Friday, March 28, 2008

Hiesha


This Week’s Theme: Describe a time your character was wronged; even though it was insignificant to the one who wronged them, your character never got over it.

I arrive shaking. Molly doesn’t seem to be anywhere in the café that we’d agreed upon for a pre-contract signing latte. I’m late and she never is which further unsettles me. I ease myself quickly into the nearest seat, before my legs fold and try to get the morning into perspective.

I look blankly up at the waitress when she stops by my table, asking me if I’d like a drink. Yes, I’d love an affogato. I’m not sure if I can pay the bill, but I don’t tell her that as I order.

A panicked search around the apartment turned up enough loose change for the bus fare here, but probably not enough left over to cover the coffee. Five minutes ago the auto teller ate my emergency credit card. Three times it rejected my pin number, that I know for certain is the correct. I have lost my last source of money.

Where the hell did I lose my purse anyway?

I’m never irresponsible – I cannot afford to be. The cash-flow of a writer is erratic at best. I’ve learnt to be creative with my finances and I always get my bills paid eventually. That’s why I can’t understand how the internet and my phones got shut off. My diary has marked, two weeks ago, that both Bills were paid – on time for once. It makes no sense.

Standing up, I look up the street for Molly, but there is still no sign of her. I’m worried. If she’s sick there’s no way for her to reach me. She wouldn’t miss this – I keep reassuring myself. Molly is my resourceful and dependable agent. She’s been working for months to get this contract with Random House for my manuscript. I panic - she’s got the contracts with her. Today wont happen without her or those magic pieces of paper.

My affogato arrives and I feel too nauseous to drink it. Instead I sit and watch the icecream gradually melt and then threaten to run down the sides of the trendy glass.

I move my diary away from the espresso slick, and out falls the letter I grabbed out of the box as I was leaving. Opening it tilts my world the full 180 degrees that has been threatening since I got home from my run this morning.

I’m being evicted today from my apartment – today. Probably now as I’m sitting here reading in disbelief. My rent is in arrears, I haven’t made contact with the office and now they’re legally entitled to remove me. This is wrong, this is so wrong. What the hell is going on here?

My stuff … my computer … my manuscript!!

“Louisa Kendall, is that you?”
“Yeah …”

I look up and see a face that I haven’t seen in years. He’s aged, but I’d never forget those features, his nose too large and the lip beneath too small. The only thing that has changed is it looks as though he can grow proper facial hair now. Beady eyes stare down at me from under the same sparse, prickly looking mono brow.

I force myself to focus on the most immediate of my problems – Raymond.

“Long time no see,” I say, trying to be breezy.
“How are things with you?”
“Great, just great Ray,” but I know my body language screams ‘liar’.

He sits down across from me before I can stop him. He’s grinning and I can’t decide if it’s inane or sinister.
“I hear you’re having a book published. Congratulations.”
“Thank you,” I manage, struggling to concentrate.

Where is Molly?

“What do you do for a living?” I asked politely, trying to sip the messy affogato.
“I’m a security expert, working on a Government contract at the moment.”
“Since 9/11 there must be a plethora of work,” I comment, pushing the affogato away.
“Something like that,” he mutters and I remember how he did it at high school.
“You chase terrorists,” I bait, giving him a wink.
“I do internet security actually,” he snaps. “You’d be surprised how easily a person can disappear with the universal reliance of computerisation and electronic automation of data processes and storage.”

And in an instant I understand. My morning has been all about Raymond – electronic telecommunications, the internet, banking. This is not Mercury Retrograde spinning in overdrive.
“Only my closest friends know about my book contract. How do you know about it?”

The terror that’s been building in my throat all morning, wild and bitter, turns into a barely contained rage.

“I’m actually here to give you a message. It’s from Molly. She’s in bed with concussion – an accidental knock on the head.”
“You know Molly!”
“She’s my sister-in-law.”
“Someone married you?” I blurt out before I’ve got the good sense to keep my mouth shut.

He just looks daggers at me and I feel a chill running down my back.
“What have you done?” I demand, slowly articulating each word as I push my torso across the table defiantly.
“Repaying a debt.”
“If this is about highschool -”
“Of course this is about school, what else?”

“You’re suggesting I stole Dux from you Ray, but we all know that’s not the case. I was awarded it fair and square. You robbed yourself.”
“It was mine, was always mine until you arrived and took it …. and my father sent me away to boarding school. All because of you. Everything is your fault.”

He’s getting flabbergasted and spittle is going everywhere, then he stops, centres himself and smiles that vile grin again.
“It doesn’t matter now. I deleted you, literally and metaphorically hiesha.”

And I’m staring after his lumbering frame as he walks down the street and disappears around the corner. I wonder if he was real, or an apparition from my anxiety riddled psyche. I poke myself. I’m here, I’m real. But there’s a horror dawning inside me. My flesh and blood body is now the only proof on this earth that I exist.
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4 comments:

Annie said...

breathe, breathe... wow...this is so easy to see happening and so horrifying a reality.
I love the way you are experimenting with the here and now prose - making the reader so uncomfortable, forcing them into the skin of the character. You have no choice or chance to warm to them, you are thrust into the belly of the storm and forced to winter it out with them.

Paul said...

A frightening, and frighteningly possible, scenario.

I've often wondered in this day and age when everything is electronic, if someone decided to chane or remove your details, could you ever prove who you were?

I had to deal with my bank recently, and because of a mistake on their part (they had one letter wrong in my address) they couldn't verify who I was, and there was nothing I could do to prove I was me, because I couldn't give them the incorrect details they had for me!

Jodi Cleghorn said...

This started as a germ of an idea .. and the more I thought about it, and went through the number of official bits and pieces I have on the internet or in electronic storage, the more I realised how easily it could happen ... should the antaganist have the nouse to side line security measures.

Paul your example clearly illustrates what happens when we rely on data ... gone are the days when the dudes in the bank know you. I remember going to the bank with my Pa as a kid, the tellers all knew him and my Nanna ... and he got his money out and had his savings book stamped and initialed.

Makes you really wonder the trade offs for all this convenience ... because there is nothing convenient about being wiped off the system.

CHEFDRUCK said...

Jodi,
Gripping, absolutely gripping. All that financial stress was right on down to how she was too nauseous to drink her fancy drink. High School memories never die, do they?