Friday, January 22, 2016

Fiction Friday - The Tower - Prologue

I found this gem from my teenage years, and did some mild editing. 

There was a time in my life when I was not quite happy with the person I was. I thought that no matter how educated or sophisticated I was, I was still just another middle class white girl. My parents made enough money for us to live in comfort, but not in style, and I grew up as a penny-pinching product of their tight-fisted lifestyle. For some reason, my younger sister grew up with a much looser pocket, but all will be told in its proper time. For now it is sufficient to say that certain events have changed my perspective of my past, and my hopes and dreams for the future.
It was obvious from the first time I picked up a book that I was to be forever a slave of printed words. In the beginning, children’s books had very little appeal to me. I was much more interested in whatever novel was currently causing my mother to ignore me. Fortunately, most of these novels were safe for a little girl’s eyes and active imagination, and they opened my world to science fiction, adventure, fantasy, and a new realm of thinking. After a while I began to be bored with the happy endings and fluff stories my mother loved, and searched for books that were more like real life. It was not long before more realistic novels, historical fiction, and biographies eventually began to bore me as well. I knew that I would never be as successful as the characters in many of these “real-life” books, and I wanted something more.
In high school, a well-liked, influential teacher gave me a list of books to read that gradually opened my mind, and showed me the influence and power words can have on the thought process. The words now flowed through my mind and coursed through my veins as though they had been my own thoughts and my own imaginings. I began to see my own life in a different light, and became astonished at my friends and peers who often felt none of the emotions towards books that I felt. Some even tried their hardest to get out of reading certain books, and picked up summarized book notes at the library to keep from actually wading through the author’s words and dialogue.
Some people who knew me may have said that I was a good student, or a good reader. At one point I finally realized that not every girl could scan with one quick glance a page full of words, and have all the knowledge of those words rolling around in her head for ten minutes after the book was closed. However, I never felt unique or intelligent because of this. Often the words I saw confused me. Perhaps I would not have understood what the author was trying to tell me, and I would worry for days over a certain plot twist I had not expected. I also, however, began to realize that not every novel was worth reading.
I began to judge a book, not by how much I enjoyed it, but by how long it took me to read. Books that enjoyed were often easy to read and follow, and ended happily ever after. I could often read up to 100 pages of one of these novels in an hour. However, while the basic plot of these novels would roll around in my head for a few days and illicit quite a few far-fetched day dreams of the future, they did nothing or little to affect my life or thought process, except perhaps to hinder them. Books that required thought, on the other hand, often would cause me to stumble or grab for a dictionary or just stop and think or travel a few pages back to see what I had missed in a previous scene. I began to wonder why I even bothered to read the novels that had no great affect on me. I actually became slightly depressed because I would waste several hours with these books, and yet continue feeling the same way after I had read them.
Then I met a young woman who changed everything I had ever dreamed or thought or imagined about the world of words. She showed me that America’s dependence on entertainment had nothing to do with our boredom or lack of work, but that we all had a part of our lives that could only be rescued by an active imagination, and that our imaginations were stimulated even when we read the novels that never actually changed our lifestyle or challenged our belief system.
I suppose it would be best if I told you her story as well as I can, and let you make your own decision about it. She is an amazing girl, and can truly show you something about herself, even if you learn nothing else and just think of this story as one of those sappy, phony books that leave you with nothing more than a roaming imagination. As you will see, she did not grow up in a normal home by any sense of the word, but all will be told in its proper time.
            I must start by describing to you the young woman who I met. When I met her, I was working in a dead end office job. I was never really a secretary or receptionist per se, but there was no real description for what I did. Mostly, I sat around typing or researching at my desk, but I was also in charge of hiring any new employees. It really does not matter what company I worked for because it was similar to hundreds of other big companies in the U.S. in the mid 1990’s. All that matters is that this young woman was applying for a job in this company.
            When I first met her, I wanted to scream to her that she could do better than this, there was no future for her here, and escape from the mind numbing routine became more difficult once you established the seniority and influence (and paycheck) that I had. She was the most beautiful girl I had seen come through our offices in years. She had a lovely long silvery-blonde mane of hair that fell just past her shoulders, and she stood with the posture of one who is successfully supporting the earth with her shoulders. She did not slump, but neither did she possess the ramrod back of one who has never seen hardship and never plans to.
            You may think all you like that my description of her posture has not in any way proved that she was beautiful. You may also think that I have made her sound like a horse by saying she has a mane, but really I cannot imagine effectively describing her in any other way. She was simply a beauty in the oddest sense of the term. She was, according to her resume, 27 years old, but she walked with a spring in her step that made her seem 13. She was fashionably thin for the time period (in other words, horribly thin), and it seemed that she would blow away in the first strong gust from the air-conditioning unit above. Unfortunately, the blowing air did nothing to detract from her beauty and ambience, and I almost laughed at the poor boys hanging out of their cubicles, very distracted as she confidently walked towards my office door.
            Personally, I enjoy knowing all that goes on in the cubicles crowding the large room. That is the main reason I have never decorated with an opaque office door or solid walls. The windows surrounding my office open on three sides to the larger main office, while the other wall (windowless) separates me from my boss. I like being able to prepare for anyone who might be heading towards my office and am therefore willing to sacrifice privacy, but that certainly does not mean that I want my boss spying on me 8 or 9 hours a day. Thus, I was able to judge this girl’s mannerisms, style, mood, and beauty, even before I looked at the clock and noted that she was precisely 3 minutes early for her job interview.
            I am actually the last person in the interview process. First, one of my “poor cubicle boys” sifts through the list of job applicants, which was, at this particular point in time, not vast enough to provide the desired quality of workers. He is then given an office one day a week in which to briefly interview the candidates and give them the old, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.” He does make the preliminary decisions, but only based on the resume and standard questions, and nearly everyone made that first cut this time around. Then the same young man researches each candidate for any possible criminal record, checks out their social security number, checks previous employers and any recommendation letters and duly notes them in each person’s file. Then each of these files is presented to me. I pick whomever I want out of the files to have an actual interview with.
I receive about 10 files a day from my “poor cubicle boy” who has had to go through probably 20 interviews, and picked only ten who were suitable for the job they were applying for. Of these 50 files a week, I pick only one per day that I will actually meet. I hire several of the other applicants, because the jobs they are applying for are not very difficult, or I know they will be perfectly suited. Usually, however I would interview anyone who seemed like they might be overqualified or extremely inexperienced. I picked this particular girl because according to her file she had no experience in any job whatsoever, and she listed no college education or otherwise acquired skills, and I could not see why my cubicle boy had passed on her file. By the time she had knocked firmly on my office door, and swept in to grasp my hand unflinchingly, I knew why she was here, and I knew I could never pass up hiring her because of her file, she deserved even more than we could offer.
So, she was hired for a position she had not even applied for, and began working directly under my management. I am given about ten or twelve positions every year which I can control in whatever manner amuses me. At some point in the year, however, my team and I must report our findings in a presentation to the CEO. If the CEO likes it, and our finance numbers are up (which they always are) we all get bonuses, other than that, I am pretty much left to my own devices.
            Learning her story, however, gave me something new and incredible to think about and changed my life forever. I could not ever go back to the way I was before, and neither could she. After hearing her story I was given a second chance at my life. Because the truth was, as old as I felt (I was only 31 at the time) and as old as I acted, I had never experienced anything near what she had gone through, and I felt the need to start my life over based on what I learned from her trials and tribulations.
It all began as she sat down for coffee on Christmas Eve, 1998. She had been my best friend for two years at that point, but she always said that I was hard to talk to. I had heard it before from others, but still I did not think it was entirely true. People told me what they needed to tell me, and I was a fairly good listener, but I suppose I was somewhat apathetic to the sob stories they generally had to tell.
I have to tell you her story in order for you to understand anything about my life as it is today, as it is since she changed everything. She was staying at my house for Christmas, because she had told me that she had no family, and I confided that I had not talked to my own family for years, and often grew lonely during the holiday season. So we sat down around seven in the evening and she told me her story. We could not find a stopping point until she was too tired to talk anymore at around three in the morning, so we continued the story the following day. Needless to say I got little sleep that night, and woke her impatiently at around eight the next morning.

You can never classify a story like hers. It is not a story that can be told over dinner, because people would not believe its validity, or would lose their appetites. It is not a story to make its way through the bars, nightclubs, and alleys of a large city, because those who understood would have no opportunity to explain to their distracted or drunken peers. Neither is it a story to be shared at bedtime with young children, not that it would necessarily cause nightmares, but it would romanticize a way of life that was very painful for the story’s heroine. However, even considering the private libraries of the rich, or a hostess’s coffee table, or the bedside of a harried mother, there is no niche this story will fit into. It is something that can only be fully experienced through a first-hand sharing. The knowledge and grace of the woman who experienced this must be added in order for the story to be fully understood and appreciated. For this reason, you must pay close attention, for I am telling her own story in her own words. It is the tale of sorrow, pain, suffering, and deliverance of Bevel Laurel in the Tower.
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