No one could remember exactly when Prima Donna arrived. She came and went as she pleased, reappearing at odd hours of the night. When she was home, Prima Donna clung to us like a parasite, drinking our money and trampling our patience. Sometimes she disappeared into the attic and refused to come down for days at a time.
She stumbled in on a crisp fall Sunday morning, golden leaves tangled in her dirty blond hair. I watched from the living room, as she slithered into the kitchen, shakily pouring herself a cup of cold coffee. She curled up on the beige sofa next to me, resting her head on her bony bruised knees. She looked up slowly with her electric eyes, smiling at me weakly. I extended my hand out to her, and she gently laid her dark claws on my small, icy palm.
She was an absolute mess during family dinners, shouting about her day, laughing inappropriately. She told us stories that didn’t make any sense, her mouth full of roasted carrots as she spoke. The dates never lined up. Characters seemed to morph into one another. She was incredibly truthful, she was never one to lie. But everything she told us was scattered like dandelion seeds in the wind.
“I was with Lucy on Saturday” quickly turned into “What, I haven’t seen Lucy in weeks.”
When Mother and Father told her she was being too loud, she would become eerily quiet. She became so still I could have mistaken her for a statue. It was as though they had unplugged her brain. The electricity shut off in her eyes. Her face would cease its excited twitching and solidify like grey cement. She terrified me when she was unplugged.
“Prima Donna,” I told her once, in the bathroom while she was doing her makeup, “you’re scary when you’re unplugged.”
“I’m sorry,” she responded. She sighed and set down the tube of mascara she had been applying. Her eyelashes looked like crows. “I fear that I am scary in all forms. But don’t worry about me, you’re very good at controlling yourself.”
Sometimes I could hear her from the attic. I heard fiery, dark music, muffled by the insulation in the walls. I heard her screams, her sobs, her laughter. Sometimes she sang.
Sometimes random boys and girls would appear at the front door of our house, informing us Prima Donna had invited them over. Mother and Father were not too fond of this at all.
“She has issues,” they’d assure me. “She just wants attention, that’s why she’s so slutty. It’s best to ignore her.”
“It’s so good that we have you,” they’d tell me, squeezing me so hard that their bones scraped against mine. “One good daughter cancels out that witch.”
I often found her and Father arguing in the kitchen when I returned from school. It always began with something small, like him telling her that she needed to get her shit together if she ever wanted a chance at finding a job. She would start sobbing, the crows above her eyes melting, and pouring down her hollow cheeks.
“I’m just talking to you,” Father screamed at her, one time. “I’m just trying to help you. God, you’re so fucking dramatic, Prima Donna.”
“Stop yelling at me! Fuck off!” she screamed back at her, the fire erupting from her lips.
“You’re telling me to fuck off?! I just don’t want to find you on PornHub a few years down the line, sucking some old man’s dick. God, you’re hysterical. The only thing that matters to you is your fucking appearance. When you’re all old and saggy, what will you have left?”
She picked up a chair and hurled it in his direction, letting out a long, sharp wail as it left her hands.
“So this is how it’s gonna be,” Father shouted at her. Terrified to see how this would end, I raced up the stairs to my room and hid under my bed.
We hadn’t seen her in weeks. Mother and Father argued angrily in the kitchen while I cried quietly under my bed. Streams of tears poured from my eyes. My body shook uncontrollably.
One morning, while walking to school, I found her lying on a street corner.
“Prima Donna! Prima Donna!” I exclaimed, barreling towards her. No response.
“Prima Donna? Prima? It’s me, are you ok?” She didn’t move. Her ghostly face looked up at me from the sidewalk. Her cyan lips were parted, almost seeming to mouth the word “HELP”. However, the most terrifying part of her face was her blank, gray eyes encircled by lifeless crows. They seemed to look everywhere and nowhere at the same time.
I tapped her shoulder. No response. Fuck. I didn’t know what to do. I picked up her hand. It felt frigid, like taking a microwave dinner out of the freezer. Alarmed, I let go of her hand, and it flopped to the ground.
I tried to scream, but I couldn’t get any sounds to come out. I gagged and vomited. She had been permanently unplugged. Her wires had been snipped, she short-circuited, her screen had gone dark, she was out. Dead. DEAD.
Isabelle Oringer is a sophomore at Scripps College majoring in American Studies. They love creating and contemplating life in their spare time.