"Alex, dearest, are you ready?" Mother yelled up from the first floor.
"Not quite yet!" I shouted back. "There is a situation!"
"A situation?" Mother asked as I descended the stairs, my wooden companion following close behind. Tuck, ta-truck, ta-truck, it went. "What's this?"
"I can see that, Alex, I'm not blind. What I meant to say is why isn't it properly dressed if it intends to attend as your guest tonight!"
"My guest?" I asked, confused.
"Come on, my love, my sweetest and brightest. There is no need to be quite so picky! It is a rather handsome piece of furniture; solid, dark, brooding even. Weren't you into that sort of thing just mere seconds ago? You young people change in the blink of an eye!" Mother said, smiling her charming, dimpled smile. "And as it should be. Because one day, faster than you can imagine, you might discover you are now stuck inside your own flesh, unable to change no matter how hard you try.
"But let us not dwell on such things. We have things to do, people to see. And you need a companion, dearest. We must be honest, Alex. There is no one and no thing that might be waiting for you tonight, is there?" she asked, putting her hands on her hips and smiling sweetly at me. Her warm brown skin glowed in the light, her black curls cascading down her blood-red dress. I nodded, knowing she was right.
I always ended up alone at such gatherings, pretending to be an old Greek statue all night, standing so motionless people often hanged their coats on me. One time, when mother had a little too much to drink and the night spilled carelessly into the next day, I noticed that my feet had hardened and turned to bright white marble. Never in my life had they felt so smooth!
I was thankful for that, but it made walking very difficult. I couldn't sense the path I walked on, and that made me doubt if I had even walked it, made me doubt if I had even existed in those moments. That feeling of unbeing made me feel so anxious that I spent the entirety of the next day in my room working away with a file until finally I drew blood. To feel pain again where before I felt numb, what a tremendous relief.
Even if I ignored the fact that I was dateless, the devilish Table seemed keen in following me around, so might as well make it presentable for such an occasion as to avoid any scandal tonight.
"Is it a he or a she?" Mother asked, going about looking for pieces of clothing that might fit.
"It is an it," I said, pointing out the obvious with an eyeroll. Table seemed pleased with my assessment.
"Might as well," mother said, coming back with several items of clothing.
We dressed Table in a soft pink dress, a bright red ribbon around its column and a black bowler hat, for the weather demanded one to be worn.
A red heel, an orange heel, and a brown moccasin were the last items we helped it put on. The table vibrated with pleasure, making heel and moccasin click excitedly on the floor.
"It will fall!" I said, staring at the mismatched shoes.
"Then it'll pick itself up, as we do," mother said, shrugging.
And that was that.
As soon as the three of us arrived there was a commotion. People stared and pointed at us. At first, I thought they might've been staring at my feet, as I had decided to go barefoot to be able to sense the unknown floors of the house with the soles of my feet. You can't really know a place until you've walked it barefoot.
As soon as I stepped into the house, I felt my head filling up with sparkling, sugary air, making my whole body feel sweet and weightless. It was such a delight to sense the unknown, the secrets of the guests pooled there, spilling unnoticed for anyone to find.
Although everyone stared disdainfully at the three of us, people were really pointing at Mother as she walked the halls with regal steps.
The women looked furious and the men looked anywhere but at my mother. Funny how they feigned ignorance now, given that most of these men were her clients. Mother had cured them of different ailments through the power of her body.
For instance, there was Mr. Gutierrez Bracho who had a severe case of disfigured toes. A night spent under mother's care and they were perfectly fat, perfectly pink toes once again.
He had showed them to me, thrilled with the almost instantaneous result. But now, his big pug's eyes eluded mine, turning his back on me when the pressure became too much, and he couldn't avoid them anymore.
Such ungratefulness these men displayed! But mother seemed unfazed as she strutted about making small talk with everyone, though no one seemed to be answering back. Does not matter, I thought, often times other people just get in the way of a good conversation.
I saw this as an opportunity to walk around and sense the floors while showing Table the place, though I had no idea what I was showing it. Everything in the house, and the house itself, was white. The floors were white, the walls were white, the furniture, dishes, drinks, even the food they served was white. The same bleached whiteness all around. Whitest of all were the people, their hair, eyes, skin, tongues. Only a few attendees were of any colour and interest.
As we walked through the whiteness, a young man suddenly appeared on our way, smiling from ear to ear.
"Hello, there," he said. I was about to answer when I realized he had not been speaking to me. His eyes were focused on the vibrating Table to my left. I closed my mouth with a soft pop, a little disappointed.
He was a very handsome young man, maybe a couple years my senior. He had dark brown skin a few shades lighter than mine, black hair slicked elegantly back and black eyes that made me think of a starless sea. The thing that I found most irresistible though were the gills high on his neck, making it look longer than it actually was.
"What are those for?" I asked, pointing rather rudely at his gills. He turned his black eyes on me, uninterested.
"For breathing, of course!" he answered, exasperated by my ignorance.
"But there's no water…?" I began, quite sensibly, but the man raised a hand to silence me.
"Would you like to go somewhere else, precious thing?" He leaned down and smiled at table. "Somewhere where we won't be interrupted by such foolish questions."
I was left to look after them in complete shock as Table wobbled alongside the handsome young man and left me standing all alone. Through my utter sense of betrayal, I couldn't help wondering after the young man's gills.
I began imagining what the offspring of such a Table and such a man would look like; children made of wood, tables with handsome gills, maybe even a wooden fish! A sudden fit of bubbling giggles erupted over me, so strong they doubled me over and made my head feel as if it was swimming in thick honey.
I felt a hand on my back guiding me away, for the tears were making it difficult to see. I was now sitting on the lower steps of a staircase with another young man, this one younger than the fellow with the gills. He was caressing my knee in a comforting manner.
"Are you alright?" he asked, and I could only laugh. I couldn't stop laughing. Once I came around and wiped my tears away I could finally answer him properly.
"I am tired," I said, honestly. Laughter had the same curious draining ability as despair had. My head felt heavy, my eyes tight. The young man had the face of a pup and the eyes of a child. I immediately liked him.
"Have you seen my table? I think it went off with a man of such gorgeous gills planning to indulge in some natural debauchery. But I am worried because I am not sure if it has any knowledge of childbearing just yet." As I spoke, I took the liberty, as by his example, of caressing his muzzle.
"I'm sorry, I have not," he said, regretfully. "But do not worry, tables are smart. Wise. They come from trees and they have ancient, infinite knowledge flowing through their roots."
"But one must cut the roots in order to make a table!" I said, worried once more. The young man stayed silent, eyelids drooping. He seemed to have a sweet spot just under his muzzle, for his leg started moving restlessly when I moved my hand there. He began to purr softly.
"Ma'am, ma'am!" came a girl's voice. I looked around, stopping my hand, and found a little girl looking up at me. She had a tiny yellow beak and thin white feathers for hair. Both were almost translucent.
"Are you speaking to me?" I asked, and she nodded. "I am no ma'am, little one, but what is it you want?"
"You must come with me, quick! Your mother and your table… You must come!" she squawked desperately.
I sprang to my feet at once, sensing the white rotten secrets of the attendees, and hurried back to the main room. These bleached walls and floors contained so much filth. For the first time in my life, I wished I had worn shoes.
"What in the name of…?" I said, walking into the room where my mother was centre stage along with Table.
"You are just a cheap whore!" A young woman was screaming at Table while the young man with the gills stood back, cowering in the shadows. He looked quite dishevelled, while the woman looked pale with rage, which was quite a feat.
"Well, what must one expect coming from such a family," another woman said, all but spitting the words in our direction.
Mother's laugh cut through the gathered crowd like an icy blade.
"Oh, sweetie. My dearest, my brightest. You call us whores, but do you know, do you realize that for them the only thing that changes is the way the spell is cast?" My mother giggled once more, shaking her head and bouncing her rich curls, before she disappeared among the crowd, ready to enjoy the rest of the night.
E. Navarrete Díaz studied Modern Languages and currently lives in México.