Where Your Story Ends, Chapters Two and Three
I don't like these chapters. They are annoying me. -.- But, here you go, anyway.
Eugenia Carlotta Lott was seventeen, and 5’9. She had very curly, wavy hair that couldn’t decide whether it wanted to be brown or blonde that was so long she could almost sit on it, and squinty gray eyes she framed with very black, very lengthening, very volumizing mascara. She had a small mouth that was almost always full of words, but she didn’t say nearly half of them. She was a contemplative person with a witty sense of a humour and carpul tunnel. In other words, she was a writer.
Not a very good one, at that.
There is a difference between a career and a hobby, and there is nothing stupider than trying to force your hobby into a lifetime as your career. Both of you end up disappointed.
Fortunately for Eugenia, she was still a minor, and hadn’t yet gotten a chance to ruin her life by trying to become a rich and successful writer.
Its kind of hard to admit to a publisher that you haven’t actually ever finished the book you sent a few pages of (which she had). Even with the incentive of possible publishing, she just couldn’t decide how to wrap the story up. The opportunity had passed, and she’d been too angry and humiliated to ever try again.
She clutched her stack of books to her chest, heading towards her almost daily destination: 517 McTucket. She looked down at the sidewalk, watching a few worms squiggle out of the cracks, eager to soak up the moisture on the wet concrete. She smiled down at them, pondering what life as a worm might be like. Probably very dark and cool and muddy. And what about relationships? Did worms marry, or simply mate? She could write a book about this!
The first twelve pages, maybe. Then you’ll get sick of it.
She sighed, knowing this was true, and looked away from the worms. Either she got sick of a story, or ran out of ideas. But she truly loved to write. How miserably unfair: absolutely adoring something you completely sucked at.
Maybe she should try haikus about worms.
Worms, they are slimy,
But I think they’re kind of cute…
I wish I was one.
Then again, maybe not.
As she walked, her eyes wandered back down to the sidewalk. Looking down was easier than looking up, partially because of all her hair weighing her head down, and partially because it was still a little drizzly, and she was worried the raindrops would make her mascara run. She knew the walk to 517 McTucket by heart. She could have walked there blindfolded, on one leg. She could get there in her sleep!
That’s what happens when you walk the same place almost every day for ten years of your life. Ever since she’d been seven, her mother had let her walk to Mal’s house to visit him.
“He’s lonely, and needs a friend,” Mrs. Lott had told her daughter.
Genie gave him one.
When she finally came to the corner of McTucket and Mulberry, she turned. Mal’s was the only house on McTucket it was such a short street. Directly across from his house was the perpetually flooded corner of Mr. Able’s cornfield, and Genie smiled when she saw the tiny black waterbirds swimming and diving in the large puddle. They were called Coots, but they were so little, Genie called them Cootlings, or Cooties.
Turning to 517 McTucket, Genie stopped and gazed at the house and yard for a little while. Mal had once had a lot of money, and he’d spent most of it on this place. It was big and white with green shutters and black shingles. It had four stories, and all the windows were big and let it a lot of light. It had a wraparound balcony porch with stone steps leading to it in front and back, and a great variety of trees stood around it. Tall, small, thick, thin, shrubs and poplars, all had been giving a cozy home around Mal’s house. The sidewalk leading up to it was paved with deep gray stone tiles, and Genie always felt a little bit like she was taking the Yellow Brick Road to Oz when she walked on it.
She hurried up the path and the steps, and rang the doorbell three times as she pulled her key out of her pocket and let herself in.
“Mal?I’m here,” she called, kicking off her shoes in the hall, and then nudging them into an orderly line next to Mal’s big old work boots, his black dress shoes, and his best pair of brown loafers. She went through the hallway into the living room, looking around for Mal. He didn’t appear to be in there, but past experience prompted her to at least peak behind the sectional. The living room was a nice, cozy place, with a big, squishy green rug, two couches, two armchairs, an enviable rocking ottoman, and a long, low cherry wood coffee table that was almost as deep red/brown as they hardwood floors. All around were books and magazines and board games, not to mention typical ‘old bachelor junk’. The large TV and the WII set were tucked away inside of a cherry wood entertainment hutch.
Genie headed for the kitchen, enjoying the texture of the rough stone floor tile. She helped herself to a glass of chocolate milk.
“Ma-al,” she called. “Where are you?”
Mal hurried into the kitchen, tucking his ribbed sweatshirt into his pants as he did. “Sorry…had a late start this morning,”
Genie set her chocolate milk down on the counter and rushed up to him, giving him a tight hug.
“How was the last day of school, Darling?” Mal asked, stroking her long hair fondly.
“Wet,” Genie said, making a face. “But at least it’s over now. I still don’t know what I’m going to do with the rest of my life. Mom still thinks I should go to college,”
“So you’re working again this year?” he asked as they pulled out of the hug.
“I guess so,” Genie said, shrugging. “I don’t want to work, but how can we visit Paris when I’m eighteen if I don’t make some money?” she smiled fondly off into space, thinking about their plot of five years now to travel for a year all over Europe.
The smile vanished from Mal’s face. “Ah. Yeah,” He nodded absentmindedly, and sighed a little. He leaned back against the counter, suddenly looking old and tired.
“Mal?” Genie said, gently putting her hand on his arm. “What is it?”
Mal was quiet for a moment, frowning worriedly down at the floor.
“Mal? What is it?” Genie repeated, getting anxious. “What’s going on?”
“Eugenia,” Mal said, looking up at her.
Genie swallowed. He only used her full name when he was saying something very important and serious.
“There’s something I need to show you. And then…then I need your help,”
Genie sat across from Mal at the kitchen table, a book, a pen, a hand-written list of ten rules, a glass of chocolate milk, and a large mug of coffee sitting between them.
Genie felt scared and a little numb. She had just read the rules. The rules for the Pen.
“Are…are you telling the truth?” she asked quietly. “Oh, what am I saying…of course you are!” She let her head fall onto her hands.
“Its hard to believe, isn’t it?” Mal asked quietly.
“No. I can believe it just fine,” Genie said. “I just don’t want to believe it,”
Mal nodded, understanding perfectly. “There…there is a reason I’m telling you about this,” he said, taking the pen and twisting it cautiously in his hand.
“What is it?” Genie asked, still trying to wrap her mind around it all. Mal had written his life? She knew a lot about his past…or so she assumed. She knew he’d made a lot of mistakes and done a lot of wrong. But none of that had ever mattered to her. All she knew was that when she was 3 years old, he’d found her toddling around outside his house, crying for her mother, holding the remains of a very soggy ice cream cone. He’d picked her up, taken her inside, and called every number in the Hay Penny phone book until he found out where she belonged. They’d been best friends every since.
“I…I need you to read it,” he put a heavy hand on the book.
Genie looked up at him. Their eyes met.
Mal knew Genie was confused and unsure of what he wanted.
Genie knew that whatever was written in this book, he wasn’t proud of.
“Mal?” Genie said, reaching over and putting her hand on top of his over the book. She kept her eyes on his, smiling. “I believe you. I trust you. I’ll read it.”
So she did. She pulled the large book in front of her, flipped it open to the first page, and began to read. Genie was a very fast reader, but still, it took her a long time. Nearly four hours. And it was an extremely difficult four hours for both of them.
Mal was humiliated.
Genie was horrified.
She had no idea how bad a life Mal had been living before he escaped to Hay Penny. And now, she was reading every little detail of it.
Most of the book was written in very precise handwriting, all capital letters, stating things very clearly and with appropriate emotion and tone. That was what the Pen had written, Genie assumed. Still, there was quite a lot of what Mal had written, in his fierce, quick, slanted scrawl. She couldn’t believe the things he’d wished for. The things he’d brought about.
He’d been married four times. He had seven children, and only one was still living.
So many horrible things had happened.
He had done so many terrible things.
Halfway through, Genie was fighting back tears. She didn’t want this to be the truth. She knew Mal wasn’t invincible, but she always wanted him to be. She never actually cried, but she had to stop several times and look down at the floor, away from the book. Away from Mal.
Finally, she finished it. She read about how, after becoming a famous actor, he’d fled, doing everything he could to erase his fame from the public. It had been unsurprisingly successful; new actors came to replace him. He bought the first plane ticket he saw, not even caring where it was, and ended up in Iowa. He bought the first house he saw listed; a big old mansion in Hay Penny. He’d spent the last of his money fixing the place up, putting up walls around himself and his heart so no one in town would try and befriend him. He was hurting too much.
Then he met Genie.
Genie was shocked how much she had changed his life. He’d put his past behind him and devoted all his time to her. He’d helped her mom out of tough spots, sympathizing with her over the loss of her husband, after losing the only one of his wives he’d truly cared about.
The last few pages went by in a refreshingly simple and dull blur of the twelve glorious years Genie had known him. And then it was over. The story wasn’t finished, but as yet, there was nothing more to read.
Genie closed it gently, and took a deep breath. The final outcome of the whole experience was yet to be determined. As of yet, Genie still felt numb and overwhelmed, like she’d been dunked in an ice bath for too long.
“What do you want me to do now?” she asked quietly, looking up at him.
He sighed heavily, in relief and sadness, and took her hand in both of his. “I need you to finish it.”
Genie blinked. “What?” she asked.
“I need you to write the end. I…I don’t think I can,”
Genie stared at him. “The end?”
Mal sighed. “Yes. I’ve…well, I’ve sort of, defaulted on my time to write in this book and alter my future. The last thing I can do now is write the ending…not in a detailed, grand sort of way. Just…simply stating that I will die. Coming to grips with mortality or something like that. I’m not exactly sure why,”
Genie pushed the book away from her vehemently. Mal can’t die! I can’t do this…what if he dies!? “Where did this thing come from?” she asked.
Mal shrugged. “I don’t know. I never asked the old man. Maybe he didn’t know. Maybe no one knows. All I know…is that I need you to finish it. I can feel it in my bones. I don’t know what will happen if we just ignore it. That would probably cause me to die right away, so the Pen could finish the story on time,”
“That’s ridiculous!” Genie shouted. “I…” What could she say? As much as her head was trying to deny that this was true, her heart believed it. She was a writer. She was open to the impossible.
“Genie, please,” Mal said, taking her hand in his. “Please,”
“You know I’ve never finished anything in my life,” Genie said quietly.
“I believe you can,” Mal said. “I believe that for me, you’d finish this story,”
Genie gave him a desperate, defiant look. “I…I don’t believe this,” she said.
But she did. They both knew it was true.
“Genie,” Mal said gently. “I need you to do this, Darling.”
For a moment, Genie just sat there, staring down at the table. “Why can’t you,” she finally asked.
Unfathomable sadness cast a dark, ominous shadow over Mal’s face. “The last time I wrote something in there,” he said, his voice quiet and hoarse. “Well…you read it. Don’t you understand?”
Genie looked anxiously at the book. Yes. She did. But she didn’t want to. That was the part that was so hard. What Mal had done after his mistake. He hadn’t been specific enough for the book when wishing his last wife would come home. She came home, alright. In her coffin.
“Haven’t…you learned from all those mistakes?” Genie asked.
Mal sighed, suddenly looking ten years older, and the shadow of sorrow deepened. “How could I? I never wrote that down. Everything I wrote…it led me to right now. And…now that I’ve asked you to do it, I can’t.”
The full force of the past four hours finally hit Genie square in the chest. If I do this, Mal might die. I have no way of knowing he won’t die when I write the end! She stood up quickly. “I…I have to go,” she said, her voice quavering.
“Will you do it?” Mal asked, hope clearing away a bit of the shadow on his face.
Fear grabbed Genie’s heart and twisted. “No! No!”
She ran out of the house, fighting back tears, fighting back fear.