4.7 Little Homunculi


Growing up for me was a struggle. I was being stretched this way and that, but not in the directions I wanted. As a result, I had my mother’s frame but not her poise, my mother’s face but not her complexion. Without them, I was awkward, sickly and unladylike.

I hoped, for a time, that I wouldn’t always be like this. Every time Uncle Altair visited with Aria, I would watch enviously as Aria charmed the company with her delicate manners of which I had none. She was a few years older than me, so I expected I would develop them in due time. That’s what Aunt Vega told me. But as years went by, the gap widened. I remained immobile.

It occurred to me that I was built wrong. I was made to resemble Mother and Aunt Vega and Aria but that was a mistake. I didn’t fit in with them, I could only be a half-baked imitation.

No, there was something else I was meant to be. It wasn’t hard to imagine; there was a fantastic living, breathing example next to me after all. Gem. More and more often I would think I was supposed to be made as Gem’s double, but got made as me instead. Cobbled together from leftover, unwanted parts.

The one person I told was Alistair, though nothing much came out of that.

“I keep telling you it doesn’t matter,” said Alistair, unfazed. “You’re just fine the way you are, and I’ll marry you one day.” He moved to put his arm around my shoulders.

I sighed loudly and slapped his arm away. “I’m serious, Alistair. I’m saying that I think there is something fundamentally wrong with me.”

“Yes, you’ve said, you think you were put together wrong. Let me assure you, you are put together perfectly. See, unlike Gem- no, don’t pull that face, I’m serious here- Gem, he’s a stand-up fellow but he just doesn’t do it for me. No offence, Winter.”

Gem had, with impeccable timing, decided to walk in at that exact moment. “None taken, Fontaine,” he replied, not missing a beat. “Wouldn’t say I’m too upset about that. Though why were you talking about me?”

“Alistair says girls like boys who are good at boxing,” I said. The lie came far too easily. As close as we were, I wasn’t ready to admit my jealousy of him to his face.

Alistair grinned but didn’t rat me out, so I suppose he wasn’t the worst.

Other than him, I didn’t really have anyone I felt like confiding in. Whenever everything got too much for me, I hid myself away in the basement study.

More often than not, I felt like the things that I was best described by the words in old alchemy books.

Whenever I would visit the basement study, I would talk to the flowering vines spread across the back wall. It was a plant, but it was a lot like me, really.

I would say, you and I, we are artificial creatures. Unnatural beings. Less than human.

You and I, we are little homunculi.

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