A tall woman stood in front of the Corona University Bookshop, her long wavy black hair flailing in the fierce late autumn wind. She clutched the collar of her long black coat close to her throat. The cold wind was biting but she could not enter the university bookshop just yet. A long bus had grunted its way from the main road and stopped in front of the shop with a loud clanking sound. Two harassed looking women waited at the door of the bookshop and yelled on the top of their voices.
"Okay children! Time's up! Time to get on the bus."
"Make your payment! Stationeries only. No books. You'll have books for Christmas. But not now."
The tall woman, her wavy hair streaming, watched as children ranging from six years old until their teens filed out of the cramped bookstore with dejected faces. One boy of about six, with straight shoulder length hair passed the two wardens. One of the women held him by his shoulders.
"Eugene Fitzherbert. Did you take anything out? A copy of The Tales of Flynn Rider perhaps?" She asked him and started frisking his body. They found nothing.
"No, ma'am," the boy said and he was let go.
As the boy walked on, two bigger boys who were behind him, twins, one with lazy eyes and another with scarred chin, punched the scrawny brown haired boy at his kidneys. The little boy Eugene retaliated. He pushed the one with lazy eyes with all his body weight and the two crashed on to the sidewalk. The woman in the long black coat jumped and managed to evade contact. She cursed under her breath. Hooligans, she said. The two wardens held the two boys back and let the bigger boy on the bus first. After the rest of the children boarded the bus, the boy Eugene was seated at the front with the wardens.
And so ended the woman's wait, as the wards of the Children of Magdalene's Orphanage headed back to misery. The bookshop was then empty, five minutes before closing time. The woman's thankless shift at the Grimmney Theme Park ended at 6.30 p.m and she had rushed to the bookshop. She went straight to the door of the office as she took out a folded paper, a rejection slip from the pocket of her long coat. A pregnant woman, probably a store worker saw her and she said to the pregnant woman.
"I want to see Algernon Kingsley, the editor?"
"Do you have an appointment?" The pregnant woman asked.
"Yes, I spoke to him on the phone."
"I think he's free now," the woman said and opened to door to the office for her.
A tired looking, but otherwise handsome man took off his reading glasses and looked up from a manuscript he was reading.
"May I help you?" He said to the tall woman.
"I spoke to you on the phone this morning. About the manuscript Darker Ever After.
"Miss Bathory?" He asked, his memory absolutely jogged by the title.
"Gothel. Just Gothel, please," the woman said uneasily.
"Gothel. Let me see. As you can see that I received a lot of manuscripts –" the man walked towards head tall piles of open mouth-thick manuscripts and fished out one amongst many, placed at chest high.
"Darker Ever After by Gothel Bathory'' he said.
Gothel's heart jumped when she saw her own handiwork. The manuscript looked different now in a different setting. Like a child one lost for years and then one found her again. But one knew how the child looked like and one knew the child was hers even though now that the child looked slightly different, she thought.
"Let me see, I've written down some notes," Algernon Kingsley uttered carelessly.
Gothel waited in bated breath.
"Too racy, excessive use of violence, inherent feeling of darkness, evil triumphs over good – unsuitable for the publisher's vision in publication," Algernon Kingsley said, reading from the notes he scribbled on the cover of the manuscript.
"I'm sorry, Miss Bathory," he looked up as he said that.
Gothel did not stop him now from calling her 'Miss Bathory'.
"But after careful deliberation, we've decided that your manuscript is not suitable for publication by the university press."
"Can't it be edited?" Gothel asked.
"I'm afraid the elements we deemed inappropriate are in every part of the story. It is impossible to cut them out and replace them without losing the story's originality."
"But I took a long time to write it! Years!" Gothel gasped, almost in tears.
"I'm sorry, Miss Bathory," Algernon Kingsley said and continued, "but you can always find opportunity in other publishing houses. I'm returning you the manuscript for your own further use."
The thick bound papers felt dead and cold in Gothel's hand. She left the office shaken and pale, thinking about the endless years she was going to spend at the Grimmney Theme Park, picking up after thrown rubber ducks and tidying up the costume room. A slave to madness. In her mind, she was a minion of a skeletal construction that threw dark shadows at night after everything closed and the lights turned off.
The woman who spoke to her before she entered the office smiled at her.
"What did Al say to you?"
"Uh," Gothel was too traumatized to answer.
"Are you a writer?" The woman continued asking.
"Yes," Gothel said after gaining her balance.
"I'm too. My husband Al is the editor. But he's studying for his Ph.D now. He's hoping to run the university press and then became the academic staff as well. He's very ambitious. In his imagination, he wants to become some sort of a publishing royalty, with me alongside him. Pfff!"
"I see," Gothel simmered. Oh, ever the happy couple are you? She whispered bitterly in her heart.
"What do you write?" The woman asked.
"Fiction," Gothel answered.
"I write motivational books. But I think deep down inside, writers think the same no matter what genre they write," she said and continued.
"Words are magical. Words are power," the woman said dreamily. Feeling without magic and powerless, Gothel decided to change the topic.
"How far along are you?"
"Anytime now. Our first child!" the woman answered excitedly.
"My name's Anna. Pleased to meet you -?"
"Bathory," Gothel answered coldly.
"Any relations?" The woman asked in an effort to be funny which failed terribly.
"Who knows?" Gothel replied and then demurred,"No, I'm just joking."
The two women laughed. One in pure dramatics and another nervously.
Gothel stepped out of the bookshop and faced the strong wind. The wind brought rain with it. It soaked into her manuscript and ruined the ink print. She threw the whole manuscript into the nearest rubbish bin and wailed like a banshee. Her wailing went unheard, swallowed in the building gale, as the sky was darkening with her anger.
You destroyed my dream. And I'm going to destroy yours! Gothel seethed. She seethed and simmered all the way as she walked back to her cold and barren apartment.