To Fit In



Katie Jovanovic, Guest Writer

Katrina let her thoughts control her, drag her down to the depths of an ocean swarming with insecurities and issues. She let the torrents drown out the gleeful chatter of Delana, her best friend. Images of herself, a thin pasty white otter, with a smile plastered on her face swam in the ocean of thoughts around her. Faint laughing and scarring words of hurt washed through her ears. Another sound of more mature voices, one female on male screaming at each other crashed into her seconds later. 

“Hey, what’s wrong?” Delana’s concerned voice dragged her to the surface, shattering the world she had been immersed in. 

“Oh nothing,” She quickly smiled, focusing her sight on her friend.

Delana’s clean muddy brown fur fought with the trunks of many trees behind her for Katrina’s attention. Light and dark green leaves danced in the wind, leaning whatever way the wind whispered. Their rustling added soft background music to the high pitched musical sound of Delana’s voice. Bottomless black concerned eyes scanned Katrina’s face looking for little signs that showed she was upset. Her knowledge of her took over in her eyes and she sighed giving up, knowing that Katrina would not admit what troubled her.

Light and dark green leaves danced in the wind, leaning whatever way the wind whispered. Their rustling added soft background music to the high pitched musical sound of Delana’s voice.”

“I’ll see you later, I’m going to walk around the river for a bit,” Katrina said her mind already starting to travel into her own little world again.

Delana nodded focusing her gaze on the green ocean before her, its blades of water rippling in the wind, brushing softly against her paws.

“Don’t worry about me,” Katrina said in a soft comforting voice.

As soon as the “me” left her mouth she sprinted away, quickly barreling towards the distant trickling sound of water on stones. Before she knew it she was making a quick stop, staring at the shimmering water. She felt the volcano inside of her tensing, lava hot with suppressed emotion rising to the top, bubbling with anticipation of finally being free. She tried to calm herself by listening to the gentle rush of the river, staring fiercely at its lulling waters, but it was no use. She felt her breath quicken, and a ball of dread roll in her stomach. 

“I don’t mean to intrude but what’s wrong?” A concerned voice floated into her ears as a delicate small fox with fire colored fur entered her peripheral vision.

“I can never be enough the way I am!” Katrina’s voice sounded strangled and desperate in her own ears, the lava forcing words out of her throat she normally wouldn’t speak.

“I’m not sure I understand what you mean,” The fox said, choosing her words very carefully, as she slowly but quickly moved into Katrina’s view. 

“Just look at me! White and thin, with a weird twang to my words,” Once the torrent started, it couldn’t be stopped so she continued to ramble on, “Oh and don’t get me started on the way I walk, socialize, act, run, my hobbies and the sound of my voice,” 

She would’ve continued if not for the smile in the fox’s eyes, “I know you don’t know me, but I can help you. I’m Rose.” 

Katrina’s inner voice screamed at her that she could not be helped, to not trust strangers, but her craving to fit in over-rid that inner voice, “I’m Katrina.”

Rose made quick work of making small talk until she had built a small delicate but desperate bridge of trust with Katrina. They spent the day making conversation besides, or in the river, Rose teaching her how to say words without the slight twang she had before. Katrina floated on her back while dining on small crustaceans through most of the conversation, fresh water adding none but some flavor to the meal.

“Are you ready for the next step?” Rose questioned abruptly, voice tinged with excitement.

Katrina wild with anticipation nodded and quickly made her way to the shore, liquid fire adrenaline, and hope coursing through her veins.

“First step is the color of your fur. To fit in we have to change it,” She evaluated Katrina with sharp fixated eyes, scanning for any measures of doubt, satisfied with finding none she continued carefully, “I got something that will dye your fur brown, before I came back to the wild I found it near the two legs territory. It will dye your fur, the catch is anytime you go in the water it’ll mostly wash out.”

Katrina started to move side to side uncomfortably, the thought of a two leg item used on her setting her on edge, “I won’t be able to swim?”

Rose quickly spoke after, a weird almost determination in her eyes, “No no, you can still swim because we can re apply, but you can’t swim everyday.”

“I have to swim everyday for food…” A defeated tone resonated from Katrina’s voice.

“No I will supply you with food, which will take care of your too thin problem,” Rose reassured gently.

She thinks I’m too thin too… The thought swirled around her head like a tornado, picking up doubts, confusion, and mixed feelings as it crashed around in her skull. She’s just stating the facts… no need to get upset, she doesn’t mean to hurt me. She smothered the tornado, though little wisps of what used to be still flickered around her. She nodded slowly and opened the gate for Rose to fix her.

She smothered the tornado, though little wisps of what used to be still flickered around her.”

Katrina didn’t open her eyes as she felt the cool slick dye go over her fur. She tried desperately to push away every burst of negative thoughts that came her way during the process, but her imagination continued to swirl out of control. Sooner than she thought was possible, her new outer self was done.

“Open your eyes Katrina.” Rose nudged, a smile in her rough voice.

Katrina opened her eyes and stared into the reflection of the calmer section of the river. Words failed her repeatedly as she stared at what she has become. She now had spotty fur, dark and light dirt colored fur randomly sectioned throughout her body. There was no white to be seen. 

“Is it okay? Do you like it?” Rose prodded, breaking her train of thought once more.

“I… I love it,” Her voice didn’t move in pitch, but the tone wobbled a bit in shock and hope.

Katrina left Rose to go home to her family, spirits high. When her parents saw her they froze. Their parental instinct told them it was Katrina not an imposter, but their hearts yearned for her to be an intruder.

“What have you done to your wonderful fur?!” Her mom’s voice strained, climbing in pitch for every word.

“Aren’t you happy for me? I’m finally going to fit in, people will like me!” Katrina’s voice started out defensive and then filled with passion.

“Katrina you don’t have to fit in to be liked…” Her dad trailed off, finally speaking up after staring at her in shock        

“I thought you guys would be happy for me!” Katrina ran off for the second time that day. They’ll soon realize I’m better this way. She let the thought comfort her. The lava in the volcano rose higher.

Weeks passed and Rose continued to help change Katrina into the best version of herself. Along the way she lost the acquaintances she had. Many of them. The only friends she had left were Rose and Delana. She was fine with that because she was fitting in. There had been no comments on her in weeks. There were no comments at all. Along the weeks Delana talked to her less and less, busying herself with talking to others, and being with her family. The day came when Rose finally helped Katrina master the walk that would finally officially defend her from cruel words.

“If you seem scary then people will be too afraid to make comments,” Rose explained when Katrina once more showed doubt. Katrina accepted her words and listened to her advice. 

Later, Katrina walked with Delana, listening to her never ending chatter as always, this time purposely tuning out her voice.

“You don’t think I’m stupid do you.” Delana stopped suddenly, voice rising in anguish, “Normally you’re lost in your own thoughts head down, but you’re glancing over people like they don’t matter, you’re purposely tuning me out.”

“What has happened to you? You said a friend was helping you become better, but look at you! The thing I’ve always cherished about you is your kind heart and your ability to listen, but this “mystery savior” has changed that,” She threw sarcasm in Katrina’s face with the two words about Rose. “She’s changing you, thinking her ways can just solve your issues, but they can’t! Now all you’ve done is lost you. I’m not going to be a friend with who you’ve become.” Delena’s voice slowly died out to a flat sad tone. And then Katrina watched her best friend walk out of her life.

Katrina didn’t move. Time stopped. The melody in her life had left, and now there was only silence. Silence because she had changed for the worst. All the signs from her friends, and her parents and she had ignored them. The burning volcano inside her transformed into a waterfall, suppressed by a dam. A final thought shattered the dam. I’ve lost who I am. All because I hated who I was, and because I wasn’t grateful enough. The waterfall cascaded, and the lonely icy waters numbed her. There was no sound, no feeling, no fresh air taste in the mouth, no smell. The ocean from before swallowed her sight until she saw nothing but the inside of her mind. Nothing. Just a cascading waterfall of thoughts. The waterfall suffocated her, dragging her deep down to where no one could ever save her. She didn’t know she was running until the water came to life, thrashing into her face. She cried out long painful sounds that she didn’t hear, making violent frantic movements to get the brown dye off of her. 

Minutes, maybe hours, or even years passed as she thrashed, but no recognition of the time hit Katrina. After she had gotten off every section of brown she could see she stayed there unmoving. Any overwhelming sadness or anger she had left, until the numbness she thought she felt before quadrupled in size. 

An orange blur entered the blackness of her sight, “Are you okay?”

“Am I okay? Am I okay?! LOOK WHAT YOU’VE DONE!” Katrina’s voice came out anguished rising in volume, “You’ve made me become the WORST version of myself. You can’t solve someone’s pain by changing them! And what about the more scarring emotional pain! The scars that run deep! Would you tell me to get a new life?! What you’ve done is NOT okay. What I’ve done isn’t okay either! I let you change me,” Katrina slammed the words into the bridge Rose had built until it shattered, and then Katrina cut off any further conversation by running away. 

Katrina spent the day with her family. Trying to repair the close bond she had severed. The pain did not recede, but the overwhelming numbness did. When moving in the slightly wet grass to get food she spotted Delana. She hesitated, debating the odds. Figuring she had nothing to lose except hope she approached her lost melody.

“Hi.” Katrinas meek voice twanged slightly, slight desperation and hope resonating in the single word that could save or destroy her.

Delana stared silent. Time seemed to end again, and Katrina’s stomach plummeted for what felt like forever. 

One melodic word stopped the timeless fall, “Hi.”

There was a lot of mending to do, and mistakes in the future. The future could go either way, but there was a future, and the future was looking bright.