Masks and Roses: Part One
She became a villain because she was never given the chance to be good. From the time she was born, she was groomed to be wicked; ignored, ridiculed, toughened. Sometimes, as she sat upon her throne of silver, she would think of the way she was raised. She’d always known it wasn’t normal, and when she was young, before They’d rid her of emotions, she’d pined for a different life. But now she wouldn’t trade her upbringing for anything short of Neopia itself. After all, had she been brought up normally, she never would have risen to such power. She never would have been tempted to seize control.
So now, as she looked back at her twisted childhood, she laughed.
It was the only thing she knew how to do.
The young Wocky’s name was Katalynn, and this was the moment of her life.
She stood in the parlour of her family’s Faerieland home, twirling slowly in front of a floor-length mirror. Her soft pink fur glimmered under dim candlelight, and the elegant gown she wore draped her body perfectly. It had been her mum’s dress; Katalynn knew that much about it. But her father hadn’t ever said much beside that. Still, her mum had gone when Kat was just a child, and all her life she’d been waiting to try on this dress.
It seemed petty – Kat knew that. But when her mum went away, she’d left practically nothing behind. Her jewelry, her shoes, her makeup, it was all gone. Everything was gone. Everything except the dress.
Katalynn turned again, admiring the delicate details of the gown. It was lavender in shade, with careful beading up the seams, and it was flanked with shimmering diamonds that were sewn snugly into the thick satin material. Kat had always thought she looked like a baby, but in this dress, she was something else. Exquisite, exotic, unique – beautiful.
Like her mum.
“Pretty, isn’t it?” asked her father from the doorway. He’d left a while back so she could get into the gown, but now he’d returned.
Kat turned towards him and nodded. “It’s stunning.”
“It was your mum’s favourite.” The green Wocky’s voice was low; Kat knew it still pained him to talk of her mother. With a wary smile, he added, “I’ve always thought she left it just for you, Katalynn. For you to wear once you got older.”
“Perhaps,” said Kat, and she stared deeply in the mirror, trying to picture her mum in the dress. It would have fit the silver Wocky perfectly, even better than it did Kat. It was made for her, after all. The beads and diamonds would have complemented her ice blue eyes, so different from Kat’s plain brown ones, and the lavender shade would have brought out the shine in her fur. In this dress, her mum would have been the centerpiece of a room – an angel, a beauty. Kat knew then that no matter how pretty she was in the dress, she could never even compare to her mum, her lovely mum.
“You should take it off now, Kat. It needs to be saved for special occasions,” said Kat’s father, snapping his daughter out of her fantasies.
“I will,” Kat replied, and with that, her father walked away.
Once the Wocky was alone, she twirled one last time before slipping off her mother’s gown. After redressing in an old blouse and trousers, Kat stared at the mirror once again. She had gone back to looking like a baby, as if she was a little girl playing dress-up with her mother’s things. Everything had always fit her so awkwardly, the sleeves drooping, trousers hanging oddly on her hips. And then she’d tried on the dress...
Carefully, Kat hung the dress over the mirror. It was hers now, her father had made that clear; once she could fit into it, it was her responsibility. Before, it had been in the back of her father’s closet, collecting dust. But that would be no longer. She would take studious care of it, keeping it clear of all dirt and grime. It was her mum’s favourite outfit, and now it would be hers.
Taking a deep breath, Kat picked the dress back up and walked quickly out of the parlour. She went up the stairs, then made a sharp left into her bedroom. Striding across the airy space, she opened her small closet and carefully placed the gown on a hanger. She then pushed her ordinary clothes away from it, to give the lovely dress its own special place, as if to make sure it would not be tainted by other outfits.
Part of Kat wanted to continue to stare at the dress then, to further study the reminder of her mum. But she’d already looked it over so many times, looked at the expert beadwork and small, shining diamonds. As Kat grew up, the dress had always been at the back of her mind. She was so little when her mum left that it was one of the only things the Wocky had to recall her by. The dress defined Kat’s mum, her lovely mum who was but a shadow in the girl’s memories.
Kat knew her mother’s name was Rose and that she was an artist. She painted portraits and landscapes, tucked away for hours in the house’s studio. That was not to say she was a poor mother. From what Kat did recall, her mum was always very attentive, very loving. Art was just part of her life, her being; while some people wrote or talked, Kat’s mum painted.
Rose also collected art. Kat’s father never talked about it, but she knew. It was evident in the paintings and drawings that still blanketed the Faerieland home, some of them still with receipts tucked into their frames. Kat had read some of the receipts a long time back, and her mum’s name was on each of the transactions. All the paintings were old and simple, though that was the only factor that tied them together. Some were bright, some were dark, while some had no colour at all. Most of the art wasn’t very extraordinary, but Kat liked it anyway, if only because it was just another scarce link to her mother.
Kat had begun to shake now. She didn’t want to, but the Wocky couldn’t help it. Thinking of her mum always made her depressed, made so many unanswered questions pop into her head. They varied from day to day, but they were always led by a chief: Why had her mother left in the first place?
There hadn’t been any signs beforehand. Kat simply woke up one morning and Rose and her belongings were gone, a crudely written note in their place. She hadn’t understood quite what was going on then, but she knew it was bad. After all, her father was crying, and he never cried. Never.
When Kat was finally old enough to grasp what had happened, she put it in her mind that one day her mum would come back. She couldn’t leave Kat and her father forever. But as the years went on, the idea seemed less and less likely. Rose was never going to come back, not by her own volition. If Kat was ever going to see her mother again, she would have to find her, not the other way around.
But Kat had always been too frightened to go and find her mother. Of course she wanted to, but she never failed to think of an excuse. She was either too young or too small or too weak. A Wocky who still looked like a baby playing dress-up wasn’t brave enough to go on a journey. There was no question about it.
But in that dress...
Blinking back tears, Kat touched the dress lightly. The satin felt cool on her paws. It didn’t matter if she looked like a silly little child in her trousers and blouse, because in that dress, she was a queen. And a queen wasn’t a coward.
So on the day the young Wocky named Katalynn had been waiting for her entire life, she made a decision. No longer would she think of trivial excuses to keep her from finding her mum. She had been missing Rose for too many years now, and she needed to know why she left. The inane little child was no longer.
The old Katalynn was gone.
Kat left a note for a father, much in the way her mother had so many years ago. But she made it clear that she was not gone for good; there was just some business she had to sort out. She didn’t mention her mum by name in the note, but she knew her father would figure it out anyway. He was aware of how much Kat thought of her mother and how much she wanted to find her. He wanted to find her too, after all.
After placing the note, Kat packed up a few of her treasured belongings. She yearned to bring her mum’s beautiful gown, but deep down, she knew it wasn’t practical, so she left it behind. With a few outfits, a stack of Neopoints, and some tightly packaged food placed in her duffel, Kat took a deep breath and crept downstairs. It was almost dinnertime, and her father was in the study, reading a book. She could see him from the front hall.
He could not see her.
Kat was thankful for this. She didn’t want to explain her leaving in person. That was the purpose of the note. She wasn’t going to kid herself; to leave a note in lieu of a conversation was cowardly. But she’d always been better at expressing herself in print. Her spoken words always came out garbled and wrong.
Clutching her duffel tightly, Kat tip-toed down the hall and opened the front door. She was greeted by a light gust of evening wind.
Kat looked back one last time at the home she’d lived in her entire life, and then she stepped outside.
To be continued...