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“Speaking of livers,” the unicorn said, “Real magic can never be made by offering up someone else’s liver. You must tear out your own, and not expect to get it back. The true witches know that.”
—Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn
* * *
My mother doesn’t know about the harpy.
My mother, Alice, is not my real mom. She’s my foster mother, and she doesn’t look anything like me. Or maybe I don’t look anything like her. Mama Alice is plump and soft and has skin like the skin of a plum, all shiny dark purple with the same kind of frosty brightness over it, like you could swipe it away with your thumb.
I’m sallow—Mama Alice says olive—and I have straight black hair and crooked teeth and no real chin, which is okay because I’ve already decided nobody’s ever going to kiss me.
I’ve also got lipodystrophy, which is a fancy doctor way of saying I’ve grown a fatty buffalo hump on my neck and over each shoulder blade from the antiretrovirals, and my butt and legs and cheeks are wasted like an old lady’s. My face looks like a dog’s muzzle, even though I still have all my teeth.
For now. I’m going to have to get the wisdom teeth pulled this year while I still get state assistance, because my birthday is in October and then I’ll be eighteen. If I start having problems with them after then, well forget about it.
There’s no way I’d be able to afford to get them fixed.
* * *
The harpy lives on the street, in the alley behind my building, where the dumpster and the winos live.