the woman smiling at you from behind the desk has freckles along her cheeks. her eyes are green, flecked with blue, her hair a strawberry blonde. her finger nails are painted a sky blue, and when she speaks, it's at a fast clip, "we read your manuscript, miss dupree. while we had some reservations at first, i think that you would be an excellent addition to our imprint."
you feel electric in this moment, elated. days before, the sickness, the nervousness had been too much to bear. just stepping into her office had made you feel unsteady on your feet, unsure of the words, the story that you had given her.
the sickness had sat there for weeks in the wait. sharing with your father was deeply personal, and to do so felt almost like a transgression the first time you had done so. (then again, trusting your parents was never a good trait; and why would it be? your mother had forced your head beneath water the first time she had seen, and you still haven't recovered even now, from that baptism.) you had gone to class after class, wondering if your father actually would pass on the manuscript or if he would tell you that what you wrote was inane, silly, or too-- too--
you can't let you think of the word, and you bury that. you had been afraid he would find out what your stories are usually about, that he might suss out why you never had a boyfriend. but no; ryan dupree had been so happy with the novel you'd given him, he had phoned you. told you that he had given it to a friend, who'd given it to another friend.
and that friend had spoken to martha alsworth, sitting across from you now. there's a stack of papers before her, among those the contract that your father told you is waiting for you. he'd told you to make sure a lawyer go over it, to go over the precise details.
you had done what he'd said. the lawyer had been stuffy, impatient with you. he had explained the contract to her in a dour tone, explaining what it meant to do certain work for the publisher, what it would entail. you had wanted to talk to him more in depth, about the copyright--yet his whole attitude had been rather dismissive. he'd only said that it was good enough, and for now, you were fine with that, as martha asks you, "you ready to work for us, miss dupree?"
you smiled. you felt light, happy in a way you never had before. you trusted her.
it's years, decades later. there are lines worn in your face, and your grandmother is asleep in her bed when a phonecall comes, martha's voice crackling over the phone line, "miss dupree, how would you like to see your books on television?"
you paused. you hadn't written anything new--to her knowledge--in years. there are, of course, yellowing manuscripts in the bedroom you have, some of them half finished, some of them only sketches and outlines. there are many, many more stories in you, but your grandmother has taken up most of your time. the money is still coming in, but slower than before. and the bills...
"which books?" you asked, voice hesitant. you have a suspicion of which one it is. you had seen the twilight series already, had noted the uptick in sales coming. it didn't take much to put two and two together, nor did it take more than a few days of thought to allow her to take the vampire diaries from your hands, and give them to the producers. they of course, seem sweet on you with a request of more books.
so you do it. you write more books. you look over the scripts, and you voice your opinions over the casting. it becomes evident, early, that they are not interested in your opinions on the girl they choose, or the men. they don't really listen to your protests over the idea of their seasons, and as the years go on, it becomes worse and worse.
you try over and over again in frustration to write your own novels. you try over and over to make your own decisions, to insist on your ideas. there aren't many things you can control anymore: your grandmother's slow slide into her own death; you parents and your sister; the fact that you have a hard time leaving things, having to slowly sort through this decaying estate. this is one of the last things you feel you have control over, sending out email after frustrated email, trying to exert what little control you have.
they pull you into different meetings. you fold your arms, simmering with anger as they push different storylines to you. as they remind you, with a cold shock, about the contract terms. of the fact that they could dictate what they wanted to you, that ultimately, they wanted the books to be like the glossy show on television. you dig in your heels stubbornly, and when the meeting is over, you coldly tell them that you are uninterested in working with the sow of a showrunner they had presented to you, and you storm out.
your grandmother told you that you should never bite the hand that feeds. you do not care. you are frustrated, feeling what little control you have over something you've created, that you've held close to yourself is spinning out of control. you contact lawyers, you call your father. then the phone call comes, and martha's voice is no longer warm on the line: we've decided to take you off of the vampire diaries, miss dupree.
the bottom falls out of your stomach. the phone groans under your grip. you try to protest, but martha talks over you, explains that half of the profits are still yours, and that there is no further need for your services, only your characters.
the line goes dead.