Regan Moore has been a writer her whole life, but has recently focused her career towards it. She is an avid writer, reader, and cinephile, who loves a good story more than anything in the world, except for her family. She is currently living in Jacksonville, Florida with her mother, step-father, and grandmother, while working on getting her degree in creative writing for entertainment and writing her first novel.
A WITCH BY HER COVER
More often than not, we as humans profile and make assumptions without any foreknowledge. That’s a fancy way of saying we judge, sometimes horribly and unjustly, people without getting to know them. We’re all guilty of it, no matter how nice of people we think we are. I’ve always considered myself an open-minded, kind hearted person with good judgement. It took an encounter with a woman named Victoria Covell to make me realize that I didn’t know as much about people as I thought I did.
Victoria and I weren’t always friends. In fact, there was a time when I didn’t think that she liked me at all. And, to be fair, I didn’t like her much either. Victoria is one of those beautiful girls whose idea of dressing down is wearing a prom dress. Back then, it seemed like whenever she looked at me, she had this lingering look of disdain, what I know call, “resting witch face”. I first met her at the Spooktacular Halloween special event at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. We were both year round special event volunteers, meaning that we pretty much did whatever was asked of us, whether that task was setting up an event or playing a character. At the time, we were handing candy out to children dressed like giant pumpkins (we were, not the children). Immediately after introducing myself, my first impression was, “wow, she is a snobby jerk; she thinks she’s so much better than me!” For the rest of that night and every event for over the next year, it was the same—she barely spoke to me, rarely looked at me, and I just knew that Victoria hated my guts.
I didn’t care.
(I did care.)
I’m one of those people who desperately need the approval of everyone around them. Like, I am almost positive that anyone who gets the chance to know me would like me. I’m a super loveable person in a completely non-egotistical way, and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why Victoria didn’t like me. So, I made it my mission to get her to like me or die trying.
That is, until I realized that was more effort than I really wanted to exert, so I did what I do best. I complained and sulked.
The weeks and months passed, and the sweltering hot of Florida summer transformed into the just as sweltering hot (but not as rainy) Florida fall. At the zoo, that meant one important thing—the dino exhibit was going away, and Butterfly Hollow was set to open (Lovejoy, 2012). The Hollow was a roaring success during its opening the previous year, so the zoo made sure to have seasoned volunteers inside to help set up for the grand opening.
Because I was homeschooled, I was always the first one called whenever something was happening during the week. I came in at the crack of dawn, dressed in a thick hoodie that would be torn off like a quick-change artist’s pants the second the sun peeked out. I remember the Hollow like it was yesterday—a magical, whimsical exhibit, with oversized mushrooms, mosaic rock pathways, and a glorious array of multicolored flowers. Then, there was the butterflies.
As a ballerina, I was well-versed in stories like the Nutcracker. I remember being ten-years-old and seeing the Waltz of the Flowers, thinking it was one of the most graceful things I’d ever seen. The butterflies put every dancer to shame. They twirled and pirouetted through the air, looping around each other as effortlessly as breathing. It took the sound of crunching footsteps up the path to remind me that I had a job to do. When I turned to greet my fellow volunteer, my stomach sank.
Victoria strode up the pathway, her hair beautifully curled, her clothes cute and stylish, not a smear in her makeup, as always. It both annoyed and amazed me. Immediately, I was self-conscious in my oversized sweatpants, t-shirt, and hoodie. She walked past me without a word, a faint floral smell following her. I breathed in deep, both to control my impulsive mouth and to take in the sweetness she left behind.
Our job was inside the exhibit, hanging banners, preparing the nectar for guests to feed the butterflies with, and draping vines around the edges of the cottage-like structure to give it a more fairy tale-like feel. Remaining silent, Victoria immediately moved to the nectar, so I started on the banners. We worked in silence for nearly two hours, the quiet hanging heavily over the exhibit. The butterflies avoided us, lingering on the other side of the cottage as though they could sense the tension between us. I couldn’t blame them—if I had wings, I would’ve flown away the second Victoria appeared.
Once I finished with the last banner, I moved on to the vines. They were limp, pathetic looking things that looked every bit the cheap plastic they were. I tried once, twice, to twist them into the chain link fence of the enclosure. Every time I tried, though, they fell to the ground, taunting me as they fell. After the fourth time, I was resigning myself to grab a stapler and show those stupid vines who was boss.
Then, a warm hand fell on mine. It was soft, gentle, like how you would expect an angel’s to feel. My mouth went dry as I turned, only to find Victoria smiling joyfully at me. I stared idiotically at her for a minute, the only thing able to fall out of my mouth being, “I thought you were still over there?”
Victoria smiled in a way I would later come to call her “shyile”. It was a more of a grin than a smile, one that made you feel like you were in on a secret with her that no one else knew. In reality, it’s the smile she uses when she’s trying not to blush. Even now, whenever she flashes it at me, I start giggling like an idiot, and the first time was no different.
“It’s cool. You looked like you were struggling.” She grabbed one end of the vine and handed me the other. Wordlessly, we lifted it together, winding it through the fence in sync like some strange waltz. When we finished, we both stepped back.
It was…beautiful. Entrancing. How could I have assumed that just because it was some ugly piece of fake, plastic plant, that it couldn’t be something more? What we’d created was something special—something out of a fairy tale. When I turned to Victoria, I realized that the vine wasn’t the only thing that I might have misjudged. I quickly turned away when she looked back and grabbed another vine, moving to the other side of the exhibit to work.
All of seventeen at the time, I never really put much thought into sexuality. I knew people were gay and straight, and some people were both or neither depending on how you looked at it, but I’d never really considered my own. I was always too busy with dance or school or pining over my ex-boyfriend from freshman year to sit down and think about it. I knew Victoria was a lesbian, but that never bothered me. In fact, until that very moment, it was something I hadn’t even considered.
Victoria followed me to the other wall. “Ray—”
“It’s Regan,” I corrected quickly, not daring to look away from my vine. “My mom and sister are the only ones who really call me ‘Ray’.”
Five years later, Victoria reminds me how often I corrected people about my name, and how much I hated people calling me ‘Ray’ without permission (V. Covell, personal communication, February 10, 2018). I’ve never told her, but I don’t mind so bad when she does it.
Anyway, Victoria nodded. “Oh, yeah. Sorry. I was just going to ask, didn’t you say you were in acting school?”
I shrugged. “I was last year. I flunked out. Now, I’m trying to get my GED.”
“I understand.” She sighed. “I almost flunked out of 12th grade. If it hadn’t been for a friend of mine in thespian helping, I don’t know if I would’ve graduated.”
Inappropriately, as always, I laughed, finally turning her way. Victoria frowned. “What?”
“Just…you’re a thespian lesbian.” For some reason, it was the funniest thing I’d heard of in my life. Victoria broke out into laughter beside me, a high-pitched witch cackle she would forever be known for. I looked at her--really looked—and my heart skipped.
The butterflies had returned, fluttering around us and framing Victoria like a portrait from a fairy tale book. To this day, I will stand by that Victoria is the most beautiful girl I’ve ever met.
“You’re okay with that?” Victoria asked suddenly, breaking me out of what was nearly a gay panic. “Me, being a lesbian? Because, at Bishop Kenny, a lot of kids didn’t like me for it. My own mother and grandma don’t even know.”
She was so vulnerable in that moment. Maybe that’s why, to this day, five years later, I’m still so protective over her. It was the first time I ever really saw her for what she was—scared, lonely, but so goodhearted and sweet. I did classic Regan—I punched her in the arm.
“What? Why would I have a problem with that? You know…I was reading online, and I thought I might be pansexual. I don’t really know, though. Haven’t put much thought into it.”
Victoria’s eyes widened, and it hit me what I’d just confirmed. I like guys and girls. Victoria was a girl who liked girls. One that blushed when I spoke to her, who laughed at my lame joke, who opened up about her family…
She pushed a strand of hair behind her ear, dislodging one of the butterflies, which fluttered over to my shirt sleeve. “So…if I asked, would you consider…y’know…going to the movies or something?”
“Like in a gay way?”
Later, I would curse my impulsive mouth, but Victoria laughed again, and suddenly, it was worth the foot in my mouth. After that, the day passed quickly. We continued talking about nothing: favorite movies, shows, Broadway musicals, our mutual obsession with the Wicked Witch of the West. I fell in like inside that magical cottage. I met my best friend and first girlfriend in a shy young woman who just wanted some love. The Wicked Witch--my Wicked Witch.
Lovejoy, H. (2012, 11 March). Zoo has Butterfly Hollow for summer.
The Florida Times Union, p. E-8.