My name is Juliet Maywether and I am 48 years old. I grew up in a city known as Windhaven, a small community of about five thousand residents somewhere in the middle of California. I was born in Windhaven and I was prepared to die in Windhaven because life outside of it’s tree-lined walls seemed impossibly far away and impossibly uninteresting. My sole purpose was to work in the business my family founded. I was mostly home-schooled and as a result, I passed the California high school equivalency exam at the age of 16. While most of my peers were anticipating first relationships, first cars, and first dances I was neck deep in paperwork and I very much liked it that way.
Someone in my family moved to California and started a bookkeeping firm in 1934. There was something about war money and something about needing someone good with numbers. My ancestor, whose name has been lost to time and bureaucracy, was apparently good enough with numbers to not only satisfy the original client but also good enough to quickly establish a client base from all over the state. Even people in Hollywood visited the family office. I remember seeing people showing up with private drivers and fancy cars and thinking nothing of it. I suppose if I had been paying attention, I would have known how much influence my family had on the world.
I had access to the internet as part of my bookkeeping duties but I never bothered to explore it. Social networking and popular entertainment were completely lost on me. I didn’t even own a television. Mom didn’t like TV and dad didn’t exist (as far as I knew) so there was no questioning the decision. Our house was on the outskirts of town. Even if we wanted to be plugged in, it was likely that there was no service available. If I could turn back the clock, I might have told myself to plug in just a little bit more.
By the time I was 36, I had twenty years of bookkeeping experience. I was a senior member of the firm and was trusted with the most important accounts. The only thing that mattered to me was the numbers. Names and faces never entered into the equations. I spent twelve hours of each day in a dimly-lit cubicle with at first an adding machine and various notebooks and later a computer with the latest number-crunching software. The remaining time was devoted to meals, sleeping periodically and keeping up with current accounting rules and regulations. I also maintained a vegetable garden that kept mom and I pretty well-fed most of the year.
Except for lessons and work-related conversation, I kept to myself. Mom always said I delayed talking for as long as possible because it meant I wasn’t expected to talk to anyone. Being in such a small community does have it’s advantages. I was just an odd child and later an odd adult. There wasn’t a need for any type of diagnosis because in my family, I fit in just fine. I remember taking accountancy lessons from my very stern grandmother and being told that I chatter too much because I had a habit of tapping my pencil when I did figures.
Our house was a stoic two story affair surrounded by the aforementioned garden and beyond that a grove of pine trees older than the city itself. For as long as I can remember, I occupied the entire second story. My home life didn’t seem abnormal to me. People at work didn’t ask questions because most of them were related to me in some way. I walked every day the roughly two miles into town to the office. At first, it was a single building surrounded by homes. Eventually, the office became the principle tenant in an over-sized strip mall. Mom often commented that there were more people in our office than in any of the stores.
For twenty years I lived my life in perfect beige bliss. I didn’t worry about money even though it was my job to worry about money on other people’s behalf. I didn’t fear bad news or natural disaster. When grandma died, she was surrounded by her family and co-workers and passed without fanfare after a silent but lengthy illness. It was expected, it was proper. She lived to be over 90 years old although I never found out the exact number.
The day everything changed I can never forget, even though I have spent the last twelve years trying to.