It’s recess. Liril sits against a tree. The tree is at the schoolyard’s edge. Liril’s hair runs down the bark.
Sandy approaches her, and Liril opens her eyes.
“I wondered if you’d come,” Liril says.
Sandy’s face is tight. “I want to be prettier.”
“If I were prettier, then people would have to love me,” she says.
“You are pretty.”
Sandy shrugs. “Not enough.”
Liril reaches out her hand. She puts it on Sandy’s elbow. “You are like the sun,” she says.
“No,” Sandy says. “Make me prettier.”
Liril makes a sad face. “Okay.”
Liril nods. “Tomorrow,” she says, “you have to wear your ugliest dress, and your hair all a mess, and carry a hand mirror; and when people who don’t love you say mean things about you, you have to look at the mirror. Then bring me the mirror and I’ll break it, and you’ll be pretty.”
A day passes; and another; and there’s Sandy with the mirror. She shows it to Liril. Liril spits on it and rubs it dry. Then she shatters it against a rock.
“I feel funny,” Sandy says. She’s beginning to glow.
“You’re becoming a merin,” Liril says.
“Is that something pretty?”
Liril thinks. “Merins help make sense of the world,” she says. “They can be ugly or pretty or somewhere in between. You will be pretty.”
Sandy sits down. The glow brightens; then fades. Sandy looks at her hands. “I can see myself,” she says.
“Why would you be invisible?”
“. . . I don’t know.” Sandy looks up. “I’m pretty now?”
A day passes; and another; and there’s Micah by the tree. “You’re crying,” he says.
“They took her,” Liril says.
“Sandy,” Liril says. “I changed her. And they came. And they took her. And she’s gone.”
“Will they hurt her?” Micah asks.
Liril shakes her head. “She’s pretty. So they’ll love her. That’s the law of her nature.”
“Then why are you sad?”
“She was like the sun.”
Micah sits down.
“Seven times,” Liril says. “Seven times I’ve lost the sun. I wonder when I shall run out.”
“When you look up in the sky,” Micah says, “and it isn’t there.”
“I can’t fight for them.”
Micah looks at his feet. He picks up a stone. “If you wanted to fight,” he says, “what would you do?”
“I’d name that stone Liril,” she says. “Then I’d draw legs on it, and a head, and two hands; and I’d roll it off into the woods.”
Micah takes out his crayons. He draws legs on the stone. And a head. And two hands. “What about a neck?”
Liril looks at him.
“Right,” Micah says, grumpily. He rolls the stone off into the forest, then peers into the distance. “I’m not sure where it landed.”
“Why did you do that?” Liril asks.
Micah doesn’t say things like “You’re like the sun.”
“You’re Liril,” he says.