Once I thought hope was yellow, like the sunlight we never saw.
It was our first Christmas in the attic. Little had we realized, on that terrible day when Momma had first explained that we were the forbidden children of an incestuous Psy-Changeling marriage and that she, a powerful Cardinal Psy, had fled PsyNet to marry her half-Changeling, half-Psy, half-uncle, but after he was killed by Psy assassins she had been forced to flee to the elegant but cold home of her mother, who locked us in the attic as punishment for Momma's incestuous sins and also to protect us from the deadly Psy Council who would erase the dark blot of our existence, that it would be years before we saw the yellow of hope and sunlight again.
Chris and I had done our best to brighten our dank prison for the holiday season. In a sparkling cascade of light, he had transformed into a magnificent, brown-striped white tiger with ice-blue eyes, and clawed beautiful flower designs into our walls, which were painted black and otherwise unadorned except for pictures of sinners writhing in Hellfire. Carrie and Cory had done their best to help. Carrie had shifted into her white rabbit form and nibbled leaves at the bases of the stems, and Cory became a white dove and pecked out tiny, low-growing buds.
As I was a Cardinal Psy, with eyes like the night sky, I, like all Psys, had no shift form. My power was telepathy – more a curse than a gift here in this cramped attic, with no one's thoughts to hear but the childish hopes and fears of the twins and the swirling passions of Chris. So I cut flowers out of paper and pinned them to the walls, until our hideous jail became a beautiful garden.
On Christmas Eve, after the twins were asleep, I slipped up the stairs and into the attic proper to try on a dress I had found in an old hope chest, which I hoped to wear on Christmas Day. I thought Chris was asleep as well, but in addition to forbidding us to shapeshift, our grandmother had utterly banned us from getting undressed within each other's sight. After the terrible day when she caught Cory flying up to investigate the skylight and poured hot tar over his white feathers, damaging his pinions and making him permanently unable to fly, we had all become more cautious.
I stripped away my gray rags beneath the skylight which might have been our means of escape, if only any of us could fly. Standing naked in a ray of moonlight, I lifted the scarlet velvet dress from the chest. Then thoughts more bright and intense than the color of the velvet burst into my awareness. Turning, I saw Chris, bare-chested and standing at the top of the stairs. He gazed hungrily at my budding breasts, my ballerina's thighs, and the lightly furred junction between those thighs.
A good sister would have exclaimed in horror and snatched up the dress to cover her body, and ordered her brother away. I did neither. I knew it was wrong to stand there and let him see me naked, but all I wanted was to see him naked too.
Though Chris was no Psy, he seemed to know the confused desires in my heart. He walked forward and crushed me against his strong chest. My mouth found his, and we sank down atop the velvet dress, bruising each others' mouths with our clumsy lips and teeth. I tried to remind myself that he was my brother, to give me strength to fight him off or tell him to stop, but the thought only made me want him more. His hair was the color of mine, his soft skin the texture of mine, the hard muscle on his chest and arms echoing the hard muscle of my dancer's legs. To be repulsed by him would be to be repulsed by my own self.
We rolled over and over on that splintered attic floor, frantic to press every inch of warm skin together. I could feel the rigidity of that part of him which grandmother said we should never think about, not even when we washed it, and I could feel that part of mine which she said was the source of sin becoming hot and wet. Chris rubbed his hard part against my wet one, first gently, then with more urgency, until an explosion of pleasure burst over me.
"Oh!" Chris exclaimed. "Cathy, your eyes!"
He pointed to the full-length mirror leaning against the attic wall. Where stars usually burned white, fireworks of many colors were bursting like blossoms.
"Anything that makes something so beautiful happen can't be a sin," said Chris.
I wanted to agree, but I felt strange. I sat up, then stood up, backing away from him. The attic vanished in a burst of sparkling light. When it returned, I saw the change in myself first apparent in Chris' look of awe, and then in the mirror. I had shapeshifted – something that shouldn't be possible for a Psy. But unlike any Changeling, my new form was not an animal. I was still Cathy, but a Cathy with huge, exquisite white swan's wings sprouting from my back. My change form was an angel.
I swept Chris into my arms and leaped upward. My wings easily bore us both upward, toward the skylight that would be the means of our escape. Then I landed. I got a pair of scissors to cut out the back of the dress to allow for my wings, and Chris put on his pants and ran downstairs to fetch the twins. Looking in the mirror once again, I saw that fireworks were still exploding in the night sky of my eyes.
Once I thought hope was yellow. Now I know that hope has many colors.