This image from Friday Flash Fics made me think of Bailey Haliburton, from Of Echoes Born. She’s mentioned in “The Psychometry of Snow” (and there’s fallout in that story to what happens here), and she appears in “A Little Village Magic” (years later from the events here). I wanted to explore her beginnings a little bit, and this picture was the perfect nudge.
Bailey Haliburton is Going to Prom
Bailey Haliburton stared down at her pie and tried to let the world flow around her. Her mother’s voice was a near constant, and Bailey imagined each word slipping from her mother’s mouth and floating away on the air, hitting an invisible wall around Bailey and slipping off to one side or the other, unheard and unfelt.
“Are you listening?”
So much for that.
Bailey lifted her chin. “Sorry?”
Her mother’s lips thinned in that way they always did when Bailey failed to live up to expectations. It was amazing she still had lips, really. Her face should have a near invisible line where her mouth had once been.
“I said,” her mother spoke each word clearly and carefully, “it’s time to decide about prom.”
Bailey forced herself not to groan out loud. Decide about prom? Was her mother kidding? Was that the reason for this trip for “a girl’s chat” and pie? Who were they kidding?
“I already decided,” Bailey said. “I’m not going to go.”
“Bailey.” Lips thinner still, her mother took a deep breath.
An ache built in Bailey’s chest, and she resisted the urge to press her hand against it. Her hands wanted to clench, wanted to hold… something. There was something inside her and it wanted out and she knew if she didn’t stop herself, she’d say something she regretted.
Or enjoyed, and then regretted.
“Mom,” she said, and it came out a little too harshly, so she softened her voice. “I just don’t think it’s right for me.”
Her mother paused with that. It was one of her favorite lines, after all. They were the Haliburtons, and the Haliburtons had a certain image to uphold. That her father’s business had taken them to Nowhere, Ontario—okay, fine, Oneida, Ontario, but it was the same thing—hadn’t mattered at all to Bailey’s mother. They would act like they still had access to all the upper-class establishments and circles they’d left behind in Toronto, whether or not those even existed here.
Which they didn’t.
Though, Bailey thought, forking off a bit of pie and swallowing, they did have decent desserts.
“It’s a rite of passage,” her mother said, after a few moments.
“Do I get to choose my date?” Bailey said. The moment the words were out, she knew she’d mis-stepped. Too soon to ask, too obvious a question. “If anyone asks me, I mean?” she added, hoping for damage control.
“Has anyone asked you?” her mother countered.
Damn. “A couple of boys,” Bailey said, eyes on her pie.
“Well, as long as you choose someone appropriate.”
Bailey stabbed her pie. And that, she thought, was the end of that. Because the boy who’d asked her was many things. He was tall. He was talented. He was—in her biased opinion—gorgeous. He was kind. He was funny. He was so many things.
But she knew damned well neither of her parents would consider one of the res boys “appropriate.”
When her mother went to the bathroom, Bailey finished her pie and looked out the window. There had to be a way. Could she convince Randy to go to the prom by himself, and she to go with some friends, and they meet up there as dates? Would her parents allow her to go to prom unescorted?
Could she even wrangle up enough people to pretend to be friends with Bailey Haliburton? Because that was iffy. She had Tina, but there was no way Tina would go to prom. Beyond that, most of the girls in her classes had decided from day one that Bailey wasn’t worthwhile. They’d never actually tried to get to know her, and Bailey had been so shocked and sore to do her final year of high school removed from all her friends in Toronto that she’d decided she could do without them in return.
Bad choice, it turned out.
But in her theatre arts class, there was Randy. And Randy talked to her when no one else did. They partnered up, did project work together, wrote an amusing play together, and…
Her chest ached again, the pressure behind it building and trembling. Her hands itched, fingers curling. God. She just needed…
What did she need?
“You okay, dear?”
Bailey looked up. The waitress—a lovely, round woman who always remembered Bailey liked her apple pie scalding hot—smiled down at her.
“I’m fine, thank you,” Bailey said. A reflex response.
The waitress shook her head, and eyed the vacant seat where her mother had been. “No, you’re not.” Then she pressed a finger to the middle of her chest. “You’ve got it. But you’re not letting it out.”
Bailey stared. “I’m sorry?”
“You shouldn’t be.” The woman winked, then glanced left and right. Bailey looked as well, but they were pretty much alone in the restaurant. “Here,” the woman said, reaching into her top and pulling out a rock. She held it out to Bailey on one wrinkled palm. “I’ve been waiting to get you alone. This is for you.”
Bailey blinked. Had that been in her bra?
“Uh,” Bailey said, unsure what to do. But the waitress gestured again, and so Bailey raised her hand and the woman dropped the stone into her palm. It was a strange rock, sort of a liquid silver color, but dark and shiny.
“Hematite,” the woman said. “Good for letting things out.” She paused. “And you need to. You’re blocked. You know, it’s okay to be angry sometimes. Try the hematite. And I think you’d be good to find yourself an amethyst, too. And a tiger eye. You strike me as a tiger eye kind of girl.”
Bailey closed her fingers around the stone. It felt cool to the touch, which made no sense given where it had been seconds earlier. “A tiger eye kind of girl?” she repeated.
But then her mother was sliding back into the booth, eyeing them both oddly, and the waitress was once again her usual sweet and gentle self.
“Anything else for you two ladies?”
“No, thank you,” her mother said.
“I’ll see you again.” The waitress winked at Bailey.
Bailey slid her hand under the table, fingers tight around the hematite.
It almost felt like it was humming.
After they got home, Bailey went up to her room, checked her jewelry box, then excused herself to take a walk.
“A walk?” her mother said, surprised. She was in the kitchen, and if she wanted to say anything about Bailey’s change of clothes—a long-sleeved dress in a deep brown that was perhaps a bit formal for a walk—she held back the urge to criticize. A minor miracle in itself, really.
“Burn off some of that pie,” Bailey said, which she knew would make her mother smile. And sure enough, it did. Her mother had made it clear that Bailey’s tendency to “curves” would be something she’d need to fight, and sometimes Bailey wanted to just scream when she started speaking.
Like right now. Though that wouldn’t help anything. So instead, she walked along the asphalt until the road crossed with one of the dirt road that ringed the various farms in Oneida, and she walked down the dirt road after that.
The stone had been humming since she left. She held it out in her palm.
“A tiger-eye kind of girl,” Bailey said, feeling foolish. She had a small tiger eye pinky ring, too, and some other bits and pieces of jewelry from her childhood that she’d not thrown out. Barely semi-precious stones, she wasn’t even sure if she knew their names. The orange one might be carnelian, and the purple earrings could be amethyst. Or they could be purple glass. But she thought her parents, even when she was a kid, wouldn’t have dared put costume jewelry on their daughter.
The stone hummed in her palm, in time with the pulse in her chest. She looked at the stone. Good for letting some things out, the waitress had said.
Okay then. Let’s let some things out. It wasn’t that she wanted to go to prom with Randy. She did, of course, but it wasn’t that. It was that she wanted to be with Randy. And she wanted to be with Tina, too. And while she was pretty sure Tina didn’t feel the same way she did, Randy did. She just knew it.
And there was no way her parents would ever allow…
She choked, catching her breath. She swore the stone was visibly shaking now. She was shaking, too.
“It’s okay to be angry,” she said.
Bailey Haliburton let it out. She threw her arms to the side and just screamed into the failing light of the afternoon.
The hematite shattered. What had been a stone burst into a fine, dark powder and swirled around her outstretched hands, rising and falling with her own cries of frustration and anger and, yes, she could admit it, fear.
She hummed, every part of her, and in her hands, she felt the ring and earrings and other pieces from her childhood humming back. The cloud of fine hematite dust rose around her, pulled up and out and away, and she threw her head back, feeling connected and strengthened and aware and powerful.
You’re blocked, the waitress had said.
Bailey opened her eyes, watching the last of the hematite dust spin and swirl around her in the air. The pressure in her chest was gone. She caught herself on the edge of a laugh, then allowed herself to give in, laughing until her cheeks hurt.
The amethyst earrings felt light against her skin and their hum was different than the hematite’s had been. They felt protective, and calming, but also insightful. She shook her head, unsure where this instinct was coming from, but pulled out her diamonds—which didn’t hum at all for her—and slid in the amethysts instead.
It felt like having two gentle friends at her ears, whispering a soothing reminder that she, Bailey Haliburton, could handle anything.
The carnelian wasn’t soothing. The carnelian made her think of kissing Randy, and not waiting for him to make a first move. They had something. Was it a forever something? Who knew? The carnelian didn’t, and neither did Bailey, but it was a kiss worth trying.
The tiger-eye pinky ring agreed. Choose. Believe. Act.
Bailey laughed again. There was no sign left now of the hematite. And if she closed her eyes, she could feel something deep down in the earth beneath her feet. Other stones, maybe. Or just the very ground itself.
It hummed. It was there for her. It had her back, and she could call on it.
Bailey Haliburton closed her fingers around the carnelian and smiled.
She was definitely going to prom.
But first? She had some questions. Which meant it was time for another slice of pie.