Kaleidoscope Eyes

Author: Lilith
LJ: ave_eva
Recipient: Lilacsigil
Fandom: Runaways
Character: Karolina

Karolina Dean’s world shines. There are the flashing bulbs of cameras, washing over many-colored, extravagant formalwear. The trillion tiny glowing dots making up the movie screen at the premiere. The sparkling diamonds dangling from her mother’s ears, every facet catching a different beam of light.

She wriggles a little on the plush seat, her bottom smushing as close into the back as she can get it. Her father’s large, gentle hand reaches down to brush her knee, and she stills, looking up at his face. His eyebrows wriggle and he winks, flashing her a set of even, white teeth, as familiar to her as they are to the American viewing public. He whispers, “It’s showtime,” and the lights go down, just like that. The chatterings and mutterings of the crowd around them fade, slowly, as the music swells.

Credits bloom, and her mother, sitting poised beside her in the seat, is doubled in quintuple-size, her body composed of countless pin-pricks of light. Karolina takes a deep breath, and the movie begins.

Out in the bustle of the Los Angeles street, trotting down the red carpet with each small hand tucked in one of her parents’, she looks up at her mother’s long hair, shining where it catches the sun. She’s sure that the tiny glowing pixels have been caught there, carried out of the movie and into the mundane city beyond. Her parents put a sparkle in everyone’s eyes.

She grins out at the world through the pink tinge of her sunglasses, with their five-pointed frames. As far as she can see is a sea of happy pink faces, all smiling to see her family, stars.

“Look up, sweetheart. See the painting?”

Tearing her eyes away from the pendulum, she tilts her head back as far as it will go, staring up at the giant figures painted on the octagonal ceiling far above her head. She recognizes the signs of the zodiac ringed around the center; mythical creatures that she knows are really groups of stars. She’d learned about Greek and Roman mythology just last week at school. There’s Atlas, and a man with wings on his ankles; Hermes, or Mercury. What if she could reach up, all the way up, and touch him?

It’s a funny thought; she imagines herself stretching out like bubblegum, and giggles. “Wow.” She turns in a circle, slowly, watching the figures move.

Leslie looks down at her ten-year-old daughter, staring rapt at a fantastical, painted sky. Her pink lips stretch into a wide smile. “Let’s go find your Daddy.”

He’s standing out in the Observatory grounds, looking up at the metal face of a man mounted on a stone pillar. She recognizes the face before she reads the name; it’s James Dean. There’s a poster of him in her parents’ bedroom, from an old movie he starred in, before he died. When she was younger, she’d wondered if maybe they were related.

Her father does look a bit like the famous rebel, though he’s getting older.

He looks up as they approach, reaching down to tousle Karolina’s flyaway blonde hair. “Did you see any stars, sweetie?”

On their way down to the car, she tells him about the star charts, the gigantic telescope, the painted zodiac on the ceiling. Frank stops to sign a scrap of paper for a nervous young woman in the parking lot, while Leslie frowns a little with disapproval. She shrugs when her husband catches the look, pulling the door shut on the fan’s receding figure. “Stargazers.” They share a private smile. Karolina smiles too, because she knows her parents don’t fight about fans like some of their friends do. Even when fans are as pretty as that one.

“So, I need to fly to Chicago tomorrow to talk to that, ah, independent producer . . .” She drifts off, her head nodding against the window of the station wagon as the trees blur together beyond the glass.

She sets the tray of fajitas down carefully in the car seat beside her, smoothing the tinfoil while her parents buckle up in front of her. She flashes her father a smile when he glances back in her direction, letting her head fall back as he pulls away from the house. She’s not exactly sure whether or not she’s looking forward to the fundraiser. The other kids think she’s so weird, with her hemp clothing and her refusal to consume dairy projects. Even Gert, the vegetarian, who isn’t really because Karolina had definitely seen her eating salmon at dinner last time.

It’s not as though those other kids aren’t weird themselves, and even their parents are kind of creepy . . . sometimes she gets the shivers when Mrs. Minoru looks at her, and Mr. Hayes smells a little like a hospital. Still, they must be good people, if they’re so committed to charity, right? Like her parents.

She wonders how big Molly will be now, and if Chase will still insist on making those disgusting jokes every two minutes, the ones that made her so angry when he made Nico blush. Maybe Nico had taken her advice and switched to contacts. The poor little thing needs all the fashion advice she can get, really, Karolina muses . . .

She must have dozed off, because when she opens her eyes they’re pulling through the gates of the Wilder residence.

She smiles politely at the Wilders while her parents say their hellos. Mr. Wilder nods gravely at her in return, and she drifts into the room, smiling vaguely around: almost all the guests are already present. The door opens again, but before she turns to see the late arrivals, Chase materializes in front of her. He gives her the kind of dopey grin that most of the jocks at school wear, and she flashes her own practiced smile back.

“Hey, there, Karolina! What’s the haps?” As he starts rambling something about “smokin’” and how it’s a shame they only see each other once a year, somehow segueing from that to formals and limo rides, her eyes drift towards the doorway. Alex Wilder has come downstairs and is speaking to

“Nico!” Wow, it seems as though Nico doesn’t need any fashion advice after all. The clothes are a bit goth, it’s true, but . . .

“God, you are so hot.” She feels as though she’s sparkling under her skin, butterflies fluttering in her stomach. Nico’s returning smile is tentative, but blinding. She shivers and turns away as Mr. Wilder calls for the room’s attention, managing to exchange a blinking smile with her parents before they follow him. Off to do their good work, whatever it is.

“Okay, will someone please tell me what’s going on? What did I miss down there?” She glares up from the Twister mat. The other kids had run back from the tunnel as though they were being chased by their parents, or possibly the Hulk. There had been no explanation, just a frantic pig-pile and lots of swearing from Chase. Which really was not appropriate around Molly, and she is going to make sure to tell him so, once they both get off of her.

They all seem really . . . scared. Alex is sending Molly away again, this time with Gert. The vague, uneasy feeling that she’d had before grows.

The Minorus, the Wilders, all the other adults had never looked creepier than in that strange clothing, but to see her own happy, Hollywood hippy parents in what looked like head-to-toe leather fetish gear . . . what on earth could it possibly mean? What could they have done that was so inappropriate for an eleven-year-old to hear?

Nico takes her hand, and the butterflies are fighting a war in her stomach, queasy nerves and something else. The other girl’s expression is strangely earnest, Alex looming over her shoulder as though to protect her from whatever it is she’s about to tell Karolina.

Of course, Chase shatters the moment. “Alex’s dad just killed some chick.” She can’t have heard that right. And the boys are off in another squabbling match while she tries to piece it together in her head, stuttering while Nico gently pushes her down onto the couch. The colors in the room are whirling too fast for distinction, black and red and beige and blue, empty video game screens and the Nico’s wide eyes. Alex’s dad, their parents, her parents . . .

Nico pulls away from her and stands up. Karolina’s father is at the door, smiling as friendly as ever, Hollywood handsome in spite of the wrinkles around his eyes. But there are still stars exploding in front of hers, doubling him, while she looks up and tries to force another smile.