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dubois, inés esmeralda, esmeralda; hiba abouk, moira
Inés Esmeralda DuBois
The map of her identity is complex and rich: she is rooted in North Africa, her footsteps longing for the white sands of Zuwarah. Her blood is made of the rivers of Andalusia, elegant and life-giving. Her bones are fortified with the perseverance from generations of American immigrants, who pulled themselves up by their bootstraps to pursue a better life. Her heart though – the very core of her being – beats to the music of her Romani ancestors. She has vague memories of an encampment in rural Pennsylvania, though she didn’t know exactly where she was at the time. For years afterward, she simply referred to it as Paradise. She remembers crackling fires, jovial laughter as the people she called her family emerged from their rusted trailers to join one another for songs and food. She remembers a faith long lost: prayers to the Virgin Mary and Kali Sara in a secret language. She remembers the lines that formed on her mother’s face when she smiled. Her mother, Pauline, was happy then – healthy – and her little daughter hardly had a care in the world. Her father was long gone, nothing more than a myth. She was content to keep it that way, but Pauline had other plans.
First there was Jason: a spindly wisp of a man who liked to help Pauline stick needles into her arms. He didn’t last long…disappeared without a trace but the damage was done. Her sins were too great; thus Pauline and her daughter were expelled from Paradise. Destitute and desperate, Pauline clung to the first man she could find. She quickly moved into his apartment in Camden, New Jersey, where Father found a new name in Nick. Where Jason seemed to disappear into the corner, Nick took up the entire room. He had broad shoulders, a greasy nose and stood at six-foot-seven, which prompted the six-year-old to ponder how he fit through doors. Nick never talked much but he loved to scream. Father became the bruises on Pauline’s face. Every night, the child would wake to hear plates shattering against the wall or a lamp crashing to the floor. Sometimes he wouldn’t wait until she was sleeping. Father remained a giant until Pauline found the courage to run.
Father then became Anthony. He became nights at the ballet and a kiss every night…
No matter how many times they had woven their way through the densely populated lobby, the child was always stricken speechless. She tilted her head to grin at the towering figure beside her, adding a few excited hops for good measure. “I think you’ll like this one, Inés,” the man cooed as he clutched the girl’s hand. “It’s called Giselle.” Anthony always tried to explain the plot to her beforehand and whisper new developments as the action went on, but Inés very seldom listened. While she was eager to see whatever world each ballet would offer her, she cared more for the ethereal dancers than the actual plot.
Her eyes never left the stage as she memorized every step they took, holding her breath as if waiting for the moment they would all float to the sky. Her heart melted as she watched Giselle guide the Duke through his dance, successfully breaking the spell and allowing him to live only to return to her grave as the morning light dawned. Afterward, she filed out with the rest of the chattering audience as she discussed her favorite moments.
“The ending was so sad though,” she exclaimed as the pair made their way to their car.
“You’re right, it was. But it just goes to show you that love conquers everything!”
That was, perhaps, the very reason why the art form captivated her so. Why wouldn’t someone grow wide-eyed and wistful when they were presented a world where love transcended life and where grand stories could be told without speaking a single word?
“Anthony,” she said, thoughtfully clutching the fabric of his sleeve, “Do you think mom will get better soon?”
The man paused; briefly, yet long enough to betray the uncertainty in his words. “I think she will, honey. She’s a tough lady.”
Father was finally something real and peaceful. But when he held out a ring to Pauline, the child’s treasured nights at the ballet became nothing but memories as their running resumed.
Father was a paycheck when Pauline wanted to try again. He was now endless presents and vacations and a house bigger than the world. Father took the name Victor, appropriately. Pauline was over the moon, but her daughter was unimpressed.
At the age of fourteen, Inés had come to harbor a distaste for her first name, opting instead to identify as Esmeralda despite her mother’s numerous protests. Her middle name, as she had been told countless times, was a secret never meant for ears of the gadje, but this was one of many ancestral rules she would break in her adolescence. Besides, Pauline had little clout to lecture her daughter on sacred traditions. Pauline eventually (and reluctantly) honored her daughter’s wishes, but Victor seemed completely offended by the notion.
Victor had decided that Inés sounded like a much more dignified name for a proper young lady. He would sneer and nearly throw fits whenever the girl introduced herself as anything other than Inés in his presence.
“Inés,” he would call, as if the very word was a venomous taunt, “go get your mother for me.” That was the peculiar thing with Victor, every time he addressed the girl it was to run some ridiculous errand that he could easily accomplish himself. It’s like he could sense her passing by his door no matter how quietly she tried to creep by, all while never glancing up from his damned newspaper. For someone who claimed to be a doctor, he did an awful lot of lounging around the house and leaving for lavish vacations. The girl couldn’t remember a time when she had ever seen him at work. Despite her frequent complaints to her mother, Pauline always urged her daughter to just ignore it.
“I know it bothers you, but he means well,” she would say, “besides…it is your name.”
She felt utterly alone in her plight, and although she had spent months successfully heeding her mother’s advice and swallowing her anger whenever she heard Victor’s voice, one day all that anger came boiling back up.
“Inés, can you take the dog out?”
She skidded to a halt in the doorway and slowly turned to him, her eyes boring a hole through his newspaper. “My name is Esmeralda.”
Apparently, she had unlocked the secret code to tear his eyes away from his beloved paper. He folded it over just enough so that his eyes peered above it. She expected to see the same icy glare she offered him present in his own eyes, but what she saw instead was much worse. His eyes held a sense of displeasure, yes, but they also carried with them a hint of pity for the poor stupid girl that didn’t even know her real name.
“No,” he dryly replied, “it’s Inés. Now take the dog out.”
He barely had time to return to his reading before she stamped her foot in protest. “How would you like it if I called you whatever I want!? What if I started calling you ‘lazy old asshole!?’”
She had already disappeared from the door frame and was currently storming down the hall, stomping against the woodwork as dramatically as she deemed possible. She locked herself up into her room until her mother called her down for dinner. As she trudged down the stairs, she was prepared to hear an earful from them both, but was instead greeted with a stiff, uncomfortably silent meal. Three days later, Pauline packed up their things and removed Victor from their lives.
In 2008, Pauline relapsed and set off on a bender that took her life. Father and Mother became a memory, leaving Esmeralda with a glazed and bewildered look in her eyes whenever anyone asked the question: where are your parents? Mother was gone. That part was simple. But Father…he was huddled under a bridge in Pittsburgh; he was bounding through an apartment destroying everything in his wake; he was in the city for the weekend reminiscing about the life that never was; he was sunbathing on the deck of his yacht in the middle of the Atlantic. For years he was everywhere and nowhere until one day he was dancing in Fairmount Park. Cesar had a grin permanently fixed on his lips and a dreamy glint in his dark eyes despite the lifetime of suffering he carried on his shoulders. He taught her to dance properly, he taught her the long-forgotten secrets of her ancestors, and he taught her to love and trust once more. He was her laughter, the spark in her soul, and eventually the reminder that all good things must come to an end.
She speaks the name Father with neither contempt nor longing. It falls from her lips to the ground, limp and lifeless. Father is many things: the secret on the top shelf she cannot reach, the nightmare that screams at her until she wakes, the animal that nestles up to her only to reach out and scratch her. Father showed her how to fear, dream, hate, laugh, cry, and live. Father is a peculiar word because, though he molded her life, he was never really existed.
After Cesar’s death, she wandered from place to place like a waif, taking up any honest job she could find – and not-so-honest jobs when she was desperate. She mostly danced in clubs or occasionally on the street, adopting the alias Jewel: a combination of a lifelong passion, an acute awareness of her own sexuality, and an attempt to profit off the centuries-long fetishization of her ethnicity. Eventually, she found herself on the opposite coast in sunny San Diego: the perfect backdrop for the mystical and colorful persona she had crafted. Her plans to stay in California are temporary, but at least here she can be embraced by the illusion of paradise.
Esmeralda from The Hunchback of Notre Dame
occupation: burlesque dancer at Black Rabbit Rose
pronouns: she / her
birthday: July 25th, 1991
face claim: Hiba Abouk
Moira, you've created the strong character that I've always looked up too. Esmeralda here is stubborn and strong. She'll stand up for herself and pave her own way while the entire time being incredibly confident with herself. I can't wait to see her on the site!!! I think she'll be a wonderful addition! Don't forget to make your claims!! Welcome to Fantasies!!
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