On her tiptoes she could almost reach it—the gleaming sphere on the third shelf of the closet. The sphere had been winking at her for years, and finally she was about to hold it in her hand…
She straightened with a jolt, so lost was she in her thoughts of the sphere that she didn’t realize she had reached around it, knocking it to the floor. She held her breath for a moment and squeezed her eyes shut, praying that she hadn’t knocked it to its death—that it was made of something strong enough to survive.
“Sean…?” She called out searchingly.
She heard her brother bounding up behind her.
“Could you please pick that up and tell me what condition it’s in?” she pleaded without turning from the closet.
She exhaled and reached her hand out toward Sean. He dropped the sphere into her palm and galloped back toward the couch. She closed her fingers around it, and walked down the hall to her room, closing the door behind her.
Marla was 15 (16 in less than a month). She had been catching glimpses of this sphere for 10 years. She thought she would grow out of it—the curiosity, the pull—but she hadn’t. It wasn’t like thoughts of the sphere consumed her every waking moment—she was a teenager—but it was surely always in the back of her mind. She had never thought to ask her parents about it, because she felt like it had nothing to do with them. It was something that she needed to discover on her own.
Besides Marla, there was Sean, 10, 56 inches, and Libby, 19, 67 inches. Neither her siblings nor her parents showed any interest in the sphere. Though her parents did occasionally notice Marla’s preoccupation, they believed the issue to be Attention Deficit Disorder and had her tested for learning disabilities.
Marla had mentally measured the height it would take to reach the sphere by watching her parents, Jeff, 74 inches, and Cheryl, 71 inches, reach into the aptly named creative closet to pull out board games, craft supplies, gift wrap, etc. Her parents must have forgotten the sphere was there, for they never touched it. Or, as Marla suspected, it was placed there just for her, unremarkable to any unanointed eye. Whenever the closet door opened, she felt a chill of anticipation. And after a summer growth spurt, finally, at 63 inches, she was tall enough to reach the shelf on her own. This was important to her, though she could not explain why.
Marla collapsed onto her bed, the sphere still in her hand. It was weighty and smooth. She sat up, took a deep breath and opened her palm to inspect it. It was even more beautiful up close: oblong with a shiny, gold surface and patterned swirls etched on the top. She turned it over. There was a tiny crack at the bottom. She cringed remembering the sound it made when she knocked it off the shelf, letting her fingers trace the fracture. It seemed to grow the longer she lingered on it until suddenly… it cracked. Like an egg.
Marla felt something yolky now in her palm. She carefully moved the shell to her nightstand, trying not to disturb the contents of the yolk. It was mesmerizing. The yolk was silvery, but clear so that Marla could see into it. It was like she was holding a galaxy in the palm of her hand…
“Marla! Dinner is ready!”
Just like that, her mother’s call broke the spell, and she realized that she was starving. Marla looked around the room for a safe place to keep the yolk. She dumped the water from her night stand glass into the succulent on her windowsill and gently dropped the yolk from her hand into the glass.
“Marla!” Her mom called again.
She placed the glass next to the succulent, hoping that she did not drown it, while also worrying the yolk might melt back into the ether while she ate dinner. She took a moment in front of the mirror to straighten out her appearance before heading to the kitchen, closing her bedroom door tightly behind her.
Gourd was the family cat. He was actually most loyal to Libby, but since she left for college, he had taken to prowling where he wasn’t supposed to and getting himself into trouble. He liked Marla’s room because her window faced the deck where he could sometimes see “outside cats” trolling for mice.
He was happy not to be an outside cat, even if he didn’t care much for his family. Gourd jumped up onto the windowsill and purred to himself, swinging his tail from side to side, as his eyes caught focus on a cat outside the window. He slinked across the windowsill in an effort to follow it, expertly leaping over the succulent in his path. A moment later, Gourd caught sight of several light refractions on the wall. He looked around for their source and discovered the silvery liquid in the glass.
As quickly as he spotted the yolk, he slurped it into his mouth in one gulp. His eyes bulged. It tasted like salmon and beef and milk and catnip all at once. Overwhelmed, Gourd plonked down on the windowsill, fast asleep.
When he came to, Marla was standing over him, patting his head and peppering him with questions that he wanted to answer.
“Gourd. Gourdie! Did you eat my egg? Gourd you are a naughty cat. You could have died! I have no idea where that came from!”
“I don’t know what it was, but it tasted just as beautiful as it looked,” Gourd answered sleepily.
She stared at Gourd, wide-eyed and gaping. All at once she felt queasy and looked around for her trash can, finding it just in time to throw up her dinner.
“Now that smells horrible. You people are always complaining about my litter box, but at least I have a specific place to go and don’t take care of my business willy nilly,” Gourd said between licks of his paws.
Marla looked up from her new position on the floor, bent over the waste basket.
“Gourd… you do realize that you are speaking. Like, real human words! To me! Right now! You are TALKING! Or maybe that egg actually hit me on the head when it fell from the shelf, and I’m having a Dorothy, ‘there’s no place like home,’ moment.”
“Marla, I believe you’re having what Dr. Phil calls a ‘breakdown.’ I suggest you stop worrying about me and take a hard look in the mirror. I’m having a really lovely evening, and I would hate for your hysteria to ruin it.”
Marla dry heaved.
“The cat is talking. Talking as if he could always talk. But he didn’t. Right? That’s not real?” Marla thought as she slapped her cheeks.
“Get a grip!” she said aloud.
“My grip is just fine, Marla. Would you like to test it?”
Marla crawled over to the dresser, pulled herself up, and, taking her cat’s advice, looked at herself in the mirror.
She checked her forehead for signs of trauma.
Then she focused on her breathing.
“THE YOLK!” she thought. “It had to have been the yolk. What was it? Magic?? Where did it come from?” she wondered.
She made hard eye contact with herself in the mirror, and then with Gourd over her shoulder. Gourd was older now, but he was still a cat with all of the reflexes that come with it. She had to act fast, or prepare a distraction…
She whirled around to face the cat, sliding her decorative hand mirror off of the dresser and holding it behind her back. She crept toward the windowsill where Gourd was still grooming himself.
“Hey, Gourdie, have you ever tried grooming yourself in the mirror? I feel much better after doing it myself.”
Gourd stopped licking and looked up at Marla who slowly pulled the hand mirror from behind her back until the glass was in front of him.
“Well that is quite lovely, Marla. I am doing a great job if I do say so myself. I…” Gourd choked.
His eyes bugged once again as he began coughing up a fur ball. Marla waited until Gourd leaned down and opened his mouth as wide as it would go. She opened her hand beneath his mouth, and out came the yolk. Covered in fur. She tried not to gag as she darted to the other side of the room before the cat could lap up the yolk again.
Sitting in her desk chair, she began to pull the hair away from the yolk, as Gourd turned his back on her to face the window.
It was meant for her! She almost lost her breath thinking about how the magic would work if she consumed it… maybe she would be able to read minds! Or fly! Or…
“Crap!” Marla slapped her forehead.
Gourd turned back toward her, taking notice.
“I forgot I still need to memorize my lines for our Taming of the Shrew presentation. Maybe if I pop this yolk I’ll be able to memorize it faster…” She said, reasoning to herself, but directing the comment to Gourd.
Gourd hissed and plopped down from the sill with grace, sauntering toward the closed door. Marla sighed, getting up to let the cat out, still cradling the yolk in her left hand. She watched Gourd scurry away on an unknown mission before closing the door again.
Gourd proved that there was magic in it. She could feel the magic seeping from it into the palm of her hand, but she felt like she needed a sign of what to do next…
Her phone dinged.
A moment later, it dinged again.
Marla opened her eyes. Her concentration was broken. Or maybe she had her answer. A plan formed in her mind.
She walked to her nightstand, opened a small, square box and dumped out the pearl earrings lying inside it. Gently, she placed the yolk on their former silk pillow. Then she picked up the pearls and slid them into her ears. A routine motion she hoped would help shake off the lingering magic of the yolk.
She reached for her phone. Her copy of The Taming of the Shrew was lying open on her desk.
Marla would swallow the yolk on her 16th birthday.