walls. Marcus, on the other hand, was rolling a big fat joint—while a clove cigarette hung from his lips.
“You didn’t already smoke, did you?” Sissi asked, as soon as we plopped down on the couch.
“A little, but that’s okay!” Michael confessed. The one thing I loved so much, about Michael, was how he loved to have fun. His quiet presence, at school, made everyone think he just stayed at home and drowned his sorrows in poetry and Anne Rice novels. In truth, he was a club kid. Together, we always went out club hopping—both Friday and Saturday night or whenever they had under—21 nights. Most of the time, after our performances, we would just hang out at the clubs we had played and have a good time dancing and taking smoke breaks out in one of our cars. Chella really wasn’t into clubbing, so she’d just sit at the bar and talk to people, while Michael and I danced. If the rest of the band stayed behind, Marcus and Fredrick, who were old enough to drink, would hit on girls and get drunk. Sissi would either sit with Chella, to keep her company, or dance with us. I loved it when it was just Michael and I hanging out at our favorite clubs. Secretly, I was madly in love with Michael but, too afraid to tell him—for fear of messing up our perfect friendship—and rejection, as well. Many nights, I would lie in my bed, stare up at the glow-in-the-dark galaxy I had created on my ceiling and wonder, to myself, what it would be like to kiss Michael. Sometimes, I saw us kissing tenderly. Other times, the passionate enchantress in me saw us kissing hungrily—almost as if we couldn’t control the lust that boiled in our veins; but then, I’d come to my senses and get all depressed; because, I knew, deep down in my heart, as much as I wanted to be Michael’s girlfriend, it just wouldn’t happen. He was like me, in the sense that we’re just plain old untouchable. I never wanted any man, but the right one, to know how exotic I could be. I wanted Michael to know. He didn’t see that side of me. I protected that identity when I was around guys, especially him. I was afraid of letting my walls of protection fall to allow anyone in my world. I knew I was beautiful with a hint of danger in my eyes; but, I never wanted anyone to know my passionate side—unless it was through my writing or the songs I composed.
The band and I passed a blunt around; and then, practiced a few songs. My stage persona was that of a Victorian Mistress of the Dark. I was wearing a black satin-velvet corset with black laces and ribbons. My skirt was a very full, black crinoline, that I’d found at a second-hand shop. Its layers, of black chiffon, lace, and an iridescent black-red gauze overlay, made me feel like I was in an emotional cocoon. There was also another reason that I wore fuller skirts, thanks to my past experience with dresses. The fuller the skirt, the easier it was to straddle my beloved cello—and still look like a lady. The corset was useful, in a sense that it helped keep my body in perfect posture, so it was easier to play my cello and breathe correctly, while I sang. My Mama thought I was insane. She didn’t know how a corset could help me gather the air in my diaphragm while I sang in my operatic voice and sit on a folding chair with the posture I needed to play my cello. I wore a replica Victorian ruby necklace, matching ruby teardrop earrings, and hand-length black lace hand-warmers. What I spent most of my time preparing—was my crimson hair. Almost all of the girls in school hated me, because of how beautiful my hair was. I imagine that, if I were to straighten the natural, soft-looking curls, my hair would be almost to my knees. Whatever the reason was, I never had to deal with expensive hair cosmetics or frequent trips to the salon. My mama adored my hair; but, always seemed to be spooked out by my eyes. I knew that she could see my mother when she gave me that distant look, while she was talking to me; but, then she’d make eye contact with me and grow eerily quiet. It always spooked me out—the way she would stare at me and not say a thing. So many times, I wanted to ask her what was wrong; but, held back, because of the promise I had made long ago about revealing the identity of my real father.
As a child, I always wondered why everyone, that I loved, feared my eyes. I loved my ice-blue eyes. Every time I played my cello and sang, Chella told me that my eyes seemed to glow. I’d always tease her and say that it was my “magical powers and passion.” I also noticed how my eyes seemed to glow when I was angry and or excited. I would later discover that my eyes would show their true nature—the furious passion of sex and hunger—a hunger I had yet to discover. As I grew up, I found out why my eyes made Mama shiver. My mother’s eyes looked nothing like mine. Her eyes were blue but, not that blue. All the photographs that I had of my real mother, I kept sacred- and stored them in an expensive storage case that was decorated with purple satin, black bugle beads and amethysts.
I had bought the antique case while Chella, Michael, and I were going shopping in our favorite antique stores. I had no idea how old the case was; but, as soon as I set my eyes on it, I knew it had to be mine. I asked Henry, the antique dealer, if he could locate any information on it. He was successful; and told me that it was made during the Victoria era. I’d sit alone, in my bedroom or the apartment, drinking glasses of Absinthe—a very religious ritual I’d do when I felt melancholy. After consuming about half a bottle of my favorite brand of Absinthe, and spending countless hours starring at my mother’s pictures and crying, I put two and two together that my eyes resembled my father’s eyes. My eyes reminded Mama of the man that seduced my mother, got her pregnant with me, and then suddenly disappeared. Tragically, it was my birth that killed my mother. She bled to death while giving birth to me. Mama never told me what exactly had happened in the hospital. She only told me the small details, leaving quite a few parts—out of the story. I knew it had to be a terrifying experience for Mama to talk about; so, I never asked her about it. I wanted to ask her; and, someday, I’d get enough courage to ask her to tell me the whole story… and then, I would know everything.
I finished playing around with my hair and decided to tie it up in a Gibson Girl twist, with scattered braids and ribbons and scattered loose curls, specifically styled so the curls would be encircling my face. I wore bright red/black lipstick, translucent foundation, black mascara, and black eyeliner. I refused to wear anything that was too gaudy when it concerned my make-up. Because my complexion was already sickly pale, so pain-strikingly pale, I was almost forced into wearing make-up to hide the changes that I was going through. Since everyone around me found me to be some kind of Goth Princess, I had enough money to fulfill the perfect cover-up.
My ice-blue colored eyes were glowing from the anticipation of performing live, for the very first time, in front of my family. I knew that a lot of the people, that came here to see us, were regular customers; so, our music might be a little unsettling to them—but, that didn’t bother me one earthly bit. I was a musician and nothing would ever stop me from continuing my studies and performing. “Children of Gaia” were begging to be heard; and I wanted to make that dream happen for everyone. It wasn’t just a selfish wish, was it? To be successful? I figured my powers would come in handy someday, if a talent scout was out in the audience listening to us.
Chella wore her faerie costume. She resembled a sexier Tinker Bell from Peter Pan. She had the perfect haircut that made it possible for her to spike it and achieve the perfect pixie look. Michael, as always, was a distinguished gentleman in his Victorian garb. Every time I looked at Michael, I smiled and thought to myself that we were a Victorian Gothic couple. I loved him so much but was too fucking scared to ever act on it. There had been many times that just the two of us hung out and wrote music together, while drinking absinthe and smoking pot. I treasured every second I spent with him. It saddened me, as well, because I knew he didn’t feel the same way about me that I felt about him. It was heartbreaking.
I constantly wrote in my diary—sharing my secrets and fantasies about Michael. One day, he almost read my diary by accident. I had left it out on my desk and he thought it was a book of poetry or lyrics. He innocently began reading it, while I was getting ready to go out with him. When I saw what he was reading, I freaked out! I know I scared him, because I overreacted and yelled at him. He began to cry, and then, I started crying. I told him that it was my diary; and I didn’t want anyone read it because, I had written really private thoughts and things that I was slowly discovering about myself. After I had told him that, he apologized and I told him to just forget about it. Since then, I kept wondering what he had read that day. I wanted to ask him, but as always, I became too scared and never asked.
After we finished sharing the blunt, I watched the other members fix their costumes and tune their instruments. Fredrick was wearing a dark red velvet suit. Marcus was wearing his usual black t-shirt and black corduroys and Sissi was wearing a tight black vinyl mini-skirt, black vinyl corset, fishnets, and combat boots. We were definitely a very interesting band. Our music ranged from loud gothic rock to baroque grunge to medieval choir. Chella always compared our music to the band, “Miranda Sex Garden.” It was Chella who came up with the band’s name, Children of Gaia. Everyone in the band loved the name and began plotting our stage persona, our photo shoots, and even the composition of our music. I loved playing my cello and singing. Sometimes, some of the members would play their string instruments instead of their usual guitar, drums and keyboards.
Marcus grabbed his laptop computer and zipped it up in its protective case. I sat on a folding chair and rosined my bow. My mind was working overtime. I wasn’t even paying attention to anyone until Michael came over to me and shook me a little.
“Earth to Raven, come in Raven?” he teased.
“I’m sorry. I was just rehearsing the lyrics to our songs in my mind and lost track of the time.”
“I’ll say you lost track of time. We have exactly ten minutes before we’re supposed to perform!” Chella exclaimed.
“Let’s get downstairs now, okay? We certainly don’t need to be in a negative mood about this, Chella,” Marcus said.
We picked up our instruments and headed downstairs. When we reached the lower landing, I felt Darrien’s presence. I looked out over the crowd but, didn’t spot him. I knew he was there, though. I smiled and started for the stage.
Copyright © 2012 Karen Elizabeth Waters
Edited by Zyris Wa