13 September 2013

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No girl who has ever read Gone with the Wind wants to be Melanie Wilkes. They want to be Scarlett. They want to be a star. And so, i was to Melly Marvel's eternal disappointment that, in naming her, Melly Marvel's parents had chosen to cast her- name-wise- in a supporting role.

From a young age Melly Marvel refused to play along.

She demanded people call her Melly Marvel-- none of this Melanie crap. She wasn't some mealy-mouthed priss. She was a marvel, and demanded that she be recognized as such.

Their cooperation was begrudging to say the least, but gradually Melly Marvel wore them down. The name did, after all, roll off the tongue.

'Melly Marvel Sprawling!' would come her mother's sugary drawl across the yards as dark fell and she called her daughter- usually sporting a newly skinned knee and covered in a veneer of dirt- home, her beloved collie trotting behind.

This was the problem with only children. They tried to get Melly Marvel to socialize but she so much rathered to exist in an imaginary world where she was Scarlett O'Hara and her dog was Ashley Wilkes and they were rummaging in the dirt for a beet root to eat.

Melly Marvel always had dirt under her nails.

Her grandmother, Avill, said 'You know what lives under there, Melly Marvel? When I was a little girl, we took nail clippings and put them on a slide and looked at them under the microscope and you could see all the little worms wiggling around, a whole slew of them!'

Hearing this, Melly Marvel's hand flew to her mouth. She didn't like the idea of the worms but the bitter taste of the dirt, the hard nail against teeth was a comfort, reliable in its solidity.

'You're eating worms, Melly Marvel!' said Avill.

But Melly Marvel always made sure to spit the nail out so she knew she wasn't eating worms so much as giving them a quick panic and sending them on their way.

Melly Marvel was benevolent like that.

Just like how, after safety pinning her hula-hoop to her mother's long nightgown so she could be Scarlett O'Hara, she's gently undo it, smooth down the tears, fold it, and put it back in her mother's drawer.

Melly Marvel never wanted to hurt anyone- not the worms or the nightgowns or her mother- but it was imperative that she have her fun.

And so Melly Marvel would build whole worlds- elaborate imaginary worlds- worlds where she was beautiful (she looked, in reality, rather odd) and smart and beloved and beloved for her smarts. Worlds where she had limitless new clothes and endless excuses for fancy dress and was constantly under threat and her triumphs were equally constant, though often enjoyed alone.

When she was Scarlett O'Hara- which she often was in those days- she was Scarlett on the road to Tara, Scarlett after Rhett, Scarlett trying to survive.

Her father pulled her on his lap and asked what she was doing all the time, behind the closed doors from which screams of GO AWAY! would burst should anyone attempt entry. Phelan asked Melly Marvel what that was all about.

'It's my story time,' she told him.

'Do you think Melly Marvel's stories are out of control?' Marietta asked her mother.

Said Avill, 'I'm more worried about her putting all those worms in her mouth, Marietta. You've got to stop her biting her nails.'

'I know, Mother, I know. But you know Melly Marvel. Tell her not to do something and she'll do it ten times over.'

'Don't worry about the Scarlett phase. It'll pass. Like the Elvis business. You've just got a child there with an excess of imagination. A good thing in the long run but a tragedy for your nightgowns in the here and now.'

'Did we do wrong to call her Melanie? It's such a pretty, old name, a family name. We thought it would inspire her to be a good lady.'

'And it may still...'

'It's not like she could've been Scarlett. That's a whore name if ever there was one. Nothing good could've come of that.'

Melly Marvel didn't want to be Scarlett anyway. She wanted to be Chartreuse. It was the most southern belle name she knew that still sounded like the girl who had it would be up for a good time.

Secretly, she perfected her signature as Chartreuse. Secretly, she imagined she would- when she was older, when she was 12- dye her hair red, wear nothing but yellow, and call herself Chartreuse.

In the meantime, she waited, biding her time, biting her nails, waiting for her day to come.

She knew it would. She may've been named for a supporting character, but Melly Marvel knew she was a star.