Fairy Godmothers

“Surprise!”

Adrienne flinched, then played it off as surprise. Phillip was standing in the doorway, holding out a large, flat box.

“Think of me as your fairy godmother,” he said as he handed it to her.

She opened it and put on the widest smile she could muster. “It’s beautiful, Phillip. Thank you so much.”

It was a pale pink confection, a strapless dress with layers of ruffled tulle. It was gorgeous. But it wasn’t Adrienne at all.

“The party starts at 8, and the driver is waiting outside to take you to your stylist. I already told them about the dress, so all you have to do is sit there while they make you gorgeous. You’re the luckiest girl in the world, sweetie.”

Adrienne forced her smile wider, squeezing her eyes to make it look natural, and put the lid back on the box.

“I really am. I can’t wait for tonight.”

She spent two hours in the stylist’s chair. On the one hand, it was a relief to be away from Phillip and out of the crushing weight of his mansion, away from his expectations and demands and fussy little whims that changed every day. On the other, it gave her unlimited time to ruminate about the evening ahead of her. He may have called it a party, but it was a gala, the massive extravaganza put on every March by his illustrious company. Phillip was the star of the show, and she was a beautiful trophy, hanging off his arm and smiling like her life was the happiest on earth.

It should have been. Phillip was wealthy, handsome, and had known her since she was tiny. When he’d found out that her ex-husband Derek was beating her up, he’d flown down, kicked Derek out, and paid for the divorce. She’d married him a year later.

Now she felt like she’d been rescued from a dragon by a vampire. Phillip never raised a hand to her, but after three years of his lightning-fast mood swings triggered by the tiniest of issues, she was no less terrified than she’d been with Derek. After last year’s gala, when she’d talked to a few men without Phillip beside her, he’d started taking her phone at night and wouldn’t let her leave the house unless his driver was with her. She had no idea what he would do when she inevitably made some tiny mistake tonight.

The dress was so tight she could hardly breathe. She pretended it didn’t matter; no need to let him comment on her weight gain again. She knew she was pregnant, but she wasn’t going to tell him until it was impossible to keep it a secret anymore.

The gallery where the gala was hosted every year was sparkling and glittering and filled with beautiful people. A hush descended as they entered: the young, charming, gorgeous CEO and his stunning wife. Her dress was heavy, her hair was heavy, everyone’s attention was heavy. Adrienne smiled and prayed that the Jimmy Choos pinching her feet to death would hold up under the weight of it all.

By 11:30 she was exhausted. She was holding the same champagne glass she’d had all night; just because she didn’t want the baby didn’t mean she should poison it. Her smile was slipping but she jacked it back up. They always left at the stroke of midnight as part of their fairy tale prince and princess act. Only half an hour to go, then the drive home in silence, then the tirade of all the things she’d done wrong and the entreaties to just try a little harder, do a little better, be a little more perfect, and then she could go to bed. A tiny voice in the back of her mind, the voice she ignored as often as possible, wondered how long she could endure all this before she snapped or broke or twisted into something no longer recognizable as Adrienne. She tinkled a fake laugh at a terrible joke and told the voice to be quiet.

At 11:45, she whispered to Phillip that she had to go to the ladies again. A fraction of a frown passed over his brow, and she knew she’d added to her dressing down later, but she wasn’t lying. Being pregnant was no joke.

When she opened the door, there were three other women in the bathroom, all laughing at something on someone’s iPhone. Adrienne knew who they were; everyone did. Jo, Laura, and Tiffany were heiresses who had grown up together at private schools and country clubs, and when they were all twenty-one they’d announced collectively that they wouldn’t be marrying and they all moved in together. Adrienne died of jealousy whenever she saw them, and she saw them at almost all her social engagements. They were rich and mysterious; everyone wanted them around.

They stopped laughing when they saw her. They offered her tiny smiles, and she could feel their judgment. She could see herself through their eyes. She was dressed up like a fairy tale princess that she would never be, living a life she didn’t fit. She was as much under the power of a dragon as she had been with Derek, and the bruises were blooming on her soul.

She ducked into a stall before the tears started and spent a furious minute getting herself back under control. But when she came out again, they were still there, and she could see in the mirror that she’d missed a smear of mascara under one eye. Ashamed, she wiped it away with scented tissues that were probably $3 a sheet.

“If you’re that unhappy, why do you do everything he tells you?” asked Jo, leaning against the counter.

Adrienne was startled. “I… can’t.”

Jo shrugged. “If you ever change your mind, I’ve been told our couch is pretty comfortable. You know, if you need a place to crash.”

The three of them left Adrienne with her mind whirling.

When she finally emerged, she could see from across the room that Phillip was furious. His face looked the same, smiling and handsome, but there was a hardness in his jaw that she had learned to dread.

People were waiting, milling around, just staying until Phillip had had his little performance at midnight so they could all go home. No one looked happy. No one was convinced by any of it; the fancy clothes, the venue, the tiny food. The only people comfortable in their own skin were Jo, Tiffany, and Laura, who were on their way out.

She glanced at Phillip. He was staring at the three of them, clearly annoyed that they weren’t staying for his moment.

He’s just like me when I was a child, playing with my Barbies, she thought, except that he thinks he can manipulate people the way I manipulated my dolls.

Across the room, Jo made eye contact with her and raised one perfect eyebrow.

Adrienne wanted to be like her with all her heart.

At three in the morning, Adrienne was still awake. She had a plan – she’d slip out a window on the east side of the house, where the cedars were thickest, at six in the morning when the alarm system turned off. She’d bring her dress and diamonds and sell them at the fancy consignment store downtown, then she’d go to Jo’s apartment. But if she was caught, if he dragged her back, she’d never be able to try again.

She looked over at him, sound asleep. He wasn’t attractive to her at all anymore; he was something to fear, not something to desire. She thought of the tiny embryo deep in her belly, how it would chain her to this life all the stronger. She thought of raising a child in this house, infecting it with the heavy, toxic atmosphere. She thought of being a single mother.

She knew what she was going to do.

Carnaval

Feel the slow rhythm of the life of my grandmother, Lily, as she wakes up every morning in her bed, beside her tall, strong husband, my grandfather, John.  Her bed is in a small bedroom, in a small house, with only a kitchen and a bedroom.  The house is beside a small barn where they keep a few cows.  The barn is beside the chicken coop, where they keep a dozen chickens, sometimes with some young chicks, and one rooster.  You can only ever keep one rooster.

The farm is close to other farms.  Mennonite farms.  Farms of men and women driven from the Ukraine and Russia.  These farms make up the settlement of Neu Witmarsum.  The settlement is beside the city of Curitiba.  Curitiba is beside the Atlantic Ocean, on the Southern coast of Brasil.

Feel the quietness of the morning when she is the first to stir.  She will get up, gather the eggs, cook my grandfather breakfast, which he will eat appreciatively, before grabbing her by the waist and kissing her, before going to milk the cows.  Feel the swell in her heart when he does this, the swell which carries her out the door to the garden, where she weeds and gathers vegetables for the noon meal.  Then she will go back to the chickens, this time to ask them for more than eggs, this time she will ask for one of their bodies, to nourish her body, and the body of my grandfather, and the now only thirty-two cells of my mother’s body, which no one knows are in existence yet.  She will steel herself and take the machete out to the stump, feed the chickens and pick one out.  She will chop off its head.  Feel the chicken’s legs move from involuntary posthumous muscle spasms.  The other chickens don’t seem to be disturbed by the slaughtering of their sister.  The sacrificed body will be carried to the house, to the kitchen, to the cooking pot.  It will be cooked as bread is mixed, and kneaded, and baked.  Bread will be baked as butter is churned.  Chicken and vegetables and bread and butter will be ready, all at the same time, by some mysteriously learned timing passed down from mother to daughter.

After eating, the afternoon will be spent washing clothes, darning socks, making coffee, cooking beans and rice for the evening meal. At night, she will help my grandfather milk the cows, and when she thinks he isn’t paying attention, she will squirt milk directly into the mouth of the barn cat.

After milking, there will not be much more to do other than go to bed. The candle will be lit in order to read a passage of scripture, and then blown out again to save for tomorrow night.

This is the rhythm of the life of my grandmother, and she thanks God every day for it. The rhythm she has come from is the rhythm of war, of chaos, of running and running to get away. She has settled into the settlement, and into the farm, and into my grandfather’s arms, as if she were a child settling into a rocking cradle.

The next morning the slow rhythm is broken.  This day my grandmother is going to Carnaval.  None of her sisters are going with her, they all must stay home with children.  John also must stay home to milk the cows.  But none of them would go, even if they did not have excuses. Lily is the adventurous one in her family, the one with the vivacious personality.  When her sisters all get together, all of them fight to be the one who gets to sit next to Lily.  But her sisters will not accompany her to Carnaval.  They will ask her to tell them about it, later.  They will listen, rapt, as she recounts her adventure.  They will live vicariously.  Did my grandmother know that this would be her only chance to go to Carnaval?  Did she feel those thirty-two cells of my mother’s body, already putting demands on her own body?

Lily has only heard bits and pieces about what Carnaval is like from people that have passed through the settlement.  Never from her neighbours.  She is the first to venture to this place.  And she has heard the whispers, the stirrings of people in the settlement, about how scandalized they are that she is going.

But Lily is undeterred.  She is curious, and once her curiosity takes hold, she will take any measures she can to assuage it. She sets out walking down the road that will take her to the bus stop.  The bus that she catches there takes her to the town of Curitiba, the town where Carnaval is already in full swing.  The bus is already crowded when she gets on, and becomes more and more crowded as it moves towards the town.  She doesn’t really know where to get off the bus, so she just waits until a large crowd gets off and follows them.

At first she is disoriented.  But then she hears music.  Feel the far away beckoning of the Samba. Feel the beat getting louder as Lily follows the sound of the music into the heart of Carnaval. Feel her eyes grow wider with each step. There are men selling food from carts on the side of the road. There are men drinking beer in the doorway of every restaurant. But it is not the men she sees. It is the women, she can’t take her eyes off the women. They are wearing so much, and it is covering so little. The colours of their costumes are the brightest Lily has ever seen. She is almost blinded by the colours. Their feathered headdresses sway in rhythm with the music. Their bodies shine with the sweat of their dancing. They are all smiling. Their faces are indistinguishable. Their bodies are indistinguishable. They blend together in the dance. You can’t tell where one body ends and another begins. The colours blur together in my grandmother’s vision. She is swept away by the dance. Feel the rhythm of the dancers, the rhythm of stomping feet, of twirling costumes, of swinging breasts, get caught up in the rhythm, lose yourself in the rhythm.

My grandmother forgets who she is in the dance. She forgets Brasil. She forgets Curitiba. She forgets Neu Witmarsum. She forgets the cows, the chickens and the garden. She even, for this dance only, forgets John. Another man, not-John, is dancing with her. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t even occur to her to question this. To question the dance. She is twirling, she is swinging her hips, she is moving her feet.

And she doesn’t stop. She is carried by the Samba throughout the day, into the late afternoon, when the dancing slows, and she notices the golden afternoon glow of the sun, and she begins to remember herself. She remembers Brasil. She remembers Curitiba as she finds her way back to the bus stop. She remembers Neu Witmarsum as she gets off the bus and begins to walk back to her house. And, when she sees him, standing at the end of the drive, brow furrowed in worry, she remembers John. She runs to him as he sees her and the worry melts off his face and leaves relief. He doesn’t ask her about Carnaval, she doesn’t tell him, but he feels something different in her embrace, in her kiss. He feels the rhythm of the dance.

This night, my grandmother goes to sleep to the rhythm of the dancers.  Tomorrow morning she will wake again to the slow rhythm of the farm on the settlement.  But the rhythm of her dance is still within her, it still lives inside her body, with the now sixty-four cells of my mother’s body, which no one knows are in existence yet.

Monsters Under the Bed

When I was small, there were monsters under my bed.

Everything was fine during the day, because they were afraid of the light. Daddy would read my bedtime story and we’d say the Lord’s Prayer (that tranquilized them for a while), and he’d turn out my light and close the door three-quarters, and I would make very sure to stay exactly on top of my mattress and not let a toe or finger or piece of hair extend past the boundary, or the sharp little teeth would snip-snip. One night I slept with my head right next to the edge, and the piece of hair from my widow’s peak had draped down, and in the morning I was chastised for cutting my own hair. I had done no such thing.

When I was a bit older and Daddy no longer read me stories and tucked me in while I stared at my stylized modern floral wallpaper until they turned into a three-dimensional optical illusion, I would have to leap into bed as quickly as possible while I swung the door closed behind me. I was grateful that my little sister still needed the light in the hallway left on. The coloured glass panels around the single bulb, red and blue and amber, were enough light to keep the monsters deep in the shadows. They would burn at the slightest light. I still said my bedtime prayers, though without Daddy’s rock solid faith to undergird them, they were less effective.

When I got older again, I stopped believing in the monsters. I stuck my leg out over the edge of my bed for a whole minute and nothing happened, ergo, they were not real. I stuck out an arm, and my whole head. Still nothing.

When I was older still, I began to hear a whisper in the back of my head, so faint I could hardly make it out. I concentrated, but I couldn’t quite catch it. One day, after a week in which I was laid off, my boyfriend dumped me, and I got in a fender bender, I finally made out the words.

You’re a failure.

I was shocked, and told the whisper to be quiet. But it unsettled me, that such a damaging statement could come from within my own brain.

Over the next few years, I heard the voices more and more frequently. Every time I flubbed a job interview, every time I had a failed first date, every time my mom phoned to ask how I was doing with that extra special tone of voice that implied that she was disappointed in me. I didn’t have to strain to hear it anymore.

You’re a failure.

Finally, broke and depressed, medicated to gills and on the edge of a serious alcohol problem, I moved home. My room was still the same. Still the same modern floral walls. Still the same textured grey-brown carpet. Still the same red-amber-blue light fixture.

Same twin bed. I looked at it through my foggy brain, in which the only clear thing I had left was the whispered voice, louder than ever.

And I knew where they had come from.

 

Fanfic Friday: Hermione, After

“What now?” The question was keeping Hermione awake. School was over. “Ceremonial Graduation” they called it, although it seemed very unceremonial to Hermione. Unceremonial and Anticlimactic.

Everyone in their year was thrilled, but Hermione was disappointed. She had been looking forward to her last year at Hogwarts. She assumed that by the start of next year she would either be dead, or that she would be making up her last year. All her professors reassured her that “killing Voldemort” would look better on a resume than one more year of school. But Hermione liked school. She was good at school.

Harry and Ron were already planning a gap year trip. And of course she would go with them. She wanted to. She did. But their idea of a fun trip was not really the same as hers. Bits of it would be, but she wanted to see historical sites, and art, and they would just make fun of her for that. Ever since her first year she had been keeping that part of her bottled up a bit. Harry was her best friend, and Ron was…he was Ron, but their insults from first year still stung from time to time. She knew that they respected her cleverness now, and Ron had told her it was part of why he loved her, but still. She knew that sometimes it bothered him that she was smart. Its like he couldn’t see that it was such a big part of her, and it never occurred to him that the fact that she was smart didn’t have to mean that she was just a stereotypical nerd. She was constantly reminded of how much Ron and Harry didn’t understand her.

And then there were her parents. This was only her second night at home with them. She had lifted the memory curse and had to explain to them why it felt like no time had passed since the last time they saw her. They were crushed. Both her parents were soft spoken people, and the harshness with which they had been speaking to her since they found out hurt deeply. Her heart was already raw and she needed her parents so badly to comfort her. She had been holding it together for so long. She understood why they were mad, but she needed them! But she didn’t know how to tell them all of this, and so she had just been avoiding them. Her fists were squeezing the blankets and her jaw was clenched. She had to relax and try to sleep. She looked at the clock. Three a.m. But her body wouldn’t relax, and neither would her mind. She didn’t fall asleep until the sun was starting to come up.

She was woken up by the sound of loud voices. She went downstairs to find Ron and Harry in the kitchen, talking to her parents.

“There you are!” Ron exclaimed when he saw her, and folded her in a huge hug.

She smiled, happy to see them, and hugged Harry as well.

“We thought we would surprise you,” Harry said in response to her sleepy and confused face, “and come to finalize the plans for our trip! We were just telling your parents.”

“You told them? I hadn’t had a chance yet, and I’ve only just come back, so I was thinking…”

“Right.” Ron jumped in. “We were thinking the Greek islands first. Some sun and sand? And We’ve heard on some of the busier islands, they make this magical ouzo that…”

“Just some relaxing, right?” Harry interrupted. “We’ve certainly earned it.”

Hermione smiled weakly but didn’t look anyone in the eye.

“Hermione?” Ron said.

“It’s just that, I’m not sure…”

“We thought you wouldn’t be,” Ron said, “so we invited your parents to come meet up with us so you can all go to some museums.” He beamed at her.

They had it all planned. They had already thought of a perfect solution, the four of them.

Her father spoke gently to her for the first time in two days. “It would be a good time for us to reconnect.” Her mother smiled weakly in agreement.

Hermione couldn’t tamp down her anger any more. “No.” she said.

“What?” Harry said

“I said no. THANK YOU,” Hermione continued, the rage bubbling over now that she had let it out “I don’t want to just run away and have a relaxing trip! Plus my idea of a relaxing trip is NOTHING like what you two have planned. Did you honestly think I would be interested in MAGICAL OUZO?”

“Hermione,” her mother started gently.

“No, mom, don’t try to calm me down. You and dad are just as bad. You snap at me for two days, when I haven’t seen you in months, and I’ve just been through HELL, and now you just want to plan a wee trip together like we’ll all just be like lah di dah, everything is fine.”

“We know you’ve been through a lot, but so have we, this was a lot to take in.”

Hermione didn’t know what to say. She glanced at Ron, hoping he would step in.

“Your mum has a point, Hermione, this last while has been hard on all of us. Let’s just run off and have a bit of fun.”

Hermione gaped at Ron. He grinned at her with that lopsided grin he had. The silence hung around them all for a full ten seconds before Hermione broke it with a hoarse whisper.

“I don’t want to go anywhere with you, Ronald. Not ever again.” She ran straight out the front door without thinking. It was just the closest door. But then she had a thought. In one flourished movement she summoned her beaded bag, which was still packed, and hailed the Knight Bus. There was a new witch taking tickets, who didn’t even look at Hermione when she asked “Where to?”

Hermione hesitated with her mouth half open and then said “Hogsmeade please.” It would be the perfect place to plan her own trip.

She went up to the upper level, which was almost deserted, sat down, opened her bag and peered in, closed it again, and then burst into tears.

Every Chick Lit Novel

fakebook

 

In a city, in the U.S. or maybe Canada, but probably not England, because that’d take more research; a generically attractive white woman sits at a chain coffee shop. She sips her pumpkin spice latte, nibbles a scone, and taps out words on a laptop. She’s dressed for a fall day – leather boots, a long knit scarf, a pea coat.

In a few moments, a man will enter. He’s dressed in a suit, because he’s a businessman. He’s not the boss yet, still a bit young for that. He’s a half-dozen years after finishing his degree and a couple of promotions away from the job he’ll stay in for the next few decades.

Generic white attractive dude enters the coffee shop. He orders a black Americano and notices that all the tables are full. Instead of turning around and walking out, generic white attractive dude – oh, let’s call him John (even though he’s more likely a Parker or Dermott) – he sits next to Mary. Mary is generic white woman, even though she’s more likely to be Emily or Chloe. Mary looks up and John says there are no more seats. Instead of being apologetic, he’s weirdly aggressive and arrogant about it. She instantly hates him and he thinks she’s beautiful, but he’s annoyed with people who use coffee shops as offices.

This is where the story ends, these two never see each other again. But, no! These two are destined for each other, but you already knew that, didn’t you?

They’ll meet again, and again, and again. She’ll hate him, he’ll hate her until suddenly they realize that all they want to do is lick each other’s mouths, which they do.

Is this the beginning of couplehood and bliss? Are you kidding me? Of course not.

Because just after that intense first kiss, spunky redhead shows up. She’s John’s girlfriend from back in Small Town. Her name’s Tiffany or Candi or something that brings up mean girl vibes, but also a lack of brain cells. All seems lost. Mary is furious. A couple of weeks pass and Mary eats ice cream, drinks wine from a comically large glass, and wears yoga pants while sitting on her couch.

Then (probably gay) male friend of John turns up to tell her the truth: Tiffany is manipulative! He broke up with her years ago!

But John is mad and it’s going to take a big gesture to bring these two back together. Mary knows just what to do. She convinces the owners of the coffee shop to let her use it after they close, because fictional coffee shops are super accommodating. When John arrives, he finds that every table has a cardboard cut-out of Mary on her laptop. How did she make them? Who cares! It’s adorable!

Soon, John has no choice but to smile. He finds Mary in the sea of cardboard and they kiss. All is well. She makes an adorable reference to a quirk she revealed early on in their relationship and he says something about wanting it to be around forever.

 

The End.

 

Roll credits.

Movie rights are optioned within the year.

 

But wait!  There’s a sequel. They get engaged and married in it and it’s mad anti-climactic. And in the third book, they have a baby and John has an affair. Nobody likes the third book.

The Thing About Fantasy Worlds Part 1

The thing about being transplanted into a fantastical world filled with magic and mystical creatures and shit is that there’s no convenience here. Like, there are no words for how much I wish I could charge my phone, and for it to say something other than NO SERVICE once it turned on. And a Starbucks! I would kill a unicorn and drink its blood for a grande quad ristretto half-sweet hazelnut latte.

Hang on, orcs. Back in a sec.

<sounds of slaughtering>

Ok, so where was I? Convenience. Right. So there’s just nothing easy here, you know? I can’t even make oatmeal properly. It’s all gather grains, boil them ALL DAY, find a fucking beehive, get thirty stings trying to get enough honey to sweeten my chewy, unsalted because where the hell would I find salt, disgusting oatmeal, then eat it. With what? A leaf? My hands? Also, there’s nothing here that I would attempt to milk, so there’s nothing besides that honey of pain to put on it. Gross. And then it’s bedtime and I’ve wasted the entire day trying to make breakfast. No wonder the elves make that shitty waybread.

<unsuspecting rabbit has its neck wrung>

Good, that’s supper sorted.

Sometimes I have nightmares that I’m in a Burger King drive-thru and I don’t have any money and the only thing they’re willing to barter with is my sword. And sane me, sleeping me, knows that it doesn’t matter, that I don’t need a sword in the real world and I can just hand it over and everything will be fine. But me in the dream has a screaming meltdown, because this sword is literally the only thing I have of value, and by value I mean use, in this place. Apparently it was someone’s great-great-great-grandfather’s, but he was deep into the wine casks and didn’t seem to mind loaning it to me. I only found out it was an heirloom later, and I felt a little bit bad, because I had my grandma’s decorative plate collection back home and it was special, you know? But I’m sure it’s fine. He’s definitely over it by now. And it’s dead useful, since no one notices me or respects me until I whip this baby out. Then it’s all what can we do for you, OMG, do you know what that is, etc etc, and then I show them that yes, I do know it’s a sword, and what’s that you say? This end is sharp? Let me test it. Whoops, that was an accident. And now I’m going to take all your meat pies and bugger off. It’s totally brilliant.

Oh, hang on, someone’s coming. Oh look! Speak of the devil; it’s the sword guy. He seems pissed. Maybe he’s not actually over it yet. Well, it’s been nice chatting, but it looks like the rest of my day just filled up. Come back next week. I have a whole rant built up about the misogyny in this place. It’s unreal!

<violent clashing>

Fanfic Friday: Letter to a Dead Sister

September 25th, 1971

My Dear Lucy, 

I find myself writing to you on your birthday, as though I could just post this letter and you would receive it. I imagine you, a young woman now, tearing open an envelope from your big sister in America. Sharing it with your husband, your children.

And yet.

I turned thirty-six just a few weeks ago, my children are all in school and I have long moments to myself. Moments to write, to think. Moments I haven’t had in many years. Through the whirlwind of grief leading to marriage and three children in quick succession. I put you out of my mind.

And yet.

There are times when I am brushing my hair when I remember. I remember longer hair, hair that fell almost to my knees. Long velvet dresses that were so much more delicate and beautiful than anything I wear today.

And yet.

That all seems like a dream, a fairytale, really. Horseback rides and archery. The stories I read to my children with talking animals stir a part of my brain. I have lived two lifetimes. I have rejected the hands of Kings and conversed with bears and boars. That girl, she was carefree and not burdened by the grief that overwhelms me. My in-laws talk in hushed whispers about my family sometimes. To inform a new acquaintance about where I come from. “Her family – they all died in the war.”

And yet.

It was not the war that took them, no bomb that fell. No brothers in uniform. It was the Lion. How can I forgive Him? He stole you all from me. Most of all you, my beloved baby sister. No precious diamond cordial could save you. No trumpet’s song could pull you back to my world.

And yet.

I live on. The age I once was and beyond. My brothers, my sister, you all cease to be. I alone grow old. I alone raise children. Too much was my grief to name them for you. Too much was my grief to stay in the country of my birth.

And yet.

An ocean does not divide me from the memories. An ocean cannot make me forget that I was a queen.

Your loving sister forever,

Susan

 

Helpdesk

Hello, this is Helpdesk, can I help you?

Yes! Oh thank goodness, I’ve been trying to get through for hours. I was about to give up.

Yes, that sounds right. We only respond when people are close to total collapse.

…Oh. Okay. Well, can you help me?

Let’s find out. What do you need help with?

Um… It’s kind of hard to put into words.

Take your time, but please be aware that there are three hundred people on hold currently and we cap your call at ten minutes.

Right. Well, I’m just feeling overwhelmed. Depressed, I guess. Yeah. I’ve been having a lot of bad thoughts and I don’t know where else to turn.

Depressed, you say? Are those bad thoughts about hurting yourself?

Yeah, yeah I guess so.

That’s too bad. Can we go through a quick checklist so I can figure out how best to help you?

Sure.

Any changes in your sleeping patterns?

Yes, I can’t sleep at all anymore. I just…

Just a yes or no answer will do, thanks. Changes in your eating habits?

Yes, I’m not really eating either.

Just yes or no please. Has your personal hygiene gotten worse?

Yes.

Do you have any social contact anymore?

No.

Any family to help you?

No, they cut off…

Please, spare me. Okay, I think I have a picture now.

You do?

We are currently offering a special where someone can come to your house and stay with you indefinitely, making you meals, cleaning your space, and working through your problems. This person would be authorized to acquire pharmaceutical medication to help you recover your sense of equilibrium, and in addition to drug therapy, they would be equipped to offer touch therapy, talk therapy, meditation practice, personal training, and life coaching.

Oh wow, that sounds amazing. How much does it cost? I’m afraid to ask.

Don’t be. It’s free.

Seriously? Okay, can I get that service then?

Certainly. We’re currently booking seven years from now. Does Thursday March 31st work for you?

Seven years from now?

Yes.

Seven?

Yes, I just said that.

Um… is there anything I can get sooner? Like this week? I’m really feeling like I’m at the end of my rope and I’m trying not to do anything drastic.

No, sorry, even our basic packages are booking next year.

Shit. I was really expecting that you could help me.

Was this your last resort?

Yeah, basically. I mean, like I said, I don’t have anyone else to call.

Well, there is one other service that we offer.

Why didn’t you say before? What is it?

We can dispatch someone within five minutes.

…To do what?

Would you like this service?

You haven’t explained what it entails.

You’re a smart girl. Figure it out. Would you like this service?

I… I have to think about it.

Your call is nearly over. You must make a decision. You know that by calling Helpdesk, you agreed to accept our services.

So it’s this mystery service, or wait for seven years?

Eight years now. Fifty-seven more people signed up while you wasted my time.

Shit. Shit. I don’t know what to do.

Shall I sign you up then?

I don’t think I can wait that long though.

Alright. Your time is up. Dispatching now. Thank you for using Helpdesk, and have a nice day.

No! Wait! I don’t want…

*click•