Exclusive Excerpt how to get rid of acne and scars naturally ORPHEUS GIRL By Brynne Rebele-Henry

When raya, a queer teenager, is caught with her love, sarah, in an intimate moment, they are sent to a re-education camp meant to “fix” them and make them heterosexual. Mythology-obsessed raya vows to assume the role of orpheus in how to get rid of acne and scars naturally order to save them both. Orpheus girl is a story of first love, heartbreak, family dysfunction, and adolescent resilience. It is infused with brynne’s lyricism, yet also completely immersive and page-turning–a classic in the vein of the miseducation of cameron how to get rid of acne and scars naturally post and david levithan’s novels.

Every night grammy and I watch mom in the TV. I always thought mom was a silver screen kind of how to get rid of acne and scars naturally beauty because of that picture of her in high school: blonde, dimples, all clean-looking. But in this show she’s dark-sexy, her hair colored a deep brunette, silky bedsheets held up around her neck with gold ribbons. Mom left pieria when I was a kid. Grammy would say it was because she needed to go how to get rid of acne and scars naturally be aphrodite in the TV. I know that it’s because she was tired of it all, of the town and the people. So she disappeared one night. She only told grammy as she was walking out the how to get rid of acne and scars naturally door. I was two.

The car is a worn-down blue volvo from the seventies. It’s a miracle it’s still running. Every time grammy slides the key in the ignition and how to get rid of acne and scars naturally it actually starts, she thanks god under her breath. The seat belts are frayed so much that they could how to get rid of acne and scars naturally snap if you pulled too hard, so we stopped using them. I have to hold onto the car door to keep how to get rid of acne and scars naturally from falling out of my seat every time grammy brakes. She drives like a maniac. Runs over mailboxes on a regular basis, hits curbs, mows down shrubs. Once she ran over an abandoned lemonade stand. She never stops to deal with what she’s run over, just keeps going, like she’s late on her way to somewhere really important.

I get through the service like I always do: running myths through my head. Ever since I found my mom playing aphrodite on that how to get rid of acne and scars naturally soap opera, I’ve been memorizing them. I know it’s stupid, but I’ve always thought that one day I’ll open the door and she’ll be there, and I’ll need something to talk about. And since my mom’s aphrodite, I might as well be able to talk about myths. During the service I think about persephone, how the girl was pulled away from everything she’d ever known and taken to a strange world. Or atalanta. In these myths, girls are always being changed or taken by men, their voices, their pro-tests ignored. And the queer girls, like atalanta, are forced to become something else.

Grammy’s always talking about how one day I’ll have a normal life, with a husband and two kids (a boy and a girl) and a brick house with a white picket fence and how to get rid of acne and scars naturally a big yellow dog who’ll run around the yard. She says my husband should work so I don’t have to, and I’ll stay home all day and make cookies the way how to get rid of acne and scars naturally she taught me and go to PTA meetings and church.

Whenever she talks about it, she gets a misty look in her eyes and twists how to get rid of acne and scars naturally the gold chain of her cross necklace between her forefingers, and I know it’s not my life she’s imagining, that secretly she’s wondering what would have happened if her own husband how to get rid of acne and scars naturally hadn’t died in a car accident at twenty-seven and left her with a two-year-old girl, if her girl hadn’t gotten pregnant senior year of high school only to how to get rid of acne and scars naturally run off three years later.

Instead, she still has a job arranging and delivering flowers for how to get rid of acne and scars naturally weddings and funerals and baptisms, continual reminders of her own wedding and her husband’s service, and she makes me go to cotillions and dance with how to get rid of acne and scars naturally boys, refuses to let me wear pants to school and makes how to get rid of acne and scars naturally me go to church three times a week and bible how to get rid of acne and scars naturally camp in the summer and try out for cheerleading every how to get rid of acne and scars naturally august.

Every fall since fourth grade, she’s bought me a new pair of shiny green pom-poms. She takes the day off work to come to the how to get rid of acne and scars naturally tryouts with me. I walk into the gym with a lump in my how to get rid of acne and scars naturally throat, but I never can kick high enough or land lightly how to get rid of acne and scars naturally enough, and every year we drive home together in disap-pointed silence. When we get home, grammy always says she has a “headache worse than satan,” and she goes upstairs to lie down and change out how to get rid of acne and scars naturally of the “go team!” sweatshirt she wears just for tryouts. We both know that her head’s not hurting, that she just doesn’t want to have to pretend not to be let how to get rid of acne and scars naturally down yet again, but I always nod and don’t say anything.

Once the service ends, I heap pastries and the little water-cress and pickle and peanut butter tea sandwiches that the how to get rid of acne and scars naturally church ladies make onto my plate, then sit down on the coffee-stained couch outside preacher sam’s office and eat until I feel sick. Every time I go to sarah’s dad’s church I get this sinking feeling, like something’s wrong with me and if they find out, when they find out, it’s all over.

Most nights I dream that sarah and the choir boys how to get rid of acne and scars naturally and preacher sam are peering down at me. I’m wearing another girl’s clothes but I don’t know why. When preacher sam hands me a crucifix, my skin starts burning and wings burst out of my how to get rid of acne and scars naturally back, and I’m trying to get the wings to stop sprouting from how to get rid of acne and scars naturally my back but they won’t, and soon I’m screaming and burning and they’re whispering “freak” and then they’re yelling it.

The dreams started when I was eight, shortly after I realized I was different from the girls how to get rid of acne and scars naturally I went to school with, but I didn’t yet know how, just that there was some strange and invisible barrier separating how to get rid of acne and scars naturally me from them. Often, at after-school church camp, I’d watch the girls running around, skipping rope or drawing on the pavement outside the church, and my back would ache for reasons I could never how to get rid of acne and scars naturally discern. On those days, I tried to pinpoint the difference, the thing separating me, causing me to feel like every movement I made was how to get rid of acne and scars naturally an act, a dream that I would wake up from, like a fortune-teller sifting her tea leaves, trying to gather together some foreign objects and principles into how to get rid of acne and scars naturally a crystalline answer. But for years the bowl would come back empty, nothing more than water and stray oolong straining to reach how to get rid of acne and scars naturally the surface.

When I was born, I had two small, misplaced vertebrae sticking out of my back. They looked like wings. The doctors took pictures, then set the vertebrae back in place. Now I just have two bumps and a line of how to get rid of acne and scars naturally scars on my back. Sometimes at night, I run my fingers over the bumps, try to imagine what the wings would have looked like. The doctors made the first incision in my vertebrae, so the worst of the scars are low on my how to get rid of acne and scars naturally back, though the scar tissue maps all the way up to how to get rid of acne and scars naturally my shoulders in a messy sprawl. The doctors said I healed better than expected. They’d thought I’d be disfigured. But I just don’t wear bikinis like the other girls, always make sure my tops don’t slip down past my shoulder blades. It’s not that the scars are ugly; it’s just that I don’t need anyone else thinking about my being different even how to get rid of acne and scars naturally more than they already do. I don’t want to cause any suspicion— at least not any more suspicion than being motherless in how to get rid of acne and scars naturally a little town already creates.

The only time that grammy ever acknowledged my scars was how to get rid of acne and scars naturally once when I was ten. I was standing in front of the bath-room mirror staring at the faded-to-pale lines, watching the ruined skin ripple when I moved. I remember trying not to cry when I saw how how to get rid of acne and scars naturally ugly it was, how the marks of what was once a wound, a defect, covered me. I’d never paid much notice to the scars before, had always just considered them a part of me, normal, but the day before, sarah and I had gone swimming, and when she’d crouched at the edge of the pool before diving how to get rid of acne and scars naturally in, I saw the smooth stretch of her back, her unscarred shoulders, the skin taut and gold from the sun, and a hard lump of something akin to shame worked how to get rid of acne and scars naturally its way into my throat and made it hard to how to get rid of acne and scars naturally swallow.

Later that night, alone in the house, I prepared to try to find a way to make how to get rid of acne and scars naturally myself beautiful too, to try to rid myself of the ruined thing inside how to get rid of acne and scars naturally of me—the constant gnawing feeling that I was hiding something, that some part of my girlhood, and my body itself, was defective, wrong. But there was no way to get rid of the how to get rid of acne and scars naturally scars, no way to remove the proof that I was different how to get rid of acne and scars naturally than the other, unmarred girls I grew up with.

I remember clawing at the scars, as if I could scrape the ugliness away, as if I could cleanse it out of myself from how to get rid of acne and scars naturally the outside in. When that didn’t work, I scrubbed at my back with a washcloth I’d covered with dish soap. I was getting hysterical by then, my face screwed up with panic. My skin was flushed with shame and I was crying how to get rid of acne and scars naturally so hard that I didn’t hear her come in, but when I looked up she was in the doorway, watching.

Grammy knelt down on the bathroom floor so that we how to get rid of acne and scars naturally were at eye level, and she grabbed both of my hands in hers. My fingers were bloody from scratching the skin around the how to get rid of acne and scars naturally scars, and the blood smeared into a faint red on her how to get rid of acne and scars naturally palms. She stared at me for a minute, like she was trying to remember something she hadn’t recalled for years, and then she cleared her throat. “raya, this is god’s doing. He makes everything in his image, you know. And so he gave you these wings, like an angel. You know, when you were born, the parts of your back they had to take out how to get rid of acne and scars naturally looked just like a baby bird’s. He made you in his image; he made you like him. And you need to accept that.”

Though I never put much weight in god, from then on, whenever I saw the scars, that feeling of disgust that had always risen up in how to get rid of acne and scars naturally my mouth like bile whenever I saw my body was how to get rid of acne and scars naturally replaced with a kind of grudging acceptance: grammy said they were beautiful, that I was marked for some reason, that maybe my being here wasn’t as much of an accident as I’d always felt like it was, and I thought that maybe that could be enough.

Now, at church, grammy is talking to mr. Paul. A widower. He’s got two grown girls and a boy in college. She’s flushed and, I notice, she’s put on lipstick. It’s the first time I’ve seen her wear it in years. The lipstick has smeared off on her front teeth, leaving a red streak. Sarah appears at my side so I sidle up to how to get rid of acne and scars naturally them, crossing my legs then uncrossing them again, as if I’m so impatient for her to leave that it’s making me piss myself.

Ever since rosie from our school saw her kiss me, I’ve been avoiding sarah, saying it’s because it’s summer and I’m busy keeping grammy company. I remind her that it’s august, the month that granddaddy died all those years ago. Grammy doesn’t sleep so well, just stays up late and listens to the cicadas shrill how to get rid of acne and scars naturally their last mating calls of the season. But we both know the reason is because we got how to get rid of acne and scars naturally found out. I tell myself we weren’t doing anything real. Sarah was just practicing for bryce, the boy she pretends she likes when other girls ask how to get rid of acne and scars naturally who her crush is, the boy she’ll probably date until she gets out of here, goes to the bible college in houston that her dad how to get rid of acne and scars naturally went to.

Later that day sarah put her hands on my back, and I know she felt the wing-bumps because her eyes got wide, but she didn’t say anything. She’d seen them before, of course, despite my trying to keep her from noticing, twisting my back when I changed in front of her how to get rid of acne and scars naturally in an attempt to hide them, but she’d never touched them before, had never felt the ridges of scar tissue that mark how to get rid of acne and scars naturally my back like a messy landscape—terrain that even I, after all this time, have a hard time bringing myself to feel.

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