This post is a continuation of StarLight, a story in several parts. Find Chapter One here.
Big City, USA
Venus Eclair was perfectly ordinary—at least she tried to be.
For the majority of her adult life, she worked a perfectly ordinary job and did the things ordinary people seemed to do, like go to brunch and pay her taxes.
Maybe it was her childhood—being the only black girl in a small, white town made Venus feel everything but ordinary. Perhaps it was college, where her love of both romance languages and romance novels left Venus in a library party of one most Friday nights. Or perhaps it was just her, Venus Eclair, who never quite fit in anywhere….
Whatever the reason, however the way, our story finds Venus on a seemingly ordinary day.
I am dreaming. I’m in a spaceship, floating deep into the unknown. I am not alone…”
There is a being there beside me, or behind me—I sort of feel them everywhere.
I don’t know them yet I love them. I’m confused—how can I love some one or some…thing I can’t even see?
“Venus!” A voice booms from beside me and I almost spill my mug of tea over myself and my journal. Almost.
I have this thing with, well, spilling things. Most days, the blouse I wear to work is not the t-shirt I go home in.
Today, however, it seems to a special day: my hand steadies the mug in the nick of time.
Ever since this morning, when I had that strange dream, I’ve felt like something special is going to happen. I don’t know what it is—a feeling like I’ve never felt before.
I meet the steely blue eyes of my manager, Ethan, peering over my workspace.
Ethan is the kind of guy I used to dream about back in my heavy romance novel phase. Tall and white with a smile that is never fully smiling, the twelve year old inside me is constantly eating him up.
The twenty-eight year old me, on the other hand, closes her notebook and smiles tightly up at the boss man.
“Have you finished the write-up on the Kellogg account?”
“Not yet; it’s on my calendar as next week’s top priority.” I roll my eyes internally—Ethan must be really bored today. The Kellogg account isn’t due until two weeks from now.
Ethan shifts uncomfortably like he does whenever we have to spend more than five minutes alone together. I think back to my performance review last year where he called my work demeanor “intimidating.”
Intimidate this! I think as I mentally stick my tongue out at him.
So I don’t have many friends here—it’s not like I haven’t tried. Well, it’s partially because I haven’t tried, but have others tried to be friends with me? Friendship is a two-way street and, well, I’ve spent my five years working here riding alone.
Ethan clears his throat and continues: “I need that in my inbox by EOD today,” adding an emphasis on “today.”
I wonder if he’s being redundant on purpose—doesn’t the “day” in EOD imply today?
I find Ethan’s often redundant. Either that, or I somehow always know the things he thinks he’s teaching me.
I snap to, this time dropping a hot dollop of tea on my desk, narrowly missing my keyboard. I take note of Ethan taking note of this.
He continues: “We’re sending Draft Two on Wednesday—”
“But that’s two weeks before deadline!”
Ethan blinks at me. “I know. That’s why I need to approve everyone’s rewrites before they’re sent. Quality control.”
The Kellogg account is the biggest account we’ve pitched for all year. As a junior copywriter, I handle most of the team’s grunt work while the senior copywriters spend most of their day trying to find an exciting rhyme for “raisin.” My work has to be thorough, polished, and, of course, topped off with a bit of pizzaz.
I glance at the clock and hold back a groan—it’s already 4PM, 4:07, to be exact—EOD is in less than two hours!
“I need more time. You’re asking me to write a twenty-page research paper in two hours—it can’t be done.”
“Can’t--or won’t?” Ethan takes a few step closer and lowers his voice. “Listen, Venus, if you’re finding your workload too overwhelming—”
I jump in—“I’m not overwhelmed. I mean, I sort of am now but generally I’m usually a little underwhelmed. I mean, not with you or anything, but—”
Ethan stops my spiral: “Look, I get it. It’s a last minute change and some people have a hard time adjusting. Take the night to get your work done and have that paper in my inbox first thing in the morning—that’s 9AM.” Smiling brightly, Ethan turns on his heel and trots away.
Great. An evening of work, alone in the office.
So much for today being a special day.
We find Mars—a man with one plan: to live his life as if there is no tomorrow. As if there is only what he can feel, taste, touch, and explore in front of him. As Mars has often said: “Time is what you make it and I don’t have time for make believe.”
Perhaps it was the memory of church from his childhood that got him so riled against the unseen. His mother, a devout-ish Catholic, had to drag him into the cat every Sunday until, at fourteen, he was finally allowed to stay home with his father. That drove Stella, his older sister, mad. She had to jeep going until she moved out and up to college.
Mars certainly sympathized with Stella; he also couldn’t understand why she was fighting this universal truth: spirituality = girl stuff.
Their dad didn’t go to church, neither did their uncles, their male cousins, not the freedom-loving, often-fighting men he grew up watching on television.
Ah, television…Some of Mars’ greatest memories and closest friends were from that little silver screen. Old Westerns were his favorite—he just loved to watch the “good guys” chase and defeat the “bad,” winning the love of the perfect girl in a perfectly happy ending.
Mars was constantly searching for the perfect girl with whom he could have a perfect and happy ending of his own. So far, no luck, though Mars was never one who had a hard time getting lucky.
What could he say? He was a good-looking, action-oriented hopeful romantic. Though, if he asks who dared call him a romantic, you didn’t hear it from me.
“That’s not something you should be proud of,” his father once scolded after coming home to find Mars watching a romantic comedy beside Stella.
“Come outside and toss a ball,” he grunted, slamming a football into Mars’ tiny hands.
“And Stella—” their father continued: “Don’t turn your brother into a sissy.”
Little Mars didn’t want to be a sissy—he didn’t even know what a sissy was! So from that day onward, Mars vowed to never watch romantic comedies again.
Still, try as he might, Mars could never quite look away when a those awful movies would play, courtesy of Stella.
When new romcoms opened in theatres, Mars would devour the film section of the newspaper and recreate the story in his mind using the taste he got from the teensie, tiny blurb.
He got so good at recreating that he decided to pursue it full-time at eighteen, moving out to Big City University where he double majored in Cinematography (a degree he was very proud of) and Economics (a degree his father was very proud of).
Putting his Economics degree to use, Mars followed the money to a film job in commercial advertising. So the videos he made didn’t make his heart beat—at least they gave him money to buy all the good food he loved to eat.
Today we find Mars in the midst of a heavy editing session—or, at least, what is supposed to be.
I must be dreaming…
It feels like I’m awake and also like I’m dreaming.
I hate dreaming. It makes me feel all kinds of disconnected. Plus, they never make any sense—especially when I try to tell people about them.
It’s been a long time since I’ve talked to anyone about my dreams.
Where do I even begin? I’m in some kind of cube or cubby—it’s hard to define the space. It’s like…no space? Maybe outer space? I don’t know.
I don’t feel like I have a body…
Someone keeps calling my name—
I feel them getting closer, until—
A pile of papers crashes onto my desk, waking me out of this strange dream. Interestingly enough, the dream doesn’t fly out of my head like most do. I can still feel that presence in the distance. It was so distinct and familiar. It was so—
“Lars—” I look up and meet the eyes of my inferior-superior, Ethan.
Ethan is the kind of guy who would’ve gotten a beatdown everyday at the playground if his daddy didn’t own it.
Guys like him never have to work for anything and still spend their time harassing those of us who do.
I try to hold back my smirk—“How can I help you, Eth?”
He hates it when I call him “Eth.” I love it.
“Bad news—well, I mean, it’s good news for the team and great news for me—the Kellogg account is a go.”
“Why is that bad news?”
“I’m getting to it.” Ethan tugs at his collar like he does whenever we have to speak for more than five minutes alone.
I know I intimidate him—I mean, just look at him: he must be, what 5’5? I’ve got at least a head on him. His hairline is already receding and he can’t be more than twenty-eight. I shake my hair down from the messy bun I usually keep it in.
Yeah, if I were looking at me I’d be intimidated too.
Ethan clears his throat and continues: “Well, they’re eager to start the rebranding campaign they want final drafts completed by Wednesday. I’m reviewing the drafts tomorrow morning and need yours in my inbox by tonight.”
“Are you seriously asking me to complete an entire draft—that’s fifteen minutes of quality editing, about fifteen hours of work, overnight?”
Ethan nods. “I’m giving everyone else an end of day today deadline.” He puts his hand on my shoulder. “I’m really being lenient here.”
I look at his hand. I could probably break it.
As if hearing my thoughts, Ethan removes his hand and backs away.
“Use your company credit card and buy yourself a nice dinner, huh? Hold onto your receipt for the books.”
Ethan eyes the clock above—“Oh! Gotta go—date night tonight.”
He winks and thrusts his crotch at an invisible silhouette.
I’ve already got my headphones in. It’s gonna be a long night.
So Mars and Venus get to work until the clock strikes eight, when a stroke of hunger activates the hand of Fate.
Tune in next week to find out WHAT!
‘Til then, I wish you Love, Light, and Peace of mind.