Once upon a time, there lived a woman named Pamela Isley. Pamela was a good person and respected the Green; she did everything in her power to protect it and she loved it with her heart and soul. But that wasn't good enough. There was a price to pay before she could truly understand what the earth was saying. There was treachery that must be visited upon her.
And so, torn and betrayed, Pamela became the Green.
Green skin, green blood, green through and through and out and forever. Green the poison on her lips. Green the venom of Poison Ivy.
Once upon a time.
I coax a sweet pea up my elbow where it connects with the earth as I lie here in Robinson Park, feeling the grass growing tickling underneath my stomach and the roundness of my thighs, feeling the tentative tendrils of the sweet little sweet pea curling around my arm as it climbs up to my wrist. A gentle breath from me and it blossoms prettily, gifting me with its perfume and kissing my nose.
There are children nearby. Tender shoots, like bamboo, like snowdrops, like bean sprouts. The see me. They look at my red hair, wound into a crown with ivy leaves. They look at my clothing, whimsical dress of plaited palm fronds. They look at my bare feet, stained darker green than my skin. And they are curious. Young animals, I remind myself. They are fawns. Rabbit kittens. Foals. Eager to graze.
One ventures closer and I look up at her. She is brown and wears a pink dress embroidered with daisies. Plastic daisies growing in her hair, on her sandals, on her fingers. Are you a fairy? she asks me.
I feel myself smiling although inside I am still cautious (rabbit) and I sit up, carefully disentagling the sweet little sweet pea, which contents itself with clasping my knee. The child is startled but her friends are watching her as I hold out my hand, the daisy nestled in my palm spreading wider and wider until its cheery yellow face is as big as my hand and the white teardrop petals spill over.
Take it, I say.
The child darts forward (fawn) and plucks the flower from my hand with a delicate greed, both of us careful not to touch. Other small ones gather closer until another girl, dark and with a face closed and heavy, asks for a flower as well, asking as if she has already been refused. I give her a tulip that is midnight purple and veined with another shade of violet, and her dark eyes shine. The others press closer and I stand, just in case. They beg for posies and enormous leaves and thick vines and I delight them all. They love me. They love the Green.
Would you like to come with me? I ask. Their eyes turn suddenly shaded, morning glories folded against the dark.
We can't, some of them say. Our parents will get mad.
I smile. Are you sure? Roses and violets and fat peonies tumble from my fingertips.
They stamp their hooves and paw the ground and toss their manes. I shrug and begin to walk away, gold and silver flowers the like of which they've never seen rising from my footsteps to twirl enticingly through the air, beckoning and dancing with an otherworldly allure.
When I hear tiny footsteps behind me, I know that they have entered the Green.
. .. ... .. .
He is not like the others.
He is ....
He does not try to force me to do things. He does not threaten and he does not rage and he does not come to me already knowing what he wants me to do.
Coconut trees on windswept beaches grow almost horizontal to the sand, thriving and bearing just as much fruit as their upright siblings. Bamboo plants happily grow on mountainsides, but they've also learned how to live near rivers, because they know they won't be bothered as much there. Plants know how to adapt. They know when to bend to the elements and when to struggle for their lives.
I think this bird knows that as well.
They want to be here, I tell him. He watches me through green. He watches every move I make as I slink in front of him. He's watching too intently for it to be professional interest. I smell the sap that runs through his blood vessels heating.
They're kids, he says in that hushed voice that he forever uses around me. They don't know what they want.
Do you know what you want? I peak my tongue across my top lip and watch his eyes follow.
I'm really not in the mood to play games, Ivy, he sighs. I trail my fingers along the inside of his upper arm, raised and trapped by vines next to his head, stopping just short of his sleeve's edge, just short of the warm skin beyond it. He tries to be like his mentor and stoically ignore me, but I can tell that he is pressing his body back against the cave wall against which I've bound him, trying to escape. I set my cheek so close to his ear that if he draws in a deep breath we'll be touching.
They love me, I whisper. The children love the Green and I am the Green. They don't miss their old lives as animals. They don't miss being fawns.
He holds himself still, so still, afraid to brush against me and feel the poisons bloom against his healthy pink face. What do you want them for? he asks suddenly, purposely sliding his eyes away from me.
I smile and dance back from him, twirling like a maple leaf fluttering to the ground. Hostages? I suggest. Ransoms? Experiments?
He shakes his head, breathing easier now that I'm a branchlength away from his exposed skin. That's not your style, he murmurs. You wouldn't do something like that.
I pause, a sliver of doubt crimsoning my green, green blood. I wouldn't? Why wouldn't I? What does he see when he looks at me through that green mask? Am I a sylph, capricious and spiteful, or am I an earth goddess with power to create or destroy? Am I a shredded patchwork graft of a woman, or am I a person who was terribly wronged and followed the corrupt path?
Suddenly I am angry at him, for making me wonder, for making me think that he was any different. They are all the same. They are foraging, trampling, clearcutting. He thought that by speaking softly to me, like reeds whispering along a riverbank, that he could make me believe that he understood. He doesn't understand. Him or his long-eared, brutish, delicious mentor.
You don't know anything about me, I hiss, and the foliage around me echoes it in a thousand rasping leaves and stems. They are human animals. They mean nothing to me when compared to an apple tree or a cedar scrub. But they have wandered into the Green and so there they must stay.
They have families, he says, trying to free his arms. They can't stay here with you, Ivy.
Stop telling me what to do! I shriek, and the vines tug roughly at his body, slamming him more irrevocably into bondage. His breathing gets faster, fluttery, but he does a better job pretending to be calm now than he did before.
I'm not telling you what to do, he says in that violet voice of his. I'm only telling you the truth. They can't stay with you.
I'm calmer now and the vines around the green-and-scarlet bird become placating, twirling in his hair and about his fingers as gently as kisses. There's no use losing my temper with this one. I'll get further by being the flowery damsel in distress. That's the way to win this. That's what I'll do.
He takes a breath, then says softly, I know you want them with you, Ivy. But they can't stay.
The color of his voice pricks me, and I whisper, What...?
His eyes are blue and silver like barely frozen grass and just as fragile, just as complex and brittle and precious. They look at me through that mask and I can see…not pity, not fear…something else. Something silvered and transitory. Something like sympathy.
I'm sorry, he says, his voice barely louder than the murmur of a weeping willow. I'm sorry but they can't. Ivy.
I'm suddenly wildly glad that he didn't call me Pamela because I don't think I would have been able to --
His fingers are curling around the vines, reflexively, like a baby's. Gently. Tenderly. With something like...affection. I feel it through the tendrils, his green-gloved fingers ghosting across my cheek, and I shiver at the warmth -- strange, that it would make me shiver. But it's been long, oh so terribly long since I felt anybody touch me kindly. Anybody with red red blood and warm skin. Anybody at all.
I'm poison, I hear myself saying under the slither of vines as they release the bird and he flops to the ground. I'm Poison Ivy. My green skinned hands, pale against the dark green grass. The toxicity of my touch. Nothing for me but the Green.
Thank you, Ivy, he says. Sincerely, as he rounds up the children and herds them out of the cave, out into the sunlight, out and back to the other deer and rabbits and horses. He stops at the mouth of the cave, a dark small silhouette, watching as I gather the vines around me, their smooth caress a bitter, woody reminder of what I have lost forever. Watching as I once more become Poison Ivy.
I'm sorry, he says quietly.
My prince, I say. He doesn't understand. He leaves as silently as a falling rose petal.
Once upon a time, I had tears to weep.