Pussycat, pussycat, where have you been?
Okay, first, don’t call me pussycat, darlings, it’s undignified and childish.
And second, in answer to your question, I’ve been busy. Someone has to keep Jessica in line, and since she started writing this story a couple of weeks ago, she’s been restless and unruly. I tried thumbscrews, but that was counterproductive — it just made it difficult for her to write.
The Countess Penelope of Arcadia (you remember Penny, darlings — ever changing hair colour, propensity for profanity, particularly the perturbing piece predominantly associated with pornography, or perhaps procreation) suggested the scourge — a sort of cat o’ nine tails-type motivation tool, and I must say, my young apprentice was quite right — that did the trick whenever Jessica seemed to lose focus.
And so, to whet your appetite and to let you know that I haven’t just been moping around my apartment watching Breaking Bad, here’s a brief preview of Three Cigarettes, which Jessica swears she’s wrapping up as we speak. The rest of the tale will be forthcoming, once I’ve had a chance to edit it and transcribe Jessica’s horrible handwriting (sometimes the blood smears and it’s nigh impossible to make out, darlings — but I do my best.)
Beth sat on an expensive-looking sofa and fingered the corner of the business card, fraying the edge with one ragged, chewed fingernail. A nervous habit, and not the only one she indulged in. She was gasping for a cigarette, but considering why she’d come, she thought it might be bad form to step out for a quick one.
“It’s not just the smoking,” her husband sighed after the shouting about her habit had finally died down the night before. “Though I can’t say it makes me happy to have you smelling like a fireplace when you crawl into bed.”
“I smoked when you met me, Paul,” she reminded him. “And you never complained then — you thought it was sexy.”
“God, we’re not kids anymore, Beth!” Paul argued. “And as hard as it was for you, you quit for a reason, remember!”
Of course she remembered. Her mother had been diagnosed with lung cancer, and Beth had spent the next year kicking a pack-a-day habit. She tried and failed a number of times, but kept at it until she had finally prevailed. She’d been hell to live with during that time, but Paul had helped her by going for walks with her every morning and every night to give them both something to do rather than just sit around stuffing their faces to replace the oral fixation.
She hadn’t had a cigarette in just over three years. But then her mother died.
“Are you punishing yourself?” Paul asked, concerned, and not at all unkindly. “Is that it? Beth, you know it wasn’t your fault…”
A tear trickled down Beth’s face and she reached her hand up to wipe it away. She didn’t want strangers to see her cry. She hadn’t even shed any tears in front of Paul, and that, he insisted, was the problem. He’d handed her a business card with beautiful script on it and told her that he’d made an appointment for her; practically begged her to go.
“Eumenides Consulting,” Beth read, and looked at Paul skeptically. “What is this? Some sort of counselor? I don’t need a counsellor, Paul; I’m fine.”