Nights are always hard.
The day awakes (never before 11 a.m.) and she is Penny. Penny the fun girl; Penny the blonde; the somewhat ditzy wannabe-actress; Penny the happy, well-integrated in society, knowledgeable about how to deal with people, normal woman. She is not like those weirdos on the other side of the corridor. She. Is. Normal. And mostly happy.
Day is good. Daylight shuts up The Voice inside her head. She works, smiles, serves tables, goes to yet another audition, unsuccessful again, but as long as the sun is still up in the sky she is still sunny Penny, smiley Penny, Penny Blossoms' Penny.
But the sun always ends up disappearing, and night comes. And she starts racing against The Voice, shutting her up with gaming, with dances in much too noisy dance floors, with alcohol, with yet another hook-up, yet another guy who will disrespect her.
"You know you don't deserve respect."
Damn, The Voice had caught up with her again.
"What, so you thought you could outrun Me? You know you cannot outrun Me, you puny insect... I AM YOU. And we know you don't deserve anything."
No, The Voice will not hurt her tonight, she must run, she must find a way not to listen, she will not be Penny anymore, she will be Queen Penelope on Age of Conan, and The Voice will not follow her online. She will stay awake until the sun comes up again, and The Voice will be weakened and leave her alone for a few hours.
"You know that won't work, Penny. You know I AM HERE. I am ALWAYS here. And I saw that you failed again today. Of course, I knew you would fail. You ARE failure. You aren't just A failure, you ARE failure. Everybody knows you ARE failure, the-one-who-will-never-matter. You will never be something great. And everybody knows that."
No! No! She was Queen Penelope, she was a fighter, she wouldn't listen to that without a fight! The Voice was wrong, she needed to tell The Voice just how wrong all that was.
"Queen Penelope, AFK."
The apartment was a mess, as always. But the letter was easy to find, inside her night-table's drawer, just besides a half-opened box of condoms and a Hello Kitty diary that smelled of strawberries. She opened the letter.
"Oh, don't be ridiculous... Come on! Mrs. Holden's letter? Is that the best you can do, really?"
The letter had been opened and read many times. Penny missed Mrs. Holden, the elderly lady next door back home, who had been their informal babysitter when she and her siblings were little. She remembered afternoons and evenings spent there, helping with the baking and not wanting to do her homework. Her sister was the smart one, as their father never failed to tell her.
You know he was right, Penny. You are dumb, stupid, a stupid blonde. Everybody knows."
Mrs. Holden had become somewhat of a confidant during Penny's teen years. And when Penny started crying in her old, well-known kitchen, the old lady reached for a biscuit tin where she kept her secret savings and told her to follow her dream, to leave the community college where she was unhappy and try to chase her dream. Penny wished Mrs. Holden hadn't died a few months afterwards; she was the only one who could shut The Voice up.
"You are ridiculous, Penny. You are a poor excuse for a human being. Holding onto that letter of a deluded old woman who clearly had no idea when she wrote that you were talented and that she believed you were destined to great things! For God's sake, Penny, you know that you're not even a 'sweet and lovely girl' as the poor deluded woman wrote. You're just an impostor. You're dumb, lazy and immoral, you deserve no respect and no love, and you have no friends because you aren't worthy."
The alarm clock flashes 3:30 AM and Queen Penelope puts the laptop aside, grabs her knees and tries to drown The Voice in a glass of vodka.
Sunrise is still far away.