Water Bottles

16 Mar

– A Miriam Black fanfiction

Vamp-red hair and black leather, a mousy brown-blond braid plus jeans, and sharp bob on top of a suit. This was going to be an odd conference.

All three were women. All three had something to do with a story. All three looked anything but placid. The similarities ended there.

The suit sat down. She extended a hand towards the noncommittal middle space between her two guests. “Hello. Thank you both for coming. I’m -”

“Cynthia, but you go by Cindy,” braid-jeans cut in. “You think it makes you seem more accessible, less exotic. You always resented having such a French mother, growing up in America. Made assimilation so much harder.”

Cynthia – er, Cindy – colored. She retracted her hand. “Uh, yes, that’s… that’s, uh, accurate.”

Vamp snorted. “Nice,” she muttered, throwing a look of appreciation across the table at her fellow guest.

“Sorry!” braid-jeans back-pedalled hastily. “It’s just… well, it’s true!”

Cindy brushed off her clothes, as if straightening them could somehow restore her lost composure. “Yes!” Her voice was too loud. “You must be, uh…” she checked her notepad. “Margaret, is it?”

Braid-jeans nodded. “Yup. Such a sweet-sounding name, isn’t it? Everyone’s always so surprised when they learn it means “bitterness.” Fitting, really.”

Vamp raised an eyebrow and stuck out her hand. The red nail polish on her fingers was chipping visibly. “Miriam,” she said after a second. She released Margaret’s hand quickly. Margaret nodded. “Your nail polish is more chipped than you like it to be. You’ve been busy.”

Miriam cocked her head sideways. “Can you ever not do that?”

“Tell the truth?” the edges of Margaret’s face pulled away in wry wrinkles. “No.”

“That’s so interesting. I would hate it.”

“And that,” Cindy cut in hastily, leaning forward across the table in an attempt to regain authority (they were her guests, after all), “is why we’re here! As I was saying, thank you both for coming. The Daily Dish thanks you for taking time out of your busy schedules to talk with me about this piece.”

Miriam and Margaret looked at each other. “Busy?” Margaret scoffed. Miriam raised an eyebrow again. “Schedule?”

Cindy bit her lip. “Uh…”

“Ah yes, I’ve been so busy,” Margaret muttered bitterly. “What with trying to avoid people and all…” Across the table, Miriam nodded. Margaret gestured towards her fellow guest. “You get it.”

“Oh honey,” Miriam said, “I get it hard.”

“Whydon’tyoutellmemoreaboutthat,” Cindy spurted out, desperate to regain her ground. She flipped open her notebook again, uncapped a pen. “Margaret, how about you first? Why do you want to avoid people so much?”

Miriam choked on her own laughter.

Margaret merely rolled her eyes. “Only being able to tell the truth, always, forever, compulsively… do you really need any more explanation?”

Cindy leaned forward. Blinked. “Yes.”

Margaret sighed. “Knowing people’s truth… My grandfather told me it was a gift. My mother told me it was a curse. I’m more inclined to believe my mother, now, as an adult.”

Cindy was still staring. Her pen was suspended, floating right above the page. “And?”

Margaret looked at Cindy. Harder, this time. Dead in the eye. “Think about it. Ever told a white lie? Just a little one? To make your life just a little bit more convenient? Smooth something over? Tell someone what they wanted to hear?”

Cindy nodded slowly.

“Now imagine not being able to do that.”

For a moment, Cindy didn’t move. Then, slowly, her eyes got wider.

Miriam kicked her feet up on the table. Leaned back in her chair so it was tilted on two legs. She whistled. “Christ,” she looked at Margaret. “I mean, shit man.”

Margaret nodded. “Little white lies are the trivial fluff that keeps our delusioned society functional. Truth, on the other hand, is an ugly black boulder that people don’t seem to particularly care having lobbed in their face.”

Cindy was silent in her chair. Her face had started to blanch toward sheet-colored.

Miriam leaned forward in her chair. “You can’t even be manipulative with it, can you? Well, maybe you can, but fuck that would take some skill.”

Margaret nodded. “I don’t do it too often. Not saying things can be as much of a lie as telling deliberate falsehoods. Pauses, meaningful silences – they’re hard to do, when your tongue is chomping at the bit to flood someone with the full truth of it. Misconceptions – they’re hard to work into a routine intentionally.”

“So,” she looked back at Cindy. “Most of the time, I try to just avoid people. If I don’t see anyone, then I don’t have to tell them not-nice things. And when I do have to see people, I try to make myself as inconspicuous as possible. You know, generic. Braid my hair like every other something-year-old. Jeans and a t-shirt, bland as can be. Kept my childhood name of Margaret. Simple name.” She eyed Miriam. “Though maybe I should just go for eccentric. Get it legally changed to Magnolia or something. Give people a reason to write me off.”

Miriam laughed, a rough, guttural sound. “Making yourself something most people don’t want to see certainly helps turn you invisible.”

Margaret smiled. Frowned. Turned to Cindy. The woman’s hand had gone limp and her pen lay on the floor. She was the color of a pale albino in winter.

“Uh,” Margaret took the woman’s hand and rubbed it between hers. “You okay there?”

Miriam reached out a hand, grasped the woman’s elbow. Margaret saw her eyes unfocus for a second.

Then Miriam blinked. Sat back in her chair. “Don’t worry,” she said, looking at Cindy, “you don’t die of shock. Not even a little.” She looked down into her coffee cup, still mostly-full of the unpalatable sludge they’d left out in the guest lobby. She pushed it toward Cindy. “Here. Taste of your own medicine. It’ll do you good.”

The woman grasped the cup, took a sip. Spluttered.

“Eh, there you go!” Miriam clapped her on the back. “There’s some color in your cheeks!”

Margaret reached into her purse and pulled out a water bottle. “Here,” she set the water bottle in front of the slightly-less-dazed reporter. “Helps the truth go down.”

Margaret and Miriam stood up, both watching Cindy work ineffectually at twisting the cap off. Miriam looked over at Margaret. “The truth, takes some getting used to, hunh?”

Margaret gave an upward flick of her eyebrows in agreement. She looked at Cindy. Made a face. “Just keep working at that. You’ll get it.”

Miriam took Margaret by the hand, pulled her towards the door of the conference room. “So, Magnolia, how about you and I go get gloriously drunk together?”

Margaret hesitated. “I don’t know… people tend to, uh, not like me very much when I’m drunk. You know, inhibitions and all that. Tend to say some pretty nasty things.”

“Lovely!” Miriam chirped. “So do I! We’ll get along splendidly.”

The sound of laughter followed the two women’s silhouettes out of the conference room and into the elevator.

Inside the conference room, there was silence.

Then, the sound of twisting. Something coming loose.

And a snap.

Advertisements

Share Your Thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: