Blue wants to scream.
She wants to hold her head and uncover her face and open her mouth and scream until everybody on Homeworld can hear her. She wants to feel the voice scratching her throat until it goes numb, she wants to let go of everything that weights on her chest, she wants to curl against a wall and cry and scream, scream, scream.
She can’t. She can’t because Blue Diamond has denied her the possibility.
She stays there, immobile, listening, while the Jade that controls her sector bows in front of Blue Diamond. She can feel the giant gem’s eyes examining her with contempt and annoyance, and there is to wonder why would she want Blue there if she doesn’t even like pearls that much.
«Are you sure this one is the right choice?» Blue Diamond asks Jade, dry. «I only need a pearl because of my image, I don’t want it to bother me. I don’t want to care about it. I just need it to be there and look good».
It. Like an object.
«She… It won’t, I promise you, my Diamond» Jade immediately changes the pronouns to stick to what Blue Diamond has said. «This is why I brought this one. It is – oh, not defective, I would never, my Diamond – just, an older version then those that circulate right now. It has problems speaking. It can be taught, of course, but if you don’t…»
Jade never finishes the sentence, but there is no need to. Blue Diamond looks at her and her cape moves a little to the side and Blue can see the little smirk on her face.
Blue Diamond never teaches her to speak and condemns Blue to live the rest of her life without a voice. She tries to learn by herself, tries to issue a sound, a whimper, but nothing more than a hiss comes out. Her vocal cords just can’t bear it.
She is very good at listening, however. She has nothing else to do. Blue Diamond puts her at her side and she stays still, keeps her head lower and listens. She listens to everything. She listens to big Amethysts talking about a combat, to Citrines showing Blue Diamond the results of Kindergartens on the new colony, to Ambers explaining her why the new fabric for the curtains is so expensive. Blue knows so many stories that it would take thousands of solar cycles to tell them all, if she only could.
Once and once only she asks Blue Diamond. It’s one of the few times she makes her presence known. Blue Diamond looks at her like she doesn’t remember who she is while Blue shyly projects an hologram of herself talking.
Blue Diamond waves one hand to make it disappear.
Blue is shaking.
«Nonsense» Blue Diamond says, harsh. «You don’t have anything interesting to say in any case. Now shut up».
Like she has an option.
The other gems laugh about her, use her as scapegoat when they have some reason to criticize Blue Diamond. Blue knows, because Blue hears them. She hears them making stupid jokes – what’s the difference between Blue Diamond’s pearl and the echo? One of them talks! – and their coarse laughs hurt her ears.
The bolder ones, usually young Topazes, come near her and pull her hair or play with the hem of her skirt and grin.
«Why don’t you tell us to stop?»
Blue Diamond never notice that they’re touching her. Blue Diamond never lowers her eyes to look at her, never acknowledges her existence or her pain. She never even acknowledges her silence.
Blue wants to push everyone away and run. She wants to scream and let everybody know that she’s there.
She does nothing. She stays still, hands joined in front of her chest, head low.
After all, even if she cries, nobody notices.
Yellow is honored to work for her Diamond, to take her calls, to plan her meetings, to organize her papers. She is flattered Yellow Diamond gives her so many responsibilities, to a pearl. She is grateful of how much time she spends on teaching her how to do things right, instead of just keeping her around. She thinks she is lucky to be hers.
The first time Yellow Diamond hits her Yellow tells herself that she didn’t want to, that it’s a matter of sizes.
Yes, that must be it: Yellow Diamond is so big when compared to her, she just miscalculated. She only wanted to move her, to show her what the correct order of the files was, she had no intention of grabbing her arm so fiercely and throw her aside, slamming her against one of the archives.
Just a miscalculation.
She miscalculates a lot.
The first time she kicks her Yellow starts to realize that maybe it’s not a mistake at all and that Yellow Diamond is perfectly aware of her strength.
The worst thing is that it’s not even her fault. It was the Tourmaline to break that vase, Yellow saw her, than why doesn’t her Diamond believe it? Isn’t she her most loyal companion? Isn’t this why she gives her all those duties, because of the trust she puts in her?
Yellow Diamond yells at her and when Yellow tries to explain she turns around and kicks her. Right in the stomach, Yellow sees stars.
She flies on the floor and whines in pain.
«Stop complaining» Yellow Diamond scolds her. «I could’ve hit you harder».
Yellow is sure of it.
The first time Yellow Diamond grabs her Yellow is scared out of her mind. She doesn’t even remember what she did wrong this time, but Yellow Diamond is angrier than ever.
She came back already nervous from a meeting; Yellow finds herself knowing she had no way to avoid this.
She is in the middle of an apology when Yellow Diamond’s hand grabs her. She closes around her waist and jerks her up, everything happens in a moment. Yellow finds herself facing her Diamond before she realizes her feet are no more touching the ground.
Her legs wag desperately and her hands hold on Yellow Diamond’s fingers – the only handhold she has, even if the less safe.
«You’re useless!» the Diamond barks. «You can’t do anything right! I should break you! I could buy ten of you that are better at your job!»
Her grip tightens around Yellow’s little body and she cries, her screams full of apologies and pleads and pain.
Then Yellow Diamond opens her hand and lets her fall down. All what Yellow thinks about is covering her gem before she hits the floor, hard. Her whole body hurts.
«Get out of my face» her Diamond spits.
Yellow doesn’t have enough strength to run. But she does anyway.
What Yellow Diamond does is perfectly fine. Pearls are just accessories, pearls can be replaced. Nobody is going to mind if a pearl is covered in bruises, nobody is going to ask why or worry.
Still, Yellow Diamond makes her regenerate every time.
«Hide those» she orders. Then, in a snort, «You’re too frail».
She is frail indeed. She is thin and small compared to her, Yellow Diamond can do whatever she pleases. Nobody is going to see after she has regenerated – nobody is going to care anyway.
She tries to be efficient – but she’s too intrusive. She tries to be quiet – but she’s being lazy. Yellow Diamond always finds a reason to slam her against the archives.
Yellow develops a haughty attitude to cover the bruises that aren’t fixed by simply healing her body. To cover what her Diamond says, to cover the humiliation and the insults.
When asked, however, Yellow gives one single answer, raising her chin and smirking.
«Yellow Diamond is flawless, perfect, the best!»
Hands behind her back, she rubs her thumbs together and bares the shame of her lies.
White looks at her gem in the mirror, oval, not perfectly round, and calls herself Pearl.
Pearl, with a capital P, because in a way or another she’s different. Because her gem is unique – but that’s just another way to say defective – and it’s hers, so she’s one of a kind. She’s not her owner’s color, she’s Pearl.
Or at least that’s what she tries to think when fear and panic and disgust take over and make her fall to the ground curled in a ball, shaking, sweating, gasping and afraid. She needs to look in the mirror and lie to herself, say something positive, or she’s going to break from the inside.
She should thank her luck – and she does – that none of these crisis has ever happened in front of White Diamond. She wouldn’t know how to tell her.
Not very much can be told to White Diamond.
She is a very respectable gem, very rich, very strong. She is also a perfectionist: Pearl would think it’s funny that she got the only defective pearl of the last mass production, but since she is the one pearl in question, it’s not so funny anymore.
Everything must be perfect when White Diamond is around.
«How many times do I have to tell you?» she scolds her, and she is so big and Pearl is small and she gulps. «These must be organized by color and size: from the lighter to the darker and from the smaller to the bigger, not the opposite! Do you even listen to me?»
Pearl is quick to nod. She automatically pushes more strands of hair on her forehead, where her gem lays: the day White Diamond will realize that it’s not perfectly round it’s the day she’s going to be broken.
White Diamond shakes her head, sighing.
«Go back to work» she orders. «I want everything to shine before my guests arrive. And you need a new dress».
Pearl cleans the shelves and the floor and all the furniture at least three times. She goes back and always finds a stain or a grain of dust and she panics and wipes it all over again. She has never seen White Diamond really angry and she doesn’t care to.
White Diamond makes her try on hundreds of different dresses, for hours. She shakes her head and rips them off from her and Pearl jumps and stiffens and blushes and White Diamond laughs.
«Perfect» the Diamond mutters as she wears another one. «You must look perfect, because you represent me».
Pearl feels like a doll. She hates it.
When the guests come, they throw their capes and belts or whatever to her and Pearl struggles not to let anything fall down.
She stays aside, upright against the wall, while White Diamond and the other gems talk and laugh. She always prays she can stay there until everyone is gone.
It never happens.
White Diamond calls her, every time. She approaches quickly, on the inside she is shaking.
Sometimes White Diamond makes her play an instrument, sometimes she orders her to dance, other times she wants to show her guests how perfect her pearl’s outfit is. They can touch her if they want, they can lift her chin or raise her arm to have a better look and Pearl feels dozens of eyes on her and her leotard is too short and their gazes are too focused and she hates it.
Her hands twitch, she wants to slap all those gems’ fingers away from her body and yell to them to let her go. They wouldn’t treat her like that if she wasn’t just a pearl.
She is Pearl.
But she’s still a pearl, and her gem hurts and she has a headache and she wants to be one and wants to be like the others and wants to know what she wants to be.
When the guests go away, White Diamond sits down and tells Pearl to climb on her lap. She obeys and White Diamond gently fixes her dress and her hair, but her hands are so big and they could crush her and Pearl can’t help but tremble.
«My pet» White Diamond whispers. «You are perfect because you are mine, and everything that I own is perfect. Do you agree?»
On what? That she is perfect or that the Diamond owns her?
«Yes, my Diamond» Pearl answers.
«I need to maintain my image intact. I need to show everyone that I’m perfect and that everything I own is perfect. If one of my possessions makes a mistake it’s like I have made a mistake, and I don’t make mistakes, because I’m perfect. Do you understand?»
She pulls her hair a little bit harder. It’s not a question.
«Yes, my Diamond».
«Perfect, my pet. Now clean everything up».
White Diamond would not hesitate if she ever felt that Pearl could be a threat to her social status. She would break her immediately, and Pearl is terrified of death.
That’s why she keeps cleaning and cleaning, that’s why she stresses herself to organize things just like White Diamond wants, that’s why she wears what she is told to and doesn’t rebel when she’s shown off like a shiny toy, like an accessory, like she’s just a pearl and not Pearl.
The only thing she can do for herself is to keep telling lies in front of a mirror.
And now they are on Earth and one could think that everything is fine, that they are finally free.
But Homeworld is still buried in their hearts, with all the fears and pain it brings along.
Blue cries sometimes. Just like that. She hides herself in a corner and cries, opens her mouth and holds her chest. Those are not even attempt of screaming anymore, are just gestures that she’s too used doing.
Pearl and Yellow come near and hold her until she’s calmed down. It often happens when there is a discussion, when everyone is talking. When there’s only the three of them they sometimes lay together without saying a word, and Blue breathes air she doesn’t need. But it’s impossible to force everyone to stay silent.
Blue wouldn’t want to, anyway. She’d like to talk instead, without being forced to show a hologram every time. She’d like to know what her voice is like. She’d like to stop having these crisis.
When Steven and Connie, one day, come to her with a book that reads “Sign Language” on the cover, Blue hugs them for fifteen minutes straight.
The most amazing thing is that they teach each other. They learn at the same time, all the Crystal Gems do, they struggle together to help her; Blue Diamond could have done it without effort and she never cared, because she was nothing more than a low alloy ornament.
Blue doesn’t want to think about her anymore.
She still hides in a corner and cries, sometimes. But now she can move her hands and tell the others what’s wrong.
Yellow will never admit to have a problem. She is perfectly fine, she says, and her arrogance is often enough to convince people that she’s telling the truth.
But Pearl and Blue know better. It’s in the way she reacts. It’s someway similar to some reactions Peridot has – but a lot more controlled, a lot more studied and sharped by experience, only her friends can notice it.
Peridot, after all, has had less interaction with Yellow Diamond than her.
It’s how she stiffens when someone reaches her from behind, putting one hand on her shoulder or even simply brushing her arm while walking next to her. Just for a couple of moments Yellow’s body instantaneously freezes: like she’s waiting for something to happen and is ready to take the hit.
When she’s talking with someone and staring directly to their face, if the other person waves one hand or turns around or does any gesture without warning, quickly, even worse if towards her, Yellow’s eyes snap closed and her whole body has a little jerk backwards.
Her hands don’t run to cover her face; instead they claw on the first thing they find, almost as she knows that there’s no way to defend.
But when asked, she doesn’t have a problem. When asked, Yellow Diamond is still «Flawless, perfect, the best». When asked, Yellow Diamond has never laid one hand on her.
And still, the first and last time she tries sleeping, Pearl hears her from the other room screaming and apologizing between desperate sobs. Blue has to wake her up and rock her in her arms until the sun comes back up.
Yellow won’t admit that she has a problem, but Blue and Pearl don’t force her to. The era of forcing something on someone is over. They simply let her know that she is safe among them and wait for Yellow to be the first to search their hands and hold them tight.
Pearl has spent thousands of years fighting with herself, with her crisis, with the broken pieces of Homeworld stuck on her skin. She has made progresses, although slowly. But she’s not okay yet.
Most of all, living on Earth has taught her some new useful things: her crisis back on Homeworld for example, the ones where she ended up shaking and sweating and gasping, are called panic attacks. And even those obsession for order and perfection that she has developed because of White Diamond have a name.
The panic attacks are way less frequent now. The last one she remembers clearly happened the day Steven was born – the day Rose died – and was one of the most violent she ever had. Garnet stood next to her the whole time. When it passed, Pearl looked like she had really come back from the dead. They never spoke about it again.
Even her crisis about order are becoming episodic, but they still happen from time to time. Usually Pearl has no idea they’re coming. They vary from some weird thought – what if Steven slips what if his food is poisoned what if Peridot closes herself in the bathroom again and he needs to use a public toilet what if – to Pearl finding herself cleaning the windows for the fourth time or rearrange Steven’s toys in order of color and size once again.
Lighter to darker and smaller to bigger. She hates it, but she has to do it anyway.
Yellow and Blue find her putting Steven’s clothes on the rail. She pulls one side or the other until the star on every single shirt is facing the same direction.
Perfect, she thinks, and she hates it.
She doesn’t need to say anything. She sits down and Yellow and Blue sit next to her. Pearl focuses on them and not on the clothes.
«Sorry» she finds herself murmur. «I just had to».
«What are you sorry for?» Yellow snorts. «White Diamond should be sorry».
«And your Diamonds too».
«They all should. They will never leave us».
Blue smiles softly, sadly, and speaks with her hands.
We have each other now.
Pearl and Yellow smile. The three of them hold hands.
A blast of wind rips a shirt off the rail and makes it fall on the ground. Pearl tightens her grip and doesn’t run to retrieve it.