Enlightenment

There was an eerie silence in the abbey that day. The morning prayers had been said, and the nuns had quietly floated their way back into the solitary confinement of their tiny rooms. Lilly Madison, tired of a morning spent all alone, slowly and carefully turned the smooth silver knob of her dark wooden door and slipped into the empty hallway. The door let out a silent whisper of protest as it shut behind her. Glancing in both directions, Lilly glided gracefully down the stairs. The smooth beads of her silver rosary swayed back and forth as she pushed past the heavy wooden doors to the chapel and made her way down the aisle towards the heavily adorned altar. She glanced briefly up at the image of Christ before kneeling at the foot of the cross.

This was unnatural for a nun of her status. As a new member of the convent, she knew that she was not supposed to be wandering the halls alone, nor was she allowed to enter the chapel without a guardian; however, none of this stopped her from slipping her rosary from around her neck and letting the cool beads grace the soft tips of her fingers. With each bead her fingers passed, she prayed a small prayer: one for guidance, one for forgiveness, one for peace and understanding. She prayed for strength, and that God would provide her with the means to accomplish her task.

During the many days, weeks, and months that she had spent alone in her room praying and meditating over the scriptures, she had come to an enlightenment like no other. Lilly truly felt as though God had spoken to her directly, but she kept it quiet for fear of condemnation from the other nuns. She was well respected by everyone, a promising new nun surrounded by a cloud of potential. The abbess had become quite fond of her, and had taken her on as somewhat of an apprentice, mentoring her in the ways of the abbey and helping her to reach a new level in her relationship with Christ. Every day, Lilly fell to her knees in sovereign adoration and prayed that God would make her more like the abbess. After months of waiting for an answer, she finally felt as though she had discovered the very will of God.

The sturdy sound of the chapel bells pounded her out of her thoughts and pulled her to her feet. The abbess would be making her way to the garden for afternoon prayers. Her time to act was now. Rosary in hand, she eased her way out of the chapel. A brilliant smile spread its way across her rosy cheeks. The beads now felt warm in her hand, and she clutched them tightly to her chest as she cascaded down the hallway, through the front door, and across the lawn to the prayer garden.

The gate let out a scream of resistance, startling the abbess from her afternoon prayers.

“Lilly? What are you–”

There was hardly enough time to react before Lilly wrapped the silver string of beads tightly around the neck of the abbess. Pulling her to the ground with all of her weight, she held fast to the rosary, making sure to cut off all air as the abbess struggled for a breath. No screams could be heard as her face slowly changed from a rosy pink to a deep shade of blue. Lilly stroked the hair of her suffocating mentor and began to pray.

“Lord, guide me in my mission to serve you. Cover me with your grace and protection. Allow me to complete the task that you have so clearly made known to me. Give me the peace and understanding to know that your will must be done. Forgive me of my transgressions, and help me to forgive those who have done me wrong. Restoreth my soul, and lead me down the path to righteousness. Guide me as you have guided the mother abbess, and allow me to continue on with her vision for the future of the church. Bless her in death as you have in life, and lead her safely to the pearly gates of heaven. In Christ’s holy name I pray, Amen.”

 

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What it Means to be a Woman

7 AM: the alarm blared “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” as Samantha sleepily rubbed her eyes. She let out a lazy yawn and rolled over to shut it off. Sleep threatened to pull her back under, but she forced herself to sit up, carefully placing her perfectly manicured feet onto the plush white rug that adorned her bedroom floor. She paused for a moment, letting the sweet softness greet her toes, before begrudgingly pushing herself to her feet. She glanced at the clock. 7:10 AM. Only one hour and fifty minutes before she had to be at her interview.

Quickly slipping on her favorite pair of slippers and silky black robe, Samantha headed to the kitchen to whip up some breakfast. The room was spinning, but she tried desperately to push away her frayed nerves. As she listened to the sweet sizzle of the bacon cooking in the pan, Samantha could hold back her fear no longer. Today’s interview was the most important interview of her entire career. Working as an editor for her small town’s local newspaper, she had always dreamed of moving to New York City and becoming a writer for one of her favorite magazine company’s The New Yorker. Never in her life, however, had she believed that she’d actually have the chance to pursue this dream. At least, never until three months ago.

After seeing an ad online for a possible job opening at The New Yorker, Samantha had immediately sent in her resume, desperately hoping for a miracle. An entire month had gone by without any word, causing her to almost lose all hope, until that fateful day when she received a phone call from the magazine’s chief editor, Mr. Marks, congratulating her on being one out of three possible candidates for the job. Samantha’s excited shrieks were enough to let everyone in town know of her good fortune. Not wanting to wait any longer, she decided to use this interview as her excuse to leave her small town of Abingdon, Virginia and moved all of her belongings to a small studio apartment located in the heart of the Big Apple. Life in the big city was hard, but Samantha wholeheartedly believed that it was for the best.

As she finished up her breakfast, Samantha glanced at the clock once more. It was almost 7:30, and she knew that she would have to hurry if she was going to be there in time. She hastily threw her dishes in the sink, and raced to the bathroom. Stopping in front of the mirror, she carefully looked herself over. Her long hair rested messily on her pale shoulders, and she self-consciously brushed it into her face to hide her masculine features. She had always resented the way she looked. Her chin was sharp, her eyes looked crooked, her nose was too big, and her lips were too small. She envied the women who had been born with beauty, their flawless smiles and perfect skin mocking her at every corner. Why couldn’t she look like all the other women her age? Why had she been born….like this?

Looking away from the mirror, Samantha pushed away the negative thoughts and stepped into the shower. Letting the warm water trickle down her back, she began to scrub away all her worries. She let the sweet smell of Dove shampoo fill her nostrils as she ran her fingers through her smooth hair. She was not going to let her insecurities ruin her excitement over this day. Samantha had worked hard to get this interview, and now all she wanted to focus on was making a good first impression. Switching off the faucet, she wrapped herself up in a towel and headed to her closet. She had laid out an outfit the night before, but was now unsure of her decision and began to flip through the multitude of dresses hanging in her color-coded wardrobe. She tried on dress after dress, before finally deciding on the same one she had laid out, slipping in over her still-damp hair. She posed in front of her full length mirror, gazing happily at the way the dress made her look. The soft, black fabric flowed freely from her waist, hiding her thin thighs and unshapely hips, and the lacy accents at the top made her lack of breasts much less noticeable. She smiled, proud of the way she looked for the first time in a long time, before making her way back to the bathroom to finish getting ready.

The next step in her beautifying routine was makeup. She had spent countless hours as a teenager watching YouTube videos in order to learn how to create the perfect face, and had finally perfected the art of contouring and winged eyeliner. Looking in the mirror, she began to lather her face in foundation, creating triangles and lines in all the right places before finally blending it all together with her brush. Grabbing her eyeliner, she guided the tip of the pencil over the curve her eye, letting it end in a nice, sharp point. She repeated the process on her other eye before examining her progress in the mirror. Feeling satisfied with the result, she quickly applied her mascara and eye shadow, and then finished off her masterpiece with a light pink lip gloss. Her hair, now mostly dry, flowed softly around her shoulders. Samantha ran her fingers through it to brush out the tangles, and then carefully tied it up into a neat bun at the base of her neck. Stepping back, Samantha looked at herself proudly in the mirror. This was as close to a beautiful women as she was ever going to look, but she was okay with that. For once, she actually felt good about herself.

The clock in the kitchen read 8:15 as Samantha quickly gathered up her purse and resume. Confidence bubbled up inside of her, causing a dazzling smile to spread across her freshly painted face. She stepped out the door of her apartment building at 8:20 and let the morning breeze gently tug at the skirts of her dress. Stepping to the edge of the street, she leaned out to hail a taxi. However, with each gesture she made, more taxis flew past her, almost sending her resume flying from her hands. She tried again, but was ignored once more. Giving up, she sadly walked down the street. Her watch read 8:30. There was no way should could make it there by 9 if she had to walk the whole way. In her brief moment of despair, a bright yellow taxi pulled up to the curve, letting out a sharply dressed man in an expensive looking suit. Thinking fast, she rushed to the taxi, grabbing the door before he could shut it.

“I’m sorry,” she said apologetically, “but I really need to get to an interview.” At first, the man smiled at her, but after getting a closer look, his face quickly turned red, and he hastily rushed away muttering something she could not understand under his breath. Samantha looked down at her dress, wondering if it had blown up in the wind, but everything was perfectly in place. Confused by the man’s reaction, she slipped her way into the backseat of the taxi. “I’m heading to The New Yorker for an interview,” she said to the driver as she shut the door. Without saying a word, he pulled away from the curb and out into the line of traffic. They rode in silence. Samantha, who had been staring out the window, felt a chill run down her spine. She uneasily glanced up at the rearview mirror. For a brief second, her eyes met those of the driver. His icy, judgmental stare made her flinch as his eyes quickly focused back on the road.

What is up with everyone today? She wondered as she self-consciously tugged at the lace on her dress. She began to worry that maybe her dress was not appropriate for an interview, or that maybe there was lipstick on her teeth. Pulling out a small mirror from her purse, she wearily gazed at her reflection, but she couldn’t see what everyone was staring at. It’s just all in my head, she decided, and began to focus on her interview. This was her one chance to finally fulfil her lifelong dream. Her nerves crept back into the corners of her mind, but she pushed them away as the taxi finally came to a stop in front of her destination. As she handed the money to the driver, she noticed that he was avoiding her eyes, but she brushed it off. His rudeness was not going to ruin her self-confidence.

Feeling sassy and beautiful, Samantha strode confidently into the building, walking straight up the skinny blond receptionist at the front desk. Her shiny silver name plate read Mrs. Angela Peters. “I’m here for an interview with Mr. Marks,” she said with a smile. The receptionist slowly lifted her eyes from her magazine before letting them stop on Samantha’s face. Her eyes widened, and she opened her mouth as if to say something before slowly shutting it again. Samantha could feel the confidence oozing out of her as the lady gave her another surprised look.

“Umm…your name?” she asked hesitantly.

“Samantha Hathaway.”

“Do you mean Sam?”

“No…it’s Samantha.”

Angela scrolled through a list of names on her computer, before finally glancing back up at Samantha. “He’ll be with you shortly,” she said hesitantly before pointing her to a seat in the lobby. Samantha made her way to the sofa and took at seat. She smoothed her dress down over her knees and stared back at the receptionist. Angela avoided her eyes and continued to stare down at her copy of the latest issue of The New Yorker. Samantha let her eyes fall back to the floor. What was going on? Why was everyone giving her such strange looks? She hardly had any time to consider the possibilities before a handsome younger man stepped out of a nearby office. He glanced around the lobby before calling out her name.

“Sam Hathaway?” he said, slowly letting his head tilt to the side as he looked her over. His eyes widened slightly, and his lips were pressed into a stern line on his handsomely sculpted face.

“It’s Samantha,” she corrected as she stood up. She reached out her hand, but he looked away, ignoring her small gesture, and waved her into his office. Samantha let her hand quickly sink back to her side as the last of her confidence began to dissipate. Taking a seat, she carefully slid her resume across the desk, and the interview began.

Ms.….Hathaway,” he started. “Why do you want to work for this company?”

“Well, it has always been my dream to work for you, sir,” she began with a small smile. “I’ve been reading The New Yorker for as long as I can remember, and I know that I have the skills necessary to–”

“After reviewing your resume again, I’m not so sure if you’re the right fit for this company,” he interrupted suddenly. Shocked, Samantha stared blankly into his eyes.

“B-but sir, you haven’t even given me a chance! If you’ll just let me prove–”

“I’m sorry, but I think we have already decided on who to give the job to.” As he spoke, he stood and made his way to the door. “However, thank you for your application, and I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.” He made a gesture towards the door as Samantha continued to stare in shock at his face. Slowly pushing herself to her feet, she made her way out the door. Her hands were shaking.

“If I could just have one more chance—” she began, but was greeted with a door to the face. Tears threatened to fall from the corners of her eyes as she gathered her composure and pushed her way past the front desk. Angela gave her a brief glance before quickly looking away.

Out on the street, Samantha made her way to the small coffee shop that was nestled next to the towering office building. The ding of the bell greeted her as she stepped inside. Climbing into the seat at the counter, she asked the waiter for a tall black coffee. Her eyes never met his as she stared blankly at the ugly yellow countertop. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed a small child, probably no older than six, curiously looking in her direction. Tired of all the uncomfortable stares she had been receiving all day, she angrily looked back at him. His eyes grew wide, and his little hand reached to tug at his mother’s sleeve.

“Mommy, mommy!” he whispered loudly. “Why is that man wearing a dress?”

Sam watched as all of the color drained from the woman’s face. She quietly scolded her son, before grabbing his hand and pulling him out the door of the shop, muttering her silent apologies as she passed by.

Picking up his coffee, Sam made his way back to his small studio apartment. As he walked in the door, he stepped out of his sleek, black heels and made his way to the mirror. He stared blankly at his reflection. No amount of makeup could hide the masculine features of his face. No dress could hide the bulkiness of his broad shoulders. No amount of hair could make him look like the woman he so desperately felt that he was.

Sam angrily pulled the dress over his head and threw it to the floor. As he sank to his knees, the softness of his fluffy white rug greeted his pale skin. The tears he had been holding back for so long finally began to fall.

The Little White Dress

One by one, Madeline slowly slipped her pale legs into the smooth cocoon of her tight black stockings. She carefully eased them up over her thick thighs and brought them to rest at her at the base of her hips. Next, she carefully laid out three different dresses: a sliming black one with dazzling sparkles that traced the neckline, a short and sassy red one that clung to her hips and accentuated her curves, and a skimpy white one that revealed just a little too much skin for her usual tastes. Madeline let her delicate fingers trace the silky fabric of each one, before picking up the black one and holding it to her body. She stood facing the mirror as the dress hung in front of her. She laid it back down again. Madeline once again repeated the process, this time with the red dress, but again, she laid it back on the bed.

After pausing for just a moment, she very slowly picked up the white dress and slipped it over her head. She pulled, tugged, and wiggled until the skin-tight dress clung to her waist. Madeline analyzed her appearance in the mirror. The sheer see-through cutouts on each side displayed her curves in a revealing manner, and the low-cut top barely covered her fake breasts. She self-consciously tugged at the bottom. This would have to do.

Madeline reached for her tube of bright red lipstick. She painted her face just like her mother had taught her when she was younger. Thick black eyeliner lined her dark brown eyes, and her bright pink eyeshadow sparkled in the light. Her lips were as red as a freshly picked apple, and she curled them up into a small smile. Madeline could remember a simpler time when her mother would sit on the floor in front of her, crisscross-applesauce, and carefully apply each layer of makeup. She always started with the lips. The lips are the centerpiece of the face, she would say with a smile as she spread the brightly colored lip gloss onto Madeline’s tiny lips. Beautiful! She would exclaim when she had finished, sending little Madeline running to the mirror to see.

Her father, on the other hand, had never agreed. Are you trying to make our daughter look like a skank?! He would yell as he raised his hand towards her mother. He would then proceed to yank Madeline up by her hair and drag her to the bathroom, watching menacingly as she angrily scrubbed the makeup off of her tear-stained face.

Madeline quickly blinked away her tears, careful not to smudge her makeup, and hastily slipped into her tall red heels. Taking one last glance at her reflection, she grabbed her coat and rushed out the door of her LA apartment. She slipped through the darkened streets, made her way into the deepest alleys, and slowly pushed her way to the curb. There she would wait.

It wasn’t long before a sleek, silver Porsche pulled up beside her. The window tent was definitely past regulation, and it was clear that this man had money.

“How much?”

“Depends on what you’re looking for.”

“I want it all.”

Madeline thought for a moment before making her decision. She looked him over. He seemed to be in his forties, handsome, in good shape, and clearly privileged. His expensive suite fit him perfectly. A Rolex adorned his arm and on his left hand, he sported a shiny golden ring. “$2,000” she said bravely. She knew it was a stretch, but she would not back down.

“Deal,” he said without hesitation, and soon they were pulling into the parking lot of a dingy, cheap motel. As she walked into the dimly lite room, she could hear the screams of her father. What the hell do you think you’re doing?! No daughter of mine is ever going to be a prostitute! She felt the sticky warmth of the man’s hands as he began to viciously tug at her zipper. His hot breath wreaked of alcohol. Her body screamed in protest, but she couldn’t think of any other solution. No one wanted her. No one had ever wanted her. This was all she had.

As she slipped into her usual unfeeling state of mind, Madeline was absolutely sure that her father would never have wanted her to feel so alone.

 

The Struggle of Being a Self-Conscious Writer

As an English major, one would think that I would be more confident in my own writing. However, quite the opposite is true. In fact, I have been, and probably always will be, somewhat self-conscious of my own writing. It is safe to say that I am most likely my harshest critic. That being said, I feel as though it is important for me to find a way to get around these feelings of mine. As a future journalist, I need to be able to have enough confidence in my own writing to have it published. Otherwise, I will never be able to accomplish all that I want to accomplish.

So the question I must propose is this: how can one ever truly get over their own self-consciousness? This question has plagued my mind for as long as I can possibly remember. When I read famous works from authors such as Edgar Allan Poe and Ernest Hemingway, my mind immediately begins to wonder how on earth my writing could ever even come close to theirs. My vocabulary is nowhere near as extensive and my writing style is not nearly as eloquent. However, the more I think about it, the more I begin to realize something. Although my writing may not be the same as Hemingway’s or Poe’s, my writing can still be just as meaningful. Now don’t get me wrong. I am in no way comparing myself to great authors such as these two. However, the point I am trying to make is quite simple. My writing in uniquely mine. While Hemingway and Poe both have their own ways of writing, I have mine. I may not be a world-famous writer who has been read by millions, but I am still a writer, and through my writing, I am able to express a piece of myself that I am not able to express verbally. Writing is an art form. Not everyone is always going to see a certain piece of art in the same way. Not everyone is always going to like it. However, it is still an expression. It’s a way of viewing the world and letting others know about it. My style of writing is unique simply because it shows others how I view the world. It invites people to see inside my thoughts, even if for only a brief moment. This is what makes writing so wonderful. No two writers are the same, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. No two people ever think exactly alike and writing is an outlet for me, as well as many others, to finally be heard.

With all of that being said, I think the main point is simple. I am not Ernest Hemingway, but you know what? That’s okay. I am Lindsey Plemmons and I will always write in a way that is unique to me. As a writer and a future journalist, I encourage everyone to take on this mentality. Writing is a picture that is delicately painted with words. So my hope for everyone who is reading this is that you will go out and paint your own picture. Stop always comparing yourself to others and instead realize that you are wonderfully and uniquely made. Never be afraid to just be yourself.  Now go out and write in the way that is all your own!