Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Becoming the Moon Goddess

My short story “Moon Goddess” is a highly autobiographical tale of a young woman and man coming of age. As she makes the transition into womanhood, she recognizes her goddess self and embraces it. Her male friend witnesses her transition, senses the separation occurring, feels pangs at losing her, and walks away sulking, upset that he cannot have what or who she is.

I knew it was a powerful story when I wrote it, and I sort of understood it but there was a lot about it that I was unable to articulate. The prologue came to me, and the story grew from that. The prologue reads:
It always comes down to a choice: she can be herself, or she can be loved by amortal man. Tonight, she stands at the devil's crossroads once again.

It never occurred to me that I could have both, that there was a way to both remain true to myself and maintain a rewarding relationship with a man. My entire life has been a struggle with that dichotomy; either/or, you can’t have both. So I’ve vacillated between the two poles. I’d work on being myself for a bit until I felt rich and full and solid. Then I’d work on developing a relationship. 

As the relationship progressed, I’d slowly lose pieces of what made me, me. Bit by bit. I’d notice their absence, and rationalize that I could live without THAT piece, I’d be fine without THIS piece, until eventually so much of me was gone that I no longer resembled myself.

I remained in a miserable relationship for many years, for many reasons. One was fallacious thinking: You’ve invested “this much” time and effort and energy into it, you have to keep trying in order to redeem it. Don’t throw in the towel, honor your investment, there must be something worthwhile there because you’ve stayed “this” long.

Ego. I didn’t want to be wrong. I couldn’t admit I’d made a mistake – or maybe not even made a mistake, but that things had changed and it was time to move on. The relationship was no longer a good fit, and that was okay that it no longer fit. Not a value judgment – it just was what it was. Not right or wrong.

I saw ending the relationship as giving up, quitting, being weak, sinful in some way. Failing. So I worked at reanimating a corpse. Spoiler alert: It doesn't work.

That said, today I had the epiphany that I can indeed both be myself and be loved by a mortal man. I don’t have to choose. My mind is blown. I feel an intense joy and freedom. The path before me just widened exponentially. Thank you, Universe.

If you're curious, below is an older version of my story, "Moon Goddess." Enjoy. *Note: Disturbing content. Coming of age tales sometimes contain unspeakable cruelty.* ~~GH

Moon Goddess

It always comes down to a choice: she can be herself, or she can be loved by amortal man. Tonight, she stands at the devil's crossroads once again.

They stalked the darkened field behind Dean's house armed with badminton
racquets and watched for a signal from the fireflies. Hunkered low in the tall
summer grass, Dean smelled traces of lemon-fresh Joy dishwashing soap lingering
on Ginny's hands, and felt a pang.

"Tonight I'll prove myself to her. I'll get the first bat and she'll love meback." His arms quivered with fatigue and he hunched his shoulders for relief.
Focused on the blue-black air, Dean waited for the first flicker.

* * *
It was their secret ritual, killing bats that dipped low to eat the fireflies.

Their game was forbidden and, therefore, exhilarating. Ginny's mother would
ground her for the rest of the summer if she found out. Dean's father would whip
him with a belt if he knew. Yet every summer evening as the sun set, Ginny and
Dean went to the field and waited for fireflies to signal the competition's

Ginny played tennis – took lessons every morning for two hours -- and she
excelled at it. Dean walked with her to the tennis courts each day and watched
as she attacked the ball. Ginny looked like a beautiful wildcat springing for an
unsuspecting bird. She rarely missed.

The day had been muggy, but the temperature dropped to a tolerable level as soon
as the sun disappeared behind Ginny's house. Fireflies sparkled, ushering in the
magic session when shadows turn to monsters and evil lurks behind every
outbuilding. Bats drifted in dreamlike circles seeking breakfast, for this was
shift change between day and night creatures.

It was Ginny's favorite time of day.

A firefly flickered. Immediately a shadow dove from the eastern sky. Ginny
sprang to her feet and slammed the first bat to the ground with a single,
panther-like strike.

"The night's mine!"

"I wasn't ready."

"Ready or not, the night's mine, fair and square."

They stood over the animal and watched as its broken wings twitched. In seconds,
the movement ceased.

"I'm sick of this, Ginny. It's not fair."

"The night's mine. The score's 7-2 now."

"I'm not playing any more." Dean slammed down his racquet. It landed on the ground
beside the dead bat.

"Then don't play any more." Ginny squatted beside the bat and poked its carcass
with her racquet. Satisfied it was dead, she flipped the animal up into the air
and sent it flying with a solid underhand swing. It soared for several feet,
then halted and plummeted to the ground.

Locusts droned. In the distance, a dog barked. Without a word, a truce was made.
Ginny and Dean lay back in the grass and studied the night sky. 

"There's Corona Borealis, right over Griffith's roof."

Ginny looked where Dean pointed. "Let's pretend I'm Princess Ariadne and you're
Theseus. You just slew the Minotaur and we're sailing away." Ginny spooned her
body against his.

Dean's cheeks felt hot. "You slew the Minotaur. I guess that makes me Princess

"Well, you can kill the next one, Dean."

"I don't want the next one. The night's already yours, Ginny – or should I say,

Ginny rolled away from Dean. Overhead, bats circled the field. The night was
rightfully hers. She'd made first kill. Slapping at a hungry mosquito, she
remembered that only female mosquitoes bit people.

She took a deep breath. "Then the night's mine, Dean. Because you lost, you have
to tell me the story about Princess Ariadne and Theseus again."

Ginny rolled side to side, smoothing the grass until she was comfortable. Dean
snuck a glance at the gentle mounds beneath her shirt. He loved to watch as they
rose and fell with her breathing. Ginny was changing, somehow growing up faster
than he was. He felt a stirring in his pants and squirmed to reposition so she
wouldn't notice.

Ginny decided to begin the story without Dean. She closed her eyes and imagined
a ship with black sails setting off for Crete.

"…Princess Ariadne liked Theseus, so she gave him a sword and a ball of string.
She told him to tie the string to the door of the Labyrinth and he could follow
it back out and kill the Minotaur…"

Realization settled on Ginny and she stopped speaking. For the first time, Ginny
became aware that Princess Ariadne saved Theseus. Ariadne provided everything
Theseus needed to kill the Minotaur – all he did was use what she'd given him.
She developed the plan, provided the tools, and even opened the door to let him

Dean's voice carried Ginny back to the dark hillside. "…Princess Ariadne fell
asleep on the Island of Delos, and Theseus put out to sea on his ship with the
black sails, leaving her behind."

Ginny rolled up on one elbow and squinted so she could see Dean's face when he
answered. "Why do you think Theseus left her on the island?"

"I don't know. Maybe he was afraid what his father would say if he brought her

"Why would he care? I mean, she saved his life and all those other people's
lives. Didn't he love her?"

"Sure he loved her." Dean squirmed and gazed up at Corona Borealis. He felt that
somehow, Ginny was sailing away from him. The silhouette of a soaring bat sailed
between him and the constellation. Dean looked around for his racquet. Maybe the
night isn't a total loss.

Ginny sat up. Ideas fell into place and she breathlessly explained them almost
as they formed. "Ariadne saves Theseus and all those other people, and he
abandons her, Dean. He gets in his ship with the black sails and leaves her
there to fend for herself. Then Dionysos comes along and falls in love with her.
He wins her heart and marries her. He gives her a golden crown encircled with
gems for a wedding present. They live together happily for many years. When she
dies, Dionysos throws her crown up into the night sky. The jewels grow brighter
and brighter and then turn into the seven stars that form Corona Borealis."

Dean wasn't sure when it happened, but he realized that the Ginny he loved was

Ginny took a deep breath and continued. "So the Corona Borealis has nothing to
do with Theseus and everything to do with Princess Ariadne, Dean."

Dean turned back to watch for the bat to sail past Corona Borealis again. When
did everything change between us, he thought. I know it's different, but I don't
know why. He glanced over at Ginny. Her saw her face in profile, and the sight
of it made his chest ache.

A cloud from the east crept closer; Dean hoped it would block the constellation.
He didn't care if he ever saw Corona Borealis again.

Ginny reflected on Princess Ariadne. What did their English teacher say happened
next? Ginny remembered. There was something more, yes. Ariadne became the
goddess of the shining moon, the spiral dance, and swirling stars.

Standing up, Ginny spun in circles with her head thrown back. She kept her eyes
on the moon, and the stars swirled in a magical spiral dance. After several
spins she fell back onto the grass, satisfied. She had seen the swirling stars.

She had done the spiral dance. 

She was the moon goddess.

Corona Borealis twinkled in the distant heavens.

Dean stood and picked up his racquet. "It's late. See ya tomorrow." He slunk up
the hill towards home, holding his racquet over his head.

In the darkness, it reminded Ginny of a black sail.
Here is a link to reviewer's reactions to "Moon Goddess."~~GH

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