Swan Song (1)
Graduating with flying colours and networking with respected names in these industries, ornery Mariana Lorraine Leighton-Greene thought this head start would get her a reservation or a ticket to fulfilling her dreams. Her parents always say that if she strives harder than usual, she will get whatever she wants.
“But they were wrong about that. No surprise there, right?” Mariana bitterly mumbles as she stirs her now-cold tea.
She knows deep inside her parents were not lying because what they said was true. Her sister, Célina, is off in a luxurious law firm, training and participating in a battle of brains before she goes to law school. While her brother, Dion, will be on a summer band tour next year with singer-songwriter, Ashe Emegré.
Friday, 07:58 PM16th of November 2018
Mariana sighs as the lights go out of her smartphone after checking the time. Sitting at Variety Coffee Roasters, the café she and the girls hung out during free periods, she waits for the call of her recent job interview. As the bustling streets, buzzy night, hurrying people and crossing cars, Mariana stares wistfully from within the four walls of the establishment. She should be feeling positive for acing the interview earlier since she answered the questions as factual and honest as possible.
However, the uncertainty of how she showed the interviewer her sincerity is eating up her thoughts, and she cannot shake the agitation off. Her appearance looks composed, but her insides are ready to explode from feeling defeated.
Her mind wanders as the lights outside look like stars clashing their colours, and everything is a blur in her perception. I want to join them, be busy, and yet, I am still. Thanksgiving is coming up, and I have nothing to thank for at all. She leans her elbows onto the table and buries her face in her palms as she feels conflicted with her friends running around, satisfied with their new jobs. Should she be happy for them? Envious?
Five months have gone by, and she still hasn’t found a job. She submitted her curriculum vitae to the same companies and museums Diamond, Elizabeth and Eleanor applied to, now they have fulfilling occupations, leaving her desperate even just for one offer. Three out of four of us were accepted and got in!
For countless consecutive job interviews, she felt discouraged because every time she attended the appointment, it went on and on with no pause, and all they had said was, ’We are sorry you are not the person we are looking for to fill this job. But thank you for applying!’ in their false, cheerful tone. Mariana grumbles and frowns at the memory.
Her parents can effortlessly get her into any of these establishments with one phone call, but relying on them was never in her options. Mariana had been hyperfocused on establishing herself on her own, not under the wings of her successful parents, Leighton and Sinclaire-Greene. Despite knowing how frustrating it is, she holds tightly to this ambition.
And that’s why Jace and I got along well. She balls her fists. It isn’t the right time to think about your ex.
Her mind starts wandering again. Thinking about her employed friends, Mariana leans toward envious. Though she keeps in mind how proud she is of her friends, she still wonders what is the matter with her and compares herself to them because they are goofy in a mysterious way. I know we’re different in art styles and approaches, but I think my works are more creative? Okay, Mari, stop stroking your ego. They are your friends and have always had this charm about them.
She sighs. Why don’t I have that quality too? Is it because I look intimidating? She questions herself, shaking her head and controlling her tears from falling. But, seriously, what is wrong with me?
If only someone knew who she honestly was, they could help her. But she shut herself from everyone, and now she feels clueless and hopeless. Though Jace got close, it’s still not at the level where he knows who the person underneath her façade is because Mariana pushed him away, using long-distance-relationship as an excuse.
“Let’s not go there, brain,” she mutters tiredly.
Her mobile vibrates loudly on the table, and she straightens her posture, picking up the call with a tinge of excitement.
“Good evening, is this Miss Mariana Greene?” says the teller on the other line. “This is Carmela Duese.”
“Yes, hello, this is her speaking,” Mariana answers cheerfully. Though there’s still the uncertainty gnawing in her stomach, she smiles since she’s pretty sure she nailed the interview earlier. “So, is there any progress? Am I in?!”
“Your resume was impressive, and you have great potential…!”
I can almost hear the word but or however. Mariana sighs quietly.
“However, I don’t know how to say this nicely, but we’re so sorry to tell you that you’re not what we are looking for in the position. We wish you luck in your future, though. Thank you for applying.”
Again, with that phrase, I should be used to it by now. But it still stings. The struggling artist musters her all to control her voice and says, “Oh no, it’s alright. I understand. Thank you for telling me.”
Carmela bids her luck once more before hanging up the call.
Mariana tries to hide with a smile and a prim expression on her face when she pockets her phone. But panic strikes through her bones as it was the last on her list of job searches. She forces herself not to cry in public, and her throat tightens as she gathers her things. The wind harshly blows on Mariana’s face, her hair a flurry, when she exits the café. Thankful enough of the wind, even though messing up her neatly styled hair, the tears dry in her eyes. Gripping tightly onto her leather jacket, she crosses the road and walks along 85th street.
Distraught, angry and hurt, Mariana meanders and does not pay much attention to where her feet take her. She pulls out her mobile phone and desperately dials Ros’ number. She needs to talk to someone, distract her from the harsh reality. After several rings of unanswered calls that seem to feel like ages, Mariana furiously hangs up without leaving her so-called best friend a message, gripping tightly onto the technology.
Typical! I have always been there for her in times of need, but when it comes to me…! Mariana wipes her eyes, smudging her mascara.
She recollects herself and breathes deeply before trying again, and this time, dialling April’s number; to her relief, she answers at the first ring, making Mariana’s angry scowl to a bright, genuine smile.
“Hey!!” April shrieks. “I miss you so much! I am sorry I’ve been unavailable for the past couple of days and cannot find the time to call you before.”
Through her painful throat, Mariana laughs, for she misses her so much, too; it’s been three years since they saw each other in person. “Hey. Thanks for answering. How are you!?”
“Uh oh,” says April suspiciously. “Is there something wrong?”
Mariana guesses her voice betrays her when she tries to sound pleasant. She figures April knows her well enough to comprehend me, her ornery best friend. “Huh? What are you talking about?!” Mariana recoils and hides with a laugh.
She knows April rolls her eyes through the phone as her friend of ten years barks, “Oh no, don’t you say huh? on me. Tell me everything! Is there something wrong?”
Mariana slows down and takes a deep breath before pouring her frustrations to her only bestest friend. There’s no point in hiding anymore; she’s at the bottom and in need of someone to hoist her up. Mariana confides in April about her doubts and fears while still controlling her tears. She lets out a self-deprecating joke, “I guess I’m just not good at anything at all. A mediocre at best.”
April clicks her tongue, and though Mariana can’t see it, she knows her best friend shakes her head empathetically. “What the hell are you talking about,” and mimicking her voice in an exaggerated British accent, “I’m just not good at anything at all! A mediocre at best!”
Mariana laughs at how ridiculous she sounds.
April quiets down and says sternly to her, “Are you done? You know I am mocking you, right?”
She sucks the air through her teeth and sighs heavily, “Yes.”
April continues, “Why are you saying that? You are so talented! You sing and dance, you act…, you even draw, and I’m pretty sure your skills have improved. Not to mention that you write, too. Bish, what can’t you do?!”
“Besides the fact that I can’t get a job,” she butts in.
“Ugh, come on,” April sighs. “You’re the most optimistic person I’ve ever known. You always come up with the weirdest yet funniest, brilliant ideas! You’re always the one cheering us up, making us laugh. What happened to you? Is it because of multiple rejections or Nate…?” She trails, for it is still a sensitive topic to Mariana.
Yet her heart tightens as her breath hitches at the thought of Nate Turner. “Partially, April.”
“It’s okay to feel melancholy about it, Mari. But, it has been years,” her best friend tries to console her, and now she wishes she could hug April. “Think of it this way, Mari. He could be watching over you right now. And this hurdle you’re facing at the moment, it’s just an obstacle to your success!”
Mariana smiles, for she knows April is trying her hardest to make her feel better even if she’s a thousand miles away. She lets her tears flow but wipes them as fast as they fall.
“It’s like a test, once you overcome it,” she racks her brain. “I mean, I believe this rejection means there’s something so much better waiting for you. And a few days or weeks from now, you would be glad they rejected you.”
“What do you mean?” queries Mariana, using a tissue to wipe her nose.
“You can achieve anything you want!” April says enthusiastically. “You won’t be working at an office, slaving away in front of a computer! Complaining about the things you could’ve done! Isn’t that what you always wanted?”
She pauses to be dramatic, and Mariana can’t help but giggle at her adorable friend.
“Don’t you dare tell me I’m wrong?!”
“I am so glad you picked up.” Those are the only words Mariana could say to her. She truly is my best friend, and I feel terrible for not understanding her before, which might be because of Ros’ misinformation.
April giggles. “You know med school is not my absolute forte, but my parents are hard to please, and their decisions are difficult to waver, unlike yours. I can just set aside my fashion designing dreams or pursue them maybe in the future! I don’t know! But that’s what makes it exciting, right?”
“I suppose you’re correct, as usual, April,” she smiles. “Thank you for picking this call up. You don’t know how much it means to me.”
“You’re always welcome, bish!” she says in a sing-song way. “You can always reach out to me, okay?!”
“Okay, thank you again, April,” Mariana tries not to choke. “Anyway, I’m sorry for disturbing you. Your hands must be full right now!”
“Nonsense, biiiiiiish! Talking to you is always a nice break from all my studying. Just text me when you need me.”
She beams. “Of course! Thanks for cheering me up, April.”
Her friend scoffs, “Hang in there.”
And with one final goodbye, they hang up.