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Day 8044 | Day 8077

"Can't you see you'll be a beautiful woman?"

She looked at me placidly as my heart wrenched in about five different directions at once. My mind raced, trying to process the words: Beautiful woman? 'Will be'? Shame, suspicion, panic, nausea, elation. Why panic? It's what you want to hear, isn't it? The voice in my head was back. But what if she's lying? What about my shoulders or my voice or...? The silence between us stretched out, her bluntness cutting through the layers of apathy I used to hide my most personal secrets.

She was in her early forties but could've been mistaken for being a decade younger. She curled comfortably into the armchair, eyes patiently and empathetically gazing at me through rimless glasses. Attractively dressed in black slacks and a button up sweater, blonde hair pulled back professionally in a style that appeared neither too immature nor too matronly. Ready smile, good sense of humor. Plus, you know, killer legs. This is why people hit on their therapists.

The words hung in the air while I scrambled to analyze her tone, the context, and anything else that might help me come up with the correct response. You're running out of time, you know. I knew. When faced with a direct question there's only so long you can sit there with a thoughtful look on your face before they realize that you're stalling and—

"Uh oh, feelings." She smiled reassuringly, nearly hiding victorious glint in her eyes—she always got that satisfied look when she caught me off guard.

"Yeah," I said, "feelings." I smiled in spite of myself.


I was surprised by how small the pills were. Click. Thirty of them was barely enough to cover the bottom of the bottle. Click. I sat in the car outside the pharmacy, nervously opening and reopening the bottle, the locking tab clicking into place over and over. Click. Click. Click.

Once you do this, you can never go back.

I glared at the paper bag in the passenger seat as though the voice had come from there. A receipt was stapled to the outside: thirty dollars, eighty-five cents. Click. A dollar a day for happiness in a bottle—better living through chemicals. Or at least that's what they want us believe.

"If it doesn't work out, I can always kill myself. It doesn't close off any options."Click.

True, but what about the side-effects? What if you can never stop? They don't really know what SSRIs do, only that they seem to work. For a time.

A gust of wind jostled the car. Click. "You know the whole point of these is to help me make you go away." Bitterness.

But you don't want me to go away. And you know it. The voice was smug.

"That's only because you try to kill me if I don't do what you want."

We all do what we need to in order to survive.

"Yes, we do," I said, trailing off. I opened the bottle, shook a pill out into my hand, and swallowed it dry. click


"I love you." Her voice was warm, contented, in the way of soft tones spoken through a smile. "I always want you to be a part of my life." I often wondered if her boyfriend knew she said these things to me. I held the phone tenderly, trying to pretend we weren't 800 miles apart, savoring the tinny trickle of words. I burn to tell her my feelings, to touch her skin, to see her smile. Yet our friendship is too deep, too valuable to endanger in such a way. A romance lacking only physicality.

"I love you too," I said, surrendering only the smallest piece of my soul for a few moments of profound peace. It seems like a fair trade.

The Trilogy is complete. All three queens have been met, loved, and then passed on through my life. The mission is complete.

The first mission was about faith. The second mission was about completely losing myself, suffering great physical, emotional and mental pain that led to a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. The third...

Well, the third was about being restored. It was also about accepting my limitations, which was a lesson I'd come to learn in bits and pieces over the previous few years. For some time I saw my mission as a failure. She was a queen thoroughly disrespected and emotionally abused by a husband who was equally willing to be overly possessive of her and leave her at the drop of a hat or for any skirt that danced in his direction, a man who left her regularly depressed and crying in the rain because she truly believed it was best for their children that they stay together. She took him back twice on my watch, endured his abuse and in the end cut off all communication with me because I reminded her that she deserved better. And she did. She just chose the other path. And in the end I had to accept and respect that.

And it nearly did me in, but in quite a different way than the second queen's mental illness and ongoing suicide attempts did. It nearly did me in because I had trouble accepting that I had made no real difference in her life. And I believed the purpose of my missions was to in some way make the lives of the queens better. It was never about that. It was about all the other people I encountered along the way and how I in some way, even in some small way, made their lives better by my being in them.

Because, you see, I am not supposed to be here. I killed myself in 1994 and gave up this life, but I was given it back provided I accepted and followed this mission. The missions were about self-realization. They were about showing me that this world was indeed a better place with me in it than without me. Everything I do is gravy. The world without me went on about its business, but the world with me is somehow slightly different and hopefully better. Through the queens I came to work with troubled kids, to use my gift of empathy in ways that helped those who went through the kinds of struggles I did before my suicide.

And now I have been released. My debt is paid. The final penance is the final reward. Now I can turn the sky to gold. And I can do it in my own way and in my own time.

Thank you. All of you.

Dear Mr. President,

My name is Maya Justine. I am five and a half years old. I am in kindergarten and I really like it and I like my teacher because she's super nice. Every morning the principal comes on the PA and welcomes us. She's also nice. I like her. There are five hundred kids in my school. Every one is proud that we are one of the best schools in the state. We have three grades and kindergarten. We are a school just like the one in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, in a town the same size. At 9:41 this morningm when I was in class, the temperature was around thirty-seven degrees "Fahrenheit" just like it was there.

On the day I was born Daddy got the day's newspaper and saved it for me to read one day when I'm old enough to understand what the people who write those newspapers thought was important for people to know on that day. There might not even be such a thing as a "newspaper" by then. The headline on the front page of that newspaper is not a happy one. Newspaper headlines are often not happy. On that day it was talking about a crazy person in college who, the day before, walked into his school and shot and killed a whole bunch of people.

Today another crazy person walked into a school just like mine and into a kindergarten class just like mine. He killed the principal. He killed the teacher. He killed the children. He didn't know the children. They say he might have known the teacher. The teacher he might have known was not there. Maybe they had a substitute. I like having substitute teachers. It's fun. This was not fun.

He killed twenty kids. There are twenty-one kids in my class. There were only twenty at the start of the year but then Josh came and we were twenty-one so now all the tables have the same number of kids. If you take twenty away from twenty-one that leaves one. I know that much math. I cannot imagine being the only one alive in a classroom full of dead people. I would be very scared. I would cry.

Mr. President, it will be years before I know about all this because Daddy does not often watch news on the television and would surely not let me watch this. It will be years before "meaningful action" means anything to me in the sense in which you use it. Your warm words of grief will have grown cold and faded by the time I'm old enough to need them. But if I were one of those kids in that school that time would be now. I am too young for this. I am not ready.

I don't really know a whole lot about guns. I know my brother and my sister like shooting them at the range. Mommy was real good at shooting with them in the army. Daddy was terrible at it. People in the movies have guns. My brother's video games have guns. Sometimes I sneak in when Mommy is watching Bones and they also have guns. Bugs Bunny gets chased by people with guns but it's a cartoon so they always make it look funny and he bends their guns and makes them poke through a log or a hole behind them so they shoot themselves in the butt.

I am five and a half years old and have only so much to say. I know that I am impatient to grow up but for now just let me be a child like every other for as long as I may. I do not want to know that I am growing up in a world which not only makes it easy but also allows it to make sense to any stranger who's coo coo for cocoa puffs (this is my favorite phrase this month) to come to my school and kill my friends or for my sister's crazy boyfriend to go after her at work or for someone to go to the mall and kill people for no reason at all like that guy did a couple of days ago in Oregon.

I am five and a half years old. I want to have to concern myself with none of this. I want to be safe at school and learn how to make snowmen out of cotton balls. I want to relax at the movies without putting my Hello Kitty handbag through a metal detector. I want not to have to worry about some psycho with a rifle jumping out of Santa's Grotto. I do not want to be the answer to some violent, armed lunatic's unsolved problems.

What will it take to start working on ways of giving my family a fighting chance at not having to randomly and unpredictably share the same space at the same time with the weapons and the whackjobs? What will it take, Mr. President?

Will it take twenty more kids like me?

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