After much consideration, I am going to continue posting my six sentence stories weekly, but my short stories and micro fiction are going to move to a biweekly schedule or the rest of the year so I can accommodate other projects. I finished my first novel last year, and would like to focus on getting it ready to publish.
This started off as a background piece for a character in my novel. There are a few different version of the story, this one is a “grew up in the city” narrative that I tossed out. It was also inspired a little by the “lie that got out of hand” idea, and I had just watched Sweet Home Alabama, and wondered what would have happened if the main character hadn’t been married and needed a divorce. Would she have lived the lie?
When people saw me, they made assumptions about my childhood. That I was the type of child who grew up in a penthouse, summered at the cape, and spent Christmas at the family chalet. I could never let people know the truth. I was from the city all right, but not the good part.
We were in the poor neighborhood, and even then we shared the three bedroom apartment with another family. There were 9 of us living there in that apartment, and there was no problem with the tiny kitchen that had no virtually no cupboards, because neither family had to money to buy so much that they would have to store it.
That was the thing about being poor. Not TV poor, where people live in lofts and wear designer clothes, and complain about having no money while eating take out. We were real poor, which meant it didn’t matter that it was half the price per gram to buy the jumbo package of rice, we only had enough to buy the small one, and there wasn’t any way to save up to buy clothes that would last long enough to be considered a good investment.
I honestly think the only new clothing I got my entire childhood was the few years that I managed to get a winter coat from the coat drive. It was strange, and I had to admit, though I loved the vibrant colors, the rough fabric irritated my skin, which had never felt something that hadn’t been worn down by two to three previous owners and countless washes.
I had ambition though, and I learned to sew, to fit the clothes I did have, which meant that while it was often threadbare, I didn’t have the wearing a tent look that my older brother had. To people who didn’t know my siblings, one would almost assume these were actually girls clothes, not just re-purposed cast offs.
My parents thought it was dumb, the idea of going to college. Why would you spend so much money to get a job anyways. If you worked that time, you would be making just as that new graduate, sometimes even more.
I didn’t argue with them, it was true, but only because they couldn’t see the big picture. It was almost impossible to get promoted past a certain level without a degree. The didn’t recognize that the other person had worked 5 years to get to a level the graduate got on day one, and after that the promotions were usually faster. Ya, sure, if you loved your job, and it didn’t need a degree, than getting one was stupid. But growing up the way I did, I wanted out, and I wanted big, and I was never going to meet the people I needed to meet to make that happen if I never left the two city blocks that was out neighborhood.
So I worked my ass off. I applied to a program for the underprivileged that would give me a subway pass, and I used that to get me to every free design, or sewing, or business class that I could get to, cause none of that stuff existed in my part of town. When it was time to apply to college, I applied to as many as I could for free, and then I begged, borrowed, and pleaded until my guidance counselor helped me get funding to apply for more. Then I applied for every scholarship, contest or grant I could. I don’t think I slept more than three hours a night the first six months of my senior year, and my grades were good that year, but not spectacular. I wrote more essays about growing up poor than I wanted to admit, and I hoped to hell some soft hearted admissions person read one and took pity on me because I was a lot of things, but I couldn’t be above charity, not if I wanted out.
And then I got in, more than one place, but the one I took offered me a full ride to a school of design, plus living expenses. My portfolio was impressive, they said, and I walked out the door of that apartment and never looked back.
My first semester was pure culture shock, but I quickly learned what to say, and what not to say, to fit in with the others. We were allowed to keep our projects, and so I toned down my physical submissions, and created myself a wardrobe. I tried calling my parents a few times, but they didn’t have much interest in me, more focused on my brother’s who still lived in the neighborhood. I gave up, and decided to make a clean break, and change my last name to something a little more, in. By the time I graduated, most the people I started with had washed out, and I had made connections with people who had no idea I wasn’t of the “those” Allertons.
When it was time to write up my bio for my first fashion show, it was a work of fiction, and the second I pressed send I wished I could take it back, knowing someone would find me out, but they didn’t. Apparently no one really cared that much about your childhood when you were designing fashion. I wasn’t an A-lister, so looking into my past just was not lucrative enough, and I rode that.
I met a woman, I got married, we adopted, and I raised three wonderful children without any of them ever knowing about my family. I wish I could say it was great, but it haunted me, loomed over me like a sword of Damocles, waiting to come down and destroy my life. How do you tell someone you are a lie?
It wasn’t first date material, or third, and at some point it seems like telling them after so long would be a betrayal, and I couldn’t lose my girlfriend, then my wife, then my kids, by admitting the lie. I knew I was going to die someday, under a name of my own making, and my parents, more likely just my brothers wouldn’t even know I had passed.
What had I done?