Aboard the Winnow
“Ava, what should I do?” Lili asks one day. They’re folding paper stars out of paper strips that are as long as Lili’s forearm in the comfort of her bedroom. Ava taught her how. First, you tie a knot. Then, you flatten it. Then you fold the rest of the strip around the knot and press two adjacent sides until they pop up. Lili is no good at it. It’s the last step that continues to elude her.
“What should you do?” Ava’s fingers are slender. They’re working with the knot, not against it. “Did something happen?”
Lili holds the star in her thumb and forefinger and presses down. Hope blossoms in her chest when she sees it bump up—and then she flips it over to find that it’s been bent upwards. “Miss Harvey says she wants me in extension English next year.”
“She needs to get married,” Ava says. She squeezes down, and her star bumps up perfectly. “So?”
Lili stares at the new knot in her hand. She doesn’t want to ruin it. “S-so?”
“Are you going to take it?”
She shakes her head. Ava flicks her star into the growing pile. It lands on the tip of the mountain then tumbles down, each jagged point dislocating another star with it. It’s very pretty. Like a papery, pastel-coloured, polka-dotted galaxy. Everything she makes is very pretty.
“Why is that?” she asks as she begins to fold another strip into a knot. It’s a test. Everytime she goes to ask Lili a question, it’s always been to test the strength of their friendship.
“I wanted to be in the same class as you.”
Her nails prise open the knot. She stabs the end of the strip into the hole she’s made. “We’re both dumb, average students compared to everyone else in this damn school full of overachievers. Whether you earned it not, you wouldn’t last a second in that class. Our minds are different. We’re not built for school.”
Lili freezes. She looks back at her star and starts folding it up again.
“But you’ve got me,” Ava continues. She brushes a blonde strand of hair over her ear. “And I’ve got you. Have you made a star yet?”
With a triumphant smile, Lili pinches the two adjacent corners instead of the sides. The star bumps up, its points smooth and cute. The star's actual shape is a bit wonky, and they’re a far cry from the beauty of Ava’s pile of barbed creations, but she’s done it. Her first star.
Ava smiles, takes Lili’s hands in hers, and guides her towards the knot she’s made. “Here—you’re not doing it right. You have to press down the sides, not the corners….”