I. The Pink Letter
Monday morning. Most people’s least favorite day of the week, but I harbored no distaste. I took some cereal from the table and sat on my favorite bench in the room’s corner. Everyone was in my line of sight, but people couldn’t notice me.
On the table next to me, there were three girls. One of them was my roommate, Victoria. The other was Nora, the popular kid. The third was Lilith, a rather quiet girl. Their conversation was rather amusing, especially since it involved me.
“She’s majoring in three arts,” Lilith said in awe.
“If I had her talent, I would major in arts too,” my roommate replied. Victoria and I weren’t too close, but I liked her extroverted energy, quite unlike my quiet demeanor.
“She has two books published, and my mum loves both. Do you think she would give me an autograph?” Lilith asked.
“Give the books to me, I’ll get the autograph for you,” Nora said. “I’m sure she won’t say no to me.”
By this time, I had walked up to them, cereal in one hand, book bag in the other. “I hope you don’t find me rude for overhearing, but I heard you’d like an autograph. Do you mind if I sit with?”
“No, we don’t mind at all,” Nora said, a warm smile on her face. I didn’t expect the popular kid to be this nice, but let’s roll with it.
“Hey, Morgana, this came for you in the mail. I was afraid someone would steal it, so I got it for you,” Victoria interjected, and reached into her purple book bag, taking out a rose-pink envelope.
It was quality cardstock with a textured finish, and the sender had written my name in gold calligraphy on the front. A gold wax seal had the letter D enclosed in a hexagon. Such elegancies commanded to be opened in the comfort of my dorm with a little pomp and circumstance, so I gave it one last glance and placed it in my bookbag. “Thanks, Victoria.”
“Hi, darling,” my mum said, and her tone stiffened me. I knew what was coming next. “I saw your baseline assessment grades.”
I kept quiet and closed my eyes. Better to let her continue her rant without interruptions than ‘disrespect’ her.
“I didn’t expect an A in English. If you picked all three arts, at least excel in them!” she continued. “I was expecting all A stars, and I was so disappointed. What are the teachers going to think of you? That you’re lazy, didn’t study enough, and that you don’t deserve a place in that prestigious institution. You were born to shine, not to flicker.”
My breathing had become ragged. A headache formed. I rubbed my nose and squeezed my eyes together.
“I’m telling you, honey, you’re so much better than this! You need to study more. What are you doing right now?”
“You better not be lying to me. Goodbye, darling.”
I collapsed onto my desk chair and sobbed. The soft click of the door signaled Victoria’s entry, but I couldn’t bring myself to stop.
“Morgana! I’m here! I brought my boyfr-” she looked at me and stopped. I wasn’t an ugly crier, but I think she was a little taken aback. “Oh, dear. What’s wrong? Julius, get out of here. I’ll call you later.”
The heavy footsteps retreating were Victoria’s boyfriend Julius’s. Focusing on that fact got me to calm down a little, and by the time I was in a position where I could talk, Victoria was at my side again with a glass of water, easing my heels off my feet before doing the same with hers.
I sipped the water and regained my composure while she asked, “Do you want to talk about it?”
“I want to,” I replied, slow and soft. “But I’m not sure I can tell you.”
“My parents are divorced. My mum is a waitress. She’s the one I live with. My dad is a big business guy. He’s the one funding half my education, and I work in the evenings to pay for the rest,” she said. “There. I told you something I have told no one else. Now, will you trust me?”
“It’s… my mum.” I took another sip of water and cradled the glass. “I got all A stars in my baseline assessments except English, and she called me to say I disappointed her.”
“How much did you get in English?”
“Good God, Morgana. That’s outstanding. If your mum will not tell you what a genius you are, I will. The only person to ever get better grades than that on the baseline is in the Hall of Fame, and it’s Alexander Sallow. The teachers love you, and everyone’s jealous of you.” She settled on my bed, taking the glass from my hand and placing it on the table.
“He was my father,” I explained. “Alexander Sallow. That’s why she expects so much from me. But I’m not him, you know?”
“I know, you’re even better,” she smiled. “You’re deserving of every single marvellous thing the world has to offer you, Morgana. Believe it.”
“I want to,” I admitted, swallowing. “I want to believe it, but there’s her voice in the back of my head telling me I don’t because I’m not good enough.”
“You are coming with me tonight,” she announced. “Nora and Lily are getting pizza, and we will watch a chick flick, alright? And it will be so terrible, so terrible, that you forget everything that happened today.”
I smiled, my eyes boring into her green ones. “Thank you, Victoria.”
“Call me Tori,” she said, before jumping up and taking my hand. “Let’s go.”
Victoria–Tori–had convinced me to wear a dress to school, and I had begrudgingly agreed. It was a wine-colored maxi dress with bell sleeves, and I had paired it with my black heels and put my hair into two braids secured with black ribbon. After some contemplation, I had put a long necklace on.
“Yeah?” I asked, grabbing my book bag before going to the door where Tori was waiting.
“You look beautiful,” she gushed. “On a completely unrelated note, Did you open that letter yesterday? The pink one?”
I scrunched my nose in confusion for a second before the realization hit me. “No, I forgot. I’ll read it during breakfast today. I’m not hungry, anyway.”
When we entered the dining hall, nothing seemed unusual, but I felt powerful. We walked to our table, and no one mocked me this time. I murmured a good morning to Lilith and Nora, both of whom started talking about yesterday’s movie, while I slipped the butter knife under the seal of the envelope.
On the inside, the envelope was lined with white paper with elaborate purple flower designs painted on it in watercolor. There were two pieces of paper inside. There was one piece of cardstock, and one letter folded in half. The cardstock was thick and textured, and it had similar flowers to the inside of the envelope.
’You are cordially invited by the House of Desdemona to the renewal of the wedding vows of Hades & Persephone, heir to the House of Mae on the Summer Solstice at 3 pm in Mae Manor.’
Who were Persephone and Hades? When was the Summer Solstice? Where was Mae Manor? What kind of name was the House of Desdemona? It didn’t look like anyone I knew, and anyway, no one would address such a thing to me, they’d invite mum.
I opened the letter and slipped the invitation back into the envelope, taking out the letter. The paper had a huge cursive A on the top, with flower designs around it. What’s with this person and flowers, anyway?
‘Dear daughter,’ it said.
’My name is Aphrodite, and I am your mother. I am the Greek goddess of love and beauty and would very much like to make up for the eighteen years of lost time with my daughter for a month in Olympus. If you accept, you can stay for the duration of June in Esme Estate. Send a letter addressed to the same, and it will come to me. All questions will be answered, and you can also come to Hades and Persephone’s wedding renewal, which Hera and I are felicitating.
I ripped the letter into pieces, and took the envelope, throwing it into the trashcan near the table. Tori stopped her conversation with the other two for a second to ask me what was going on.
“Someone’s trying to bullshit me. Was it you?”
She dragged me to the side, giving Nora and Lily apologetic glances. “The hell is going on?” she whispered. “That card looked beautiful. Who was it from?”
“Apparently, Aphrodite, my mother. Although I’d be hard-pressed to believe it. Someone here thought it would be nice to prank me. Who gave you the letter?”
“Nobody, I got it from the office. It was in our dorm room box.”
“You better be telling the truth,” I hissed. “I will kill whoever is responsible for this.”
“That seems like a stupid prank, honestly. Who would even believe it?”
I would, I thought. I did, but it turned out to be a prank by one of my friends in kindergarten.
I said nothing.